April 11, 2007

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The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Translating Revelation 11:15

In Revelation 11:15, a loud voice from heaven says something which the HCSB translates as "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!" The other translations I had handy (NKJV, NIV, NASB, KJV, RSV) were all very similar. The agreement of the translations makes me wonder if I'm missing something, because it appears to me that there is another reading, which actually seems to me to deal with the grammar better. I would translate this reading as: "The Kingdom of the Universe, [the Kingdom] of our Lord and of His Christ, has begun, and he will reign throughout the ages of ages." (Note: I heard the translation "unto the ages of ages" for eis tous aionas ton aionon in the liturgy of an English-speaking Greek Orthodox Church and liked it; it's more literal than the standard translations.)

In terms of interpretation, there is one reason, I think, for favoring the standard translation over mine: namely, that the world (kosmos) is normally seen as opposed to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament. However, this usage is not constant throughout the NT, and in the Johannine literature I don't think it's even very common (though it is certainly used that way in 1 John 2:15-17, and I haven't done a comprehensive study). Furthermore, the style of the Revelation is supposed to be substantially differen than that of the undisputed Johannine literature (I haven't done a comprehensive study of this either), and in the Revelation the word is used only three times and the other two (13:8 and 17:8) both use it in the phrase apo tes kataboles tou kosmo - "from the foundation of the world" - so there is no usage of this word in the Revelation which clearly has a sense of a world system opposed to the Kingdom of God, the way the word is often used in other NT literature. So this interpretive consideration doesn't seem to be that strong.

Grammatically, I think my translation has a stronger basis than the standard translation, for two reasons: (1) egeneto is placed at the beginning of the sentence. This construction is parallel to the existential use of esti(n) ("there is an x" as opp. "x is y"). Again, it is similar to the idiomatic use of the word without a subject to mean "it came about" (see, e.g., Luke 1:5). To say what the translations interpret it as saying, we would expect egeneto to come in between "of the universe" and "of our Lord and Christ," rather than at the beginning. (2) There is no explicit nominative in the predicate (you'll note that translations that mark such things will have the second usage of "the kingdom" marked as not existing in the Greek). This is not problematic in and of itself, but it is needed to make my translation possible, and it also seems unlikely that this series of genitives with nothing separating them should belong one half in the subject and the other half in the predicate. Rather, "of our Lord and of his Christ" should be interpreted as an appositive.

While none of the translations say this, the Majority Text does have it punctuated as an appositive (that is, a comma is inserted after tou kosmou). NA27 does not. It is curious that the Hodges and Farstad should punctuate it this way, since Farstad worked on both the NKJV and the HCSB (both of which were done after the Majority Text), neither of which translate the phrase as an appositive.

Am I missing anything here? Are there any considerations in favor of the standard translation that I'm missing? Do others think my translation is plausible?

Posted by Kenny at April 11, 2007 3:22 PM
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Beale translates part of it as "the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ has come". He doesn't give a translation of the whole verse, and he doesn't explain even this translation. He doesn't actually say very much about this verse on its own.

CEV translates: "At the sound of the seventh trumpet, loud voices were heard in heaven. They said, "Now the kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One! And he will rule forever and ever!"

Neither of those is quite what you've come up with, but both differ significantly from the one that seems to be most common.

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce at April 12, 2007 10:10 AM

Interesting the Beale omits "of the world." There are no textual problems with that phrase, so I'm not sure what he meant to do there.

The CEV doesn't seem to depend on a different interpretation of the Greek, as far as I can see. It just looks a little more dynamic is all. For instance, the original KJV has "the kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." ("Kingdoms," pl., is a Textus Receptus error - it appears in a few MSS which are regarded as unreliable, even by Majority/Byzantine Text advocates.) But since the second instance of "the kingdoms" isn't there in Greek, it is "the kingdoms of this world are become of our Lord and of His Christ," i.e., "the kingdoms of this world now belong to our Lord and to His Christ." So CEV is basically the same.

Posted by: Kenny at April 12, 2007 10:31 AM

Perhaps the key is the meaning of ἐγένετο. I don't see it as meaning "has begun." Usually, it needs a complement, either as "became" or simply "was" functioning like an aorist of εἱμι. If it doesn't have a complement, it could mean "has come to pass" or "has happened." But even here, the appositive you propose functions as a predicate (one can supply a "which is"), so the translation question seems to devolve where is the most natural place to put a predicate complement in English.

Posted by: Stephen C. Carlson at July 9, 2007 5:21 PM

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