In part three of my look into the modern Bible translation controversy, I take a dive into the claims of missing verses in our modern translations. Are verses missing because of an elaborated conspiracy or is the answer a lot simpler than what it’s made out to be?
With the previous two entries in this series, I attempted to argue that the influential KJV was, at its core, translated in a similar fashion to our modern translations of the Bible. It was made to be as clear as possible to the people of the time, and even though it took unavoidable liberties in translating the text from one language to another, like the English translations before it, it remained as faithful to the originals as it could have been with the limited resources they had. This same process is used in many of our modern translations and they are, in turn, reliable windows into the Word of God.
But wait, how can I argue that the NIV and versions like it are faithful when they clearly remove verses that the KJV includes? Doesn’t Revelation tell us that one cannot add to or take away from the Word of God?
Not so fast. Before we jump the gun let’s slow down and take a closer look at this issue. At first glance, this does appear to be a problem and it does need to be addressed. There is no ignoring it. Our modern translations remove verses, even entire passages, from our Bible. That is nothing but cold, hard truth. However, does this mean they are not faithful? Once again it is assumed that the KJV is innocent in regards to taking out verses but as we’ll see that assumption is simply unfounded. If we’re going to accuse our modern translators of tampering with God’s Word then we better make sure the translators of the KJV are not guilty of this as well.
In the first instalment of this series, I noted that the KJV was not the original English translation. In fact, there were several English translations before it. If the critic argues that the KJV is the most reliable because it’s the earliest then what are we to do with translations such as The Great Bible, the Wycliffe Bible, or the Bishops Bible? They are even earlier and they include portions of Scripture that the KJV does not and vice versa. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all they that do thereafter: the praise of it endureth forever, [praise the Lord for the returning again of Aggeus and Zachary the prophets.] (Psalm 111:10 TGB)
This is Psalm 111:10 of The Great Bible which was published in 1539. The phrase in bold is not included in the 1611 KJV. The Great Bible was the only version to include this portion of the verse but the translators of the KJV (rightfully) concluded that this wasn’t a trustworthy inclusion (which meant it wasn’t found in many of our early manuscripts) and therefore left it off. Our modern translators also agree with the removal.
Nevertheless it is not written for him only, that it was reckoned to him [for righteousness;] but also for us, to whom it shall be counted [for righteousness,] if we believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:23-24 TGB)
Once again, the highlighted portions in bold are those that the KJV saw fit to exclude. However, unlike the previous verse, this time our modern translators do not agree with their removal. With more manuscript evidence under their belts, modern translators have concluded that yes, the note of righteousness was most likely Paul’s own.
And the chief priests accused him of many things: [but he answered nothing.] (Mark 15:3 KJV)
This time the highlighted verse is from the KJV. The highlighted portion was not included in prior English versions, however, since the translators of the KJV believed it to be authentic they decided to include it. But more manuscript evidence has since been unearthed and the consensus today is that its authenticity is doubtful. All translations following have since had it removed. The scribe who wrote this probably inserted the comment to make things line up with the other Gospel accounts, so his thought process would have been, “Since the other Gospels record him saying nothing Mark should as well.”
Some have also criticized our modern translations for taking power away from God’s Word due to missing portions of Scripture they deem essential. Once again, if we’re going to accuse modern translations of removing pieces of Scripture that bring “power” to readers we must make sure the KJV does not err the same way. Let’s compare Jude 25 with the KJV and the NIV.
“To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen” (Jude 25 KJV)
“To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 25 NIV bold mine)
Note that the KJV removes the portion “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” If I were to use the argument that a Bible is wrong because it removes power I can accuse the KJV of “dumbing down” its readers because it too removes an important part of Scripture, that is, Jesus Christ. The truth is, many of the accusations the KJV Only movement throws at our modern translations can just as easily be applied to the version they hold dear. Imagine if I were to start an NIV Only movement by using Jude 25 as an example of the translators of the KJV removing Jesus Christ from the Scriptures! Alas, these are the very claims they make on a near-daily basis.
We can give more examples but those should make the point clear. None of this is to argue that the KJV is not reliable or that it did not attempt to be as faithful to the original Greek and Hebrew as it could be. All of these were well-meaning decisions, however, this goes to show that the translators of the KJV used the same process of translation ours do today. They weren’t set apart, anointed, or called to produce the one and only true Bible, they were people who had their own ideas, motivations, and reasons, and as Romans 4:23-24 shows us, they were also capable of making mistakes and misjudgments. Using the logic of the King James Only movement, the KJV has both added to and taken away from the Word of God, therefore it obviously should not be trusted. We can begin to see the glaring cracks in their movement with these findings alone and it only gets harder to look past when we turn our focus to the missing verses of our modern translations.
As I’ve already argued, the majority of our modern translations base their text on the manuscript evidence scholars and archaeologists have discovered over the centuries. The decision of whether or not something should remain is decided on whether or not a particular verse or portion of a verse is present in those manuscripts. If the evidence is overwhelming that only a few of our early manuscripts include a verse the majority does not then that verse is omitted. Let’s look at a few examples.
And Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And he [the Eunuch] answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37 KJV)
This is one of the most oft-quoted claims in regards to the NIV’s inaccuracy. The KJV includes 8:37 but the NIV and other modern translations do not. Is this an attempt to deny the importance of salvation? Not at all. Scholar Siegbert W. Becker in his article Verbal Inspiration and the Variant Readings notes that “all truly ancient manuscripts omit it entirely, and that almost all very late manuscripts omit it in whole or in part.” If there is a conspiracy around the removal of this verse it wasn’t thought up by any of our modern translators but by scribes dating as far back as 600 A.D. No discovered manuscript before then includes this verse and only a few after do.
Yet, even so, our modern translators make a clear note of their decision. Even if it wasn’t a part of the original text the verse is always quoted in a footnote with the words “Some manuscripts include here (quote missing verse).” They aren’t hiding it, they state their reason for the removal and even go as far as to quote the entire missing verse. The King James Only movement paints the modern translators as enemies of God who remove verses because they don’t like them or because they wish to deceive the church. Their arguments are simply dishonest lies.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:26 KJV)
Here is another omission that seems quite glaring at first. This is one of Christ’s most important teachings, how can our modern translations remove them with a clear conscious? The truth is, in many cases, they don’t. In addition to looking at the manuscript evidence, many of these verses can be found elsewhere instead.
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15 NIV)
One of the reasons Mark 11:26 was removed was likely due to its striking similarity with the above verse in Matthew. If the translators wanted to remove Mark’s verse in order to deceive readers they clearly didn’t do a good job!
The biggest problem of the King James Only movement is that it’s said that the KJV is the only inspired Bible. In truth, the only inspired text is the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Every other translation is simply that: a translation. They are a translation/interpretation of the original inspired text but they are not inspired in and of themselves. The sooner we put away these foolish and dishonest conspiracies the easier it would be for people to approach the Bible with an assurance that what they are reading is incredibly accurate and faithful.