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In Reveation 8:3-4 the words ταῖς προσευχαῖς are translated in KJV as "with the prayers". Where does "with" come from? Is it translator's extrapolation?

Can the places in question be translated simply "the prayers", so that the verses read:

"...and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer the prayers of all saints..."

"And the smoke of the incense (the prayers of the saints) ascended up before God out of the angel's hand."

This would mean that incense is actual prayers, not something that is mixed together with the prayers as KJV rendering implies.

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Where does "with" come from? Is it translator's extrapolation?

Not so much. The dative can rarely go unsupplemented by a proposition (usually in, with, by etc). At least without doing violence to its function in the sentence in relation to the other parts (imagine replacing 'I am going the house,' instead of 'I am going to the house'—yet if English had a dative form of 'house,' you could perhaps omit a preposition).

That is, it's more intrinsic to the translation than what we would call an extrapolation or 'interpetative license.'

The Greek of 8:3 reads (W&H NA27):

Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθεν καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλὰ ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων πάντων ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ χρυσοῦν τὸ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου.

might be understood as follows:

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there as given him much incense, that he should thus offer the prayers of all the saints at the golden altar before the throne of God.

The Vulgate has for ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς "ut daret de oratiónibus" ("that he should offer of/from the prayers...")

However, given that the meaning with the preposition is precisely "the prayers of the saints is symbolized by the incense, then in this case omitting it is actually a better translation.


Revelation 5:8—an explicit answer to the question

"This would mean that incense is actual prayers, not something that is mixed together with the prayers as KJV rendering implies"

Indeed it does. The Greek of 5:4 reads (W&H NA27):

Καὶ ὅτε ἔλαβεν τὸ βιβλίον, τὰ τέσσερα / τέσσαρα ζῷα καὶ οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεσαν ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἀρνίου, ἔχοντες ἕκαστος κιθάραν καὶ φιάλας χρυσᾶς γεμούσας θυμιαμάτων, αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ τῶν ἁγίων·

And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of saints.


Appendix

St. John might have drawn from/seen the same thing happening (depending on your view of inspiration) as described in the book of Tobit. If so, this further confirms that the angels are offering the prayers of the saints before God whatever way you look at it.

Consider the doctrinal alignment between the two:

Tobit 12:12-15 ([LXX])

When thou didst pray...I offered thy prayer to the Lord. ... For I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand [παρεστήκασιν] before [ἐνώπιον] the glory of the Lord.

Revelation 8:2-3

And I saw seven angels standing [ἑστήκασιν] in the presence of God; and there were given to them seven trumpets. And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before [ἐνώπιον] the throne of God.

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  • Great find (the Tobit reference)! However isn't the Tobit version using an accusative? Also, off the top of my head, "by grace" (or, "to grace") in Ephesians 2:8 is a dative that has no preposition, if memory serves.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 13 '17 at 16:26
  • Thanks! "..isn't the Tobit version using an accusative?" For what, sorry? "..is a dative that has no preposition.." I said that part in a confusing way—I meant "The dative can rarely go unsupplemented by a proposition" in the target language; and when it does go without a prep. in English, it is usually converted into another form of word, similar to how 'those believing in' (technically a verb) has to be converted into 'whoever believes' (noun). Nov 13 '17 at 17:06
  • Of course, sorry my brain short circuited. But isn't "τὰς προσευχὰς" in the accusative? Tobit 12:15 ἐγώ εἰμι Ῥαφαήλ, εἷς ἐκ τῶν ἑπτὰ ἁγίων ἀγγέλων οἳ προσαναφέρουσιν τὰς προσευχὰς τῶν ἁγίων καὶ εἰσπορεύονται ἐνώπιον τῆς δόξης τοῦ ἁγίου. Swete, H. B. (1909). The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint (Tob 12:15). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 13 '17 at 17:10
  • I somewhat quickly put together the answer, and so missed that the other Codex (I opted for Codex Sinaiticus, as opposed to Codex Vaticanus or Alex. entirely arbitrarily, as I needed but the relevant words, really), the latter of which actually includes: "[the angels offer] the prayers of the saints." But as for the accusative, it accounts for the respective different (grammatical) roles the phrases have in the respective sentences, not a difference in meaning. Nov 13 '17 at 17:46
  • So Sinaiticus has the dative? Well that cements the allusion! And it being parallel with the accusative is interesting though ambiguous.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 13 '17 at 23:28
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ινα δωσει ταις προσευχαις των αγιων παντων

ταις προσευχαις is dative plural and cannot possibly be the direct object of the verb δωσει. It has to be a dative of accompaniment "with the prayers".

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Caleb
    Nov 15 '17 at 5:40
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I would translate Revelation 8:3-4 this way:

3Then another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. And he was given much incense that he might offer for the prayers of all the saints upon the altar ‒ the golden altar before the throne. 4And so it rose up ‒ the smoke of the incense for the prayers of the saints, from the hand of the angel in the presence of God.

Details: enter image description here

The incense is being offered by the angel FOR the prayers of the saints. The smoke of the incense rises up, not the prayers of the saints. The prayers of the saints, as represented by the smoke of the incense, is a pleasing odour to the LORD as was the smoke of the burnt offerings of an obedient Israel a "sweet savour unto the LORD" (Leviticus 1:9,13,17).

Unless one has a mental image of the Creator with an olfactory system (made of atoms as is the creature's), then the words of John are symbolic of the pleasure the LORD receives from those whose hearts are set on doing what pleases Him.

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  • @Ruminator The dative case in Greek is equivalent to the lamed prefix in Hebrew and can be given as to/for/at/with etc, as the context demands. In the case of the given context Corey Keating refers to this use of the dative as "The Dative of Advantage", so it's "in the interest of" or "on behalf of".
    – enegue
    Nov 13 '17 at 4:26
  • The benefit of the symbolism is to communicate, in terms that the creature can understand, that the prayers of the saints are pleasing to the LORD, and that they fill the throne-room of heaven with the pleasantness of their savour.
    – enegue
    Nov 13 '17 at 4:39
  • @Ruminator Yes, which was the purpose of my making reference to Leviticus. The incense is not really a stand-in though, but an aid to help express what is taking place in the non-material realm.
    – enegue
    Nov 13 '17 at 4:46
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    @Ruminator Thanks. I agree with your view of downvotes. They are useful for sites like mathematics and software where some answers are obviously wrong and comments are made to point that out. On this site downvotes are seldom accompanied by comments explaining what is wrong, and are thus merely expressions of "dislike".
    – enegue
    Nov 14 '17 at 3:16

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