94 How Harmonizing could have happened, Matthew 20:22-23

94 How Harmonizing could have happened, Matthew 20:22-23

Have you ever read a verse in the Bible and just know it’s not complete?

Fathom yourself being a monk in the middle ages, busy copying the gospel of Matthew in your cold cell in the monastery. You come to the part where the mother of John and James requested Jesus to promise that her sons would sit beside Him on his throne in his kingdom. And when reading Jesus’ answer you just know that Jesus said more than is written in the source manuscript you are copying. He didn’t only speak of the cup He would drink, but also of the baptism He would be baptised with, didn’t He? And yet in this manuscript is written: “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give…” Surely Jesus also spoke of the baptism He would be baptised with. And you sit back and let your memory do it’s part. Yes, you remember the verse should read: “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give,” The scribe responsible for this source manuscript must have left out this important phrase! Could it be that his eye jumped to the next sentence? To make sure what Jesus really said, you run over to your neighbour next door who is copying Mark. And there the full remark is written in clear legible letters, just as you remembered them. And you hurry to correct the mistake you are sure some careless scribe in the past must have made. No word Jesus spoke should ever be lost!

And that is how a clause Matthew himself didn’t record, about 800 years later got transferred from Mark’s gospel into Matthew’s version of that conversation. And because of the high standard of this monk’s work and his very legible handwriting, his manuscript was utilised many times as source for further copies. And this version became the majority of later copies. And this version was also in the manuscript Erasmus found in Basil when he compiled the first printed edition of the Bible in 1516. And suddenly it was multiplied thousand fold not only by Erasmus, but by many publishers duplicating his publication. And Elzevir’s 1633 printed edition became known as the Textus Receptus, that was the source for the King James Bible and most of the older translations.

In modern times we have the privilege to have an overview of all known Greek manuscripts available, as well as the manuscripts of ancient translations and the quotations of the old Church Fathers. If we then notice that all documents prior to 800 A.D. contain the shorter version in Matthew, without mentioning the baptism as Mark did in his Gospel, the logic conclusion is that Matthew did not record those words of Jesus. The variation almost certainly originated as I proposed above. When modern translators of the Bible do not include this elaboration, they do not discard some of the Word of God, for that clause is still in Mark where it had been since the beginning. They only restore Matthew to it’s original form. Each evangelist had in fact the right to include as many or as few words of Jesus as he had seen necessary!

The authenticity of a Gospel is not judged by it’s concurrence with another Gospel, but rather by it’s uniqueness. Matthew mentions that it was John and James’s mother that proposed this request, while Mark remembers that in essence it was the request of the brothers themselves! A harmonising alteration causes one specific version to be carried forward, while losing the uniqueness of the other version. Therefore the restoration of the original autograph is always an improvement, even superficially it might seem that something gets lost.

God bless,


Comments at the bottom of this page, or via email to bibledifferences@gmail.com are welcome.

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
This entry was posted in Causes for Variations, KJV/NIV Controversy, Textus Receptus. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 94 How Harmonizing could have happened, Matthew 20:22-23

  1. Reblogged this on beliefspeak2 and commented:
    Here is a good explanation of why the gospels do not harmonize completely and possibly why textual differences exist between manuscripts of the same book.

  2. MTJames says:

    The more opinions I read about textual criticism, the more confused I become. Regarding God’s revealed Word, I find my only peace in the knowledge of God’s perfect love and absolute power, and knowing that he is not the author of confusion, but allows such controversies as tests of our trust. And I indeed trust God to speak his Word to each truth-seeking believer as we have need.

    • Dear bro.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and your much appreciated comment.
      I see and understand the reality of variations, blunders and even deliberate alterations that do exist in Bible manuscripts as part of the absolute grace of God who utilizes us imperfect men and women to be His hands and mouth here on earth. I have made terrible blunders from the pulpit, that I couldn’t believe myself when they were pointed out to me afterwards! Yet He bears with me.
      That there are variations in every form of copied and translated literature, is nothing new. Considering the million times Biblical literature had been copied, the variations are few. And in my studies of more than 100 variations in the Bible manuscripts, I found only one that touches on Christian doctrine or faith. That is Rev. 22:14 (https://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/56-robes-wash-or-commandments-do-rev-2214/)
      But when we study these differences, and discover the human errors God allows us, we cannot but thank Him for the clear message of His love that shines through, in spite of these errors.
      Brother, in my studies I have found logical explanations for all the variations that exist. There are people who go around with terrible conspiracy theories. I do rather look the facts straight in the face and seek an answer. I do rather present all possibilities and allow my readers to judge for themselves. I grow in my trust in the Word of God and is daily astounded by the clarity with which the message of God’s love and grace is presented in Scripture.
      May you also grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Word of God.
      God bless,

      • John Seremani says:


        Please watch The Battle of the Bibles by Walter Veith, could add insight into your exposè on the version diifferences.


      • Dear John,
        Thank you for visiting my blog.
        As a matter of fact, I have seen and studied the “Battle of the Bibles” by Walter Veith. Unlike Veith, I do not choose any specific version of the Bible, or any specific manuscript, neither any specific Text Type. I also do not try to bring fellow Christian Biblical Scholars into disrepute with all kinds of far-fetched conspiracy theories, or biased theories of the threat of the Roman Catholic Church while defending the many corruptions caused by Desiderius Erasmus, a devote Roman Catholic. He was responsible for Textus Receptus that was utilized as source text for the New Testament in the King James Version. This caused all his personal alterations and corruptions of the Word of God to be included into the KJV.
        Do your own research on Wikipedia or have a look at my post on Erasmus at “https://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/07/22-the-printed-greek-text/”. You can also see his endeavor to bring his printed Greek text in accordance with the Roman Catholic Vulgate in my post on 1 John 5:7-8 at:” https://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/51-comma-johanneum-1john57-8/”. To prove that I do not simply cling to the Alexandrian Text type look at my post on “Mixture or Roll” at https://bibledifferences.net/2014/04/27/mixture/
        On the other hand I prefer to apply logic scientific criteria when confronted with different versions in the manuscripts. You can see more of my way of study in my posts at “https://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/26-evaluation-of-variant-readings/” and “https://bibledifferences.net/2012/08/10/27-criteria-to-evaluate-different-readings/”
        God Bless,
        Herman Grobler.

  3. Pingback: 97 The New Testament Irenaeus used. | Bible differences

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