The final clause of John 16:16 found in the King James Version of the Bible, is lacking from most modern versions of the Bible. Words printed in bold:
“A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.“
NIV: “A little while, and you will see me no more; and then after a little while, you will see me.”
1. External criteria
Looking at the manuscripts available one immediately notices that our oldest witness, Papyrus 66, dated around 200 A.D. or even earlier, has the version like that found in the NIV. It is also found in the other old Greek manuscripts like the codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, both dating around 350 A.D. The older ancient translations of the New Testament like the Sahidic (±220 A.D.) also has this version.
The version found in the KJV corresponds with manuscripts of much later date, the earliest being the Codex Basiliensis. (±750 A.D.) It is also found in most of the minuscule manuscripts, all dating later than 900 A.D.
According to the manuscript evidence called the External criteria, the version found in the NIV would rather represent the very words John had originally written down.
2. Internal criteria.
Secondly we try to discern how this variation could have originated. This is called the Internal criteria.
If the original autograph had been with this clause, some scribe had to deliberately remove it from the copy he was making. Since there is no obvious reason in the text for such an action, we may rule is out. There is also no repetition of words that could cause an unperceived jump of the eye, leaving out this clause, called haplography.
But if the original autograph had been without this clause, someone must have deliberately added this clause. Again this cannot have happened due to dittography, adding the words due to the jump of the eye, or some other unperceived mistake.
Yet in the very next sentence the disciples reason amongst themselves over what Jesus had meant with the preceding words and there they add this clause. It is quite possible that an attentive scribe might have “corrected” his copy by harmonizing what Jesus supposedly had said with what the disciples were discussing that He really had said. This scribe might have thought that his source copy was incomplete due to a mistake of its scribe. In this way addition of this clause to the original could easily be explained, making the longer version the deviating variation.
Therefore the shorter version has a greater possibility to render the original.
3. Intrinsic criteria.
Lastly we look at the function the clause of our study might have within the discussion as a whole? Is there any indication from the context that could help us discern which version would correspond with the original.
Once again both versions make perfect sense.
It is interesting that Jesus takes up in the discussion the aspect concerning the little while they will not see Him, and then again see Him. His “going to the Father only comes up in verse 28! The whole discussion from verse 17 to 26 centres around Jesus’ intimate unity with the Father and the disciples. Then in verse 27 Jesus mentions the love for Him and the belief the disciples had concerning Him coming from the Father. That was the reason the Father loved the disciples. Only now does Jesus mention Him going back to the Father from whom He came. According to the context it almost looks as though the clause under discussion might even have been added to the discussion of the disciples in verse 17! But there is no evidence for such. Yet this indicates the great possibility that Jesus really did not mention his going to the Father at the beginning of the discussion, found in verse 16.
According to the intrinsic evidence it is more probable that the original autograph had not been with this clause.
All three criteria favour the shorter version without the clause “because I go to the Father” as the best rendering of the original autograph.
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