Q288 : Who Sings in Revelation 5?

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Q288 : Who Sings in Revelation 5?

Hello Tony.

I was just reading your commentary on Revelation 5:9-10a where the terms "us" and "them" had been changed from the oldest manuscripts of the bible.

I really want to know the truth in such cases. Is there a manuscript or a bible that has not been changed from the original that uses the terms "we" and "them" that I can get for study purposes?

If so, where would I find it?

A288 : by Tony Garland

As the commentary discusses, there are different Greek manuscripts which vary in the details. All English translations are based upon a selection of different Greek manuscript evidence. Thus, they also vary in these details. Since we do not have the original Greek text of the New Testament (the autograph), there is no English translation which we can be certain is a perfect representation of the Greek original.

It's not that these English translations have “been changed from the original,” but that the translation committees for each English version make different decisions as to which variations between the Greek manuscripts available to us they find compelling in arriving at what they view to be the most accurate English translation.

Thus, we cannot avoid the complexities of biblical textual criticism: the means by which we attempt to identify the most accurate rendering of the original autograph based on the many copies of manuscript evidence preserved down to our time.

Consider the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, of which Article Xa states:

We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.1

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.2

My point in the commentary was that the reasoning used to analyze the manuscript evidence behind the various English translations at Revelation 5:9-10, while well-intended, attempts to harmonize perceived inconsistencies in pronouns in a way which may obscure the antiphonal nature of the song of the redeemed.

In other words, the perceived inconsistencies are not necessarily inconsistent when one considers that both the elders and the living creatures may both be singing the song in an antiphonal manner. When we follow the simple majority manuscript witness and allow it to speak for itself without any (potentially misplaced) attempt to “correct” the pronouns, we wind up with:

[Elders sing:] And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, [Living Creatures sing:] and have made them kings and priests to our God; and they shall reign on the earth3

The topic of manuscript evidence behind the Old and New Testaments is quite complex. A good introductory text on the subject is Searching for the Original Bibleb by Randall Price.


1.CSBI, Article X
2.CSBI, Article X
3.Rev. 5:9b-10, NKJV


Rev. 5:9b-10Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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