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Significant differences between NIV and KJV in Revelation 8:7. NIV has "A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up" while KJV has only trees mentioned "and the third part of trees was burnt up"

The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:7 - NIV)

The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. (Revelation 8:7 - KJV)

If NIV is correct and it's a third of the earth then it's speaking of ALL the earth is going to be burned up. It's 29% of the 510 million square kilometers (196,961,284 miles²) of the Earth's surface is covered by land.

If KJV is right and a third part of the trees (forests) then its more bearable, 31 percent of the world's land surface is forest, which would make 10.3% of the land burned up, I rather have 10% of the land then 100%.

  • How should it read?
  • Is this to take literally or figuratively?
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There are two questions raised about Rev 8:7, one textual and the the other interpretive. Let us address these one at a time.

Textual Problem

The text as per NA28/UBS5, Byzantine, Majority text is as follows (my literal translation in all cases):

Καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ ἐγένετο χάλαζα καὶ πῦρ μεμιγμένα ἐν αἵματι, καὶ ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν γῆν· καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῆς γῆς κατεκάη, καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν δένδρων κατεκάη, καὶ πᾶς χόρτος χλωρὸς κατεκάη.

= And the first trumpeted; and came hail and fire having been mixed with blood was thrown to the earth. And a third of the earth was burned and the third of the trees were burned and all the green grass was burned.

By contrast, the Textus Receptus, TR, is alone in having the following text:

Καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισε, καὶ ἐγένετο χάλαζα καὶ πῦρ μεμιγμένα αἵματι, καὶ ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν γῆν· καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν δένδρων κατεκάη, καὶ πᾶς χόρτος χλωρὸς κατεκάη.

= And the first angel trumpeted, and came hail and fire having been mixed with blood, and it was thrown to the earth; and the third of the trees were burned, and all the green grass was burned.

The TR is almost unsupported among the MSS at this point.

Interpretive Matters

To understand the highly symbolic text, we need to understand the symbols. This will vary very greatly between different schools of Prophetic/Apocalyptic systems such as Furturism, Preterism, Historicism, Spiritualistic, etc. For example,

  • Futurism begins with the premise (at least most schools of futurism) that all these passages must be interpreted strictly literally
  • Preterism believes that these passages all describe events that occurred in the first century
  • Historicism believes that these events were fulfilled during the Christian era and culminating in Jesus return
  • Spiritualist schools or prophetic interpretation look for more general ideas about the maturing of personal spiritual growth in Christians.

The above is not an exhaustive list. However, if one wishes to understand this language symbolically, then we have the following precedents:

  • Trees[Gr: dendron] (4) 7:1, 3, 8:7, 9:4 - a symbol of people generally, and righteous people particularly. This is consistent with New Testament usage of tree to represent people and their character (Matt 7:17, 18, 12:33, Luke 6:43, 44, 13:19, etc.)
  • Hail [Gr: chalaza] (4) 8:7, 11:19, 16:21(x2). These are the only occurrences of this word in the New Testament. However, the Old Testament has several instances of hail such as the plague of hail on Egypt (Ex 9:18-34, Ps 78:47, 48, 105:32, 33), during a battle of the Israelites with the Amorites (Josh 10:11, see also Psa 18:12-14), God’s reserves for judgement in the last day (Job 38:22, 23), as an instrument of judgement generally (Ps 147:17, 148:8, Isa 28:2, 17, 30:30, 32:17, Eze 13:11, 13, 38:22, Hag 2:17). Thus, hail is a consistent symbol of God’s judgement.
  • Blood [Gr: aima] (19) Several sources of blood are used: of the lamb (1:5, 5:9, 7:14, 12:11, 19:13), of martyred saints (6:10, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24, 19:2), from heaven in a plague (8:7, 8, 11:6, 16:3, 4, 6), of the wicked (14:20). In all cases death is involved. The same is true in the rest of the NT where blood is used a metaphor for death (eg, Matt 23:30), unless it occurs in the phrase “flesh and blood” which is a metaphor for humanity as opposed to spirit beings (eg, Matt 16:17, 1 Cor 15:50 but never in Revelation).
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  • Thanks! So the difference in Byzantine and TR then up to interpetation. Jul 21 '21 at 10:21
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Rev 8:7 is it a third part of the trees or third part of earth burned up?

Some Greek manuscripts do not have "A third of the earth was burned up". At Biblehub 25 out of 27 include it.

Is this to take literally or figuratively?

The book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Most interpret it figuratively.

Pulpit:

Vitringa says the earth denotes the Roman empire; the sea, the barbarous races. And the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. ... The third part is almost unanimously considered to represent "a large part, but such that the greater part was still uninjured." ... Wordsworth interprets the trees to mean the "princes" of the Roman empire; the grass, the common people.

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  • Thanks for your answer. What's super-majority ? Jul 21 '21 at 10:22
  • A supermajority is something like 70%. In this case, it is like 80%.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 21 '21 at 13:28
  • I thought it was a manuscript you was talking of like the majority text, (Byzantine). =) Jul 21 '21 at 13:34
  • I added to clarified :)
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 21 '21 at 13:46
  • Thanks Dottard showed me its the Textus Receptus that has with earth while Byzantine text do not include it Jul 21 '21 at 14:04

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