Thunker’s Weblog

Revelations 21-22

Robert Wheadon-126x150

I’ve been reading a newly published volume from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.  Entitled, “Apocalypse – Reading Revelation 21-22.”  Edited by Julie M. Smith, the book captures lectures by six LDS scholars from a 2009 Mormon Theology Seminar.  I’ll be writing some thoughts on each of the six lectures.  You can also find past Mormon Theology Seminar blogs at The blog posts are additional comment and thoughts by the presenters than are found in the published volume.  I recommend reading both the blog content and the book lectures. There are some thought-provoking posts on Alma 32, D&C 42, 2 Nephi 26-27, Genesis 2-3 and 2 Nephi 2.  The Mormon Theology Seminar is currently headed by LDS philosophy professor, Adam S. Miller.  For those who have read Dr. Miller’s work, you know that there is going to be some great material here to give one’s brain cells a good workout.

Ready?  The first lecture is entitled “A Book or a Tree? A Textual Variant in Revelation 22:19,” by Kevin Barney.  The verse examined in this paper and the variant being examined is easily seen:

Here is the KJV:  19 “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Here is the NRSV: 19″if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

Here is the NIV: 19 “And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”

It is easily discernible that the variant exists between the use of the word, “book of life,” in the KJV, and “tree of life,” in more modern translations.  Kevin Barney’s article does a great job at reviewing the history of the KJV translation, going from Erasmus up to the KJV translators.

Kevin Barney does a good job in reviewing usage of the “tree of life,” motif in Book of Mormon, (see 1 Nephi 15:22, 28.)  He also compares the usage of the phrase, “book of life,” and references Egyptian funerary practices.

Barney also references the mention of the “tree of life,” in the book of Proverbs, (see Proverbs 3:18,) and ties this usage with the Israelite worship of Asherah and Wisdom.

He also brings in a bit of textual analysis.  In the Latin, which Erasmus used to produce his Greek translation, the Latin for book is libro, while the Latin for tree is ligno.  Is the variant merely a product of clerical error?  A follower of Bart Ehrman or Bruce Metzger might pursue that line of thinking.

Finally, the article follows the path of modern translations, agreeing that “tree,” is the appropriate translation.  Both variants evoke the need for followers of Jesus Christ to live purely to either have their names written in the book of life or to be led to the tree of life and partake of the clean, pure fruit that “…the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (1 Nephi 15:36.)




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Since I took 7 years of Latin, I appreciate this insight on the verse in Revelations. Thanks so much.

Comment by Sydney Wheadon

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