Commandments or Clean Robes?
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Depending on the version of the New Testament used, a reader will find one of two translations in Revelation 22: 14. This essay points out which versions use each. These differences are examined through the showing of similar verses for each in the New Testament, discussing Greek Texts, and suggesting possible reasons for the differences. It is the first clause in the verse which is in question. A total of twenty-six versions are used in the analysis.


Versions Compared

 

ANT The Authentic New Testament NKJ New King James Version
CLNT Concordant Literal New Testament NNT Noli New Testament
HBME The Holy Bible in Modern English NRS New Revised Standard Version
IB Interlinear Bible NSNT Norlie's Simplified New Testament
IV Inspired Version RSV Revised Standard Version
KJV King James Version SARV Standard American Edition, Revised Version
LBP Lamsa Bible SSBE The Sacred Scriptures, Bethel Edition
MNT Moffatt New Translation TDB The Dartmouth Bible
MSNT The Modern Speech New Testament WMF The Word Made Fresh
NCV New Century Version YLR Young's Literal Translation, Revised Edition

 

Other Versions Used

 

AB Amplified Bible NET New Evangelical Translation
BNT Barclay New Testament TEV Today's English Version
CTNT Centenary Translation of the New Testament WAS Worrell New Testament


Revelation 22: 14

The versions in this section are the only ones which use commands or commandments in the translation of the first clause.

IB Blessed are the ones doing His commands, that their authority will be over the tree of life, and by the gates they may enter into the city.
IV 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.
KJV 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.
LBP Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
NKJ Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
Footnote: NU-text reads wash their robes.
NNT Blessed are those who obey his commandments. For they will be allowed to approach the tree of life and to enter the gates of the city.
SSBE Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
TDB 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.
WMF Happy are those who follow the commandments of God for they will have the privilege of eating from the tree of life, and they will have access to the city of God.
YLR Happy are those doing His commands that the authority shall be theirs unto the tree of life, and by the gates they may enter into the city; ... .

 

Following are some of the versions which use robes in the translation of the first clause.

ANT Happy are those who wash their robes, that they may have a claim upon the Tree of Life and enter by the gates into the City.
CLNT Happy are those who are rinsing their robes, that it will be their license on the log of life, and they may be entering the portals into the city.
HBME Happy are those who wash their robes, so that they may be allowed to approach the tree of life, and to enter into the city by its gates.
MNT Blessed are those who wash their robes, that theirs may be the right to the tree of Life, to enter the gates of the City.
MSNT Blessed are those who wash their robes clean, that they may have a right to the Tree of Life, and may go through the gates into the city.
Footnote: [Wash their robes clean] V. L. 'obey His commands.'
NCV Happy are those who wash their robes so that they will receive the right to eat the fruit from the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
Footnote: This means they believed in Jesus so that their sins could be forgiven by Christ's blood.
NRS Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
Footnote: Other ancient authorities read do his commandments.
NSNT Blessed are they who wash their robes (that do His commandments) so as to have the right to the tree of life and to enter the city gates.
RSV Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
Footnote: Other ancient authorities read do his commandments.
SARV Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
Footnote: See ch. 7: 14.


Related Passages

 

The directive to keep God's commandments comes from the Old Testament. However, it is carried over into the New Testament as indicated in the following verses.

Matthew 19: 17
ANT Jesus said to him, 'Why do you ask me of the good? There is but One who is good. But if you desire to enter into Life keep the commandments.'
BNT 'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus said to him. 'One and One alone is good. If you want to get into life, obey the commandments.'
KJV And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

 

1 John 5: 2, 3
ANT It is when we do love God and keep his commandments that we realize that we love the Children of God. Love of God consists in our obeying his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, ... .
BNT We are therefore bound to realize that to love God and to obey his commandments mean to love his children too. To love God is to obey his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome, ... .
KJV By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

 

References to washing oneself or one's clothes is basically of the New Testament, although there are types in the Old Testament. What is stated in the footnotes of the New Century Version and the Worrell New Testament is what is generally understood by Christians in this metaphor.

Revelation 7: 14
AB ..., These are they who have come out of the great tribulation (persecution), and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
[Dan. 12: 1; Gen. 49: 1.]
CLNT ..., These are those coming out of the great affliction. And they rinse their robes, and they whiten them in the blood of the Lambkin.
KJV ..., They are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
(Rev. 1: 5; 1 John 1: 7; Heb. 9: 14.)
NET "These are the people who are coming out of the great suffering,
      and they have washed their robes
      and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Footnote: The suffering described in the six seals (6: 1-17); this suffering is often referred to as "the great tribulation."
NNT ..., "These are those who come out of the great tribulation; and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ... ."
WAS ...: "These are the men who have come out of the great ordeal. They washed their garments and whitened them through the blood of the Lamb.
Footnote: Who come out of the great tribulation: The Greek expression is "the tribulation the great," which seems to point definitely to the tribulation then in progress, but not yet complete. Here it seems possible that all the martyred hosts of Christians of all ages, and all who have pressed their way over all obstacles, are included in this number.
      Made them white in the blood of the Lamb: were cleansed and made pure through faith in the atoning blood of Christ.

