Article: Revelation 22:19 Book of Life or Tree of Life? by Will Kinney

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Revelation 22:19 Book of Life or Tree of Life?


"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."


Rather than saying "book of life", versions like the RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV, Holman Christian Standard, Jehovah Witness New World Translation, and the Catholic versions read: "God will take away his share in the TREE of life."


It should be noted that there are several textual differences found in just the last few verses of Revelation, and that not even the modern versions agree among themselves.


For instance, in verses 20 and 21, the King James Bible as well as the Majority of all texts reads: "EVEN SO, come, Lord Jesus." However Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus omit the word for "even so", and so do the NASB, NIV, ESV, and Holman Standard.


Again, in 21 in the KJB we read: "The grace of our Lord Jesus CHRIST be with YOU ALL. AMEN." Here the word CHRIST is found in the Majority of all texts, but again Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus omit it, and so do the NASB, NIV, ESV, and Holman Standard.


Then in the very last part of the last verse of Revelation, where the KJB says: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with YOU ALL, AMEN", here Sinaiticus is different from all other texts, reading "with THE SAINTS". The Revised Version, the American Standard Version, and the Revised Standard Version all read "with the SAINTS" (following Sinaiticus) while the NIV paraphrases the Sinaiticus reading as "with GOD'S PEOPLE".


However the NASB 1995 and the new 2001 ESV (English Standard Version) now reject Sinaiticus and go with Alexandrinus instead, which says: "with ALL" and omits the word "you". But wait. The even newer ISV (International Standard Version), and the upcoming Holman Christian Standard have once again gone back to the Sinaiticus reading of "with the saints". The modern versions don't even agree among themselves.


It is more than a tad hypocritical of Bible correctors to criticize the King James reading "book of life", when the two other variant readings adopted by the conflicting modern versions of "with all" and "with the saints" are found ONLY in ONE manuscript each and, according to the UBS textual apparatus, not in any other ancient version or quoted by any church father.


Regarding the final word AMEN, manuscript Alexandrinus omits this word, but it is found in the Majority of all texts as well as Sinaiticus, but this time the NASB, ESV chose to reject the Alexandrinus manuscript they had just followed, and went back to the Sinaiticus they had previously rejected and now include the word Amen!


Do the modern versions always follow the Majority reading? Not at all. In fact they reject the Majority readings literally thousands of times. Do they always follow Sinaiticus? No, not at all. They continually pick and choose among the various readings; do not always agree with each other, and their own printed Greek texts found in Nestle-Aland or the United Bible Society editions are constantly changing every few years.


I have written a series of examples of the so called "Science" of Textual Criticism, showing that it is more along the lines of Hocus Pocus than a genuine science. Be sure to see all sections for a real eye opener into the real nature of this bizarre, ever changing, pseudo-science the scholars love so much.


http://brandplucked.webs.com/scienceoftextcrit.htm


Many anti-King James Bible critics bring up "the book of life" as found in Revelation 22:19 as an error. One well known such critic is Doug Kutilek.


I have included only extracts from his main arguments, but I am by no means misrepresenting his views. Men like Mr. Kutilek have no inspired, complete, inerrant Bible and they often resort to personal opinion presented as fact, and outright falsehood as though it were irrefutable evidence. Let's read some of what he has to say and then we will respond to his criticisms.


In Mr. Kutilek's article he says there are "a number of unique readings in Erasmus' texts, that is, readings which are found in no known Greek manuscript but which are nevertheless found in the editions of Erasmus. One of these is the reading "book of life" in Revelation 22:19. All known Greek manuscripts here read "tree of life" instead of "book of life" as in the textus receptus. Where did the reading "book of life" come from? When Erasmus was compiling his text, he had access to only one manuscript of Revelation, and it lacked the last six verses, so he took the Latin Vulgate and back-translated from Latin to Greek. Unfortunately, the copy of the Vulgate he used read "book of life," unlike any Greek manuscript of the passage, and so Erasmus introduced a "unique" Greek reading into his text."


