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Revelation 5:10 NIV

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (NIV adds a footnote: some manuscripts 'they reign')

Revelation 5:10 ASV

... and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth.

The footnote in NIV points to variations between manuscripts. If so, what are they for this verse, and which is the earliest or better proven? Is it reign, or will reign, and why?

NET translator perhaps suggests that translation preference between bible versions was based on context:

NET translator :

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.

I posit that this translation preference might affect interpretation. If future tense then, at some time, the people of the kingdom will possess an element of dominion and co-rule, perhaps implying a necessary freedom of will separate from God. If present tense, the context depends on the state of affairs when the song is/was sung. This is, of course, a song within visionary text, so caveats of interpretation apply and might not be unique.

This question though, is not about interpretation. It is about proof of the better manuscript and why, specifically in the context of βασιλευσουσιν (future tense) or βασιλευουσιν (present tense).

Footnote:


Which translation for Revelation 5:10 is correct? Der Übermensch helpfully sets out some of the manuscript variations potentially relevant to Revelation 5:10, and discusses a similar question for 'us or them'. It lists some of the manuscripts pertinent to 'reign or will reign':

βασιλεύσουσιν (“they shall reign”) is included in the Codex Sinaiticus (א); Codex Porphyrianus (P), a plethora of miniscules; Codex Amiatinus (am); Codex Fuldensis (fu); Codex Toletanus (T); Codex Harleianus (harl); Codex Lipsiensis (lipss); all of Lachmann’s critical editions (omnlachm); Coptic (cop); several manuscripts of the commentary on Revelation of Andreas (Andp c bav), Bishop of Caesarea; the commentary on Revelation of Arethas (Arecom), Bishop of Caesarea; Cyprian (cyp); and, Fulgentius (Fulg), Bishop of Ruspe.

βασιλεύουσιν (“they reign/ they are reigning”) is included in Lachmann (Ln), Tischendorf (Ti), Codex Alexandrinus (A), Codex Vaticanus (B), a plethora of miniscules; Syriac (syr); and, in the Codex Augustanus, the commentary on Revelation of Andreas (Anda), Bishop of Caesarea.

βασιλεύσομεν (“we shall reign”) is included in the Textus Receptus (ς), but the Textus Receptus has βασιλεύσουσιν in the margin, which is attested by the Computensian Polyglot (α) and manuscript ιε from King Henry II’s library. βασιλεύσομεν is also included by the critical editions of Griesbach (Gb) and Scholz (Sz); Clementine Vulgate (vgcle); Codex Demidovianus (demid); Codex Lipsiensis (lipss); Armenian (arm); Arethas (Are); Primasius (Prim); and, Maternus (Matern).

Contextually, which English translation/ Greek text seems more probable in Rev. 5:10? concerns a separate translation issue in Revelation 5:10, and not the manuscript, concerning whether or not the four living creatures/beasts and the elders are referred to as a kingdom or as priests.

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  • Since neither is great grammar, why not accept both on aggregate? Oct 26, 2023 at 21:10
  • The text variation of the Greek, involving "reign", translit': "basileusousin" has, as pointed out, many differing MSS, with interpretations, leading to more confusion. Does there have to be confusion? I don't think so! Various biblical texts, speak to a well attended heavenly scene, centered around an enthroned God. See Rev, 4: 1-8. The recently resurrected lamb attends also. See Rev, 5:6,7. Then we have Rev, 5:8,9, which IMO, speaks to the 144,000, leading us into Rev, 5:10, which again IMO, speaks to the "them", who will reign over the earth, in the "Millennium". + 1 Oct 26, 2023 at 22:15
  • If you want to see what I have written about the 144,000, you can go here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/81247/… ... Also, I recently came to appreciate that the "Four Living (cherubic) Creatures" represent the 12 tribes, but now we are going beyond the scope of your Q. If, however, you want to know more, I can provide the link. Oct 26, 2023 at 22:24
  • @Olde English thank you. It may seem trivial, but the tense of reign might have profound effect upon meaning here, specifically when the reign will start or might have started. If the song might be in the present, then reign necessarily began when or before it was sung. If future then it will begin sometime after the song. So it matters when the song was/is/will be sung, perhaps even moreso if reign is in the present. For example, this might affect preterist or partial preterist readings. Robbie G, this is one reason why not to accept both answers IMHO, or to at least try to resolve it.
    – user59096
    Oct 27, 2023 at 9:51

1 Answer 1

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Metzger sets in front of us the evidence we have for the verse (when it comes to ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲥⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ):

5.10 βασιλεύσουσιν {A}

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.

(Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2d, Accordance electronic ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 666-667.)

So we are left with two options:

  • ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲥⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ ("will reign")
  • ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ ("reign")

As Comfort notes, the "lunar sigma" looked much like the widened omicron. So, this would have been an easy mistake to make.

As to which variant is more likely, the evidence is split. And each option has some validity. Before we look at the evidence, though, it's good for us to clear up some errors:

  • This answer at Which translation for Revelation 5:10 is correct? lists Vaticanus as a 4th-century witness for this text. This is incorrect. After Hebrews 9, Vaticanus' hand changes from uncial script to minuscule. So, after Hebrews 9 the weight of Vaticanus shifts to being a lesser witness since it was copied much closer to our time.
  • An earlier posting here words it this way: "NA28, UBS5, Majority text, W&H, SBL, Souter, etc, all have [βασιλεύσουσιν]". This is incorrect. The Majority family is split in this verse. One textual stream (MAJ-K) has "βασιλευουσιν". The other textual stream (MAJ-A) has "βασιλεύσουσιν". The evidence from the Byzantine family is divided.
  • So also, in the same post, the author writes: "Textus Receptus and Orthodox Text have [βασιλεύσομεν]." This is incorrect. The Orthodox text has: “καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς τῷ Θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλεῖς καὶ ἱερεῖς, καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς” (Revelation 5:10 GNT-EPT).

With those corrections, we can look at the evidence. As Metzger writes (above), we basically have two major witnesses:

  • Alexandrinus keeps the present (ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ). Generally in Revelation, Alexandrinus is considered to be the best-preserved text. But, as Metzger notes, in Rev. 20, the scribe made a scribal error. So the scribe here could have made the same sort of error here. So there is weight in going with Alexandrinus
  • Sinaiticus has the future here (ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲥⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ). In addition, this reading has the support of some versions and some church fathers.

As we collect all the evidence, the basic conclusion is that there isn't enough evidence to solidly conclude which variant is clearly the "winner." The commentary given from internal evidence is highly interpretive and suspect. So if the question is "which variant is valid", the answer from the evidence we actually have is that both have equal weight.

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    That's helpful and good pointers Epimanes, appreciated and shall research. I'd hope there should be some evidence through the family tree of copies, because script errors tend to grow faster than they get repaired. I'm not fond of applying context here, because the case based on context here either way seems unconvincing, and on the face of it there's risk of theological bias. I'd hope to follow the evidence, so again appreciate your answer +1 from me.
    – user59096
    Oct 26, 2023 at 20:39
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    If you're willing to dig more, especially into the complex history of TC in Revelation, I suggest: academia.edu/6077214/…
    – Epimanes
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:04
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    Another article which takes up the Textus Receptus (Erasmus' issues) and Revelation would be: jbtc.org/v16/Krans2011.pdf
    – Epimanes
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:06
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    oooh, this is much better of a presentation of the issues: youtube.com/watch?v=Fc6jREVNKW4
    – Epimanes
    Oct 26, 2023 at 21:08

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