“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:18-19‬.

What is the scope of the author's warning here? Does it mean God’s purpose of redemption can run into ruin with Christian scribes carrying over a gloss or conflation with the existing manuscripts, which are God’s Word? What about Parablepsis?

  • 1
    It's good to have a question properly anchoring on Rev 22:18-19, and asking what it means in context. I'm a little surprised that nobody seems to have asked that before, though there was one similar question asking whether it referred to Bible translations.
    – Steve can help
    Oct 5, 2021 at 7:39
  • @ Steve Taylor I heartedly agree, context is key. I’ve always wanted to know this answer though! I saw that other post, yeah. I wanted to make sure I didn’t do a “copy” question. This question has more to do with salvation & textual criticism.
    – Cork88
    Oct 5, 2021 at 7:51

4 Answers 4


Parablepsis means:

A circumstance in which a scribe miscopies text due to inadvertently looking to the side while copying, or accidentally skips over some of it.

1 Samuel 16:

7b People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

Does Revelation 22:18-19 threaten Christian Scribes salvation in terms of a parablepsis?

No, I don't think God would punish a person eternally for accidental mistakes.

Biblical gloss:

A gloss is a brief notation, especially a marginal one or an interlinear one, of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text or in the reader's language if that is different.

A gloss is an intentional addition, obviously so. It is not meant to disguise itself as part of the original writing.

Revelation‬ ‭22:18:

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things

i.e., intentionally to pretend to be the part of the original writing

God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book

Does Revelation 22:18-19 threaten Christian Scribes salvation in terms of a Gloss?

No, a gloss by definition is an obvious addition, not considered to be part of the original.

  • Well spoken, thanks Tony! Makes sense to me.
    – Cork88
    Oct 5, 2021 at 17:18
  • Glad to be of service :)
    – user35953
    Oct 5, 2021 at 17:20


The critical variable here is intent. Jesus expressed the significant difference between knowingly doing something incorrect versus incorrect action through ignorance:

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47-48)

The Lord mercifully judges us by our thoughts & intents, rather than just (potentially deceptive) appearances:

7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)



Let us consider 3 possibilities:

  1. A scribe unintentionally makes a mistake. As already noted by Tony Chan, parablepsis is accidental, not intentional. The same could be said of many other transcription errors. According to the verses cited above, this may indeed have great consequences, but it is not an intentional denigration of God's words, and would not be treated by God as such.

  2. A gloss that is clearly intended as a marginal note. Christians have a very long history of adding marginal notes to their scriptures in order to help them see application, remember certain relevant events/teachings, or make connections. While I recognize that some see this practice as inappropriate (and I can respect that), I do not see any scriptural indication that this is sinful. Would footnotes and commentaries be sinful too?

    I see a significant difference between writing a note in the margin of my scriptures for my personal use, versus claiming that the marginal note should be part of the scriptural text.

  3. Intentionally presenting one's own words as the words of another author without authority/permission to do so (e.g. I exclude from this possibility cases where NT writers paraphrased the OT--if they had authority to write what they wrote, God was presumably ok with the paraphrase)--this could be seen as a violation of the 3rd commandment: claiming to speak the words of God, in the name of God, but having no authority to do so. This appears to be the case most applicable to the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 (see also the comparable warning in Deut. 4:2)


It gets complicated

The 3 possibilities above are straightforward, but sometimes it gets messier than this.

It is a common scholarly view that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 originated as a gloss (perhaps written into the margin of an early copy by a scribe--let's call him scribe 1) that was not part of the letter approved by Paul. A later writer (let's call him scribe 2) incorporated the gloss into the body of the text, and later generations did not realize these 2 verses were interpolations.

Was this an act of wrong-doing? We cannot know for certain the intent of the people involved. Graciously, it is God, who does know their intent, who will be the judge.

Perhaps scribe 1 was trying to insert his views into Paul's letter; perhaps he was making a note about what he believed that he never intended to have published in Paul's name. Perhaps scribe 2 knew better but added a text he liked to the epistle willfully. Perhaps scribe 2 made an honest mistake.



It is my view that textual criticism gives us reason to believe that some manuscript errors were made entirely by accident, and some were intentional. Some may involve a bit of both. God knows the intentions of the heart and will take them into account.

We don't have to wait until Revelation to know that God does not want people to speak in His name without His permission--this is clearly established all the way back in the Torah (e.g. Exodus 20:7)

Appendix--"this book"

Sometimes this passage is stretched to mean something it was never intended to mean--which is quite ironic given the content of the passage.

