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During bible study I noticed that Acts 8:37 was missing from my bible. Verse 36 goes straight onto verse 38. Some cursory Google searches show that this happens in the NIV but not the KJV.

Is there some controversy with the verse? A translation error? Hidden conspiracy?

Are there other verses of the bible like this? What is the story here.

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There are at least three other verses that are missing from the NIV, one of which is John 5:4. In most, if not all cases, they are left out because various methods of analysis indicate that it was added at a later date (years later). I've got another project I'm working on, otherwise I'd develop this into an answer. – El'endia Starman Jun 4 '12 at 0:06
Exactly - as more manuscript evidence is found, some verses can be shown to be later editions. Check out Bruce Metzger's Critical Appartus for a full listing. – Affable Geek Jun 4 '12 at 1:00
Hidden conspiracy? That's a bit of a stretch. It was most likely a side margin notation that was later included in the text itself. No conspiracy. No controversy. No translation error. – Narnian Sep 26 '13 at 12:14

6 Answers 6

up vote 18 down vote accepted

It is important to understand that we do not have an "original copy" of any book of the Bible. What we have are copies of copies of copies... (manuscripts), from which "Textual Critics" seek to ascertain the original wording. It is the original wording that most Bible scholars hold to be perfect and inspired by God.

Many modern Christians view "The Bible" that is sitting on their shelves as the perfect, exact word of the living God, but this doctrine is a bit off. What is sitting on your shelf is an English rendition of a particular translator's interpretation of the group of manuscripts he studied when writing his translation. (NOTE: The Bible on your shelf is completely sufficient for understanding God's message to us in 99.99% of cases.)

The books of the Bible were not originally divided into verses - this happened around the 16th century. This was a period in time when a very limited set of manuscripts were available for translation. The numbering scheme was, of course, based on those manuscripts which were available at the time. The KJV is one of the translations written around this time. (It is very interesting to look at how few manuscripts the KJV is based on, but that is a huge volatile topic that I won't go into here.)

Since that time, thousands of manuscripts have been excavated, which have given us more insight into what the original wording might have been. Modern translators (e.g. the NIV translators) seek to faithfully handle the word of God by considering as many reliable manuscripts as possible during translation - which is exactly what the KJV translators sought to do in their day (they just had far fewer manuscripts to work with.)

Contrary to what some in the KJV-only camp would have you believe, the NIV translators are not trying to lead you into a fiery demise by deceiving you with false translations. Many of the so-called "missing verses" are referenced in the side-column of your NIV Bible (see here). The only reason they were left out is that the translators of the NIV honestly believed that the evidence was overwhelmingly against those verses being part of the original writing.

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Considering there were no Baptists in ancient times making manuscripts, its more likely Catholics removed Acts 8:37 since it is against infant baptism than that anyone added it (since if it was added, it was in ancient times). Majority of mss omitting it does not weight heavily against it for this reason, but rather in its favor. – david brainerd Jun 7 '14 at 0:56
@david I think that is pretty close to circular reasoning. – fredsbend Jun 29 '14 at 2:13
I feel that the first sentence of the last paragraph should be re-worded or entirely ommitted. The asker does not source who prompted him of a conspiracy due to hidden verses, he merely compared. I myself would prefer to use the KJV or NKJV and I certainly do not fall into the kind of KJV-only camp who say stuff like that of the NIV. – Zoe Aug 12 '14 at 9:40
@Zoe "Preferring to use KJV" is not at all the same thing as being "KJV only", so that paragraph obviously does not refer to you or miss-represent your views. It's an explanation of where another (specific) group lies on an issue that is very much relevant to the question. Doing so from the perspective on supporting the NIV is a natural scope for this question. I don't see a problem here. – Caleb Aug 12 '14 at 15:33

I agree with pretty much everything Jas3.1 said, but let me add a couple of comments:

  1. It is certainly true that the manuscripts we have are copies of copies and that some number of discrepancies have crept in through the process. But as I note in my answer to this question: Is it possible for The Bible to contain errors?, most of these discrepancies are trivial spelling errors and the like. None affects any important doctrine.

  2. In my copy of the NIV, the verses they omit because they consider them debateable are still included in footnotes. (In other cases they include the verse in the text but then have a footnote saying it is debateable.) Some of my KJV-only friends take the NIV to task to for this. Not to start a fight, but I think it's fair to highlight where there is some debate about the text.

I suppose I can see that this could be construed as a maneuver by someone who doesn't like what the Bible says on a certain subject to try to cast doubt on the doctrine by casting doubt on the reliability of the text. But I don't see any evidence that the NIV has done this. Even without studying the manuscript evidence, there is no pattern to the elisions based on the doctrinal content. If a translation cast doubt on every verse that relates to, say. the Trinity, that would make me suspicious. But I don't see that.

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This is probably the most controversial verse in the Bible. That is because it witness against certain doctrines. Note that verse 36 is a question, and verse 37 is the answer, so without it verse 36 does not make sense. Also note that some bibles even quote verse 37 different(NAV:1983 trans.) in the footnote to make the answer less contraversial. Many discredit this verse because it is not present in all the manuscripts, but that could also mean that it was not included because it went against doctrine. It is important to note that this verse was referred to by early church fathers.

Early church fathers who witness to it's being a part of inspired Scripture and quoted or referred to Acts 8:37 are Irenaeus, Cyprian, Chromatius, Tertullian, Ambrosiaster, Pacian 310-391 A.D., Ambrose 340-397 A.D., Augustine and Theophylact.

