12

A friend of mine at church says John's gospel chapter 6 verse 4 is inauthentic and should not be there.

And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. (John 6:4 KJV)

What is the manuscript evidence supporting the inclusion/exclusion of this verse?

4
  • 1
    Opinion based low quality Que. First check the critical editions of the NT whether they include the verse or not, then read their footnotes on the verse. textusreceptusbibles.com/TRNTV/66022011 There is no change or footnote in the bibles, so this could be only be a minor variant if there is. You shouldn't bother what your friend says.
    – Michael16
    Aug 26 at 12:35
  • @Michael16 How is this question opinion based if we can add the tag “textual-criticism”? Looking at the variants of the texts is part of textual criticism, so should we then ask the moderators to remove the tag?
    – Cork88
    Aug 26 at 18:05
  • 3
    I agree with @Cork88 in the sense that textual criticism is an essential part of biblical hermeneutics. However the question could be improved by explain why the text is considered inauthentic. Aug 27 at 0:03
  • You can find unique variants on almost all verses, that doesn't warrant questions on every verse like this. There is no variant given by the critical editions, and there is no change on this from KJV to Revised Version, it means there is no significant variant on the verse. So the answer to the que would be a simple No, which can be made in the comments itself. It doesn't qualify as a valid question open to receive answer. It's really an opinion mistake of your friend.
    – Michael16
    Aug 30 at 9:58

6 Answers 6

22

According to UBS4, UBS5, NA04, NA27, NA28, Majority text, Byzantine text, Orthodox text, W&H, SBL, F35 (Pickering), Souter, TR, Jerome's Vulgate, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, THGNT, NIVGNT, (yes, I checked all these personally in my private copies) etc, etc, the text of John 6:4 is:

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων. = Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.

This text appears to be undisputed among the published versions and with no documented variation among the manuscripts with the single exception of MSS 1634 which is dated to the 14th century and is held in the Great Lavra Monastery, W' 125 at Mount Athos in Greece. This is not compelling evidence.

Thus, if someone asserts that a verse should have been deleted because it is not original, then evidence must be cited. I can find no significant evidence that John 6:4 is spurious.

6
  • Could you please link or quote your source regarding the information in your second paragraph 'The text appears ... etc'.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 24 at 8:19
  • @NigelJ - the evidence as listed in the first paragraph UBS4, UBS5, NA04, NA27, NA28, Majority text, Byzantine text, Orthodox text, W&H, SBL, F35 (Pickering), Souter, TR, Jerome's Vulgate, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, THGNT, NIVGNT - all in paper copies on my shelf that are publicly available.
    – Dottard
    Aug 24 at 21:49
  • @NigelJ - the source for the exception of MSS 1634 is NA27.
    – Dottard
    Aug 25 at 0:20
  • Thank you. That is clearer.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 25 at 8:34
  • 1
    Silly lay question: Is the "original text" (whatever that may be) indeed Greek? Aug 25 at 8:46
12

NA28: ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων

UBS5: ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων

  • P66: ην δε εγʼγυς το πασχα η εορτη τω̅ ̅ϊουδαιων

  • Codex Sinaticus: ην δε εγγυς το πασχα · η εορτη των ϊου δαιων ·

  • Codex Bezae: εγγυς δε ην το πασχα η εορτη των ϊουδαιων

  • Codex Vaticanus (terrible font): hn de egguj to pasca h eorth twn ioudaiwn

  • Jerome's Vulgate: erat autem proximum pascha dies festus Iudaeorum

  • Textus receptus: ην δε εγγυς το πασχα η εορτη των ιουδαιων

There is no basis for excluding the verse or from removing "passover" (πάσχα) as P66 has this verse as do all early and important manuscripts. That it may not be in all late manuscripts is nowhere near enough evidence to suggest that it be dropped. Moreover, that some paraphrases in letters and homilies from Church fathers may omit the word "pascha" is insufficient grounds for excluding this given that in a paraphrase, you may well replace "pascha" with "feast" if which feast is understood from the context.


Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Jn 6:4.

Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Jn 6:4.

Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), Jn 6:4.

International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP), Codex Sinaiticus: Septuagint and New Testament (Cambridge, UK: The Codex Sinaiticus Project Board, 2012), Jn 6:4.

Biblia Sacra Vulgata: Iuxta Vulgatem Versionem, electronic edition of the 3rd edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1969), Jn 6:4.

Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis: Greek Transcriptions (International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP), 2012), Jn 6:4.

Stephen’s 1550 Textus Receptus: With Morphology (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2002), Jn 6:4.

1
  • Excellent documentary support. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 25 at 0:04
2

As noted in Dottard's and Robert's answers, the manuscript evidence strongly supports πάσχα ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, pascha a feast of the Jews as authentic to the original text. Therefore, if it is original, commentaries or manuscripts which lack the phrase, have had it removed.

