You are absolutely right in stating that many verses vary between different versions of the Bible. Let’s look at what Revelation 22:18-19 says. “Revelation 22:18-19, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, IF ANY MAN SHALL ADD unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And IF ANY MAN SHALL TAKE AWAY from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” It is obvious that the warning given concerning ‘adding to’ or ‘taking away’ from ‘the book of this prophesy’ was speaking exclusively of the Book of Revelation. However, I do believe that it can be applied to the entire Bible. We are assured in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” As such, the Word of God should never be interfered with…whether adding to or taking away from.

The original language of the Bible was not English. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, while the New Testament was written in Greek. In translating from one language to another, there is always the problem of being as accurate as possible. This involves much more than just translating the words one by one. The context must be understood so that the proper words might be used in making the translations. As an example, let’s consider the words of the Lord in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Greek word that is translated as ‘easy’ is “CHRESTOS”. In the KJV, that same word (chrestos) is translated as ‘better’ in Luke 5:39; ‘kind’ in Luke 6:35; ‘goodness’ in Romans 2:4; and ‘gracious’ in 1 Peter 2:3. Translators try to use the best words possible in translating from the original manuscripts. They may use different words to try to be as accurate as possible.

There are several manuscripts that are considered to be reliable enough from which to translate the Bible. There are literally thousands of complete or fragmented manuscripts in existence today. Some of them are very old, but there on NO ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS in existence today. Scholars sometime differ on which older manuscripts are the most accurate. The oldest manuscripts are not always the most reliable. If a mistake was made in making copies of a particular manuscript, that copy would not be as reliable as a newer manuscript which had been copied more carefully.

Let’s look at a couple of your examples and see if we can determine if harm has been done in different translations. Luke 4:4 says, “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (KJV). Many other translations leave out the phrase, “but by every word of God.” The Cambridge Bible has this note on that omission: “These words, though implied, are probably added in this place from Matthew 4:4, since they are omitted by א, B, D, L, (different manuscripts) and various versions.”

Let’s consider what Matthew 20:16 says in the KJV, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” Now let’s read it from the NASB, “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Notice that the NASB left out the phrase “for many be called, but few chosen.” In ELLIOTT’S COMMENTARY FOR ENGLISH READERS, he writes, “The warning is repeated after the parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:14), and as it stands there in closer relation with the context, that will be the fitting place for dwelling on it. The better MSS., indeed, omit it here. If we accept it as the true reading, it adds something to the warning of the previous clause.” He is stating that some of the more reliable manuscripts do not include this phrase, however it is properly included in Matthew 22:14.

I think we see that the differences lie not in some trying to ‘add to’ or ‘take away’ from the Word of God. Rather, it is attributed to those who genuinely seek to translate the Bible accurately, although some disagree on which manuscripts are more accurate. Thankfully, we can see that the Lord has preserved His truths in these translations. I think I can sincerely recommend many of the translations that are on the market today. The ones I’m more familiar with are the KJV, NKJV, NASB, WEB, DARBY, and a few others. I would caution against using paraphrased Bibles. These are not literal translations. A ‘paraphrase’ is where some have read other translations of the Bible and, instead of going back to old manuscripts, they take the translation and try to modernize it. Each time a version is paraphrased, it runs the risk of getting farther and farther from the oldest and best manuscripts. (278.4)