Archive for the 'King James Version' Category

Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in Scripture?

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

By Spencer D Gear

Bible Open To Psalm 118

If you want to get into an animated discussion in some churches, raise the possibility that Mark 16:9-20 is not in the earliest manuscripts and should not be included in the Bible. I encountered this when a person complained to me about the verses that had been left out of the New International Version (NIV), so he will not read the NIV.  I said that it was probably the other way around: Those verses excluded from the NIV were those that had been added to the KJV. Now that did get the theological juices boiling for both of us. Let’s take a read of theses verses in the KJV:

Mark 16:9-20 (King James Version)

9Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

20And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Those who support the King James Version of the Bible tend to prefer the long ending of Mark 16 because it is located in that translation. They include vv. 9-20 in Scripture, but most modern translations indicate somehow that there are doubts that these verses should by in Scripture. For example, the English Standard Version places Mark 16:9-20 in double square brackets with the note at the end of v. 8, ‘Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20’. The New International Version (2011 edition) has this note before v. 9, ’The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20’.

Here are some statements by supporters of the long ending of Mark 16:

  • ‘Does not Mark end funny in the texts you’re relying on[ending with 16:8]? Is it not apparent that something is missing?’ (Christian Forums #204).
  • ‘Would you care to show us how the ending of mark is a corruption from mankind? Please use scripture [this is from a supporter of the longer ending]’ (Christian Forums #217).
  • ‘Is there anything in any passage here [Mark 16:9-20] that is false, that can be proven to be false by the body of scripture we have? If so, point it out’ (Christian Forums #230).
  • ‘The case of Mark 16:9-20 allows us the opportunity to demonstrate first-hand the spuriousness of the Westcott-Hortian paradigm as it is applied to textual criticism. Based upon the evidence of a small, corrupted handful of Greek manuscripts and little else, modern textual critics remove the verse even despite the overwhelming amount of evidence in its favour’ (Why Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible).
  • ‘Do verses 9-20 belong in Mark 16? I don’t see how anyone could reasonably say they don’t. The rest of the Scripture supports them. The words of Jesus clearly support them. I think it’s clear that they belong there. Beware of those who try to tell you otherwise ‘ (‘Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in the Bible?’ Scott Morris).

Some of the issues

Let’s examine some of the matters relating to whether Mark 16:9-20 should in the Bible or have been added.

I could go into further detail as to why I reject vv. 9-20 as part of the New Testament. However, I consider that Kelly Iverson has summarised the material extremely well and to my exegetical and textual satisfaction in the article, “Irony in the end: A textual and literary analysis of Mark 16:8“. Iverson presents this material in footnote 6, based on the internal evidence that includes this examination of the long ending of Mark 16 (I have transliterated the Greek characters in the article to make it more accessible for the general reader):

The longer ending (vv 9-20) is clearly the most attested reading. It is validated by almost all of the extant Greek manuscripts, a significant number of minuscules, numerous versions, and scores of church Fathers. Geographically it is represented by the Byzantine, Alexandrian, and Western text types. However, one should be careful not to reduce textual criticism into an exercise of manuscript counting. Though the longer ending is widely attested, the vast bulk of manuscripts are from the generally inferior, Byzantine text type dating from the 8th to the 13th centuries (except Codex A which is a 5th century document). Due to the solidarity of the Byzantine text type we may assume that this represents at least a fourth century reading (Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3rd ed. [New York: Oxford University, 1992], 293).

The abrupt ending (1) is found in the two oldest Greek manuscripts. These Alexandrian uncials a B, both 4th century manuscripts, are supported by the Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts, approximately one hundred Armenian texts and two Georgian manuscripts from the 9th and 10th centuries, and several church Fathers including Clement of Alexandria and Origen. That this reading was more prominent is supported by Eusebius and Jerome who claimed that vv 9-20 were absent from almost all known manuscripts (ibid., 226). It is also significant that Codex Bobiensis (k) omits the longer ending as this is deemed the “most important witness to the Old African Latin” Bible (ibid., 73). The genealogical solidarity of the two primary Alexandrian witnesses suggest that this reading can be dated to the 2nd century (Metzger, Text of the New Testament, 215-216).

To say the least, the evidence is conflicting. One should be careful not to make a firm decision one way or the other regarding Mark’s ending based on the external data alone. Though the majority of New Testament scholars believe that vv 9-20 are not original, virtually none come to this conclusion based purely on the external evidence. Even Farmer must confess that, “while a study of the external evidence is rewarding in itself and can be very illuminating in many ways . . . it does not produce the evidential grounds for a definitive solution to the problem. A study of the history of the text, by itself, has not proven sufficient, since the evidence is divided” (Farmer, Last Twelve Verses of Mark, 74).

Most text-critics appeal to the internal evidence in order to demonstrate that vv 9-20 are non-Marcan. One is immediately struck with the awkward transition between vv 8 and 9. In v 8, the subject, “they” referring to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (16:1) is implicit within the third, plural verb, ephobounto. But in v 9 the subject changes to “He” (from the third, singular verb ephan?). The transition is striking because the subject is unexpressed. Furthermore, in v 9 Mary Magdalene is introduced as though she were a new character even though her presence has already been established in the immediate context (15:47; 16:1) while Mary the mother of James and Salome disappear from the entire narrative. This awkward transition coupled with numerous words and phrases that are foreign to Mark, suggest the decidedly inauthentic nature of this ending.

