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.

39 thoughts on “How Do You Explain the Missing Verses in the Bible?”

  1. Sir Agot this is Prudy, the YouVersion coordinator in Asia. I just got into your blog by concern that was raised by one of my friends regarding Bible translations. Thank you for this blog entry! Thank you also for endorsing YouVersion the Bible App! I would like to share your blog as this seems to be a good read for those who are panicking regarding the omission of many words in newer translations!

      1. Thank you so much for using YouVersion! I’ve shared this blog entry to the leadership of our ministry and they appreciate it! I hope we can communicate personally. I will be glad if you communicate with me in our official email address in Asia Thank you again!

  2. The question in the Bible Translation is “What is the underlying text of the KJB and the modern translations of the Bible?” The missing verses are intentional based on the corrupted text. If the the KJB is wrong, Would a sovereign God allow His word to be used with a wrong english translation for more than 400 years? Lives were sacrificed for the translation into the english Bible.
    Dig deeply. Study the history of the english Bible and the underlying text of the translations of the Bible.
    Psa 12:6-7 KJV “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (7) Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

    1. David, I think it would be a stretch to say that the translators from hundreds of years ago did some intentional omission based on corrupted text. I am inclined to think that they translated from the best manuscripts at that time.

  3. The reason KJV had these so called “additional verses” which the ESV/NIV does not include except as footnotes because KJV uses Textus Receptus, contrary to popular notion the Textus Receptus is far superior than most of the newly discovered “earlier” texts it does not make them purer as claimed. The so called additional verses are said to be added and not part of the original manuscript but I’m not convinced after reading some works of the early church fathers who quoted these alleged added texts, and have reservations to the origins of these newly found manuscripts. But the bottomline is choose a good translation, I will always prefer KJV since I’m familiar with it, but ESV is a very good translation. In addition having several translations does not really help, better go to the original Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic if you want to understand the original text better, there are several free tools to help us along the way.

    1. Thank you Emerson. I agree that ESV is good. I like comparing translations because I have to make do with English materials. My Greek and Hebrew are far too limited.

      1. Well, while not everyone needs to be a theologian, a good Bible student will benefit a lot from learning a little Greek and Hebrew. These Bible languages are more specific than todays contemporary English (another reason why KJV’s Kings English has more depth) and opens more spiritual nuggets that no English translation could ever give. Apps like MySword, the Word are just two of the free tools one can use.

  4. you see the people that try to explain away the differances with #1 “older more reliable “manuescripts are missing the big picture and #2 try to use human logic to explain the omissions. the REAL differance is in the source . the ” older ” manuscripts source is in alexandria Egypt. a picture in the bible of the world and sin where the Jehovah wittness , catholic bibles, all transliterations and misstranslations including the new kjv come from. and for real logic they ALL are copie righted which translates incase you do not get it means MONEY the K.J.V.Bible Gods holy word preserved was transcribed mostly from transcripts found in Anitioc Isrial and is the only one NOT copierighted. and threw out the whole bible there are over 167 verces omitted. as a bonus for you studiers look up the names and charicture of those that made these Misstranslations. please excuse my spelling it is not my strong suit.please put the KJV beside any other so called bibles and see for your self how many times Christ and LORD are replaced by mary and other less important creations ,very sceary,

      1. things that are differant are NOT the same. you could call them mans opinion. I prefer Gods word found in Gods chosen land

  5. Take note that kjb was written for the Church of England which was founded by king Henry VIII. It was taylored for their church. I would trust the Jerusalem bible instead of kjb

      1. Just to let you know the bible was gathered by the Catholic Church. Please research the early church fathers. Ask yourself why you believe in American style of worship. Research true history on what the apostles actually taught. John 6. Body and Blood of our Lord in the tabernacle is meant for us to be received . Check out Timothy where it says the church is the foundation of truth. Now ask what is the early church.

        1. I did dabble with a few books on the church fathers a few years back. Very eye-opening. They helped remove some of my cultural blinders. Good call, epgomez!