The basis for denying the originality is that conceptually it doesn't "fit." If it were the Passover, the Jews and Jesus should be in Jerusalem, not Capernaum. If it were the Passover, it would be before the barley harvest, and barley bread would not be available (cf. John 6:9). If it were the Passover, the Jews would not be eating leavened bread, like barley bread. If it were the Passover, it should not be called the Passover of the Jews as it was the Passover of the LORD.

Those like Michael Rood who dispute the authenticity claim the passage was added to artificially lengthen Jesus ministry to fit Eusebius' proposed three-and-one-half year ministry of Jesus. And the true length of time was 70-weeks.1

The answer to the conceptual difficulties of the identification of the time as being near the Passover of the Jews is found in Scripture:

6 Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, “We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?” 8 And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.” 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the LORD at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. 14 ‘And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the LORD’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.’ (Numbers 9 NKJV)

The immediate concern was only over being defiled by a dead body; however, the LORD's answer, to observe the Passover on the 14th of the second month (Pesach Sheni) also included a provision for someone who is unable to observe the Passover in Israel as required in the Law (cf. Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

Therefore, John's Passover of the Jews which was near, is referring to Pesach Sheni, the time at which the Jews of the Diaspora should, according to the Law, observe Passover. Since Pesach Sheni comes in the second month, it is after the barley harvest and it does not also require unleavened bread and it would not be observed by anyone who had observed the Passover in Jerusalem the month before. Thus, all of the difficulties are removed. In essence, John is pointing out how the Jews of the Diaspora should observe Passover in the second month of the year, not the first.

The timing of Pesach Sheni also fits the timing of the Bread of Life Discourse which John states took place in the synagogue (cf. John 6:59). In other words, if the feeding of the 5,000 took place on Pesach Sheni, the 14th day of the second month, the Bread of Life Discourse was given on the 15th day of the second month:

1 And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. 2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5 And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Exodus 16)

As can be seen from the manna, the 15th would have been a Sabbath, had the people been observing the Sabbath. Therefore, John's point is the Bread of Life Discourse was given on the same day of the year the LORD promised to feed the people with manna. Moreover, since Jesus' sermon took place in the synagogue, it very likely was the Sabbath.


1. Michael Rood, The Chronological Gospels: The Acceptable Year of the LORD, The Life and Seventy Week Ministry of the Messiah, Aviv Moon Publishing, 2013, p. 4

3
  • +1 Can you say more about how this relates to the diaspora, since this is happening near the Sea of Galilee. Aug 24 at 18:16
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather I see it simply as a reference to an observance which is on the calendar. A strict application of the law means any person unable to observe the Passover in Jerusalem would observe Unleavened Bread and Pesach Sheni. Arguably, eating the Passover on the 14th of the first month in say, Rome, would be a violation of the law. Any Jew in the diaspora who was unable to be in Jerusalem should observe Pesach Sheni. John's "Passover of the Jews" is a "back handed" way to say Pesach Sheni because he understands those in the diaspora continued to observe Passover in the first month. Aug 25 at 4:36
  • 1
    @RevelationLad Pesach Sheni is also only observed in Jerusalem; anything involving a sacrifice must be in the Temple. Aug 25 at 19:20
2

John 6:4 is usually held to be something like

"Now the Jewish Feast of the Passover was near." (Berean Study Bible)

The reason to be skeptical of John 6:4 is it seems to 1. not fit with the context of John as well as linguistically being odd, as Revelation Lad notes in his answer.

"If it were the Passover, the Jews and Jesus should be in Jerusalem, not Capernaum. If it were the Passover, it would be before the barley harvest, and barley bread would not be available (cf. John 6:9). If it were the Passover, the Jews would not be eating leavened bread, like barley bread. If it were the Passover, it should not be called the Passover of the Jews as it was the Passover of the LORD."

And 2., it seems to make John not fit with the synoptic Gospels.

This motivates a skeptical eye towards the text. We have 3 options if there is indeed something wrong here, and we want to see if 6:4 can fit better with both the immediate context and the synoptics.

Either a) one's understanding of what's happening in the text is wrong, or b) there's a corruption, or, c) if one doesn't hold to inerrancy, the text is just wrong.

So if one does hold to inerrancy, either there's a misunderstanding of the line itself, or manuscript corruption.

If we look for historical evidence that this was not understood to be the Passover, we find it with the early Church Fathers, some specifics of which are found in John 6:4 - He Walks With Us.

It cites Clement of Alexandria's Stromata, I, 21, 145.

"And Jesus was coming to His baptism, being about thirty years old,” and so on. And that it was necessary for Him to preach only a year, this also is written: “He hath sent Me to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” This both the prophet spake, and the Gospel."