First of all, Mr. Kutilek says there are no Greek manuscripts that read "book of life". He is flat out wrong about this. Dr. Thomas Holland, Jack Moorman, Dr. H.C. Hoskier and many others have documented the textual evidence that exists for the reading of "book of life" as found in Revelation 22:19.


Dr. Holland responds to this charge. You can see an excerpt from his book Crowned with Glory here: http://av1611.com/kjbp/faq/holland_re22_19.html


There this question is posed and Dr. Holland responds:


Question: "If the Textus Receptus is the error free text, then why are the last six verses of Revelation absent from the TR, yet present in the KJV? Did you know that for these verses, the Latin Vulgate was translated into English - a translation of a translation?


Dr. Holland replies: "The "TR" has the last six verses of Revelation in it. It is found in the editions of Erasmus, Beza, Stephanus, and the Elzevir brothers.


Codex 1r, which was used by Erasmus, was missing Revelation 22:16-21. The standard teaching is that Erasmus went back to the Latin Vulgate for these verses and re-translated them into Greek. However, Dr. H. C. Hoskier disagreed by demonstrating that Erasmus used the Greek manuscript 141 which contained the verses. (Concerning The Text Of The Apocalypse, London: Quaritch, 1929, vol. 1, pp. 474-77, vol. 2, pp. 454,635.)


Regardless, the textual support for these verses is not limited to the Latin Vulgate. They are also found in the Old Latin manuscripts, additional early translations such as the Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Ethiopic, and some later Greek manuscripts.


Regarding the Greek, it should be pointed out that even today there is not a great deal of textual support for the verses in question. For example, of the early papyri there are no manuscripts of Revelation 22, or for that matter of Revelation chapters 18-22. Further, among the uncials, only five have Revelation chapter 22, and only four of these contain the last six verses (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, 046, and 051). There are several minuscules which have been discovered which contain these verses (94, 1611, 1854, 1859, 2042, and 2138 to name a few).


Of course, the biggest "change" comes in verse 19. Dr. Hoskier has shown that Greek manuscripts 57 and 141 read with the Latin in stating "book of life" and not "tree of life" as found in Sinaiticus and most other Greek mss. There are, of course, other witnesses to the reading found in the KJV here. For example, the Old Bohairic Coptic version also reads "book of life." Additionally, we have patristic citations from Ambrose (340-397 AD), Bachiarius (late fourth century), and Primasius in his commentary on Revelation in 552 AD. Thus, we have evidence of the KJV reading dating from before the Vulgate and maintained throughout Church history in a variety of geographical locations and various languages."


Dr. Thomas Holland


Mr. Jack Moorman, in his book "When the KJV Departs from the 'Majority' Text", says the reading of "book of life" is also found in the Coptic Boharic, the Arabic, the Speculum, Pseudo-Agustine and written as such in the Latin of Adrumentum 552, Andreas of Cappadocia, 614 Haaymo, Halberstadt, Latin 841. "Book of life" is found in the Greek manuscripts of # 296, 2049, and in the margin of 2067.


Libro (book) is the reading of the Latin mss. Codex Fuldensis (sixth century); Codex Karolinus (ninth century); Codex Oxoniensis (twelfth to thirteenth century); Codex Ulmensis (ninth century); Codex Uallicellanus (ninth century); Codex Sarisburiensis (thirteenth century); and the corrector of Codex Parisinus (ninth century)."


Andreas of Caesarea in Cappadocia (5th or 6th century) was a Greek theological writer and bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. His principal work is a commentary on the Book of Revelation (Patrologia Graeca CVI, 215-458, 1387-94). It is the oldest surviving commentary on that book of the Bible, and a primary source, from which most of its later commentators have drawn. Andreas stands out from the majority of Byzantine commentators by his extensive acquaintance with early patristic literature.


We do have an Andreas reference given in Horae Apocalypticae, by Edward Bishop Elliott. Vol.4 (1852)


http://www.historicism.com/Elliott/Appendix1-3.htm


In his concluding summary Andreas states very distinctly his view of the Apocalypse being a prophecy of the things that were to happen from Christ’s first coming even to the consummation. In the section of Revelation 22:18-19 Andreas comments on the sin of adding to, or taking from divine Scripture, and he understands the passage as referring not only to the book of Apocalypse but to the whole revealed counsel of God.


