Who Took Verse 4 out of My Bible?

Author Michael S. Heiser

I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the BibleMost of us have read John 5:1–9, the story of the blind, paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, many times, but I’ll bet there’s something that escaped your attention.

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ 7 ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’  8 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (John 5:1–9, NIV).

If you read closely you’ll notice that verse 4 is missing! Start at verse one and count out loud: 1, 2, 3 … 5?

In case your Bible version doesn’t have the verse, the omitted words read: “for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted” (NASB).

The verse is not just missing in the NIV; the situation is the same in the ESV, NRSV, CEV, NLT, and the net Bible. If you use the NASB or NCV you will see the verse, but it’s been placed inside brackets, whereas the KJV and the NKJV contain verse 4 without any notation or demarcation. So what’s going on here? Who took John 5:4 out of the Bible?

Who took verse 4 out of the Bible?

If you’re using a study Bible that doesn’t have verse 4, you will likely see a note at the end of verse 3, or the beginning of verse 5, explaining why it isn’t there. This is a textbook case of a disagreement between manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.

What would be John 5:4 (the missing material that begins in verse 3) is not found in any of the earliest and most accurate manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Scholars who make a career of comparing manuscripts (“textual critics” and “paleographers”) have discovered that in roughly two dozen manuscripts scribes put asterisk marks at the verse to warn the next scribe who would copy the manuscript that the verse was likely not original. To top it all off, four of the last five Greek words of what would be John 5:4 aren’t found anywhere else in John’s writings. This suggests that John 5:4 does not belong in the New Testament, which explains why many modern Bible translations have omitted it.

After 1900, translators used new manuscript discoveries from the 1800s, which revealed that the verse was likely not original. This is why verse 4 is listed in the pre-1900 KJV “as is” without brackets (the NKJV followed the KJV in this regard). More recent Bible translations (omitting or retaining the verse with brackets) give us a clearer picture of what the original product of inspiration looked like.

Is John concerned with the angel?

Why would verse four have not been included in the original New Testament? It is not because of the angel in the story. The Bible has no problem with angels; they’re all over the place, doing all sorts of things. But, like today, there was a great deal of folklore and superstition about them. The idea that an angel stirred the waters at a given time during the year was one such superstition.

John 5:7 mentions the stirring of the water, but does not mention the angel. It’s likely that John knew of the belief about the waters of Bethesda, but chose to leave it out for a specific reason. Perhaps he does not wish to endorse that an angel was stirring the water. By excluding the popular belief about the angel, John focuses his readers on the healer who was indeed present—Jesus.

There are some lessons for us all in “the case of the missing verse.” First, we need to train ourselves to read the Bible closely. If we missed something like the normal order of numbering in John 5, what else are we overlooking? Second, it pays to compare Bible versions. Even scholars who read Greek and Hebrew actively compare manuscript traditions. The work of another scribe (or Bible translator) can often direct our attention to something important. Third, we need to be sure the content of our preaching and teaching has a secure footing in the text. God moved people to spend their lives transmitting the biblical text; the least we can do is pay close attention.


Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 1.

Busy Moms: How to Find Time for God

Author Jeannine Seery

When I gave birth to my first child nearly eight years ago, I was totally unprepared for the immense change she would bring to my life. Sure, I knew about 2 AM feedings, sleepless nights and endless piles of laundry. I was aware a newborn would be dependent on me and that this job would consume me like no other occupation. However, I could never have prepared for how emotionally and spiritually consuming this job would be. I had no idea that a child could take such possession of your heart.

At seven and three my daughters no longer require the constant care that they did just a few years ago. Yet the mental and emotional energy my job as a mother requires often leaves me exhausted, with very little to offer my husband and friends. Meanwhile, I imagine God watching in the distance, waiting for me to come and sit with Him, only to be addressed by my half-conscious form as I fall into bed, thanking Him for His blessings—for getting us through another day.

Overwhelmed? You’re not alone.

I’ve spent a great deal of mental energy in my mothering years trying to figure out ways to enhance my time alone with God. I’ve tried it all—rising early, staying up late, utilizing naptime and even, horror of horrors, putting on a TV show while I sneak away for devotional time. My children, however, seem to have some internal alarm that goes off as soon as I open my Bible and before you know it, someone’s been hurt, had a nightmare or needs my attention right now (think: potty training). In the rare times that I haven’t been interrupted, I find my thoughts wandering to the dentist appointment that needs to be cancelled, the poor grade on the report card or the sweet exchange I witnessed between my daughter and her Daddy earlier that day. Before I started down the road of motherhood I could pore over passages of the Bible and mull them over for hours on end. I prided myself on my analytical abilities and my love of reading. These days I consider it an accomplishment if my attention span holds out until the end of a paragraph.

So, I often conclude my devotional time feeling frustration and guilt, resolving to try harder next time. When I think of other young mothers with many more children and much more on their plates who manage to study the Bible and spend quality time with God, I wonder, is there something wrong with me? Maybe with a little more perseverance or a more engaging topic I’ll have more success. I resolve to find the right study, the right time, the right method—I will leave no stone unturned until I discover it. And if I don’t, my youngest will be off to college in a mere fifteen years. Will it be too late for me to begin then?

With Jesus, all things are possible

Lately, God has been challenging me to look at the process a little differently. He keeps drawing me back to the theme of loaves and fish (Matt 14:14–21). Jesus himself was faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. There he was in a remote place with a large crowd and dinnertime was quickly approaching. His disciples surveyed the crowd and all they could find was a boy with five loaves and two fish. Under no circumstances would that be enough. They advised him to do the only logical thing, send the people away to find some food. Instead, Jesus took a child’s paltry offering and fed the five thousand, collecting twelve baskets of leftovers. Not just enough, more than enough.

FindingTimeforGodI believe in a God who specializes in making something out of nothing. His Word says He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph 3:20 NIV). I have seen this principle carried out so often in my life: my health, my finances, my human relationships. Yet, when it came to my relationship with God, I found myself believing that I would have to sustain it on my own, that somehow I had the power to do so. What I hadn’t realized was that while I thought that I’d been upholding our relationship in the past, it was God doing the work in me all along—His strength made perfect in my weakness.

So when I carve out a moment to come to Him now, I visualize myself holding a paltry offering of too little time and attention. It will never be enough. But I bring it in faith, trusting that He will multiply the little I have and provide me with enough nourishment for that moment, with some to spare.


Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 1.

Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus Imperfectum), Vol. 1 (Ancient Christian Texts Series)

InterVarsity Press, 2010

Exploring how Christians from the past have interpreted and applied the Scriptures has been made much easier with Ancient Christian Texts, a series of neglected, ancient Christian commentaries translated into English.

The two volumes of the Incomplete Commentary on Matthew offer a translation of the ancient commentary on the book of Matthew. Written by an anonymous, 5th-century Christian, translated by James A. Kellerman, and edited by Thomas C. Oden and Gerald L. Bray, the commentary includes theological and devotional reflections on Matthew chapters 1–8, 10–13 and 19–25. This first volume covers Matthew 1–11.
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Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1-2 Chronicles, Vol. 5a

Tyndale, 2010

Chronicles, with its long genealogical lists, unpronounceable names, and sheer breadth of material, often seems like too much work for too little “spiritual” benefit. But Mark J. Boda’s commentary—based on the New Living Translation—reveals how fascinating Chronicles is.

He stays focused on the main purpose of a commentary, which is to interpret the text in an understandable way. This commentary employs an uncomplicated structure of translation, notes, comments and endnotes. Boda avoids excessive research citations and scholarly controversies. The commentary uses various Hebrew and Greek word-numbering systems, including the Tyndale-Strong system and the Zondervan Hebrew system.

Reviewed by Stephen M. Vantassel in the Jan-Feb ’11 issue of Bible Study Magazine.

Atlas of the Bible

Zondervan, 2010

Knowledge of biblical geography and an appreciation for its role in understanding Scripture is a common weakness for Christians. Carl G. Rasmussen addresses this weakness in Zondervan’s Atlas of the Bible as he progresses through Old and New Testament history with clear, easy-to-read maps, photographs and supporting commentary.

Part 1 covers the physical attributes of biblical lands, such as elevations, climate and habitat zones. The relief maps reveal why the ancients chose certain valleys and passes for both travel and the founding of cities. Particularly noteworthy is a land chart that illustrates the size of areas in the Middle East by comparing them with the us.

Part 2 contains atlases based on historical periods, beginning with the pre-patriarchal age and ending with Paul’s travels. Bible students will appreciate Rasmussen’s succinct description of key events in the period and maps that illustrate political boundaries and battles.

This atlas gives due attention to both the New Testament lands and Paul’s travels. The political and relief maps are reinforced by photographs that provide a good sense of the land and times.

Reviewed by Stephen M. Vantassel in the Jan–Feb ’11 issue of Bible Study Magazine.