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Some translations of this scripture use the pronoun "us" but other ones use the pronoun "them". The use actually changes what is going on prior to this scripture in terms of who is singing the new song. Which pronoun is the correct one in this verse?

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

NASB: You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.

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Of the Greek MSS, those that have the reading in Rev 5:10 "them" are (from UBS5): Sinaiticus, A, 205, 209, 1006, 1611, 1841, 2050, 2053, 2344, 2351; of the Byzantine texts: 046. There are also several Latin Vulgate MSS, Syriac MSS, Coptic, & Armenian. Of the Church Fathers: Andrew, Cyprian, Maternus.

There are no Greek MSS that have the reading "us" but some Latin Vulgate texts, one Coptic text and a few Church Fathers do have it.

Of the compiled and edited texts, the following have "them": NA28, UBS5, Wescott & Hort, Majority Text, Byzantine Text (Robinson et al), SBL, GNT by Jongkind et al (2017), F35 by W Pickering, Orthodox Text.

The only exception is the Textus Receptus and the Latin Vulgate which is another example of how much the Vulgate influenced the Textus Receptus (the basis for the KJV), despite the absence of such a reading in any Greek MSS.

Therefore, there is almost no evidence for the reading "us", except in the Latin Vulgate and those traditions that following it.

Here is a picture of the actual verse in Codex Sinaiticus with the "them" circled. enter image description here

  • What reference are you citing? – Ruminator Nov 16 '18 at 13:40
  • For the MSS I used UBS5. For the Greek New Testaments I looked in each one that I have. – user25930 Nov 16 '18 at 18:30
  • I also consulted Jerome's Latin Vulgate and the Clementine Text which I also have. – user25930 Nov 16 '18 at 18:32
  • I'm interested in some of the detail behind this answer and have asked a follow-up question. – lonesomeday Nov 17 '18 at 14:20
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The overwhelming majority of ancient sources support "them", rather than "us".

There are manuscripts that support the reading of "us": the Vulgate Clementina, the Sahidic texts, and the Codex Gigas, along with a couple of the Church fathers.(This is according to my Nestle-Aland, I think the 27th edition.)

There appear to be no Greek manuscripts that support "us". I can't understand why the translators of the Authorised Version (KJV) would have translated it as such. Certainly modern translations (including my preferred NRSV) translate it as "them" exclusively.

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    It appears "us" is the reading of the majority text / Byzantine tradition. I think it would be desirable to mention that. I'll try to look up more details. – disciple Nov 15 '18 at 22:51
  • See related question in hermeneutics above. The line from SBLGNT appendix: Re 5:10 βασιλείαν WH Treg NIV ] βασιλεῖς RP • [βασ ... (irrelevant second difference) – disciple Nov 15 '18 at 23:26
  • @disciple Not what I am finding in the critical apparatus in my Nestle-Aland, but I'm out of practice reading it and would be glad to be corrected. – lonesomeday Nov 16 '18 at 9:29
  • I'm way over my head here, since I do not know any Greek. The two variant words apparently both mean "king", one third person and the other first person. The SBLGNT text I posted claims the Robinson-Pierpoint(2005) (which is a "critical text" for Byzantine readings, MT in NKJV footnotes). What I'm quite sure of is that this question cannot be adequately answered without careful consideration of the Greek texts. See hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/31612/… – disciple Nov 16 '18 at 16:53
  • @disciple There is another variant in the verse regarding the word "kings", but the variation is between autous (them) and hemas (us). My answer came from Christianity.SE -- I don't claim any special expertise in hermeneutics beyond what I can read in the critical apparatus of my Nestle-Aland. – lonesomeday Nov 16 '18 at 21:07
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Which translation for Revelation 5:10 is correct?

Any answer will not give the correct translation; at best, it will give you the most probable translation. Only if we could see the original manuscript would we know the correct translation with absolute certainty.

In my answer, I also discuss Revelation 5:9 because it influences the reading of 5:10. The following is the text of the King James Version (1611) with the germane text enclosed in red:

Revelation 5:9–10, King James Version, 1611

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the Booke, and to open the seales thereof: for thou wast slaine, and hast redeemed vs to God by thy blood, out of euery kinred, and tongue, and people, and nation: 10 And hast made vs vnto our God Kings and Priests, and we shall reigne on the earth.

followed by the Greek text of the 1550 Textus Receptus (ς) by Robert Estienne:

Revelation 5:9–10, Textus Receptus (1550)

Θʹ 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 Ιʹ καὶ ἐποίησας ἡμᾶς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλεῖς καὶ ἱερεῖς καὶ βασιλεύσομεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς TR, 1550


I rely on Constantin Tischendorf’s critical apparatus in his Novum Testamentum Graece (Ti),1 in conjunction with the critical apparatus of the Nestle-Aland 28th ed. Together, they provide a comprehensive identification of variants and their witnesses.

Constantin Tischendorf’s Critical Apparatus

Revelation 5:9–10, Critical Apparatus, Constantin Tischendorf

Nestle-Aland 28th edition Critical Apparatus

Revelation 5:9–10, Critical Apparatus, Nestle-Aland, 28th ed.

