Acts 8-37 Scripture or not Scripture?

There is much debate surrounding the authenticity of this verse amongst modern day biblical scholars with the majority choosing to reject this verse as original and authoritative scripture claiming that it is not included in the “oldest and best” manuscripts available and some further claiming that it is a later ADDITION to scripture and was never included in the original texts and so doesn’t belong in our Bibles today.

Let’s take a look at the verse

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

Most new versions of the Bible either make note of this “doubt” over its authenticity by stating such in the footnotes, reducing the verse itself to the footnotes or as Bibles such as the NIV , ESV and the NWT totally removing the verse all together.

So it is an important question to ask. Is Acts 8-37 scripture or not?

In this writing I shall examine the evidence available to us today and leave you to make your own mind up as to whether you will reject or accept this verse based on that available evidence.

It’s important to understand that basically every time the claim is made regarding the “oldest and best” manuscripts, those who refer to the “oldest and best” or “oldest and most reliable” manuscripts available are almost certainly directly referring to (even when they don’t know it as they are simply regurgitating what they have been told, Sinaiticus and or Vaticanus codexes, both of which are of the Alexandrian line of manuscripts.

Now i’m not going to go into great detail here regarding the debate over the Alexandrian v Byzantine lines of manuscripts as I wish to deal only with the evidence for the inclusion or exclusion of this particular verse. If you are not aware of the debate regarding the different manuscripts or are aware but want to know more information please see my writing Alexandrian v Byzantine manuscripts the truth for more information.

I make no apologies to the fact that I accept this verse 100% as being part of scripture because I reject the Alexandrian line of manuscripts and fully accept the KJV which includes the verse as being the true word of God. Does this make me biased? Well yes, I dont hide the fact that I accept this verse as part of scripture but as i’ve already stated i’m simply going to present the evidence and its up to you to decide.

Evidence

It is very true that this verse is not included in either of these 2 manuscripts. It is also not included in codex Alexandrinus (another manuscript of the Alexandrian line). The verse is not actually included in the majority of the byzantine line of manuscripts either, although it can’t be said that it has no manuscript support as it is included in but not limited to 4, 36, 88, 97, 103, 104, 242, 257, 307, 322, 323, 385, 429, 453, 464, 467, 629, 630, 913, 945, 1522, 1739, 1765, 1877, 1891. However the first occurance of this verse in Greek is found in Manuscript E (Codex Laudianus) from the 6th century.These are FACTS and they cannot be hidden and they must be dealt with.

So putting aside the manuscript debate and assuming that ALL manuscripts are authentic, based on this information it would appear that the verse is a later addition to the Greek texts. So if we accept that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are indeed the “oldest and most reliable” manuscripts it would seem that this verse was added at a later date.

HOWEVER those that make the claim are being slightly disingenuous, or at least not revealing the full truth. This isn’t all the evidence that we have at our disposal.

When analyzing texts, while manuscript evidence is of course of fundamental importance it isn’t the ONLY way in which the authenticity of a text is concluded. We must also look at context and other supporting evidence. So here in this writing I am going to do exactly that.

Context

I shall start with the context of the text. We must ask, Does the text flow? Does the text need to be there? Does it look out of place?

Well, when we put the verse back into context we will see that Philip is preaching the Gospel to an Ethiopian Eunuch.

Acts 8- 26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.29Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

Phillip then PREACHES Jesus to the eunuch.

Acts 8- 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Now in the preceding verse to the debated verse the eunuch asks Philip the question what hinders him from being baptized?

Acts 8:36 “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

In the debated verse, Philip answers him that he can if he believes in his heart and the Eunuch replies back that he believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God.

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

then he commands that the chariot stop and Philip baptizes the Eunuch

Acts 8:38 “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Phillip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

Pretty straight forward. The verse certainly flows with the rest of the text, the text includes both a reply of Philip to the eunuchs question and then the Eunuch’s reply to Phillip which itself includes the proclamation of faith by the Eunuch, so it certainly doesn’t look out of place.

