Article of the Month

December 2010




Those who treasure the Bible are, understandably, very cautious about changing so much as one word of it.  This is commendable.  Nevertheless, those who give cautious and prayerful consideration to such matters realize that our Bible was not written in English.  Our English versions have had to be translated from either the Hebrew and Greek, or, in some instances, from previous translations.  There has been much opportunity for errors to enter the text—not only errors of translation, but errors of addition and omission. 


There are scholars, known as recensionists, whose life-work is to evaluate and to compare diligently all of the manuscripts and fragments of Scripture which have been, and continue to be, discovered.  Their work is difficult, but invaluable.  We are learning constantly that many of our Bibles are based on altered manuscripts.  By the work of these recensionsits, we are gradually able to learn which words should be rightly added or subtracted from the Bibles we use every day. 

  Some Corrected Versions 

Those among us who use some quality modern translations can see how these versions are more careful in indicating the correctness of the texts.  For instance, the New American Standard Bible actually omits illegitimate words and phrases in some texts.  In others, it puts the doubtful words in brackets [          ].  Even the King James (or “Authorized Version”), which dates from 1611, has been relatively careful in indicating words which the translators have supplied.  It does so by putting these words in italic print.  Our eyes readily catch this once they are used to it.  Look, for example, at II Thessalonians 2:3.  The entire phrase, “that day shall not come,” is italicized—meaning that those words are not in the original Greek manuscript of the Bible, but have been supplied by the translators for clarity.  (NOTE:  Some modern KJV Bibles no longer use italicized print.  This is unfortunate and even a little dishonest.) 

Words or verses which are clearly not part of the old or original manuscripts are called “spurious”—they simply have no business being considered as part of the inspired testimony of the Bible. 

  The Old Versus the New 

Translation, of course, is always difficult.  One language does not have easy word equivalents in another.  If we add to that the problem that figures of speech, very meaningful in one language, may have no parallel figures in another, we find translating to be a gargantuan undertaking.

But translation is not our subject here. Spurious words are.

It is curious to note that the oldest part of our Bibles, the so-called Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, has fewer problems with omissions or spurious additions.  The Jews were extremely zealous and painstakingly careful in maintaining the accuracy of every “jot and tittle” of God’s Word.  For this we owe them an immense debt of gratitude.

Christians, unfortunately, have been much sloppier in maintaining the purity of the so-called New Testament or Greek Scriptures.  The number of variants found of New Testament Scripture is enormous.  Deciding what the originals said is a science.  Nevertheless, the accuracy of our New Testament is improving rapidly as new discoveries are made. 


The number of corrections needed in the Bibles which most of us carry is large.  The objective of this short article is merely to show a few spurious texts.  Some make an enormous difference for our understanding.  Some are more innocent; yet, we all want to be aware of this situation and to seek purity of The Word insofar as is possible.  The following list is only a sampling, but it should function to help us see how former tampering with the text has obscured important information for our faith structures.

  Revelation 20:5   

The ONLY legitimate words in this verse are “This is the first resurrection.”  The rest of it is spurious.  The words “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished” are not an original part of Revelation, and they serve to confuse seriously our understanding.  Apparently the Lamsa translation is the only one which correctly omits these words.

Manuscript evidence shows these words should not be in this text.  But, even beyond manuscript evidence, it is somewhat easy to see by the CONTEXT that these words make no sense.

                        First:    Notice the logical and flowing sense when the
                        end of verse 4 meets the LEGITIMATE words of verse 5.

                        “They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
                    This is the first resurrection.”

This makes sense!  But with the spurious words present, the “rest of the dead” NOT LIVING is said to be the “first resurrection.”  This makes NO sense!

                        Second:     Notice that the whole reason for the binding
                        of Satan is SO THAT the “nations” will not be deceived
                        during the thousand years.

                        But the “nations” ARE the “rest of the dead.”  If the
                        “rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand
                        years were finished,” there would be NO REASON
                        to have bound Satan!

The point is this:  Spurious texts frequently violate context and reason.  Revelation 20:5 should have been suspicious even before recensionists did their work.

  Mark 16:9-20 

EVERYTHING in these verses is spurious!  And because this has not generally been known, entire religious sects have grown up based on the unfortunate spurious information given in these words.  We all know of the “snake handlers” whose trust in Mark 16:18 has upon numerous occasions caused deaths.  But Jesus NEVER SPOKE THESE WORDS!  The poor, misinformed faithful who have trusted this testimony and died as a result are scorned as having died because their faith was faulty!

It is an honor and a mark of the faithful to believe God’s Word.  But how horrible when what some of us believe is NOT GOD’S WORD!

  Matthew 6:13 

This verse concludes “The Lord’s Prayer.”  The words at the beginning of the verse are legitimate:

                        “And lead us not into temptation,
                        but deliver us from evil.”

The remainder of the verse is spurious:  “For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.”

The spurious words sound quite good!  So, what is wrong with them (other than the fact that they are not actually a part of the Bible!)?

There is a historic background to the placement of these spurious words here.  In the earlier ages, it was preached and believed that the then-current amalgamation of church and state WAS God’s Kingdom on earth.  The concept seems to us now so incredible!  But these words were added as an acknowledgment of that teaching.  Strangely, the Roman Church (which both instigated and preached this doctrine) DID NOT add these words to Roman Catholic Bibles.  But Protestants did.  Jesus, however, never had this sentence in his model prayer.  It should NOT be in our Bibles.

  Luke 22:43, 44 

The entirety of these two verses is spurious.  Jesus did not sweat blood!

One might argue that there seems little difference whether he did or did not.  However, these words do not belong in the Bible, and they are wrong.  They might, among other things, seem to undermine the fact of Jesus’ perfect humanity—a teaching VITAL to the doctrine of the ransom sacrifice which he gave.        

We all should affirm in our minds that, no matter how innocent an omission or interpolation of words in the Bible might seem, WE DO NOT WANT ANYTHING SAID WHICH WAS NOT DIRECTED OF GOD.

  John 7:53 – 8:11 

Our final example for this article is one which is so often quoted by ministers as to make it one of the most famous passages in the Bible.

ALL IN THESE VERSES is spurious.

The mercy shown here is typical of Jesus’ attitudes—and should be that of ours also.  But there are many other texts which teach us about this mercy.  The problem with this episode (other than its illegitimacy) is that it shows Jesus’ admonishing the breaking of the Law.  He DID NOT DO SUCH THINGS!

Jesus would soon nail the Law to the cross—removing his disciples from its burdens.  (Colossians 2:14)  But for those Jews who did not become disciples, Jesus never admonished the ignoring nor the breaking of the Law.  Thus this little story of the woman taken in adultery contradicts one of the great principles of the relationship of Jesus to the Law.


We have reviewed only a tiny fraction of spurious Bible texts.  We have done so to awaken our minds to the fact that even our best Bible versions are faulty.  Thus, if our faith is troubled by a text, it is important to find out if it is legitimately a part of Scripture, if it is a poor translation, or if we are just missing something in our understanding.  It takes diligent prayer and tireless searching, but the rewards are more than worth it all.


-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -