Rev. 20:5: "The rest of the dead..." an ADDITION?

by Ingenuous 9 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Ingenuous

    I've just finished reading C. T. Russell's "Divine Plan of the Ages". He makes a comment about Revelation 20:5 in a footnote:

    In this verse, the words, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" are spurious. They are not found in the oldest and most reliable Greek MSS, the Sinaitic, Vatican Nos. 1209 and 1160, nor the Syriac MS. We must remember that many passages found in the modern copies are additions which do not properly belong to the Bible. Since commanded not to add to the Word of God, it is our duty to repudiate such additions as soon as their spurious character is established. The words indicated probably crept into the text by accident, in the fifth century; for no MS of earlier date (either Greek or Syriac) contains this clause. It was probably at first merely a marginal comment made by a reader, expressive of his thought upon the text, and copied into the body of the text by some subsequent transcriber who failed to distinguish between the text and the comment.

    Does anyone have - or know where I can find - more info on this verse? Is there a translation available which is free of scriptures assumed to have been added after the close of the canon? Or (considering how unlikely that may be) at least a comprehensive reference noting alleged "additions"?

  • Leolaia

    You have raised a very good question.

    Pastor Russell's confidence that Revelation 20:5a is "spurious" is not shared by most critical scholars. The passage is not omitted in the critical editions of Nestle-Aland 27, Westcott-Hort UBS 4, and Tischendorf 8, and it is rendered in nearly all translations, including the NWT (which does note in a footnote the textual disparity). It is interesting that a web search on "Revelation 20:5" and "interpolation" mostly turns up old Watchtower and later Bible Student (i..e Dawn Bible Students) material.

    The critical judgment may however err in excessive conservativism, a reluctance to judge a passage spurious if it does not meet a certain burden of proof, and many probable interpolations are not detectable by text-critical methods and thus are present in critical editions. My own personal opinion is that the evidence is almost 50/50 for and against the interpolation theory, but slightly more likely against.


    There are both form-critical and text-critical reasons for treating the passage as a gloss. The literary form of the passage is that of a parenthetical remark which interrupts the flow of the text. Verse 4 refers to the "first resurrection" of the saints and v. 5b-6 also refers to the "first resurrection", the reference to the "rest of the dead" in v. 5a interrupts this chain of reference by referring to the implied "second resurrection". The deitic hauté in v. 5b thus has to bypass v. 5a to find its proper antecedent in v. 4. There is also a textual disparity in the representation of this text in early manuscripts. The Codex Sinaiticus (4th century AD), the translated version in the Syriac Peshitta (5th century AD), and several later Byzantine-era manuscripts and patristic commentaries omit v. 5a (cf. Oecumenius, Victorinus Beatus, etc.). Russell's mention of the omission in the Codex Vaticanus (MS. 1209) is irrelevant since the original 4th-century codex lacks Revelation as a whole and was been filled in much later in the 15th century (in a miniscule style) and does not reflect the 4th-century text. These omissions may reflect a more original text that lacked v. 5a.


    Parembole (digressions) and parenthetical remarks were not infrequent in ancient literature and were not necessarily the result of interpolation. It is also not clear if v. 5a actually constitutes the digression; it is equally possible to interpret v. 5b-6 as the parenthetical digression:

    "They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.) This is the first resurrection. How fortunate and holy is the one who has a share in the first resurrection! The second death has no authority over these, but they will be priests to God and his Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison..." (Revelation 20:4-7; here v. 5a is indicated as a digression).
    "They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. (This is the first resurrection. How fortunate and holy is the one who has a share in the first resurrection! The second death has no authority over these, but they will be priests to God and his Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.) When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison..." (Revelation 20:4-7; here v. 5b-6 is indicated as a digression).

    The latter analysis is somewhat attractive because (1) The two mentions of the "first resurrection" are limited to this parenthetical block, and the raison d'etre for designating a "first resurrection" is the prior mention in v. 4-5a of two resurrections, (2) Verse 6b essentially duplicates v. 4 in stating that those in the first resurrection would reign with Christ for a thousand years. If we treat v. 5a as an interpolation or digression, this duplication is inexplicable but if v. 5b-6 is a digression, the duplication is necessary to distinguish the "first resurrection" from the "rest of the dead" who do not reign with Christ and do not emerge until after the thousand years, (3) Such digressions often involve epanalepsis to return to the topic prior to the digression. If we treat v. 5a as a digression, there is no epanalepsis in v. 5b which picks up the theme without any smoothing (which makes v. 5a look like an interpolation). But if we treat v. 5b-6 as a digression, the reference to the "completion" of the thousand years in v. 7 functions exactly as an epanalepsis picking up the reference to the "completion" of the "thousand years" in v. 5a.

