Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Removing Verses from the Bible
What do the following verses have in common: Matthew 17:21; 18:16; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; Luke 17:36; 23:17; Acts 8:37? That’s right. They are all verses that the "heretical new translations" have removed from your Bibles. Those “heretical” bibles include the NIV, the NASB, and the ESV. This assertion showed up in my Facebook newsfeed from a Facebook friend who wondered about it, because he had looked those verses up, and sure enough they were missing from the Bible he was using.
First, this is just an old scam from KJV-Only folks that want to stir up people against any translation but the KJV. But the real question is, why are these verses “missing” from most modern versions? The answer is: textual criticism. (Warning: the following discussion is simplified.)
Translations of the New Testament are based on printed texts that are collations (detailed comparisons) of ancient manuscripts. The manuscripts that we have of the New Testament originated in the period between the early second century and the late Middle Ages. These are copies of copies at least. Any time a text is copied, errors will occur. Such things as misspellings, mishearings (some manuscripts were copied by scribes from a manuscript that was read to them), accidental skipping of lines and words, “corrections” supplied by the copyist, and other issues accrue in the copies. New Testament scholars, in working to determine what the New Testament originally said, need to get behind these copies to what the original read. They do this by comparing manuscripts, and evaluating diverse readings on the basis of generally accepted principles. The result is the modern printed Greek New Testament.
There are, at present, essentially three modern printed Greek New Testaments: the Textus Receptus (TR), the Majority Text (MT), and the Nestle-Aland Eclectic Text (NAET). The TR is the text that lies behind the King James Version of the Bible. It was based on a relatively small number of Greek manuscripts. In the four centuries since then many more manuscripts have been recovered.
The MT and the NAET are both modern (20th-21st century) printed texts. They both use a large number of manuscripts that were not available to those who developed the TR. The main difference between the MT and the NAET is the set of principles used to compare and evaluate differing readings in the manuscripts.
Most New Testament scholars today (including theologically conservative scholars) hold that the NAET is the closest to the original New Testament. Some modern scholars (mostly theologically conservative) hold that the MT is closest to the original. Almost no one holds that the TR is the closest to the original.
All modern versions of the New Testament, except for the New King James Version, are based (with some variation) on the NAET. In the judgment of the editors of the NAET, the verses in the list above were later additions to the text of the New Testament. In other words, the modern versions are not removing verses from the Bible; the TR was adding verses to the Bible.
I’ll have more to say in a later post.