Because survey after survey finds that religious Americans are ignorant in various degrees about the contents of their Bibles, I’ve decided to start doing something about it now, before I accept that awesome tenured teaching position. Based off the success of a great Twitter feed I follow called @RandomSpaceFact, today I started @RandomBibleFact on a complete and total whim. Though I’m sure the feed will evolve over its lifetime, I’m presently thinking that it’ll cover facts both at the most basic level and more advanced topics, from textual criticism to translational details or possibly even interpretation. We’ll see!
What does that mean for my blog? Well, I want to keep the tweets manageable within the 140 character limit. Initially I had posted my first Random Bible Fact over the span of four tweets, and that’s just confusing. So when longer explanations are warranted, I’ll just craft a small blog post about it. This is probably a good habit for me to practice: I’ve always had a problem with concision. So without further ado, here’s Random Bible Fact #1…
Acts 24:7 does not exist in most modern translations of the Bible (NRSV, RSV, NIV, etc.). Don’t believe me? Though this is not a complete accounting of all biblical translations, a good representative example would be the omissions of the verse at BibleHub. Most recent translations skip directly from verse 6 to verse 8.
This isn’t a 13th floor in a skyscraper thing, though—the verse has not been omitted out of superstition or anything like that. Versifications and chapter divisions as we know them were only added to the Bible in the Medieval period, and at that time, Acts 24:7 did exist. In fact, 24:7 survived long enough to make it into the King James Version, just as earlier it had been included in John Wycliffe’s Bible and other versions.
The reason for inclusion or omission of 24:7 comes down to differences in the base Greek text of the New Testament from which English versions are translated. The King James Version was translated from what scholars today call the “Textus Receptus” (or Received Text), which it turns out is a fairly faulty version of the text as a whole, based largely off a single family of Greek manuscripts dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Textus Receptus contains a number of omissions and expansions, and this is one of them.
In chapter 24 of Acts, Paul appears before Felix for the first time in Caesarea, and one Tertullus is said to be the attorney prosecuting Paul’s case. The first substantive charges are brought against Paul in this passage: he is a fomenter of rebellion (verse 5) and a defiler of the Jerusalem temple (verse 6). Someone must have thought this prosecutorial opening statement was far too short and bereft of detail, for they expand the charges from rebellion against Jews to rebellion throughout the entire Roman Empire, and also supply Felix with additional narrative explanation saying why this case ostensibly fit for the Sanhedrin has been deemed fit for his jurisdiction.
Verse 24:7 (and the additional simultaneous additions) is attested in the so-called D-Text of Acts, but not in the earliest and best Greek manuscripts, such as Sinaiticus (4th century), Vaticanus (4th century), and Alexandrinus (5th century). It is therefore not included in modern scholarly versions of the Greek New Testament, and does not appear translated in the NRSV, NIV, RSV and many others. In some cases, verse 24:7 and its fellow D-Text variants receive a footnote to explain why the text has skipped from verse 6 to verse 8.