1 Corinthians 9:20 KJV

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

1 Corinthians 9:20 NASB

20To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;

1 Corinthians 9:20 NLT

20When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.

1 Corinthians 9:20 NIV

20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

Why is this phrase missing in the KJV?

2 Answers 2


The phrase in question from the Greek is μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον = not being myself under the law.

The MSS that include this phrase include (dates in brackets):

P46(200), 01(350), 02(V), 03(IV), 04(V), 06(VI), 010(IX), 012(IX), 024(VI), 0150(IX), 6(XIII), 33(IX), 104(1087), 256(1100), 263(XIII), 365(XII), 436(1100), 459(1092), 1175(X), 1319(XII), 1573(1200), 1739(X), 1912(X), 2127(XII), 2200(XIV), plus a host of Itala, Vulgate, Coptic, Armenian, and Patristic writings.

The MSS that omit this phrase include:

05(as corrected the second time), 018(IX), 044(900), 424(XI), 1241(XII), 1852(XIII), 1881(XIV), 2464(IX), plus a lectionary, Ethiopic, Georgian, Slavic and one (of two) Origen quotes.

Thus, the earliest reliable MSS that includes this phrase is from about 200 AD and the earliest MSS that excludes the phrase is from about the 9th century. For this reason Metzger states (In Textual Commentary of the GNT):

The Textus Receptus ... omits the parenthetical clause μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον. The words are decisively supported (see above list of MSS), probably fell out by accident in transcription, the eye of the copyist passing from ὑπὸ νόμον to ὑπὸ νόμον.

  • 2
    Interesting observation about the likely mechanism of the error. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 19:14
  • When there's wide manuscript support and a very reasonable explanation for a specific copyist error, I think the burden of proof is put on those who say the shorter text is authentic and the phrase was added.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 2:29
  • 2
    Could you please quote your references? From a quick glance at NA28's apparatus I get the impression that you might have slipped here as well (!), giving data for perhaps verse 18, not 20? At least my version doesn't eg list 𝕻46 for 20, but for 18 (|μοι εστιν|)? Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 17:20
  • Agreed. Book citation would be approriate (inc. page number). Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 18:14
  • @DerÜbermensch - All references are from UBS5 and Metzger's Textual commentary. Only the latter lists P46. Interestingly it is not listed in UBS4, UBS4, NA28 or NA27. I winder if Metzger TCGNT was a typo?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 21:17

The KJV is translated from the Textus Receptus from the Greek texts of the Computensian Polyglot, from Erasmus, from Beza 1598 and Stephanus 1550.

Professor Frederick Scrivener, in 1881, produced a learned text in which, from his extensive knowledge of the manuscripts involved, he compiled a Greek text (which sits beside me as I write) being the actual Greek text underlying the KJV.

This Scrivener text also shows the additions, the omissions and the alterations made by Westcott and Hort in their new Greek text of 1881 from which the Revised Version was translated. (It was not translated from the Textus Receptus.) This is the basis of the Nestle Aland text which is translated into English as the NASB version.

In I Corinthians 9:20, Wescott and Hort have added the words :

μη ων αυτος υπο νομον

These words are not in the Textus Receptus and therefore not in the KJV.

They are also not In Robert Young's Literal Bible 1862 nor in Green's Literal Bible of 1993.

These are the words which your other versions translate.

Paul expressly says in Romans 7 :9 :

I was alive without the law, once, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died

and the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

Paul clearly states his experience of coming under legal conviction. He is clearly subject to the effects of law. It slaughters him when it says :

Thou shalt not covet.

For, he confesses :

I had not known lust except the law had said 'Thou shalt not covet' [Romans 7:7 KJV]

This opens up a greater issue : that of ancient texts (specifically Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) and whether these two (which disagree between themselves in 3,000 places in the Gospels alone - see Dean John Burgon in his book 'Revision Revised' 1881) should be given undue preponderance simply because of antiquity.

(Just for comparison, the several versions of the Textus Receptus differ from one another in about 289 places throughout the 27 books of the New Testament and none of these differences is of doctrinal significance.)

Dean John Burgon's argument is that ancient manuscripts did not survive as they were often read and therefore became worn (they were made of skin) and had to be re-copied.

Dean John Burgon argues that the ancient manuscripts in the Vatican and in the monastery of Sinai were corrupted texts and although useful as background evidence should not be viewed as having vastly more weight than all the other evidence.

Each person has to examine these issues for themselves and has to be persuaded in their own mind about what version of the Bible they read.

It could be argued that the words should be included and that Paul is saying that he is no longer under law but under grace.

Which then gives many people a problem who say that believers are still under law despite being believers.

So, an interesting question indeed.

Personally, I don't mind whether it is included in the canon of scripture or not, if there is a difficulty with absolute certainty. Paul was brought up an Hebrew, strictly ; he came under legal conviction as he makes clear ; and he was also delivered from the law as is abundantly demonstrated in Romans and Galatians.

  • 2
    Being corrupted, and being corrupted in the same way, are two different things. If the testimonies of the witnesses diverge, then so be it; but if they converge, then we are bound to take it under serious consideration (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Matthew 18:16, 18:20; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28).
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 11:12
  • @Lucian . . . . and then one is still left with the problem of the 3,000 discrepancies between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus just in the Gospels.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:23
  • As I've already said, being corrupted, and being corrupted in the same way, are two (very) different things.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 15:03
  • @Lucian They are both from the same period and they both have peculiarities that differ from other manuscripts. So they could both, quite plausibly, have suffered the same corruption. (Apologies : forgot to put 'at ...your name' on this comment and it was untitled. )
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 15:07
  • 1
    I got both your comments; there was no need to delete and re-post.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 15:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.