55. Robes wash or Commandments do? Rev.22:14.
What is the prerequisite in Rev.22:14? Is it: “they that do his commandments, …” or: “who wash their robes, …”?
The relation between grace and merit is one of the main differences between the Christian Religion and all other religions in the world.
All other religions proclaim that if one’s deeds are good enough, he can be saved.
As Christians we believe and proclaim that sinners are justified by the grace of God, through the blood of Christ, on the ground of our faith in Jesus Christ, apart from observing the law. Our faith is confirmed by our good deeds. Faith without deeds is dead!
It is this core truth that is in the balance here in Revelation 22:14.
The King James Version says: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” According to these words, one gains the right to the tree of life and entrance to the city, by doing the commands, by keeping the law. But is that what Jesus taught? Is that what the rest of the New Testament teaches? Is that the message of Revelation?
The New International Version says: “Blessed are those who wash their robes …“. On what grounds does the NIV give another prerequisite? Is this a deliberate alteration to conform to Christian Dogma? Is there manuscript evidence?
Let us look at the real facts:
|Possibilities:||Wash their robes:||Do his commands:|
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|501-600||Fulgentius, *Apringius, Pseudo-Ambrose|
|1001-1600||3 Minuscules||3 Old Latin||10 Minuscules||Old Latin|
In this specific instance the possibility of confusion with the letters and words cannot be excluded, especially if the scribe had been absent-minded. To illustrate this possibility visually, I give the two versions in a Greek font, created by Allen Loder after the Papyrus manuscript No. 39 of around 250 A.D. Keep in mind that, being an electronic font, these letters are all perfect, being chosen as the best examples of the specific letter in the document. The source manuscript that the scribe used, might also have been eroded or damaged, making the likelihood of confusion a greater possibility than with this “perfect” rendering:
1. The two oldest Greek manuscripts, supported by three minuscule manuscripts dating the 11th, 13th and 15th centuries support “washing robes”. Only one Greek uncial of the tenth century and ten later Greek minuscule manuscripts support “doing the commands”.
2. The Sahidic, the oldest translation, together with seven other ancient translations, including the Vulgate support “robes wash” while five ancient translations support “doing the commands”.
3. Both readings are supported by five Church Fathers each. Of the three leaving us a commentary on Revelation (marked *) two support “robes wash”. Through the ages an intense debate waged between “faith only” like Paul advocated, and the emphasis James put on proof of faith by one’s deeds. Ascetic monks would rather emphasize deeds and keeping the commandments.
4. The possible confusion between letters and words cannot be ruled out as origin of the alteration.
When we look at Revelation in isolation, we find salvation through the blood of the Lamb i.a. in Rev.1:5 and 5:9. In Rev.7:14 it is stated that the saved are mentioned as having their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, and in Rev.12:11 mentioned as having overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb. In Rev.12:17 the keeping of the commandments is mentioned as a distinction of the saved, but not as prerequisite! This is the same in Rev.14:12.
When we look at Rev.22:14, we notice “Blessed are they that… ?…, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” This is a clear indication of the prerequisite for access to the tree of life and entrance through the gates of the city. This “right” boils down to the prerequisite to be saved! The principle for salvation in Revelation however, is the blood of the Lamb, not keeping the commands!
Looking at all the facts above, it is clear that “washing of robes” according to both external and intrinsic criteria within Revelation as a whole weighs heavier than “doing the commands”. In fact that corresponds with the principles of the Christian faith distinguishing it from all other religions all over the world!
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