Was Acts 24:7 removed from modern Bibles?

by Luke Wayne
10/31/18
Return to King James Onlyism

Did modern translators delete Acts 24:7? Did they also erase material from the surrounding verses? King James Only advocates would certainly have us think so. It is true that many modern translations do not have verse 6 in the main body of the text and have shorter forms of verses 6 and 8 (though they do contain the additional material in a footnote). The question is, however, was this material originally part of the book of Acts? Did modern scholars delete it? Or did later scribes add to what Luke originally wrote? To answer this, we need to look at the manuscripts and try to understand why each group of translators did what they did.

The Verses in Question

The passage under discussion here reads:

"And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. [We wanted to judge him according to our own Law. But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you.] By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him," (Acts 24:6-8, NASB).

The disputed section of the passage is the portion that the NASB places in brackets. Now, no matter what you think about the originality of this verse, it is not really a "King James Only" issue. While many modern translations do relegate this passage to a footnote, others contain these verses. The MEV and NKJV, for example, retain every word of it. Likewise, the NASB, HCSB, and others retain the verses, though these place the passage in brackets to note the questions about it, as seen in the NASB above. Even if one concludes that these verses are, indeed, part of the original text of the Book of Acts, one need not rely only on the KJV. A number of other translations, both historical and modern, contain these verses as well. Still, the issue is worth giving a closer look.

The Manuscript Evidence

The verse is present in Codex E (sixth century), Codex Ψ (ninth century), and other manuscripts from the tenth century onward. Numerous Old Latin copies contain the verse, including ite (sixth century). The late Clementine revision of the Vulgate contains it as well. The Syriac Peshitta and other later Syriac manuscripts include it, as do some later ancient translations such as the Armenian, Slavonic, and Ethiopic. 

On the other hand, the verses are absent in Codex‭ א and Codex B (fourth century). Codex A (fifth century), Papyrus 74 (seventh century), Codex L (eighth century) and Codex H, Codex P, and Uncial 049 (ninth century), and other later Greek manuscripts on through the middle ages. Several Old Latin manuscripts, such as its (sixth century), lack the verse, as do many Vulgate manuscripts, including the earliest copies. The Coptic tradition also lacks it across all dialects. So, too, does the later Georgian translation.

Which is the Majority Text?

Neither modern translators nor King James Only advocates can rightly appeal to the "majority text" as the final word sense the majority of manuscripts disagree with both traditions in a number of key places. Still, since KJV Onlyists often do borrow majority text arguments, it is worth noting that this is one of those places that even the Byzantine tradition, the later medieval Greek texts that make up the majority of our manuscripts, is actually split on the matter. There are numerous Byzantine manuscripts that contain the verse and numerous others that do not, so neither side can claim the level of majority support here that can be claimed in some other passages. Still, if we are to ask which reading is most representative of the "majority text" tradition, it seems that the reading without the verse stands ahead here. There are different ways to look at the "majority text." One methodology is to basically count which reading is in the largest number of manuscripts at any given place. This (though a bit oversimplified) is basically the methodology represented by Hodges and Farstad, and they conclude that the majority reading is the shorter reading without verse 7.1 On the other hand, one can take the "Byzantine tradition" that makes up the majority of manuscripts and apply the text-critical process to ask, "which reading was the original reading within this specific manuscript tradition?" This is the basic idea behind the "Byzantine Priority" position of Robinson and Pierpont. If you adopt this approach, you again conclude that the reading favored by the "majority text" is the short reading found in modern translations, the one without verse 7.2 Thus, anyone who favors the later Byzantine manuscripts as the more reliable witness will ultimately have to side with modern translators on this verse rather than the "Textus Receptus" behind the KJV.

Evaluating the Evidence

So, the King James Onlyist cannot appeal to the "majority of all manuscripts" to support this verse. What, then, do they have? The oldest manuscripts lack the reading. The shorter reading also has much broader, wider-spread attestation. The earliest witnesses, the most diverse witnesses, and the majority of witnesses all seem to side with the modern translations that lack verse 7. There is also no clear reason why, if the verse had been original, any scribe might have accidentally or intentionally deleted it. All in all, modern translators seem to have gotten this one right.

 

 

  • 1. Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text: Second Edition (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985) 459
  • 2. Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament In The Original Greek Byzantine Textform (Chilton Book Publishing, 2005) 310