By Kristen E. Strubberg Editor-in-Chief
It may be one of the oldest cases of “he-said”/”she-said”. Literally. The “Great She Bible” was one of the first two editions issued for the Authorized King James Bible of 1611. A simple typo – and four centuries – has made the “she” version of the holy book more vaunted than the first edition dubbed the “He Bible”. Now, in a small Lancashire church, a newly identified extant edition of the “Great She Bible” has been found.
The recently found “Great She Bible” was uncovered by Reverend Anderson Jeremiah and the Reverend Alexander Baker in St Mary’s Parish Church. They came upon the large tome while exploring the medieval church to which they’d been assigned. Dedicated in 1135, the church’s inventory mentioned an “old Bible” but did not further elaborate and thus had not been seriously considered until now after being rediscovered in a back cupboard.
So why is this holy book called a “She Bible”? The disputed she/he verse takes place in the Old Testament Book of Ruth. In chapter three, Ruth, now widowed, seeks her new husband, a relative named Boaz. In this chapter he accepts his familial responsibility and gave Ruth “six measure of barley” – a very generous amount given the famine at the time – to provide for her and her mother-in-law. Now comes the literary fisticuffs. The first KJV edition commanded by the king in 1611 states, in verse fifteen, that “he went into the citie” after the gift of barley whereas the subsequent edition, like the Lancashire manuscript, has that “she went into the citie”. Most scholars agree that “she” is the contextually appropriate pronoun in the verse and that the second “She Bible” version was to correct the initial “He Bible” manuscript. This newest five brings the total extant “She Bible” copies to six. The other five are located at Oxford and Cambridge universities, and at Salisbury, Exeter and Durham cathedrals.