-2

Is this a warning against multiple English Bible versions, which by definition exist through either adding, or removing words:

22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. [ESV]

Could the earlier flood of Revelation 12:15, be symbolic of the plethora of English bible versions, and the 'help' of verse 16, be the eventual banning of printed bibles, which would limit transmission of the Gospel, back to 'word of mouth', as Revelation 12:17 might suggest?

12:15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 12:16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 12:17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

My concern which prompted the question, is that the Bible clearly states that God has intentionally blocked our understanding, and in some cases even awareness of the presence, of many secret things hidden in His word. There appear to be two types of concealment. First we find statements such as at Daniel 8:26, "shut thou up the vision;", with no indication of exactly when we will be given full understanding; and the other type which are accompanied by signs, after each of which we should become aware of new things written in the words that we may already think to be very familiar with. These latter are associated with the seven 'seals', in Revelation 5 and 6. Many have suggested that they know what each horse and rider going forth signifies, as each of the first four seals are opened, but don't mention any associated historic event, as the later seals do; and say nothing about being accompanied with the unsealing of secrets within the writing inside the book (Rev 5:1). The primary purpose of the seals is actually the concealment of that which is secretly written on the pages within our Bible. Consequently I believe that we all must have access to the exact book that is spoken of in Revelation 5 and 6. Another version worded differently may very well seem preferable, but might inadvertently mask an unexpected secret. We have no way to determine in advance where the mysteries are concealed.

  • 1
    I added the verses in your question and tweaked the wording. If you do not want these changes you can select my edit and then roll back to the original. BTW, your connection with Rev 12 is quite thought provoking. – Revelation Lad Jun 30 '19 at 17:07
  • "this book" in the book of Revelation were written of the book of Revelation, since a 'the Bible' didn't exist yet, and the canon was in flux—let alone a single bound book existing even if the canon was yet settled. – Sola Gratia Jun 30 '19 at 17:44
  • English didn't exist when it was written - do you mean Bible translations generally? – curiousdannii Jun 30 '19 at 22:40
  • I have edited my question, by adding an explanation of why I asked it, which I hope makes the case for why we must have one verified true word of God, English has been for a while, and still is I think, the most universal international language. Translations have been satisfactory up till now. One of them must be, verified internally by virtually all of them as the true word of God. – nwg Jul 2 '19 at 5:13
3

This ending is an inclusio to the beginning of the book:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3) [ESV]

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

The initial application would be on the original circulation of the letter which John was instructed to write to the seven churches in Asia; what he writes is to be read, heard, and kept. If anyone fails to follow the opening instructions, they will be "cursed."

Beginning (1:3)                   Ending (22:18-19)
Blessed                           "Cursed"
Reads aloud                       [Implied is the reader cannot add or take away]
Hears                             Hears
Keep what is written              Lose what is written
[Implied is John wrote exactly]   [Implied is a copy must be made exactly]

Therefore, the initial emphasis is not on future written copies, but reading and hearing. In other words, if John sent what he wrote with another who was to read it in the seven churches, the reader must be faithful to read exactly what was written without adding or taking away any words. Similarly the initial audience is to keep what they hear without making any change. That is to say, the prohibitions and consequences apply equally to the one who read and those who hear. Thus both reader and hearer are equally responsible for keeping what was written and failing to do so would have dire consequences.

The question of English translations is two steps removed from the text:

  • Making a copy of the original document
  • Translating of a copy (or the original)

As to making a copy, the implication of the ending is that John was faithful to write exactly what he was told. This is confirmed earlier:

And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” (10:4)

John's ending is modeled after his experience. He was prepared to write what he heard, but was told not to write it down. So he kept what he heard. Therefore, the initial audience knows they are receiving exactly, and only, what John wrote. What is implied in John's original writing, obviously carries over to anyone making a copy. Given the original method of distribution, it would be not be unreasonable to assume each of the seven churches immediately copied the letter in order to have a written record on hand of what they are to do.