    Since the author was likely working with earlier divergent sources, the form-critical seam here is more likely due to the author/redactor himself and not a later interpolation. There are other literary problems in the same chapter (such as the existence of the "nations" in v. 7) which are also the result of compiling two originally distinct apocalyptic scenarios. The block of text in v. 5b-6 may thus constitute a parallel version of the same content as v. 4-5a and was inserted as a parenthetical digression (in a fashion similar to the combining of sources in the Flood narrative in Genesis, which is replete with similar digressions), this would place the duplication in v. 6 in the same company with a host of duplications throughout ch. 19-22 of Revelation.

    The text-critical evidence is also not decisive. All other manuscripts include v. 5a, including the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus and early versions like the fourth-fifth century Latin Vulgate. Although the Alexandrinus is slightly later than the Sinaiticus, earlier is not necessarily better and the Alexandrinus text of Revelation reflects the same "neutral" text type. The omission of the clause in the Codex Sinaiticus is explicable for two reasons: (1) The text of v. 5a seemed "abrupt and seemed out of place" (so Beale) and was thus omitted to smooth the text, (2) The omission is intelligible as a homoioteleuton (so Beale, Aune, and other critics), as v. 5a ends with the same word eté "years" as v. 4. That is to say, the omitted text is bounded by eté on both margins, and is short enough to be the length of a stich or line of unical text. Thus, the omission could have occurred when a copyist accidentally skipped ahead to the eté at the end of v. 5a when he copied the eté of v. 4 and deleted v. 5a in the process. Haplography is probably the most common type of scribal error in ancient manuscripts, and homoioteleuton is the most common form of haplography. Since the omission of v. 5a is explicable as a copyist error, most critics seem to regard it as such rather than as an interpolation.

  • Narkissos

    Leolaia summed up the text-critical evidence very well (and I agree with her assessment).

    Revelation 20:5a is shattering to the WT scenario which sets the "second resurrection" during the millenium, not after. However, the (post-Russell) WT has given up the idea of considering the text as spurious. Instead they resort to an ad hoc definition of "coming to life" as meaning something else than resurrection, e.g. the Revelation book (1988):


    Rest of the Dead


    Whom, though, will these kings judge if, as the apostle John here inserts, "(the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended)"? (Revelation 20:5a) Again, the expression "come to life" has to be understood according to context. This expression can have varying meanings in varying circumstances. For example, Paul said of his anointed fellow Christians: "It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins." (Ephesians 2:1) Yes, spirit-anointed Christians were "made alive," even in the first century, being declared righteous on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.—Romans 3:23, 24.


    Similarly, pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah were declared righteous as to friendship with God; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were spoken of as "living" even though they were physically dead. (Matthew 22:31, 32; James 2:21, 23) However, they and all others who are resurrected, as well as the great crowd of faithful other sheep who survive Armageddon and any children that may be born to these in the new world, must yet be raised to human perfection. This will be accomplished by Christ and his associate kings and priests during the thousand-year Judgment Day, on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. By the end of that Day, "the rest of the dead" will have "come to life" in the sense that they will be perfect humans. As we shall see, they must then pass a final test, but they will face that test as perfected humans. When they pass the test, God will declare them worthy of living forever, righteous in the fullest sense. They will experience the complete fulfillment of the promise: "The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it." (Psalm 37:29) What a delightful future is in store for obedient mankind!

    The irony is that it contradicts the previous use of the same expression as referring to the first resurrection (v. 4c):


    Now these conquerors live again! John reports: "And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4c) Does this mean that these judges are not resurrected until after the destruction of the nations and the abyssing of Satan and his demons? No. Most of them are already very much alive, since they rode with Jesus against the nations at Armageddon. (Revelation 2:26, 27; 19:14) Indeed, Paul indicated that their resurrection commences soon after the beginning of Jesus’ presence in 1914 and that some are resurrected before others. (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) Therefore, their coming to life occurs over a period of time as they individually receive the gift of immortal life in the heavens.—2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter 3:11-14.
  • the_classicist

    Is there much credence to the Augustinian view of the Apocalypse, which takes the "first resurrection" to be baptism?

  • JCanon

    Interesting history.

