Are These Bible Verses Supposed To Be There?

What if there were verses lurking about in your Bible that weren't supposed to be there?  What kind of impact would it have on your interpretation of the Bible?  Would you want to know which one's they were? Keep reading to learn a couple of ways to identify these rogue verses.

If You Know Where The Interpolations Are, You May Get A Better Understanding Of The Bible

Sometimes when scribes would copy the Scriptures, they would add notes in the margins.  And sometimes, those notes were inserted into the text by a later scribe.  When that happens, it's referred to as an "interpolation".  Some interpolations are more obvious than others.  Most Bibles do good job of noting the obvious ones. Some interpolations could just be honest mistakes.  Some may be slightly more suspicious, and foul play may be involved.  Take 1 John 5:7-8 for example. In 1516, a man by the name of Desiderius Erasmus was working on a Greek New Testament called the Textus Receptus.  The Roman Catholic Church felt there was missing something.  See below for a comparison.

Roman Catholic

For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.


For there are three that testify: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.

At the time, Desiderius only had 6 manuscripts to work from, but none of them had the Roman Catholic version.  He requested the Roman Catholic Church to provide a manuscript with the additional text.  They did, but all the pages looked the same except the pages with the additional text. Foul play? Desiderius eventually did include the additional text but added a long footnote regarding the matter.  Thankfully, most Bibles either exclude the additional text or add a note indicating that it was unlikely part of the original manuscript.  Biblical interpolations are a reality.  Learn how to deal with it.

2 Ways You Can Tell If A Bible Verse Is An Impostor

1. Manuscript Evidence

We are blessed to have lots of manuscript evidence for the Bible.  There are more ancient manuscripts of the Bible than any other ancient piece of literature.  A lot more.  Many think of the transmission of Biblical manuscripts as a phone game, but with multiple lines of transmission, that's not the case.  It's like having 1010 pieces to a 1000 piece puzzle. We can compare and contrast the manuscripts to check for interpolations.  If a verse is missing or located in different places in the manuscripts, then it is most likely an interpolation.

Remember that moving scene in Mel Gibson's "The Passion", where they bring the woman caught in adultery to Jesus?  Probably never happened.  It's hard to argue with "Let him without sin cast the first stone" and "Go and sin no more" but the reality is that the passage doesn't show up in any manuscripts until the 5th century, and when it does, it floats around in different places.  It is most likely an interpolation and not part of the original manuscript.

Another passage that may be an interpolation is the entire ending of the Gospel of Mark. Mark 16:9-20 is the passage in question and it's easy to see why someone would add it, since without it, Mark has a rather abrupt ending. Although still debated, the manuscripts we have offer 4 different endings and raises doubts about Mark 16:9-20.

2. Chiastic Structure

If you don't know about chiastic structures, please read my previous post. Since chiastic structures are symmetrical, if that symmetry is broken by a verse, then we have reason to believe that it is an interpolation. When Jesus sweats blood in Luke 22:44, it's already sketchy because of weak manuscript evidence, but some also point to a chiastic structure that runs through verses 40-46.  Here is the chiasmus below without verse 44.

Jesus says to his disciples to pray so that they will not enter into temptation.
     He withdraws from the disciples.  
          He kneels down and prays.  
               He prays and an angel strengthens him.
          He arises from praying.
     He returns to the disciples.
He tells them to pray so that they will not enter into temptation.

The appearance of verse 44 after the angel strengthens Jesus would seem out of place if the chiasmus above is correct, but there are several scholars who argue it is not, and so the debate shifts to the chiastic structure.

There are other ways to determine if a verse is an interpolation or not, such as internal, linguistic and theological consistency, but those quickly become technical in nature and hotly debated among scholars.  I think mirror-reading could be utilized in this regard too.  It could be used to check for "situational" consistency.