Why is angry 'without a cause' in Matthew 5:22 in only the KJV?
Our purpose is to explain why the phrase “without a cause” in Matthew 5:22 occurs only in the KJV and the NKJV Bibles. All other modern Bibles do not include this phrase. In order to explain why “without a cause” is not in modern Bibles, we will examine the Greek text and the meaning of the Greek words in the phrase. Here is Matthew 5:22 in the King James Version (KJV) Bible. We have highlighted the phrase “without a cause.”
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22 (KJV)
In contrast, the New American Standard Bible does not contain the phrase “without a cause.”
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘ You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matthew 5:22 (NASB)
Meaning of “Without A Cause”
There are two primary reasons for determining if the phrase “without a cause” belongs or does not belong in Matthew 5:22. The first reason is that it changes the meaning of the verse. Therefore, what is the meaning of the verse?
The Greek word that is translated as “without a cause” is εἰκῆ, or sine causa in Latin. The Greek word occurs seven times in the KJV version of the New Testament (Matthew 5:22; Romans 13:4; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 3:4; 4:11; Colossians 2:18). The Greek word was translated in the KJV as “without a cause,” “vain” and “vainly.” This confirms the general meaning of the word. This word significantly changes the meaning of the verse. If the phrase belongs in the verse then we are told that anger is acceptable if there is a good reason. But since Christ did not specify the “cause” or “good reason,” the justifiable reason for the anger is left to the individual who becomes angry. Without the phrase, then all anger is wrong. This agrees with James 1:20 which states that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of man. That is, there is always something wrong with the anger of man.
Evidence From Greek Manuscripts
The second reason why we want to know if the phrase “without a cause” belongs in Matthew is that we want to know how the gospel of Matthew was initially written. That is, how did the Holy Spirit move Matthew to write the book? Therefore, we want to know how the Greek text of Matthew should read.
The answer as to whether εἰκῆ belongs in Matthew 5:22 requires that we examine the various ancient manuscripts of the Matthew passage and the quotes from the early church fathers. The Greek New Testament, written by Aland et al gives a list of manuscripts and quotes from the early church fathers that provide support for and against the Greek word εἰκῆ belonging in Matthew 5:22. The following quotes can be found in a footnote for Matthew 5:22. The first quotation provides the evidence that εἰκῆ does not belong in Matthew, while the next quote provides evidence that εἰκῆ does belong in Matthew.
αὐτοῦ p67 א* B 2174vid vg eth Gospel of the Nazarenes Ptolemy Justin Irenaeuslat1/3 Tertullianvid Origen Eusebius Basil mssacc to Jerome Augustine Greekmss acc. to Augustine Cassian Ps-Athanasius //
αὐτοῦ εἰκῆ אc D K L W Δ θ ΙΙ f1 f13 28 33 565 700 892 1010 1071 1079 1195 1216 1230 1241 1242 1365 1546 1646 2148 Byz Lect ita, aur, b,c,d,f,ff1,g1,b,k,I,q syrc,a,p,h,pal copsa,bo goth arm geo Diatessaron lrenaeus gr,lat2/3 Origen Cyprian Eusebius Lucifer Ps-Justin Chrysostom Cyril.
Now we are not going to evaluate all of these manuscripts and quotes. Instead, we want to highlight the most important documents and then draw a conclusion about εἰκῆ. The following table provides a list of the earliest manuscripts that contain the Matthew 5:22 passage. It is important to note P67 is the oldest, earliest and best of them.
|Manuscript||Date (A.D.)||Is Phrase in MSS?|
|Copsa, bo||3rd and 4th Centuries||Yes|
|syrc, a, p, h, pal||4th to 7th Centuries||Yes|
|vg (Vulgate)||5th to 8th Centuries||No|
It is obvious that P67, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are among the most prestigious manuscripts and they do not contain the phrase “without a cause” in Matthew 5:22.
Paul Wegner, professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary, summarizes the evidence this way.
This principle sounds contradictory—why would the more difficult reading be preferable? This means that if a reading appears to be the more difficult but on further examination of the passage it may actually be what the author is attempting to say, it should be preferred. The reasoning behind this principle is that scribes had a tendency to simplify readings. If a scribe read something that did not seem right to him, he may have changed it without stopping to better examine the context or flow of thought. For example, Matthew 5:22 reads either “everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (P64(sic), א*, B, Latin Vulgate, Ptolemy, Justin, Irenaeuslat1/3, Tertullianvid, Origen, etc.) or, “everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be guilty before the court” א, D, L, W, Δ, Θ, ƒ1 ƒ13, 28, 33, 565, 700, etc.). The external evidence seems to slightly favor the first reading, but it is reasonable that a scribe attempted to soften Jesus’ statement by adding the phrase “without a cause.” By contrast, it is unlikely that a scribe would purposely make Jesus’ statement more difficult to live out by deleting the words “without a cause.” 
The evidence from the Greek manuscripts strongly indicates that the phrase without a cause does not belong in Matthew 5:22.
Evidence From Early Church Fathers
The early church fathers also reveal that the phrase without a cause does not belong in Matthew 5:22. For example, the early church father Origen (A.D. 184 – c. 253) quotes Matthew 5:22 and does not include the phrase without a cause in his book De Principiis. Book 3, Chapter 1, Section 6,
And the Savior also, when He commands, “But I say unto you, Resist not evil;” and, “Whoever shall be angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.”
