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Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:2), just as Moses had done and Elijah had done (see Exodus 24:18, 1 Kings 19:8). And Jesus taught the disciples to fast, such as before attempting to cast out evil spirits.

Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21, KJV)

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29, KJV)

Paul recommends fasting with prayer at times.

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. (1 Corinthians 7:5, KJV)

But the need to fast is removed in the New Testament from the modern versions. This is shown below with a comparison of the KJV against NIV and ESV.

Reference KJV NIV ESV
Mat. 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. [Omitted] [Omitted]
Mrk 9:29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer. And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."
1Cor. 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self‑control. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Acts 10:30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing

Is fasting not a part of the new covenant doctrine? Or is prayer the same thing as fasting? Why do the modern revisions remove this doctrine?


UPDATE: Comments are often removed, and some brought up germane points in them which are worth considering. These are those points and my responses (with slight rephrasing of both).

Q: Isn't the word "attacked" a bit strong?

A: The word "attacked" seems appropriate because this is an observation that includes every single instance of a text in the New Testament that would teach the importance of Jesus' disciples fasting. Only historical references remain, nothing near a command. The question is "Why?"

Q: Why do you speak of "every single instance" about fasting - that is quite untrue as I have documented. Might you at least debate from facts that are true and not invented?

A: Read my wording carefully. The rest of my statement must go along with it, i.e. "that would teach the importance of Jesus' disciples fasting." I agree with you that there are other references to fasting, e.g. historical references, such as that Jesus fasted. But telling us that someone did something and instructing us to do it are two radically different things. The instructions to fast are the ones that have been under attack. Can you find even one such instruction remaining in the NIV New Testament? Saying something like "when/if you fast..." does not suffice. That leaves it optional.

Q: The content of ancient manuscripts, biblical or otherwise, and doctrine, are two distinct topics; basically, since fasting and prayer oftentimes went hand in hand, should it be surprising to see copyists instinctively add fasting when transcribing passages about prayer, or vice-versa?

A: By far the majority of the manuscripts have the word "fasting." Only a very few omitted it. If it were a copyist error, the opposite should be true.


While the answers thus far have focused on manuscript variations, I am still looking for a doctrinal approach. Is it not suspicious that the verses which differ among the various translations would impact the entire validity of fasting as one of our Lord's commandments?

Remember: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." -- Jesus.

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  • 2
    The content of ancient manuscripts, biblical or otherwise, and doctrine, are two distinct topics; basically, since fasting and prayer oftentimes went hand in hand, it is not surprising to see copyists instinctively add fasting when transcribing passages about prayer, or vice-versa.
    – Lucian
    Sep 5 at 6:41
  • 4
    Comparing any with the KJV, as if it was the most accurate, is fraught with danger, it is not. Interesting observation tho. Attacked is a bit strong.
    – steveowen
    Sep 5 at 6:55
  • 3
    @Polyhat: Time machines have yet to be invented; as such, newer manuscripts copy older ones, and not the other way around; therefore, the more ancient readings inevitably prevail over the newer ones.
    – Lucian
    Sep 5 at 7:29
  • 3
    See this question for a non-Biblical example of how the abundance of copies does not indicate authenticity, just a chain of transmission. I'm sure we must already have questions outlining the evidence for the Alexandrian or Byzantine text groups, so lets not rehash those arguments here.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 5 at 10:54
  • 1
    @curiousdannii - I fully agree - it is tedious to keep arguing about Majority vs Alexandrian vs Byzantine text forms, etc. This question also appears deliberately provocative by saying, "modern revisions of the Bible" and "the need to fast is removed in the New Testament from the modern versions" - is just untrue as documented here.
    – Dottard
    Sep 6 at 3:07
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These are all textual questions and NOT doctrinal questions. Specifically,

Matt 17:21

V21 is an addition in the Byzantine manuscripts (with numerous variations) from the 5th century onwards

Mark 9:29

"and fasting" is an addition in the Byzantine manuscripts (with variations) from the 5th century onwards

Acts 10:30

"and fasting" is an addition in the Byzantine manuscripts (with many variants) from the 400 AD onwards

1 Cor 7:5

"and fasting" is an addition in the Byzantine manuscripts (with many variants) from the 9th century onwards

For much more detail about exactly which manuscripts support which reading and their respective dates, see UBS5.

