Revelation 22:14 "Blessed are they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS"
KJB - "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."
ESV (NIV, NASB, Jehovah Witness NWT, Catholic versions) - "Blessed are those who WASH THEIR ROBES, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates."
This verse, as it stands in the King James Bible, is often criticized as teaching a works salvation, and thought to be based on inferior Greek texts. Let's examine the issues more closely.
One such KJB critic is a man named Herman Grobler, who has an ongoing blog where he criticizes the King James Bible and defends (of all things) the ever changing NIV Vatican Version.
Mr. Grobler writes that “According to the KJB 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?” [End of Mr. Grobler's comments]
First of all, the passage says noting about "keeping the law". Mr. Grobler just inserted that from his own misunderstanding. And secondly, Has it ever occurred to bother Mr. Grobler that his own NIV has similar verses he needs to explain?
The NIV teaches in 1 John 2:4-6 “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ BUT DOES NOT DO WHAT HE COMMANDS is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone OBEYS HIS WORD, love for God is truly made complete in them. THIS is how we know we are of him.”
The problem here is that the NIV has completely mistranslated the word “to keep” (tereo), and it misses the whole meaning of these these verses. See my article “To Keep versus To Obey”
Or where the NIV teaches in 1 John 3:9 “NO ONE WHO IS BORN OF GOD WILL CONTINUE TO SIN, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. THIS is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: ANYONE WHO DOES NOT DO WHAT IS RIGHT IS NOT GOD’S CHILD”
Here the problem is the paraphrasing of the NIV and that most people misunderstand what the verses are actually teaching. See my article on 1 John 3:9-10
1 John 3:9 "Whosoever is born of God DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN; for his seed remaineth in him: and HE CANNOT SIN, because he is born of God."
1 John 3:10 "whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God"
Then we have versions like the ESV and NASB that say in John 3:36 - "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever DOES NOT OBEY the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Whereas the KJB (and many others too) has - "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Here it is a case of how a particular word should be translated. The NIV has “but whosoever REJECTS the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” The NIV at least avoids the “works salvation” problem found in the ESV, NASB and the modern Catholic versions.
For a further explanation see John 3:36 "he that BELIEVETH NOT on the Son" vs "he that does not OBEY the Son"
Back to Revelation 22:14 - "they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS" versus "those who WASH THEIR ROBES"
Many modern versions that began to appear with the Revised Version of 1885 are based on a very different Greek text than the Traditional text of the King James Bible. Westcott and Hort formalized textual changes in the New Testament affecting some 5000 words, most of these being omissions; but there also were some additions, and other cases of substitutions.
Some anti King James Bible critics are so rabid in their hatred of the final authority of God's Book that they go completely over the edge of reason or any form of sound scholarship.
Such a man is Robert Joyner. In his article "Is the KJV Bible Inerrant?" he writes: "Revelation 22:14 teaches salvation by works in the KJV. It says, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life." This is a verse taken from the Latin Vulgate and inserted by Erasmus because he did not have a complete Greek manuscript of the book of Revelation. The KJV translators continued this error. There is no Greek manuscript in existence that has the KJV reading. The NASB says, "Blessed are they who have washed their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life." (Note: you can see Mr. Joyner's anti KJB article here -
First of all it should be noted that Mr. Joyner is not even remotely close to being right when he says "There is no Greek manuscript support in existence that has the KJV reading."
The case presented in Revelation 22:14 is one of substitution. The traditional Reformation Bible text read as does the King James Bible - "Blessed are those that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS".
This is the reading found in the vast Majority of all Greek texts, as well as some Old Latin copies gig, the Syriac versions (Peshitta, Harclean, and Philoxenian), Lamsa's 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the Coptic Boharic (3rd to 4th century), and the Armenian ancient versions.
It is also so quoted by several church Fathers, including Tertullian 220, Cryprian 258, Tyconius 380 A.D., Andrew, Beatus and Arethas. All this information is found in his own UBS Greek New Testament critical text First edition! Obviously Mr. Joyner has an axe to grind and is nowhere even close to being accurate in his assertions. He apparently didn't even bother to look up what his own Critical Greek textbook has to say about the evidence for the variant readings in this verse.
Tertullian (160-221) wrote,"Blessed are they who act according to the precepts, that they may have power over the tree of ljfe, and over the gates, for entering into the holy city." (On Modesty I: 19:2)
Secondly, the Latin Vulgate editions do NOT read "do his commandments" as Mr. Joyner has affirmed. Rather, they read just like the modern critical text versions - "wash their robes". Here is the Latin Vulgate of Jerome 382 A.D. and here is the Clementine Latin Vulgate as well. They both read "wash their robes" NOT "do his commandments" - "Beati, qui lavant stolas suas". Mr. Joyner's information is completely bogus. You can see the Latin Vulgate here -
And here is the Clementine Vulgate -
"THEY THAT DO HIS COMMANDMENTS" is the reading found in all English translations that were based on the Traditional Reformation Greek texts widely used before the Westcott-Hort texts began to be accepted in the Protestant churches. It is the text of the Reformation Bibles in all languages.
