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I was reading Revelation 13:1 and compared how it was translated in the NASB ("And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore") and how it was translated in the KJV ("And I stood on the sand of the sea"). There is quite a difference in translation between "the dragon stood" and "I stood." I am wondering which is a more accurate translation and how great the difference in meaning is between the two differing translations.

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One issue is that some Greek manuscripts take the Greek phrase και εσταθην επι την αμμον της θαλασσης ("and I stood upon the sand of the sea") and number it as Rev. 12:18, whereas other make it as the beginning of Rev. 13:1.

The Greek text produced by Robert I Estienne (1550) states,

12:18 και εσταθην επι την αμμον της θαλασσης 13:1 και ειδον εκ της θαλασσης θηριον αναβαινον εχον κεφαλας επτα και κερατα δεκα και επι των κερατων αυτου δεκα διαδηματα και επι τας κεφαλας αυτου ονομα βλασφημιας

The Greek text produced by the Elzevirs (1624) states,

13:1 και εσταθην επι την αμμον της θαλασσης και ειδον εκ της θαλασσης θηριον αναβαινον εχον κεφαλας επτα και κερατα δεκα και επι των κερατων αυτου δεκα διαδηματα και επι τας κεφαλας αυτου ονομα βλασφημιας

The Greek text of the modern Nestle-Aland 28th edition (NA28) states,

12:18 Καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης. 13:1 Καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον, ἔχον κέρατα δέκα καὶ κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν κεράτων αὐτοῦ δέκα διαδήματα καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτοῦ ὀνόμα [τα] βλασφημίας.

The NA28 is based largely on the previous NA26 edition. Regarding the NASB, it is written, "Consideration was given to the latest available manuscripts with a view to determining the best Greek text. In most instances the 26th edition of Eberhard Nestle's NOVUM TESTAMENTUM GRAECE was followed." The NASB has "dragon" as the subject of "stood" because it numbers «Καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης» as Rev. 12:18 and uses the subject of Rev. 12:17, ὁ δράκων ("the dragon"), as the subject of ἐστάθη ("he/ it stood") in Rev. 12:18.

The other issue is that some manuscripts (e.g., NA28) have ἐστάθη, meaning "and he/ it stood," rather than ἐστάθην (e.g., Estienne, Elzevir), meaning "and I stood."

Ultimately, this is a textual criticism matter. I don't believe I myself could make an unequivocal assertion as to which reading is correct. I would simply recommend analyzing the context, analyzing the weight of the witnesses (you'll need a critical apparatus/ text of the Greek NT for this), and looking for any parallels from the Tanakh that John may have used when he wrote this particular verse.

The Vulgate appears to agree with the NASB's translation, with the Vulgate reading stetit ("he/ she/ it stood"). Although some say the Syriac agrees, I'm not sure why it reads ܘܩܡܬܼ (wakamat), meaning "and she/ it stood," the verb being conjugated in the feminine-gender rather than masculine-gender. Someone correct me if I am wrong on the Syriac.

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This is an amplification of sorts on the answer that addressed the various Greek texts.


As the other answer indicated, there appears to be a difference of only one word (one letter, actually) in the underlying Greek texts of the NASB and the KJV, as regarding the standing and watching at the sea:

  • Καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης ..., as found in the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text upon which the NASB is based (there is no difference, though, in the 27th or 28th editions)

  • καὶ ἐστάθην ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης ..., as found in the Textus Receptus, upon which the KJV is based.

Both words are conjugations of ἵστημι (histēmi), meaning to stand or make a stand.

  • The former (NASB/NA26 reading) - ἐστάθη (estathē) - is a third person singular form: "It stood" (or "he stood" or "she stood")

  • The latter (KJV/TR reading) - ἐστάθην (estathēn) - is a first person singular form: "I stood"

According to the Nestle-Aland apparatus, the KJV/TR reading is found in the majority of Greek texts, the 10th century uncial 051, as well as in a number of Latin, Syriac, and Coptic (Egyptian) manuscripts. Even though Uncial 051 iself dates to the 10th century, is actually a copy of a 6th or 7th century commentary on Revelation by Andrew of Caesarea (563-637), the author of the only complete Greek commentary on Revelation that we have.

