Phillip with the Ethiopian and that italicised verse
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” [“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:36-40
I am fully aware, Peter, that I haven’t answered your questions:
- Why is Acts 8:37 in brackets and greyed out? [“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
- Why is the verse missing in some Bibles?
- Why is it italicised in the version you gave us?
I wrote this article for JPCC’s monthly magazine because of the number of questions I received about this verse and why it was greyed out or italicised.
Here is what I wrote:
Nugget for January 2016– Questions I Can’t Answer
What I have been writing in the Gems over the last days have caused a number of people to ask questions I can’t answer. It is not that I don’t know what is going on. Neither is it that I can’t give them an answer. It is simply that I can’t give them an answer to their particular question. What prompted the questions was my inclusion in recent Gems of the following verse from Acts 8:37 -[“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] This has spurred people to ask me questions about other verses they have seen and questions like “why does my Bible include italicized words in some verses and not others?”
- “Or what does it mean in my Bible when a verse uses square brackets?”
- “Why are some words put in capital letters but not others?”
- “Why are some words greyed out in certain verses?”
They are questions I can’t answer for you. I don’t know the Bible you are using and I have not memorized all versions of the Bible and the system they use for making distinctions regarding footnoted items in a particular published Bible. One man has even suggested that he was surprised that I did not know how the NASB handles footnotes, how the KJV handles the Tetragrammaton or how the NLT marks verses with textual variations. Some people have the idea I have memorized every verse in the Bible and I know the variations on a verse from a range of different translations. It is not true. I am just an ordinary guy. Besides that, it is impossible to know how each translation handles publishing protocols. The protocols for missing verses, textual variants, how the name of YHWH is printed or a host of other printing issues are not standardized.
The conventions for publishers are not standard for each translation of the Bible nor for each particular publishing firm over time. So I can’t tell you that the NIV does this or the KJV does that. The simple fact is that a publisher in any city around the world decides what conventions they will use for indicating a doubtful word, a missing verse or an alternate reading. It depends when and where your Bible was printed in order to know how the publisher of your Bible has marked the four letters of God’s unmentionable name.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t explain what is going on in your Bible generally or how the principles work. What I can’t do is tell you why your copy of the Bible marks a feature with square brackets, or used greyed out letters or italicizes other letters. Asking me what does it mean in the Bible if a word is in square brackets or in italics is of no use. I don’t know because I am not holding your Bible. Each Bible uses those publishing conventions differently. So you have to consult your Bible to know how those features are signified in your Bible.
How do you find that information? Read the Preface of your Bible where it gives you a run down of the publishing conventions used in your version. I tell people in Deeper Bible to use all the features you paid for when you bought your Bible. To know how to use your Bible to its maximum potential, you have to read the Preface. It is like buying an expensive gadget but not reading the instruction manual on how to use it properly. So too, the Bible is God’s Manual for Life. Using it properly will shed light on your life’s walk. But in order to use it properly you need to read the Preface to understand how your Bible marks the use of Tetragrammaton (YHWH), [what square bracketed words signify] and what words in italics indicate and why some words are greyed out. Don’t ask me because I can’t tell you. I am not holding your Bible and can’t look up the Preface to show where it tells you what these publishing conventions mean in your Bible. [End of the Article]
Why this particular verse is italicised or greyed out is because it is not likely to be a part of what was written by Luke at the time. Here are some of the footnotes added to this verse in various versions.
- At the time when verse numbers were introduced, there was a gloss [footnote] numbered v 37, at this point. (Jerusalem Bible)
- Some witnesses* insert(37) Philip said, “If you whole-heartedly believe, it is permitted.” He replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.” (NEB)
- Somemanuscriptsadd verse 37: Philip said, “if you believe with all your heart, you may.” The official answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (NIV)
- Other ancient authorities add all or most of verse 37, Philip said, “if you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”(RSV)
- In this context “witnesses” * refers to variant readings in the manuscripts of the New Testaments. That is textual witnesses. Manuscript evidence.
I am not sure just how much detail to give you at this point. If Ihandle it fully it would be something like the way I handled the verses of John 7:53 – 8.11 in Gems 58 – 60. I think it would just confuse people and be too much information to give to all of you. If you want to know more ask me and I will tell you.
The detail of which manuscripts have which reading, is available in the kind of detail seen in the John example for each variant reading of the New Testament. That is how thoroughly New Testament textual experts treat the text of the New Testament. Whichever way I chose to handle the verse in Acts 8:37, I need to comment on the likelihood of this being genuine or not and what the implications are, along with the introduction of the issue of Baptism and how it arose. The matter of whether this verse is italicised or greyed out or what conventions are used to tell you it is not genuine, are immaterial. What is important is that you own at least one Bible which bothers to footnote this verse and let you know that not all ancient versions included this verse in the main body of the text. But I think I am safe in saying that all modern versions will include this verse in the main text but include a footnote to let you know it is a questionable verse. How questionable, we will look at in the next Gems. I don’t plan to handle this verse in the detail with which I looked at the verse in John 7 and 8. They were important, this is not so important but still needs some comment.
Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.C S Lewis
The enemy always wants to cover up the significant with the trivial!T D Jakes
When you begin to understand the depth of God’s Word, you understand the limitless nature of it. Its then that you want to plumb its depths for all you’re worth.Ian Vail
I have finally worked out what’s wrong with my left brain, there’s nothing right in it; and in my right brain there’s nothing left. [It’s called balance.]Bill Johnson