[B-Greek] Xylos zoes

Leonard Jayawardena leonardj at live.com
Thu Jul 8 04:14:06 EDT 2010

Pere Porta wrote:

Dear all,

I submit to you a question on "Xylos (tes) zo?s".

It appears for the first time in Gn 2:9.
It appears again in several places. Also in Pr 3:18.
And perhaps mainly again in the book of Revelation.

My questions are:

1. Does "xylos zo?s" in Pr 3:18 mean quite the same thing as "xylos tes
zo?s" in Rev

2. If they do not mean exactly the same thing.... what then are the

Pere Porta
(Barcelona, Catalonia, Northeastern Spain)

LJ: XULOS ZWHS in Proverbs 3:18 and Revelation are both based on Genesis 2:9. The article is present in Gen. 2:9 because the reference is to one particular tree in the Garden of Eden. The passage in Proverbs compares wisdom, personified as a woman, to a tree of life. The idea is that those who follow the way of Wisdom have access to the tree of life.

In Revelation 22:2, the words KAI TOU POTAMOU ENTEUQEN KAI EKEIQEN xULON ZWHS POIOUN KARPOUS DWKEKA, KATA MHNA hEKASTON APODIDOUN TON KARPON AUTOU, KAI TA FULLA TOU XULOU EIS QERAPEIAN TWN EQNWN are based on Ezekiel 47:7, 12; and Daniel 12:5. In a brilliant transmutation, characteristic of the book of Revelation, the "very many trees on the one side and on the other side" on the bank of the river bearing different kinds of fruit throughout the year in Ezekiel become, in the book of Revelation, two trees of life on the banks of the river--one tree on each bank--each bearing twelve kinds of fruit, corresponding to the two persons who stand on either of the river Tigris in Daniel 12:4 (cf. Dan. 10:4), thus showing the connection between the passages in Ezekiel and Daniel. The river Tigris is one of the rivers in Paradise according to Genesis 2:14! These two trees of life in turn correspond to the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11, who represent the New Testament church, composed of (1) Jews and (2) Gentiles. (Exegetical proof for this last point cannot be given in this forum.)

Comparison of the above-referenced passages in Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation show that a tree of life represents a certain type of person--a true worshipper of God to be specific. Compare also Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8--the latter of which is based on the former--with these passages for further confirmation of this truth.

In Genesis 2, the reference is to one particular tree of life and hence the article in TO XULON THS ZWHS. In Paradise there is one tree of life and one tree of knowledge of good and evil to correspond to the one person Adam. By eating of the forbidden tree, Adam identified himself with it, resulting in death. (This forum is not the place to explain the symbolism of the two trees in the Garden of Eden and those interested are recommended to read Romans 7--note in particular vv. 4-5--and figure it out for themselves.) But in Ezekiel 47 there is a plurality of trees of life, represented by the two trees of life in Revelation 22. Hence the anarthrous phrase XULoN ZwHS in Rev. 22:2. The article in TA FULLA TOU XULOu is anaphoric, pointing back to the anarthrous XULON ZWHS above. The words "the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" are applicable to both trees of life. In Revelation 2:7 we have the article in TOU XULOu THS ZWHS because the reference there is to the one tree of life in the Paradise of Genesis 2.

In conclusion, I think the anarthrous XULON ZWHS in Rev. 22:2 is best translated "a tree of life" in view of the normal rules of Greek grammar and the exegetical considerations outlined above, notwithstanding the majority of translations rendering the phrase "the tree of life." To my knowledge, only the Centenary Translation: The New Testament in Modern English (Helen Bartlett Montgomery) has "a tree life": "On each side of the river was a Tree of Life."

Leonard Jayawardena 		 	   		  
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