How Do You Explain the Missing Verses in the Bible?

Few days ago, I got tagged in a friend’s Facebook post about missing verses in the Bible, specifically John 5:4 and Acts 8:37. Why does the King James Version have these verses but not the ESV and other modern translations? How do you explain these missing verses? Here’s my answer:

When the KJV was translated in 1611, the existing manuscripts at the time included John 5:4. However, over the years, after many archaeological findings, it was found out that older and more reliable manuscripts did not include verse 4.

Modern translators removed verse 4 but left a footnote to alert the reader that in some older English versions of the Bible, a verse was there. This is not a devious plan to deceive us or sabotage the Christian faith. This is just an adjustment to the English translation because a more reliable manuscript was discovered. A discerning reader would see the footnote, look up what it means, and move on. If the reader is a bit familiar with original languages, he could check his Greek or Hebrew Bibles and see for himself. The same explanation applies to Acts 8:37, Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, Luke 17:36, and Luke 23:17.

Few thoughts:

One, if you really think about it, it sounds a bit scary. It makes you want to ask: What else did they remove? Do we have the correct Bible?

Relax, it’s really not that scary. They didn’t remove anything that can be attested from reliable manuscripts; and yes we have the correct Bible. The more archaeological findings we have, the “purer” our translations become. Bible translation is a rigid science: no one could just take away a verse or a word without being called out by other scholars in the field. What we have now is the best there is. If you doubt that, just use multiple translations to be safe.

Two, no crucial themes of the Bible are affected by these changes. No teaching on heaven, hell, redemption, character of God, Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection are affected. The verses in question are minor in significance. This means that whether John 5:4 and Acts 8:37 (or the other verses mentioned) are there or not, we would still have the same teachings in the church.

Three, it is true that some versions omit the name Jehovah but that’s only because they replaced it with the name Yahweh, or the all caps LORD. I know that our English ears can’t quite catch the phonetic similarity of Jehovah and Yahweh but those familiar with German or Dutch phonetics will see the connection right away. If you are so worried that the word “omnipotent” is taken away, maybe that’s because it is replaced with the word “all powerful.” Both words mean the same thing. We should also know that the Holy Ghost in KJV is now translated as Holy Spirit in almost all modern Bibles and that Calvary is the same place called Golgotha. A quick search on free Bible resources online would go a long way.

Four, there are people who make shocking claims online about some devious undertones to this whole translation problem. I understand why some of us would panic but before we jump to some bizzare conclusions, it would be good to read the preface of our Bibles first. Translators usually explain the philosophy of their work on the preface to help readers make sense of their choice of words. I don’t normally use NIV2011 because of its gender-neutral translation (also because I’m a bit loyal to NIV1984) but I do recognize its merits. For a few years now, I have been using ESV for the reasons listed in this post by Kevin DeYoung.

One way to protect yourself from “being deceived” of the biases of some translations is to use multiple translations side by side. This advice may not have worked few years ago but today, the YouVersion App for mobile devices gives us free access to hundreds of Bible versions at our fingertips. In my case, I use the ESV as my main Bible but alongside it I also consult NIV1984, HCSB, New King James Version, and New American Standard Bible. This is my own way of making sure that what I’m reading is closest to the original.