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Bible interpolation

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Almost every biblical text is composite in the sense that unlike modern works it was not written once and then considered complete; rather, a text was subject to constant modification, variation, commentary, elaboration, expansion, and other types of addition and editing as writers from later generations continued to add their insights.
Michael CooganWikipedia, The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction[1]

Bible interpolation or Bible redaction is the art of adding words, phrases, or entire sentences (depending on punctuation) to the Bible — and thus sanctifying the maunderings of mere Man as Holy Writ.

Some Christians, through a lack of research or through willful ignorance, believe that the books of the Bible presented to us today is exactly the same as when each was written 19 or more centuries ago, having been precisely copied over the years. However, a comparison with ancient texts indicates that this is simply not true.[2] Through biblical criticism, scholars have identified additions, omissions, and edits made by various scribes, editors, compilers, and redactors.

Human error and honest attempts at clarification account for some changes. Many discrepancies stem from dishonest attempts on the part of copyists to alter the Bible in order to further various theological agendas. As a result, the Bible we read today may not necessarily convey the message intended by its original author(s) — which becomes a distinct problem if an original author is/was, by extension or not, a wrathful tyrant.

Differences between KJV and NIV[edit]

Comparing Bible versions can indicate the presence of interpolations. Differences between the King James Version and the New International Version, for example, are due to differences in the source texts used. These are real textual discrepancies and are not just errors in translation.

Take up the cross (Mark 10:21)[edit]

Mark 10:21 is written in the King James Version as, "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me." The NIV translation, supported by early translations, renders the underlined portion, "Then come, follow me." This rendition makes more sense, as it is doubtful the phrase "take up the cross" yet existed at the time Jesus had allegedly spoken it.

The third day he shall rise again (Mark 9:31, 10:34)[edit]

The King James Version presents Mark 10:34 as "And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again." The NIV translation, supported by a second-century translation, renders the underlined portion, "Three days later he will rise." This discrepancy is significant because if, as related by the gospels, Jesus was put to death on Friday and rose on Sunday, this would not in fact be three days later and represents a contradiction. Mark 9:31 is presented similarly in the KJV and NIV.

The Son of man cometh (Matthew 25:13)[edit]

Matthew 25:13 is written in the King James Version as, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." The NIV, however, omits the underlined phrase. This omission is supported by 4th century translations.

Good will toward men (Luke 2:14)[edit]

Luke 2:14 reads in the King James Version as, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." This example of Christian moral nobility is apparently the result of an early scribal error. In contrast, the NIV translation, based on third-century texts, reads, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

The only begotten Son (John 1:18)[edit]

John 1:18 is presented in the King James Version as, "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." The NIV translation, however, based on early third century texts, reads, "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known," with a footnote indicating that "some manuscripts" read "the only begotten Son."

Peter's commission[edit]

Matthew 16:18-19[edit]

Matthew 16:18-19 reads, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This evidence of Peter's leadership role among the apostles does not appear in the parallel gospel accounts and interrupts the natural flow of the passage. It is doubtful Jesus would have used "church" to refer to Christianity since it did not yet exist, and in fact, the only other verse in the gospels where the word is used is in Matthew 18:17, itself a likely interpolation. Additionally, the phrase "gates of hell" appears nowhere else in the Bible.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost[edit]

Matthew 28:19[edit]

Matthew 28:19, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," represents a rare biblical reference to the Holy Trinity. However, the trinity did not become church doctrine until the 3rd century CE, and even 4th century citations of this verse by Eusebius of Caesarea mention only baptizing in the name of Jesus, as do similar biblical passages (e.g. Acts 19:5).

1 John 5:7-8[edit]

The only other apparent scriptural Trinitarian reference is in 1 John 5:7-8, which reads, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." The NIV omits the underlined portion, indicating in a footnote that it is "not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century."

Footnoted omissions from NIV[edit]

Late manuscripts (Matthew 6:13, 27:35, Acts 8:37)[edit]

The NIV omits a portion of Matthew 27:35 that reads, "that the word spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled: 'They divided my garments among themselves and cast lots for my clothing,'" a reference to Psalm 22:18, with a footnote that it is included in "a few late manuscripts." The NIV also omits the end of the "Lord's Prayer," Matthew 6:13, "yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." A footnote indicates that the verse is included in "some late manuscripts." The NIV omits Acts 8:37 with a similar footnote.