Several examples should prove the point. In 16:9 we find the only occurrence of the verb phainw in the New Testament with respect to the resurrection (though the same verb is used in Luke 9:8 to describe Elijah’s re-appearance). Equally as unusual is the construction par hes ekbeblekei , which is a grammatical hapax. In v 10, the verb poreuvomai which is found 29 times in Matthew and 51 times in Luke is not found in Mark 1:1-16:8, but repeatedly in the longer ending (vv 10, 12, 15). In v 11, The verb theaomai which occurs in Matthew (6:1; 11:7; 22:11; 23:5) and Luke (7:24; 23:55) finds no parallel in Mark except for its multiple occurrence in the longer ending (16:11, 14). In v 12, the expression meta tauta which occurs frequently in Luke (1:24; 5:27; 10:1; 12:4; 17:8; 18:4) and John (2:12; 3:22; 5:1, 14; 6:1; 7:1; 11:7, 11; 13:7; 19:28, 38; 21:1) has no precedence in Mark. phanerow which neither Matthew or Luke use to describe resurrection appearances is found in vv 12 and 14 (J. K. Elliott, “The Text and Language of the endings of Mark’s Gospel,” TZ 27 [1971]: 258). The phrase heteros morph? is also unique to Marcan vocabulary. Neither heteros nor morph? occur elsewhere in Mark and morph? only appears in Paul’s description of the kenosis (Phil 2:6, 7). In v 14, husteros, although used by the other evangelists, is a decidedly non-Marcan term having no precedence in 1:1-16:8. Mark seems to prefer eschatos over husteros as evidenced by several parallel passages in which Mark opts for the former over the later term found in Matthew (cf. Matt 21:37Mark 12:6; Matt 22:27Mark 12:22). In v 18, aside from other lexical and syntactical phenomenon one is struck by the unusual exegetical hapax. No other text in Scripture provides a promise for the handling of snakes and imbibing deadly poison without adverse repercussions. In v 19, though Mark sparingly uses the conjunction ?u, the phrase men ou is not found in 1:1-16:8. The longer ending concludes in v 20 with a litany of non-Marcan vocabulary: sunergeww is not found in Mark or the Gospels and appears to be a Pauline term (Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 16:16; 2 Cor 6:1) but it is never used with Jesus as the subject, and bebaiow along with epakolouthew are also foreign to the Synoptic Gospels.

As is somewhat evident, the internal evidence raises significant problems with Mark 16:9-20. The awkward transition between vv 8 and 9 and the non-Marcan vocabulary has led the vast majority of New Testament scholars to conclude that the longer ending is inauthentic. In fact, even Farmer (Last Twelve Verses of Mark, 103), the leading proponent for the authenticity of the last twelve verses, must confess that some of the evidence warrants this conclusion.

Iverson’s article provides an overall analysis of some of the major issues in the short vs. long ending of Mark 16. I highly recommend it.

Yes, there is false teaching in this ‘Scripture’

Is there any teaching within Mark 16:9-20 that would be questionable when compared with the rest of Scripture? There most certainly is teaching in this passage that is false when judged by other Scriptures. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Take Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”. This promotes the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration that a person needs to be baptised to be saved. What does the rest of the Bible teach?

  • ‘But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12 ESV).
  • “’And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” ‘(Acts 16:31).
  • ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph 2:8-9).
  • ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 5:1).
  • ‘and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith’ (Phil 3:9).

These Scriptures are very clear that no works (e.g. baptism) are required to become children of God and obtain salvation. It is all by grace through faith. Therefore, to teach that “Whoever believes AND is baptized” is saved, is teaching false doctrine. Baptism is not a means to salvation. Baptismal regeneration, as taught in Mark 16:16, is contrary to Scripture. See John Piper’s article, ‘What is baptism and does it save?’ See also, ‘Twisting Acts 2:38 – The question of baptism by water for salvation’ by Watchman Fellowship; and Robin Brace, ‘Baptismal regeneration refuted’.

Let’s get it clear with the teaching of Acts 2:38. Those who teach baptismal regeneration love to use this verse for support.

Acts 2:38 in the ESV reads, ‘And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”’.

This verse has been used regularly by those who support baptismal regeneration (i.e. baptism is necessary for salvation) as they indicate from this verse ‘baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’.

The Greek grammar helps us to understand that this is not supporting baptism for the remission of sins. The command to repent is to ‘you’ plural, second person. The command to be baptised is given in singular number and third person. Therefore, it is not correct to identify ‘forgiveness of your sins’ with baptism otherwise it would mean that each person was baptised for the forgiveness of sins of all those who were present.

If we were to take baptism as that which is linked to (causes) the forgiveness of sins, the text would say something like this: ‘Let him be baptised for the remission of all your sins’, and “let him (another) be baptised for the forgiveness of all your sins’, and “let him (yet another person) be baptised for the forgiveness of all your sins’, and on and on for each person in the group.

Therefore, each person would be baptised for the forgiveness of the sins of all the people in the group.

This is not what the verse teaches. Baptism is not linked to the forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:38.

Simon J. Kistemaker in his commentary on the Book of Acts (Baker Academic 1990, p. 105) confirms this position that Acts 2:38 does not teach baptismal regeneration:

In Greek, the imperative verb repent is in the plural; Peter addresses all the people whose consciences drive them to repentance. But the verb, be baptized, is in the singular to stress the individual nature of baptism. A Christian should be baptized to be a follower of Jesus Christ, for baptism is the sign indicating that a person belongs to the company of God’s people.

Craig A Evans, an evangelical historical Jesus’ scholar, states:

The last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark (Mk 16:9-20) are not the original ending; they were added at least two centuries after Mark first began to circulate. These passages – one from Mark, one from Luke, one from John – represent the only major textual problems in the Gospels, no important teaching hangs on any one of them (unless you belong to a snake-handling cult; see Mk 16:18 (2007. Fabricating Jesus. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, p. 30).

This is a sample of Bruce Metzger’s assessment of the long vs. short ending of Mark 16:

Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, 1971), pages 122-126.

Mark 16:9-20   The Ending(s) of Mark.

Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts. (1) The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph[1] and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (it k), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16:8. Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document.

(2) Several witnesses, including four uncial Greek manuscripts of the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries (L Psi[2] 099 0112), as well as Old Latin k, the margin of the Harelean Syriac, several Sahidic and Bohairic manuscripts, and not a few Ethiopic manuscripts, continue after verse 8 as follows (with trifling variations): “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” All of these witnesses except it k also continue with verses 9-20.

