The Missing Passages - Part 1
In our Sunday night series, “How We Got The Bible,” we ran out of time to discuss in any detail the major passages that have questionable origins. Do they belong in our Bible or not? These passages were openly accepted in the KJV, NKJV and any other translation based off of the Textus Receptus (or the majority text which is very similar). At most, one might find a foot note acknowledging that some Greek manuscripts did not include the text. On the other hand, some versions (such as the New American Standard) mark the questionable verses with parenthesis and a footnote saying that some manuscripts do not contain that section of text. Others go a step further (such as the New International Version) and they omit the text. You’d have to go to the footnote to see the potential translation.
It is disturbing to some that there could be such uncertainty and variance in our Bibles. Having thousands of ancient, hand-copied manuscripts to work with, variations of this nature are to be expected. But the question remains, have we lost some of God’s word by not including these texts or are we adding to God’s word if we include the texts?
In decades past, it was not too uncommon for a preacher to stand before his audience and bash the modern translations (articles and books on this still exist today). Some of their points were valid. Others were misplaced fear-mongering. These missing passages took center stage, as a person could stand up and point out the differences between the modern translations and the older ones they had long embraced. “Why, they took out some of God’s word!” a person might exclaim. We all know that is wrong! The accusation alone caused many to reject modern translations and, in some cases, even condemn them and those who use them. But this is a mistake and an oversimplification. Yes, the new translations might be missing some verses, but does that prove they took away from God’s word? Why not point the fingers at the King James Version instead and say, “Why, they have added to God’s word!” That’s wrong too, right?
The point is, an accusation does not prove the point. The modern translations are not ignoring God’s will about preserving His word. On the contrary, in these cases they are doing the very best they can, based on all of the evidence they have gathered, to determine what was in the original Greek letters penned by the apostles. If they find a passage clearly was not included that older translations embraced, are they being devious and unrighteous by not including it in their translation? Quite the opposite.
However, for those who have grown up with these verses in their Bibles, memorizing them and preaching from them, it seems offensive. It feels and looks like modern translators have committed the sin of taking away from God’s word. Then the accusations start – as though the new translations are purposefully hiding biblical truths and tainting God’s word. One must be careful, or those judgy fingers may be found to point back at ourselves.
As for these questionable, missing passages. The main, larger ones are Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37; I John 5:7. In coming articles we’ll look at those texts and see what is gained or lost.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that determining whether something was originally in the Biblical text is not the same as determining whether something was actually said or is the truth. For example, Matthew 18:11 is not included in all translations today. But there is no question whether Jesus ever said, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” That is clearly, and indisputably, also found in Luke 19:10. While there is rightly a debate about whether those words were originally in Matthew, we are not struggling to discover truth. All Bible believers accept those words (regardless of the translation they are using).
Other passages are similar. For example, Matthew 23:14 is in doubt, until you read Lk. 11:52. Then it isn’t. Mark 9:44 and Mark 9:46 are in doubt until you read Mark 9:48. Then they aren’t. The question is what was in the original text, not what did Jesus actually say or do. Keep that in mind in the coming weeks as we look at the missing passages of the Bible and try to determine what doctrines have been added or taken away from your Bible.