Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 31, 2019
Is Acts 8:37 in the Bible? A Brief Study on Greek Manuscripts
The Question on Acts 8:37
Sir, are you aware that some modern-day Bible translations omitted Acts 8:37 “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.” (KJV) from its verses.
Those like the Good News Bible, NIV, ESV, the Father’s Life New Testament translation, etc. omit verse 37.
For me, I believe the verse is consistent with and in direct connection with the entire scripture on repentance, confession, and baptism. Mat 16:16, Rom 10:9-10, Mat 3:17. Does the verse need to be included or rejected?
“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.” (KJV)
The question before us is not whether Acts 8:37 teaches what is in the rest of the Bible. We can agree on that. The biblical teaching of the verse is not part of the discussion, but whether the original manuscripts include this verse. With the availability of more Bible versions on the web, these question pop up more often. Good job detecting it!
I have done a bit of study on the original Bible manuscripts and can share insights that I have gleaned from them.
First, let us recognize that there are, at times, slight differences between the 5,000 NT Greek manuscripts. For this reason, some translations—such as those translated into the English language—might vary. We are not questioning the authority of the scripture but trying to be faithful to the Word of God by discerning which words were in the original (i.e., autograph). While this study is helpful, we still do not have full answers.
The Majority School — Byzantine
Two large schools prefer prioritizing different manuscripts when there is a manuscript discrepancy. You have noticed how the King James Bible goes contrary to some recent versions. The King James Bible goes by the longest train of manuscripts. It is called the Majority Text because a large percentage of manuscripts are part of this family.
The Byzantine school has been traditionally accepted in the early church and throughout Europe. The King James Bible (1611) relied on the available texts which included the long train of Byzantine texts. Remember that many manuscripts held only portions of the Bible rather than the whole Bible. Many manuscripts do not contain the Book of Acts because, perhaps, that fragment only contains a portion of the Gospel of John or Matthew. Excellent references help us see which Greek manuscripts contain which portions of the New Testament. (http://www.bibletranslation.ws/manu.html)
The Modern School (Egyptian)
The other school, the Modern, favors a fewer number of manuscripts, and though they are older (4th century), they rely on more intact manuscripts (B, א). They originated in Egypt, where it is dryer, and such manuscripts were better preserved. Many monasteries were located there, and so these manuscripts were not distributed through the churches like the other school. They are considered more reliable by some because they had large portions of the New Testament.
Again, both schools have their strengths and weaknesses. Because of the variations, the New Testament Greek Bibles use a lot of detailed footnotes evaluating which relevant manuscripts have or do not have a certain verse (usually, it is only a word or spelling of a word that is in question).
I personally have two NT Greek Bibles. Each Greek Bible with its elaborate footnotes represents one school’s opinion.
Acts 8:27 and Textual Criticism
Most Greek manuscripts omit Acts 8:37. In this case, the critical text of the United Bible Society agrees with the Majority Text (the Byzantine text). They use an “A” to relate their confidence in their decision to omit the verse. Very few manuscripts have Acts 8:37, though some church fathers like Augustine and Tertullian have referred to this verse.
The two schools, no doubt, both agree to omit this verse primarily due to it being absent in the P45 manuscript along with most of the manuscripts, that include Acts. P45 is one of the oldest and more complete manuscript (3rd. century—written in the 200s) which includes extensive portions of the four Gospels and Acts. In this case, the P45 manuscript does not include Acts 8:37, so both schools are willing to exclude it from the Bible, considering it unlikely to be part of Luke’s original manuscript.
The New King James Version still includes the verse, however, commenting in a footnote, “Acts 8:37 NU, M omit v. 37. It is found in Western texts, including the Latin tradition.” The ‘M’ refers to the large number of Byzantine texts. The KJV largely followed the church tradition noted by the Latin translation (i.e., Vulgate).
Despite the NKJV’s insistence on including Acts 8:37, it does so not because it uses the most reliable manuscripts but because of their emphasis on using the manuscripts that the KJV used. We can still be at peace excluding Acts 8:37, though it clearly articulates the need for all of us to believe “that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”