(3) The traditional ending of Mark, so familiar through the AV and other translations of the Textus Receptus, is present in the vast number of witnesses, including A C D K W X Delta Thi Pi Psi[3] 099 0112 f13 28 33 al. The earliest patristic witnesses to part or all of the long ending are Irenaeus and the Diatessaron. It is not certain whether Justin Martyr was acquainted with the passage; in his Apology (i.45) he includes five words that occur, in a different sequence, in ver. 20. (tou logou tou ischurou hon apo Ierousalem hoi apostoloi autou exelthontes pantachou ekeruxan).[4]

(4) In the fourth century the traditional ending also circulated, according to testimony preserved by Jerome, in an expanded form, preserved today in one Greek manuscript. Codex Washingtonianus includes the following after ver. 14: “And they excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now — thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.’ ”

How should the evidence of each of these endings be evaluated? It is obvious that the expanded form of the long ending (4) has no claim to be original. Not only is the external evidence extremely limited, but the expansion contains several non-Markan words and expressions (including ho aiwn houtos, hamartanw, apologew, alethinos, hapostrephw[5]) as well as several that occur nowhere else in the New Testament (deinos, apos, proslegw[6]). The whole expansion has about it an unmistakable apocryphal flavor. It probably is the work of a second or third century scribe who wished to soften the severe condemnation of the Eleven in 16.14.

The longer ending (3), though current in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. (a) The vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non-Markan. (e.g. apistew, blaptw, bebaiow, epakolouthew, theaomai, meta tauta, poreuomai, sunergew, usteron[7] are found nowhere else in Mark; and thanasimon[8] and tois met autou genomenois[9], as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament). (b) The connection between ver. 8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel. Thus, the subject of ver. 8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in ver. 9; in ver. 9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before (15.47 and 16.1); the other women of verses 1-8 are now forgotten; the use of anastas de[10] and the position of prwton[11] are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8. In short, all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with ver. 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion. In view of the inconcinnities[12] between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to fill up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century.

The internal evidence for the shorter ending (2) is decidedly against its being genuine. Besides containing a high percentage of non-Markan words, its rhetorical tone differs totally from the simple style of Mark’s Gospel.

Finally it should be observed that the external evidence for the shorter ending (2) resolves itself into additional testimony supporting the omission of verses 9-20. No one who had available as the conclusion of the Second Gospel the twelve verses 9-20, so rich in interesting material, would have deliberately replaced them with four lines of a colorless and generalized summary. Therefore, the documentary evidence supporting (2) should be added to that supporting (1). Thus, on the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16.8. At the same time, however out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee decided to include verses 9-20 as part of the text, but to enclose them within double square brackets to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.

Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270:

… we may find it instructive to consider the attitude of Church Fathers toward variant readings in the text of the New Testament. On the one hand, as far as certain readings involve sensitive points of doctrine, the Fathers customarily alleged that heretics had tampered with the accuracy of the text. On the other hand, however, the question of the canonicity of a document apparently did not arise in connection with discussion of such variant readings, even though they might involve quite considerable sections of text. Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious. Eusebius and Jerome, well aware of such variation in the witnesses, discussed which form of text was to be preferred. It is noteworthy, however, that neither Father suggested that one form was canonical and the other was not. Furthermore, the perception that the canon was basically closed did not lead to a slavish fixing of the text of the canonical books. Thus, the category of ‘canonical’ appears to have been broad enough to include all variant readings (as well as variant renderings in early versions) that emerged during the course of the transmission of the New Testament documents while apostolic tradition was still a living entity, with an intermingling of written and oral forms of that tradition. Already in the second century, for example, the so-called long ending of Mark was known to Justin Martyr and to Tatian, who incorporated it into his Diatesseron. There seems to be good reason, therefore, to conclude that, though external and internal evidence is conclusive against the authenticity of the last twelve verses as coming from the same pen as the rest of the Gospel, the passage ought to be accepted as part of the canonical text of Mark.


See, ‘the ending of Mark’ in Bible Research. Overall, the problems raised above suggest that Mark 16:9-20 is an addition to the biblical text. In Craig Evans’ view, the longer ending was not added until 2 centuries after the Gospel of Mark was written.

However, taking this view should not separate us from Christian fellowship with those who accept the longer view of Mark 16.


[1] The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used and I have transliterated the letter.

[2] Capital Greek letter was used.

[3] Greek characters were used for these Greek capital letters.

[4] Bruce Metzger’s commentary used the Greek characters but my homepage will not accept Greek characters so I have transliterated the Greek.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] ‘Inconcinnity’ means ‘lack of proportion and congruity; inelegance’ [, available at: (Accessed 11 January 2012)].


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date:  7 October 2015.


Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible?

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Papyrus Roll Clip Art

By Spencer D Gear

One fellow claimed there were only three options and he put it into a poll:

Poll: Should the resurrection account of Mark 16:9-20 be removed from the bible?

Be advised that this is a public poll: other users can see the choice(s) you selected.

Poll Options

Should the resurrection account of Mark 16:9-20 be removed from the bible?



I do not know

View poll results

His assessment was:[1]

Should the resurrection account of Mark 16:9-20 be removed from the bible?

Many new bible versions question whether Mark 16:9-20 should be in the bible. This is done in footnotes or the use of single or double brackets around the passage. As far as I know not a single bible actually leaves out the passage, which contains the description of the resurrections of the Lord Jesus, a record of the apostles and some others seeing Him, words that Jesus Christ spoke and a declaration of His ascension into heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul declares that gospel of salvation as the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord. So the resurrection, as the apostles as eyewitnesses, should be in the Gospel according to Mark.

Here is the passage from the King James Bible: Mark 16:9-20

9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Should the resurrection account of Mark 16:9-20 be removed from the bible?

He asked for those who voted ‘yes’ to reply. I did:[2]

I voted ‘yes’

Why? I voted in the affirmative because my research has found that some of the earliest MSS (manuscripts) do not include Mark 16:9ff. I support the statement that precedes these verses in the ESV, ‘Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20’.
In addition, I believe this section teaches false doctrine. It seems to have an apocryphal flavour. This false doctrine includes:

  1. Baptismal regeneration (Mk 16:16);
  2. Picking up serpents with their hands and drinking deadly poison will not hurt people (16:18).
  3. ‘They will lay their hands on the sick, and THEY WILL recover’ (16:18). We know that there is no guarantee that laying hands on the sick will lead to recovery from sickness. That is the Lord’s sovereign work.

