The Bible is Reliable Despite Textual Errors


Before 1881, all translations of the New Testament (including, most importantly, the 1611 King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorised Version (AV)), were based on copies of Greek manuscripts known as the Textus Receptus, which is Latin for Received Text. (I will abbreviate this to TR).

But in the 19th and 20th centuries, older Greek manuscripts were discovered. These manuscripts have caused Bible scholars to revise what they believe is the correct text of the New Testament. The latest revision of this Greek Text is the United Bible Societies' 'The Greek New Testament' (published by United Bible Societies, 4th Edition, 1993). (Which I will abbreviate as UBS4). The successive revisions of the UBS New Testament are widely accepted in the field of Biblical Studies, and have been used for modern translations such as the Revised Standard Version (RSV), New International Version (NIV) and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

The UBS4 differs from the Received Text at thousands of points. In other words, the consensus of Bible Scholars is that, for at least a thousand years, the Christian church was using a Greek New Testament text which contained thousands of errors.

This raises the question: how significant are these differences? Was the church, until 1881, misled by deficient Bibles? Or were the differences minor and insignificant?

Scholars will generally assert that the differences are minor and insignificant. But generally this claim is made without supporting proof.

So I aim to provide supporting proof.

My aim is to (in principle) list ALL the differences between UBS4 an the Received Text, and demonstrate that indeed no Christian doctrine is affected.

So far, I have a short list, reproduced below. Bear in mind that these ones ARE the most important differences - for instance, I have listed all the two dozen or so in which the difference is more than a couple of words. The vast majority of the others are very small matters of spelling or word order. One day, I hope to have all of them catalogued also. But this list is a start.

You will notice that the majority (of the large differences listed here) are assimilations between the gospels. In other words scribes, apparently disturbed by the differences between the gospels, added ("assimilated") text to make it match another gospel(s). Obviously, almost by definition, such changes cannot affect any doctrine, because the verse already existed in another gospel!

Most differences can be seen by comparing the KJV with a modern translation such as the RSV, NRSV or NIV (but not the NKJV, which is mainly just an updating of the language of the KJV).


  1. Verse in bold
  2. Description of difference (in brackets and in italics). UBS4 is the modern Greek New Testament; TR is the Greek used for the (1611) King James Version. Occasionally I refer to the 'grading' of the certainty of verses in UBS4, and I give the UBS4 grading in [square brackets]. According to the preface of UBS4, the grading is as follows:
  3. Explain the difference in normal font.

The List

Matt. 5:22 (UBS4 omits 'without cause' [B]) - There is no affect on Christian doctrine: Jesus is demanding we must be perfect - as he also says in (say) Matthew 5:48. [Of course we cannot by ourselves be perfect, which is why we need a Saviour].

Matt 6:13 (UBS4 omits 'For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever'). They were apparently added to match church practice. While this addition is unfortunate, there is no effect on doctrine. (Note from Matthew 6:5-9 that Jesus is not teaching a rote prayer, but a general way of praying).

Matt 12:47 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Mark 9:32

Matt 17:21 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Mark 9:29

Matt 18:11 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Luke 19:10

Matt. 21:7 - (some manuscripts changed 'them' to 'him', because a scribe thought it was odd that Jesus would sit on two donkeys). But the 'them' refers to the garments, not the donkeys - so the scribe had no need to correct it. The verse makes sense as it stands.

Matt 21:44 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Luke 20:18.

Matt 23:14 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Mark 12:20 and Luke 20:47

Matt 27:35 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from John 19:24.

Mark 1:1 ('Son of God' may not be original, although UBS4 decides it probably is original, giving it a [C]). - No doctrine is affected, because Jesus is called 'Son of God' more than 100 times in the New Testament. For those who think maybe Mark never calls him 'Son of God', see Mark 14:61-62.

Mark 6:11 (UBS omits second sentence): assimilated from Matthew 10:15

Mark 7:16 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - copied from Mark 4:9 or 4:23

Mark 9:44 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - copied from Mark 9:48

Mark 9:46 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - copied from Mark 9:48

Mark 11:26 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Matt 6:15

Mark 15:28 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Luke 22:37

Mark 16:9-20 (UBS4 omits all 12 verses [A]) - assimilated from numerous sources in Matthew, Luke, John and Acts. For more detail see The Text of Mark 16.

Luke 4:44 (UBS4: 'Synagogues of Judea' [B]; TR: 'Synagogues of Galilee') - Galilee is a part of Judea. Since John's gospel indicates Jesus has an early minstry in Galilee outside of Judea, and Matt 4:23 and Mark 1:39 indicate an early ministry in Galilee, either reading is historically correct!

