Bible Question:

Why is there no verse 11 in Matthew 18? It goes from verse 10 to verse 12.

Bible Answer:

Matthew 18:11 does not appear in several current Bibles such as the New International Version (NIV), the New Century Version (NCV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and the New Living Translation (NLT). The verse you are referring to is as follows:

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (NASB) Matthew 18:11

However, the verse does appear in the New American Standard Version, the New King James Version, and the King James Version, for example.

Why Is Verse 11 Missing In Matthew 18

Why Is Matthew 18:11 Missing?

The verse is missing from some of the Bibles because the passage does not actually appear in the best early Greek manuscripts which contain Matthew. It is important to remember that the New Testament was written in Greek. These original documents called “autographs” were copied and passed from one person to another. In the process of making copies, errors would occur sometimes. Sometimes words were misspelled, words were left out, and on rare occasions, some copyists would insert some words. Today there are more than 5,800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in our possession. In addition there are other manuscripts of the New Testament making the total 24,633 manuscripts. By using a process called textual criticism scholars have been able to determine very accurately how the original “autographs” should read. A better explanation of textual criticism and the accuracy of our Bible is available from an article at the following link, “How Accurate Is The Bible?” The conclusion of that article says that the Bible is 99.8% accurate and no doctrines are affected. There is no other ancient book in existence with so many copies and with so little error. The Bible is really unique. The Bible is very accurate!

Textual criticism has determined that verse 11 should not exist in Matthew 18 since it does not appear in the oldest and best manuscripts:

B – Vatcanus
א – Sinaitius
L – Regius
Θ – Koridethi
1 – Basle
1582 – Mt. Athos
1346 – Jerusalem
33 – Paris[1]

The inclusion or exclusion of Matthew 18:11 does not affect Christ’s message or any doctrine. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank Gaebelein, says that verse 11 was,

Omitted in the earliest witnesses of the Alexandria, pre-Caesarean, Egyptian, and Antiochene text types.[2]

In William Henrickson’s commentary on Matthew he comments,

The words, “For the Son of Man is coming to save that which was lost,” c.f. verse 11 in A.V., are lacking in the best manuscripts and were probably inserted from Luke 19:10.[3]

R. C. H. Lenski, the Lutheran scholar, adds this about verse 11,

The textual evidence against this verse is so strong that we must cancel it from Matthew’s account. It was probably inserted from Luke 19:10.[4]

In the MacArthur New Testament Commentary, John MacArthur writes,

As indicated by brackets in the NASB text, verse 11 (For the Son of Man has come to save that which is lost) is not found in the best early manuscripts of this gospel.[5]

Grant Osborne, in his commentary on Matthew states,

Verse 11 (“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost”)  is added in several manuscripts (D L c TR lat et al.) but missing in others . . . and most likely was added in assimilation to Luke 19:10 and because it aptly fits the imagery of v. 12.[6]

The recognized authority in the field of biblical textual criticism is Bruce M Metzger. He states that Matthew 18:11 is “spurious” and was inserted by a copyists.

There can be little doubt that the words ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ζητῆσαι καὶ) σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός are spurious here, being absent from the earliest witnesses representing several textual types (Alexandrian, Egyptian, Antiochian), and manifestly borrowed by copyists from Lk 19.10. The reason for the interpolation was apparently to provide a connection between ver. 10 and verses 12-14.[7]

Some biblical scholars who write commentaries have simply excluded Matthew 18:11 from their books. Their commentaries skip from verse 10 to verse 12. Here is a brief list of a few noted authors:

Davies and Allison. Matthew. The International Critical Commentary [8]

R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.[9]

John Nolland. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Greek Testament Commentary.[10]

Did Copyists Insert Matthew 18:11?

It is widely agreed that someone copied Luke 19:10 and inserted it into Matthew 18:11. The copyists probably recognized that Luke 19:10 had recorded the same event and thought it would be helpful to “improve” Matthew 18:11 with the addition.  Here is both Mathew 18:11 and Luke 19:10,

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (NASB) Matthew 18:11

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (NASB) Luke 19:10

The only difference between these two verses is the phrase “to seek.” It is important to note that while Matthew 18:11 should not exist in our Bibles, the verse does accurately describe what occurred. It captures the sense of Luke 19:10. This discrepancy does not impact what is true or what we believe. It does not affect any doctrine.

Conclusion:

We can thank our God that He has protected the accuracy of His Word. Thank the Lord for His Word!

References:

1. Reuben Swanson. Matthew. New Testament Greek Manuscripts. William Carey International University Press. 1995. p. 173.

2. Frank Gaebelein. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Regency Reference Library. 1984. vol. 8, footnote 11. p. 401.

3. William Henrickson. Matthew. New Testament Commentary. Baker Book House. 1973. p. 695.

4. R. C. H. Lenski. Matthew. Commentary on the New Testament. Hendrickson Publishers. 1964. p. 693.

5. John MacArthur. Matthew 16-23. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody press. 1988. p. 119.

6. Grant Osborne. Exebetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan Publishing. 2010. footnote 4. p. 681.

7. Bruce M Metzger. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies. 1994. p. 36.

8. Davies and Allison. Matthew. The International Critical Commentary. T&T Clark. 1991. vol. 2., pp. 769-772. Note that their commentary skips verse 11.

9. R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans Publishing. 2007. pp. 686-687.

10. John Nollad. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Eerdmans Publishing. 2005. pp. 741-742.

 

Reference Links:

How Accurate Is The Bible?
Is The King James Bible The Best Bible?
Should verses 9-20 be included at the end of Mark 16?
Why does Matthew 17:21 exist only as a footnote in the King James Bible?
Should verses 9-20 be included at the end of Mark 16?