There are 4 actual endings in the MSSs from v 9ff. Which one do you support?

The long ending, Jerome told us, was in Greek copies in his day.

There are 17 non-Markan words in Mk 16:9ff and the lack of a smooth transition from 16:8-16:9 indicates that there are features in 9ff that were added by someone who knew something of a form of Mark’s Gospel that ended abruptly at 16:8 and he/she wanted a smoother conclusion.

There is an Armenian MSS of the Gospels copied about AD 989 that contains 2 words at the end of v 8 and before vv 9-20. They are Aristion eritsou (‘of the Presbyter Aristion’). Some have interpreted this to refer to Aristion, a contemporary of Papias in the early 2nd century. Papias has been traditionally understood to be a disciple of the Apostle John (this information from Bruce Metzger 1991:227). Could it be that Aristion added these words?

So there are a number of reasons why I reject Mark 16:9-20 as being in the original text.

You are wrong!

Here is his response to my post:[3]

Mark 16:16 is not baptismal regeneration at all. It is baptism by the Holy Spirit. The verse itself shows that.
Paul in Acts 28 did have viper bite him and it had no effect. This is string evidence that Mark 16:9-20 is indeed original.
Paul also laid his hands on someone who recovered in Acts 28. This is string evidence that Mark 16:9-20 is indeed original.
These signs do disappear in the New Testament but that too matches Mark 16:9-20.
The rest of your response is full of assumptions and presuppositions.
Your extraordinary claim that all English Bibles are in error must be proved beyond all doubt.

My reply was:[4]

He claimed: ‘Mark 16:16 is not baptismal regeneration at all. It is baptism by the Holy Spirit. The verse itself shows that’.

My response: The context doesn’t indicate Spirit baptism but ‘whoever believes and is baptized will be saved’.

He claimed: ‘Paul in Acts 28 did have viper bite him and it had no effect. This is string evidence that Mark 16:9-20 is indeed original’.

My reply was that Paul’s being bitten by a viper in Acts 28:3f and not being killed, is very different theology from ‘picking up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them’.

He claimed: ‘Paul also laid his hands on someone who recovered in Acts 28. This is string evidence that Mark 16:9-20 is indeed original.’

My response was that laying hands on a person and that person is healed is different from the theology of Mk 16:18, ‘They WILL lay their hands on the sick, and they WILL recover’. Many people have had pastors and elders lay hands on the sick and pray for them and they HAVE NOT recovered from that sickness. I’m one such person. Healing from laying hands on the sick is not guaranteed. That’s determined by the sovereign God and there is no guarantee THEY WILL recover.

He came again: ‘These signs do disappear in the New Testament but that too matches Mark 16:9-20.’

Not according to Mk 16:17, ‘These signs will accompany those who believe’. It is expected that there will be ‘those who believe’ from the time of Jesus to the time of his second coming. See also John 14:12.

His view was, ‘The rest of your response is full of assumptions and presuppositions.’

Yes, I have presuppositions, but I try to back them with evidence. Let’s not overlook that both of us operate from presuppositions.

He claimed, ‘Your extraordinary claim that all English Bibles are in error must be proved beyond all doubt.’

My response was: I have never made such a statement. You have misrepresented my view.

Options for Mark 16:9-20 being in canon of Scripture

At one point this fellow stated: ‘Yes, no, or I do not know does indeed covers (sic) all choices’ (of his poll re Mk 16:9-20 being included in the Bible).[5]

My response was:[6]

These could be some of the choices:

  • Yes
  • No
  • I do not know
  • Some oldest MSS do not include 16:9-20;
  • Early MSS & other ancient witnesses don’t have 16:9-20;
  • There is serious doubt about whether 16:9-20 belongs in Mark;
  • Some ancient versions add 16:9-20; others leave it out.

These are but examples. There are more than 3 options.

Some further points

These are some further points I made:

clip_image002 The statement was made by another, ‘Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 declares that the gospel of salvation includes the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore the gospel according to Mark must have it. It would never have been accepted if it did not have it’.[7]

My response was:[8]

This is circular reasoning. Just because 1 Cor 15:1-4 declares the gospel of salvation involving Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, that does not place a requirement on what should appear in Mark’s version of the resurrection.

What God has permitted for Mark 16:1-8 to be Mark’s version of the resurrection and what is in the other gospels, is what God provided in his authoritative Scripture.
I Cor 15:1-4 does not dictate the extent of what should be in Mark when the other details of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are in the FOUR Gospels.
It is circular reasoning to require that 1 Cor 15 dictates what should be in Mark.

clip_image002[1]’We need to be clear on something about Jesus’ resurrection. We have no record of any eyewitnesses who saw the actual resurrection of Jesus. Not a single person saw the resurrection – based on the NT evidence.

We do have evidence of people who spoke with, touched, and ate with Jesus after his resurrection. But that is not the same as these people being eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection’.[9]

clip_image002[2] A person wrote:[10]

The Bible gives warnings about adding to or taking away from the Bible.

Deuteronomy 4:2
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you

Deuteronomy 12:32
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
32 “[a]Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

Revelation 22:18
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.

My brief reply was:[11]

Proof texting does not help this discussion for these reasons:

1. You quote 2 verses from Deuteronomy about not adding to the Word. But what does the New Testament do? It ADDS to the Word of the OT. There are issues of interpretation that must be dealt with to understand what’s going on here. Quoting from Deut without this discussion is not helpful.

2. Then you quote Rev 22:18, which is a common one for questioning those who discuss whether or not Mk 16:9-20 should be in or out of Scripture. But you did not discuss these matters:

  • Rev 22:18 was written at the end of a single book when it was composed. It was not in the canon of Scripture when originally written. Therefore, how can it relate to the entire OT and NT when it seems more likely to apply only to the Book of Revelation? There needs to be questions around this question rather than providing proof texts.
  • Also, how do you know what is the exact content of the canon of Scripture to know that one is adding to or subtracting from it? Does the canon include Mk 16:9-20 or is it an addition? This question of bibliology needs to be pursued. This is not possible with proof texting.
  • I find that proof texting leaves too many questions unanswered – and especially in a discussion like this.

