Revelation 22:14 (New International Version)

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

Revelation 22:14 (King James Version)

14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Why do NIV scholars choose wash their robes as a better translation of the Greek?

  • 1
    Interesting question.One can get into a "spiritual confusion" with all the different translations.
    – Bagpipes
    Jul 13 '14 at 12:10

The existing answer already gives the essentials. This variation in reading Revelation 22:14 persists across quite a number of modern English translations.

I thought it might help to have a bit of explanation, too, especially if readers have some sense of the textual landscape for the NT. Not for nothing does the introduction to the Nestle-Aland edition point out that

The manuscript tradition for the Book of Revelation differs greatly from that of the other New Testament writings.1

The two textual traditions appear this way:


The image is taken from H.B. Swete's The Apocalypse of St. John... (3rd edn; Macmillan, 1911), p. 307.

The top line corresponds to the text adopted by the NIV, the bottom line is the KJV ("Majority") text version, or in the form typically seen in modern editions of the Greek NT:

[οἱ] πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν
      those who wash their robes
[οἱ] ποιοῦντες τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ
      those who do his commandments

How to decide which is the original reading, though? Three considerations (at least) speak in favour of the "robes" rather than "commandments" reading (in descending order of significance):

  • As noted by @fdb, the "oldest" manuscripts have this reading. The textual witnesses to the very difficult text of Revelation are fewer than in other NT books, however.2 The manuscript support for "robes" is in Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus (4th and 5th C respectively), and "about 15 minuscles", while the "commandments" reading is in the tenth C 046, most minuscles, and is reflected also in the Syriac* and Coptic tradition.
  • When John of Patmos speaks about "commandments", he uses τηρεῖν "to keep" rather than ποιεῖν "to do", as the KJV version has it. If the "commandments" reading was original, this would be an odd form of the phrase.
  • In the context of 22:12 ("...I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!"), scribes might be inclined towards prefering a "moral" sense in v. 14.

* On the Syriac, see fdb's comment following this answer.

Cumulatively, Swete was justified in writing (see reference above) that

Upon the whole, then, πλύνοντες κτλ. ["washing etc."] may with some confidence be preferred; and it yields an admirable sense."


  1. Various editions of N-A have slightly different wording of this sentence (which appears in "2. The Greek Witnesses" sub "Consistently Cited Witnesses in Revelation"), but make the same point, always citing J. Schmid, Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Apokalypse-Textes (3 vols; Munich, 1955/56). The discussion of James Moffat in the Expositor's Greek Testament (Hodder & Stoughton, 1897), vol. 5, pp. 281ff. is still well worth a read. His discussion of this precise textual point appears on p. 490, n. 2.
  2. This is the pay-off from the point in n. 1. See on this, Tobias Nicklas, "The Early Text of Revelation", in The Early Text of the New Testament ed. by C.E. Hill and M.J. Kruger (OUP, 2012), pp. 224-237.
  • 1
    I have only one remark on David’s excellent discussion: You mention the “Syriac tradition”. Please note that Revelation is not part of the Syriac canon. The version found in printed editions of the Syriac Bible is a modern translation and has no bearing on ancient textual history.
    – fdb
    Mar 16 '14 at 15:52
  • 2
    On the Syriac - almost true! There is a single 12-13 C. ms of Revelation in Syriac: see Sebastian Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition (Gorgias, 2006), on p. 50.
    – Dɑvïd
    Mar 16 '14 at 16:07
  • Yes, and as Brock says, very likely not part of the Philoxenian translation.
    – fdb
    Mar 16 '14 at 16:27
  • Thanks for your answer. I must admit, the 3rd point does not make sense to me. Could you elaborate on what you mean and why this supports the "robes" translation?
    – jlaverde
    Mar 21 '17 at 15:28
  • On the matter of the "odd form of the phrase" for John, an old reading of 1 John 5:2 has John using the odd word (καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ ποιῶμεν "and his commandments we do"), the word apparently harmonized in later manuscripts to read τηρῶμεν "we keep" instead. It may not have been all that odd a form for John. As for myself, I am beginning to suspect that neither reading may be the original. I've been working on a reconstruction that may best explain the rise of both readings. (It is nothing more than a work in progress, so I don't know that I even should have mentioned it.) Sep 7 '18 at 2:27