Obviously, the ending would also apply to anyone making a copy. In his commentary Gerald L. Stevens says:

A curse formula is invoked about the maintaining the integrity of the contents. In the ancient world, books were at the hands of copyists, and formulaic endings like this were common to try to forestall temptation to taper with the words. The Letter of Aristeas purports to relate the production of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. The author records the following at the conclusion of the project.

"And when the whole company ex[pressed their approval, they bade them pronounce a curse in accordance with their custom upon any one who should make any alteration either by adding anything or changing in any way whatever any of the words which had been written or making any omission. This was a very wise precaution to ensure that the book might be preserved for all the future time unchanged." (Aristeas 311).1

However, translating a copy from the original Greek to any other language cannot be done with the same word-for-word precision. This is a result of the differences inherent in different languages which makes translating without adding or subtracting impossible.

Conclusion
The instruction applies directly to hearing and reading and, by implication, to making copies in the Greek language. It does not directly apply to translating the Greek into English, or any other language. However, the primary emphasis of Revelation is on "keeping" and doing what it says. So the instruction indirectly applies to all translations; to the extent a translation failed to correctly convey what a reader and hearer is supposed to do, the "curses" at the end apply.

With respect to the imagery in Revelation 12:15, the primary object is water which is not usually symbolic with the word. However, the church at Ephesus might make such a connection:

that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word
(Ephesians 5:26)

If the water which comes from the serpent is symbolic of a counterfeit attempt to "wash" the followers of the beast (or serpent), then it is more likely it is a false gospel, not a poor translation of Revelation.

The important connection in Chapter 12 is with "keeping" the commandments:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep (τηροῦντες) what is written in it, for the time is near. (1:3)

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep (τηρούντων) the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus... (12:17)

The emphasis is on keeping the commandments, doing what is written. This may require more or less words in English to properly convey. Moreover, unless there is a global conversion to the English language (a reversal of the Tower of Babel), there would not be one standardized "word of mouth" transmission for everyone to follow.

If the ending (and beginning) of Revelation is used to critique the plethora of works, it would be on the over emphasis given to those texts which have no direct practical value. So much of what is written about Revelation is on what will happen, to the detriment of communicating what one is supposed to do at all times, regardless of what happens.


1. Gerald L. Stevens, Revelation, The Past and Future of John's Apocalypse, Pickwick Publications, 2014, p. 557

1

It appears you are asking two different questions. I will try to answer them one at a time.

Revelation 22:18-19?... No, this passage is not talking about translations or several translations in any language. This passage is referring to the same kind of thing Deuteronomy 4:2 is referring to...

"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (KJV)

The important part is "that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" The reason you do not want to "add unto" or "take away" or "diminish" from the Word of God; is that God wants you to understand Him and follow Him appropriately.

The purpose of translation is so that more people can understand. I often refer to multiple English translations when reading the scriptures. This helps me gain a great perspective on what God is trying to say.

I will admit that there are some English translations I do not prefer. The greater danger is not the number of translations but the number of interpretations that can lead us astray.

Revelations 12:15-17?... No, the "help" the earth provides is not referring to the banning of printed Bibles. Your question also suggests that this "help" is bad.

There are two main charters in this chapter, the great red dragon, and the woman. The great red dragon is the Devil (Rev 12:9). The woman represents different women throughout the history of the world (Eve and Mary) but generally refers to humankind. And more specifically to "the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev 12:17, KJV)

So the devil is bad, and the woman is good. In verse 15, the serpent (the devil) causes a flood from his mouth; this flood is BAD. Verse 16, the earth "helps" the woman; this help is GOOD.

I do see where you are coming from though. The "flood" out of the devil's mouth could be, to cause confusion and lead the children of God astray. Like I said before, the many English translations do not necessarily confuse; it is the interpretations thereof. I would argue that the many different churches are more of the problem or "flood" in creating confusion.

The reason I say the "help" is GOOD is that it aids humankind (the woman) and angers the dragon (the devil).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.