Prayer and fasting was never a requirement of any of the Bible covenants; they were always spiritual disciplines in many other places such as:

  • Matt 6:16 - When you fast, do not be somber like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward.
  • Matt 6:18 - so that your fasting will not be obvious to men, but only to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
  • Mark 2:18 - Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were often fasting. So people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t Your disciples fast like John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees?”
  • Luke 2:37 - and then was a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
  • Luke 5:33 - Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees frequently fast and pray, but Yours keep on eating and drinking.”
  • Acts 13:3 - And after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
  • Acts 14:23 - Now having chosen elders for them in every church, having prayed, with fasting they committed them to the Lord, in whom they had believed.

The above shows that fasting is available to Christians who elect to use it as a voluntary act of discipline and devotion.

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  • If those are all late additions, how come they are by far in the majority with all manuscripts? Exactly how many manuscripts omit the fasting, and how many are there in total?
    – Polyhat
    Sep 5 at 8:47
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    @Polyhat - actually - how do you count majority? If we count all the Greek additions, the Byzantine is in the minority counting all the modern printed additions. Now, before you protest, that it what the Byzantine MSS are in the majority - they we made thus during the medieval period and therefore all have a later text type. The early MSS carry more weight when tracing things back.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5 at 10:46
  • @Polyhat - what of something like 1 John 5:7b, 8 which is definitely in the minority of Byzantine MSS but is in the majority of TR documents. It is in the majority of Latin MSS - should be count them as they far outweigh the Greek MSS. Why can we not count printed documents as well? In fact, that was how that text came to be inserted in the TR - someone produced a few Greek MSS to force the hand of Erasmus.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5 at 10:49
  • I agree that Erasmus' hand was forced on the Johannine Comma. Ironically, that, too, was a "minority text," and a part of the same text type that you now support against the doctrine of fasting.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 5 at 11:11
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    @Polyhat - I am NOT opposed to fasting as it is a Biblical discipline as documented above, just not in the places you have suggested.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5 at 21:09
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These are Bruce Metzger's comments explaining the NA27 committee's basis for their textual decisions. None of the reasons are to eliminate the doctrine of fasting.

  17:21      omit verse {A}

Since there is no satisfactory reason why the passage, if originally present in Matthew, should have been omitted in a wide variety of witnesses, and since copyists frequently inserted material derived from another Gospel, it appears that most manuscripts have been assimilated to the parallel in Mk 9:29. -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 35). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

  9:29      προσευχῇ {A}

In light of the increasing emphasis in the early church on the necessity of fasting, it is understandable that καὶ νηστείᾳ is a gloss that found its way into most witnesses. Among the witnesses that resisted such an accretion are important representatives of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text. -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 85). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

  7:5      τῇ προσευχῇ {A}

The Textus Receptus, following א K L 88 614 Byz Lect syrp, goth al, prefixes τῇ νηστείᾳ καί, and 330 451 John-Damascus add καὶ νηστείᾳ. Both are interpolations, introduced in the interest of asceticism. The shorter text is decisively supported by all the early and best witnesses (𝔓11, א* A B C D G P Ψ 33 81 104 1739 it vg copsa, , arm eth al). -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 488). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

  10:30      τὴν ἐνάτην {B}

The Textus Receptus, supported by a diversified and respectable array of witnesses, appears to be clear and straightforward: Ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας μέχρι ταύτης τῆς ὥρας ἢμην νηστεύων, καὶ τὴν ἐνάτην ὥραν προσευχόμενος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ μου, which ought to mean, “From the fourth day until this hour I was fasting, and while keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house” (the reading in D ἀπὸ τῆς τρίτης ἡμέρας may have arisen when the scribe counted the three instances of ἐπαύριον in verses 9, 23, and 24). The superficial impression, however, that Cornelius had been fasting for the immediately preceding four days is clearly erroneous, for the terminus of the fasting was the sudden appearance of a man in bright clothing who told him to send to Joppa, etc. Instead, therefore, of counting forward four days (or three, according to D), we must take ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας to mean “four days ago.”

