The Missing Verses of the Bible

This morning I read Mark chapter 9, which included the following passage:

42If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  [44]  45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  [46]  47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:42-50)

I am not quoting these verses to raise the issue of hell or judgment (although they are very confronting words from Jesus, aren’t they?). The reason I am quoting them is that I want you to look at the verse numbers. Do you notice anything unusual?

Yes, that’s right. There are some missing verses. Verses 44 and 46 are not there. They are indicated by square brackets and are printed in the footnotes of some Bibles but are not included in the main text. This is not the only instance of this in the Bible. There are plenty of other missing verses in the Bible. A few more examples are: Matthew 17:21, Matthew 18:11, Matthew 23:14, Mark 7:16, Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46, Mark 11:26, Mark 15:28, Luke 17:36, Luke 23:17, John 5:4. And that is just in the Gospels! There are plenty more. These and many other Bible verses are now omitted from modern translations, but can still be found in the King James Version.

Do you have any idea why? Most Christians aren’t even aware of these missing verses and, even if they are, very few would be able to articulate a clear explanation. In a recent seminar that I conducted on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, I commenced by asking attendees to look up these missing verses in their Bibles. Of the 65 people present, all were completely puzzled, and no one was able to offer a reasonable explanation.

The reason for these missing verses is a somewhat complicated. It involves transcription errors in the copying of the biblical manuscripts throughout the centuries, and the resulting textual variants that can be found in different ancient manuscript copies of the same passage. These concepts are unfamiliar to most Christians, and you may be wondering whether I am going to suggest a view of the Bible that undermines its inspired nature and dilutes its authority. That is not the case.

But I want to suggest that the nature and extent of the Bible’s inspiration is much more complex than the simplistic view that most Christians hold. If you are to develop a robust, mature faith, you will need to move beyond the superficial, Sunday-school type of understanding of the Bible’s nature that many Christians have.

I have a whole book on this topic, called Making Sense of the Bible. It is available for purchase as an eBook or paperback from my website or any online retailer, worldwide. But I want to make the eBook available for FREE for you, my blog subscribers, for a few days. If you are interested in learning more about the process of the Bible’s transcription through the ages and develop a more nuanced understanding of the nature and extent of the Bible’s inspiration, you can download Making Sense of the Bible for FREE for the next three days only, by clicking on the links in the text above. If you already own a copy of the book, the issues I have raised in this post are discussed and answered in the first couple of chapters.

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Bless you!