Relevant Information

In v. 9, ἡμᾶς (“us”) is included in the Codex Sinaiticus (א); Codex Vaticanus (B); Codex Porphyrianus (P); Miniscule 1 (1f); Coptic (cop); Codices Augustanus (Anda) and Palatinus (Andp) containing the commentary on Revelation of Andreas, Bishop of Caesarea; the commentary on Revelation of Aretha (Are), Bishop of Caesarea; Cyprian’s commentary on Revelation; and, others (al). The Textus Receptus (ς) and Karl Lachmann’s minor edition (Lned min) also include it.

It is omitted in the Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Miniscule 44 which instead have ἡμῶν (“our”), i.e. “to our God.” It is also omitted in Lachmann’s major edition (Lned mai), Johann Jakob Griesbach’s (Gb) critical edition of the New Testament, and the Ethiopian (aeth).

According to the reading of the Codex Alexandrinus, the verse would be translated as,

...and have redeemed, by your blood, to our God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Düsterdieck supports its omission and asserts that a scribe inserted the word ἡμᾶς after τῷ θεῷ “because a more accurate determination of the [direct] object is wished than is found in the words ἐκ πάσης φυλ[ῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους].”2 In support of his assertion that no direct object needs to be explicitly written with a verb used in conjunction with a partitive genitive (such as that in Rev. 5:9), Düsterdieck refers to 1 John 4:3,3 Matt. 25:8,4 and Acts 2:17.5

In v. 10, αὐτοὺς (“them”) is included by Codex Sinaiticus (א); Codex Alexandrinus (A); Codex Vaticanus (B); in addition to 50 others (al50; Codex Amiatinus (am) (and others, according to Johann Jakob Wettsein, who apparently received [the information] from Laurentius Valla); Coptic (cop); Syriac (syr); Armenian (arm); Ethiopian (aeth); and, all manuscripts of Andreas, Bishop of Caesarea (Andomn).

ἡμᾶς (“us”) is included in the Clementine Vulgate (vgcle); Codex Fuldensis (fu); Codex Demidovianus (demid); Codex Toletanus (T); Codex Harleianus (harl); Codex Lipsiensis (lipss); all of Lachmann’s critical editions (omnlachm); Cyprian (Cyp); Fulgentius (Fulg); Maternus (Matern); Arethas (Are); Primasius (Prim). The Textus Receptus 1550 has ἡμᾶς but includes αὐτοὺς in the marginal note and indicates that reading is supported by manuscript ιε (taken from King Henry II’s library) and the Computensian Polyglot (α). Both Griesbach (Gb) and Scholz (Sz) include ἡμᾶς in their critical editions.

βασιλεύσουσιν (“they shall reign”) is included in the Codex Sinaiticus (א); Codex Porphyrianus (P), a plethora of miniscules; Codex Amiatinus (am); Codex Fuldensis (fu); Codex Toletanus (T); Codex Harleianus (harl); Codex Lipsiensis (lipss); all of Lachmann’s critical editions (omnlachm); Coptic (cop); several manuscripts of the commentary on Revelation of Andreas (Andp c bav), Bishop of Caesarea; the commentary on Revelation of Arethas (Arecom), Bishop of Caesarea; Cyprian (cyp); and, Fulgentius (Fulg), Bishop of Ruspe.

βασιλεύουσιν (“they reign/ they are reigning”) is included in Lachmann (Ln), Tischendorf (Ti), Codex Alexandrinus (A), Codex Vaticanus (B), a plethora of miniscules; Syriac (syr); and, in the Codex Augustanus, the commentary on Revelation of Andreas (Anda), Bishop of Caesarea.

βασιλεύσομεν (“we shall reign”) is included in the Textus Receptus (ς), but the Textus Receptus has βασιλεύσουσιν in the margin, which is attested by the Computensian Polyglot (α) and manuscript ιε from King Henry II’s library. βασιλεύσομεν is also included by the critical editions of Griesbach (Gb) and Scholz (Sz); Clementine Vulgate (vgcle); Codex Demidovianus (demid); Codex Lipsiensis (lipss); Armenian (arm); Arethas (Are); Primasius (Prim); and, Maternus (Matern).


Summary

Düsterdieck provides a sound theory on the origin of the variants. First, since the scribe read v. 9 («καὶ ἠγόρασας ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους») and considered the lack of direct object odd for the verb ἠγόρασας, he inserted ἡμᾶς (“us”) as its direct object. (No direct object is necessary.)

Then, since the newly inserted ἡμᾶς (“us”) conflicted with the existing αὐτοὺς (“them”) in v. 10, the scribe changed αὐτοὺς in v. 10 to ἡμᾶς. However, the changes did not stop there. He writes,

Because objection was made to the pres[ent tense βασιλεύουσιν], βασιλεύσουσιν was written...and then, corresponding to the introduced ἡμᾶς: βασιλεύσομεν.

