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Revelation 1:1-8

Context
The Prologue

1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, 1  which God gave him to show his servants 2  what must happen very soon. 3  He made it clear 4  by sending his angel to his servant 5  John, 1:2 who then 6  testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about 7  Jesus Christ. 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this 8  prophecy aloud, 9  and blessed are 10  those who hear and obey 11  the things written in it, because the time is near! 12 

1:4 From John, 13  to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia: 14  Grace and peace to you 15  from “he who is,” 16  and who was, and who is still to come, 17  and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 1:5 and from Jesus Christ – the faithful 18  witness, 19  the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free 20  from our sins at the cost of 21  his own blood 1:6 and has appointed 22  us as a kingdom, 23  as priests 24  serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! 25  Amen.

1:7 (Look! He is returning with the clouds, 26 

and every eye will see him,

even 27  those who pierced him, 28 

and all the tribes 29  on the earth will mourn because 30  of him.

This will certainly come to pass! 31  Amen.) 32 

1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” 33  says the Lord God – the one who is, and who was, and who is still to come – the All-Powerful! 34 

1 tn The phrase ἀποκάλυψις ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ (ajpokaluyi" Ihsou Cristou, “the revelation of Jesus Christ”) could be interpreted as either an objective genitive (“the revelation about Jesus Christ”), subjective genitive (“the revelation from Jesus Christ”), or both (M. Zerwick’s “general” genitive [Biblical Greek, §§36-39]; D. B. Wallace’s “plenary” genitive [ExSyn 119-21]). In 1:1 and 22:16 it is clear that Jesus has sent his angel to proclaim the message to John; thus the message is from Christ, and this would be a subjective genitive. On a broader scale, though, the revelation is about Christ, so this would be an objective genitive. One important point to note is that the phrase under consideration is best regarded as the title of the book and therefore refers to the whole of the work in all its aspects. This fact favors considering this as a plenary genitive.

2 tn Grk “slaves.” Although this translation frequently renders δοῦλος (doulos) as “slave,” the connotation is often of one who has sold himself into slavery; in a spiritual sense, the idea is that of becoming a slave of God or of Jesus Christ voluntarily. The voluntary notion is not conspicuous here; hence, the translation “servants.” In any case, the word does not bear the connotation of a free individual serving another. BDAG notes that “‘servant’ for ‘slave’ is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times…in normal usage at the present time the two words are carefully distinguished” (BDAG 260 s.v.). The most accurate translation is “bondservant” (sometimes found in the ASV for δοῦλος), in that it often indicates one who sells himself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its force.

3 tn BDAG 992-93 s.v. τάχος has “quickly, at once, without delay Ac 10:33 D; 12:7; 17:15 D; 22:18; 1 Cl 48:1; 63:4…soon, in a short timeRv 1:1; 22:6shortly Ac 25:4.”

4 tn Or “He indicated it clearly” (L&N 33.153).

5 tn See the note on the word “servants” earlier in this verse.

6 tn “Then” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied to make the chronological succession clear in the translation.

7 tn The genitive phrase “about Jesus Christ” is taken as an objective genitive.

8 tn The word “this” is used to translate the Greek article τῆς (ths), bringing out its demonstrative force.

9 tn The word “aloud” has been supplied to indicate that in the original historical setting reading would usually refer to reading out loud in public rather than silently to oneself.

10 tn The words “blessed are” are repeated from the beginning of this verse for stylistic reasons and for clarity.

11 tn Grk “keep.” L&N 36.19 has “to continue to obey orders or commandments – ‘to obey, to keep commandments, obedience.’”

12 sn The time refers to the time when the things prophesied would happen.

13 tn Grk “John.” The word “From” is not in the Greek text, but has been supplied to indicate the sender of the letter.

14 tn Grk “Asia”; in the NT this always refers to the Roman province of Asia, made up of about one-third of the west and southwest end of modern Asia Minor. Asia lay to the west of the region of Phrygia and Galatia. The words “the province of” are supplied to indicate to the modern reader that this does not refer to the continent of Asia.

15 tn It is probable that the ὑμῖν (Jumin) applies to both elements of the greeting, i.e., to both grace and peace.

16 tc The earliest and best mss (Ì18vid א A C P 2050 al lat sy co) lack the term “God” (θεοῦ, qeou) between “from” (ἀπό, apo) and “he who is” (ὁ ὤν, Jo wn). Its inclusion, as supported by the bulk of the Byzantine witnesses, is clearly secondary and a scribal attempt to achieve two things: (1) to make explicit the referent in the passage, namely, God, and (2) to smooth out the grammar. The preposition “from” in Greek required a noun in the genitive case. But here in Rev 1:4 the words following the preposition “from” (ἀπό) are in another case, i.e., the nominative. There are two principal ways in which to deal with this grammatical anomaly. First, it could be a mistake arising from someone who just did not know Greek very well, or as a Jew, was heavily influenced by a Semitic form of Greek. Both of these unintentional errors are unlikely here. Commenting on this ExSyn 63 argues: “Either of these is doubtful here because (1) such a flagrant misunderstanding of the rudiments of Greek would almost surely mean that the author could not compose in Greek, yet the Apocalypse itself argues against this; (2) nowhere else does the Seer [i.e., John] use a nom. immediately after a preposition (in fact, he uses ἀπό 32 times with the gen. immediately following).” The passage appears to be an allusion to Exod 3:14 (in the LXX) where God refers to himself as “he who is” (ὁ ὤν), the same wording in Greek as here in Rev 1:4. Thus, it appears that John is wanting to leave the divine name untouched (perhaps to allude to God’s immutability, or as a pointer to the Old Testament as the key to unlocking the meaning of this book), irrespective of what it “looks” like grammatically. The translation has placed the “he who is” in quotation marks to indicate to the reader that the syntactical awkwardness is intentional. (For further comments, see ExSyn 63).

