In the King James Version of Rev. 5:10, we find the following phrase,

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

If we examine the immediate context, the antecedent of the pronoun "us" appears to be "the four beasts and twenty-four elders" who "fell down before the Lamb" (Rev. 5:9). These same entities also sing to Christ (Rev. 5:9), "You have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation..."

Greek text of the Textus Receptus:

καὶ ἐποίησας ἡμᾶς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλεῖς καὶ ἱερεῖς καὶ βασιλεύσομεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

Greek text of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition:

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

The Greek text of the Textus Receptus has ἡμᾶς and βασιλεύσομεν, which translate into English as "us" and "we shall reign," respectively.

The Greek text of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition has αὐτοὺς and βασιλεύσουσιν, which translate into English as "them" and "they shall reign," respectively.

Most noteworthy, if the Textus Receptus is correct, then ἡμᾶς ("us") would include the four beasts, and the fourth beasts would be some of those who were redeemed by the blood of Christ and would reign on earth. This seems foreign and unorthodox.

With these variants in mind, what are the implications of accepting the variant(s) that appear in the Textus Receptus? I'm particularly interested in how it affects the redemption and implies that beasts will rule. Additionally, a biblical theology of "beast" imagery may be informative to any discussion on this topic.

  • 1
    I don't really understand the VTC. How can I make the question any clearer? I'm asking the person to note the textual variants. After noting them, read the immediate context of the scripture in question. After reading the context, answer which English translation/ Greek text is more probable based on the context. Yeah, it takes a bit of work, I suppose, but how is it "not a real question"? It's exegesis at the core.
    – user862
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:01
  • 1
    You can make the question clearer by explicitly stating that this is a question that has nothing to do with the variants between NA27 and TR. Simply rephrase the question along the lines of "What are the implications of accepting the minority variant in this passage?"
    – swasheck
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:27
  • 2
    @swasheck: I think this may be a case where another question (or several!) might be in order. We've gotten two pretty good answers on the textual criticism aspect: which Greek text is most likely original based on manuscript evidence. But there are a few other questions embedded in this question that might need to be asked. One might be to ask what the implications are if the Textus Receptus variation is assumed to be authentic. Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:54
  • 1
    I did not VTC, but I don't think I understand what the question is here. It seems to me that what you're asking is: "Ignoring the conclusive evidence that X is true and Y is false, would the remaining ambiguous evidence suggest that X is true or Y?" I'm honestly not sure what a question of that form means, and so I could certainly understand why someone would think it was not a real question.
    – Noah
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 21:59
  • 1
    At the very least I'd need to have some idea of the theory under which you're doubting the manuscript evidence. For example, I could understand the question "Under the theory that all manuscripts copied in Egypt were corrupted by gnostic scribes, would the remaining evidence be enough to conclude which reading is correct."
    – Noah
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 22:28

4 Answers 4


According to the NET Translator's notes,

The vast majority of witnesses have αὐτούς (autous, “them”) here, while the Textus Receptus reads ἡμᾶς (Jhmas, “us”) with insignificant support (pc gig vgcl sa Prim Bea). There is no question that the original text read αὐτούς here....

The textual problem here between the present tense βασιλεύουσιν (basileuousin, “they are reigning”; so A 1006 1611 ÏK pc) and the future βασιλεύσουσιν (basileusousin, “they will reign”; so א 1854 2053 ÏA pc lat co) is a difficult one. Both readings have excellent support. On the one hand, the present tense seems to be the harder reading in this context. On the other hand, codex A elsewhere mistakes the future for the present (20:6). Further, the lunar sigma in uncial script could have been overlooked by some scribes, resulting in the present tense. All things considered, there is a slight preference for the future.

Metzger, in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.), writes concerning αὐτούς:

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

Concerning βασιλεύσουσιν, Metzger goes on to say:

Of the three variant readings, it is obvious that βασιλεύσομεν (2432 al) is a secondary development, arising from the introduction of ἡμᾶς in the preceding verse (see the comment on ver. 9). It is more difficult to choose between βασιλεύσουσιν, supported by א P 1 94 1854 2053 2344 itgig vg syrph copsa, bo arm al, and βασιλεύουσιν, supported by A 046 1006 1611 it61 syrh al. A majority of the Committee, noting that in 20:6 codex Alexandrinus mistakenly reads βασιλεύουσιν for the future tense, preferred βασιλεύσουσιν here, as more suited to the meaning of the context.