But does it need to be there?

Well let’s have a look at the text without verse 37 included

So again we have the eunuch asking Philip the question what hinders him from being baptized?

Acts 8:36 “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

then he commands that the chariot stop and Philip baptizes the Eunuch

Acts 8:38 “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Phillip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

Phillip now offers no response to the eunuch whatsoever and the eunuch makes no confession of faith. The eunuch asks a question gets no response demands that the chariot stop and then without either speaking another recorded word, Philip baptizes him.

It most certainly flows better with the verse included and it also harmonizes better with previous information we have regarding Phillip in the very same chapter of Acts, where Philip is preaching and when they believed Phillips preaching regarding the kingdom and Jesus they were baptised.

Acts 8- 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.13Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Personally I believe scripture helps interpret scripture and there are no coincidences in the Bible, everything is stated for a purpose.. The Bible is Gods word and scripture supports scripture.

Is the text needed? Although I truly believe that without it, it confuses the teaching of the proclamation of faith, goes against how Phillip had previously scripturally baptized and the fact that without the verse the silence after the eunuchs question is deafening ultimately it is going to come down to your own personal opinion based on the provided evidence.

Further supporting evidence

But we haven’t finished with the supporting evidence for the inclusion of this verse just yet, there is more. When I said those who claim that the verse is not included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts are being disingenuous, or at least not revealing the full truth, what I meant is that simply saying that it is not included in these older manuscripts and that it would appear to be a later addition would make it seem like this verse didn’t exist before it appeared in the 6th century manuscript where it first appears in the Greek text. While it is very true and I cannot dispute the fact that the verse is not included in the oldest Greek manuscripts, this verse does have manuscript support beyond its first inclusion in a Greek manuscript . It doesn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere in this manuscript.

The verse actually appears in MANY non Greek manuscripts that not only predate Manuscript E but also predate these “oldest and most reliable” Greek manuscripts themselves, such as the Old Latin texts of ar, c, dem, e, gig, h, l, m, ph, r, t, w. plus others.

The text of this verse was around long before it appeared in the Greek. It didn’t just suddenly appear from nothing having been added by some scribe who wanted to make the text flow better as is often claimed.

Early quotations

Furthermore MANY early church fathers quote the verse, many of which again predate the “earliest and best” manuscripts. Not only again proving the knowledge of the existence of the text but also, and much more importantly showing their acceptance of the text itself as being quotable scripture.

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.” (Against Heresies, 3.12.8)

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.” (The Treatises of Cyprian, Treatise 12, Book 3.43)

Novatian “Just as the Ethiopian eunuch, when he was returning from Jerusalem and reading the prophet Isaiah, and was in doubt, having at the Spirit’s suggestion heard the truth from Philip the deacon, believed and was baptized; and when he had gone up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more.” (Novatian, A Treatise on Re-Baptism :4)

Augustine (354-430 AD), Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament – Sermon 49: “The eunuch believed on Christ, and said when they came unto a certain water, See water, who doth hinder me to be baptized? Philip said to him, Dost thou believe on Jesus Christ? He answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Immediately he went down with him into the water.”

Although Augustine’s reference was after the dating of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus it still validates the existence of the verse before the 6th century.

Men such as John Calvin, Theodore Beza, Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards have also previously stated their own acceptance of this verse.

The verse was also accepted as scripture and included as such in The Tyndale Bible, The coverdale Bible, The great Bible, The Matthew’s Bible, The Bishop’s Bible, The Douay-Rheims and The Geneva Bible to name just a few. It isn’t just a KJV only thing.

It is also included in both the modern Greek and Hebrew texts.

So the evidence for the inclusion of the verse has been presented. It’s now for you to decide if you feel that the evidence is sufficient to warrant the inclusion of this verse as scripture.

As for me and my house….we accept the verse as scripture.

Categories: OtherWhy KJV only?

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