Do modern Bibles such as the NIV leave out verses?

In Discover Truth, by Biblica staff, November 2, 2018

Does the NIV Bible translation omit verses? Does the NIV leave out verses traditionally included in older Bibles? In this article, you’ll learn the answer to these questions and more. You can also watch the video at the top and/or bottom of this page for a more interactive experience.

Are There Verses Missing From the NIV Bible?

Did you know that modern Bible translations have fewer verses in them than some of the earliest printed Bibles such as the King James Version, Gutenberg, and Geneva Bibles?

Yep, there are several places in modern Bible translations where words and entire sentences are skipped. For example:

Many of us grew up with these words concluding the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

Most modern translations don’t have that.

But don’t worry. This is a good thing. In fact, if you are reading a modern Bible, such as the NIV, it is actually truer to the Bible as it was originally written than some of the older translations that include more words and verses.

Here’s why.

Until the invention of the printing press, the only way for Scripture to be shared with others (aside from public reading) was through the long, tedious process of copying it word for word by hand. The people who did this were called scribes.

Now, as you can imagine, sometimes a scribe would miss a word here or there. In other cases, scribes would add context to what they were copying with a comment in the margin. A later scribe might wonder if this was a correction and put the comment from the margin into the text of Scripture.

If we want to find the closest text to the original writings, we have to study all of the ancient biblical writings we have access to and compare them to one another.

It’s important to realize that we currently don’t have any complete books of the Bible on a single scroll or codex from before AD 350. But we’ve found enough pieces from as early as 250 BC to be able to piece them together like a giant puzzle.

In many cases, we have so many similar, overlapping pieces that we can reasonably conclude that we have the entire book. The method used to determine the original text from these manuscripts is known as textual criticism. There are countless biblical scholars who have spent their lives coming to the best human understanding of what the most accurate original biblical texts are.

So, how did the KJV and other earlier Bibles end up having more words than ours do today?

The Bible wasn’t first written in the King’s English of Renaissance England or even ancient Latin. In fact, it was primarily written in ancient Hebrew and Greek.

When printing press technology began allowing Bibles to be mass-produced in the 1400s, many new translations emerged. Those working on these projects worked hard to use the best source material they had access to, and debates continued over which source material was most true to the original text. At the time, the earliest accessible manuscripts dated back to approximately the ninth century AD for the Old Testament and the twelfth century AD for the New Testament.

The earliest manuscripts known at this time, and even up until the modern era, were only a few hundred years old. Manuscripts from much earlier existed—they just hadn’t been discovered yet. When Bible projects such as the Gutenberg Bible, William Tyndale’s translation, and the world-famous KJV were produced, the people behind these did the best job they could with the source material they had access to. These Bibles changed the world forever, but archaeological discoveries over the next several hundred years would give us even more insight into God’s Word.

Scholars began to see the true value of particular New Testament manuscripts starting in the mid-1800s. The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula in 1844. Scholars began to compare this codex with other manuscripts, like the already known Codex Vaticanus, both of which were written down in the 300s AD.

In this process, they discovered that several words and sentences included in the Bibles of their day did not exist in these much earlier copies of Scripture. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer is one example that was never in the Bible from the beginning. With the discovery of these earlier manuscripts, biblical scholars confirmed that words and sentences had been added to what we now refer to as the Bible.

By the way, a whole bunch of manuscripts of the New Testament have been found—almost 6,000. In contrast, many ancient books and plays, such as Homer’s Odyssey and Livy’s History of Rome, have only dozens or potentially hundreds of manuscripts. And there are New Testament manuscripts that were copied as soon as 50 years after the original letters and books were written. The oldest available manuscripts of most other ancient non-biblical works were copied hundreds of years after they were originally written. There is better manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other ancient document, and the earliest New Testament manuscripts are very reliable in helping us know what was originally written.

To be clear, there is better manuscript evidence for the New Testament than for any other ancient document, and the earliest New Testament manuscripts are very reliable in helping us know what was originally written.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Revised Version and the American Standard Version were the first major translations completed using the latest New Testament discoveries. In the second half of the 20th century, new Bible translations such as the New International Version, or NIV, began to emerge based on the vast treasure of early manuscripts. The translators behind these Bible translations strived to present God’s Scripture in the form most true to the way it had originally been written. Therefore, some verses traditionally included in earlier translations were no longer included. These verses were not removed. They simply didn’t exist in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts we now had access to.

So, Does the NIV Omit Verses?

o, if somebody tells you your NIV Bible or other modern translation such as the CSB, ESV, NASB, NET, NLT, or NRSV is missing verses, you’ll know what to say. It’s not that our Bibles today are missing verses. It’s that our Bibles today are based on older and more reliable manuscripts, which are closer to the original writings put down thousands of years ago.

Click here to learn more about the translation philosophy behind the NIV and other Bible translations that Biblica produces.