24 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About the Bible
Whether you know your Scriptures chapter and verse or you rarely take a peek at the Good Book, we’ve got interesting Bible facts for you.
Thou shalt not steal… this Bible
One of the most well known Bible facts is that it’s the best selling book of all time—some estimate 25 million copies are sold each year in the United States alone—but did you know the Good Book is also the most frequently shoplifted? Apparently, certain readers grab it before they reach the Ten Commandments!
An immovable feast
Though the word Bible comes from biblios, meaning scrolls, in Greek, the Bible was actually the first book to be printed by movable type (instead of being written by hand). Johann Gutenberg probably finished his first printing in 1455, in Mainz, Germany. Almost 600 years later, three perfect Gutenberg Bibles are still in existence; one is under lock and key at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Dying for a translation
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Not so long ago, translating the Bible into English could get you in more than hot water. John Wycliffe went ahead and did it anyway in the 14th century; 43 years after his death, the Roman Catholic Church actually dug up his corpse, burned it and threw the ashes in the river to punish him for his supposed sins. Another early translator, William Tyndale, was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1536. Ironically, these days there are 58 English-language versions of the Bible for sale. There also happens to be a Reader’s Digest version.
A fount of inspiration
In the end, the first official English-language Bible was worth waiting for. The influence (and beauty) of the King James Bible, issued in 1611, can hardly be overestimated. As the late essayist Christopher Hitchens, himself an atheist, once wrote, the King James Bible’s “crystalline prose…continue[s] to echo in our language: ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child’; ‘Eat, drink, and be merry’; ‘From strength to strength’; ‘Grind the faces of the poor’; ‘salt of the earth’; ‘Our Father, which art in heaven.”’ Check out these other surprising phrases you never knew came from the Bible.
The sinner’s Bible
What a difference one little word can make! In 1631, once English-language Bibles were finally legal, publisher Robert Barker came out with a version most notable for its omission involving the 7th Commandment: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” About 1,000 copies of this Sinner’s Bible (aka the Adulterous Bible or the Wicked Bible) were distributed before anyone noticed. We’ll never know how many people obeyed the amended commandment. But 400 years later, there are only nine copies of the Sinner’s Bible left. This is one of the most interesting Bible facts.
The She Bible
Even fairly minor typos in early Bibles get collectors really excited. Take the “She Bible,” dating to 1611. You would think a time-traveling feminist had got hold of the book and changed God’s gender throughout. Although some wish this were one of the interesting Bible facts, it’s really just a misprint in the Book of Ruth, reading “she went into the city” rather than “he went into the city. A copy of the “She Bible” turned up at St Mary’s Parish Church in Lancashire, England, a few years ago, and was valued at over $65,000. Find out the 9 things you didn’t know about Eve in the Bible.
The most expensive book in the world
Sold for more than $14 million at Sotheby’s in 2013, the Bay Psalm Book is easily the highest priced book in the world and it isn’t even a complete Bible. It’s a poetic English translation of psalms by leading Puritan ministers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony published in 1640, the first book ever printed in what is now the United States. At 47 pages, each page is worth almost $300,000. As an artifact of colonial America and religious history, it’s practically priceless.
The tiniest Good Book
Now the faithful have no excuse to leave their Scriptures at home: All 1.2 million letters of the Old Testament have been nano-printed onto the surface of the Nano Bible, a five-by-five millimeter aluminum disk. But since each impossibly tiny letter measures 600 nanometers, you would need an electron microscope to read it. It might just be easier to go to the nearest hotel and consult a Gideon’s Bible. One of the coolest Bible facts is why there are so many Bibles in hotels.
The biggest Bible in the world
Goliath himself might have trouble toting around the largest Bible ever recorded—it’s at the Abilene Christian University in Texas. This gargantuan King James version weighs over 1,000 pounds, is 43.5 inches tall and measures 98 inches wide when fully open. It took Louis Waynai, a self-ordained minister, two years to print the text on each mammoth page using his own self-made rubber stamp press. That’s a Bible too big to thump…
Not all novel editions of the Bible are so enduring. In 2006, the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson repackaged the New Testament as “Blossom BibleZine” for young girls: “With the look of the latest teen magazines, the wisdom of Scripture, and sidebars filled with the great advice of a big sister, it helps you find your way through topics like school, friends, parents, beauty, your body, and peer pressure. These years won’t be easy, but by studying what God has to say to you, you can develop into a girl of faith.”