    My personal view is that probably, since we have long and short versions of some other texts that there were more than one "official" version as likely these were copied by hand. As long as the original author was part of those original copies, something might have been added for further clarification in later copies, sort of like a "2nd edition" which had a different but parallel circulation.

    The other issue, as noted by Leolaia, is whether the additional verse makes sense. In this case, it confirms that no one gets judged for eternal life as do those of the first resurrection who come to life before the millennium, until after the millennium. This covers two groups of the "dead": 1) those not of the first resurrection who are alive during the millennium and who do not rebel with Satan when he is let out who are called the "dead the great and the small" who "come to life" in the eternal sense on Judgment Day which follows immediately after Satan is abyssed, and 2) the literal dead who are brought back to life again, both righteous and wicked where the righteous "come to [eternal] life" but the wicked undergo the second death in the lake of fire. Note there are no resurrections at all during the millennium. Thus noting that the "rest of the [Adamically] dead" do not come to life until after the millennium, quite consistent with the rest of scripture.

    of passing technical note here, this "resurrection" apparently is in connection with the concept of death from Adam and being resurrected from that death, whether technically dead immediately before or alive. Thus for both "resurrections" there are some who are actually physically alive and some who are physically dead at that "resurrection", which is the official removal of Adamic sin and granting of eternal life. When Christ returns, he grants life to those living who are part of the Bride Class and those who are to be brought back to life from the dead from ancient times. Those who are part of the "first resurrection" thus are resurrected in a double sense, from literal death and from the curse of "Adamic death." "Coming to life" is thus a reference to approval for eternal life after judgment. The critical difference between the "first resurrection" which is a "happy one" is that all resurrected to eternal life with heavenly life later to be enjoyed as an angelic being. Thus the first resurrection is only of the "super-righteous" if you will, those who become part of the Bride Class. The second resurrection is of the general population, both good and bad. Thus some coming back in the second resurrection who are wicked don't ever "come to life" with respect to eternal life, but experience a "second death" after being alive for a short time for their judgment. The righteous resurrected from the dead at the second resurrection are the ones that do successfully "come to [eternal] life" after successful judgment. These, though, remain on the earth as perfect humans to fulfill God's original plan for a perfect world of humans living in harmony with nature.


  • Leolaia

    Narkissos....I agree that Revelation 20:5a is devastating to the JW scenario, and the problem still exists even if the verse is omitted since the narrative of the general resurrection in v. 11-15 also follows the ending of the thousand years in v. 7. The ad hoc interpretation of "coming to life" as "attaining perfection" during the thousand years (with no attempt to provide supporting evidence) is also a blatant attempt to avoid the plain meaning of these verses. Not only is the meaning "resurrection" in v. 4, but the same expression refers to Christ's resurrection in Revelation 2:8 (compare 1:18).

    the_classicist....I doubt the original conception in Revelation was amillenialist; chiliasm was popular at the time (early second century) in Asia Minor and related Jewish apocalypses refer to an actual resurrection and judgment. However allegorical interpretations were also somewhat early too; Papias of Hierapolis gave an allegorical interpretation of ch. 12 if Andrew of Caesarea is to be believed, and if Revelation had any circulation among the Johannine community where John originated, it would have likely been interpreted allegorically and not in terms of a futurist eschatology. In this vein, it is interesting how the Odes of Solomon (likely from a Johannine-like community in Syria) shows similarity in language and motifs to both John and Revelation, and the references to drinking living waters, enjoying Paradise, the destruction of Death, the battle with the Dragon with seven heads, etc. are as having already been realized. The Augustinian notion of "New Jerusalem" established on earth as the Church may well have earlier roots, but I regard this as a secondary tho early interpretation of a classically apocalyptic work...

  • JCanon
    "coming to life" as "attaining perfection" during the thousand years (with no attempt to provide supporting evidence) is also a blatant attempt to avoid the plain meaning of these verses.

    I can appreciate this position but "blatant attempt" is a bit off the mark. That's because those who survive the millennium, that is, those already still alive after Satan and his rebels are destroyed are still considered to be "dead"...

    12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Ha´des gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds.

    Please note "the dead, the great and the small" standing before the throne prior to Hades and the sea giving up their dead. This is a separate group from those needing to be resurrected from a "literal death". The "dead the great and the small", therefore, refer to those who survive Satan's last trial and now are ready to receive their positive judgment for life. After they are judged and receive life, being granted to proceed to the trees of life, then those in the memorial tombs of the sea and Hades (the common grave) are brought back for judgment day, both the wicked and the righteous. The righteous get eternal life and after their judgment the wicked are sent back to death for the "second death".

