Omission or Addition in the Bible?
After prior discussions about adding to or taking away from the Bible, it gives one pause in considering footnotes in some translations, which effectively note that a certain phrase or verse is “not found in all manuscripts.”
Consider the Lord’s Prayer. The end is one such example: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Or when the disciples can’t cast out a demon and Jesus says, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” The footnote adds “…and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Which is it? Prayer or prayer and fasting?
The largest such passage is the conclusion to Mark’s gospel, where the last twelve (Mark 16:8–20 ) verses are not included in all manuscripts.
So is it an error to include them or an error to exclude them? In these, and all other instances, I think that it is wise to include them. Here is why.
As a writer, I often revise my own work to improve it, such as adding something that I forgot or to correct imprecise wording. Sometimes this occurs after it its initial publication. It’s likely that biblical writers did the same.
As an editor I sometimes change a writer’s words to clarify what is unclear or confusing. Scribes who made copies of the Bible may have done the same, albeit with much more care and consideration.
So I’m not concerned with minor differences between the ancient manuscripts. The overall message remains unaltered and the additional text adds clarity and fullness.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.