Verses like Romans 16:24, which appear in the KJV but are not present in many modern translations, are often of particular interest in discussions with King James Onlyists. From their perspective, modern translators have deleted or removed a whole verse of the Bible, thus altering the word of God. They assume that the verse was originally part of the biblical text and that modern translators have taken it out. The verse, however, is not present in the earliest manuscripts, and many modern scholars believe that it was actually added in by later scribes. Thus, modern translators are not trying to remove anything, they are simply translating from an ancient Greek text that does not contain the verse. The question, then, is which manuscript tradition best reflects the original words Paul himself actually wrote.
The Verse in Question
The verse under discussion here traditionally reads:
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen," (Romans 16:24, KJV).
No one denies that Paul wrote these words. They occur in every translation as part of Romans 16:20. The question before us is whether or not Paul wrote the same words again a few verses later in 16:24. Whatever one concludes on this verse, it is not really a "King James Only" issue at all. A number of modern translations also contain verse 24. The MEV, NKJV, NASB, HCSB all retain the verse in the main body of their texts (the latter two marking the verse with brackets to note the questions but still leaving the words in place). Thus, even if one concludes that this verse is, indeed, part of the original text of Romans, one need not turn exclusively to the KJV. A number of other translations contain the verse. Even those translations that do relegate verse 24 to a footnote still have the same words in verse 20, and thus are not in any way trying to hide or obscure anything. The question is simply a minor difference between manuscripts.
The Manuscript Evidence
The earliest witnesses by a long shot do not contain what we today call verse 24. The verse is absent in Papyrus 46 (late second/early third century), Codex א and Codex B (fourth-century), Codex A and Codex C (both fifth century), Papyrus 61 (seventh or eighth century) Uncial 0150 and Minuscule 2464 (ninth century), and other later Greek manuscripts on through the middle ages. An eighth-century Old Latin manuscript (itb) and the early copies of the Vulgate also lack the verse. Likewise, the verse is absent in virtually the entire Coptic manuscript tradition across all the various dialects.
The verse, as it is found in the KJV, is present in Codex D (sixth century), Codex L and Codex Ψ (ninth century), and in the majority of later medieval Greek manuscripts. It is found in Old Latin manuscripts from the sixth century and afterward. Later copies of the Vulgate contain the verse as well, as do some later Syriac manuscripts. The verse is also found in the Old Slavonic translation. To these witnesses, one could also add Codex F and G (both ninth century), which contain most of the verse, though they lack the words "Jesus Christ," saying only, "The grace of our Lord be with you all. Amen." Altogether, there is no evidence of the verse prior to the sixth century AD, and in the earliest of these witnesses, though the words are in verse 24, they are missing at the end of verse 20.
Interestingly, there are still other manuscripts that do not have verse 24 but that do repeat the words of verse 20, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, Amen," just in another place instead. Codex P and Minuscule 33 (ninth century), and a number of other Greek manuscripts on through the middle ages contain these words, the same words as Roman 16:24, but not in the same location. In these copies, the phrase comes at the end of the chapter, after verse 27. This is also the reading of the Syriac Peshitta, some Vulgate manuscripts, a few late Coptic manuscripts, and in the Armenian, Ethiopic, and Georgian translations.
Evaluating the Evidence
The evidence here all points in the same direction. Just consider:
- Verse 24 is a repetition of words from verse 20
- By far the earliest manuscripts unanimously lack what we today call verse 24
- The earliest manuscripts that do contain the verse lack those words in verse 20. The scribes thus appear to have written the words of verse 20 in the wrong place, creating verse 24
- Scribes obviously do write words in the wrong place sometimes, because a number of manuscripts moved verse 24 to another place in the chapter.
- There is no clear reason why, had the verse been original, all the early scribes would have deleted it nor why many later scribes would have moved it
Thus, the most reasonable conclusion is that verse 24 arose from a minor scribal error. Thus, modern translations that move the verse to a footnote or mark it with brackets are perfectly justified in this practice.