It also cites Irenaeus of Lyon's lack of quoting John 6:4 when making an argument for 3 Passovers, when it's an obviously relevant verse to quote.

It cites Origen's First Principles (as well as Homilies on Luke and Commentary on John).

"[Jesus] taught only during a year and some months"

as well as Tyconius.

Furthermore, there are some manuscripts that omit the verse, apparently 472 (perhaps with a few others) and 1634 (see Should John 6:4 Be Considered a Spurious Insertion into John’s Gospel?).

"Next comes the number of the manuscript in which the verse is omitted (472), with “pc” following, which stands for Latin pauci, meaning “a few,” and indicating that there are a few other very minor manuscripts which lack the verse but none earlier than the one listed and significant enough to list. [...] in the final update of NA27, the apparatus has #1634 for the minuscule that lacks the verse, and this is likewise what is found in the electronic editions of the NA27 (e.g., in Accordance Bible Software and Logos Bible Software). More than likely, the final update of NA27 reflects the editors’ opinion that minuscule 1634 was a better representation of the few, late manuscripts that lacked the verse."

From the REV commentary here:

"There is also some manuscript and evidence from the Church Fathers that “Passover” was added. There are a few manuscripts that omit the whole verse of John 6:4 (see Nestle and Aland; Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th edition, 1979, apparatus on John 6:4). That is entirely possible because the verse does not fit in the context. However, there is also evidence that the word “Passover” was not in the early manuscripts, which would mean that the original text read “Now the feast of the Jews was near.” Statements made by Origen, Cyril of Alexandria, and Irenaeus are consistent with the fact that they had manuscripts that did not have the Passover in John 6:4 (W. Cummins, The Acceptable Year of the Lord, Scripture Consulting, 2005, p. 66). If John 6:4 is just saying that “a feast of the Jews was near,” there were a number of smaller feasts in the Jewish calendar, and the Law did not require Jews to go to Jerusalem during those feasts.

There are a couple of different ways that the word “Passover” could have been added to the text. One is quite accidental. If the original text just said, “a feast of the Jews was near,” it would be entirely possible that a scribe who thought that feast was Passover wrote “Passover” in the margin of his manuscript. Scribes wrote notes in the margin of their manuscripts just as Christians today write in the margins of their Bibles. If that happened, then another scribe could have thought “Passover” was left out of the last copy, and so copied it into his next manuscript.

Another reason, less likely and less innocent, that John 6:4, or the word “Passover” might have been added was in the early centuries after Christ there were debates about the length of Jesus’ ministry. Anyone who studies the manuscripts knows that there were a number of topics that were hotly debated by the early Church, and it was not uncommon for one side to alter a manuscript to support their argument (cp. Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture). Thankfully, today, especially with the help of computers that help textual critics to compare the over 5700 Greek manuscripts, it is usually easy to spot those intentional changes and expunge them from the modern Greek text, but a few manuscript discrepancies are still the subject of debate. The length of Jesus’ ministry was a topic of debate in the centuries after Christ, and John 6:4 could be one of the verses that was altered to support a position."

There are 2 problems with the manuscript evidence, though. First, one has to hold the earlier manuscripts which do have 6:4 were done after the change, and that puts the change very early on, and that the ones without 6:4 are descended from manuscripts that didn't have this corruption. To be compelling, then, this would require a further argument about the family of manuscripts those are descended from, and why we are to think they are significant.

Also, the evidence cited by the early Church Fathers could fit both different manuscripts or a different understanding of the line by the early commentators.

To decide which of these is more plausible, you need to have some alternate interpretation of John 6:4 which keeps the wording, such as Revelation Lad outlines in his answer (tl ; dr the Passover being referenced is the Pesach Sheni, which was for those who could not celebrate the normal Passover).

Conclusion: yes, it's possible either the word 'Passover' or the entire line was added at some point, and there is some evidence to support it. As the other answers point out, however, this does not mean it is conclusive, nor even probable, and the strongest evidence for this view ('Passover' doesn't seem to fit internally or with the synoptics, and some writings from early Church Fathers) also supports the idea that the Passover being referenced was the Pesach Sheni.

3
  • 6
    This material is impossible to check - are there any specific reference to "some manuscripts" and the writings of "Origen, Cyril of Alexandria, and Irenaeus"??
    – Dottard
    Aug 24 at 5:27
  • 1
    @Dottard The references are given in the quotation - Nestle and Aland and Cummins. If it's impossible to check here, why don't you have a similar comment on Robert's answer? Aug 24 at 16:09
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 24 at 22:31
0

There is no valid reason to question the authenticity of John 6:4. The verse appears in all reliable texts. To my knowledge, it has never been found to be omitted from any original texts, unlike John 5:4, for example (I hope you're not confusing these two!), which is not found in the earliest versions of the text and so is believed not to have been written by John and would appear to have been added later.

