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Revelation 5:9-10

9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

I ask because it seems awkward to say in English that the people who are made to be a kingdom are the ones reigning.

Typically the word kingdom describes the domain of rule and not specifically the rulers of the domain except perhaps as a synecdoche.

While "kingdom" is by far the most common translation of the word βασιλείαν, should we understand it's meaning in Rev 5:10 to be something more along the lines of "ruling power?" Those who rule on the Earth are the ones made to be a "ruling power?"

Note:
As @HoRn has pointed out in the comments below, the KJV translates βασιλείαν as "kings." I actually really like this translation as it seems to flow much better, however, the word for "them" is plural and masculine and the word for "priests" is plural and masculine, however, βασιλείαν is singular and feminine. "Kings" doesn't seem to be quite the exact meaning match we'd like, though I think it's probably a reasonably good interpretation for the meaning of βασιλείαν as applied to the people of Rev 5:9-10 even if it doesn't totally work as an exact translation.

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    In KJV, "and hast made us unto our God kings and priests"
    – HoRn
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 7:45
  • I suggest that the expression is a conscious echo of "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus ch19 v6, RSV). That was addressed to the Israelites, of course. Commented May 11 at 21:44
  • @StephenDisraeli, interesting. Is there any connotation in that passage that the Israelites as a people would rule the Earth?
    – Austin
    Commented May 15 at 7:04
  • @Austin No, the context, including "to me", is more about being ruled by God directly. It is his kingship over them, not their kingship over others. That has implications for the meaning in Revelation. Commented May 15 at 8:31

2 Answers 2

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It is difficult to see how βασιλείαν in Rev 5:10 could be accurately translated any other way than "kingdom". Greek has two distinct words:

  • βασιλεία = a royal rulership, kingship, kingdom, as in Rev 5:10
  • βασιλεύς = king (which is NOT used in Rev 5:10)

Thus, if one wished to avoid "kingdom" then one might stretch the meaning to something like (BDAG): "royal power", "royal rule", "royal reign", etc. However, I do not believe we should be overly pedantic here for the following reasons:

  1. Most of the book of Revelation must be viewed as at least partly symbolic and spiritual, and the kind of government in the heavenly kingdom has not been explained. The only thing we know for sure is that Jesus is the king of the heavenly kingdom, but what part others will play is impossible to say.
  2. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom will be regarded as part of the royal family because the king (Jesus) is "our brother", Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29.
  3. These citizens of the heavenly kingdom are priests, according to Rev 1:6, 5:10 and 1 peter 2:9 (see below).

However, The Greek of Rev 5:10 does not actually say that the citizens of the heavenly kingdom will be kings; the text of Rev 5:10 simply says this (set out point form from BLB):

and You have made them:

  • a kingdom
  • and priests to our God;
  • and they will reign/govern upon the earth."

The wording is almost identical to Rev 1:6. Thus, as saved people in the heavenly kingdom, we can expect to be made priests in the kingdom and that this kingdom will be composed of priests. Indeed, the same idea is expressed in 1 Peter 2:9 -

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The KJV (and NKJV) translation is, in Rev 5:10, somewhat interpretive rather than literal; most modern versions prefer the literal translation of "kingdom and priests".

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  • Thanks, for the response. Why not consider royal/ruling power as a legitimate possibly more meaningful option and our role as rulers to be confirmed by verses outside Revelation such as 2 Tim 2:12?
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 14:40
  • @Austin - It is best to avoid theological translations - the word here means "kingdom".
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 20:48
  • the word also means kingship and royal rulership as your own definition you quote states. These are meanings quite distinct in English from the word generally understood as "kingdom" and are more consistent with the concept of royal power as other definitions state. Why do you dismiss these as theological translations? They don't seem any more theological as translations than the word "kingdom" as a translation.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 22:52
  • As a general comment on language translations, just as words in Hebrew and Greek have associations and connotations, different associations are conveyed in English with words such as "kingdom." For more contemporary example, the word "collaborator" in English has taken on a distinctly negative association after World War 2. Arguably, the word, "administration" in a political sense, doesn't carry the western medieval connotations of the word, "kingdom."
    – Dieter
    Commented May 11 at 18:36
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It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Greek word for kingdom is feminine since it’s femininity was blotted out by the patriarchal hierarchy that originally translated the scriptures and that same patriarchal hierarchy exists still today, to the detriment of really understanding Jesus’ call for equality regardless of gender and for inclusion of all regardless of gender. This argument only makes up excuses for patriarchal hierarchy to further oppress women and therefore I have to disagree with this argument. Jesus calls for “new birth,” ie new ways of thinking and that undoubtedly includes having a compassionate heart for the equality of women, an idea that literally turns our world upside down today as it would in all ancestors generations.

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    Hey David! Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics SE. Please take a moment to take the site tour and check out what we are looking for in answers and the FAQs. This site can be tricky at first. We look for answers that show effort, research, and references. Consider an edit to add citations and reliable sources that support the assertions made here.
    – Jason_
    Commented May 11 at 18:30
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented May 12 at 2:41
  • Don’t worry about me. I thought this was an open forum for open minded Christians, but I can see it’s gatekept by the very kind of religious leaders Jesus warns us about. “Sufficient reputation,” indeed. Wonder why our churches are emptying? Hypocritical arrogance and narrow minded such as this is why. Excuse me while I go look for the log in my eye. Commented May 12 at 20:51

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