Philippine Bible Society

Statement on ‘Missing Verses’ in Bible Translation

Statement on 'Missing Verses' in Bible Translation

Dear Friends of the Bible Society,

The past few days, the social media has been flooded with a post warning every Bible user about how some Bible publishers abroad have deliberately omitted certain passages from the Bible. Although the trending post singled out English translations that were not published by the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), we, the PBS leadership, deem it a service to the Bible-reading communities and individuals in the Philippines to give our comments on the issue.

First of all, PBS believes that the Bible is the written Word of God. Because the Bible is the Word of God, PBS is committed to translate and transmit faithfully the very same Bible that the biblical writers inscribed on their manuscripts. PBS exists to serve the Scripture requirements of the churches in the Philippines.

This fidelity to the Word of God as transmitted from the time of the early Christians is guided by our deep love for God and His Word. However, since the original biblical manuscripts no longer exist, the safest way to ensure the transmission purity of the Bible is to carefully and critically study surviving biblical manuscripts. These biblical manuscripts now number to thousands. (In the New Testament alone there are 7,584 surviving manuscripts as of November 2013). In this regard, PBS relies heavily on the results of scholarly labor from individuals and institutions that have devoted their entire lives in making sure that the best textual bases for modern translations are founded on the most reliable manuscript attestation. (These specialist scholars are called textual critics and their field as textual criticism).

Accordingly, when PBS undertakes translation projects, we use the latest editions of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (for the Old Testament) and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (for the New Testament) as textual bases for our projects. These two critical editions have the broadest scholarly support to date. And it is important to point out that the bases for textual decisions are the Hebrew and Greek texts, not English translations.

It happens that some verses of the Bible are not included in the main text of the Bible, but are only mentioned in the footnote. Some of these passages include Matt 17.21, 23.14, Mark 9.44, 9.46, Luke 17.36, 23.17, John 5.4 and Acts 8.37. In the said verses, there is a broad concurrence among textual scholars to reflect in the main text the readings supported by the most reliable manuscripts, and to print these disputed passages at the margins, or also in the main text but marked with some symbols (for instance, a bracket [ ]) to indicate that the passage is disputed.

The inclusion or exclusion of a verse/s or portions of a verse in the main text are a major decision of the translation team, guided by the standard publishing policies and principles of the organization, as well as by the long history of Bible publishing and production. Relegating a verse to a footnote is a major consideration because the Bible users always expect a Bible with complete verses. It is necessary, therefore, to apply sound principles in textual criticism to assure Bible users that their Bibles are reliable.

Such care and expertise is achieved in the major English translations that include the supposedly missing verses in the footnote rather than in the main text. PBS follows the same publishing convention. However, it must be emphasized that the intention of PBS in adopting this practice is not to alter the Word of God but to ensure that the copy of the Bible we offer to the Church reflects nothing but the best scholarship there is at the moment.

The Magandang Balita Biblia (MBB), which is published by the Philippine Bible Society, includes the said verses in the main text but they are enclosed in square brackets and are mentioned in the footnote. The use of brackets tells the Bible user that the verses are not found in the ancient and most reliable manuscripts.

It is our hope that we will continue to value the Bible, the Word of God, for our daily spiritual nourishment. Should you have further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to inform us. We pray that the Bible will continue to make an impact in the lives of our people, so that the Philippines will remain under the guiding light of God and His Word. The Lord be praised!

Philippine Bible Society Board of Trustees and Management