|Article No. 38
Revelation 22:14 "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life".
The Roman Catholic Douay Version has, "Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb". This reading is based on the Latin Vulgate in the form of text authorised by Pope Sixtus V in 1590 and Pope Clement VIII in 1592, and is reproduced by Roman Catholic versions in other languages. The words "in the blood of the Lamb" are shown by Wordsworth and White's critical edition to be supported here by only one early Vulgate manuscript, the Book of Armagh (A.D. 812), and are probably not part of the original Latin Vulgate .
The substitution of "wash their robes" for "do his commandments" was adopted by textual critics of the 19th and 20th centuries and is now found in many modern versions. It has proved attractive to many conservative evangelicals because of a mistaken fear that the old reading savoured of justification by works. The same could be said of the words of our Lord - "If ye love me, keep my commandments", but we know that our Lord did not teach justification by works. John emphasises the truth that those who are brought to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ are given a desire to do His will. "He that saith I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him".
Both readings contain true statements, but we desire to be sure that we set down in the printed Scriptures an accurate representation of the words of the Holy Spirit, and not the product of an ancient scribal error. There is a close similarity in the Greek between PLUNONTES TAS STOLAS AUTON (wash their robes), and POIOUNTES PAS ENTOLAS AUTOU (do his commandments), The unfamiliar appearance of POIOUNTES ("do" rather than "keep") may have led a scribe, whether or not deliberately, to adopt the other form of wording, and so produce the prototype of the manuscripts which underlie the modern rendering "wash their robes".
Whatever may be the explanation of the origin of the different readings, there is no doubt that the majority of the manuscripts of the Revelation now available to Biblical scholars have "do his commandments". The preference among many scholars for the other reading may be traced to the presence of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus among the group supporting it. These two documents are not uniformly reliable, and in fact they differ from each other in hundreds of passages.
The documents which support "wash their robes" are: Codex Sinaiticus of the 4th century, Codex Alexandrinus of the 5th, the Coptic (Sahidic), Ethiopic and Latin Vulgate versions of the 4th - 6th; five Old Latin manuscripts of the 9th - 13th; about fifteen cursive Greek copies, including 104 and 1006 of the 11th century; 2053 of the 12th, and 2020 of the 15th. This rendering is quoted in the writings of Athanasius A.D. 373, Fulgentius 533, Apringius 551, Primasius 552, Ps. Ambrose 6th century, and Haymo 841.
The manuscripts which support "do his commandments" constitute the great majority of the available documents, including: quotations by Tertullian A.D. 220, Cyprian 258, Tyconius 380, Andrew 614, Aerthas 914; the Harkelian and Philoxenian Syriac of the 6th and 7th centuries; the Coptic (Bohairic), 3rd-4th century; the Armenian version of the 5th century; the uncial Greek 046 of the 10th century, and cursives 1, 82, 94, 1611, 1854, 1859, 2042, 2065, 2073, 2138, 2329, 2432, and more than one hundred and fifty others. This reading is attested from A.D. 220 right up to the invention of printing. The quotation of Tertullian must have been taken from a manuscript at least a hundred years, possibly a hundred and fifty years older than Codex Sinaiticus.
We conclude that while the reading, "wash their robes" does not introduce a false doctrine, the preponderating evidence of the manuscripts supports the old reading, "do his commandments",
The words of Revelation 22:14 are an echo of John 14:15; 14:21; 15:10 and 14; and Matthew 12:50; These verses do not imply that eternal life is the reward of obedience, but that the redeemed are given grace to walk in the path of the Lord's commandments, Revelation 7:14 has already declared that the multitude of the redeemed "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb". In Revelation 22:14 the inspired Apostle describes the redeemed as "they that do His commandments", This is the testimony of their life and conduct before men, and distinguishes them from those described in Revelation 22:11 as "unjust" (unrighteous) and "filthy".
If we adopt the new reading in this passage we shall bring our New Testament into line with all of the Roman Catholic versions and all of the "liberal" modern versions; but although the new reading
testifies to the cleansing Blood of the Lamb, we are not at liberty to add to or alter the inspired revelation, and the evidence offered in favour of this change is of insufficient weight to justify it.
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