From time to time I see posts go around social media claiming that the newer versions are altering the Bible. Some of the posts even assign ulterior motives, implying that the committees of the newer translations have been infiltrated by people who have an anti-Christian agenda. One such post makes these claims:

I’m sure you know that New international version (NIV) was published by Zondervan but is now OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex. The NIV and English Standard Version (ESV) has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few…

The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our devices and phones. THE SOLUTION: If you must use the NIV and ESV, BUY and KEEP AN EARLIER VERSION OF the BIBLE. A Hard Copy cannot be updated. All these changes occur when they ask you to update the app.
There is a crusade geared towards altering the Bible as we know it; NIV, ESV and many more versions are affected.

Additionally, you may have seen images like these:

What I want to do here is weigh these claims and hopefully put your mind at ease regarding the supposed deficiencies of the newer translations.

The claims about words being removed are easily debunked – they are just translated differently (“Holy Ghost” as “Holy Spirit” for example). However, the question of missing verses is a bit more complicated. I’m sure some of you have looked at some of the verses listed in the King James Version and then flipped to them in an NIV or ESV only to be shocked to actually find them missing. (The New American Standard Bible includes the verses but puts them in brackets.)

What this does not mean is that the new versions are operating under some anti-God agenda to start taking verses out of the Bible. Without getting too technical, here’s a rundown of why those verses are missing in newer versions.

The New Testament in the King James Version and New King James Version is based on a Greek text called the Textus Receptus (“received text”). There are two primary differences between it and the Greek texts used by modern translations. First, this text was compiled long before many of the modern manuscript discoveries were made. The manuscripts available to those who put together the Textus Receptus were generally much younger than the ones we have available to us now. Whereas the Textus Receptus used Greek manuscripts from, say, 1,000 years after Paul, we now have manuscripts from 300-400 years after Paul. Second, the Textus Receptus’ compilers were not as critical as those who have worked on the newer texts.

The best way I can think of to explain it is like a game of Telephone, that kids’ game where one person whispers a phrase to the first person in line, who turns and whispers it to the next, and so on. Once the last person in line gets their turn, they are to shout out what was whispered to them. That phrase usually has a change or two and commonly has had extra details added from the original message whispered by the first person in line.

So, let’s say you have 10 kids lined up. The phrase gets passed down the line. Now let’s say what the first 2-3 kids heard differs from what the kids at the end of the line heard. Wouldn’t you tend to assume that the first few kids are likely to be closer to the original message? Generally speaking, the further you get from the original phrase, the more changes are introduced.

That’s the reason some of the newer versions have questioned some of these “removed” Bible verses.

The Greek manuscripts behind the newer versions were determined by ranking the manuscripts by their reliability (age, consistency with others, among other factors). Essentially, when what the 3rd and 4th manuscript in line say differs with what the 8th manuscript in line says, they typically are going to favor the earlier versions and assume that the changes and additions were made by the later manuscripts.

Where the memes will tell you that modern translators are removing verses from the Bible, it’s far more likely that the KJV’s translators were working off of manuscripts that added verses to the Bible. Therefore, even though those verses have been printed in the Bible for hundreds of years, we’re likely better off without having them.

It doesn’t mean the King James Version is wholly unreliable, but it does mean we should compare multiple versions and realize that some additions are there that might not have been penned by the New Testament authors. Most of the verses are true statements, and some of them are even quotes from other parts of the New Testament. They just don’t fit where they have been placed in the text. Now that we know better, the new versions have done better. It’s as simple as that.