 

Hebrews 9: 14
CTNT ..., how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through his eternal spirit offered himself free from blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works unto the service of an ever-living God!
KJV How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
TEV ..., how much more is accomplished by the blood of Christ! Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will purify our consciences from useless rituals, so that we may serve the living God.


Greek Texts

 

Those versions listed in the first part concerning Revelation 22: 14 used the Received Text of Erasmus (1516), the Peshitta Text, some other older text, or simply followed the King James Version. The Greek in the Interlinear Bible reads as follows: poiountes tas entolas.

Those versions listed in the second part concerning Revelation 22: 14 used other more recent texts. The Greek in the Greek-English Lexicon (Thayer) reads as follows: plunontes tas stolas auton en to aimati arniou. Thayer further states that it is used of those who by faith so appropriate the results of Christ's expiation as to be regarded by God as pure and sinless. Lachmann's Greek Text (1842, 1850), Tischendorf's Text (1869-1872), The Greek New Testament of Tregelles (1857-1879), and The New Testament in the Original Greek by Westcott and Hort use this Greek in Revelation 22: 14. This is the same reading as stated in a footnote in Moffatt's New Testament.

Thus, the difference in wording is based on the choice of Greek texts by the various translators. Note that there is some similarity of words between poiountes tas entolas and plunontes tas stolas.


Evaluation of Each Translation

 

A few versions that speak of washing their clothes in Revelation 22: 14 give Revelation 7: 14 as a cross-reference. However, in chapter 7, the ones who have washed their clothes did so in the blood of Jesus. It is assumed that this also applies to those in chapter 22, but it does not actually state this. In addition, those in chapter 7 are they who accept Jesus during the great tribulation. The promise given in chapter 22 does not appear in chapter 7. The reference in Hebrews 9: 14 speaks of accepting Jesus during this lifetime, not at the beginning of eternal life. So many Christians speak of washing themselves in the blood of Jesus and omit the necessity of keeping the commandments of God afterwards.

Keeping the commandments involves a lifetime. Thus, this reference is more applicable to what follows in Revelation 22: 14. How many people know what the commandments are, let alone trying to keep them? Abiding by the Ten Commandments, recorded in Exodus 20: 3-17, is a good start. How many Christians actually abide by all ten, especially the first four? These are reiterated in condensed form as the Two Great Commandments, recorded in Matthew 22: 37-40. Two other places that stress the keeping of the commandments are Matthew 19: 17 and 1 John 5: 2-3. Read the New Testament and find out what is involved in keeping the commandments.

The translators have, for the most part, translated Revelation 22: 14 correctly in accordance with what their Greek texts said. However, to imply that the two translations mean the same is an incorrect conclusion. As noted previously, there are two distinct statements in the various Greek texts. Why is that so? At this late date, one can only speculate.

There is a similarity of the two interpretations in the Greek. Since all copying of manuscripts was done by hand, it is possible that the scribes misinterpreted the writing of previous scribes. Since there are precedents in other passages for both interpretations, probably the scribes wrote what they thought it was supposed to be. From these manuscripts, the Greek texts to be used in translation into other languages were prepared. It is common knowledge that the manuscripts used by Erasmus for his text were not the best. Although more information was available for later texts, there is also criticism for such more recent texts as that of Westcott and Hort. Those versions that used different older texts give one interpretation. Those that used more recent texts give the other interpretation. Because no autograph has been preserved, it cannot be absolutely proven which translation of the verse is correct.

The above comments assume that there was no deliberate intent to change the wording. Let us suppose that there actually were intent to change from either one to the other. Should this be the case, it is a serious matter. Let us now look at Revelation 22: 18-19. These verses are in the same chapter of the same book as the verse in question.

Revelation 22: 18, 19
KJV 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.

These two warnings involve the Book of Revelation. That includes the two translations for chapter 22, verse 14. If the change were intentional, it is more likely that the original reading was as it appears in the King James Version. If so, there would be evidence of replacement theology. This would be in keeping with Christian attitudes since the time of the early church. The Old Testament and any connection with the Jews have been downplayed. Also, Christians tend to misinterpret what salvation through the grace of God really entails. No matter what one's denominational affiliation is, the fact that one needs to obey God's commandments still remains. As is recorded in 1 John 5: 2-3, these are not grievous or burdensome.

Although both of these possibilities may be wrong and another one right, one needs to note the differences and ponder what they mean. Washing one's clothes in the blood of Jesus is the first step. However, one cannot stop there. It is necessary to keep the commandments. Reading and studying the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, will show how this can be done.