Someone sent me this graphic and asked that I comment on it. As you can see, there is a variant at the beginning of John 9:4. TR-based English versions usually prefer “I” where modern English versions that follow the Critical Text use “We”. Which is correct? Before we dig into that question, I must first address the following quote:

Don’t use it? You are backslidden, carnal, or unsaved.

I published a video a couple weeks ago addressing the divisive and nonsensical suggestion by KJVO that a person is either unsaved or not right with God if they are not KJVO. Here is the link to that video:

Responding to KJV Only Comments – Part 2 – YouTube

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s compare John 9:4 from the KJV with a few modern English texts.

John 9:4

KJV I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

NKJV I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

LSB We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

ESV We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

NASB We must carry out the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

The first thing that one should notice is that the NKJV also uses “I” as the KJV. Even though these are in agreement here, KJVO will reject the NKJV as being corrupt for other reasons. When we look at the other popular versions above, we see that they all use “We”. The New King James matches the KJV here because the NKJV is based on the same underlying Greek Text as the KJV. Looking at the Byzantine Majority Text and Stephanus’ 1550 TR, we can see why these versions use “I”.

Byzantine Majority Text (MT) Ἐμὲ δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν· ἔρχεται νύξ, ὅτε οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι.

Stephanus’ 1550 TR εμε δει εργαζεσθαι τα εργα του πεμψαντος με εως ημερα εστιν ερχεται νυξ οτε ουδεις δυναται εργαζεσθαι

The word in question is, “εμε”. This is the first-person accusative singular form of the word, “ἐγώ”, meaning “I”.

When we look at the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition, we see a different word:

NA28 ⸀ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός ⸁με ⸀1ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν·* ἔρχεται νὺξ ὅτε οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι.*

“ἡμᾶς” is used in place of “εμε”. “ἡμᾶς” is the third-person accusative plural of “ἐγώ” and is usually translated “us” or “we”.

In TR-based translations, Jesus is saying, that He must work the works of the Father. In Critical Text translations, Jesus is saying that we must work the works of the Father. I argue that there is no doctrinal question that arises from this variant. This is only a question of what Jesus actually said. If Jesus said, “we”, then He was including everyone with Himself in saying that everyone is to do the works of God. Else, Jesus is only saying that He must do the works of God. While we are all to do the works of God and Jesus obviously did the works of God, why does the TR and Byzantine Majority Text say have a first-person accusative singular pronoun and the Critical Text have a third-person accusative plural pronoun? The Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society’s Greek NT both include a critical apparatus that lists details about variants and gives us the reasons why these groups made the decisions they did. If you were to open the Nestle-Aland 28th Edition’s Critical Apparatus to John 9:4, you will see the following:

4 ⸀ εμε א1 A C K N Γ Δ Θ Ψ ƒ1.13 33. 565. 579. 700. 892. 1241. 1424. l 844. l 2211 𝔪 lat sy ly bomss ¦ txt 𝔓66.75 א* B (D) L W 070 sa pbo bo ⸁ ημας 𝔓66.75 א* L W pbo bo ⸀1 ως C* L W 070. 33 b d syhmg pbo bo

–Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), 328.

This mark, “⸀”, corresponds to the same mark in the verse in the NA28. See if you can find it below.

NA28 ⸀ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός ⸁με ⸀1ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν·* ἔρχεται νὺξ ὅτε οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι.*

The mark is at the beginning of the verse before the pronoun. That means that there is a variant at that point in the text. The critical apparatus first gives us a list of manuscripts that support the use of “εμε”. The list of letters and numbers are the manuscripts and papyri fragments where the variant supports the first-person accusative singular pronoun. It has quite a bit of support including the Majority Text as symbolized by “𝔪”. It is also found in “א”, or Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus is one of the oldest manuscripts ever found. But if you notice beside of the “א” in the apparatus is a superscripted “1”. That means that, while it is found in Sinaiticus, it was not the original reading. It is a later change to the text by a scribe.

Next, we need to look for the “¦” in the apparatus. That tells us the manuscripts that do not have the reading at the variant. You should also notice the “txt” beside of that marker. The “txt” denotes that this is the selected reading of the edition we are looking at. The NA28 did not use “εμε” because it is not the original reading of Sinaiticus. It is also missing from two ancient papyri, 𝔓66 and 𝔓75. 𝔓66 is dated to between 100-200 AD. 𝔓75 is dated to between 175-255 AD. The superscripted “⸁” denotes important manuscripts and papyri that include “ημας”. “ημας” is the reading in Sinaiticus and in these old papyri. It is also found in # Codex Regius or Codex L. Textual critic Frederick H. A. Scrivener described it as “by far the most remarkable document of its age and class.” Edward Miller (1894). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament. Vol. 1 (4 ed.). London: George Bell & Sons. pp. 137–138.

While there are more manuscripts with “εμε” than “ημας”, the oldest manuscripts, and therefore closest to the original manuscripts, support “ημας”. I think this variant is best dealt with by choosing one or the other and adding a footnote that mentions the alternate reading. Of course if this were done at every variant, the footnotes would be massive. My personal preference would be to go with the oldest manuscripts that get us the closest to what John actually wrote. Ultimately, that should be the question. We should always ask, “what did the author write?” That question is more important than any presupposition or tradition that we have. In this case, neither rendering changes any doctrine and there is no impact to the interpretation of the text in John 9. “We” rather than “I” in John 9:4 should not be a hill to die on for either side.

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