This is an early historical quote compared to quotes from other church fathers.
In Origen’s Commentary on Ephesians, he states that the phrase “without cause” was added by someone.
Since some think that anger sometimes occurs with good reason because they improperly add to the Gospel the word “without cause” in the saying, “Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment”, for some have read, “Whoever is angry with his brother without cause” . . .
Jerome (A.D. 347-420) states in his commentary on Matthew (Commentariorum in Matthaeum) at Matthew 5:22 that,
“Everyone who is angry with his brother.” In some codices the words are added: “without reason.” But in the authentic texts the judgment is definite and anger is completely taken away, since the Scripture says: “Whoever is angry with his brother.” For if we are commanded to turn the other cheek to the one who strikes us, and to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us, every pretext for anger is removed. Therefore, the words “without reason” should be erased. For “man‘s anger does not work the justice of God”
From Pseudo-Athanasius (4th Century) we discover that the Epistulae ad Castorem 2 contains this statement,
“But the Lord himself, teaching us that it is necessary to set aside all anger, says in the Gospels, ‘Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.’ For this is what the accurate copies contain; for ‘without cause’ was put down as an addition; and this is clear from the preceding received text of Scripture.”
John Cassian (A.D. 360–435) comments in the De institutis coenobiorum 8.20,
“‘Without a cause’ is superfluous and was added by those who did not at all think that anger should be excluded . . .”
Augustine (A.D. 425) wrote in the Retractationum 1.19.4,
“The Greek manuscripts do not have ‘without a cause,’ as placed here, although the sense itself is the same.
Other church fathers quote portions of Matthew 5:22 but do not make any comment about the phrase “without a cause.” They are: Pseudo-Justin (2nd or 3rd Century), Eusebius (A.D. 260-339), Lucifer (A.D. 371), Chrysostom (A.D. 349-407), Cyprian (A.D. 400) and Cyril (A.D. 375-444). The dates are provided by Philip Schaff in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. The previous authors were included because they added commentary about the phrase.
In more modern times, the consensus is that εἰκῆ does not belong in Matthew 5:22, as illustrated by Alfred Plummer (A.D. 1841-1926),
‘Without cause’ (εἰκῆ, sine causa) after ‘angry with his brother’ may be an explanatory gloss which has found its way into a large number of the less authoritative texts. It is as old as the second century (D, Lat-Vet, Syrr. Iren); but it is more likely that it was inserted as an obvious qualification than that it was omitted (א B and MSS. known to Jerome and Augustine, Vulg. Aeth, Justin. Tert.) because it was superfluous.
Philip Schaff, author of the Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, concurs with the following about the clause “without a cause” in Matthew 5:22,
The weight of critical evidence is against this clause, which is omitted by Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort or, the Vulgate and the Revised Version Ver.
Bruce Metzger, the undisputed biblical scholar of textual criticism in our times, writes,
Although the reading with eike is widespread from the second century onwards, it is much more likely that the word was added by copyists in order to soften the rigor of the precept, than omitted as unnecessary.
Jonathan C. Borland adds that Metzger’s comment agrees with Erasmus’ opinion.
Metzger’s statement mirrors that of Erasmus (2:25–26), who after invoking the authority of Jerome who said that it was “not found in the old and trustworthy exemplars” states, “And it appears that it was added by some impudent person who wanted, as it were, to mitigate that which in general appeared to be a rather hard saying.”
Last, it is important to realize that the KJV and NKJV are among a small minority of modern Bibles that contain the phrase. All of the major translations such as the ESV, CEV, NASB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV ignore it.
Therefore, it is concluded that the King James Version Bible has included the phrase “without a cause” when the phrase should not be included. Admittedly, some believe that the phrase belongs, but the testimony of the early fathers and the manuscript evidence strongly concludes that the phrase does not belong in Matthew 5:22.
1. Aland et al. The Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies. 1983. 3rd ed. p. 13.
2. Paul D. Wegner. Textual Criticism of the Bible. IVP Academic. 2006. p 247.
3. Origen. De Principiis Book 3, Chapter 1, Section 6. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson. 1995. vol. 4, p. 1. p. 305.
4. Wieland Willker. Matthew. A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels. Bremen, online published. 8th Ed. 2011. PDF. vol 1., Matthew 5:22.
5. Jonathan C. Borland. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. cites Wettstein, Johann Jakob. Novum Testamentum graecum. 2 vols. Amstelaedami: Ex officina Dommeriana, 1751, 1752., vol. 1, p. 296–7. Also, Wieland Willker. Matthew. A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels. Bremen, online published. 8th Ed. 2011. PDF. vol 1., Matthew 5:22.
6. Willker., Ibid.
7. Borland., Ibid.
9. A. Cleveland Cox. Annotated Index. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson. 1995. vol. 4, pp. 277-385.
10. Alfred Plummer. Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According To St. Matthew. Roxburghe House Paternoster Row. 1920. p. 78.
11. Bruce Metzger. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies. 1994. p. 11.
12. Philip Schaff. Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrickson. 1995. vol. 6. p. 11.
13. Borland. Ibid.
1. Bruce M. Metzger. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies. 2016. 2nd ed.
2. Paul D. Wegner. Textual Criticism of the Bible. IVP Academic. 2006.
3. Comfort and Barrett. Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts. Baker Books. 1999.
4. Reuben Swanson. Mark. New Testament Greek Manuscripts. William Carey International University Press. 1995.