Great difficulty arises with μέχρι ταύτης τῆς ὥρας, which ought to be “until this (very) hour” (the variant reading in D μέχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας has substantially the same sense), but which, since the preceding ἀπό cannot signify “from,” must mean either “at this (very) hour” or “about this (very) hour.”

Since, however, it is highly questionable whether μέχρι can bear either of these meanings, several scholars have proposed conjectural emendations in order to remove the word from the text. Lake and Cadbury, for example, think it possible that either “the author or a scribe was misled by the suggestion of ἀπό to write its usual correlative μέχρι.” Blass and Schmiedel rewrite the passage, getting rid of both ἀπό and μέχρι. The former conjectures τετάρτην ἡμέραν ταύτην ἤμην, and the latter proposes πρὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας ἀπὸ ταύτης τῆς ὥρας ἤμην.

Since, however, it is just possible that the Greek may be explained as colloquial koine or as Semitized Greek, the Committee decided to retain both the ἀπό and the μέχρι phrases.

Although the words νηστεύων καί may have been deleted in some copies because nothing is said in the previous account of Cornelius’s fasting, it is more probable that they were added to the text by those who thought that fasting should precede baptism (compare 9:9 and Didache 7.4 κελεύσεις δὲ νηστεῦσαι τὸν βαπτιζόμενον πρὸ μιᾶς ἢ δύο). -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 330–331). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

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  • Thanks, again, for this. Good to get Metzger's comments. +1.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5 at 22:28
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This section, and it’s textual analysis has been debated for some time. But contrary to what was suggested in another answer, it also has doctrinal arguments. Specifically over what was the ‘fasting and prayer’ meant to ‘drive out’? - the demon? Or the unbelief?

Nevertheless both ‘disputes’ have no bearing on the incident. To understand this incident takes more that scriptural exegesis. And more than textual analysis. It also requires the correct *foundation’, or more specifically, to be wearing the correct ‘lens’.

To understand this, we first need to view Marks account, as it has an important ‘key’ is only ‘seen’ in Marks account.

MARK 9:17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.

This boy was mute. And rabbinic sources tell us that only the Messiah would be able to cast a demon out of a mute person.This was a Messianic sign. The ‘procedure’ used to exorcise a demon required the disciples to ask the demons ‘name’ - and they couldn’t use this, because the boy couldn’t ‘speak’.

That what it means by this kind only goes out by [some other means]. This ‘kind’, i.e. a spirit that causes ‘muteness’. Only the Messiah can do this, so you need to ask Him (i.e. pray! Fast etc).

The point being, this ‘view’ requires more that exegesis ‘to arrive at’, it requires historical context. So the issue over ‘fasting’ loses significance. Because when you ‘seek’ (ask) the [coming] Messiah for anything, fasting was significant, it was a practiced custom, outlined clearly in Torah. So irrespective of the ‘textual’ debate, this passage does not textually minimise fasting at all.

It merely needs to be understood in its correct [historical] context!

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Dottard is quite correct. Voluntary fasting was never imposed under the Law. There was, however, a national day of fasting that was imposed and observed once a year on the Day of Atonement. This was an imposed fast, not a voluntary fast. See Leviticus 16:29-30; 23:27-31; Numbers 29:7. Over time, this became regarded as simply, “the fasting day,” Jeremiah 36:6,

“So you go and read from the scroll which you have written at my dictation the words of the LORD to the people in the LORD'S house on a fast day. And also, you shall read them to all the people of Judah who come from their cities.”

In Acts 27:9 it is called simply, “the fast.”

Voluntary fasts were practiced for a number of reasons such as personal humiliation in sin, for sorrow, affliction, and death in the family. This was apparently viewed quite favorably by the Lord; but frequent fasting such as that demanded by Pharisaic tradition was never required or imposed by the Law of Moses.