A fellow replied:[12]

That makes two doubting Thomases?
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’ (John 20:27).

My response was:[13]

Sounds like there are 3 of us.

I’m one who wants to be honest with the evidence from the Gospels. We have records of eyewitnesses who walked and talked with Jesus AFTER his resurrection and BEFORE the ascension. But, to my knowledge, there was not a single witness to his actual resurrection.

In many ways I’m pleased about that as such people could have found it difficult to maintain their humility. However, we have all the evidence in the NT that the Lord wanted us to have.

Works consulted

Metzger, B M 1992. The text of the New Testament. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.



[1] SavedByGraceThruFaith#1, Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Should the resurrection account of Mark 16:9-20 be removed from the bible?’ 27 December 2013. Available at: (Accessed 2 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

[3] Ibid, SavedByGraceThruFaith#19, available at:,

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#21, available at:

[5] Ibid, SavedByGraceThruFaith#5,

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#27,

[7] Ibid., SavedByGraceThruFaith#8,

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#27,

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#25.

[10] Ibid., SharolL#20,

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[12] Ibid., SkyWriting#30.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#31,

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Excuses people make for promoting the King James Version of the Bible

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Closed Bible by Anonymous - Clipart of a closed Bible by Aaron Johnson

By Spencer D Gear

There are any number of reasons (or excuses) people make for promoting the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible and rejecting modern translations. Here is one that I recently came across:

I just looked at all the missing verses in the NIV bible! I am shocked, they even removed part of Psalms 12:6-7 where God said he would preserve his word!
I think I’ll stick with the KJV and NKJV now![1]

How does one respond to such a view? The following is my first and brief response: ‘Why are you not saying that the KJV and NKJV added these words?
You seem to be making the NIV an ogre of Bible translations’.[2]

How would the KJV promoter respond?

The title page's central text is:"THE HOLY BIBLE,Conteyning the Old Testament,AND THE NEW:Newly Translated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties speciall Comandement.Appointed to be read in Churches.Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Majestie.ANNO DOM. 1611 ."At bottom is:"C. Boel fecit in Richmont.".


This was his rejoinder:

The KJV did not add these words, even the NWT has these words:
6 The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings,+
As silver refined in a smelting furnace* of earth, clarified seven times.
7 You yourself, O Jehovah, will guard them;+
You will preserve each one from this generation to time indefinite.(NWT)
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[a] refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,(NIV)[3]

How should I, a supporter of modern translations, reply? [4]

Slimline Center Column Reference Bible NLT, TuTone
Tyndale House Publishers

It beats me that this person would be using the NWT of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to compare with any committee translation of the Bible. Is he a supporter of the JWs?

These are some different renditions of Psalm 12:6-7. Why are the KJV and NKJV correct and the others wrong?

Psalm 12:6-7

King James Version (KJV)

6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.


Psalm 12:6-7

New King James Version (NKJV)

6 The words of the Lord are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
7 You shall keep them, O Lord,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.


Psalm 12:6-7

New International Version (NIV)

6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[a] refined seven times.

7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,


  1. Psalm 12:6 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text earth


Psalm 12:6-7

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

6 The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
7 You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us[a] from this generation for ever.


  1. Psalm 12:7 Or guard him


Psalm 12:6-7

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

6 The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

7 You, O Lord, will protect us;
you will guard us from this generation for ever.


Evangelical commentator on the book of Psalms, H C Leupold, in Exposition of Psalms  wrote of Psalm 12:6-7,

    6. David reassures himself that this will take place by recalling the general nature of God’s words as he and all of God’s saints know them: they are “pure words,” which expression removes the alloy of undependability. Many may often intend to do well and may promise help but may fall short of keeping his promise because of human frailty. Not so God. Therefore His promises may be likened to “silver defined in a smelter in the ground, purified seven times,” the very purest of the precious metal.
7. Since God may rightly be described in reference to His words as just indicated, the psalmist draws proper conclusions with regard to the situation in which he and other godly men like him find themselves. Addressing God in prayer, he expresses the confidence that God will keep His watchful eye on those that have suffered oppression (“Thou wilt regard”) and will go farther in that He will keep His protecting hand over them. The psalm here takes on a note of the more personal feelings in that the writer includes himself (“Thou wilt guard us“). This protection is offered in the face of this wicked class of oppressors above described (in this sense the word “generation” is here used), and this protection of God will be exercised for all times to come (Leupold 1959:132-133, emphasis in original).

Here we have Leupold writing his commentary in 1959, long before the translations of the NIV, ESV and NRSV, but his understanding of the Hebrew text is the same as from these translations and not the KJV and NKJV.


Another supporter of the KJV

This KJV promoter wrote:

What Bible did the Pilgrams (sic) bring over on the Mayflower?
What Bible has historically been used by Baptists since before America was a country?
The KJV has proven itself reliable for over 400 years.
Sure the language is antiquated, sure its out of date, sure it uses words like “ye” and “thy” but is that so hard to understand that it needs serious updating?
I wonder what people would say if William Shakespere’s (sic) works were updated into todays (sic) English?
From Romeo and Juliet:
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
Shakesphere (sic), Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2
Would be changed to:
“Romeo, Yo! Where you be!”[5]

I provided these responses:

Do you mean to say that you know the KJV meaning of ‘superfluity of naughtiness’ (James 1:21) without consulting a commentary or another translation?…

That’s using a straw man logical fallacy as we are talking about a translation (the KJV) and not the original languages (Hebrew & Greek).[6]

A trend among these KJV supporters:

To justify support for an archaic English translation of the Bible, these promoters used these tactics:

clip_image002 The modern translations are the culprits. They delete verses from the KJV. It’s not that the original languages (earliest editions) have less words and the KJV has added to the originals.

clip_image002[1] Even a cult Bible, the New World Translation of the JWs, has the KJV verses, so the KJV verses are the accurate ones.

clip_image002[2] The KJV translation of Psalm 12:7 is the accurate translation and the modern versions (e.g. NIV) are to blame for changing the KJV.

clip_image002[3] The false claim that the Pilgrim Fathers took the KJV with them from England to the New World when it was the Geneva Bible that they used.

clip_image002[4] The false claim that translating Shakespeare’s works would be parallel to what has been done by the NIV translators to the KJV translation.

clip_image002[5] The superiority of a 1611/1769 KJV translation, based on late Greek New Testament manuscripts (the Textus Receptus), rather than modern translations that are based on, say, the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament that uses manuscripts that are much older and closer to the original manuscripts.

clip_image002[6] The KJV supporters seem to have a presuppositional bias towards the KJV, without examining the manuscript evidence for the newer translations.


