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This week, a post has been circulating Facebook that includes the following:

I’m sure you know that the NIV was published by Zondervan but is now owned by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.

The NIV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost, and omnipotent to name but a few.

The NIV has also removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our devices and phones. Try and find these scriptures in NIV on your computer, phone, or device right now if you are in doubt:

Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46; Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37.

You will not believe your eyes.

Refuses to be blinded by Satan, and do not act like you just don’t care. Let’s not forget what Jesus said in John 10:10 (King James Version).

A Facebook post written by Erica Campbell three days ago has been shared over 91,000 times at the time of my writing. This accusation against modern translations is nothing new, though. Chick Publications, a company that produces tracts and holds to strict KJV-only beliefs, published a tract in similar vein years ago.

This viral post has brought about numerous questions from others reading it. Why would Bibles leave out these verses? Is this a mistake, a political move by a publisher, or something else?

To answer these questions, let’s first examine the accusations against Zondervan and Harper Collins. Without explicitly making a connection, the post alludes to the change being the result of a publisher with books on Satanism and gay sex taking ownership of the NIV translation. It’s important to note three crucial observations here:

  1. The NIV wasn’t translated by Harper Collins or Zondervan. According to the Bible’s preface, the International Bible Society’s Committee on Bible Translation spearheaded the translation. The group was composed of over 100 scholars from many denominations, including (ostensibly in alphabetical order) Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church of Christ, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and other churches. This, in the words of the preface, “helped to safeguard the translation from sectarian bias.” Therefore, not only is the allusion against to a political agenda untrue, it doesn’t even provide a factually accurate representation of who translated it.
  2. Other modern translations also leave out the same verses, so the issue is not uniquely one with the NIV.
  3. Most importantly, The United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament — the most accurate Greek text available — does not include include these verses. Therefore, this isn’t even an issue relegated to English translations.

That being said, a book known as a textual commentary can help shed further light on the issue. In the words of Bruce Metzger, a leading New Testament textual scholar and one of the editors of the UBS Greek New Testament, “Most commentaries on the Bible seek to explain the meaning of words, phrases, and ideas of the scriptural text in their nearer and wider context; a textual commentary, however, is concerned with the prior question, What is the original text of the passage?”

Metzger published a textual commentary himself, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, that examines 600 passages in the New Testament known as “textual variants,” meaning different original manuscripts vary in the text they contain. He grades the text the committee selected — known as the “preferred reading” — from each of these passages based on the committee’s certainty that the preferred reading is original. Metzger outlines his grading scale in the book’s introduction: “The letter {A} signifies that the text is certain, while {B} indicates that the text is almost certain. The letter {C}, however, indicates that the Committee had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text. The letter {D}, which occurs only rarely, indicates that the Committee had great difficulty in arriving at a decision. In fact, among the {D} decisions sometimes none of the variant readings commended itself as original, and therefore the only recourse was to print the least unsatisfactory reading.”

With this in mind, I examined the ten passages listed in Campbell’s post. Not surprisingly, all ten of the passages listed “omit verse” as the preferred reading. Nine of ten gave “omit verse” an {A} grade and one gave a {B} grade.

Even in Matthew 18:11, the lone passage in which “omit verse” was graded a {B}, Metzger writes, “There can be little doubt that [these] words… are spurious here, being absent from the earliest witnesses representing textual types… and manifestly borrowed by copyists from Luke 19:10. The reason for the interpolation was apparently to provide a connection between verse 10 and verses 12-14.”

For some of the passages, Metzger gives a more detailed explanation as to why the verse should be omitted, even explaining why the KJV has them. For Acts 8:37, for example, Metzger notes, “Although the passage does not appear in the late medieval manuscript on which Erasmus [the primary compiler of the Textus Receptus, the Greek text on which the KJV New Testament is based] chiefly depended for his edition, it stands in the margin of another, from which he inserted it into his text because he ‘judged that it had been omitted by the carelessness of scribes.'” Essentially, Erasmus saw a note scribbled in the margin of one manuscript and wrongly assumed it should have been included. Newer Greek texts, and thus newer English translations, corrected his mistake.

So essentially, the truth isn’t that the NIV (and other modern translations) is leaving out words or verses that belong in the Bible. In fact, the opposite is true: the King James Version includes words and verses that do not belong. This isn’t to discredit the KJV but only to show that 400 years of research since the KJV was released in 1611 has given us new information previously unavailable about what should and shouldn’t belong in the Bible.

Clearly, Erica Campbell did not do much scholarly research before posting her viral Facebook post. Textual research from Bruce Metzger and others goes to show that we can have high confidence that the text included in the New Testament is based on an extremely accurate Greek text.

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