"This book" refers to the book of Revelation, not the Bible. This is evident from:

  • Chronology (the Bible as a compilation of 66/73 books didn't exist yet when Revelation was written in the 1st century). Furthermore, Revelation probably wasn't the last book of the Bible to be written
  • Deut. 4:2 makes a similar claim--if it signified the end of God's words (as opposed to applying it just to the Torah), all but the first 5 books of the Bible would have to be discarded. The Sadducees & Samaritans might be okay with that, but Jesus was not.

This subject is discussed further in my post here. If we're looking for a statement that God is forever done speaking, the Bible has none to offer. If we're looking for a universal prohibition against speaking in the name of God without authority, the Lord gave it in the 10 commandments.

  • Do you mind showing me how the internal and external evidence supports 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 originating as a gloss?
    – Cork88
    Jun 18, 2022 at 1:39
  • 1
    @Cork88 sure, the most commonly cited evidence is the gloss marking on this passage in Codex Vaticanus (4th century). A deep dive on the evidence would probably need to be a separate question. Some related material: this existing question may not be identical to what you are asking but shares some of the relevant analysis. I also have a video on my channel that offers a synopsis of 4 arguments against the authenticity of those 2 verses. Jun 18, 2022 at 18:30
  • Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jun 19, 2022 at 11:32
  • Those scholars must be fake who think Cor 14.34 is a textual interpolation (without evidence) coz there are many other similar passage commanding silence for the women. The link you mentioned in it is dead. They will have to reject many passages the same way
    – Michael16
    Jun 21, 2022 at 3:26
  • @Michael16 thanks for the heads up on the bad link--it's a shame, it was a good article too. If I can get around to answering Cork88 on the follow up question on textual criticism I'll add it as a link to this post. Scholars disagree all the time, but if, for sake of argument, 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an interpolation, that doesn't necessarily say anything one way or the other on 1 Tim. 2, which would have to be examined on its own merits. Jun 21, 2022 at 4:31

REV 22:18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,

The key word in this passage is prophecy. Remember what prophecy is - it is God speaking. Yes, God needs to speak through man.

There has always been a consequence for false prophecy.

DEUT 18:20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

Therefore the verses you quote from Revelation fit right in with Torah. One issue is that theologians have failed to understand the seriousness of both ignoring and failing to heed prophecy. The parable of the 10 virgins has many interpretations, and is used to support a variety of preaching points - and - not to necessity to distract from these, the point was that ‘prophecy’ (in Hebraic thinking) is [always] seen as ‘light’.

And, blasphemy is seen as ignoring prophecy. In Matthew 12, Jesus had just performed the final Messianic sign that was prophesied that only the Messiah would be able to perform (cast a demon out of a mute person) - and that resulted in that generation committing an unpardonable act!

‘Messing’ with prophecy is, and has serious consequences!


The curse is not directed to minor unintentional scribal errors, but about deliberate interpolation, corruption. It seems the author is worried if someone may corrupt the message during the copying and distribution to the churches. This warning also indicates the author consider this a very valuable book of prophecy as scriptures. Perhaps the urgent nature of the impending doom requires the warning. The scholars say, this shouldn't be seen as a unique warning, but reminiscence of the traditional warnings against interpolation, misinterpretation, disobedience etc.

[Deut 4:1-2 ESV] “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

Deut 12:32 ​“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

Revelation 3:3 ​Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools comments:

If any man shall add &c.] Deu 4:2; Deu 12:32. The parallel of those passages proves, that the curse denounced is on those who interpolate unauthorised doctrines in the prophecy, or who neglect essential ones; not on transcribers who might unadvisedly interpolate or omit something in the true text. The curse, if understood in the latter sense, has been remarkably ineffective, for the common text of this book is more corrupt, and the true text oftener doubtful, than in any other part of the N. T. But it may be feared that additions and omissions in the more serious sense have also been frequently made by rash interpreters. It is certain that the curse is designed to guard the integrity of this Book of the Revelation, not to close the N. T. canon. It is not even certain that this was the last written of the canonical books.

Craig Keener in The IVP Bible Background commentary:

Rev 22:18-19. The words of a divinely instituted covenant or book were not to be altered (Deut 4:2; 12:32; cf. Prov 30:5-6). Covenants often included curses against those who broke them; those who followed idols thus invited all the curses of Deuteronomy (29:20, 27). Such claims of completeness or inspiration of books were often made in later times (e.g., 1 Enoch; Josephus and *Letter of Aristeas made this claim for the *LXX) to uphold their authority or to secure them against later editors interpolating their own ideas—a practice common in books that were not treated as sacred Scripture or other inspired writings.

Aristeas, Letter of. The pseudepigraphic story of seventy wise translators of the Septuagint (LXX) and how they impressed the ruler of Egypt. An Alexandrian document probably from the second century B.C., it seeks to portray Judaism in a positive light to Greeks.

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