R0501-2 The Disputed Clause

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Rev. 20:5, first clause, which reads, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,” is the subject of dispute. We showed conclusively that the above text has no support from any authority older than “the middle of the fifth century.” It is not found in any of the older MSS.—it is not in the Syriac—and the confessedly oldest, most complete and best of all Greek MSS. of the New Testament—the Sinaitic—does not contain those words. It is wanting, too, in several of the more recent MSS., among which is the Vatican, No. 1160, a MS. of special clearness and harmony with the most ancient ones.

An exchange calls attention to the fact that Prof. Tischendorf, the finder of the Sinaitic MS., while admitting that the clause is not found in it, says that he thinks its omission accidental, “a mere error” of the scribe in copying. Our exchange thinks this all-sufficient—we should accept of that clause because Prof. T. thinks—guesses—that its omission was a mistake.

But we must inform our friends that we cannot accept of Prof. T.’s guess on such a matter; he may guess for himself, but, in our opinion, the finder of a MS. written nearly sixteen hundred years ago has no better opportunity of judging what it should contain than anybody else. The favor which Prof. T. has conferred on Bible students consists in the finding and publishing of this wonderfully correct MS., and not in guessing something into it. The wonderful and uniform correctness of this MS. of itself casts great discredit on Prof. T.’s guess, which would imply great negligence in the copying.

Let us have the very oldest manuscripts of the Bible, and if they throw out and omit manifest errors, let us not hold on to those errors and guess that they should be in, and that their omission was a mere error. To do so would be to make the finding of such ancient MSS. useless; each party in whose favor an error had been made in copying, either by accident or intention, would be at liberty to claim that the omission of such clauses was “a mere error.” It is God’s Word that we want, and we thank Him for the valuable Sinaitic MS. furnished through Prof. T. But we will not permit the esteemed Professor to doctor it for us. We cannot admit his authority to “add to the words of the prophecy of this book.”

We regret to have it to note that the justly celebrated Variorum Bible and Testaments (with which we have supplied many of our readers), when attempting to give the readings of the Sinaitic MS., has in the case of this clause taken the word of a fallible man as being infallible—It fails to show that the Sinaitic MS. does not contain the clause in question.

In view, however, of the full meaning of the word anastasis (resurrection) set forth in our issue of June, 1882, this clause, EVEN IF GENUINE, would be in harmony with our general teaching—that all men will come forth from the tomb and have a trial (judgment) during the thousand years (millennium) mentioned in verses 3,4,6,7 of this same chapter (Rev. 20). We there showed that to come out of the tomb, as in Lazarus’ case, is not resurrection (anastasis)—not a raising up to perfect life. The condition of life enjoyed by Adam before sin, none of his posterity have ever possessed. We have all been in death—”in the valley of the shadow of death”—and to enjoy an anastasis, or lifting up to life, as Adam had it, includes not only the coming forth from the tomb, but all that process of restitution which will be in operation during that reign of Christ. And since perfection—the full attainment, of the full measure of life—will not be reached by the world until the end of the millennium, it would be in harmony to say: The rest of the dead lived not again [did not fully return to perfect life] until the thousand years were finished.

But we stand by the record, and claim that this clause fits the truth rather by accident than inspiration, as shown by the foregoing evidence. This interpolation, doubtless, occurred by some scribe of the fifth century making a marginal note on his MSS. of his thought on the subject.


— July, 1883 —