You might be surprised when you’re reading the New Testament and a verse disappears into thin air. For example, if you are reading Acts 8:36, you would expect Acts 8:37 to follow, but oddly, 8:38 is the next verse. What happened to Acts 8:37?
Or try to look up Romans 16:24. Or Matthew 17:21.
In fact, there’s a whole list of Bible verses that have been, er, excised from modern editions. Why?
The versification system that we use in English is based on the King James Bible (and some precursors) that relied on the Greek “Textus Receptus” (relying for the NT mainly on Erasmus’ edition) while modern translations are based on more recent text-critical work. The Textus Receptus represents a Byzantine text type, but the newer critical editions are based on an Alexandrian text type. The Alexandrian text is now generally regarded as more accurate.
So our versification system is based on the King James, which is based on the Byzantine text, but our translations are based on the Alexandrian text. This means we’re using a verse system that does not line up with our text and it creates, well, holes. Even the Nova Vulgata, the Catholic Church’s official edition omits the verses.
Then are these omitted verses Scripture? Well, not exactly, but they were regarded as Scripture by many Christians for ages. Fortunately, most of them are not crucial verses.
Just a little piece of Bible-reader knowledge that will prevent you from calling the publisher in outrage when you find that a verse is missing from your Bible!
I just had an interesting book purchasing experience. I wanted to buy the famous Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger. But when it came time to make my purchase, I could not figure out which edition to buy. There seem to be three different editions, but now I think there are actually only two.
1. First Edition of the Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger, published in 1971.
2. Section Edition of the Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, published in 1994. ISBN: 3438060108.
The 2nd edition is, of course, the best one to use. However, some people on the internet complain that it omits some information from the first edition. On Amazon and other online retailers, you’ll also find a 2006 edition by Hendrickson Publishers called “second revised edition” or the “ancient greek edition.” It also has a different ISBN:1598561642. I searched and searched and could find no academic reviews of this 2006 edition. I also looked at the electronic versions of this resource for the big Bible software programs (BibleWorks, Logos, Accordance) and they all use the 1994 edition. So, as far as I can tell, the 1994 edition is the last, final, definitive edition. The difference in ISBN’s comes from the fact that the 343*** edition is leather bound and the 157*** edition is hardback. So, I bought the 1994 edition since I like leather more than cardboard.
UPDATE: Well, Amazon said it was 1994, but it was actually 2005. It is the Metzger/Ehrman Fourth edition. I also found a very important book review of this 4th edition. I printed it out and am keeping it in the book as a reminder of the changes Ehrman made to Metzger’s work–some good, some bad. The review can be found here: Daniel Wallace, Review of The Text of the New Testament, JETS 49 (2006) 821-24.
Finally, Google has finished digitizing the Dead Sea Scrolls. The DSS have been annoying difficult to get images of for years. There’s a microfiche edition, which is a pain to use and there is a CD-ROM version some libraries have, but it focuses mainly on the non-biblical texts. The best images of the scrolls are from early book versions, published in the 50’s. At that point the scrolls had not faded as much. Now so many of them are hopelessly faded or deteriorating, nearly impossible to read with the naked eye. However, scholars do use infrared technology and such to read them now. But it is about time that the DSS be made publicly available online. Scholars will be using Google’s handiwork for years to come as the principle source of DSS images. Hopefully they’ll come up with a standard way of citing the images in scholarly publications. You can take a look at the scrolls here:http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/
The NY Times is reporting that the Hobby Lobby founding family is purchasing huge numbers of Bibles and Bible manuscripts for their projected Bible museum. The Times reports that their collection has grown to over 30,000 items. The plans for the museum are not final, but the likely location will be in Dallas. So I may have to plan a visit when the open up shop. It does not seem that the museum has a website yet.
For some reason the whole project reminds me a lot of the enormous manuscript and Bible collection that was acquired by the Holy Land Experience and is now housed in their Scriptorium. The Holy Land Experience is a biblical theme park in Orlando. Their collection actually belongs to the Sola Scriptura Foundation, a trust set up by Robert Van Kampen (d. 1999), who formerly housed the collection in Grand Haven, MI. Perhaps the Hobby Lobby folks could attempt to acquire some of the Van Kampen collection or convince the foundation to move it from a theme park to a mueseum. The Evangelical Textual Criticisms blog claims that some of the texts in the Van Kampen collection are dated very early and have not been officially included in lists of NT manuscripts used for textual criticism.
I just found a great resource for anyone who wants a brief introduction to text criticism of the Bible. Apparently, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts by Sir Frederic Kenyon used to be a common textbook for textual criticism. I found it to be a very helpful summary of the important points. It can help you make sense of the text-critical apparatus in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament or Rahlfs’ Septuagint, even the Hebrew Bible–but the book was published in 1939, seven years before the discovery of the caves at Qumran. Hence the reason it is no longer a standard.
Kenyon’s book has been superceded by a few other books: Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the New Testament (2005) and his Text of the New Testament (co-authored with Bart Ehrman, 2005), Kurt and Barbara Aland’s Text of the New Testament (1995)and Emmanuel Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2001).
If you want to dig into the oldest and most important manuscripts we have of the biblical text, look no further than the Catholic Bible Student sidebar. I just added a link to a facsimile edition of the Aleppo Codex, one of the most ancient and authoritative Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. The website has very sleek functionality and high-resolution zoom. Unfortunately, the other most important Hebrew manuscript, the Leningrad Codex, is not available online yet. At least, not in facsimile form. But you can find a link to its text at this amazing website from Tyndale House. They’ve done a wonderful job pulling together the best Bible resources on the web and are making them freely available. You can find links to the most important manuscripts, papyri and critical editions, tons of English versions, help with original languages. It’s a gold mine!