ANSWER: The following verses are not included in many recent translations of the Bible, such as the English Standard Version, and the New International Version: Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 46, 11:26, 15:28; Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, 28:29; Romans 16:24. They represent less than 0.2% of all the verses in the New Testament. These verse differences among translations are due to differences in the Greek source texts. Many ancient copies exist of the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek on papyrus, then on parchment (from the 4th century) and on paper (from the 10th century). The earliest fragments date from 110 AD and the earliest complete texts from 200 AD. However, none of these are manuscripts of the original text. Instead they have been copied by scribes. Minor variations in hand copying have appeared through the centuries before mechanical printing began in about 1450 AD.
There have been three major attempts to reconstruct the original New Testament text:
- The Received Text (Textus Receptus in Latin) was based on some Byzantine (eastern Roman Empire) manuscripts, dated from 1000 AD and first published in 1516.
- The Critical Text was based on the Alexandrian (Egyptian) family of manuscripts (dated from 200 to 400 AD) and first published in the 1880s. Drier climatic conditions in Egypt favored the preservation of ancient manuscripts.
- The Majority Text was based on the majority of existing Greek manuscripts and first published in 1982. As fewer ancient texts have survived, the Majority Text is largely based on the Byzantine family of manuscripts (dated from 500 to 1000 AD) and has some similarities to the Received Text.
Which of these Greek texts most closely corresponds to the original New Testament? Although no one knows the answer to this question – since errors tend to accumulate with the number of copies made – textual scholars favor older manuscripts, which presumably have been copied less often. They also assume that most copy errors were accidental additions of marginal notes rather than accidental deletions. Furthermore, because of warnings in Scripture, such as the one in Revelation 22:19, scribes tended to add marginal explanations rather than remove words from the text.
So the reason the verses listed above are omitted in recent translations is because scholars believe that they were not in the original text. Some may have been marginal notes that were later added to the main text. The verses in question are of lesser significance, although Acts 8:37 does include the eunuch’s confession of faith in Christ before he was baptized. But the fact that faith precedes baptism is mentioned in Acts 8:12-13, and elsewhere in Scripture. Most of the additions in the Gospels repeat verses that are included elsewhere in the Bible and the other additions don’t change any biblical doctrines.
We can be thankful for the Bible’s preservation over thousands of years. It is the most accurate ancient literature that is available today. The differences between the reconstructed New Testament texts mentioned above are mainly technical and not doctrinal. As there is no substantial difference among these three texts, each can lead one to salvation and guide one in spiritual growth.
Answered by George Hawke
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org