Some manuscripts (Mark 15:28, Luke 9:55-56)[edit]

Mark 15:28, "and the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'He was counted with the lawless ones,'" is omitted in the NIV with a footnote indicating "some manuscripts" contain the verse, which is similar to Luke 22:37 in that it identifies Isaiah 53:12 to be a prophecy that is herein fulfilled. Similarly, the NIV omits a large portion of Luke 9:55-56, which refers to the "Son of Man" and apparently comes from Luke 19:10, but rather gives it in a footnote that indicates it is included in some manuscripts.

Some/early manuscripts (Mark 7:16, Luke 11:2, 4)[edit]

The NIV presents Luke 11:2 as, "He said to them, 'When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come."'" A footnote indicates that "some manuscripts" render the underlined portion as "Our Father in heaven" and another indicates that some manuscripts add, "May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The NIV omits "but deliver us from the evil one" from Luke 11:4 with a footnote that indicates it is included in some manuscripts. The NIV omits Mark 9:44, 46, 11:26, Matthew 17:21, 23:14, Luke 17:36, Luke 23:17, John 5:4, Acts 15:34, 28:29, Romans 16:24, and a portion of Mark 9:29 with similar footnotes. The NIV omits Mark 7:16 with a footnote that it is included in "some early manuscripts."

Omissions from other translations[edit]

Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher (Luke 24:12)[edit]

Luke 24:12, documenting Peter's observation of the empty tomb, is omitted by Revised Standard Version and New English Bible translations since it resembles John 20:5-10 and is omitted from some early manuscripts. Similarly portions of other verses in chapter 24 are omitted from RSV and NEB (e.g. Luke 24:40).

Footnotes included in NIV[edit]

Some early manuscripts (Matthew 16:2-3, Luke 22:43-44, 23:34)[edit]

The phrase, "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,'" (Luke 23:34) perhaps added to demonstrate Jesus' benevolence, carries a footnote in the NIV that indicates it is omitted from "some early manuscripts." It has also been argued that "they" did indeed know what they were doing and, in fact, were not forgiven. Others claim that, since important manuscripts included it, it is probable that it was included in the original text, but removed from an earlier copy for some reason — perhaps antisemitism,[3] a damaged manuscript, or a mistranslation found to be offensive. Another translation of the quote might be “The Father forgives them (the executioners); for they experience not what they do.” Also per footnotes in the NIV, some early manuscripts did not have Luke 22:43-44 or Matthew 16:2-3.

Earliest and most reliable manuscripts (Mark 16:9-20, John 7:53-8:11)[edit]

Per a footnote in the NIV, John 7:53-8:11 did not appear in the "earliest and most reliable manuscripts." A similar footnote accompanies Mark 16:9-20, and this ending was apparently added in order to be consistent with the other gospels. In fact, a reading of chapter 16 reveals that verse 8 provides a perfectly natural ending.

In works of Paul[edit]

Let your women keep silence (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)[edit]

Many scholars[note 1] believe 1 Corinthians 14:33, in which Paul allegedly states that women should remain silent in church, to be an interpolation based on the observations that it contradicts Paul's statements elsewhere (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:5) and interrupts the natural reading of the passage.[4]

He was seen of Cephas (1 Corinthians 15:3-11)[edit]

Robert Price[5] makes the case that 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, Paul's assertion regarding the witnesses to Jesus' resurrection, is actually a series of interpolations. Price bases this conclusion partly on his observation that Paul was unlikely to have used the eyewitness accounts of others, not the least Cephas, to support his claim that Jesus had been resurrected. Additionally, the passage reads more naturally if these verses are removed.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. e.g. Fee, G. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Eerdmans, 1987; Walker Jr., W. Interpolations in the Pauline Letters. T & T Clark, 2002; Payne, P. 'Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor. 14.34-5' New Testament Studies 44(1998), pp. 152-58; Payne, P. & Canart, P. 'The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus,' Novum Testamenum 42(2000), pp. 105-13; Macdonald, D. 'A Conjectural Emendation of 1 Cor 15:31-32: Or the Case of the Misplaced Lion Fight', Harvard Theological Review 73(1980), pp. 265-76; Conzelmann, H. First Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Fortress Press, 1988; Schweitzer, E. 'The Service of Worship: An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 14' Interpretation 13(1959), pp. 402-403.


  1. The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction (2008), ISBN 978-0195305050, page 52.
  2. See for example: Fagan, Brian M., and Charlotte Beck, The Oxford Companion to Archeology, an entry on the "Dead Sea scrolls", Oxford University Press, 1996. - "The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: the Masoretic Text, the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100.
  3. The Preterist Archive: Luke 23:34
  4. What did St Paul say about women?
  5. Apocryphal Apparitions, Robert M. Price