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New international version of Book of Revelation 12:1

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

What does the original Greek text say exactly, literally? Is it the sun or sunny? And does it say something about clothes?

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γυνη περιβεβλημενη τον ηλιον Revelation 12:1 [TR undisputed]

clothed with the sun [KJV]

having been clothed with the sun [Green's Literal Translation]

arrayed with the sun [Young's Literal Translation]

περιβεβλημενη Strong 4016 is the accusative plural, masculine, participle (perfect passive) according to Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon. Therefore 'clothed' [KJV] or 'arrayed' [YLT] are quite correct.

'Having been clothed' [GLT] is not exactly wrong, as such, but emphasises the past activity rather than the perfected state, so KJV and YLT are closer to the original meaning, I would say.

τον ηλιον is the Greek article together with the accusative of ηλιος Strong 2246 which means sun.

Since the verb is passive, it is clear that the woman does not clothe the sun, but that the sun clothes the woman. There is no adjective, it is a noun, so this is not descriptive (sunny) it is a statement which uses a verb in participle form to convey a reason for the appearance that is visible (in vision).

The activity of clothing is in the past (it is the perfect participle) so this is the present state of the woman, due to a past event.

Peri-ballo conveys 'casting around'. Thayer (see the Biblehub article on Strong 4106) gives 'surround' as the primary meaning and 'clothe' as the secondary meaning. Both 'surrounded by the sun' and 'clothed with the sun' are, therefore, correct renderings of the Greek.

Robert Young has possibly chosen 'arrayed' to avoid specifically stating 'clothed' but that is my conjecture. It is an interesting translation, since it avoids 'clothed' without having to conjure up the idea of a besieged city with 'surrounded'.

There is no article before 'woman' but there is an article before 'sun'. Thus the sun is identified as the sun we know. The woman is not identified and therefore the meaning is that 'woman-ness' is clothed with the sun, not an individual, identifiable, specific woman.

This is visionary - it is imagery given that we may understand spiritual concept.

If I were to say more, without referring to the general context which follows these words, I would be interpreting. And I would err if I strayed from the immediate question.

  • Thank you. That was very illuminating. It would be interesting to hear your interpretion. – Jaguar Mar 25 at 15:22
  • @Jaguar You are welcome but this is not the place for me to give my own personal interpretation. – Nigel J Mar 25 at 15:24
  • Well done, @NigelJ , very patient, thorough and complete answer while still being appropriately restrained and correct. +1. – user25930 Mar 26 at 0:48
  • @NigelJ Great answer. – John Martin Mar 26 at 18:48

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