Changing the Meaning of the Bible

I visited a church this morning in which the pastor preached from John 8:1-12.  This is the story of the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery that the Pharisees and scribes brought to Jesus.  Jesus said “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” then drew on the ground with his finger while all of the accusers left, one by one, having been convicted of their own sin by their consciences.

The pastor preached out of the New International Version, which presents John 8:9 like this:

John 8:9 – NIV
9:  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Here is that same verse, in the King James Version.

John 8:9 – KJV
9:  And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

What a difference the translation makes!  The NIV version omits “being convicted by their own conscience” and just says that they began to go away, one at a time.  Did they leave because they were bored?  Or was it because they had came to see a stoning and figured that wasn’t going to happen?

The NIV translation takes away one of the key points of this passage – that we are to be convicted of our own sins when we are in the presence of Jesus Christ.  I believe it is difficult to fully grasp what it will be like to be in God’s presence when we come before him after we die.  God and Jesus Christ, who are pure and holy compared to us, who are sinful is a monumental gap that we will not be able to bridge on our own.  Only God can bridge that gap by forgiving us of our sins and allowing us into His heaven where we can exist pure and holy, without sin.

But until that day, we are called to come before Christ, be convicted of our sins by our conscience, and confess them so that they can be forgiven.  The New International Version doesn’t help with that by leaving out significant parts of the original text.  I believe it hurts, in fact, by changing the meaning and leaving its readers with an incomplete (in this case) understanding of the Bible.

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Gary, I think the question is why was it left out. I did a quick survey of English Translations of this passage at Bible Gateway and found that the KJV, the NKJV and Young’s Literal Translation are the only ones to include this phrase. Only the NKJV gives a hint as to why:

NU-Text and M-Text omit being convicted by their conscience.

I searched and could not find anything explaining why that phrase was omitted in most of the translations or what that footnote in the NKJV means. Obviously, it means that those two texts don’t have that phrase but why these translations leave it out when some texts have itis unknown to me. I guess we can assume that most scholars find those two texts to be more accurate or reliable than the ones containing the phrase.

I agree with you that the phrase adds something to the passage. However, certainly, to me anyway, that conviction of the conscience is strongly implied, even if not explicitly stated. Why would they leave after Jesus stating that if not due to a convicted conscience? The fact that the older ones, who had years more sin to think about, left before the younger seems to reinforce that idea.

So, to me it’s not a big deal either way, although I will admit to preferring the modern language translations like the NIV, and more recently for me, the ESV to the KJV simply because I don’t feel like i have to fight the text to find the meaning.

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