Revelation 21:5

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

My literal interpretation

Some ruler declared that he will fix, or maybe, change, everything. Then, he told someone to jot that down because the words can be trusted and are the truth.

Initial thoughts 

Politicians promising that they will fix all the problems and that they can be trusted is a pretty common trope. Yet time and time again, throughout all of history, they have disappointed the citizens by not accomplishing everything, or even much of anything, they promised and by lying about all kinds of issues.

The verse says the words are “trustworthy and true”. That does not necessarily mean that the ruler is trustworthy, though, only that in that instance he said something that was correct and worth trusting in.

Other translations

All of the translations of this verse begin with someone sitting and speaking. In most cases, it specifies a throne or the person being enthroned. The Bible in Basic English just states “he who is seated on the high seat’, which makes me think more of a tennis umpire than a king. At least that still gives an image of an authority of some kind. The Luther Bible (1912) downgrades the seat to just a chair (“der auf dem Stuhl saß”).

The first words spoken be seated person are consistently about everything or all things being made new. However, it is unclear who is being directed to write down the words. In both German translations, as well as the English King James Version and the New Living Translation, the narrator states that they were told by the speaker to write it down. In the other versions, the command to write is not directed at anyone specific and could have just been heard by the narrator.

The reason for preserving the words in writing imply that they are true. Each version of the verse uses two adjectives to describe the honesty of the words; though the same words are not always used to convey that. In some versions, the word “trustworthy” is replaced by “faithful”. To me that does not hold the same connotation. When I find someone trustworthy, they have made the effort to earn my trust. Faithfulness, to me, is more of just a feeling that something can be trusted but without necessarily any evidence to back it up. 

The Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible goes a step further to declare the words “most faithful and true.” Does the “most” apply to both the word “faithful” and the word “true”? While I can see having more faith in something when there is more evidence to back it up, I understand truth to be a binary. Either the words are true or they are not.

In both German translations, the words “wahrhaftig” and “gewiß” are used, though not in the same order. They boil down to “true or truthful” and “certain or assured”, respectively, in modern German. To me that is close enough to  “true and trustworthy” not to quibble about.

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