Many church fathers who lived before anything we have in the way of Greek copies directly quote this verse, including Irenaeus 178 A.D., Tertullian 220, Cyprian died in 258, as well as Ambrosiaster 384, Ambrose 397, Augustine 430, and Venerable Bede of England in 735.

For example, Cyprian (200-258 A.D.) supports the inclusion of verse 36-37 Textus Receptus when he says, "In the Acts of the Apostles Treatise 12:3: Lo, here is water; what is there which hinders me from being baptized? Then said Phillip, If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest." (The Treatises of Cyprian )

Irenaeus (115-202 AD), Against Heresies 3.12: "Philip declared that this was Jesus, and that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him; as did also the believing eunuch himself: and, immediately requesting to be baptized, he said, I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God."

Augustine (354-430 AD), Sermon 49: "The eunuch believed on Christ, and said when they came unto a certain water, See water, who doth hinder me to be baptized? Philip said to him, Dost thou believe on Jesus Christ? He answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Immediately he went down with him into the water."

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Well said, Jaco. – McGafter Aug 12 '14 at 13:55

Specifically, in regards to Acts 8:37, one thing to consider is that there was no stenographer following them around detailing every conversation. These messages were passed along orally for many years before someone compiled them in written form.

Another comment used Proverbs for illustration. We cannot assume that the NIV (and most other translations) gets Proverbs 18:24 wrong and the KJV is correct. As someone pointed out, the KJV was very limited in the number of source documents used. In fact, for the OT the KJV relied pretty much on paraphrasing one Hebrew to English translation, the Hebrew Rabbinic Bible translated by Daniel Bomberg in the 1500s.

Looking specifically at the original language for Proverbs 18:24, the original Hebrew reads "a man of friends will come to destruction." Not only is this a more accurate translation than the KJV, it makes more sense than saying "if you want to have friends you must be friendly." It is a warning to pick your friends wisely.

The KJV has served a great purpose in spreading the gospel, but there is no reason to disparage other translations because none of them are exact. In the same chapter as the question, read Acts 8:32-33 and then read Isaiah 53:7-8 (the verse it is quoting). Even then, translations were not precise and were based on intention and, often, on the views of the person copying it down. This is why most versions include things in the footnotes about translational issues. It's not some nefarious scheme, it's a problem any time you are translating between two very different languages. You have to consider word meaning and intention.

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Welcome to the site! This doesn't really have much to do with your answer, but I find that sharing the following tends to help new visitors avoid mistaking the purpose of this site. I do hope to see more from you! When you get a chance, please see How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – David Jun 1 '14 at 14:23
Thanks. Very happy to have found this site. I'll get accustomed to it soon. – Terry Jun 1 '14 at 17:57
Sorry, but I don't see how the 2nd to 4th paragraphs help to answer this question. – curiousdannii Jun 1 '14 at 22:44
There were four questions in the original post. Is there some controversy with the verse? Answered by showing that it was a common thing. A translation error? Answered in all three of the first paragraphs. Hidden conspiracy? Answered in paragraph four. Are there other verses of the bible like this? Answered with examples of other verses including some from the same chapter and some from examples given in other responses. – Terry Jun 3 '14 at 3:58

It is not so much as that its missing it is that some people are mislead into think that it contradicts the bible they believe in. So people come to the conclusion of removing it and solving all the problems this happens to many and many people reading on thinking it is a typo. In nkjv the verses says \Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”

37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”[c]

38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him./

Skipping it would conclude that you only need to be baptized to be save but that is mistaken and that you would go about the rest of your life thinking a lie. you need to believe in Jesus Christ as your savior and lord to get into heaven, baptizing is only a proclamation that you are saved many Catholics unfortunately think that's how you get into heaven though so here is how i answer this to you. Do you believe that the Jesus is the son of god or not?

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This doesn't really answer the question. It's just your opinion about it. Like other answers and comments have said, the verse is an interpolation. – fredsbend May 8 at 19:51
@fredsbend Considering a wider array of evidence, it is probably not an interpolation - cf.… and Jaco's answer. If they are correct, then there would need to be multiple interpolations - in the Bible and in the writings of the Church Fathers who quoted it. I guess that is possible, but it seems less likely than alternative explanations. – bruised reed May 9 at 9:49

There are plenty of tampered scriptures in the NIV. I call the NIV people 'the Bible Butchers'. They change and 'fix' scriptures to their own version because they want it to suit international standards (widely accepted). They've changed and edited roughly over 60,000 words from many scripts closer to the originals. NIV tends to misinterpret the scripts in the first place, and then translate on the already misinterpreted scripts! Example:

Proverbs 18:24;

King James Version A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

New International Version One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

So are they saying the same thing? Course not... King James basically says if you want to have friends, then be friendly, but NIV says if you have friends, you'll come to ruin. NIV also took the word 'begotten' out of John 3:16, For God has many sons but He only has one BEGOTTEN Son. Also Kent Hovind gives a GREAT explanation of that. Bless you friend, I do hope you find what you need, for you or your cause.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE. I know that a downvote might not feel like much of a welcome but it's not because your post violates any of our guidelines. It's rare that someone presents a thought out and sourced first post so good job for that. The downvote was because I disagree with the methodology of comparing English translations to determine accuracy instead of comparing translations to the codicies they're translated from. Please don't take my opinon as discouragement and please continue posting. – crownjewel82 Nov 28 '13 at 15:30
This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal opinion, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – David Nov 28 '13 at 15:47

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