Footnotes in Bible translations can be very useful study helps. Sometimes a footnote will cross-reference another Bible passage, or it may tell you what the original Greek word was, or it may tell you what the literal translation would be, or it may tell you of a variation in other manuscripts, or it may define a word for you. Most of the time, these notes can be helpful to the Bible reader. However, a careful student must always keep in mind that the footnotes were added by men and are not inspired.
In the New King James Version, some footnotes begin with the word “Or” and then have another word that could be used. For example, there is a footnote on “sexual immorality” in Matthew 5:32 that states, “Or fornication.” But then there’s this. In Mark 1:4, Scripture states that John was baptizing “for the remission of sins.” There is a footnote on “for” that states, “Or because of forgiveness.” Wow! The translators just went from translating to recklessly interjecting their own personal theological bent. And, unfortunately, too many Bible readers would just accept that it could be “because of.”
The expression, “for the remission of sins,” is found four times in the New Testament, and the meaning is exactly the same in all four passages. Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3 are parallel passages regarding John baptizing “for the remission of sins.” In Acts 2:38 (a passage that many in denominations have wished to reword), sinners are instructed to repent and “be baptized for the remission of sins.” In Matthew 26:28, Jesus looked ahead to His crucifixion and said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Whatever the expression means in this text is what is means in the other passages, as well.
The Greek word for “for” in each of these passages is the word eis. The word is found over 1,700 times in the Greek N.T. and it is always looking forward (prospective) and is never (not a single time) used looking backward. Greek lexicographers note that eis means, “to obtain, indicating motion into a thing; to denote purpose.” Thus, the word properly can be interpreted (in each of these four passages), “in order to obtain the remission of sins.” There is not one single shred of reputable lexical evidence that would permit a translation that baptism is “because of” (i.e., having already obtained) the remission of sins. Jesus did not shed His blood “because” remission of sins had already been obtained, but “in order that” it could be obtained (Matt. 26:28)!
Let us be careful (and honest) Bible students! Let us not waver or be ashamed to speak where the Bible speaks! If I change the Bible to fit my theology, what have I gained?