Does Acts 8:37 Belong In The Bible?

It is written:

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36  Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37  Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38  So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39  Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:35-39)

The decision of whether or not the eunuch was ready to be baptized into Christ was whether or not he believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In Acts 8:37, the eunuch made this “good confession” that he trusted in Jesus Christ and was repenting of his sins.

But did he really make that good confession?

Several Bible translations omit this verse of Scripture, or at the very least relegate it to the margins and footnotes of their text. It is often claimed that this verse is not found in the ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and was added hundreds of years later.

What shall we say to this?

First, it needs to be pointed out that whether this verse was added after the Apostolic Age or not, the good confession that one makes before baptism is found in numerous other texts of Scripture. The famous scholar, J.W. McGarvey, believed that Acts 8:37 was added later to the text of Scripture. However, he makes these excellent notes:

“The fact that such a confession as is here put in the mouth of the eunuch was uniformly required by the apostles, is evident from other passages of Scripture. It is quite certain that it was confessed by Timothy. Paul says to him: “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life, into which you were called, and did confess the good confession before many witnesses.” [151] This confession was made at the beginning of his religious career; for it is connected with his call to eternal life. It is the same confession which is attributed to the eunuch; for Paul immediately adds: “I charge thee before God, who gives life to all things, and Jesus Christ, who bore testimony under Pontius Pilate, to the good confession,” etc. Now, what is here called “the good confession” is certainly the confession that he was the Christ, made before the Sanhedrim, under Pontius Pilate. But this is identified, by the terms employed, with the confession which Timothy had made, which is also “the good confession.” Timothy, then, made the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the same attributed to the eunuch. Moreover, this confession was so conspicuous, at the time of Paul’s writing, that it was known as the confession, and so highly esteemed as to be styled the good confession. That Timothy was not alone in making this confession is evident from the following statement of Paul: “The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach, That if thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” [152] From this it appears that one item in “the word of faith” which the apostles preached, was the confession of the Lord Jesus with the mouth. Paul assumes that this word was in the mouths and hearts of the brethren in Rome, whom he had never seen, and with whose conversion he had nothing, personally, to do. This assumption can be justified only on the ground that it belonged to “the word of faith” everywhere preached. He argued, from the universal practice of the apostles, to a particular conclusion in reference to their converts in Rome. We have, therefore, both his premises and his conclusion, to sustain us in deciding that this confession was universal in the primitive Church, as a part of the apostolic ritual.” (J.W. McGarvey, A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, With a Revised Version of the Text, 7th Edition (With Active Table of Contents), 2628-2645 (Kindle Edition))

McGarvey’s point is well taken.

Second, there is actually a great deal of considerable evidence that Acts 8:37 is a part of the original Book of Acts.

“However, when you see that the majority of early versions or translations into other languages include the passage, starting with certain copies of the Harclean Syriac, the Clementine Vulgate, Ps-Augutine, Armenian, Georgian, Laudinus, Schlettstadtensis, Legionensis, Ardmachanus, Philadelphiensis, Colbertinus, and Gigas, an eyebrow is raised….Why did these translations include it if there was no manuscript evidence? In addition, the early writers unanimously include the passage: Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrosiaster, Pacian, Ambrose, Augustine, Bede (says it is in the Greek manuscripts), and Theophlact. Why did they include the passage if there was no manuscript evidence?…Following the confession of faith, Phillip baptized the Ethiopian. He could not have scripturally baptized the Ethiopian, if he did not believe; and, he could not know whether he believed, unless he told him. Verse 37 fits into the flow of the context….“What tips the scales in this instance is the context. Something is definitely missing without the verse in question. The flow of the passage is interrupted without the question of Phillip and the response of the Ethiopian. We could go further into the details of the evidence and the character of their readings, but this should suffice for the time.” (Roderick Ross, Does It Belong in the New Testament?: Omissions from the New Testament (Preservation of the New Testament Book 1, 217-220 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)

Are you willing today to make this good confession and to be baptized into Christ Jesus so that you may go on your way rejoicing?

The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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