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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.



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