Phillip with the Ethiopian and that italicised verse (Acts 8:37)
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” [“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:36-40
I am fully aware Peter, that I haven’t answered your questions:
- Why is Act 8:37 in brackets and greyed out? [“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
- Why is the verse missing in some Bibles?
- Why is it italicised in the version you gave us?
Different versions handle Acts 8:37 in different ways depending on the conventions they use to indicate certain features
(NASB) [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
Bracketed and Greyed out
- (AMP) And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart [if you have a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah and accept Him as the Author of your salvation in the kingdom of God, giving Him your obedience, then] you may. And he replied, I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- (ERV) [Philip answered, “If you believe with all your heart, you can.” The official said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
- (ESV) [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
- (NLT)[“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
(YLT) And Philip said, `If thou dost believe out of all the heart, it is lawful;’ and he answering said, `I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God;’
Italicised and Greyed out
- (ASV) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- (ISV) Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” He replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Omitted with Footnote
- (CEV) (SEE 8:36)
- (GNB) OMITTED TEXT
- (GNT-BYZ+) OMIT
- (GNT-WH+) OMIT
- (GW)(OMITTED TEXT)
- (NLT) OMIT
Omitted without Footnote
The MSG and the NLT do a curious thing in some editions:
Act 8:36 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” Act 8:38 He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot.
With no footnote or comment indicating verse 37 is not present. If you were not following the numbers carefully you would not notice verse 37 was missing.
Included in the Main Body of Text without Footnote
- (JUB) And Philip said, If thou dost believe with all thine heart, thou may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- (KJV) and all KJV derivatives – 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.
- (LITV) And Philip said, If you believe from all the heart, it is lawful. And answering he said, I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God.
- (Murdock) And Philip said: If thou believest with all thy heart, it is allowable. And he answered, and said: I believe that Jesus Messiah is the Son of God.
- (Webster) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
It is printed as Acts 8:37 in these versions and many more without a footnote, but omitted from the text of The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text, ed. Z. C. Hodges and A. L. Farstad (Nashville, 1982), where it is mentioned in the apparatus as included in the Received Text. It is omitted also from the Byzantine Version and Westcott and Hort’s version of the Greek New Testament.
Why is this?
The Manuscript Evidence Early manuscripts such as P45(3rd century), P74(7th century), Sinaiticus (4th century), Vaticanus (4th century), Alexandrinus (5th century), C (5th century), L (8th century), and Ψ (9th century) omit the verse. The earliest existing manuscript to include the verse is E from the 6th century. Five out of eight of these early manuscripts are Egyptian manuscripts. However, early Latin fathers such as Irenaeus and Cyprian knew of the verse:
Irenaeus (180 AD): [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.” Cyprian (250 AD): In the Acts of the Apostles: “Lo, here is water; what is there which hinders me from being baptized? Then said Philip, If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
These Church Fathers quotes predate all of the existing manuscripts that omit the verse. From the manuscript evidence, it appears the verse was missing very early among the Egyptian churches. The Latin churches had the verse in their Latin Bibles.The Cause of Addition or Omission As is typical of longer readings in the Textus Receptus, critics of the inclusion of 8:37 propose that the verse was a pious addition. Inversely, proponents of the inclusion of 8:37 propose that the verse was omitted by scribes who disliked the message of the verse. Origen of Alexandria, Egypt in the 3rd century testified that manuscripts in Alexandria underwent corruption by way of careless or unfaithful copying. The intent of the verse appears to be that baptism requires a verbal expression of faith in Jesus Christ. Many feel that the verse ought to be omitted because it was not present in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. The argument is that either it was lost due to scribal error or it was omitted because it was a later scribal addition due to the need for the established church to ensure there was verbal confession of faith at the time of baptism. But the common belief among the early churches was that even infants could be baptized. There is another counter view to the above that rather than it being added later, it is more likely that 8:37 was omitted earlier. The reason for the omission is likely the dispute over infant baptism. The fact that 8:37 remained in the Latin versions and the writings of the Church Fathers indicates it was known and circulating earlier than the highly regarded ancient documents indicate.
The original text may well have been standard but by as early as the second century it was omitted. Alternatively it could have been added later by a scribe to accommodate the teaching of the church at that time. Whatever the case, Philip must surely have been satisfied in the genuineness of the Ethiopian’s faith. However likely some church leaders of the time insisted it be added. There are a number of scholars who argue that it is not a statement Luke would write and reads more like a church catechism to be included at the time of baptism. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The added words of the Western text reflect an early Christian practice, to which the Ethiopian must conform. Those who feel the style of the verse is not Luke’s, also argue that the quality of the manuscript evidence is poor, and therefore reasonable motive for a copyist to insert the confession at the insistence of his church leaders.
Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the GNT:
Verse 37 is a Western addition, not found in P45P74אA B C 33 81 614 vg syrp,syrhcopsa, copbocopeth, but read with many minor variations by E, many miniscules, itgig,h, vgmss syrh with copG67 arm. There is no reason why scribes should have omitted the material, if it had originally stood in the text. The formula “to believe in Christ” was doubtless used by the early church in baptismal ceremonies, and may have been written in the margin of a copy of Acts. Its insertion into the text seems to have been due to the feeling that Philip could not have baptized the Ethiopian without securing a confession of faith, which needed to be expressed in the narrative. Although the earliest known NT manuscript which contains the words dates from the sixth century (ms E), the tradition of the Ethiopian’s confession of faith in Christ was current as early as the latter part of the second century, for Iranaeus quotes part of it.
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”.In terms of the number of manuscripts, 8:37 is not found in the majority of even the later manuscripts, despite the Majority Text readings normally having increased manuscript evidence in the period of time after the invention of the printing press.
What is the point of all of this?
Should Acts 8:37 be included or not? My general blanket statement to people is with verses like this, it is better if your Bible references the fact that this is a disputed or a variant reading over which there is much debate. It doesn’t matter if this verse is included in the main text with a footnote to the fact there are manuscripts which omit this verse. The other alternative is that the verse is not included but a footnote added to the verse before it, indicating that some manuscripts add verse 37 following this verse. It is rare that you will find a non-study Bible which will give you details about the issues concerning a disputed verse. For that, you have to consult other sources. What is not good is if either the verse is added to the text with no formatting to indicate it is any different from any of the other verses. Nor is it good if the verse is omitted without formatting to indicate it is a variant reading for whatever reason. Hence the KJV has no variant formatting on this verse as the translators assumed the Textus Receptus was the standard transmission of the text. The Message version is curious as it simply omits verse 37 as above, with absolutely no indication that there is anything amiss that it was not put in the main text. That also is not good.
One further non-textual related matter to draw your attention to is the reason for which Luke included this story of the Ethiopian Treasurer. Simply, his was a wonderful example of the fact that through Philip, one of the selected deacons, this Nubian was saved. The Ethiopians were regarded by the Greeks and their neighbours as living on the edge of the world. According to Irenaeus, the Ethiopian Treasurer became a missionary among his own people, the Nubians. Interest in them had been quickened by a Roman expedition of A.D. 61-63 which explored the Nile as far up as Meroe and beyond. With the inclusion of the Ethiopian’s conversion, Luke has shown that soon after the Lord commissioned His disciples, their witness had reached “the extent of the then known end-of-the-earth”.
Many people will never accomplish the long term Great because they settle for the short term Good!Rick Godwin
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