Revelation 5:13 (DRB):

And every creature, which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them: I heard all saying: To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honour, and glory, and power, for ever and ever.

Some considerable translations say "on the Sea" like ASV and NIV, while other considerable translations say "in the Sea" like DRB and KJV.

Latin Vulgate:

  1. et omnem creaturam quae in caelo est et super terram et sub terram et quae sunt in mari et quae in ea omnes audivi dicentes sedenti in throno et agno benedictio et honor et gloria et potestas in saecula saeculorum

What is the accurate translation "in" or "on"?

In some Greek manuscripts it is: επι της θαλασσης, is επι in all Greek manuscripts?


You are quoting the Vulgate but the text was originally written in Greek so I am assuming that you will be satisfied with the original Greek for your answer.

Jerome translated his Vulgate from the Old Latin which was, in turn, translated from the original authograph of the apostle who wrote in the Greek language.

επι της θαλασσης

[Revelation 5:13 TR - text undisputed]

θαλασσης is the genitive singular (see BAGL) and of the preposition epi used with the genitive, Daniel B Wallace says :

With Genitive ...

  • a - spatial - on/upon/at/near
  • b - temporal - in the time of, during
  • c - cause - on the basis of

(Beyond the Basics - 1996 - Zondervan)

So, according to Daniel B Wallace, the correct translation would seem to be :

'on/upon the sea'.

However I notice that the KJV translators have used the following for epi with genitive (according to Young's Analytical Concordance) :

in - 51 times

on - 71 times

upon - 37 times

over - 11 times

I cannot say what the 51 times 'in' refers to, though.

  • Vetus Latina was not written in Old Latin (the old form of Latin used several centuries before Christ) but in Late Latin (the language used in the centuries AD), the same langauge Jerome used. It was no translation of Vetus Latina but revision of it and a translation of the Greek text at the same time. The claim about using the autograph when procuring Vetus Latina is unsubstantiated and Vetus Latina is actually a colection of works by several independent translators. – Vladimir F Apr 3 '20 at 16:08
  • @VladimirF Jerome translated the Old Latin into Late Latin, as has been documented. You would need substantial proof to deny that the original authographs were not translated directly into Old Latin. But I would indeed be very interested if you could supply that proof. So please do if you have the resource to do so. – Nigel J Apr 3 '20 at 16:11
  • There was no Old Latin language involved, Jerome was translating from the original Greek and thus making a great consistent translation that survived the test of millenia. I suggest to read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vetus_Latina As for the autographs, there is no way to proof that something didn't happen but it is not very likely because the authors of the gospels were working in different places and their works were spreading through manuscript copies and the "Old Latin" translation was made by many people independently. – Vladimir F Apr 3 '20 at 16:29
  • @VladimirF My reading of the link you have supplied is that Jerome translated from Old Latin into Late Latin. The Old Latin existed before Jerome. We are not extracting the same information from the link you have supplied. – Nigel J Apr 3 '20 at 16:33
  • 1
    @NigelJ The Vetus Latina is now called Old Latin simply because the translations were older than the Vulgate (also written in Latin), not because they used a version of the language from before Cicero and Caesar and well before Christ. – Henry Apr 4 '20 at 0:14

Rev 5:13 contains four phrases about location which all have a proposition followed by a noun:

  1. ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ = in the heavens (dative masculine)
  2. ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς = on the earth (genitive feminine)
  3. ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς = under the earth (genitive feminine)
  4. ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης = on the sea (genitive feminine)

To this list we could also add a fifth later in the same verse, namely

  1. ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ = on the throne (dative masculine)

Let us observe several things about these constructions:

  • "epi" is used in direct contrast (in adjacent phrases #2,& #3) with "huperkato"
  • Whatever one makes of meaning #2 must be also said about meaning #4 above
  • "epi" is used again later in the same sentence meaning "on" not "in" the throne.
  • Lastly, the last phrase "on the sea" is then followed by "all that is in (= GR: en) them"
  • BDAG also suggests that "epi" with genitive should be translated as "on, upon, near". With the dative, it should be translated as either "on, in, above". But this is not entirely germane here.

Thus, I assume that when John talks of creatures "on the sea" he is referring to those people who sail the seas, or this animals which exist in the surface of the seas, because then he goes no to include those "in" the sea as well.

The phrase "ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης" also occurs in other places such as Matt 14:26, Mark 6:48, John 6:19 and means "on the sea".

Therefore, the evidence here is that "ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης" means "on the sea"; I cannot find any indication (apart from some versions) that it should be "in the sea".

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