Leupold, H C 1959. Exposition of Psalms. London: Evangelical Press 1959 – reprinted by Baker Book House in 1969.


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘I’ve started to become attached to the KJV, is there any proof that its’, yogosans14#13, 25 April 2013, available at: (Accessed 25 April 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#14.

[3] Ibid., yogosans14#15.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#21.

[5] Ibid., DeaconDean#10.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#22.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Whytehouse Graphics

John 3:16 and ‘only begotten’

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Ticket to Heaven


By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual for those who support the KJV translation of the Bible to oppose some of the more modern translations. I encountered this in an objection to the NIV, “one and only Son” instead of “only begotten Son” in John 3:16. In a post of Christian Forums, there was this comment:

Oh, and look at the famous John 3:16 verse from the NIV Version: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. NIV removed the word “begotten”….[1]

Begotten is used because it implies Jesus Christ is fully man as well as fully God. He is the literal only begotten of God.

As far as these other irrelevant arguments involving original greek, that’s useless. If you are an average Bible reader, you will not have original script to compare translations. That is essentially the Bible’s printer’s job. An average Bible reader should have a completely fufilling Bible without need for a study guide or accompanying texts. The King James Version of the Bible being the best translation.[2]

[3]The issue in John 3:16 is over the translation of the Greek word, monogenes,[4] which the KJV translates as “only begotten” and the NIV translates as “one and only”. What is the meaning of this Greek word? It is derived from ginomai (I come to be, become, originate – Arndt & Gingrich) and NOT gennaw (I beget – Arndt & Gingrich). So, monogenes is not connected with begetting.

The Greek word means nothing more than “only” or “unique”. It is used of the widow of Nain’s “only” son (Luke 7:12, cf. Luke 9:38); Jairus’s “only” daughter (Luke 8:42). What is particularly instructive is that the word is used in referring to Isaac (Heb. 11:17), because Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, but he was “unique”. He was God’s promised son to Abraham.

So when monogenes is used in John 3:16, it is indicating that Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way. There is no other son who can be God’s Son like Jesus is in this unique way. There is a unique relationship between the Father and the Son, which is one of the special themes of John’s Gospel.

Therefore, the song and dance that has been made in this thread about “only begotten” of the KJV being “one and only” in the NIV is a non-issue. Because the word monogenes is NOT derived from begetting but is referring to the only, unique Son. Therefore, the NIV translation is a good one. In fact, when one understands the etymology of monogenes, the KJV translation gives a meaning that is not based on the origin of the word, monogenes. The etymology of a word is important.

So whether in Cantonese, Mandarin, English, German or Icelandic, the issue in translating monogenes is: How do we best translate it to mean only or unique?

Somebody came back to me with this response:

Monogenes is a two part word in which mono means ‘only’ or ‘one’ and genes means ‘begotten’, ‘born’, ‘come forth’.
Buchsel, in his definitive treastise on the meaning of the word ‘monogenes‘ said:
It means only-begotten (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. iv, p. 739).[5]

[6]It is too bad that you didn’t read on further to p. 741 of Buchsel’s Greek exposition of monogenes in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4 (Eerdmans 1967) where Buchsel’s word study is not as assured as you are making it out to be. He wrote:

“It is not wholly clear whether monogenes in John denotes also the birth or begetting from God; it probably does, John calls Jesus ho gennetheis ek tou theou [the one born of God], 1 John 5:18. Though many will not accept this, he here understands the concept of sonship in terms of begetting. For him to be the Son of God is not just to be the recipient of God’s love. It is to be begotten of God. This is true both of believers and also of Jesus.[7] For this reason monogenes probably includes also begetting of God (p. 741).

In his footnote at this point, he states,

One should not refer the monogenes to the virgin birth of Jesus…, for the pre-existent as well as the historical Jesus is the son of God (p. 741, n 20).

While Buchel does prefer the translation of monogenes as referring to the begetting from God, he tempers it with, “It is not wholly clear”.

Arndt & Gingrich in their Greek lexicon also are not as sure as you want it to be. They state that the meaning of monogenes is of an only son or daughter (Heb 11:17; Luke 8:42) – also unique in kind.

“In the Johannine literature monogenes is used only of Jesus. The meanings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here…. But some … prefer to regard monogenes as somewhat heightened in meaning in John and 1 John to only-begotten or begotten of the Only One, in view of the emphasis on gennasthai ek theou [born of God] (John 1:13 etc)” (p. 529).

On the basis of the study of these Greek exegetes, it is NOT definitive that monogenes should be translated as “only begotten” and for someone to say that the NIV’s translation of “one and only” Son in John 3:16 is wrong, does not line up with what the exegetes are concluding.

If Buchel can conclude that it is “not wholly clear” and Arndt & Gingrich say that in the Johannine writings, the meanings of “only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here”, but “some prefer” the “somewhat heightened” meaning in John’s writings of “only-begotten or begotten of the Only One”, indicate that those intensely involved in Greek exegesis are not absolutely convinced that the one and only meaning of monogenes in John 3:16 is “only begotten”.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Communities, Baptists, ‘The New International Version (NIV) Bible completely removes the word Godhead’, Proverb2717 #1, available at: (Accessed 8 July 2012).

