If you compare the King James and New King James Versions with the newer translations (e.g., the New International Version, English Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible, New Living Translation, etc.), you will notice that several verses are entirely missing from the newer translations. Examples of missing verses and passages are John 5:4, Acts 8:37, and 1 John 5:7. Another example is Mark 16:9–20, although that passage is always placed in the text or in footnotes. In addition to the few missing verses, there are numerous words and phrases that are missing from newer translations. Why do these translations omit these verses, phrases, and words? Are the newer translations taking verses out of the Bible, as some claim?
No, the newer translations are not removing verses from the Bible. Rather, the newer translations are attempting to accurately present what the biblical writers originally wrote, and that means leaving out anything that was not part of the original text. Any content “missing” in newer translations is believed by most scholars to not have been in the Bible to begin with.
The KJV was translated in AD 1611; the New Testament translators of the KJV used a Greek manuscript called the Textus Receptus. Since that time, many biblical manuscripts have been discovered that predate the Textus Receptus, and these older manuscripts, in theory, are likely to be more accurate. In their research, Bible scholars and textual critics have discovered some differences between the Textus Receptus and the older manuscripts. It seems that, over the course of 1,500 years, some words, phrases, and even sentences were added to the Bible, either intentionally or accidentally. The “missing verses” mentioned above are simply not found in some of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. So, the newer translations remove these verses or place them in footnotes or in brackets because the translators believe they do not truly belong in the Bible.
For example, John 5:4 is included in the KJV, but in the NKJV the verse has a footnote attached explaining that it is not found in many Greek texts; the NASB includes the verse in brackets; the NIV places the verse in a footnote, so John 5:4 is “missing” in the actual text. The disputed portion is this: “waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted” (John 5:3–4, NASB).
Here is a possible explanation of how John 5:4 ended up in the Bible: a scribe is writing out John 5, in which Jesus visits the pool of Bethesda: “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:3–5). But then the scribe gets to verse 7, as Jesus speaks to the man about his desire to be healed, and the man says, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred” (verse 7). The scribe considers the man’s reference to “stirred” water as a source of possible confusion, as John does not expound on it. So the scribe writes a quick note in the margin to explain why the invalid was waiting for “stirred” water—an angel came down at certain times to make something special happen. The scribe’s notation was an attempt to aid the reader in understanding Scripture. But then, as more and more copies of that manuscript were made, the scribe’s marginal note was transferred from the margin and inserted into the actual text as part of the passage. It may be that the later copyist misconstrued the intention of the marginal note: instead of being a commentary of sorts, the note was seen as the scribe’s attempt to correct a mistake, inserting a verse he had accidentally left out. Thus, what the scribe meant as a helpful gloss resulted in John 5 expanding by one verse.
It is important to remember that the verses in question are of minor significance. None of them change in any way the crucial themes of the Bible, nor do they have any impact on the Bible’s doctrines—Jesus’ death and resurrection; Christ’s being the only way of salvation; and the doctrines of heaven and hell, sin and redemption, and the nature and character of God. These doctrines are preserved intact through the work of the Holy Spirit, who safeguards the Word of God for all generations. It is not a matter of the newer translations missing verses, and it is not a matter of the KJV translators adding to the Bible. It is a matter of determining, through careful research and textual science, what content was most likely part of the original manuscripts of the Bible.