In summary, Düsterdieck argues for the following proposed original reading:

9 And they sing a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the book and to open its seals, for you were slain, and you redeemed [people] to God, by your blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, 10 and you made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they reign on the earth.”

Θʹ 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 Ιʹ καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλείαν καὶ ἱερεῖς καὶ βασιλεύουσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς


Date Ranges

Manuscripts

  • Clementine Vulgate (vgcle) — 1592 A.D.
  • Codex Alexandrinus (A) — 5th c. A.D.
  • Codex Amiatinus (am) — early 8th c. A.D.
  • Codex Demidovianus (dem/demid/59) — 13th c. A.D.
  • Codex Fuldensis (fu/fuld/F) — 6th c. A.D.
  • Codex Harleianus (l150/harl) — 995 c. A.D.
  • Codex Lipsiensis (lipss/Minuscule 99 ε 597 (von Soden)) — 15–16th c. A.D.
  • Codex Porphyrianus (Papr) — 9th c. A.D.
  • Codex Sinaiticus (א) — 4th c. A.D.
  • Codex Toletanus (T) — 10th c. A.D.
  • Codex Vaticanus (B) — 4th c. A.D.

Authors/Editors:

  • Andreas (And), Bishop of Caesarea — 6–7th c. A.D.
  • Arethas (Are), Bishop of Caesarea — 10th c. A.D.
  • Cyprian (Cyp), or Thaschus Cæcilius Cyprianus — 3rd c. A.D.
  • Fulgentius (Fulg), Bishop of Ruspe — 5–6th c. A.D.
  • Griesbach, Johann Jakob (Gb): 1st ed. Vol. 2. — 1774–1775 A.D.
  • Griesbach, Johann Jakob (Gb): 2nd ed. Vol. 2. — 1806 A.D.
  • Haymo (Haym), Bishop of Halberstadt — 9th c. A.D.
  • Julius Firmicus Maternus (Matern), Christian apologist — 4th c. A.D.
  • Lachmann, Karl: minor edition (Lned min) — 1830 A.D.
  • Lachmann, Karl: major edition (Lned mai) — 1842–1850 A.D.
  • Primasius (Prim), Bishop of Hadrumetum — 6th c. A.D.

Footnotes

1 Vol. 2, p. 935936
2 p. 204
3 «ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὑτοῦ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν» (“given to us of His Spirit”)
4 «Δότε ἡμῖν ἐκ τοῦ ἐλαίου ὑμῶν» (“give to us of your oil”)
5 «ἐκχεῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματός μου ἐπὶ πᾶσαν σάρκα» (“I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh”)

References

Düsterdieck, Friedrich. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Revelation of John. Vol. 11. Trans. Jacobs, Henry E. New York: Funk, 1887.

Novum Testamentum Graece. Ed. Aland, Barbara; et al. 28th ed. Stuggart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

Tischendorf, Constantin. Novum Testamentum Graece. Editio Octava Critica Maior. Vol. 2. Lipsiae: Giesecke, 1872.

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Exactly what are the facts behind the textual variations? There are 24 Greek manuscript known today that include Revelation 5:9. Twenty three manuscripts have the Greek "Hemas," which, translated, is "US" in English. Only one manuscript - Codex Alexandrinus (5th century) - renders it in the third person. By far, the majority of manuscripts, whether early or late, render it in the first person.

There are a number of very old Latin translations as well, including Jerome's Latin Vulgate, and every one of them render this verse in the first person.

J. A. Seiss, in his Lectures on the Apocalypse," writes:

"Some critics and expositors have rejected "Greek - HEMAS," translated "US," for the reason that it is omitted in the Codex Alexandrinus. The Codex Sinaiticus, however, which was discovered in 1860, and which is of equal antiquity and authority with the Codex Alexandrinus, contains first person plural (US). The Codex Basilianus (also called Codex Vaticanus) contains it. The Latin, Coptic or Memphitic, and Armenian, which are of great value, all contain it. And so do all other manuscripts and versions. And to discredit it simply and only because it does not appear in that one single Codex of Alexandria, is most unreasonable and unjust to the weight of authority for its retention."

It is not that the Greek, Hemas (pronounced hey-MAS) is translated differently in the Alexandrinus, but, rather, it is omitted. But it is included in all of the manuscripts mentioned by Seiss above.

Tregelles, in his Greek New Testament, retains "us," remarking that "in verse 9 hemas should certainly be read.

Dr. David Hocking, in his commentary on the book of Revelations, writes:

"In verse 10, the word "them" and the third person plural rendering "they shall reign," are all variant readings."

Dr. Walvoord, in Every Prophecy in the Bible, p549, writes:

"Scholars continue to differ on this subject. Manuscript evidence in support of the King James Version in verses 9-10 gives considerable support to the concept that the KJV is actually the best manuscript."

  • Hello Gary - the facts you quote here are simply untrue. I have just checked with the actual copy of Sinaiticus and its clearly says "them". So does Tregelles. How can you say such misinformation? – user25930 Apr 18 at 23:26

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