Why is Matthew 17:21 missing from the Bible?
Short answer – Matthew 17:21 was removed from some versions of the Bible due to its absence in the oldest Greek manuscripts. This decision is not an indication of the Bible’s overall credibility being in question but rather reflects the nature of studying ancient texts. Differences in manuscript evidence and textual variants are common in this field.
One of the most controversial topics among believers is the omission of Matthew 17:21 from some versions of the Bible.
Matthew 17:21 records Jesus’ statement to His disciples after they had failed to cure an epileptic boy.
Jesus told them after successfully and easily healing him, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
But this Bible verse is not in some Bible versions like the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), New Living Translation (NLT), etc.
Christians who think God’s Word is precious and must not be tampered with using Deuteronomy 4:2 to support their position.
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
However, modern Christian scholars seem to have a unique perspective by using historical and other factors to support the deletion of Matthew 17:21 from the Bible.
Could there be a hidden agenda to distort the Bible and water it down? Have unbelievers taken over Bible publishing?
Is the world coming to an end? These are some of the worrisome thoughts of some believers who are used to reading Matthew 17:21 in Bible versions like the King James Version (KJV) and the New King James Version (NKJV).
If you need a new perspective and detailed explanation about the removal of Matthew 17:21, this article will give you insight.
Why is Matthew 17:21 missing from the Bible?
Matthew 17:21 is not missing from all Bibles, but it is missing from some versions.
This is because some Bible translations are based on different versions of the original texts and may include or exclude certain verses based on the manuscript evidence.
In the case of Matthew 17:21, some manuscripts do not include this verse, while others do.
The manuscripts that do not include it are generally considered older and more reliable, so some modern Bible translations omit this verse.
However, other Bible translations, such as the King James Version and the New King James Version, include Matthew 17:21 because they are based on manuscripts that include them.
It’s also worth noting that Matthew 17:21 is very similar to Mark 9:29, which is included in all major translations of the Bible.
Mark 9:29 reads, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:21 is not included in the oldest Greek manuscripts.
Matthew 17:21 is not found in some of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, including Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
These manuscripts date back to the 4th century and are considered by scholars to be some of the most important witnesses to the original text of the New Testament.
Other early manuscripts that do not contain Matthew 17:21 include Codex Bezae, Codex Washingtonianus, and several early Syriac and Coptic translations of the New Testament.
However, it’s worth noting that while some of the oldest manuscripts do not contain this verse, it is found in most Greek manuscripts and is also attested in early church fathers’ writings.
This is why it has been included in many English translations of the Bible throughout history, including the King James Version.
It was skipped intentionally.
One possible explanation for the omission of Matthew 17:21 in some Bible versions is that it may have been accidentally or intentionally skipped by scribes while copying the manuscripts.
The manuscript tradition of the Bible involves many generations of copying, and it is not uncommon for errors to occur in the process.
For example, a scribe may have accidentally skipped over the verse when copying the text or intentionally left it out because they found it difficult to understand or thought it was redundant with other passages in the Gospels.
Some scholars have suggested that the omission of Matthew 17:21 may have been a deliberate editorial decision made by some early Christian communities.
These communities may have felt that the verse did not fit with their particular theological or ethical beliefs and therefore chose to exclude it from their manuscripts.
It’s also possible that the omission of Matthew 17:21 in some Bible versions is simply the result of the different textual traditions and translation philosophies that underlie different Bible versions.
Some translations prioritize the use of certain manuscripts over others, while others prioritize readability or other factors.
To get rid of contradictions
Scholars believe Matthew left verse 21 out on purpose to get rid of contradictions.
The scripture is believed to be about faith, not prayer and fasting.
The addition of these two spiritual concepts is believed to make Jesus’ teaching not align with the topic of discourse, which was healing the epileptic boy.
Considering the Bible passage, scholars believe that Jesus could not have recommended fasting in that situation because the matter required urgency.
Jesus, our perfect example, cast out demons and raised the dead without taking a few hours’ break to fast and pray.
Even in the case of Lazarus, Jesus only prayed to God and commanded the dead to come out.