    But because it should be clear that some of the "dead" are actually living in the literal sense, it would not be such a "blatant attempt" to make this observation, which should be apparent. It's an allegorical reference to being "dead" until one is granted eternal life. Thus in God's mind, if you are condemned to death it is the same as being "dead". Even if we see a condemned man on death row or someone clearly about to die we say, "he's already dead" since it is just a matter of time. We all died as far as God is concerned when Adam sinned, including Adam! We don't "come to life" again until that final judgment. That's the allegory used here when it says the "rest of the dead" do not come to life until the 1000 years are over, in specific reference to the "living dead" who survive Armageddon who are not part of the 144,000 Bride Class of king-priests.

    I think when all is considered, there is perfect harmony in this allegorical reference which is not that difficult to follow with no pushing or twisting or any "blatant attempt" to read more into the text. The text speaks for itself in the context of the bigger picture.


  • Leolaia

    Not to be offensive, but your interpretation strikes me as another ad hoc harmonization of a less than coherent text.

  • Ingenuous

    Leolaia - I wanna be like you when I grow up! Your exegetical posts always send me running to the dictionary - a good thing, in my opinion. I especially get excited when the word isn't there. (I had to look "epanalepsis" up on the 'net.)

    If we treat v. 5a as a digression, there is no epanalepsis in v. 5b which picks up the theme without any smoothing (which makes v. 5a look like an interpolation). But if we treat v. 5b-6 as a digression, the reference to the "completion" of the thousand years in v. 7 functions exactly as an epanalepsis picking up the reference to the "completion" of the "thousand years" in v. 5a.

    This is also pretty convincing to me, even if it's not considered "hard" evidence.

    Interestingly, Russell's footnote goes on to detail his opinion that an ad hoc, attaining-everlasting-life-through-Christ attempt to harmonize the "rest of the dead" quote wouldn't be contradictory to scripture, though he plainly views that section as an addition of a commentator. To me, mixing and matching various flavors of "resurrection" in Revelation just makes the whole discussion a messy free-for-all - but, then, that could be my lack of sophistication talking.

    What references do you guys turn to for your exegesis? I'd like to start working on my own library. Don't tell me you have all this stuff memorized, or I'll jump off the nearest tall building.

  • Leolaia

    Ingenuous....What makes the JW interpretation especially arbitrary is that zaó "live" (ezésan "lived" in this verse) is treated uniquely as a "special case" in this passage when elsewhere, when it refers to a change of state involving a dead subject, it signifies that the DEAD person has come back to life in a resuscitation or resurrection (cf. Matthew 9:18, 27:63, Mark 16:11, Luke 15:32, John 5:25, 11:25, Acts 9:41, 25:19, Romans 6:10-13, 14:9, 2 Corinthians 5:15, 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:10), and in Revelation it is used specifically to refer to the resurrection of Jesus Christ ("I was dead and now I live forever and ever", 1:18; "Here is the message of the First and the Last, who was dead and has come back to life (ezésen) again, 2:8), to the "healing" of the "fatal wound" and "deadly injury" to the Beast in 13:14 (cf. 13:3), and most importantly to "the souls (psukhas) of all who had been beheaded for having witnessed for Jesus" in 20:4, whose "coming to life" is described in v. 5 as "the first resurrection (anastasis)". These are the Christian martyrs who experienced very real deaths, narrated earlier ("They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom, because even in the face of death they would not cling to life" 12:11, "Anyone who refused to worship the statue of the Beast was put to death" 13:15, "I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus", 17:6), and the use of psukhas "souls" to refer to the dead martyrs harks back to 6:9-11 which also referred to "the souls (psukhas) of all the people who had been killed on account of the word of God" who resided in heaven "underneath the altar". These are thus very real deaths (not "spiritual deaths"), involving a real return to life in a resurrection (cf. anastasis, v. 5), so the corresponding "rest of the dead" who come back to life in an implied "second resurrection" (próté "first" in v. 5 being the first in a series) would similarly experience a return to life from a very real "death". The narration of the resurrection and judgment in 20:11-15 would thus constitute the implied second resurrection foreshadowed in v. 5a, and indeed this resurrection-judgment scene is along the same lines as the resurrection-judgment of Daniel 7:9-12, 12:1-3, 1 Enoch 50:3-6, 90:20-38, Testament of Abraham 12:1-18, 4 Ezra 7:32-44, Pseudo Philo 3:10, Matthew 25:31-46, etc. (cf. Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