[2] Proverbs2717#7, ibid.

[3] This is my response as OzSpen, ibid., #77.

[4] Most of this information was gleaned from Leon Morris’s commentary: Leon Morris 1971. The Gospel according to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 105. Morris in his comments on John 3:16 (1971:230) referred back to this explanation of monogenes in John 1:14.

[5] Christian Forums, Limikin#84, ibid.

[6] The following is my, OzSpen, response at #85, ibid.

[7] My emphasis in bold.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.



The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations

Saturday, July 21st, 2012


Alexandrian text-type (image courtesy Wikipedia) King James (Authorised) Version, (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

A fellow wrote on an Internet forum, ‘If your bible is not translated from the Textus Receptus, then you have only and imitation bible, not authentic’.[1] This was the response:

I’m not sure you know what the TR [Textus Receptus] even is.

The term “Textus Receptus” is mostly an anachronism. A term applied to a textual lineage that influenced the translations of the Reformation and post-Reformation period during the 16th and 17th centuries.

But there did not exist a “Textus Receptus” as a singular, uniform textual edition until later. Rather, the TR is a composite of numerous critical editions of the Greek New Testament that includes several editions from Erasmus alone, in addition to critical editions produced by Stephanus and Beza. None of these critical editions agreed entirely with one another, and even throughout Erasmus’ scholarly career his critical edition went through numerous edits and changes.

The Authorized Version of King James I of England was a translation from these many Greek texts, with the various scholars working and choosing which variants were preferable and in some cases lifting entire portions piecemeal from previous English translations such as Tyndale’s Version. Beyond these, the translators relied upon traditional readings taken from the Vulgate (such can be seen in the KJV translation of Isaiah 14:12 which retains the Vulgate’s “lucifer”). Even after the 1611 edition, it went through numerous re-edits until the situation with the Authorized Version had become a total mess, and a standardized text was put forth in 1769, which is the “King James Version” we all know today.

Why should we limit translations to an arbitrary set of competing and conflicting–and outdated–critical editions of the Greek text (i.e. the Textus Receptus) when we have a far larger library of textual manuscripts available, far superior critical editions at our disposal, and nearly five hundred years of adept scholarship at our collective fingertips in order to present far superior translations of Holy Scripture for our benefit and edification?[2]

Bruce Metzger’s assessment of Greek New Testaments

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

[3]I recommend one of the outstanding textual critics of the 20th century, the late Dr. Bruce Metzger. In The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (Metzger 1992), you will learn:

1. ‘In 1514 the first printed Greek New Testament came from the press, as part of the Polyglot Bible’ (1992:96);

2. ‘Though the Complutensian text was the first Greek New Testament to be printed, the first Greek New Testament to be published (that is, put on the market) was the edition prepared by the famous Dutch scholar and humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536). It cannot be determined exactly when Erasmus first decided to prepare an edition of the Greek Testament, but on a visit to Basle in August 1514 he discussed (probably not for the first time) the possibility of such a volume with the well-known publisher Johann Froben…. The printing began on 2 October 1515, and in a remarkably short time (1 March 1516) the entire edition was finished, a large folio volume of about 1,000 pages which, as Erasmus himself declared later, was “precipitated rather than edited” (praecipitatum verius quam editum). Owing to the haste in production, the volume contains hundreds of typographical errors; in fact, Scrivener once declared, “[It] is in that respect the most faulty book I know.’ (1992:98, 99).

3. ‘Here and there in Erasmus’ self-made Greek text are readings which have never been found in any known Greek manuscript–but which are still perpetuated today in printings of the so-called Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament. Even in parts of the New Testament Erasmus occasionally introduced into his Greek text material taken from the Latin Vulgate. Thus in Acts ix. 6…. This … became part of the Textus Receptus, from which the King James version was made in 1611′ (1992:100).

4. ‘The second edition [of Erasmus’ Greek text] became the basis of Luther’s German translation…. It has often been debated how far Luther’s translation rests on the Greek text’ (1991:100; 100 n. 2).

5. ‘Subsequently Erasmus issued a fourth and definitive edition (1527), which contains the text of the New Testament in three parallel columns, the Greek, the Latin Vulgate, and Erasmus’ own Latin version’ (1992:102).

6. ‘Thus the text of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament rests upon a half dozen minuscule [i.e. running writing] manuscripts’ (1992:102).

7. ‘Subsequent editors, though making a number of alterations in Erasmus’ text, essentially reproduced this debased form of the Greek Testament. Having secured an undeserved pre-eminence, what came to be called the Textus Receptus of the New Testament resisted for 400 years all scholarly efforts to displace it in favour of an earlier and more accurate text’ (1992:103).

8. “The first edition of the whole Bible in Greek was published in three parts in February 1518 at Venice by the celebrated Aldine press. The New Testament, which is dedicated to Erasmus, follows the first edition of Erasmus so closely as to reproduce many typographical errors–even those which Erasmus had corrected in the list of errata’ (1992:103).

9. ‘Theodore de Beze (Beza, 1519-1605), a friend and successor of Calvin at Geneva and an eminent classical and Biblical scholar, published no fewer than nine editions of the Greek Testament between 1565 and 1604, and a tenth edition appeared posthumously in 1611….The importance of Beza’s work lies in the extent to which his editions tended to popularize and to stereotype the Textus Receptus. The King James translators of 1611 made large use of Beza’s editions of 1588-9 and 1698’ (1992:105).

10. ‘The next stage in the history of New Testament textual criticism is characterized by assiduous efforts to assemble variant readings from Greek manuscripts, versions, and Fathers. For almost two centuries scholars ransacked libraries and museums, in Europe as well as the Near East, for witnesses to the text of the New Testament. But almost all of the editors of the New Testament during this period were content to reprint the time-honoured but corrupt Textus Receptus, relegating the evidence for the earlier readings to the apparatus. An occasional brave soul who ventured to print a different form of Greek text was either condemned or ignored’ (1992:106).

Is the New Living Translation a paraphrase or dynamic equivalence?

