DOES “NEITHER THE SON” BELONG IN MATTHEW 24:36?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In the King James Bible, Matthew 24:36 reads: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Strangely, modern versions have: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (By the way, as a tangential comment, notice “my Father” was changed to “the Father,” eliminating a most important personal reference). We want to draw our attention to a stark inclusion. Whereas they usually omit or remove words found in the King James, here is one example of modern translations adding words. Modern versions contain “nor the Son,” but not the Authorized Version. Why does this disparity exist? How do we establish the correct reading? “For what saith the Scriptures?”
WHY THERE ARE DIFFERENCES: A BRIEF EXPLANATION
There are two reasons why the King James Bible and modern versions read differently. (And, contrary to what you have heard, there are differences—major differences! Here is one such instance, where a phrase is found in the former and not in the latter. That is distinction worth noting, and not to be taken lightly or easily dismissed.)
Firstly, there are two Greek New Testament manuscript families. It is not a matter of “old English” versus “modern English,” but rather competing manuscripts forming respective bases for those English versions. Earlier English Bibles—the last being the King James Bible—relied on one set of manuscripts (commonly called the Textus Receptus). However, about 140 years ago, British “scholarship” began to shift from that set of Greek Bible manuscripts and began to embrace the other manuscript stream. The result was the 1881 Revised Version (RV). Intended to be an “improved” Authorized Version (King James Bible), it was actually based on a different manuscript family. The alterations were extensive, and that was due to the influence of two apostate Cambridge “scholars,” Westcott and Hort, emphasizing Roman Catholic readings (Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus). In 1901, the American Standard Version—the American counterpart of the 1881 British RV—was released. Over 100 modern English versions have since followed, heavily depending on the “new” manuscript family as translation sources.
Secondly, modern English versions differ from the King James Bible because they were rendered using two divergent translation philosophies. Opinions of men have crept into the modern versions through a technique called “dynamic equivalence” (words can be changed, so long as their “sense” is retained—which is impossible!). The King James is not only based on the proper manuscripts, it was rendered correctly because of its “formal equivalence” (individual words matter, not merely thoughts!). While more could be said, this is enough information to set the background for the matter at hand.
WHY THERE IS A DIFFERENCE IN MATTHEW 24:36
Let us look at the verse comparison once again.
- King James: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
- Modern versions: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
“Nor the Son” appears in modern versions, but not the King James. Why? This is because modern versions depend on manuscripts that are not the same as the manuscripts on which the King James is based. The modern Greek has “nor the Son” in Matthew 24:36; the King James Greek (Textus Receptus) lacks it.
At this point, the modern version proponent would appeal to the parallel verse, Mark 13:32. Here is the verse in the King James: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Now, Mark 13:32 in modern versions: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So, the phrase “nor the Son” appears in both the King James and modern versions in Mark 13:32. Yet, it appears in Matthew 24:36 in modern versions only. The modern version supporters would argue it belongs in both verses, and the King James and its manuscripts are wrong in “eliminating” it from Matthew 24:36.
To summarize, one of two possibilities is true:
- Either…. The King James and its manuscripts removed “nor the Son” (“oude o huios”) from Matthew 24:36. Thus, Mark 13:32 indicates the phrase belongs in Matthew. (Here is what modern-version supporters contend.)
- Or…. The modern versions* and their manuscripts added “nor the Son” (“oude o huios”) in Matthew 24:36 to force it to match Mark 13:32. (This is the argument of the King James users.)
(*Modern versions: American Standard Version, Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, Good News Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Living Bible, The Message, New American (Roman Catholic) Bible, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation [“Jehovah’s Witness bible”], Revised Standard Version, the Voice.)
Who is right? Which position is correct? This will be quite a challenge, huh? How would we even proceed in resolving this technical conflict? Actually, friend, it is not that difficult!
It is generally agreed that the Book of Matthew presents Jesus Christ as King, while the Book of Mark views Him as Servant. A careful comparison of both Books yields this to be true. This would explain why Matthew and Mark do not read word-for-word all the time. The Holy Spirit is emphasizing or stressing various and sundry points in order to portray Jesus from diverse angles. (Luke and John are two other independent Gospel Records, meant to read differently as well.)
John 15:14-15 is useful here: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Could the Bible be clearer here? Does the servant know what his master is doing? No! Both the Authorized Version and modern versions agree here. Let us read those same verses in the New International Version: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” The servant submits to his boss. Stated another way, the employer determines what should be done, then he issues orders to his employee to follow. Jesus’ comments in John actually help us resolve the textual disagreement concerning Matthew 24:36.
Does “neither the Son” belong in Matthew 24:36? NO! If Mark is stressing Jesus’ servanthood (and that is the overwhelming consensus), and Matthew is underscoring His royalty (and that too no one denies), then Matthew and Mark would not harmonize concerning “knowledge.” Mark would certainly need “nor the Son,” for the Son of God is acting as Servant to Father God. Matthew, however, would not need “nor the Son,” for Matthew is not stressing Jesus’ servanthood. In other words, modern versions discredit themselves. John 15:15 in any and every version demands the inclusion of “nor the Son” in Mark 13:32, but there is no such necessity for its presence in Matthew 24:36 (an entirely different view of Christ!). No, the King James Bible and its underlying Greek did not eliminate “neither the Son” from Matthew. Modern English versions and the modern Greek added “nor the Son” to Matthew, so as to harmonize it with Mark… and they are wrong in doing so.
SUPPLEMENTAL: IF JESUS WERE GOD, HOW DID HE NOT KNOW?
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36 KJV). “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32 KJV). No man or angel knows when Jesus Christ will return to Earth at His Second Coming. How could Jesus say that only the Father knew when He would return? Was not Jesus God? Why did Jesus not know when He would return?
Jesus Christ is serving His Father, so He is submitting to His Father when it came to setting dates. Jesus could have openly declared precisely when He would come back, but He would appear to be autonomous (independent). He showed His reliance on Father God by saying that only Father God knew the date of His coming. Remember, Jesus Christ is both God and Man. As God, He knew the future, but, as a Man, Jesus could honestly say He did not know when His Second Coming would occur. Luke 2:40,52 say He learned just like we learn. This is not a detraction of His Deity; it is an emphasis on His Humanity (which we should never ignore either). “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him…. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”