Therefore, telling His disciples, whom He had given authority and power to heal the sick and deliver the oppressed, to go and fast seems contradictory to His teachings. Jesus had already given them the key to heaven in Matthew 16:19:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The problem the disciple had was unbelief.
The lie of the enemy is that when we pray, and fast more, certain things will go away. However, the Bible encouraged us to have faith.
According to the Bible, faith is not only about praying and fasting but also about working or taking action.
James 2:14-26, the Apostle James rebuked those who claimed to have faith without any action or reflection of belief in their daily lives.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)
Another school of thought believes that those who compiled the Bible might have decided to add verse 21 in Matthew 17 to make it correlate with the Gospel of Mark Mark 9:29 to give credibility to the Gospel.
However, it is said that Apostle Matthew, the original writer of the Gospel of Matthew, never included it.
Does the removal of Matthew 17:21 change the words spoken?
Matthew 17:21 says, “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Are these words true? Yes.
Are they less effective because they were omitted in Matthew 17:21? No.
It must be stated that this statement by Jesus is still in the Bible. “So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
It was only removed from Matthew based on textual criticism and scholarship.
We should focus more on the message: prayer and fasting.
Prayer and fasting are powerful tools of spiritual warfare.
Apart from being a means through which we communicate with God, prayer is a way to exercise our authority over demonic powers and situations in our lives.
Job 22:28 says, “You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you.”
Throughout His ministry, Jesus never stopped praying.
He always spoke with His heavenly Father, giving thanks and making petitions.
We are encouraged to pray without ceasing because a prayerful Christian is powerful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Fasting is another essential spiritual exercise we must not handle with levity as believers.
Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). After fasting, he was tempted by the devil, but He overcame him.
From this event, fasting equipped and empowered Jesus to resist the devil.
Fasting helps believers mortify the flesh. It makes us pay less attention to pleasures.
Instead, it builds our spiritual capacity and enables us to be sensitive spiritually.
When we fast regularly, things like food and other activities will not freak us.
We will be able to withstand temptation and overcome sin easily. Therefore, prayer and fasting should not be ignored but practiced always.
Does the omission of Matthew 17:21 mean the Bible is not credible?
The omission of Matthew 17:21 in some modern Bible translations does not necessarily mean that the entire Bible is not credible.
The Bible is a collection of ancient texts transmitted through various manuscripts and translations over thousands of years.
Differences in manuscript evidence and textual variants are common in studying ancient texts, including the Bible.
Scholars and translators of the Bible use rigorous methods to reconstruct the most accurate and reliable text possible based on the available manuscript evidence.
The omission of a particular verse, like Matthew 17:21, is typically based on the judgment that the verse is not found in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts.
It does not imply that the Bible as a whole lacks credibility.
We must approach the Bible by faith and not the activities of scholars who are imperfect.
We receive salvation and God’s promises by faith.
Therefore, we must put our faith to use when studying the Scripture.
We must also trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said is our teacher and advocate.
Jesus told his disciples, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26)
It’s important to note that many essential Bible teachings, stories, and messages remain consistent across various translations and manuscripts.
While textual variants and omissions exist, they generally pertain to specific verses or passages and do not necessarily impact the Bible’s central themes and core teachings.
READ MORE: What is the biblical meaning of seeing a hawk?
The similarity between Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29
The similarity between Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29 is one of the reasons why some modern Bible versions omit Matthew 17:21.
Mark 9:29 reads, “This kind can come out only by prayer,” which is very similar in meaning to the longer reading in Matthew 17:21: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Because the two verses convey a similar message, some scholars believe that Matthew 17:21 may have been added to later manuscripts as a harmonization with the Gospel of Mark, which was likely written earlier.
The absence of Matthew 17:21 in some of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts supports this theory.
However, it’s important to note that the omission of Matthew 17:21 in some Bible versions is not solely due to its similarity with Mark 9:29.
The decision to omit certain verses or passages from a particular Bible version is usually based on a combination of factors, including the manuscript evidence, scholarly analysis of the original text, and translation philosophy.
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