Could it mean...that "washing their robes" IS "doing the Commandments of God? After all, the Pauline Epistles --written to the Church--tell us that we CANNOT attain righteousness by keeping the Law; It is by washing the "robes" of our Selves, in His blood, that we gain acceptance by God. RER

  • Welcome to BiblicalHermaneutics.SE. Unlike other sites (e.g. Quora), StackExchange answers are meant to be factual and authoritative, something one might hope to find in a secular encyclopedia. Your answer contains mostly conjecture and opinion, not researched facts or references, and so isn't appropriate here. It also fails to directly address the original question. Please take the time to take the tour and read about how this site is different from others. Jun 18 '19 at 13:47
  • The Book of Revelation is thought to have been written about 95 AD. When the author is speaking about God's commandments here, he is mainly speaking about the commandments of the New Testament; "Love one another" and "Crucify your flesh". The first one was given by Jesus and the second by Paul, although Jesus also told us to "carry our cross". Jul 18 '19 at 13:39

Revelation 22:14

The provenance of the Sinaitic group of manuscripts is poor. If, as is supposed they were copied for Emperor Constantine by professional copyists in north Africa, it is unlikely that Greek was their mother tongue. Also speed and profit might have figured highly. These factors would account for the many blunders the marginal attempts at corrections and discrepancies between the sister copies.

The provenance of the Patriarchal text is superior. The copyists on the Mount Athol peninsular were committed and devout. Greek would be their mother tongue. Their work was open to peer correction and the Koine Greek was even used down the centuries in their liturgy.

Also John, who was in Patmos having been arrested in Ephesus, would be fluent in Greek, Greek being the mother tongue of Asia Minor. Revelation 1:9 I John, ... was in the isle that is called Patmos,.... (AV)

The Patriarchal text reads: Μακάριοι οἱ ποιοῦντες τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ, Blest are those who do His commandments,


  • Hey Allan, welcome to BHSE! If you have time, please take the tour to get yourself familiar with this site and to see how we are different than other forums. Thanks! hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour
    – sara
    Aug 16 '19 at 10:43

Christianity mostly took away the 4th commandment so they leave out as much as possible about observing it.They changed Fathers Holy Day the Sabbath into Sunday worship. We know also that the Catholic church took out the commandment not to make idols.

The real truth is if people do not observe every commandment "they will not be eating form the tree of life. KJ bible 22:14 "Blessed are those who do his commandments they have the RIGHT to the tree of life.

We know once we come to "Yahsuah Ha Mashiach (jesus) we are grafted onto as branches to the nation of Israel, we are now seeds of Abraham. Both Jew greek, American Aussie,Africian, who ever accepts the Messiah must follow the commandments or they will not be written in the book of life.

Revelations says if anyone adds or takes away the plagues in the bible will be added to them.

  • I'm very grateful for your participation here. We're a little different from a forum, so do take the site tour if you haven't already. Answers are expected to have informed argument, cite evidence (primary and secondary). You may want to see What are we looking for in answers?. May 5 '15 at 3:22

These are variant readings. The translators of the KJV followed the Textus Receptus of 1550 (οι ποιουντες τας εντολας αυτου). Modern translators follow the oldest manuscripts (οι πλυνοντες τας στολας αυτων).

Reference: Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum Graece, editio octava critica major, Vol. II 1872, Rev. 22:14.

  • 1
    the other answer shows the level of effort we expect in answers here. This falls short. Showing your work takes work.
    – Dan
    Mar 16 '14 at 17:39

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