Luke 9:55-56 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Luke 19:10

Luke 11:2-4 (TR is similar to Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13; UBS4 has it much shorter) - Since the longer version IS in Matthew 6:9-13, there is no doctrine affected. In fact [**I'll write more on this one day**] the meaning behind the two prayers is identical (both have the same 5 key points). So why were the two prayers different in the first place? They are different because they describe two different sermons. Matthew's is from a sermon on a mountain to a crowd (Matthew 5:1), Luke's is in response to a private question (Luke 11:1).

Luke 17:36 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Matt 24:40

Luke 22:43-44 (UBS4 omits these two verses [A]) - All accounts of Jesus praying in Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46) make it clear that Jesus was in great distress. If the incident with the angel (in Luke 22:43-44) did not occur, this point is not altered.

Luke 23:17 (UBS4 omits entire verse) - assimilated from Matt 27:15, Mark 15:6

Luke 23:34 (UBS4 omits words of Jesus) - no doctrine is affected. Whether Jesus prayed for a specific forgiveness of those who crucufied him, has no bearing on the general Christian doctrine of forgiveness.

Luke 24:5 (some manuscripts lack the words 'He is not here but has risen'; UBS4 says the words probably ARE original [B]), but in any case they are also recorded in Matthew 28:6 and Mark 16:6.

Luke 24:12 (Peter finding the empty tomb of Jesus - some manuscripts omit; UBS4 includes [B]) - if not original, it is recorded anyway in John 20:1-10. Luke has already mentioned the empty tomb in 24:2-7. The empty tomb is also testified to by Matthew (28:1-15), Mark (16:1-8 - note this is before the disputed final verses). So all four gospels testify to the empty tomb.

Luke 24:51 (ascension of Jesus - some manuscripts omit; UBS4 includes [B])) - Although it probably was originally in this verse (UBS4 says it is a B: 'almost certain'), Jesus' ascension is mentioned some ten other times in the New Testament. It is described in Acts 1:9-11, and mentioned or alluded to in John 6:62, Acts 2:33-34, Acts 3:21, Eph 4:8-10, 1 Thess 1:10, Heb 4:14, Heb 9:24, 1 Peter 3:22, Rev 5:6.

John 3:16 ('begotten'): In fact, the issue of the word 'begotten' is one of ENGLISH TRANSLATION, not of variants in the manuscripts at all! There has never been any question over what the Greek says. The issue is: does the Greek word 'monogenes' mean 'only' or 'only begotten'? In either case, Jesus is called God's 'only Son'. Jesus is called the 'Son of God' many times in the Bible.

John 5:4 (UBS4 omits) - Deals with a specific incident and has no bearing on doctrine.

John 7:53-8:11 (the woman found in adultery - UBS4 omits entire passage [A]) The passage does not introduce any new theology. It is about the forgiveness of sins, a theme which is very clear through the entire New Testament. [**I'll write more on this one day**].

John 21:25 (Omitted in a single manuscript (original hand of Codex Sinaiticus) but present in all others - so it is very certain to be original) - In any case, no doctrine is affected. It is just a general comment about that Jesus did many miraculous and wondeful things.

Acts 8:37 (UBS4 omits verse) - Deals with a specific incident and has no bearing on doctrine.

Acts 15:34 (UBS4 omits verse) - Deals with a specific incident and has no bearing on doctrine.

Acts 24:7 (UBS4 omits verse) - Deals with a specific incident and has no bearing on doctrine.

Acts 28:29 (UBS4 omits verse) - Deals with a specific incident and has no bearing on doctrine.

Romans 16:24 (UBS4 omits verse) - copied from Romans 16:20

1 Timothy 3:16 (UBS4: 'which was manifest in the flesh' [A]; TR: 'God was manifest in the flesh') - UBS4 considers the mistake to be accidental, since the Greek words 'hos' (who/which) and 'theos' (God) looked quite similar. But of course the doctrine of the incarnation was present well before this mistake was made: the two clearest passages are John 1:1-18 and Philippians 2:5-11.

1 John 5:7 (The 'Johainne Comma' - UBS4 omits): 1 John 5:7 has long been known not to be original. It was never in the Greek manuscripts (the original language of the New Testament), but surfaced in the LATIN translation in the fifth century, AFTER the Trinity doctrine had been accepted! It appears that a 'gloss' (a marginal comment in a Bible) accidentally found its way into the Latin Bible. Due to some unfortunate politics, Erasmus (who compared various manuscripts in the 16th century to select what he thought was the best Greek text) included the verse against his better judgement. From there it found its way into the King James Version (which was based on Erasmus' text). The Trinity doctrine can be (and nearly always is) demonstrated WITHOUT recourse to 1 John 5:7. [**maybe write more on this later**]

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