As Autumn Ridge Community Church gathered for worship last Sunday, we considered one of the most oft-quoted passages of Scripture in the Bible: “The Lord’s Prayer.” If you’ve prayed these words before, you’ve most likely done so (loosely) in the King James tradition, which reads (emphasis added):
9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
I preach from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Holy Bible, so as our church considered this passage of Scripture yesterday, we read (and prayed!) the following:
9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Why is the phrase, “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” present in the KJV, but absent from the ESV (and the NIV, NLT, CSB, etc.)?
This question relates to a Facebook post that has been getting a lot of traction over the past few months. By comparing a number of KJV verses to parallel translations of those same verses in modern-day English Bibles, the post claims that today’s publishers are intentionally removing verses from the Bible in order to undermine Scripture’s authority.
Are verses being removed from our modern-day English Bibles?
From my perspective, there are at least two underlying concerns raised by this question:
- Can we trust our modern-day Bible Translations?
- Why do many modern-day English Bibles omit verses that are included in the KJV?
This article seeks to address each of the questions in turn – succinctly, and in plain language!
Why We can Trust our Modern-Day Bibles
As we understand the ways that God has preserved and translated the Scriptures throughout the centuries, our confidence in today’s Bible translations will only grow.
Textual Criticism: A (Mercifully Brief!) Overview
We do not possess original copies of any of the Bible’s sixty-six books. Instead, we have thousands of copies of these Old and New Testament books, in addition to thousands of other fragments of copies. These writings appear in the original languages of composition for both the Old Testament (i.e. Hebrew and Aramaic) and the New Testament (Koine Greek), as well as in the “common tongue” of secondary translation contexts (i.e. Latin for much of the ancient Roman Empire).
The sheer volume of biblical manuscripts and fragments is itself evidence of the reliability of Scripture. For instance, in comparison to thousands of extant New Testament manuscripts/fragments, there are fewer than twenty extant fragments of the work of the Roman Historian Tacitus – who lived relatively close to the time period of Jesus (56-120 AD)!
In addition to a high volume of extant Biblical manuscripts/fragments, there exists a high degree of uniformity between these textual samples. Over the years, scholars have examined these scriptural copies and fragments side-by-side with the aim of determining the most likely original reading of the text. This process, known as textual criticism, has reproduced the original text of both the Old and New Testament with high degrees of reliability.
The Old Testament Source Material: The Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text was compiled throughout the 6th – 10th Centuries by Jewish Talmudic scholars who collected and analyzed the wealth of fragments of the Hebrew Old Testament available to them at that time. Since then, Old Testament fragments that date back to over four centuries before the birth of Jesus have been discovered – and they have aligned with the Masoretic Text with an uncanny degree of certainty. Likewise, later printed copies of the Masoretic Text (circa late 15th Century) illustrate fidelity to the oldest surviving handwritten copies (circa 9th Century). (Source link: Encyclopedia Britannica, “Masoretic Text”).
In other words, the text of the Old Testament has not changed over time.
Because of its centuries-long track record of reliability, both the original edition of the King James Bible (circa 1611) and modern Bible Translations (i.e. ESV, CSB, etc.) utilize the Masoretic Text as the basis for Old Testament translation.
The New Testament Source Material: Textus Receptus and the Critical Text
When the original version of the King James Bible was published in 1611, the Textus Receptus (“Received Text”) was universally-held as the New Testament counterpart to the Masoretic Text. Erasmus, the leading scholar who compiled the Textus Receptus, did his textual criticism by utilizing a handful of the manuscripts that were available to him at the time of publication (1535 for his final edition). Like the Masoretic Text, the Textus Receptus represented an analysis and synthesis of New Testament manuscripts/fragments which overwhelmingly agreed with one another – a compilation that represented the “original text” of the New Testament.
By God’s grace, thousands of other New Testament manuscripts and fragments have been discovered in the half-millennium since Erasmus’ day. In addition to providing a greater quantity of texts to compare against one another, the respective dates of these discoveries span well over a thousand years of time, with the oldest-discovered New Testament fragment dating to within 100 years of the original Gospel account (Mark)!
These new discoveries have proven that the text of the New Testament has been preserved throughout the church’s 2,000-year history with remarkable reliability. The “Critical Text” – the critical synthesis of all the fragments which have been discovered to-date (including the documents unavailable to Erasmus) – lines up with Erasmus’ Textus Receptus in 98%-99% of instances, with the majority of “discrepancies” involving easily-reconcilable differences in spelling, word-order, etc. that have no bearing on key Christian doctrine.
The Gospel According to Textual Criticism
Here, even in the mundane details of textual criticism, is testimony of the Gospel of God’s grace. The Lord does not leave us to our own devices to “work our way” toward understanding him. Rather, He graciously pursues us by a) giving us the Scriptures, b) preserving the Scriptures, c) allowing the Scriptures to be translated into our own “heart languages,” and d) drawing us to saving faith and sanctification as the Holy Spirit applies the Scriptures to our lives (John 14:26, 16:13, etc.).
Praise be to God for the gift of His written, preserved, understandable, all-powerful Word!
But why do Modern English Bibles seem to “Omit” Verses that are Included in the KJV?
“Omitted” or “missing” verses between the KJV and newer translations of the Bible have nothing to do with sinister publishers seeking to undermine the Bible’s authority. As has been illustrated in the brief overview of textual criticism above, the Lord has faithfully preserved his Scriptures throughout the centuries. He can surely be trusted to do so in our time, as well.
Instead, these “omissions” – of which the ending of Matthew 6:13 above is one example – are simply attributed to the fact that most modern-day Bible translations utilize the more recently-developed Critical Text of the New Testament, whereas the KJV’s New Testament translation utilizes the older Textus Receptus.
The Critical Text is based on all New Testament source material that has thus been discovered – a much larger sample size than the handful of fragments that Erasmus had at his disposal as he compiled the Textus Receptus. The majority – and, the most ancient – of the fragments used to compile the Critical Text do not include phrases like, “Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory…” Based on the overwhelming testimony of a) the majority of extant New Testament writings, and, b) the testimony of the most ancient extant New Testament writings, the Critical Text concludes that these phrases were not original to the New Testament, and thus does not include them as New Testament Scripture.
Seeking to deliver as accurate of a New Testament as possible, most modern-day Bible Translations utilize the Critical Text instead of the Textus Receptus, and thus likewise do not include these “disputed” verses/phrases.
Bottom Line: Don’t Be Confused! You can Trust your English Bible!
Some will read the preceding analysis and be skeptical of the trustworthiness of the Bible. Others will be tempted to divide themselves into “KJV” vs. “Non-KJV” tribes. Neither line of thought is appropriate for the follower of Jesus, because no essential Christian doctrine hinges upon the “disputed” phrases between the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text.
For instance, even if one does not include, “Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever…” at the end of Matthew 6:13, they cannot help but to draw such a conclusion simply by reading the rest of Scripture. Likewise, someone who does include this longer ending of “The Lord’s Prayer” affirms doctrines that the Bible teaches in numerous other places, and does not go beyond the bounds of orthodoxy.
Bottom line: we can trust our modern-day Bible translations, regardless of whether they draw upon the Textus Receptus or the Critical Text.