The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message. Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. [But Silas decided to stay there.] Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.Acts 15:30-35
- What is the meaning of [But Silas decided to stay there]?
- Did Silas leave or didn’t he? Isn’t this a contradiction of what Luke wrote in the verse before and after this one?
- Did Luke actually write this?
- What is the significance of the fact that this verse is [italicised and put in square brackets]. “It is just frankly confusing. I don’t know what to make of it.” Some versions include it, others don’t have it at all. Some put it in greyed out. Others included it in [brackets]. Some have it both greyed out and italicized.
- And furthermore Ian, it is darn right confusing.
- Did Silas go or didn’t he?
- And if he didn’t go why did Luke say that he did?
- When did he decide to stay in Antioch?
I have written about this kind of thing before but not in Gems, rather I have addressed this kind of confusion before in Nuggets – Questions I Can’t Answer (January 2016). I have copied the January ’16 Nugget below.
What I have been writing in the Gems over the last days have caused a number of people to ask questions I can’t answer. It is not that I don’t know what is going on. Neither is it that I can’t give them an answer. It is simply that I can’t give them an answer to their particular question.
What prompted the questions was my inclusion in a recent Gem of the following verse from Acts 8:37 – [“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.”] The same principle applies to [“But Silas decided to stay there.”]
This has spurred people to ask me questions about other verses they have seen and questions like:
- “Why does my Bible include italicized words in some verses and not others?”
- “Or what does it mean in my Bible when a verse uses square brackets?”
- “Why are some words put in capital letters but not others?”
- “Why are some words greyed out in certain verses?”
They are questions I can’t answer for you. I don’t know the Bible you are using and I have not memorized all versions of the Bible and the system they use for making distinctions regarding footnoted items in a particular published Bible. One man has even suggested that he was surprised that I did not know how the NASB handles footnotes, how the KJV handles the Tetragrammaton or how the NLT marks verses with textual variations. Some people have the idea I have memorized every verse in the Bible and I know the variations on a verse from a range of different translations. It is not true. I am just an ordinary guy. Beside that it is impossible to know how each translation handles publishing protocols. The protocols for missing verses, textual variants, how the name of YHWH is printed or a host of other printing issues are not standardized.
The conventions for publishers are not standard for each translation of the Bible nor for each particular publishing firm over time. So I can’t tell you the NIV does this or the KJV does that. The simple fact is that a publisher in any city around the world decides what conventions they will use for indicating a doubtful word, a missing verse or an alternate reading. It depends when and where your Bible was printed in order to know how the publisher of your Bible has marked the four letters of God’s unmentionable name.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t explain what is going on in your Bible generally or how the principles work. What I can’t do is tell you why your copy of the Bible marks a feature with square brackets, or greys out some letters or italicizes other letters. Asking me what does it mean in the Bible if a word is in square brackets or in italics is of no use. I don’t know because I am not holding your Bible. Each Bible uses those publishing conventions differently. So you have to consult your Bible to know how those features signify in your Bible.
How do you find that information?
Read the Preface of your Bible where it gives you a run down of the publishing conventions used in your version. I tell people in Deeper Bible to use all the features you paid for when you bought your Bible. To know how to use your Bible to its maximum potential you have to read the Preface. It is like buying an expensive gadget but not reading the instruction manual on how to use it properly. So too the Bible is God’s Manual for Life. Using it properly will shed light on your life’s walk. But in order to use it properly you need to read the Preface to understand how your Bible marks the use of Tetragrammaton (YHWH), [what square bracketed words signify] and what words in italics indicate and why some words are greyed out. Don’t ask me because I can’t tell you. I am not holding your Bible and can’t look up the Preface to show where it tells you what these publishing conventions mean in your Bible.
Have fun reading your Bible now with more understanding.
The only way to get smarter is by playing a smarter opponent, learn not to be deceived.J R Capablanca
The best use anyone can make of any day is to learn and then share what you have learned with others.Ian Vail
Smart people know that it’s better to be thorough than clever!Ian Vail
All my life I wanted to be someone. Now I see that I should have been more specific.Jane Wagner
If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.Mario Andretti
I once was writing on a piece of paper and wondering if the word I just wrote was spelled correctly. So I paused to see if a red squiggly line would appear underneath. It didn’t.Anon