Why are Some Verses Missing?

Pick up your Bible and turn to Acts 8:37. Is it missing? In most modern Bible versions, it is not there. Sometimes, depending on the version you have, even the verse number is skipped over. Now look at Matthew 17:21, 18:11; and Mark 7:16. Were they missing, also? There are many others we could list here which are like these, often having a footnote that reads, “The oldest manuscripts do not contain this verse.” Or, perhaps, “the earliest and better manuscripts exclude this verse.” Hopefully, your Bible has these footnotes (some don’t)! Have you ever wondered, “Why?” Why do some versions of the Bible leave out some verses while others do not? While the full answer is rather long and complicated, let’s see if we can answer that question in a more simplified manner.

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that there exists, essentially, two major collections of ancient Greek manuscripts from which all scholars have used to translate every version of the Bible. The first collection (also called “text-types,” “text witnesses,” or “text families”), was discovered primarily around Antioch of Syria, while another body of manuscripts was discovered hundreds of years later around Alexandria in Egypt. A manuscript, from the Latin words manu (hand) and scriptum (written), is any ancient book, codex, scroll, or fragment, that contains written portions of the Bible on it. There are more than 5,700 Greek manuscripts that have been discovered and cataloged, each being a copy of its original exemplar. No originals have ever been found.

The second point to recognize is that all New Testament translations produced from the Reformation Period until recently were made from the Antioch text family, which is also commonly referred to as the “Textus Receptus” (Latin for “Received Text”), or the Byzantine text family. This collection makes up about 95% of all the manuscripts ever discovered. The King James Version (KJV), ASV, and NKJV were all translated from the Antioch/Byzantine collection. In 1880, however, the Alexandrian manuscript collection began taking prominence among scholars and translators. Since the manuscripts in the Alexandria text group are older (circa 100 to 200 AD), than the Antioch text group (circa 300 to 1200 AD), it is commonly believed to be more superior, because “it is closer in time to the originals.” Today, all modern versions of the Bible are exclusively translated from the Alexandrian text. These include the NIV, ESV, ISV, RSV, CEV, ERV, NLT* and many more. If you have one of these, the verses missing in your Bible are not there because the Alexandrian manuscript collection does not contain those verses. That is why they are left out. Earlier Bibles translated from, or with, the Antioch collection do include those verses. (The NASB uses brackets, insead of footnotes, to identify the questionable vers).

However, an older text doesn’t necessarily mean it is more correct, or superior! Considering that all the original letters and first copies originated in and around the region of Antioch and then later would have been carried to Alexandria, means that location of discovery should have a bearing on a manuscript’s veracity. None of the Bible’s inspired writers were based in Egypt! There are thousands more copies in the Antioch group than in the Alexandrian because the majority of the early churches were founded in the region of Antioch. The fact is, no one knows exactly which one is perfectly correct. It is a mistake and grossly irresponsible for translators to think they should rely solely on one manuscript family, while excluding the other. If a verse exists in a verified manuscript (and all those missing verses have many manuscripts to support them) then, the translators should just include it in every version! Something to think about!

*(If you do an Internet search of these letters, followed by the word “Bible,” it will explain which version it is.)