17 tn BDAG 106 s.v. ἀπό 5.d states: “The expr. εἰρήνη ἀπὸὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενοςRv 1:4 is quite extraordinary. It may be an interpretation of the name Yahweh already current, or an attempt to show reverence for the divine name by preserving it unchanged, or simply one more of the grammatical peculiarities so frequent in Rv.”

18 tn Or “Jesus Christ – the faithful one, the witness…” Some take ὁ πιστός (Jo pistos) as a second substantive in relation to ὁ μάρτυς (Jo martus). In the present translation, however, ὁ πιστός was taken as an adjective in attributive position to ὁ μάρτυς. The idea of martyrdom and faithfulness are intimately connected. See BDAG 820 s.v. πιστός 1.a.α: “ὁ μάρτυς μου ὁ πιστός μου Rv 2:13 (μάρτυς 3); in this ‘book of martyrs’ Christ is ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς (καὶ ὁ ἀληθινός) 1:5; 3:14; cp. 19:11 (the combination of ἀληθινός and πιστός in the last two passages is like 3 Macc 2:11). Cp. Rv 17:14.”

19 sn The Greek term translated witness can mean both “witness” and “martyr.”

20 tc The reading “set free” (λύσαντι, lusanti) has better ms support (Ì18 א A C 1611 2050 2329 2351 ÏA sy) than its rival, λούσαντι (lousanti, “washed”; found in P 1006 1841 1854 2053 2062 ÏK lat bo). Internally, it seems that the reading “washed” could have arisen in at least one of three ways: (1) as an error of hearing (both “released” and “washed” are pronounced similarly in Greek); (2) an error of sight (both “released” and “washed” look very similar – a difference of only one letter – which could have resulted in a simple error during the copying of a ms); (3) through scribal inability to appreciate that the Hebrew preposition ב can be used with a noun to indicate the price paid for something. Since the author of Revelation is influenced significantly by a Semitic form of Greek (e.g., 13:10), and since the Hebrew preposition “in” (ב) can indicate the price paid for something, and is often translated with the preposition “in” (ἐν, en) in the LXX, the author may have tried to communicate by the use of ἐν the idea of a price paid for something. That is, John was trying to say that Christ delivered us at the price of his own blood. This whole process, however, may have been lost on a later scribe, who being unfamiliar with Hebrew, found the expression “delivered in his blood” too difficult, and noticing the obvious similarities between λύσαντι and λούσαντι, assumed an error and then proceeded to change the text to “washed in his blood” – a thought more tolerable in his mind. Both readings, of course, are true to scripture; the current question is what the author wrote in this verse.

tn Or “and released us” (L&N 37.127).

21 tn The style here is somewhat Semitic, with the use of the ἐν (en) + the dative to mean “at the price of.” The addition of “own” in the English is stylistic and is an attempt to bring out the personal nature of the statement and the sacrificial aspect of Jesus’ death – a frequent refrain in the Apocalypse.

22 tn The verb ποιέω (poiew) can indicate appointment or assignment rather than simply “make” or “do.” See Mark 3:14 (L&N 37.106).

23 tn See BDAG 168 s.v. βασιλεία 1.a for the idea of “he made us a kingdom,” which was translated as “he appointed us (to be or function) as a kingdom” (see the note on the word “appointed” earlier in the verse).

24 tn Grk “a kingdom, priests.” The term ἱερεῖς (Jiereis) is either in apposition to βασιλείαν (basileian) or as a second complement to the object “us” (ἡμᾶς, Jhmas). The translation retains this ambiguity.

25 tc Both the longer reading τῶν αἰώνων (twn aiwnwn, “to the ages of the ages” or, more idiomatically, “for ever and ever”; found in א C Ï) and the shorter (“for ever”; found in Ì18 A P 2050 pc bo) have good ms support. The author uses the longer expression (εἰς [τοὺς] αἰῶνας [τῶν] αἰώνων, ei" [tou"] aiwna" [twn] aiwnwn) in every other instance of αἰών in Revelation, twelve passages in all (1:18; 4:9, 10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5). Thus, on the one hand, the style of the author is consistent, while on the other hand, the scribes may have been familiar with such a stylistic feature, causing them to add the words here. The issues are more complex than can be presented here; the longer reading, however, is probably original (the shorter reading arising from accidental omission of the genitive phrase due to similarity with the preceding words).

26 sn An allusion to Dan 7:13.

27 tn Here καί (kai) was translated as ascensive.

28 sn An allusion to Zech 12:10.

29 tn In this context, tribes (φυλαί, fulai) could also be translated as “nations” or “peoples” (L&N 11.56).

30 tn The conjunction ἐπί (epi) is most likely causal here. The people who crucified him are those of every tribe on the earth and they will mourn because he comes as judge.

31 tn Grk “Yes, Amen.” The expression “This will certainly come to pass” is an attempt to capture the force of the juxtaposition of the Greek ναί (nai) and the Hebrew ἀμήν (amhn). See L&N 69.1.

32 sn These lines are placed in parentheses because they form an aside to the main argument.

33 tc The shorter reading “Omega” (, w) has superior ms evidence ({א1 A C 1611}) to the longer reading which includes “the beginning and the end” (ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος or ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος, arch kai telo" or Jh arch kai to telo"), found in א*,2 1854 2050 2329 2351 ÏA lat bo. There is little reason why a scribe would have deleted the words, but their clarifying value and the fact that they harmonize with 21:6 indicate that they are a secondary addition to the text.

34 tn On this word BDAG 755 s.v. παντοκράτωρ states, “the Almighty, All-Powerful, Omnipotent (One) only of God…() κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ π. …Rv 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 21:22.”



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