The NASB/NA26 reading, on the other hand, is found in the Sinaiticus (ca 330-360), Alexandrinus (ca 400-440), and Vaticanus Codices (ca 300-325), the 3rd century P47 papyrus fragments, as well as other Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts.


The NA27 editors have some slight uncertainty as to whether ἐστάθη ("it stood") or ἐστάθην ("I stood") is the proper reading, and as a result rate the text certainty as "B" ("almost certain"), as opposed to "A" ("certain").


The choice of reading also influenced how the Greek text was punctuated.

The oldest manuscripts had no punctuation, but the latter critical text editors added what they though should be appropriate for clarity. (In this sense, punctuation is just as much a part of the translation as the word choice).

In the TR reading, I saw a beast rise up out of the sea (εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον) refers to something that the speaker did at the same time as standing upon the sand of the sea. This is reflected in how the Orthodox Patriarchal Text punctuates the clauses:

Καὶ ἐστάθην ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης· καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον ...

where a Greek semicolon (raised period) appears after the word "sea" (θαλάσσης). The Nestle-Aland text, however, having distinguished between the speaker and the dragon, puts a hard stop - a period - after ... the dragon stood on the seashore:

Καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης. καὶ εἶδον ...


Metzger's Textual Commentary addresses all of the above in its report on how the Nestle-Aland committee arrived at the choice it did:

Instead of καὶ ἐστάθη, which is well supported by 𝔓47 א A C about 25 minuscules (including 1854 2344) and itgig, ar vg syrh arm eth al, the Textus Receptus, following P 046 051 most minuscules syrph copsa, bo al, reads Καὶ ἐστάθην (preceded by a full stop). The latter reading appears to have arisen when copyists accommodated ἐστάθη to the first person of the following εἶδον.


The other answer also showed that there was a difference in verse numbering between the two Greek texts. This is directly related to the choice of ἐστάθη ("it stood") vs. ἐστάθην ("I stood").

The verse numbering that we have today is a system designed by the English Catholic Archbishop Stephen Langton in the 13th century. It was applied at that time to the Latin Vulgate, not the Greek text. In this case, the Vulgate agrees with the Greek manuscripts selected as the basis for NA26, reading:

12:18 Et stetit supra arenam maris.

And he stood upon the sand of the sea.

13:1 Et vidi de mari bestiam ascendentem ...

And I saw a beast coming up out the sea ...

The King James editors, having determined that the text read "I stood" and not "he stood", elected to absorb the text into 13:1 and delete 12:18. They probably did this with little compunction, since the verse numbering scheme was a legacy of the Latin Vulgate in any case.


It should be noted that in neither the Latin nor any Greek manuscript does the word "dragon" appear in the text numbered as verse 12:18. The NASB and other NA-based versions sometimes insert it so that the verse makes more sense on its own.

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The choice of which is proper here really stands or falls on your position on the three chief critical texts (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus & Vaticanus), you either accept their pedigree or do not. The passage makes sense (though with slightly different implications) either way and no great doctrine hangs upon either reading. The context and the flow of the passage admit either without great preference. Therefore it is really a question of whether to accept the critical text sources or the majority text sources.

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I'm currently reading Eugenio Corsini's "The Apocalypse: The Perennial Revelation of Jesus Christ" which is a detailed study of Revelation (well-worth reading). (Corsini was a scholar from the University of Turin who had access to many ancient texts). The translation he followed on this quotation in question is "And HE stood on the sands of the sea." He goes to explain on page 228-230 that this refers to the dragon standing on the edge of the sea and earth from which the two beasts arise (one from the sea, one from the earth). Satan is standing "on the line of demarcation between the two elements." This stance over the two elements refers to Satan's claim to authority over these elements from which woes were to emanate as forecasted by the heavenly voices (Rev 12:12). This book is in many seminary libraries--check it out the whole passage. If the correct translation is "And I stood on the sands of the sea" then this would eliminate where Satan's presumptious stance was as he calls the first beast of Chapter 13 out of the sea.

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