A careful scrutiny of the Bible will reveal that in many translations of Scripture, there will sometimes be a small number beside a passage or verse. That number could point to an explanation further down the page that reads, “some manuscripts say…” If you have ever read this phrase and wondered why there may be different versions of Scripture, the following video is for you. Robert Plummer, who is a professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers the following insight into this important question with this recent video.
The process of propagating God’s Word at that time in history was the apostolic writing of scripture and then making copies by hand so that they could be disseminated among the growing early church. By the time of the invention of the printing press, there existed thousands of hand-written copies of Scripture. Some of the copies were painstakingly written, while others were written somewhat haphazardly. This leads to minor typological mistakes among these copies that otherwise display massive uniformity and agreement.
As the printing press became more prominent, people were more equipped to look among the many copies and see where the majority of copies landed in terms of word use and phrases. Be encouraged because though there are differences in some of the copies, those differences (or variants) do not impact any cardinal doctrine that we derive from Scripture. We can also have confidence that our modern English translations are well translated from the study of well-preserved manuscripts that go all way back to the very eyewitnesses of the person and work of Jesus.