This includes Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishop's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587 - " Blessed are they, that doe his commandments", The Beza New Testament 1599 and the 1611 King James Holy Bible.
After 1611 it continued to be the reading in The Bill Bible 1671, Whiston's Primitive N.T. 1745, John Wesley's 1755 translation, Worsley Version 1770, The Clarke N.T. 1795, the Newcome N.T. 1796, The Thompson Bible 1808, The Improved N.T. 1809, The Revised Translation 1815, The Thompson N.T. 1816, The Wakefield N.T. 1820, The Kneeland N.T. 1823, The Dickinson N.T. 1833, Webster's 1833 version, Living Oracles 1835, The New Covenant N.T. 1836, The Pickering N.T. 1840, The Hammond N.T. 1845, The Hussey N.T. 1845, The Morgan N.T. 1848, the Etheridge Translation 1849 and Murdock's Translation of the Syriac 1851, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, The Sawyer N.T. 1858, The Revised New Testament 1862, The Emphatic Diaglott Bible 1865, The Smith Bible 1876, The Dillard N.T. 1885, and the Aramaic Bible in Plain English - "Blessings to those who ARE DOING his Commandments."
It is also the reading of Youngs literal 1898, the NKJV 1982, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Green's Modern KJV 2000, The Word of Yah 1993, the Worldwide English New Testament 1998, Interlinear Greek New Testament 1997 (Larry Pierce), the Lawrie Translation of 1998, Last Days Bible 1999, God's First Truth 1999, The Tomson N.T. 2002, Apostolic Bible Polyglot Greek 2003, The Evidence Bible 2003, the Heritage Bible of 2003, Green's Literal 2005, Robinson-Pierpoint Byzantine Greek New Testament, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, A Conservative Version 2005, Complete Apostles Bible 2005, The Pickering N.T. 2005, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, Bond Slave Version 2009, the English Majority Text Version of 2009 by Paul Esposito, the Holy Scriptures Jubilee Bible of 2010, the Online Linear of 2009 by Andre de Mol, Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, The Far Above All Translation 2011, the Natural Israelite Bible of 2012 - "Blessed are those who do His commandments.", Hebraic Roots Bible 2012, World English Bible 2012, the Hebrew Names Version 2014, The Modern Literal N.T. 2014 and The Holy Bible, Modern English Version 2014 - "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."
Foreign Language Bibles
Among foreign language Bibles "Blessed are they that DO his commandments" is the reading found in Luther's German Bible of 1545 - "Selig sind, die seine Gebote halten", the 2000 Schlachter German Bible - "Glückselig sind, die seine Gebote tun", the Dutch Staten Vertaling Bible - "die Zijn geboden doen, , the Italian Diodati of 1649, La Nuova Diodati of 1991 -"Beati coloro che mettono in opera i comandamenti d’esso", the Russian Synodal version 1876 and the Russian Victor Zhuromsky both read as does the King James Bible - "Блаженны те, которые соблюдают заповеди Его".
So too do the French Martin 1744 and the French Ostervald of 1996. - "Bienheureux sont ceux qui font ses commandements", the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras of 1569, as well as the Spanish Reina Valera from 1602, 1858, 1909 and the Reina Valera Gomez of 2010, and Spanish Jubilee bible 2010 - "Bienaventurados los que guardan sus mandamientos" (Note: The Spanish Reina Valera's of 1960 and 1995, under the influence of critical text promoters like Eugene Nida , have changed their text and now reads as do the NASB, ESV, NIV.) and the Portuguese Almeida Corrigida E Fiel - "Bem-aventurados aqueles que guardam os seus mandamentos".
It is also the reading in the Afrikaans Bible 1953 - "Salig is die wat sy gebooie doen" = "Blessed are those who do his commandments", the Hungarian Karoli Bible - "Boldogok, a kik megtartják az õ parancsolatait,", the Finnish Bible 1776 - "Autuaat ovat ne, jotka hänen käskynsä pitävät", the Arabic Smith & VanDyke Bible - "طوبى للذين يصنعون وصاياه لكي يكون سلطانهم على شجرة الحياة"
and the Modern Hebrew Bible reads the same way as the KJB - "אשרי העשים את מצותיו למען תהיה ממשלתם בעץ החיים ובאו העירה דרך השערים׃"
You can see the Greek New Testament used by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America here -
The reading found in such versions as the RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV, NET, ISV, Holman Standard, Darby, the Jehovah Witness New World Translation, and all Catholic versions like the Douay-Rheims, St. Joseph NAB and New Jerusalem bible is quite different. These versions read: "Blessed are those WHO WASH THEIR ROBES, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city."
Μακάριοι οἱ πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν, ἵνα ἔσται ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς καὶ τοῖς πυλῶσιν εἰσέλθωσιν εἰς τὴν πόλιν.
