Martin A. Shue
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:37)
One of the trademarks of the modern versions (NIV, NASV, NRSV, NLT, et al) is the fact that they omit many scriptures, which they say were never a part of the ‘original’ in the first place. As you probably know by now the modern versions are based by in large on the Alexandrian manuscripts, chief among these being Aleph and B (or Sinaiticus and Vaticanus). It is these two manuscripts that Westcott and Hort revered more than any others (the same could also be said of almost all of todays modern ‘scholars’). Because of this their Greek text, the Westcott Hort Text, differs greatly from the Textus Receptus, which is the Greek text that underlies the King James Bible. Just how different are the two texts? Dr. D. A. Waite, Th.D., Ph.D., says this, "My own personal count, as of August 2, 1984, using Scrivener’s GREEK NEW TESTAMENT referred to above, was 5,604 changes that Westcott and Hort made to the Textus Receptus in their own Greek New Testament text. Of these 5,604 alterations, I found 1,952 to be OMISSIONS (35%), 467 to ADDITIONS (8%), and 3,185 to be CHANGES (57%). In these 5,604 places that were involved in these alterations, there were 4,366 more words included, making a total if 9,970 Greek words that were involved." (Defending The King James Bible p. 41-42, published by The Bible For Today) (all emphasis by original author) Here I should point out that all (with perhaps the only exception being the NKJV) of the modern versions are based on the Nestle/Aland or the United Bible Society’s (UBS) Greek Text, both are essentially the same text of the Westcott Hort Greek Text with a few changes here and there. Having said all this I want us to look at one of their many omissions in this essay. We will be briefly examining Acts 8:37 which is omitted in the modern versions.
As usual the reason ‘scholars’ cite for omitting Acts 8:37 is because it is omitted in the corrupt Alexandrian manuscripts. It is also omitted in P45 (3rd century) and P74 (7th century) as well as a few of the cursive manuscripts and some early versions. Nonetheless, it is found in Codex E (8th century) and many other manuscripts. Further support for the reading is found in the Old Latin manuscripts (2nd to 4th century) and the Latin Vulgate of Jerome (4th century). In addition to this it appears in all the early English Versions and all the authoritative versions of the Reformation. Although not in the majority of Greek manuscripts the verse does have early and wide range support.
As Dr. Thomas Holland notes, "James White objects to the passage by claiming that it was introduced by Erasmus taking the reading from Jerome's Vulgate.
"Acts chapters 8 and 9 are also rather expanded in the TR due to material brought over from the Vulgate. If one looks up Acts 8:37 . . . in the NIV, one will not find such a verse (outside of the textual footnote, that is). The reason is the verse is found in only a very few Greek manuscripts, none earlier than the sixth century, and Erasmus inserted it due to its presence in the Vulgate and in the margin of one Greek manuscript in his possession." (The King James Only Controversy, [Bethany House, 1995], 66.)" (Acts 8:37 by Dr. Holland as found on his website)
If you know anything about James White or his book The King James Only Controversy you most assuredly understand that neither is in any way a friend of the King James Bible. It is these kinds of statements where I believe Mr. White is purposely being deceptive. It is true that the reading is found in the Vulgate of Jerome but what Mr. White fails to tell the reader is that the reading is also found in all the Old Latin manuscripts which pre-date the Vulgate. Dr. Holland goes on to say, "Dr. Bruce Metzger sees the citation by Erasmus in a different light and cites Erasmus himself on this issue.
"Although the passage does not appear in the late medieval manuscript on which Erasmus chiefly depended for his edition (ms. 2), it stands in the margin of another (ms. 4), from which he inserted it into his text because he, 'judged that it had been omitted by the carelessness of scribes (arbitror omissum librariorum incuria).'" (A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament, [United Bible Societies], 360.)" (ibid)
Another part to Mr. White’s deception is the fact that he says, "the verse is found in only a very few Greek manuscripts, none earlier than the sixth century." Here he is clearly trying to make the uninformed reader think that there is no support for the reading before the sixth century. This is simply not true and Mr. White knows it. The fact is the verse receives support from early church fathers such as Cyrprian (250 AD), Irenaeus (202 AD ), and Novatian (200?-258?), all of which pre-date their adored Alexandrian codices. Irenaeus writes the following,
"Whom did Philip preach to the eunuch of the queen of the Ethiopians, returning from Jerusalem, and reading Esaias the prophet, when he and this man were alone together? Was it not He of whom the prophet spoke: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before the shearer, so He opened not the month?" "But who shall declare His nativity? for His life shall be taken away from the earth." [Philip declared] that this was Jesus, and that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him; as did also the believing eunuch himself: and, immediately requesting to be baptized, he said, "I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:12:8)
Obviously Irenaeus was familiar with the reading of Acts 8:37 and he clearly believed it to be original. Keep in mind this is centuries before the, as they like to call them, "oldest and best manuscripts". Another who strongly eluded to the reading of Acts 8:37 was Novatian. Novatian writes as follows,
"Just as the Ethiopian eunuch, when he was returning from Jerusalem and reading the prophet Isaiah, and was in doubt, having at the Spirit’s suggestion heard the truth from Philip the deacon, believed and was baptized; and when he had gone up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more." (Novatian, A Treatise on Re-Baptism :4)
Notice that Novatian said, "having at the Spirit’s suggestion heard the truth from Philip the deacon, BELIEVED, and was baptized". This is an explicit reference, by Novatian, to the fact that the eunuch confirmed to Philip that he believed that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God". The only way he could have made such a statement is if he was familiar with what the eunuch said in Acts 8:37. So, again we see that Novatian was well aware of the reading and considered it to be authentic.
Momentarily, laying aside the textual arguments for and against the reading of Acts 8:37, we shall look at the passage from a Biblical perspective using good old commonsense (which seems to be lacking in many of our modern ‘scholars’). In verse 35 we see that Philip preached unto the eunuch Jesus. Then the eunuch spots water and asks the question, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Now if we go according to the reading found in the modern versions, immediately after this the eunuch orders his chariot to stop and he is promptly baptized. While this may serve to further the false doctrines of the apostate Roman Catholic church it is completely out of harmony with the rest of scripture (See Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12-13; 18:8; etc.). Jesus said, "He that BELIEVETH and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16) Just a few verses prior to Philip preaching to the euncuh he was preaching to the people of Samaria. In Acts 8:12 we read, "But when they BELIEVED Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Verse 13 continues, "Then Simon himself BELIEVED also: and when he was baptized," From this we can see that Philip was not in the habit of baptizing people before they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet this is what we see Philip doing according to the modern versions. Another problem the modern versions face, besides being out of harmony with the Bible concerning salvation and baptism, is the fact that the eunuch asks a question but receives no answer in the modern versions. This is where some good old fashioned commonsense is helpful. Do you not think that Philip would not have answered such a vital question as "here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized"? Why any Christian worth his weight in salt would jump at the chance to answer such a question of an individual wishing to be baptized. But according to the modern versions Philip ignored the question and baptized the eunuch without him ever professing faith in Jesus as "the Son of God". I submit to you that this is utter foolishness, against commonsense, and against all the textual support for the reading. The passage flows much more smoothly with verse 37 included, which contains the answer to the eunuch’s question and his profession of faith.
Once again we have examined the modern versions that purport to be the word of God and once again we have found them to be severely lacking. This is not the only verse the modern ‘scholars’ have raised their textual scythe to and have cut out of the word of God. Indeed there are many more verses which perhaps we will look at in later essays. It is sufficient to say that if you want to be sure that you are reading ALL of God’s words then you need to cleave to the King James Bible, for it is GOD’S WORD.