In summary, the NA27 reading is most likely with a third-person plural pronoun and third-person plural verb (αὐτούς), but a third option exists for the verb that is not used by the NA27 nor the Textus Receptus: βασιλεύουσιν. So the third-person reading is definitely most likely, but it is a tough call whether to go with the third-person plural present or future verb (βασιλεύουσιν or βασιλεύσουσιν, respectively). The NA27 has chosen the latter on the basis that codex Alexandrinus elsewhere mistakes the future for the present, but sufficient evidence exists for both readings. But given that your question asks for which of the two readings is most likely (Textus Receptus or NA27), it is clear that the NA27 is most likely.

Based solely on context, I think it's impossible to determine whether the present or future verb is best (six one way, half a dozen the other), but I still think the third-person plural reading makes the most sense (i.e. αὐτούς). In Revelation 1:5-6, the author states:

καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς, ὁ πιστός, ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν καὶ ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς. Τῷ ἀγαπῶντι ἡμᾶς καὶ λύσαντι ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐποίησεν ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, ἱερεῖς τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ, αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας [τῶν αἰώνων]· ἀμήν.

ἡμᾶς in 1:6 (shown above) refers to John and the seven churches in Asia in 1:4 (Ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ), who were freed from their sins by Jesus' blood in 1:5 (λύσαντι ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ). It states that Jesus made them a kingdom and priests to his God and Father (1:6). This description of ἡμᾶς in 1:6 seems to best correspond to the persons from every tribe and language and people and nation who were ransomed by Jesus' blood (καὶ ἠγόρασας τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους), a group to whom John and the seven churches in Asia belonged, since in both places they are called a kingdom and priests (1:6 and 5:10). Nowhere do we see the the four living creatures/beasts and the elders referred to as a kingdom nor as priests.

  • Could you elaborate on the context? What are the implications of "them" and "they shall reign" versus "us" and "we shall reign"?
    – user862
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 18:05
  • Present vs. Future is not as difficult as the NET translation notes make it seem.
    – swasheck
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 19:07
  • I agree @swasheck - which I think Metzger makes clear (I wanted to quote more than one source on this, and my only other textual commentary basically just quotes Metzger).
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 19:49
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 I added a contextual response at the end of my answer.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:50
  • @Dan O'Day, so, you believe ἡμᾶς is contextually more probably although "the majority of witnesses have αὐτούς"? I understand I asked you about context alone, so consider this a tangential question that I was interested in asking of you.
    – user862
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 21:18

I know you asked for contextual evidence and I hope to get there. However, when it comes to these sorts of things, contextual (which is part of internal) evidence is really only one of the factors that goes into these sorts of things. overview of internal and external evidence

The UBS (4th ed.) also has αὐτοὺς (which is unsurprising given the overlap between NA and UBS). The only other significant variant is ἡμᾶς which is the variant that you have noted in your question.

External Evidence

The UBS selected αὐτοὺς with an {A} degree of confidence (the highest certainty). It is attested in uncials: א (Sinaiticus), A (Alexandrinus), miniscules: 209 1006 1611 1841 2050 2053 2344 2351, the Byzantine [046] text, the Wordsworth-White and Stuttgart Vulgates, Syriac Philoxenaina and Harclean, Bohairic Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, and some early church father attestation. Many of these date from the Fourth Century with the Coptics being from the Third Century.

ἡμᾶς is attested by some Old Latin manuscripts (Eighth and Ninth Centuries), the Clementine Vulgate (Fourth Century), the Sahidic Coptic (Third Century), and a few other early church fathers.

As far as external evidence is concerned, given the strength of Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus, and the geographical distribution of the witnesses, the committee favored αὐτοὺς.

Within the same passage, there is another variant in 5.9 that sees more diversity. UBS chose τῷ θεῷ ({A}) over τῷ θεῷ ἡμᾶς, or ἡμᾶς τῷ θεῷ, or just ἡμᾶς. We would need to repeat the process for these variants as well. For the sake of length and time, I'll abbreviate the external here. The UBS-preferred reading is attested by Alexandrinus and the Ethiopic texts. ἡμᾶς is attested by a Vulgate manuscript and Greek lectionaries. τῷ θεῷ ἡμᾶς by Sinaiticus and most of the witnesses above for αὐτοὺς. ἡμᾶς τῷ θεῷ is not attested well but does have some witnesses in the Old Latin and Syriac.

Internal Evidence

You've noted the change in meaning wrought by addition of ἡμᾶς. It seems to be a scribal insertion to smooth the narrative, perhaps to make the πρεσβυτέρων (and ζῴων) the more direct recipients of this power. Or because it just makes better sense to use "we" in context because they're the ones actually talking.


5.10 also has a variant here (which you've noted). βασιλεύσουσιν ({A}) is in Sinaiticus, St. Petersburg, and quite a few of the above witnesses for αὐτοὺς. βασιλεύουσιν in Alexandrinus and other minuscule found above. Finally βασιλεύσομεν is, once again, poorly-attested in only one minuscule, in the Clementine Vulgate, and in two early church fathers.

