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I like to frequently cross reference different translations of the Bible (usually Douay-Rheims, KJV, NIV, NASB). I've noticed that the older versions (KJV, Douay Rhiems) of the Revelation 7:14 translates as follows:

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (emphasis added)

Whereas the newer versions (NIV, NASB) translates this passage:

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (emphasis added)

It seems to me that this tiny little "the" makes a huge difference in the theological understanding of end times eschatology- especially for those who have a "dispensationalist" worldview.

What is the reason for this difference in translation?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

All the major witnesses support the reading ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης. This translates into English as "(out) of/ from the great tribulation." The article, in bold face, is present, so the phrase must include the definite article in the English translation. There are some exceptions to translating the Greek definite article into English (e.g., before proper names, abstract nouns), but this phrase is not an exception. There is no legitimate reason to omit the article. This is a simple matter.

The Douay-Rheims is based on the Latin Vulgate. Latin does not have a definite article, so one could excuse Douay-Rheims for not having the definite article in its translation. But, there's no excuse for the KJV.

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@H3br3wHamm3r81 has a good answer and I do not intend to replace, but to supplement his answer.

οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐρχόμενοι ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης

Lit. "These are the ones coming out of the tribulation, the great one."

ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης is a prepositional phrase (preposition->article->noun->article->adjective) that modifies "the ones coming out" (οἱ ἐρχόμενοι). The preposition ἐκ only takes the genitive case and, in this case, most naturally reads as the ablative "out of."

The articular adjective (τῆς μεγάλης) is in the restrictive position which adds emphasis to the modifier. In this case, we are to understand that the tribulation will be great. As H3br3wHamm3r81 noted, the article seems to necessitate that we include "the" in the English translation.

I don't see this as an "x of y construction" because the deliberate positioning of the adjective reduces the probability that it is being used as a separate substantive which would read as, "the tribulation of greatness." If one wishes to make a case for such an unconventional construction, we'd still parse the genitive as a descriptive genitive which, essentially, becomes an adjective and can still be smoothed with "the great tribulation."

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Even without analising the original languages the sense and spirit of the verse dictates its meaning in context...The book of revelation is also the book of THE great tribulation. There is and has been a tribulation in all history, peaking at certain points, the flood for example and the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh. We know all the saints of history have and will come out of the tribulation. But here in this verse context dictates that specifically certain people come out of a certain tribulation. For then there will be............ Mathew 24.21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no [j]life would have been saved; but for the sake of the [k]elect those days will be cut short. .... There is no doubt that God teaches us, that there will be an end time, where Christ will be seen clearly in His Providences as Savior and Judge. The return of Jesus Christ will be preceded by unparalleled upheaval and the clearest display of His sovereignty in Mercy and Judgement. As with Moses and Aaron with Pharaoh, so it will be in the last days. Just as all Egypt knew who Jehovah was, so will the whole World know who Jesus Christ is in His body before He returns. We look forward to a world revival as Paul clearly tells us in Romans 11.. I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery brethren. A worldwide revival will cause incredible upheaval especially in the financial world...The whole system is based on interest for example, something clearly forbidden in scripture. Those also who are involved in war who turn will come out from her. A mass exodus from many institutions now considered holy will almost destroy this world order. The serpent will not like this. When he recovers he will institute his only option to gain control of the world and that would be violence. Then their will be a terrible persecution and the love of many will grow cold. At this point the two witnesses enter their service and proceed to make judgement on the beast. After three and a half years the beast gathers the nations of the earth to Jerusalem to the valley of Armageddon and surrounds Jerusalem where the beast murders the two witnesses. On their going up to Heaven in a cloud to meet their Lord as He is returning with all the saints to meet those in the air, who yet are on the Earth. This final conclusion is drawn from ...The Witnesses Resurrected

The Witnesses Resurrected

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And they[e] heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms[f] of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come,[g] Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. 18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.” 19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant[h] was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

The point I would like to draw you attention to is summed up in the words of verse 18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,' and the time to reward your bond servants. Is this not the return of our Lord Jesus.

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