Notice how he quotes Revelation 22:18-19. “ For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: (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 (not “tree of life”), and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”


Secondly, Mr. Kutilek is very misleading when he says that Erasmus had no Greek texts to consult for the ending of Revelation and so he copied from the Latin Vulgate. It is well documented that Erasmus was exceedingly well acquainted with hundreds of Greek manuscripts from his extensive travels and studies. You can read more about the vast number of manuscripts Erasmus had consulted and collected throughout his life here -http://www.angelfire.com/la2/prophet1/erasmus.html


Thirdly, in his article Mr. Kutilek also states as fact what is really unfounded conjecture when he says: "The fact that all textus receptus editions of Stephanus, Beza, et al. read with Erasmus shows that their texts were more or less slavish reprints of Erasmus' text and not independently compiled editions, for had they been edited independently of Erasmus, they would surely have followed the Greek manuscripts here and read "tree of life."


This is pure guesswork on his part. Stephanus had access to many Greek manuscripts that Erasmus did not possess, as well as Beza. For example, Stephanus mentions and John Gill confirms that the three heavenly witnesses of "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one" of 1 John 5:7 was the reading found in 9 of the 16 Greek manuscripts Stephanus used, yet we do not have any of these Greek texts today. Earlier writers like Stephanus, Calvin, Beza often make referrences to the readings of old Greek manuscripts which we no longer possess.


Fourthly, when Mr. Kutilek argues in favor of the Westcott-Hort text being based on "the oldest extant Greek manuscripts, plus the earliest of the versions or translations, as well as the early Christian writers", it seems than many "scholars" of equal learning have come to the exact opposite conclusion.


This is a direct quote from the Preface of the New King James Version by people who have attended the same seminaries and have access to the same information. Here is what they say on page vii: "The manuscript preferences cited in many contemporary translations are due to recent reliance on a relatively few manuscripts discovered in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dependence on these manuscripts, especially two, the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts, is due to the greater age of these documents.


However, in spite of their age, some scholars have reason to doubt their faithfulness to the autographs, since they often disagree with one another and show other signs of unreliability.


On the other hand, the great majority of existing manuscripts are in substantial agreement. Even though many are late, and none are earlier than the fifth century, MOST OF THEIR READINGS ARE VERIFIED BY ANCIENT PAPYRI, ANCIENT VERSIONS, AND QUOTATIONS OF THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS. This large body of manuscripts is the source of the Greek text underlying the King James Bible. It is the Greek text used by Greek-speaking churches for many centuries, presently known as the Textus Receptus, or Received Text, of the New Testament."


Even Dr. Hort of the famed Westcott Hort text said: "The fundamental Text of late extant Greek MSS generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiochian or Graeco-Syrian Text of the second half of the 4th century." (Hort, The Factor of Geneology, pg 92)


Furthermore, concerning the church Fathers, John Burgon compiled over 86,000 citations and quotes of the church Fathers and found that not only did the Textus Receptus that underlies the King James Bible exist but it predominated.


The early versions like the Old Latin contain many TR readings not found in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as does the Syriac Peshitta. And both of these predate Sinaiticus Vaticanus by 150 years.


For my article dealing with the Old Latin version which refutes Doug Kutilek's claims see -


http://brandplucked.webs.com/oldlatinkjb.htm




In summary, we see that the reading of "book of life" in Revelation does have some Greek manuscript support, as well as ancient versions and church Fathers.


The Providence of God has seen fit to place this reading in most Bibles that have been used throughout history to reach millions for Christ. These include Wycliffe 1380, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible (Cranmer 1539), the Bishops' Bible 1568, and the Geneva Bible 1557. It was also the reading found in the Douay-Rheims 1582, but the later Catholic bibles then changed it to "tree of life".


