TranslationHow Bible Software Solves Differences in Versification for You Software developers have to account for different versification in how Bible data is both stored and presented. Rick BrannanIllustration by Peter Gurry.January 10, 2023 ShareFacebookTwitterLinkedInPrint Level Back in the mid-1990s, before the internet was everywhere, I worked in the telephone sales department at Logos Bible Software (now known as Faithlife). In those pre-internet days, companies would run advertisements in magazines with 1-800 numbers that people could call to learn more or get help. I was at the other end of that line and talked with many people about studying the Bible and how Logos Bible Software could help them. It was in this context that I first learned that Bible verses, those trusty guides to where something is in the Bible, are , in fact, not so trusty across versions and languages. That is, what is in one verse in one translation may not necessarily be the same when compared to a different translation. A case of a missing verse In addition to selling software to interested folks, I also called people after they bought the software to follow up and make sure they were able to use the software. And sometimes people who I sold software to would call me with questions. One day a call was transferred to me and to the person on the other end asked me, fairly bluntly, “Where’s Matthew 18:11 in my NIV Bible?” To understand what the customer was seeing, I opened my copy of Logos Bible Software version 1.6, opened the NIV, and navigated to Matthew 18:11. It just went from verse 10 to verse 12. And I somewhat confusedly confirmed with the person on the phone that Matthew 18:11 was not in the NIV. But it was in the KJV. I said I’d look into it and see if there was an issue and get back to him. Now, this was the mid-1990s. Bible software at the time really only had Bibles, Strong’s numbers (only in the KJV) with some brief definitions, and not much else. So missing a whole verse was a big thing, and I wanted to figure out where it went. Thankfully, the NIV has a note at the end of verse 10: “Some manuscripts heaven. The Son of Man came to save what was lost.” And that nearly matches the text of Matthew 18:11 in the KJV: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Related The NA28 (left) and THGNT (right), opened to the beginning of John’s Gospel What Pastors Should Know about Developments in Textual CriticismAn introduction to new editions, methods, and digital tools for studying the Greek New Testament Peter J. Gurry I’d taken a year of Greek in college, and Logos Bible Software had the standard critical Greek New Testament text at the time which was the Nestle-Aland 26th edition (NA26). This edition was fairly reflective of the Greek text behind the NIV. Logos also had Scrivener’s edition of the Greek New Testament, best described as an edition of the Textus Receptus (TR) which closely matches the text the KJV was translated from. I looked up Matthew 18:11 in the NA26 edition, and the verse was not there. I looked the verse up in Scrivener’s text, and it was there. This was my smoking gun. The footnote in the NIV explained that some manuscripts include an extended form of the material at the location we today call Matthew 18:11. Evaluating the Greek texts indicated that the NIV and KJV translated different editions of the Greek text. This accounts for the presence of Matthew 18:11 in the KJV and its absence in the NIV. I was able to call the customer back and explain how the absence of Matthew 18:11 in the NIV was explained by the note in the text and was able to give some background on the differences in the Greek between the NIV and the KJV. Both the customer and I learned one of the reasons that versification between Bibles doesn’t always match. The Ethiopian’s Confession A similar “missing verse” situation happens in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, found in Acts 8. The story is well-known: Philip was drawn by the Spirit to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29), who happened to be reading from Isaiah 53:7–8 (Acts 8:32–33). It was a perfect setup for Philip to explain the Gospel, and he did (Acts 8:35) to the point that the eunuch asked to be baptized (Acts 8:36). This is where the complication starts. Acts 8:37, which contains the incredible testimony of the eunuch, is present in some translations like the KJV and NKJV. It is present but in [brackets] that indicate its dubious nature in the 1977 edition of the NASB and also in the HCSB. It is absent in most modern translations (ESV, NIV 1984 and 2011 editions, NRSV, NRSVue, NASB 1995 and 2020 editions, and the CSB). When absent, the material from verse 37 is mentioned in a footnote. The NIV 2011 includes a superscript “” in the text acknowledging the absence of the material with a further clarifying note. The moving seashore In the mid- to late 1990s, I shifted from sales and marketing and moved over to the technical side of the company. There my job involved writing computer programs to produce the electronic versions of books for use in what was then known as the Logos Library System, aka Logos 2.0. I soon learned that some examples of differences in versification are more complex than just a difference between manuscripts. The examples from Matt 18:10–11 and Acts 8:36–37 all agree on the versification while disagreeing on the content. What happens when there is disagreement in both versification and content? Welcome to Revelation 12:17–13:1. Rather than trying to explain the differences, it is perhaps best to simply see them. Here the text is laid out by verses in a table. Depending on the Bible translation, the same content could be in Revelation 12:17, 12:18, or 13:1. Also, within that content unit, a slight variation in who stood on the shore occurs that is represented in italics. This variant helps explain the choices that translators made in representing the text in their editions. ESVNIV 2011NRSVueKJVNA28TR12:17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman… And he stood on the sand of the sea.12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman…12:17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman…12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman…12:17 καὶ ὠργίσθη ὁ δράκων ἐπὶ τῇ γυναικὶ …12:17 καὶ ὠργίσθη ὁ δράκων ἐπὶ τῇ γυναικί…12:18 Then the dragon took his stand on the sand of the seashore.12:18 Καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης.13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads…13:1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads…13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads…13:1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns…13:1 Καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον, ἔχον κέρατα δέκα καὶ κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ…13:1 καὶ ἐστάθην ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης. Καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον, ἔχον κεφαλὰς ἑπτά καὶ κέρατα δέκα…Versification differences at Revelation 12:17–13.1 The material with the variation (“he stood” in NA28 vs. “I stood” in the TR) is the material that migrates into and out of chapter 13 depending on edition. When the NA28 is followed (ESV, NRSVue) and “he” (the dragon) is the one standing on the seashore, the translations tend to keep the material in chapter 12. When the Scrivener edition of the TR is followed (KJV, NKJV) and “I” (John the Revelator) is the one standing on the seashore, the translations tend to keep the material in chapter 13. Bucking this trend, the NIV translates the NA28 text but puts the material in chapter 13, possibly to keep the material where KJV readers expect it. In this area of Revelation, the location of the chapter break in modern editions seems dependent on the content and may not even follow the versification of the underlying Greek edition. Get new articles and updates in your inbox. Leave this field empty if you're human: Why Does this Matter for Bible Software? Versification differences are not uncommon once you become aware of them. For example, the versification of the Psalms is different between the Hebrew Bible and Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) and even has differences from these in some English Bibles. Differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions of Jeremiah are also well known. Major Bible software packages have developed systems to account for versification differences in ways that Bible data is both stored and presented. If someone has their NIV and NRSVue linked together and is scrolling through the material, Revelation 13:1 in the NIV and Revelation 12:18 in the NRSVue should scroll together. Search results for common terms (like “dragon”) should be listed in parallel in multi-version searches despite the versification differences. The basic goal is to let reading and study proceed without the speedbumps of versification differences. These problems are not hidden; the lack of Matthew 18:11 in some Bibles is still discoverable. But hopefully the explanations of these differences are equally discoverable and do not lead to distressed communication with customer service agents about how a particular Bible version is missing content. Rick Brannan Rick Brannan is a Senior Data Architect for Faithlife (maker of Logos Bible Software) where he is responsible for managing a team that creates and maintains linguistic databases and other analyses of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, and writings of the Second Temple era. He is the author of many books, including The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Fragments of Christianity: Fragmentary Witnesses to Early Christian Liturgies, Hymns, Homilies, and Prayers.