Another Bloodless Bible?[1]

 by James May


In his newsletter, Flashpoint of March, 1998, Texe Marrs has reproduced an article by Perry Rockwood entitled, “The NIV is Not God’s Word.”[2]  In the article, Mr. Rockwood states that “the NIV leaves out ‘through his blood’ in Colossians 1:14.”  He then asks the rhetorical question, “Do we want a Bible without blood?”.  The question implies that the New International Version deletes the blood of Christ from the New Testament.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is most unfortunate to see Christian leaders slanderously attack a conservative modern translation of the Bible using such misleading tactics.


The King James Version New Testament contains the word “blood” 101 times in 93 different verses; the New International Version 92 times in 83 verses, for a net difference of nine occurrences.  In one verse, Hebrews 12:24, the NIV has “blood” twice where the KJV only has it once.  There are, therefore, ten places in the NT where the KJV has the word “blood” and the NIV does not.  Nine of the ten references are translational differences that have nothing to do with the blood of Christ.  They can be seen in the following table: 



KJV rendering

NIV rendering

Matt. 9:20, Mark 5:25, 5:29, Luke 8:43, 8:44

“issue of blood”

“subject to bleeding”

Matt. 16:17, Gal. 1:16

“flesh and blood”


John 1:13

“of blood”

“natural descent”

Acts 17:26

“of one blood”

“from one man”


This leaves one reference (Colossians 1:14) where the blood of Christ is mentioned in the KJV and not in the NIV. Of the 101 occurrences of “blood” in the KJV, forty-one of them refer to the blood of Christ. There are forty places where the blood of Christ is mentioned in both the KJV and the NIV.[3]  It is quite obvious that the NIV does indeed have much to say about the blood of the Lord Jesus and that if the translators desired to get rid of the blood, they did a very poor job of it.  If they were seeking to corrupt the Word of God, it is surely a strange phenomenon that they would only remove one out of forty-one occurrences. 


When scholars examine a particular variant in the NT, they seek to understand how alternative readings may have arisen, and they examine the manuscript support for the various readings.  One observation that scholars have made is that parallel passages tend to become more alike when they are copied many times by people familiar with both passages.  There are a number of examples of this phenomenon in the Gospels.[4] Ephesians and Colossians contain several parallel passages, including Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14:


Ephesians 1:7

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, … ~ KJV

Colossians 1:14

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: … ~ KJV


It is easy to imagine that a copyist familiar with Ephesians 1:7 may have inserted “through his blood” in Colossians 1:14 either by accident, or on purpose thinking that he was correcting someone else’s omission.  Copyists were regularly confronted with errors in the documents from which they made their copies.


The Greek New Testament from which the KJV was translated was compiled from manuscripts of the Byzantine family.  The vast majority of surviving manuscripts is from this family.[5]  KJV Only advocates regularly argue that the text of the KJV is the correct text because it is supported by the majority of manuscripts and that such support indicates the “God-guided usage of the church.”  If majority readings truly represent God’s leading, then God is leading his church to reject the phrase “through his blood” in Colossians 1:14.  The phrase is not only absent from the Alexandrian manuscripts, including Aleph and B, but is also not found in the majority of Byzantine manuscripts.[6] In other words, it is not supported by the oldest Greek manuscripts or by the most numerous ones. If the NIV is a bloodless Bible, then so are most of the manuscripts in the very family from which the KJV was translated.  Of course it would be ridiculous to accuse the Byzantine manuscripts of not having the blood of Christ, but no more ridiculous than making the same accusation against the New International Version.


[1] Copyright James Richard May, 1998.  This paper may be reproduced in its entirety for free distribution.  All other rights are reserved. 


[2] Perry Rockwood, “The NIV is Not God’s Word,”  Flashpoint, March, 1998, p. 3.


[3] Matthew 26:28, 27:4, 27:6, 27:24, 27:25, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, John 6:53, 6:54, 6:55, 6:56,  19:34, Acts 5:28, 20:28, Romans 3:25, 5:9, I Corinthians 10:16, 11:25, 11:27,  Ephesians 1:7: 2:13, Colossians 1:20, Hebrews 9:12, 9:14, 10:19, 10:29, 12:24 13:12, 13:20, I Peter 1:2, 1:19, I John 1:7, 5:6 (twice), 5:8, Revelation 1:5, 5:9, 7:14, 12:11, 19:13.


[4] “Firstborn” in Matthew 1:25 from Luke 2:7, Matthew 17:21 from Mark 9:29, Matthew 18:11 from Luke 19:10, Matthew 23:14 from Mark 12:40, Mark 11:26 from Matthew 6:15, Luke 17:36 from Matthew 24:40, and Luke 23:17 from Matthew 27:15.


[5] The Alexandrian manuscripts, however, outnumber the Byzantines among existing mss that are older than the ninth century.  James R. White, The King James Only Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), pp. 152-3.


[6] Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982), p. 605.