This reading is found in very few Greek manuscripts, the most notable being Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus. The entire book of Revelation is missing from the Vaticanus copy, so it is of no help in determining the correct text. The reading of "those who wash their robes" is also that of the Latin Vulgate 425, and the Old Latin manuscript ar, as well as the Coptic Sahidic, and Ethiopic ancient versions. It is also so quoted by Fulgensius.
The Greek evidence for the King James reading of "those that do his commandments" is far more extensive and numerous, but there is also evidence for the reading found in the RSV, NASB, NIV, Holman Standard, and the ESV.
However the Greek evidence is primarily limited to that of the Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus copies, and it should be noted that these two frequently differ from each other and Sinaiticus is notoriously wild in some of its readings.
Sinaiticus gives us some really strange readings in the book of Revelation, none of which are followed by any modern version. For example:
Revelation 4:8 "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." But Sinaiticus says: " Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty..."
Revelation 7:4 and 14:3 Both these verses mention the number of 144,000. However Sinaiticus has 140,000 in 7:4 and 141,000 in 14:3.
Revelation 10:1 "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and A RAINBOW was upon his head..." Sinaiticus says: "clothed with a cloud with HAIR on his head."
Revelation 21:4 "For THE FORMER THINGS are passed away". Sinaiticus reads: "For THE SHEEP are passed away."
Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I make all things NEW", while Sinaiticus says: "Behold, I make all things EMPTY."
To affirm that Sinaiticus is one of the oldest manuscripts and therefore the best, is to ignore the plain evidence of its many erratic readings and omissions.
Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus (the two primary manuscripts from which "they that wash their robes" come from) constantly disagree with each other. For example, in Revelation 21:3 the words "and be their God" are missing from Sinaiticus, but found in Alexandrinus. In Revelation 21:1 the word "GOD" in "God shall wipe away all tears" is found in Alexandrinus but omitted by Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus also omits the words "any more pain" in 21:4, but they are found in Alexandrinus.
In Revelation 21:11 and 12 the words "Having the glory of God" and "at the gates twelve angels" are omitted by Alexandrinus but found in Sinaiticus, and in Revelation 22:2 Sinaiticus omits "of the nations" in the phrase "for the healing OF THE NATIONS", but they are found in Alexandrinus. This is the true character of these two "oldest and best" manuscripts.
The Meaning of The Verse
Now, to address the meaning of the verse as it stands in the King James Bible. "Blessed are they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS...that they may enter in through the gates into the city."
This verse cannot mean that we do all the commandments of God perfectly, for no one can possibly attain unto perfect obedience in this life. However, in the believer there is a degree of change and submission to Christ as our Lord and Saviour. This is in contrast to those described in the very next verse which reads: "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."
Our ability to believe in Christ and obey Him are themselves the results of His grace working in us. Christ Himself is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13).
Again, we read in Hebrews 13:20-21 "Now the God of peace...make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Even king David, who, as a believer had at times sinned grievously, could say in Psalms 119:166 "LORD, I have hoped for thy salvation, and DONE thy commandments." Had he done them perfectly? By no means, but there was a change in David's life resulting from his knowing the true God.
The principal commandments of our Lord and Saviour are to believe on Him and to love other Christians. "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment." 1 John 3:23.
John Gill remarks concerning Revelation 22:14 that the commandments of Christ are "done evangelically, when they are done in the strength of Christ, from love to God, in the exercise of faith upon him, with a view to his glory, and without dependence on them, acknowledging the imperfection of them, and looking unto Jesus for righteousness and life, and so are blessed persons."
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown comment about the two different readings, and have this to say regarding the text of the King James Bible: "The English Version (King James Bible) reading is quite compatible with salvation by grace; for God's first and grand Gospel "commandment" is to believe on Jesus. Thus our "right" to the tree of life is due not to our doings, but to what He has done for us. The right, or privilege, is founded, not on our merits, but on God's grace."
Surprisingly, Adam Clarke mentions only the King James reading and remarks that the obedience seen in Christians is only the result of the grace of God working in them.
F. E. Wallace’s Commentary on the Book of Revelation - “the important words do his commandments constitute an imperative command. The condition of entering this City of God, the church, was obedience to the gospel. The revisions that have changed the phrase "do his commandments" to "wash their robes" have served only to weaken the text and obscure its meaning. It is a specific gospel text which should not be generalized by a tampering with its words, a thing that all of the late so-called revisions appear to be specializing in doing. The text is sublime as it reads and it means that the gospel must be obeyed.”
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Revelation 22:14 “Blessed are they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS” - English Version reading is quite compatible with salvation by grace; for God‘s first and grand Gospel “commandment” is to believe on Jesus."
Obviously I take the position that the King James Bible reading is the correct one. I find it ironic that the modern version promoters often tell us that the more difficult reading is to be preferred, but in this case they reject what would initially seem to be the more difficult reading in favor of an "easier" reading found in a minority of manuscripts.
In fact, I believe this is why some early scribes changed the reading found in the vast Majority of all Greek copies. They wrongly thought the KJB reading teaches a works salvation, and so they changed the text. When properly understood, the King James Bible consistently teaches that salvation is solely by the grace of God in Christ.
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