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The NLT translation goes like this:

And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.

The NRSVUE translation goes like this:

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.

I'm not a native English speaker but I think the NLT should have gone like this:

... And they did not love their lives so much that they were NOT afraid to die.

Other translation agrees with NRSVUE. Am I missing something? PS: I'm offline most of the time so expect slow replies.

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    The NLT translation is not as good as, say, the KJV. and they loved not their lives unto the death. or Young's Literal and they did not love their life -- unto death;. But it is much better than your own translation which is a confusing double negative.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 4:08
  • Here's a suggestion for you. Check out Bible Gateway for multiple translations: biblegateway.com/verse/en/Revelation%2012:11 You can also specify a translation in your native language from the ALL option at the top of the translations dropdown list. Hope this helps.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 19 at 15:35

2 Answers 2

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The NLT translation is perfectly grammatical. As already mentioned, you are trying to introduce a double negative, which would confuse the sentence.

I think I can help by spelling out how the translation matches the meaning.

The basic premise is that IF they loved their lives excessively, THEN they would be afraid to die.

The meaning of the text, as translated, is that they did NOT love their lives excessively, to the point of being afraid to die.

What you need to appreciate is that the "not" in the first half of the sentence also covers the second half of the sentence. The first half of the sentence prevents the possibility being described in the second. The negative that you want to insert is already there.

If you insert a second "not", then you reverse the meaning. You end up saying, in effect "IF they had loved their lives, they would NOT have been afraid to die. But since they did not love their lives, that allowed them to be scared."

English grammar is very strict on the effect of double negatives.

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You're absolutely right, the NLT translation of Revelation 12:11 contains a mistake in the final phrase. The original Greek indicates that the saints/believers mentioned did NOT love their lives so much that they would avoid death.

The key phrase in Greek is:

οὐκ ἠγάπησαν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτῶν ἄχρι θανάτου

Which is more literally translated as:

"They did not love their lives unto death" or "They did not love their souls unto death."

This matches translations like the NRSVUE, ESV, NASB, etc. that correctly convey the sense of not clinging to life or avoiding death.

The NLT's phrase of "they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die" flips the meaning around to almost the opposite. As you noted, it should be "they were NOT afraid to die."

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    I know of only one Bible translation that renders Revelation12:11 as "they did not love their souls even in the face of death" (the New World Translation). Every other translation I have looked at says "they did not love their lives unto death" (or similar). Which translations say "they did not love their souls unto death? I ask because they were facing physical death, not the death of their souls.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 13:16
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    The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) says: "And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even in the face of death." The Wycliffe Bible (WYC) says: “And they overcame him for the blood of the lamb, and for the word of his witnessing; and they loved not their lives unto death.” The Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) says: “and they did overcome him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life – unto death.” Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 13:18
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    The word “souls” in these translations is based on the Greek word ψυχή (psyche), which can mean life, soul, or self, depending on the context. Some translators may have chosen to use “souls” to emphasize the spiritual aspect of the martyrs’ sacrifice, or to contrast it with the physical death they faced. However, other translators may have preferred to use “lives” to avoid confusion with the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, which is not supported by the Bible. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 13:18
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    I appreciate your speedy response. The NWT is therefore saying those saints were not afraid that their souls would die if they physically died? I don't wish to go off topic here but I find it strange that no other Bible translates 'psyche' here as soul. Perhaps another question is needed to drill into this aspect of Revelation 12:11.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 13:34
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 14:13

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