Questions From Readers
This is basically a grammatical detail involving the original languages. It does not seem to have any special significance as far as the meaning is concerned.
Consider first the Hebrew Scriptures. In the original-language text, the Hebrew word sha·maʹyim, rendered “heaven(s),” is always plural. Its plurality appears to reflect, not a plural of excellence, but the idea of a plural “of local extension,” or the idea of “a whole composed of innumerable separate parts or points.” That is understandable in that the physical heavens extend far from the earth in all directions and include billions of stars. When sha·maʹyim is preceded by the definite article (literally, “the heavens”), the New World Translation almost invariably renders it “heavens,” as at Isaiah 66:22. When sha·maʹyim appears without the definite article, it can be rendered by the singular (“heaven,” as at Genesis 1:8; 14:19, 22; Psalm 69:34) or the plural (“heavens,” as at Genesis 49:25; Judges 5:4; Job 9:8; Isaiah 65:17).
Now what about the two occurrences of the phrase “new heaven [or heavens] and a new earth” in the Christian Greek Scriptures?
At 2 Peter 3:13, the apostle used the Greek plural. Just before that (2Pe 3 verses 7, 10, 12), he spoke of the present wicked “heavens,” using the plural. So he was consistent in employing the plural in 2Pe 3 verse 13. Moreover, he seems to have been quoting from the original of Isaiah 65:17, where the Hebrew is in the plural, just as at 2 Peter 2:22, he quoted from the Hebrew text of Proverbs 26:11. Thus Peter pointed to “new heavens [plural] and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise.”
In slight contrast, at Revelation 21:1, the apostle John evidently drew on the rendering of Isaiah 65:17 in the Septuagint, which, as noted, contained the Greek word for “heaven” in the singular form. Hence, what John wrote was: “I saw a new heaven [singular] and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away.”
These are grammatical details related to translation. It bears repeating that there does not appear to be any difference in meaning whether one reads of, or speaks of, “new heavens” or “new heaven.” The sense of application is the same.
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Stars: Frank Zullo