Bible group: Verse omission not ‘malicious’

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MANILA, July 15, 2015—The Philippine Bible Society (PBS) has spoken out in reaction to recent posts on social media warning netizens about how some publishers abroad have allegedly “deliberately omitted certain passages from the Bible,” dispelling rumors that the practice has a malicious intent.

While the trending post singles out English translations not published by PBS, its leadership says in a statement it deems it a service to Bible-reading communities and individuals in the Philippines to comment on the issue.

Major consideration

The ecumenical group explains, “The inclusion or exclusion of a verse/s or portions of a verse in the main text are a major decision of the translation team, guided by the standard publishing policies and principles of the organization, as well as by the long history of Bible publishing and production. Relegating a verse to a footnote is a major consideration because the Bible users always expect a Bible with complete verses. It is necessary, therefore, to apply sound principles in textual criticism to assure Bible users that their Bibles are reliable.”

According to PBS, care and expertise are achieved in the major English translations that include the supposedly missing verses in the footnotes rather than in the main text, in keeping with the prevailing publishing convention.

No alteration

It points out, however, that in adopting this practice, PBS does not intend to alter the Word of God, but to ensure that the copy of the Bible it offers to the Church reflects the best scholarship there is at the moment.

“It happens that some verses of the Bible are not included in the main text of the Bible, but are only mentioned in the footnote. Some of these passages include Matt 17.21, 23.14, Mark 9.44, 9.46, Luke 17.36, 23.17, John 5.4, and Acts 8.37,” it states.

Broad concurrence

PBS stresses that in the said verses, textual scholars agree to reflect in the main text the readings which the most reliable manuscripts back, and to print these disputed passages on the margins, or also in the main text but marked with some symbols (for instance, a bracket [ ]) to indicate that the passage is disputed.

The Bible publisher shares it uses the latest editions of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (for the Old Testament) and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (for the New Testament) as textual bases when it undertakes translation projects, claiming the two critical editions have the broadest scholarly support to date.

“And it is important to point out that the bases for textual decisions are the Hebrew and Greek texts, not English translations,” it says.

Word of God

Amid the controversy, PBS reaffirms its belief that the Bible is the written Word of God.

“…PBS is committed to translate and transmit faithfully the very same Bible that the biblical writers inscribed on their manuscripts. PBS exists to serve the Scripture requirements of the churches in the Philippines,” it explains.

This fidelity to the Word of God as transmitted from the time of the early Christians is guided by our deep love for God and His Word. However, since the original biblical manuscripts no longer exist, the safest way to ensure the transmission purity of the Bible is to carefully and critically study surviving biblical manuscripts,” it adds.

PBS publishes the popular “Magandang Balita Biblia” as well as other Bibles in major Philippine languages. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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