When I was in my mid-teens I was handed my first Bible-conspiracy pamphlet (See examples 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). This pamphlet spoke of the great dangers posed to Christianity by a large group of lesbian bible scholars that had fought their way into biblical societies and now were working deviously to corrupt the Bible. Part of their notorious lesbian agenda was the secret removal of bible verses that for thousands of years had contained Gods word! (Another part was making the language gender neutral, so that the New World Government can one day eradicate the sexes, or something like that.) This pamphlet warned that vital Bible verses were being secretly deleted and erased, our new Bibles were being printed missing God’s words! I was aghast, and spent many months discussing with my friends the impending satanic incursion in our world, this Verse-Removal-Conspiracy was surely a sign of the end times.
Ten years later, having learned a few things about the transmission, corruption, and restoration of the New Testament, I can slowly laugh at myself. There has never been a satanic conspiracy against the bible , in fact this “conspiracy” was perpetuated by the most conservative evangelical scholars who translated the NIV in order to try to save the Bible! The very conservative NIV translators often mistranslated and obscured the text to hide contradictions, problems, or other issues. The reason is that during the hundreds of years of biblical studies, academics have amassed irrefutable textual evidence that the Bible we have was heavily modified, edited, and miscopied on thousands of occasions.
Today, it is the job of biblical scholars to go through the thousands of manuscripts, align the differences/similarities, and try to estimate what was likely the original reading. In many cases what scholars have found is that a later copy of a particular passage includes extra phrases or sentences, while an earlier copy, dated to a few hundred years earlier, is missing those sentences. Because of this scholars have been forced to admit that for the last two millennia, we have been treating many verses, which are interpolations (additions of phrases to the text by a scribe), as thought they were the very words of God. As a result, scholars have been removing some of these passages. These passages were never original to the text, they were later additions.
While there are quite a few textual variants, alterations, interpolations, and etc, here is my personal “Top Ten” list of bible verses that that were never in the original text of the Bible.
1. “There are three that bear witness in heaven, the father, the word, and the holy spirit, and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7)
Interestingly enough this is the only passage in the Bible that clearly articulates the Trinity. While there are other passages that may hint at the Trinity this particular passage distilled hundreds of years of theology by the early church into a Bible verse added into the text. This is literally one of the more fascinating manuscript stories as it exists in our modern Bibles in part because the Catholics created a forged Greek text to provide to an 16th century scholar, Erasmus.
2. “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)
This whole verse is omitted from most modern Bible translations, while the Mark 9:29 has the word “fasting” removed from it based on the earliest manuscripts. I have personally seen people testify of fasting for prolonged periods of time, to wage war with demons. I have also heard testimonies where this process did not work, and the preacher had to embellish another element to the story (“I wasn’t holy enough, etc.”) Ironically enough the whole command, which people devote days and weeks to, was never in the Bible.
3. “Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery… said to Him… the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?… Jesus said “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
This particular story has become one of the defining portraits of Jesus yet, all 12 verses have been removed or footnoted in new translations. If there is one story that is most commonly associated with Jesus, it is, hands down, this one. Everyone I know loves to quotes from these passages about Jesus. One of the most important doctrines regarding how to treat others who are sinners (“don’t judge them because you are not without sin”) is found only in this passage. Except it was never in the Bible but is a later addition, written down almost four hundred years after the death of Jesus.
4. “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
I have witnessed countless preachers motioning triumphantly with agony and emotion on their face as they read these words. It’s as if they experience this exact sensation while they read about it. Some have even spoken of a possible medical condition where a person experiences so much stress that they sweat blood. Except, this was never in the original bible, so all the emotional sermons focusing on this were due to a passage that was almost certainly not biblical.
5. “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons and they will speak with new tongues.” (Mark 16:17)
Pentecostals have only one mention of Jesus teaching about the act of speaking in tongues in the Gospels, this passage is Mark 16:17. However, most of this chapter in Mark is an interpolation, for the original text of Mark (the earliest Gospel to be written, about 10-20 years before Luke/Matthew) ended at 16:8. What is fascinating about this is that millions of Pentecostals have frequently preached that Jesus predicted their glossolaic speech in the Gospels. Unfortunately, this is not the case, it was merely secondary addition of a scribe who later added to the text what wasn’t there.
6. “And they will take up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any poison it will not harm them, and they will lay their hands on the sick and they will become well.” (Mark 16:18)
Another passage from the unoriginal ending to the Gospel of Mark. Unfortunately, people have literally died because of this interpolation. There have been hundreds of Pentecostal churches that have engaged in snake-handling, though today they are a dying breed.
7. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13)
The Lord’s Prayer has been repeated by billions of people, trillions of times. It is probably the most repeated series of words in the history of the world (perhaps second only to the Shahada). And besides the fact that there are already two version of the Lord’s Prayer in the original texts, Matthew version (v6:9–13) has 65 words while Luke’s version (v11:2–4) only has 36 words, the ending (a doxology) of Matthew’s version, the one memorized by billions, was a later interpolation but not the original.
8. “And in the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20)
This is a primary Gospel witness of the atoning intent (“for you”) of the crucifixion as well as the promise of a “new covenant.” These are essential Christian teachings that are found in most faith statements. Today most Bibles mention with a footnote that this passage is not found in the most ancient manuscripts, however a couple conservative scholars attempt to defend the idea that the original text had these words, then a scribe removed them and the original was lost, finally another scribe re-added it to explain why it’s missing from the earliest copies. Today we have six different versions of this passage, and only one supports the theological reading that conservatives want, but there is very strong evidence this was a later interpolation.
9. “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
The first of two Christian texts that command what is called “The Great Commission” to preach the gospel to all nations is certainly a later scribal interpolation, part of the “longer ending of Mark” that was not in the original. There is one more passage that commands the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, so this whole doctrine of evangelism and missions is not completely lost once we remove Mark 16:15. However, when it comes to Matthew 28:19, there has been much debate whether this is an original text, some scholars have argued the whole text is not original. Others just say a part of the text was a later addition. Eusebius of Caesarea, and early church father, quoted this passage without the Trinitarian formula or request for baptism, so this is very strong evidence that, at the very least, “baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”, is a later addition, absent from the original Gospel. This means that the Great Commission is absent from the earliest Gospel, and the version present in a later gospel was uttered without a command to baptize people or a Trinitarian formula.
10. Many (not all) passages relating to the Substitutionary Atonement are interpolations.
Okay I cheated, this is more than ten verses, but it’s my blog so I’m the only one who can fire myself. Anyway, the phrases removed in newer Bible translations include “through his blood” in Colossians 1:14; “broken for you” in 1 Corinthians 11:24; “sacrificed for us” in 1 Corinthians 5:7; “suffered for us” in 1 Peter 4:1; “by himself purged our sins” in Hebrews 1:3. Others were edited (to reflect the earliest manuscripts) making changes from “purchased possession” to just “possession” in Ephesians 1:14 or from “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” to “what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” in Colossians 1:24, and etc.
In each of these cases, the verse in question, in traditional English translations, has said something like “Jesus was sacrificed for us” but manuscript tradition changes this into “Jesus was sacrificed. [the end]” or “Christ suffered for us” to “Christ suffered [the end].” Today the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is the dominant doctrine of the Cross in the Christian world, yet this doctrine was not prominent in the early church. While many passages are not originals, there are a handful that are likely authentic, like Ephesians 1:7, but this means the all-important doctrine of the substitutionary atonement is barely mentioned a few times, and is not present everywhere in the New Testament, which is strange for those who claim that it is, in fact, the whole point of the Gospel.