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Jews And Gentiles in Revelation

While translating Revelation 5:8-14 this week I came across something that I may have heard before, but I don’t remember when. It stuck out to me, so I thought I’d share it with you.

In v. 8 the Lamb takes the scroll and the four living things plus the twenty-four elders fall before Him and, in v. 9-10, sing:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; because you were slaughtered and you bought for God, with your blood, people from every tribe and language and people and nation and you made them for our God a kingdom and priests, and they will rule upon the earth.  [Rev 5:9-10, italics added]

At the end of v. 9 people from every tribe (φυλῆς), language, people, and nation (ἔθνους) were bought by the Lamb. The word I translated as tribe, φυλῆς, is a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, whereas the word translated as nation, ἔθνους, is a reference to foreign peoples, such as Gentiles.

There is the possibility that you could translate both φυλῆς and ἔθνους generically as nation, but I do not think this would make sense given that the passage would then mean “people from every nation and language and people and nation.” I think John is drawing distinctions between the four types of people he mentions, otherwise we should see ἔθνους by itself without φυλῆς.

In just reading through this casually I would have missed out on the reference in Revelation to Jews and Gentiles being bought by the Lamb. I’m thankful for the (developing) ability to read and study in Greek.

MSE

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