Revelation 21.24 – Textual Variant That Makes a Difference

Most textual variants simply do not make a difference to doctrine, however, there is one which I believe does have something significant about it.

In course of our discussion on the fate of the unbelievers and the sinners, we came upon Revelation 21.24 which was quoted as saying:

And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. (Rev 21:24 NKJV)

I was quoting:

The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. (Rev 21:24 NLT)

The difference, it seems plays a large part in how we interpret this verse. I will allow Philip Comfort, author of New Testament Text and Translation Commentary – which I believe is an essential tool for understanding these issues – explain:

The words τῶν σωζομένων (“of the saved ones”) come from Codex 1 (according to Tregelles and Alford), which Erasmus used in making his Greek text. These words eventually became part of the TR and were translated into the KJV and the NKJV. This interpolation may be the correct interpretation in the sense that these “nations” might be another description of the believers – for 21.27 says that none can enter into the city whose name is not in the Lamb’s book of life. But it may not be the correct interpolation, if John was speaking of the “nations” as those people who live on the new earth and benefit from the New Jerusalem (see 22.2) but are not included among the redeemed. Either way, Erasmus’s interpolation has had a long tradition because of its place in the TR and the KJV.

A few things. Erasmus, who is to be honored for his work in rescuing the bible and giving it to the commoner, was not perfect. He was working with a few manuscripts and under the sword, so to speak.

Codex 1 dates from the 11th or 12th century.

This is an interpolation by interpretation, but by historical correction. Throughout the bible, and more so Revelation, Kings of the Earth and Nations are a particular class of people, as we have already explored.

If you read this plainly, must be impressed to follow Comfort’s understanding of the variant-less meaning.

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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5 thoughts on “Revelation 21.24 – Textual Variant That Makes a Difference

  1. So tell me if I’m getting this right: basically it looks as though somebody was uncomfortable with the really inclusive-looking language and decided to ‘correct’ the Bible’s theology, no? As much as I hate to do this, I’m going to have to award one Mitchell point to the NLT on this one, and none to the N/KJV.

    • That is what it seems like, Mitchell. There is no other reference to the ‘nations of the saved’ in the bible, and indeed, much to the contrary for the construct.

      The ‘saved’ should be ‘redeemed’ and the ‘redeemed’ are those no longer considered either the ‘nations’ or Jews but God’s people.

  2. Thank you for this. What more can I say? Thank you. It seems to me more people are trying to renew the bible with their minds and are not content to renew their minds with the bible. It distresses me to see all of these and the people who will fall by them but it must also be god’s will. it also explains why people- esp KJV only people tends towards their views, and Universalism is rejected

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