Over at RIJ this morning we were discussing Revelation 13:8, and I noticed something I found quite interesting. It shouldn’t derail anybody’s faith, but it’s a point of interest.

In checking 21 different translations of Rev. 13:8, I have discovered that the phrase “…from before the foundation of the earth…” is one of those ambiguous phrases where the translator doesn’t really know for sure where to put it.

For example, the NASB has it this way: ” 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.’

The nine translations that used this idea were the NASB, the NET Bible, the NLT, ESV, CEV, HCSB, The Message, the old ASV, and Darby’s translation.

The venerable KJV says it like this: “8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

There were ten versions that used this word order, including the KJV, the NKJV, the 21st Century KJV, Young’s Literal Translation, the Wycliffe New Testament, also the Amplified Bible, and the NIV and its variants: the TNIV, the NIrV, and the NIV-UK.

I found two things very interesting about this divide. First was that the NASB was on one side, while the Amplified Bible, also from the Lockman Foundation, was on the other. And second was that the NIV and its variants were on the same side as the KJV and its variants. It’s obviously a translation problem that can easily go either way.

Here’s the text note from the NET Bible on this verse:


The prepositional phrase “since the foundation of the world” is traditionally translated as a modifier of the immediately preceding phrase in the Greek text, “the Lamb who was killed” (so also G. B. Caird, Revelation [HNTC], 168), but it is more likely that the phrase “since the foundation of the world” modifies the verb “written” (as translated above). Confirmation of this can be found in Rev 17:8 where the phrase “written in the book of life since the foundation of the world” occurs with no ambiguity.

Two versions had a completely different way of translating this. The New Life Version said it this way: ” 8 Every person on the earth from the beginning of the world whose name has not been written in the book of life of the Lamb Who was killed will worship this animal.”

And the Worldwide English New Testament puts it like this: “8 Everyone on earth will worship the beast, if they do not have their names in the book of life. The book of life belongs to the Lamb who was killed. That was God’s plan since the world was made.”

(Of course, neither of those are widely accepted translations.)

Personally, I like both ways. I like the deep theological thought involved in the idea that Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth. But the idea that our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the creation is also an exciting theological concept.