The English Hexapla of 1841 shows that "book of life" was the reading of what the author calls "the Received Text" even though he himself followed the Westcott-Hort critical text. You can see it here and the marginal note that reads "Recieved Text - book of life".


http://bible.zoxt.net/hex/_1330.htm


"Book of life" is found in Young's, Webster's, Third Millenium Bible, Green's 2000 literal version, and the New KJV. It is also the reading of the 1569 Sagradas Escrituras, and the Spanish Reina Valera versions from 1602, 1909, 1960 and 1995 used throughout the Spanish speaking world, as well as the 2004 Reina Valera Gomez translation, the French Martin 1744 and the French Ostervald 1996, the New Italian Diodati 1991 - "libro della vita" and the Modern Greek N.T. used by the Greek Orthodox churches throughout the world today.


Martin Luther's translation of 1545, using Greek texts before Stephanus' 1550 edition, also reads "book of life". I met a Russian pastor a couple years ago and asked him what his Russian Bible said here. He told me it reads book of life too.


Besides all these English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Greek bibles, I have been able to confirm that the following Bible versions also read "book of life": The Afrikaans Bible of 1953, the Albanian, the Basque New Testament (Navarro-Labourdin), the Dutch Staten Vertaling, the Hungarian Karoli, the Icelandic Bible version and the Douay-Rheims.


The Catholic versions and the Latin Vulgate also disagree among themselves, with Jerome's Vulgate and the 1950 Douay, and the Jerusalem Bible all reading "tree of life", while the older Douay-Rheims and the Clementine Vulgate both read "book of life".


As a side note, the number 7 is highly significant in the book of Revelation and in the texts that underlie the King James Bible, and the phrase "the book of life" is found 7 times. This is the number of divine perfection. In the NIV, ESV, Holman Standard and NASB it is only found 6 times. Six is the number man, who is weak and prone to fail.


Mr. Kutilek closes his article by saying: "Some writers calculate the differences between the two texts at something over 5,000, though in truth a large number of these are so insignificant as to make no difference in the resulting English translation. Without making an actual count, I would estimate the really substantial variations to be only a few hundred at most. What shall we say then? Which text shall we choose as superior? We shall choose neither the Westcott-Hort text nor the textus receptus as our standard text, our text of last appeal... we refuse to be enslaved to the textual criticism opinions of either Erasmus or Westcott and Hort or for that matter any other scholars, whether Nestle, Aland, Metzger, Burgon, Hodges and Farstad, or anyone else. Rather, it is better to evaluate all variants in the text of the Greek New Testament on a reading by reading basis, that is, in those places where there are divergences in the manuscripts and between printed texts, the evidence for and against each reading should be thoroughly and carefully examined and weighed, and the arguments of the various schools of thought considered, and only then a judgment made."


Do you see where Mr. Kutilek is coming from? He is his own Final Authority. He has no inerrant, complete, inspired Bible to give you or recommend. He is like those of old of whom God says in the last verse of the book of Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25.




God shall take away his part out of the book of life; by which is meant eternal election, which is the meaning of the phrase throughout this book, in which whoever are written shall certainly be saved. The worshippers of the beast, or the antichristian party, who are chiefly regarded here, are not written in it, Revelation 13:8 wherefore taking away the part of such, is only taking away that which they seemed to have; see Luke 8:18. "Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" and the sense is, that such shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death, and will be the portion of all that are not written in the book of life, Revelation 20:15. The Alexandrian copy, one of Stephens's, and the Complutensian edition, read, "the tree of life".


Notice that he says "one of Stephen's" reads tree of life. In other words, other manuscripts that Stephens employed contained "the book of life" in Revelation 22:19, and there were at least 16 manuscripts employed by Stephanus.


Barne's Notes on the New Testament also comments on the meaning of Revelation 22:19 and the reading "book of life".


"God shall take away his part out of the book of life. Perhaps there is here an intimation that this would be most likely to be done by those who professed to be Christians, and who supposed that their names were in the book of life. In fact, most of the corruptions of the sacred Scriptures have been attempted by those who have professed some form of Christianity. Infidels have but little interest in attempting such changes, and but little influence to make them received by the church. It is most convenient for them, as it is most agreeable to their feelings, to reject the Bible altogether. When it said here that "God would take away his part out of the book of life," the meaning is not that his name had been written in that book, but that he would take away the part which he might have had, or which he professed to have in that book. Such corruption of the Divine oracles would show that they had no true religion, and would be excluded from heaven. On the phrase "book of life," See Barnes "Revelation 3:5".