A fellow on the Forum wrote: ‘the NLT is a paraphrase’.[4] I had stated that the NIV and NLT used dynamic equivalence. To check out which philosophy of translation the NLT uses, I looked up my hard copy of the NLT and the NLT website. This is what I found:

(image courtesy NLT)


Translation Philosophy and Methodology

English Bible translations tend to be governed by one of two general translation theories. The first theory has been called “formal-equivalence,” “literal,” or “word-for-word” translation. According to this theory, the translator attempts to render each word of the original language into English and seeks to preserve the original syntax and sentence structure as much as possible in translation. The second theory has been called “dynamic-equivalence,” “functional-equivalence,” or “thought-for-thought” translation. The goal of this translation theory is to produce in English the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original-language text, both in meaning and in style.

Both of these translation theories have their strengths. A formal-equivalence translation preserves aspects of the original text—including ancient idioms, term consistency, and original-language syntax—that are valuable for scholars and professional study. It allows a reader to trace formal elements of the original-language text through the English translation. A dynamic-equivalence translation, on the other hand, focuses on translating the message of the original-language text. It ensures that the meaning of the text is readily apparent to the contemporary reader. This allows the message to come through with immediacy, without requiring the reader to struggle with foreign idioms and awkward syntax. It also facilitates serious study of the text’s message and clarity in both devotional and public reading.

The pure application of either of these translation philosophies would create translations at opposite ends of the translation spectrum. But in reality, all translations contain a mixture of these two philosophies. A purely formal-equivalence translation would be unintelligible in English, and a purely dynamic-equivalence translation would risk being unfaithful to the original. That is why translations shaped by dynamic-equivalence theory are usually quite literal when the original text is relatively clear, and the translations shaped by formal-equivalence theory are sometimes quite dynamic when the original text is obscure.

The translators of the New Living Translation set out to render the message of the original texts of Scripture into clear, contemporary English. As they did so, they kept the concerns of both formal-equivalence and dynamic-equivalence in mind. On the one hand, they translated as simply and literally as possible when that approach yielded an accurate, clear, and natural English text. Many words and phrases were rendered literally and consistently into English, preserving essential literary and rhetorical devices, ancient metaphors, and word choices that give structure to the text and provide echoes of meaning from one passage to the next.

On the other hand, the translators rendered the message more dynamically when the literal rendering was hard to understand, was misleading, or yielded archaic or foreign wording. They clarified difficult metaphors and terms to aid in the reader’s understanding. The translators first struggled with the meaning of the words and phrases in the ancient context; then they rendered the message into clear, natural English. Their goal was to be both faithful to the ancient texts and eminently readable. The result is a translation that is both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.[5]

What is dynamic equivalence?

Wycliffe Bible Translators (and SIL) are experts in translating the Bible into languages for which there has been no Bible in print. These are their definitions of ‘formal equivalence’ and ‘dynamic equivalence’ for translations.

It was linguist, Dr. Eugene Nida, who introduced the concept of dynamic equivalence. Wycliffe Bible Translators website explains:

Throughout his travels as a consultant, Dr. Nida urged translators to learn the culture as well as the language of the people they served. He was also concerned that they understand the culture of the Bible so they could translate the meaning of the text from one culture to another, rather than attempt a literal word-for-word translation. This led him to write several landmark books on what is now termed “functional equivalence” or “dynamic equivalence.” While there is debate about “literal” versus “functional equivalence” translation methods, there is little doubt that Nida’s influence has allowed millions of people around the world to read the Word of God in a language that speaks to their hearts.[6]

Nida explained the meaning of ‘dynamic equivalence’:

In such a translation one is not so concerned with matching the receptor-language message with the source-language message, but with the dynamic relationship…, that the relationship between receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptors and the message.

A translation of dynamic equivalence aims at complete naturalness of expression, and tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within the context of his own culture; it does not insist that he understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to comprehend the message. (Nida 1964:159)

Stated as a kind of formula, we may say that for the type of message contained in the New Testament, we are concerned with a relationship such as can be expressed in the following equation:


That is to say, the receptor in the circle culture should be able, within his own culture, to respond to the message as given in his language, in substantially the same manner as the receptor in the triangle culture responded, within the context of his own culture, to the message as communicated to him in his own language. (Nida 1964:148-149)[7]

For an exposé on dynamic equivalence, see the article by Robert L. Thomas, ‘Dynamic equivalence: A method of translation or a system of hermeneutics’. See also D A Carson, ‘The limits of dynamic equivalence in Bible translation’.


The Erasmus Greek text that became the Textus Receptus and had so much influence on the text used for the translation of the KJV New Testament is based on a ‘debased form of the Greek Testament’ (Metzger’s words).

Better Greek manuscripts are available in the twenty-first century and most of the new translations are based on these texts. The Greek text gathered by Erasmus that became the Textus Receptus is not the most reliable Greek text available for NT translation. The manuscripts found since the time of Erasmus and the eclectic Greek text of Nestle-Aland 26, which is used in the United Bible Societies Greek NT (edition 27 is now available), provide a more reliable Greek text from which to translate. The latter Greek text is used in such English Bible translations as the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NIV, NASB and NLT.

However, there is no point in trying to convince a dogmatic KJV-only supporter of these details.

Works consulted

Metzger, B 1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption and restoration. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nida, E A 1964. Toward a science of translating. Leiden: E J Brill.


[1] Christian 12#93, Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, ‘King James Version why the best?’, available at: (Accessed 21 July 2012).

[2] Ibid, CryptoLutheran#106.

[3] I posted this in ibid., OzSpen#127.

[4] Ibid., Michaelrh1325#126. Part of my response to him was that he needed to know what he was talking about.

[5] New Living Translation website, available at: (Accessed 21 July 2012).

[6] ‘Eugene Nida’, Wycliffe, available at: (Accessed 21 July 2012).

[7] Glenn J. Kerr 2011. Dynamic equivalence and its daughters: Placing Bible translation theories in their historical context. Journal of Translation 7(1). SIL. Available at: (Accessed 1 June 2016).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 June 2016.