Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, March 20, 2023

Think Grammatically (Rev 1:2)

Sometimes in translating we have to think grammatically, to think through the structure of the passage before trying to actually translate it. This is why all Greek students should do two translations of every verse, one more word-for-word and one in proper English. Revelation 1:2 is a good test case.

Verse 1 ends with Ἰωάννῃ, and v 2 will expand on it. Word-for-word it says, “who witnessed the word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ whatever he saw” (ὃς ἐμαρτύρησεν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ὅσα εἶδεν).

λόγον is certainly an accusative of reference: “who witnessed concerning the word of God.” And μαρτυρίαν is parallel with λόγον. Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ could be either an objective genitive, “the witness about Jesus Christ,” or a subjective genitive, “the witness received from Jesus Christ.” All that’s pretty straightforward. But how does ὅσα εἶδεν relate to the rest of the sentence?

One of the basic rules in translating a relative clause is to find the end of it. ὅσα is the correlative pronoun. At first, I thought it was outside the relative clause, but I couldn’t find a way to connect it to Ἰωάννῃ, so it must be part of the relative clause. But does ὅσα εἶδεν refer back to the “word” and “witness,” or does it refer to something more?

If you phrase the passage, you have to decide what ὅσα εἶδεν is connected with. Some translations see it parallel with “word” and “testimony,” which means in phrasing you would connect ὅσα to λόγον and μαρτυρίαν. “Who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw” (CSB). “Who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (NIV). “Who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ” (NET).

Other translations see it as something additional, which means you would make ὅσα εἶδεν go back to ἐμαρτύρησεν, as do λόγον and μαρτυρίαν, three objects of ἐμαρτύρησεν. “Who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (ESV, also NRSV). If you are looking for the Greek behind “even,” there is none.

I think I would I would vote for the former: “who bore witness to everything he saw, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” What would you do?


Point very well taken about evaluating the grammar first before translating, a much-needed point. I noticed that this particular instance is also complicated by manuscript variations that you did not discuss, but which must at least be fairly considered, as they do relate to the translation options you presented. Scrivener's Textus Receptus adds τε, "οσα τε ειδεν," and then you will note that your NA28 critical siglum (the superscript "T" character at the end) references the manuscript of Andreas of Caesarea (Miniscule 2814), which is said to be the main manuscript that Erasmus used in 1516, which is the basis for reformation-era translations, hence the "Majority-superscript-A" designation in your NA28 [this blog web software will not reproduce the unicode characters for that here], which adds to οσα ειδεν the additional text, "και ατινα εισιν και ατινα τουτους χρη γενεσθαι μετα ταυτα," hyper-literally, "and/also which-any are-being and/also which-any these are-needing to-be-become amid these-things," or, perhaps more naturally, "and which are also things needing to be among these things." I assume this is the original reading of the Andreas of Caesarea Greek manuscript, and not what he represented as being his commentary -- correct me if I am wrong. And I see that no reformation-era translation added the extra verbiage, and the Latin Vulgate only has "quæcumque vidit" (i.e. οσα ειδεν). Note that I am not defending one variant vs. another, and I am not a wholesale proponent or detractor of either the Alexandrian or Majority/Byzantine manuscript families. Rather, I consider it wise to look to see what the variants are in each instance before making a final judgment for myself. Of course, as usual, no Christian doctrine is affected in this instance, either way.

Actually, I just thought to check the Erasmus 1516 text and it ends with "οσα τε ειδεν" without any additional text before "μακαριος..." (verse 3).