The verse you ask about, John 6:4, doesn't teach anything doctrinal, so one might wonder why anyone would even suggest it isn't authentic. However, it does tell us when the events of the chapter occurred - shortly before Passover. The chapter covers Jesus' miracle at Bethsaida, feeding the 5000. This is one miracle that is recorded in all the gospels. Perhaps the reason your friend thinks the verse should not be there is because the gospels record the events of Jesus' life in differing orders, and so John 6:4 placing this miracle at a particular time could be seen as contradicting the other accounts. However, it is understood that the gospels are not meant to be chronological accounts (See Luke 1:3, where the writer points out that he had to research events in order to place them in order). Verses like John 6:4, which appear throughout all the gospels, help us to collate all the events covered by the different writers and place them in a logical, and mostly chronological order. In fact, the verse agrees with Mark's coverage of the same miracle, as Mark 6:39 mentions that the grass was green, indicating that it happened in springtime. If anything, this adds weight to the verse's authenticity, even though it should not have been in question.

1
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Aug 26 at 13:04
0

The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that records the major Judean feasts that indicate the times and seasons of the year which transpired during Jesus Christ’s ministry in Palestine. The erroneous interpretation of these feasts has expanded the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry to the traditionally accepted three-and ­one-half years.

John 2:13:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

In the first feast (John 2:13—3:21) Jesus is at Jerusalem during the Passover, Nisan 14 (April 10), 27 A.D. This is about two months after his baptism. The next feast (John 5:1-47) shows Jesus at Jerusalem again.

John 5:1:

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

This feast is not named. Many have guessed that it was Passover. But it could not have been another Passover if the course of Jesus Christ’s ministry covered only a year. In the course of a year, the next major feast following Passover is Pentecost. It is more reasonable to assume that it was Pentecost.

In John 6:4, the Passover is again mentioned.

And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.

The surrounding context says nothing about Jesus’ going to Jerusalem for this feast. Yet, every male in Israel was required to go to Jerusalem for Passover in order to fulfill the law. Since Jesus went to all the other feasts as required by law, this inconsistency points to a textual forgery here in verse 4. Greek manuscript 472 and others do not have the verse. Origen, a third-century theologian, omits the word “Passover” when alluding to this verse. Omitting the words “the passover,” as Origen does, the verse reads, “And a feast of the Jews was nigh.”

The only Judean feast in the late summer for which Jesus would not have to go to Jerusalem was a feast called the Feast of Wood Offering, which was not mentioned in the Old Testament law. This feast occurred yearly on Ab 15 during which the people gathered wood and brought it to the Temple. The origin of the feast is obscure, but it was popular in the first century. In 27 A.D. Ab 15 corresponded with August 7. This was not a major Judean feast, but it was observed by many.

The absence of a name for the feast in John 6:4 evidently prompted scribes to insert a name later, such as “the Passover,” or the verse was never in the original and was deliberately added by someone wanting to substantiate another Passover during Jesus’ ministry. Its occurrence during the time of Jesus’ feeding the “about five thousand” fits chronologically with the details of his summer ministry in Galilee as recorded in the other Gospels.

The next major Judean feast that follows the Feast of Wood Offering is the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurred on Tishri 15-22 or October 4-11 in 27 A.D. The events which occurred at the Feast of Tabernacles in 27 A.D. are recorded in John 7:2—10:21.

John 7:2 and 10:

2 Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. . .10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

The next feast recorded in John is the Feast of Dedication, Kislev 25 (December 13), 27 A.D.

John 10:22:

And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.

The events at this feast are recorded in John 10:22-39. This feast commemorated the cleansing of the Temple in 164 B.C. during the time of the Maccabees.

The final feast during Jesus Christ’s ministry was the Passover in 28 A.D., which is recorded in John 12 and following.

John 12:1:

Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

This was the Passover at which Jesus Christ was the Passover lamb. The feasts recorded in the Gospel of John corroborate the one-year ministry of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God.

Approximately two months after Jesus’ baptism, he arrived in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, the first feast in the Gospel of John. At this feast, the Judeans told Jesus that the Temple had been under construction for forty-six years. By Judean reckoning on their sacred calendar, this Passover occurred on Nisan 14 (April 10), in 27 A.D. This Passover was also during the year in which Jesus was “about thirty” years old and during the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius.

The next feast Jesus attended at Jerusalem that year was Pentecost on June 1, after which he began to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was not required by the law to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Wood Offering, so he stayed in Galilee and continued to minister there. In the fall he went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, so he kept the law by attending each of the three major feasts.

Then he returned to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication in December, and finally, once again in Jerusalem for the Passover at which he was crucified. This final Passover began on Wednesday, Nisan 14 (April 28) in 28 A.D. So Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, offering himself without spot or blemish as a lamb of the first year.

1
  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Oct 24 at 19:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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