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For a brief refutation of the KJV-only position which sees the modern versions of the Bible with suspicion, see Daniel Wallace's articles on Bible versions. The position of KJV-onlyism shifted to Textus Receptus and then to the Majority Text with time. But the reasoning remains the same: circular reasoning- a priori dogmatic presupposition. The presupposition that their favorite traditional Bible versions must have been preserved by God. For a detailed refutation see Wallace's 31-page article, The Majority-Text Theory: History, Methods And Critique.

For a detailed history and analysis of the textual criticism and the corruption of the scripture by the heretic idolaters and lying scribes, see Metzger and Ehrman's books like The Text of the New Testament, and Orthodox Corruption. In these kinds of books the scholars details various reasons and ways the scribes made changes and interpolation. They were mostly well-meaning and unintentional changes but sometimes intentional interpolations due to doctrinal prejudice and agenda. There are various sources and motivation behind corrupting the scripture, from inserting the addition from Latin Vulgate translation or inventing things to substantiate their doctrines. The major corruptions were mainly done by the Syrian or Byzantine text. The corrupt tradition shows the beliefs of Christians who respected man made traditions and heresies more than the truth. The majority text theory and all other theories which desperately attempt to find a middle ground between the most reliable and the Majority Text have been refuted based on the textual evidence as well as the early Christian writings. It shows that the Byzantine Text is not older than 4th century.

Many irresponsible scribes could not resist the urge to often add "the scribes" along with the reference of "Pharisees" or "chief priests". Some idolaters and polytheists removed the references of Joseph being the father of Jesus to substantiate their heretical doctrine of Mary being the heavenly virgin goddess. Some innovated commands in the Lord's mouth such as the instruction Do this in remembrance of me in Luke 22:19, a parallel from 1Cor 11:24 to reinforce or introduce the communion institution. The addition of fasting was also added by the lying scribes who thought fasting was needed to be a command. The growing number of obese monks must be behind this. They definitely had no circumspection about the impact of their changes. Like a modern man adds notes, glosses, margins, apparatus into their personal Bible. They didn't know the world will be basing their Bibles on their manuscripts in the future.

It goes without saying as the best scholars including Ehrman proves that what these scholars call corruption in technical terms are hardly corruption to the believers. The minor changes make absolutely no difference, but these minor issues are serious only for a deep study of the text. The independent chains of textual transmission helps us sift the errors and find out the most authentic text of the NT.

To the main issue of the question- In the chapter The Causes of Error in Transmission, in the Text of the New Testament, by Metzger and Ehrman, p. 268, we read:

In view of the increasing emphasis on asceticism in the early Church and the corresponding insistence upon fasting as an obligation laid on all Christians, it is not surprising that monks, in their work of transcribing manuscripts, should have introduced several references to fasting, particularly in connection with prayer. This has happened in numerous manuscripts at Mark 9.29, Acts 10.30, and 1 Cor 7.5. In Rom. 14.17, where th kingdom of God is said to be not eating and drinking "but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," Codex 4 inserts after "righteousness" the words "and asceticism" (καί άσκησις). Such interpolations abound in 1 Corinthian 7.

The Anti-Gluttony Door in Portugal’s Alcobaça Monastery Shamed Plump Monks to Start Fasting.

Image of a 12th century monstary.

Consider that you eat the sins of the people

—inscription carved above the entrance to the Monastery of Alcobaça‘s refectory.

Apparently, the Monastery of Alcobaça‘s resident monks were eating plenty of other things, too.
Eventually their reputation for excessive plumpness became problematic.

A hefty physique may have signified prosperity and health in 1178 when construction began on the UNESCO World Heritage site, but by the 18th-century, those extra rolls of flesh were considered at odds with the Cistercian monks’ vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. ... According to a German Wikipedia entry, the monks passed through the porta pega-gordo monthly, rather than daily, a more manageable mortification of the flesh for those with healthy appetites.

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