Revelation 21:3

Revelation 21:3

I’ll be going over Rev 21:1-7 in my Greek class on Thursday, and I’ve found a syntactically confusing passage I’d appreciate your thoughts on. The sentence is the fifth clause of Rev 21:3, which reads as follows:

καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς μετ᾽ αὐτῶν ἔσται [αὐτῶν θεός],


If we delete the bracketed portion, as do many manuscripts, the clause seems fairly straight-forward: “and God himself will be with them.”

With the bracketed portion, the syntax confuses me. Many translations add an “and”: “and be their God,” but I think this is cheating. Other possibilities are to take the bracketed portion as an appositive: “and God himself will be with them, their God.”

The commentaries I have consulted have not been too helpful. Charles (ICC) discussed various textual variants only to obelize the entire clause (i.e., to mark it as corrupt).

What say the denizens of ?


4 thoughts on “Revelation 21:3”

  1. Hi Stephen,

    In the Lexham Discourse GNT project, I analyzed the NA text, so I had to address the bracketed information. In characteristic fashion, John adds very little new information in these clauses. The result is that there is a lot of established information is reiterated in each successive clause of v. 3. I’d argue the repetition is thematically motivated to drive home a point.

    If you were to include the bracketed text, I’d call it a right-dislocation, which is an appositive at the end of the clause that typically adds thematically salient information about some entity previously referred to in the clause. Since in this case the bracketed info is already well established (we are not wondering which “god” he is referring to), then there are two likely thematic functions for “their God.”

    The first would be to affirm God’s role as “their God:” “And God himself will live with them, their God.” This would suggest a comparison to other gods of other peoples. What other people has experienced such a thing with their god? Who else would do such a thing?

    The other possibility would be that the bracketed text is intended to reaffirm God’s identity. This would be major overkill based on AUTOS earlier in the clause, but seems fit best in the context based on the preceding clauses. Since the intensive “himself” has already been used, you’d likely need to use a different English strategy like “even their God.” It would be important to maintain the separate full reference at the end of the clause, since we are used to thematic information being placed there in English.

    Look at the development of thought in each of the clauses in v. 3: 3b. The dwelling place of God [will be] with men; 3c. and He will reside with them (nicely balanced cola, narrowing the focus from “his residence” to “God”) 3d. and they will be his people (perhaps expecting a balanced colon of “and he will be their God”) 3e. and God himself, it is with THEM he will be–their God!

    This is one of those troublesome and all-too-frequent places where I have a sense of what is going on in the text, but English words fail to capture it all in one tidy colon. It needs some waving of arms I think, but hopefully this will advance the discussion.



    Steven E. Runge, DLitt Scholar-in-Residence Logos Bible Software

  2. Hi Eric,

    In analyzing the syntax, you have to account for placement of each piece. Here is the text again:

    καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς μετ᾽ αὐτῶν ἔσται [αὐτῶν θεός],


    The crux is explaining why μετ᾽ αὐτῶν MET’ AUTWN is before the verb. Is it because it is most important/emphasized? This is how I translated it in the last post. To read it this way, you’d have to take αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς AUTOS hO QEOS as a contrastive topic, which is what I had previously understood it as. Based on the presence of intensive αὐτὸς AUTOS and the bracketed text reaffirming it, I am wondering if I have missed an option.

    The alternative way of analyzing the structure is to view αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς AUTOS hO QEOS as most salient/emphasized (in marked focus, technically speaking). In this case, the prepositional phrase is explained by natural information flow, and the bracketed info would then be reiterating what is most salient. This reading would be translates something like “And it is God himself who will be with them, their God.”

    I’m not sure I had considered this latter reading a few years ago. It can account for all of the data. I’d be interested in hearing opinions from Carl, Randall or others on this.

    Thanks for pushing back, Eric. My reading isn’t exactly like yours, but it may be compatible with what you were thinking. In any case, it is awkward to translate.


    Steve Runge

  3. καὶ ἤκουσα φωνῆς μεγάλης ἐκ τοῦ θρόνου λεγούσης· ἰδοὺ ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ σκηνώσει μετʼ αὐτῶν, καὶ αὐτοὶ λαοὶ αὐτοῦ ἔσονται, καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς μετʼ αὐτῶν ἔσται [αὐτῶν θεός],   KAI HKOUSA FWNHS MEGALHS EK TOU QRONOU LEGOUSHS


    “John” never actually quotes a passage from the OT, but he does make obvious references to them and frequently adapts them to serve his own purpose.  In this case he seems to be referencing Ezek 37.27 καὶ ἔσται ἡ κατασκήνωσίς μου ἐν αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς θεός, καὶ αὐτοί μου ἔσονται λαός.

    In Re 22.3 he first announces that God’s “tent” will be among men and essentially repeats it by saying that he will dwell among them.  This statement and its repetition represents the first portion of Ezek 37.27.  He then announces that God will himself be with them.  This could be considered to cover the second portion of the statement of Ezek 37.27.  If we take αὐτῶν θεός AUTWN QEOS as part of the original text, it must then be somewhat of a repetition of the preceding.  If we accept αὐτῶν θεός AUTWN QEOS as part of the text, I would not take it so much as an appositive as a pred nom — “The same God with them shall be their God.” For the use of an anarthrous αὐτός AUTOS preceding an arthrous θεός QEOS cf Josephus, _Wars_ 7.346

      ἀόρατος μένουσα τοῖς ἀνθρωπίνοις ὄμμασιν         ὥσπερ αὐτὸς ὁ θεός·   AORATOS MENOUSA TOIS ANQRWPINOIS OMMASIN hWSPER AUTOS hO QEOS

     george gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth, learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus

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