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There seems to be a lot of information as to why Rev 5:9 should be read as "them" instead of us, but what are the strongest arguments from a textual manuscript criticism basis for keeping the TR "us?"

  • MSS translate Rev 5:9 as ημας (“us”) instead of "τῷ θεῷ" (them to God) But this effects the rest of the verse going until 10 – Robert Lawrence Jan 27 '18 at 14:36
  • Good Question and excellent answer (user33515). – Nigel J Jan 27 '18 at 16:21
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The texts

The verses you are referring to are:

Revelation 5:9

Textus Receptus*

καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν, λέγοντες, Ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον, καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης, καὶ ἠγόρασας τῷ Θεῷ ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους

KJV

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;


Critical Text (Nestle-Aland 27th ed.)

καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες· ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους

RSV

and they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,


and:

Revelation 5:10

TR

καὶ ἐποίησας ἡμᾶς τῷ Θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλεῖς καὶ ἱερεῖς, καὶ βασιλεύσομεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

KJV

And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.


CT

καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλείαν καὶ ἱερεῖς, καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

RSV

and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”


Revelation 5:9

In the Textus Receptus, "we" are the object of "redeemed" (you redeemed us to God).

The Critical Text omits the object and simply reads you redeemed to God. Most modern English translations (e.g. RSV, NIV, ESV) choose to use "ransom" or "purchase" instead of "redeem" (KJV, NKJV) for ἀγοράζω. The versions based on the CT understand "us" to be the object, even though it is missing in the Greek text.

The best textual critical argument for keeping ἡμᾶς in Revelation 5:9 (without offering any opinion of support one way or another) is, in my opinion, that:

(a) It is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts

(b) It is found in the Codex Sinaiticus

(c) It is in the text that has been handed down and preserved in the Greek Orthodox churches (the Patriarchal Text of Constantinople)

Metzger gives an overview of the arguments for and against including ἡμᾶς in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament:

Although the evidence for τῷ θεῷ is slight (A eth), this reading best accounts for the origin of the others. Wishing to provide ἠγόρασας with a more exactly determined object than is found in the words ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς κ.τ.λ., some scribes introduced ἡμᾶς either before τῷ θεῷ (94 2344 al) or after τῷ θεῷ (א 046 1006 1611 2053 al), while others replaced τῷ θεῷ with ἡμᾶς (1 2065* Cyprian al). Those who made the emendations, however, overlooked the unsuitability of ἡμᾶς with αὐτούς in the following verse (where, indeed, the Textus Receptus reads ἡμᾶς, but with quite inadequate authority).


Revelation 5:10

As shown above, the Textus Receptus reads:

καὶ ἐποίησας ἡμᾶς τῷ Θεῷ ...

whereas the Critical Text reads:

καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ...

In the Critical Text, "them" instead of "us" is the object of ἐποίησας ("made").

Here, the strongest argument for ἡμᾶς instead of αὐτοὺς ("us" instead of "them") is much weaker: it is in the majority of Latin manuscripts (translated), but not the majority of Greek manuscripts; and it is not in the Patriarchal Text:

(a) It is found in the majority of Greek Latin manuscripts

(b) It is found in the Codex Sinaiticus

(c) It is in the text that has been handed down and preserved in the Greek Orthodox churches (the Patriarchal Text of Constantinople)

Metzger's thinking here is:

The third person pronoun, which is overwhelmingly supported, was replaced by ἡμᾶς in several versional and patristic witnesses, followed by the Textus Receptus.

I would also add that αὐτοὺς and not ἡμᾶς is found in the 6th century commentary by the Greek Church Father, Andrew of Caesarea (563-637), the first to write a complete commentary on Revelation.

Thus the argument here is not as strong.

There is also a difference in the two texts between βασιλεῖς καὶ ἱερεῖς (TR) and βασιλείαν καὶ ἱερεῖς (CT) - kings and priests v. kingdom and priests, but this wasn't the subject of your question.


* Scrivener's 1881 version

| improve this answer | |
  • a thorough breakdown 33515 and appreciated. So it seems TR goes with ἡμᾶς instead of αὐτοὺς ("us" instead of "them") due to the majority of the texts. Besides Andrew of Caesarea, What is the earliest church father reference to ἡμᾶς instead of αὐτοὺς? – Robert Lawrence Jan 27 '18 at 15:01
  • I'm sorry, I misstated that. I researched and corrected my answer. The majority of texts actually have αὐτοὺς, not ἡμᾶς. I'll look into the date. – user33515 Jan 27 '18 at 15:08
  • 1
    I can't find any information on earliest usage by any Greek Church Father. Primasius (d. 560) wrote a commentary in Latin that implied ἡμᾶς. It seems the principal witnesses for ἡμᾶς may have come from Latin and not Greek sources. – user33515 Jan 27 '18 at 15:20

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