    There are two complications in the text of the chapter which have facilitated all sorts of divergent interpretations, including the one posted above by JCanon. One is the insertion of the block of text of 20:7-10 between v. 4-6 and v. 11-15 in the redaction of Revelation, and the other is the the doublet pair referring to the resurrection and judgment (version #1: v. 11-12, version #2: v. 13-15). When read in a linear way, the text has a series of contradictions and illogical turns which can only be smoothed out by a harmonizing or spiritualizing exegesis. But when the two strands are distinguished and compared against each other, each is internally consistent and stylistically distinct:

    Version #1: "Then I saw some thrones, and I saw those who are given the power to be judges take their seats on them. I saw the souls of all who had been beheaded for having witnessed for Jesus and for having preached God's word, and those who refused to worship the Beast or his statue and would not have the brand-mark on their foreheads or hands; they came to life, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over. Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of his throne, while the Book of Life was opened, and other books were opened which were the record of what they had done in their lives, by which the dead were judged" (Revelation 20:4-5a, 11-12).
    Version #2: "Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the key of the Abyss in his hand and an enormous chain. He overpowered the Dragon, that primeval serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and shut the entrance and sealed it over him, to make sure he would not deceive the nations again until the thousand years had passed. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive all the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and mobilize them for war. His armies will be as many as the sands of the sea; they will come swarming over the entire country and besiege the camp of the saints, which is the city that God loves. But fire will come down on them from heaven and consume them. Then the Devil, who misled them, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and Sulpher, where the Beast and the False Prophet are, and their torture will not stop, day or night, forever and ever. Then the sea gave up all the dead who were in it; Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and everyone was judged according to the way in which he had lived. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the Burning Lake. This Burning Lake is the second death; and anybody whose name could not be found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the Burning Lake" (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10, 13-15).

    The two strands have been spliced together like how the P and J sources were combined in the Flood story of Genesis 6-9 which similarly cannot be read in a strictly linear order. The two strands have their own characteristics. Version #1 is centered on the martyrs who share in eschatological judgment while Version #2 is centered on what happens to Satan the Devil. Only Version #1 refers to the "thrones" of the martyrs (v. 4) and the "white throne" of the Judge (v. 11), while only Version #2 makes reference to the Lake of Fire. In Version #1, the "thousand years" was designated as the period the martyrs would reign whereas in Verison #2, the "thousand years" was the period in which Satan the Devil would be chained in the Abyss. Version #1 (through ch. 19) assumes that an eschatological destruction of the nations has already occurred by the time of the "thousand years", while Version #2 (in v. 7-9) has this occurring after the millennium. Both versions have paralleled descriptions of the thousand-year period, the gathering of the dead, and the judgment that follows. Stylistically, Version #1 is a series of five short visions introduced each time by "I saw" while Version #2 is one long vision introduced by a single "I saw". When the two strands were combined, the redactor would have likely added v. 3b immediately prior to the interpolated v. 4-5 to summarize what will happen in v. 7-10, and added the digression in v. 5b-6 to join the strands together (note that it mixes features of both versions, such as the "second death" from Version #2 with the thousand-year reign of the martyrs from Version #1) and explicitly distinguish between two resurrections being on either side of the millennium. (This is not the only possible source-critical analysis of the text, but it seems to be the best one to me).

    With respect to my first message on this thread, I also just noticed that Aune in his commentary notes that the Codex Alexandrinus actually is the best representation of the neutral text, and that in the case of Revelation, the Codex Sinaiticus is the worst of the unicals. So my suspicion may well be correct that "earlier is not necessarily better" and that contrary to what Pastor Russell wrote, the Codex Sinaiticus is not the "most reliable Greek MSS". Moreover, the translation of Revelation for the Syriac Peshitta was done very late (due to the rejection of Revelation in the canon in the East), not until the sixth century AD in fact, so the "Syriac MS" is also not an "early witness" on the same level as the early unicals.

    As to "what references" I use, these are usually critical commentaries of the Word, Hermeneia, International Critical Commentary, and other major series (as I cited in this and other threads), journal articles and monographs on the subject, and my personal library of primary texts for comparison (e.g. the OT Pseudepigrapha, the Hexapla as reconstructed by Field, the Apostolic Fathers, Qumran texts, etc.). I gave a list of my library in an earlier thread, but without an active search utility I am unable to find it.

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