Bible experts tell us to skip John 5:4 because it doesn’t belong in the Bible.
In fact, you probably won’t find it in your Bible. Go ahead, look.
Most Bibles today jump from verse 3 to 5, as though verse 4 doesn’t belong in good company.
You will, however, find it in your Bible if you still read the archaic English of William Shakespeare in the King James Version (birthday, 1611). Not that William wrote the KJV. But he was alive when it was translated. So it sounds a little like him.
You’ll also find the missing verse in a derivative update of the KJV, such as the New King James Version, which replaces the “thee’s” and “thou’s” with “you’s” and “you’s.”
And “forsooth” with “now.”
Here’s the verse most Bibles kicked out of the neighborhood.
“An angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had” (John 5:4 NKJV).
This verse lives inside the bubble of the KJV and the NKJV because those translations are based on 500-year-old copies of the New Testament, written in Greek—the very language New Testament writers used.
The Greek copies were only 100 years old at the time, though.
Since the days of Shakespeare, archaeologists and Bible experts have been doing stuff.
Like finding older and, presumably, more reliable Greek copies of the New Testament.
Some as early as the AD 100s.
John 5:4 doesn’t show up in those more ancient copies.
So where did John 5:4 come from?
Bible experts guess from an editor, where most bad ideas come from.
I’m kidding. About the bad ideas thing. I used to be an editor. All my ideas were good.
I’m not kidding about the ancient editor thing, though. The writing style of that verse is different than the surrounding verses. So say scholars who say they are convinced they can recognize subtle differences in the writing style on ancient Greek manuscripts, in much the same way you could tell the difference between my writing and other Bible reference writers who would never say “stuff.” Though they would think it.
The theory is that the editor figured readers would wonder what in the dickens a bunch of sick people were doing laying around the pool of Bethesda.
So the editor wanted to answer that question for them.
Enter brainstorming mode.
- Waiting for angel to make bubbles in the water
Actually, it may have been nothing like that.
Hopefully, it wasn’t.
But wherever that verse came from, most Bible experts seem to agree that it should have stayed there.
This is so interesting, Steve. I didn’t notice the Bible skips that verse number completely!
Though I’m curious why Bible Experts believe it should be there. The KJV has a couple of unauthorized additional verses. (The latter part of I John 5:7, for instance.) Why should we believe that this “bonus miracle” in John 5 should be included?
Stephen M. Miller
Same situation. Newer Bible translations are leaning on older copies of the New Testament. The scholars say the “here’s the Trinity” reference was a late add-on by some editor who wanted to make the Bible’s teaching about the Trinity clear…at least once. I should turn this into another blog post. Thanks, Steve.
I just absolutely love the Stephen Millers writing style. Never seen anything like it
Stephen M. Miller
Heck, we’re all our own snowflake.