On the balance, it seems that external evidence was used to arrive at this decision. Because of the external evidence, ἡμᾶς ("we" language) was ruled out as original and the need to remain consistent within this section arose.

edit ...

So What?

The Textus Receptus is a text that is based on, follow me here, Erasmus' translation of the Latin (itself a translation from the Greek) back into Greek. Setting aside the margin for error in this, and setting aside many of the issues that have arisen from critical analysis of the TR, most of the Latin manuscripts contain this insertion because they were based on the Vulgate and other late Latin translations which have been demonstrated to have included this variant. TR includes this variant because of its textual heritage.

  • I certainly agree that the textual witnesses are significant. I would also enjoy seeing your analysis of the contextual implications of each option (whenever you have time).
    – user862
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 19:10
  • But it is based on the context. I guess I'm having trouble understanding what you're after. Are you after the whole "living creatures" being included in the ruling party?
    – swasheck
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 19:23
  • 4
    It seems like doing this with a textual variant is doing it in a vacuum. "Which is more probable?" is a very different question than "what are the implications of accepting the weaker variant(s)?" We could go into biblical and systematic theologies of the redemption of all of creation, or the symbolism of things in Revelation, but that's a separate question altogether.
    – swasheck
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 19:40
  • 1
    This is the best answer
    – user1985
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 19:36
  • 1
    @RichardPatton Thanks for your comment, I only wish I could understand it. You seem like you want to rant so enjoy yourself. I presented an argument from textual criticism. That you continue to cite "Codex A" notes that you're only looking from one source within one tradition. Furthermore, I never actually said "overwhelming evidence." It is the responsibility of the translator to examine passages in context, especially given the fact that vs. 10 is a continuation of what was started in vs. 9. This isn't "conflation."
    – swasheck
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 15:28

Even if we didn't know anything about the weight behind the Textus Receptus and NA27 traditions, based on the context of John's letter we should prefer "them" rather than "us" as a reading.

Earlier in John's introduction to the letter (1:5b-6), he writes to the seven churches:

Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

From this we gather that John understands the churches to be the kingdom and priests. Obviously the language there parallels quite strongly the language here in 5:10. If we accept a reading here in 5:10 of "us" rather than "them" then we have two interpretive options that I can see. Either:

1) The four beasts and 24 elders are independent co-regents/priests with the churches

2) The four beasts and 24 elders are representative of the churches

The first option should be ruled right out. The proximity of the mention of blood in both 1:5b-6 and 5:9-10 suggests that in both cases John sees a link between being purchased by the blood of the Lamb and being made a kingdom and priests forever. If we were to follow this interpretation, this would be the only witness that the Lamb was slain for anyone other than the church. Indeed, other early Christian writing is emphatic that it is for the sons of Abraham (cf. Rev. 3:9) and no others that Jesus died. Similarly, John's own witness in Revelation in 14:4 shows that those purchased are from among mankind:

And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

So, those who reign and serve God as priests in Revelation are those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. And those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are the churches. If the four beasts are distinct from the churches, they cannot be the referent of those in 5:10 who reign, since they are not of the redeemed.

Similarly, the second option - that the four beasts and 24 elders are symbolic of the churches - faces its own difficulties. For instance, under this interpretation, John would seem to be in 5:5 both one of the elders and yet distinct from them. Similarly, at the end of 5:8, there seems to be a distinction drawn between those who hold the bowls of incense and those whose prayers are represented by the incense. And again, notice above that in 14:3, those who had been redeemed from the earth are distinct from the four living creatures and the elders.

This option also seems to run contrary to the imagery. The four beasts are a clear amalgamation of Ezekiel's cherubim and Isaiah's seraphim, which are angelic beings distinct from the people of God. The creatures here in Revelation 4-6 then should be understood as likewise angelic and symbolic not of the church, but of the height and breadth of all creation. If so, then again, "them" rather than "us" seems like a more appropriate choice.

  • 1
    Good point on Rev. 14:3.
    – user862
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 21:19
  • This was an exceptional response too. I just wanted you to know that. Well done. If I could mark yours as accepted, I certainly would have done so.
    – user862
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 21:38

Interestingly, the four beasts and twenty-four elders in heaven are the liturgical "originals" of the four empires and their Jewish priesthood on earth. The angels in heaven cast down their crowns because their Covenant ministry is finished. (They are retiring like Nazirites who have completed their vows and are offering up their glorious hair.) Rome, the fourth beast, is about to turn against God's people and be decommissioned as their cherubic guardian (AD66?). At this event, the elders in heaven were replaced by the new "angels," the martyred firstfruits church.

Based on the story, it's "them."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.