Adam Clarke comments on Revelation 22:19 and "book of life" saying:


Verse 19. If any man shall take away - "If any man shall lessen this meaning, curtail the sense, explain away the spirit and design, of these prophecies, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, consider this book to beware of indulging their own conjectures concerning it. I confess that this warning has its own powerful influence upon my mind, and has prevented me from indulging my own conjectures concerning its meaning, or of adopting the conjectures of others. These visions and threatenings are too delicate and awful a subject to trifle with, or even to treat in the most solemn manner, where the meaning is obscure. I must leave these things to time and event, the surest interpreters. No jot or tittle of Christ's word shall fall to the ground; all shall have its fulfilment in due time."


Other Bible Commentators on Revelation 22:19 - John Gill, Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke


John Gill


God shall take away his part out of the book of life; by which is meant eternal election, which is the meaning of the phrase throughout this book, in which whoever are written shall certainly be saved. The worshippers of the beast, or the antichristian party, who are chiefly regarded here, are not written in it, Revelation 13:8 wherefore taking away the part of such, is only taking away that which they seemed to have; see Luke 8:18. "Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" and the sense is, that such shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death, and will be the portion of all that are not written in the book of life, Revelation 20:15. The Alexandrian copy, one of Stephens's, and the Complutensian edition, read, "the tree of life".


Notice that he says "one of Stephen's" reads tree of life. In other words, other manuscripts that Stephens employed contained "the book of life" in Revelation 22:19, and there were at least 16 manuscripts employed by Stephanus.


Albert Barne's Notes on the New Testament also comments on the meaning of Revelation 22:19 and the reading "book of life".


"God shall take away his part out of the book of life. Perhaps there is here an intimation that this would be most likely to be done by those who professed to be Christians, and who supposed that their names were in the book of life. In fact, most of the corruptions of the sacred Scriptures have been attempted by those who have professed some form of Christianity. Infidels have but little interest in attempting such changes, and but little influence to make them received by the church. It is most convenient for them, as it is most agreeable to their feelings, to reject the Bible altogether. When it said here that "God would take away his part out of the book of life," the meaning is not that his name had been written in that book, but that he would take away the part which he might have had, or which he professed to have in that book. Such corruption of the Divine oracles would show that they had no true religion, and would be excluded from heaven. On the phrase "book of life," See Barnes "Revelation 3:5".


Adam Clarke comments on Revelation 22:19 and "book of life" saying:


Verse 19. If any man shall take away - "If any man shall lessen this meaning, curtail the sense, explain away the spirit and design, of these prophecies, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, consider this book to beware of indulging their own conjectures concerning it. I confess that this warning has its own powerful influence upon my mind, and has prevented me from indulging my own conjectures concerning its meaning, or of adopting the conjectures of others. These visions and threatenings are too delicate and awful a subject to trifle with, or even to treat in the most solemn manner, where the meaning is obscure. I must leave these things to time and event, the surest interpreters. No jot or tittle of Christ's word shall fall to the ground; all shall have its fulfilment in due time."


There ultimately is no certain way of knowing what the "originals" really said, because we simply do not have them, and literally thousands of Greek copies have been lost to time and decay. The King James reading of "book of life" in Revelation 22:19 is not without textual support, be that of Greek copies, ancient versions, Latin manuscripts, early church fathers or modern English and foreign language versions.


I and many thousands of other Bible believers have come to the conclusion that God meant what He said in His Book about His preserved words.


Isaiah 40:8: "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."

Psalm 12:6-7: "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."


Psalm 138:2: "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy Truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."


Psalm 100:5: "For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."


Psalm 33:11: "The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations."


Psalm 119:152, 160: "Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever. ... Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.


Isaiah 59:21: "... My Spirit that is upon thee [Isaiah], and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever."


Matthew 5:17-18: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."


Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."


1 Peter 1:23-25: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."


John 10:35: "... the Scripture cannot be broken."


Will Kinney


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