          1. Not sure if read them because the way you replied. Read writings of Clement, Policarp etc and see what they were talking about. They were directly discipled by the apostles . Read what were the heresies at that time. Read what Martin Luther actually believes. what Calvin believes and if they are in line with what the apostles believed. I’m just saying read with an open mind and pray that God leads you to the truth. Don’t just trust kjb remember king Henry iii broke away from the church bec he wanted to divorce his wife so founded his own church and their bible is the one you use.

  6. Friend, older manuscripts do not define its accuracy….
    why? simply because there were early manuscripts that have errors related to being copied wrong or actual local apostasy of the given church (this being the caused of the errors found in the text called Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which reflect the apostasy of Alexandria Egypt and Rome). The proper manuscripts are still the textus receptus, which gives the corroboration of multiple manuscripts originating from non apostate chruches…which by the way attests to their verity. Although some of these are older, the simple fact that they all agree despite their origin from different and far churches, further decoments to their acuracy and authority. What you are presenting is an error…..age of a manuscript by itself does not give us accuracy, what gives accuracy includes its origin and corroboration with other manuscripts ….the textus receptus does that….
    The modern translation have at their hearts the translation fo Wescot and Hort, which was based basically in the corrupted text of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, as such the origin of error that you see is in the modern texts…not in the older text that God has provided for us and were vital in the KJV (for English speaking, yet the same goes for other languages which older Bibles have more accuracy because of the same reason as the English one, the use of Textus Receptus)…

    So things are not as simple as you say..

    1. Agree! “age of a manuscript by itself does not give us accuracy, what gives
      accuracy includes its origin and corroboration with other manuscripts
      ….the textus receptus does that….”

    2. Thank you Bru Ram. I agree that older manuscripts don’t necessarily mean they’re accurate. I purposely didn’t get into lots of details and nuances in this post because this was actually written for my discipleship group and a few close friends who are just new to the faith.

      I’m taking note of your feedback though. Thank you so much.

  7. thanks Jojo I was really bothered when i read that there are missing texts, but my daughter told me that the versions went through several strict processes before its finally published so i calmed down, and your article is really enlightening. In the final analysis it’s our obedience to the Word that matters to God, hearing is a must so we can obey, but merely hearing would not please Him. Working out what He Has worked in, living not with rules and regulations, but out of the overflow of the Spirit’s presence that He has imparted in us… we OBEY….daily continuance of doing what is good.

    1. Thank you too, Doris. I ‘m glad this post helped you. I actually wrote this for my own discipleship group. I’m pleasantly surprised it got shared by a few friends.

  8. hi jojo, you missed the most important verse that was erased by the enemy. 1st John 5:7 was omitted by the newer translations. Why was a very important doctrine on the holy trinity erased? I smell evil…

  9. I pray for you brother that God will lead you to the truth. Please examine what was taught to you because you’re passing it on to somebody else. Schisms and breakaway were condemned by Paul yet since Martin Luther it just breaks apart. So many Pastors who disagree just create their own churches based on their personal belief. It keeps on going and going. Since the foundation is bible alone not the church it’s susceptible to the bible corrupted by someone else that’s why you have this blog but you were taught that the King James Bible is the right one. I tell you it doesn’t have a good background either.

  10. The Bible claims that its message is a matter of life or death. It might just actually be important, then, that the version of the Bible a person reads is truthful and accurate!

  11. I don’t think it was the enemy that erased it. The verse simply didn’t exist in early manuscripts. According to Bruce Metzger (The Text of the New Testament, pp101-102), of the thousands of Greek manuscripts examined since the time of Erasmus (1469-1536), there are only three manuscripts that contain 1 John 5:7: one from 12th century, one from 17th century, and the other is from the 14th century. That passage is not found in the Latin Vulgate before 800 AD.

    The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is attested in many other places of the Bible though, like in the water baptism of Jesus and in the Great Commission.

    1. The Peshitta – almost assuredly the original language version of the New Testament in Aramaic – doesn’t have IJohn 5:7 either.

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