There has never been a book that’s more hotly contested than the Bible, especially when it comes to conversations about how and if the Bible changes over time. It’s a tome that has started wars, divided nations, and probably ended a few friendships – all over people interpreting the same core concepts in different ways. The history of the Bible is fraught with revisions, wild interpretations, and massive overhauls. Over the course of the last century, changes to the Bible have seen the book expand and retract like a 2,000-year-old accordion.
To understand why so many variations of such an important book exist, you have to remember that there is no original Bible. The text of the Old Testament existed as stories that were passed down through the generations before being molded together by authors and then later edited into the book that you can now hold in your hand. Because the Bible had such a rocky start, scholars have multiple versions of the text to work with, each with its own interpretation of events. So: has the Bible changed?
To find changes in Bible verses you simply have to find some of the most popular sections (the Ten Commandments, the immaculate birth, etc.) and compare whatever Bible you have to a different version. It’s likely that you’ll notice something different. The biggest Bible changes happen when a church branches off from its parent and tries to set out with its own identity. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Latter Day Saints, for example, have managed to add their own bible histories to the mix, making things significantly murkier than they already were.
If, after reading about these changes, you're still feeling doubts about the reality of alterations, additions, and subtractions to the foundational theological document, take a gander at Jesus' slow transformation into a white figure for further evidence that religious dogma and doctrine can – and do – alter with the passage of time.
Covet Whatever You Want, The Ten Commandments Don't Care
Alright y'all, get ready to get your covet on! It turns out that in the original Hebrew, the tenth commandment doesn't say anything about coveting. In fact, the original word used, "chamad," is usually used as a synonym for "lakach" (to take), so what's actually happening in the Ten Commandments is a command to not go around like a klepto. It's not clear how the translation changed so drastically, but the best possibilities are a transcriber who wasn't so good at his job, or someone who had a bone to pick with a covetous neighbor.
No One Can Make Up Their Mind About Tobit
Out of all the latecomers to the Bible, Tobit is the one book with staying power. Initially, this story of a magical marriage that helps capture a demon (srsly) was left out of the Biblical canon because of its late authorship but, recently, scholars have theorized that it was left out of the Old Testament because because Raguel, the bride's father, wrote the story's marriage document instead of the bridegroom, as required by Jewish rabbinical law. Although it's worth noting that the Midrash Bereishit Rabbah, a commentary on the book of Genesis that was written around 400 CE, contains a summary of the Book of Tobit, so it's not like no one knew about this book until they read it in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Exodus Got A Political Revamp In Service Of The Pro-Life Movement
This fairly recent change to the famous Exodus 21:22-25 is interesting in how a few simple words can alter the meaning of a verse entirely. In the 1975 version of the New American Standard Bible, the verse read: "And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is not further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide."
In 1995, the verse was changed to read: "If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury..."
One explanation for this may be that between 1975 and 1995 American politics had changed so much that the GOP and Christian Right had essentially coalesced around the issue of how much say a woman has over her own body. If they were going around with Bibles that specifically read it wasn't a big deal for a fetus to be killed (in a miscarriage), then that wouldn't work for their platform.
The words were changed in the 1995 version in order to make it so the fetus doesn't die in the verse, thus supporting the Christian Right's pro-life message that killing a fetus is the same as killing a human, and the Bible says so.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Continue To Confuse Modern Scholars – And They Don't Include A Seventh Day Of Rest
When studying the Bible, one of the biggest issues that comes up is there's no original version of the text. Most of the stories were originally passed down through oral tradition and then written down by people who had their own variations of the stories.
For a long time, there were two "master" texts (the Greek Septuagint and the Masoretic Text) that scholars could work from, but between 1946 and 1956, a series of writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and seriously complicated everything. Essentially, the DSS contain about 22% of the Bible, and they predate the Masoretic text by about 1,000 years.
While the Scrolls are more likely to be a "pure" version of the Bible, they offer some large variations on stories many people know. For instance, rather than finishing His work on the sixth day and resting on the seventh, God may have finished His work on the seventh day and rested during a sort of philosophical afternoon.