Q&A 64,000 Missing Words

by Aaron

There was a recent Facebook post I was sent regarding the removal of (45) biblical texts from the NIV (New International Version) and the ESV (English Standard Version) translations of the Bible (and also 64,000 changed or missing words). I am not usually one who reacts to postings, however if there is any truth to this one, I would be grateful to know.  

This is mostly false and one hundred percent misleading. What is interesting is that I had thought this was a dead issue (as it has been answered so many times in the last few years), but then Facebook never seems to lose people who share a penchant for false or misleading information.

The Facebook post that was sent in (not linked here for space/time issues) was written on May 13, 2020, and makes it sound like the original poster did the research, however, they didn’t. The EXACT same post has been going around for years and traces originally to a poster, not even originally from Facebook, that is part of what is known as the King James Only Movement. The KJV (King James Version) movement wants everyone to go back the KJV of the Bible and not use any modern translations. They say it is the “authorized” translation, and sometimes the KJV is called that, but it is called that because it was authorized by….you guessed it…King James.

It is true that there are numerous word changes from the KJV to modern translations, but these could be as simple as ‘thee(s)’ and ‘thou(s)’ to ‘you’ and ‘them.’ Some change the words ‘Holy Ghost’ to ‘Holy Spirit.’ 64,000 is not a real number, and is a little over the top anyway as it is close to 10% of the 783,137 words IN the KJV. That is the only remotely true statement in the Facebook post.

It is important to understand that modern Bible translators are always going back to the earliest manuscripts so that we can have the most accurate translation possible. The Bibles we have today are not translations of translations; they are translated from the original to our language. The KJV, on the other hand, is a translation of a translation (it is a translation of what is known as the Latin Vulgate which came from a Church Father named Jerome).

When KJV-only people say that there are 45 texts missing form modern translation, that also is not true, because those verses are not IN the earliest manuscripts (as examples: John 5:4, Acts 8:37, and Acts 24:7 which we will talk about in next weeks Acts Part 2 message). These texts are present in some of the later manuscripts, so modern translations include them for reference, but as footnotes. In this way, we (as modern readers) can have access to these texts, but not recognize them as part of the canon of scripture due to the inconsistency.

The Facebook post also says that Harper Collins owns the NIV and is changing it to reflect their worldview. While it is true that the parent company of Zondervan is Harper Collins and they DO own the rights to the NIV, NIV editors emphatically state that they are a self-governing body of religious scholars and “no publisher or commercial entity can tell them how to translate Scripture.” Harper Collins publishes only--it doesn’t get any say on what the NIV contains. The ESV, which is the translation we use at Element, is put out by Crossway, which is a very diligent and Christian organization as well.

Biblica Ministry is the group that translated the NIV Bible from the original manuscripts (the textus receptus). It was founded in New York in the 1800s to translate Scriptures so that U.S. immigrants could study them. This is their statement: “The text of the NIV is entrusted to the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), a self-governing body of 15 evangelical Bible scholars. No outside group — no publisher or commercial entity — can decide how the NIV is translated. In keeping with the original NIV charter, the CBT meets every year to monitor developments in biblical scholarship, as well as changes in English usage. Every year, they solicit (and receive) input from scholars, pastors, missionaries, and laypeople.” 

When you see these Facebook posts, or internet memes, you can disregard them as far as removing verses from the Bible. It’s far more likely that the KJV’s translators were working off of manuscripts that added verses to the Bible. All of this said, it does not mean that the KJV is unreliable; it was a great translation for its time, but some of its additions might not have been penned by the New Testament authors. Jack Wilke writes, “Most of the verses are true statements, and some of them are even quotes from other parts of the New Testament. They just don’t fit where they have been placed in the text.” What this does mean, however, is that all of us should (before re-posting or believing everything we see on Facebook), do a little bit of digging as we may even enjoy the process of learning something new.