NWT and “Trees (plural) of Life” - Rev. 22
I have seen the NWT criticized for rendering xylon as ‘trees’ (plural) in Rev. 22:2. These critics say that the Greek text should be rendered here as ‘tree’ (singular).
22:1 “And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb :2 down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side [there were] trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees [were] for the curing of the nations.”
It is extremely unlikely that there would be literal trees, streams, and other material objects in heaven. These are strictly symbolic figures (as is much of what is revealed in the book of Revelation). God provides life to those there.
Nevertheless, the Greek word for the symbolic ‘tree(s)’ in Rev. 22 is xylon (xulon). Xylon is defined as literally meaning “living or dead ‘wood’”.
Specifically, in the book of Revelation, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says of the word xylon, “5. Tree (of Life). Revelation speaks of the tree or trees of life in paradise or the heavenly Jerusalem (2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). A share in their fruit is granted to those who are cleansed by Christ and who conquer, but it is withheld from those who reject the prophetic word.” - Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1985. (Emphasis added.)
The rendering of ‘trees’ (plural) may be further justified in Rev. 22:2 by the context. This ‘wood’ is growing on both sides of the ‘river.’ This indicates more than one tree of ‘wood.’
In fact, the much-praised Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament tells us in its examination of the word xylon, “[Rev.] 22:2a: ‘trees of life on each side of the river bearing fruit twelve times a year’ (the construction is ambiguous); 22:2b: ‘the leaves of the trees are [used] for the healing of the Gentiles’; (the sg. In both cases is collective….)” and tells us to compare Ezekiel 47:12. - p. 487, Vol. 2, Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1991.
And even The Expositor’s Greek Testament tells us concerning Rev. 22:2:
“The river, which is the all-pervading feature, is lined with the trees of life.” - p. 487, Vol. 5, Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1961 reprint.
The Adam Clarke Commentarysays of Rev. 22:2:
“The tree of life"An allusion to Genesis 2:9. As this tree of life is stated to be in the streets of the city, and on each side of the river, tree must here be an enallage of the singular for the plural number, trees of life, or trees which yielded fruit by which life was preserved. The account in Ezekiel is this: ‘And by the river, upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade-it shall bring forth new fruit, according to his months-and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine;’ Ezekiel 47:12.”
And the Coffman Commentaries says, similarly, “The tree of life ...
“This is not one tree, but stands either for many trees of one variety, or even many varieties of trees. ‘The tree of life is apparently used collectively to include a number of trees.’ ‘Tree seems intended to be understood generically of that whole class of trees.’ We still use this idiom, for example, when we remark that, ‘The date palm grows in southern California.’ Lenski correctly observed that all these terms: avenue, river, and wood (tree) are comprehensive and collective.
“But what does it mean? The tree of life has the same inherent meaning as the ‘river of life.’ Those who have access to it will enjoy all the rights, blessings, and privileges of eternal life. The words of Ezek. 47:12 are used here almost verbatim. The account in Genesis shows that Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden deprived them of access to the tree of life; but in heaven redeemed mankind shall have this privilege restored. Could this be some literal tree with visible fruit? We believe it to be a beautiful symbol of a far greater reality.”
Barnes’ Notesalso tells us concerning Rev. 22:2:
“Was there the tree of life. Not a single tree, but it abounded everywhere--on the banks of the river, and in all the streets. It was the common tree in this blessed Paradise--of which all might partake, and which was everywhere the emblem of immortality.”
Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Biblesays for this passage:
“The trees of life are fed by the pure waters of the river that comes from the throne of God.”
If the NWT is mistranslating "trees" here, then so are The Jerusalem Bible; The New Jerusalem Bible; and The New American Bible (1970 and 1991 rev.).