Revelation 4:11 Commentary - The Apologists Bible Commentary
The Apologists Bible Commentary
11 " Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
C O M M E N T A R Y The phrase "our Lord and our God" in this verse has long been cited by Greek grammarians and scholars as a parallel to John 20:28 . Some who deny that Thomas is addressing Jesus as "my Lord and my God" have argued that had Thomas been addressing Jesus, he would have used the grammatical case known as the 'vocative.' However, in NT Greek, the nominative case is often used in place of the vocative, as it does here. This verse demonstrates that Jewish believers in the NT era were comfortable addressing their Lord and their God in the nominative, just as Thomas does. This verse is also significant for the student of Christology because it serves as a parallel to Revelation 5:13 . As Richard Bauckham notes, "The the circle [of worship] expands and the myriad of angels join the living creatures and the elders in a form of worship (5:12) clearly parallel to that offered to God (4:11)" (Revelation , p. 60). Rev 4:11 - Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory honour, and power,.... The Alexandrian copy, and some others, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin version, and all the Oriental ones, read, "thou art worthy, O Lord, and our God, to receive"; that is, to receive the acknowledgment and ascription of glory, honour, and power; for otherwise God cannot be said to receive these from his creatures, than by their confessing and declaring that they belong unto him: and that for the reasons following...(Gill ).
G R A M M A T I C A L A N A L Y S I S Ò kurios kai Ò qeos `hmwn hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS hĘMÔN the Lord and the God of us The nominative form here used as vocative as in John 20:28 and often (RWP ). Nominative for vocative Even where the nominative is still formally distinguished from the vocative, there is still a tendency for the nominative to usurp the place of the vocative (a tendency observable already in Homer)....Attic used the nominative (with article) with simple substantives only in addressing inferiors...The NT (in passages translated from a Semitic language) and the LXX do not conform to these limitations, but can even say ho theos, ho patêr, etc., in which the arthrous Semitic vocative is being reproduced by the Greek nominative with article....Jn 20:28 (cf., Rev 4:11) (BDF , pp. 81-82). About sixty times in the New Testament a nominative case noun is used to designate the person being addressed. The nominative functions like a vocative....The nominative of address is usually preceded by an article (Young , p. 12). A substantive in the nominative is used in the place of the vocative case. It is used (as is the voc.) in direct address to designate the addressee....The articular use also involves two nuances: address to an inferior and simple substitute for a Semitic noun of address, regardless of whether the addressee is inferior or superior (Wallace , pp. 56 - 57). In Hebrew typically the noun of address will have the article....In the LXX, God [Elohim] is customarily addressed with an articular nom. (Wallace , p. 57 n. 71). The nominative for vocative has exactly the same force and meaning as the vocative. This can be seen in numerous parallel passages in the Gospels, in which the vocative appears in one and the nominative in another (see, for example, Matt 27:46 [thee mou, thee mou] and Mark 15:34 [ho theos mou, ho theos mou]).
O T H E R V I E W S C O N S I D E R E D Jehovah's Witnesses objection: Some Jehovah's Witnesses have argued that the text of this verse as it appears in the two authoritative Greek New Testaments (UBS4 and NA27) is not supported by the "earliest and best" manuscript evidence. One Witness website puts it this way: In attempting to refute what is stated here, many point to Rev 4:11, where, going from the NA27 text, we find hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS hHMWN (our Lord and God). This is an expression of God, taken as a direct address and thus the nominative KURIOS for a vocative. There is significant evidence to consider in examining this topic though, and here we will make a textual analysis on the matter. The NA27 reading comes from Codex Alexandrinus, from the 5th century. Yet, going back to Codex Sinaticus, which predates Alexandrinus by a century, we find the reading KURIE hO KURIOS KAI QEOS. Thus, KURIE is in the vocative case, while hO KURIOS is in apposition to this, and thus would be expected to be in the nominative case with the article. This would directly conform to the expected use of the vocative case with KURIE. There are a number of texts dating from the 4th century that render this verse with KURIE, which is also the rendering found in the Textus Receptus. Additionally, we find this to be the normal usage in Revelation. This can be seen at Rev 7:14; 11:17; 15:3, 4; 16:7; 22:20. Without question this is the normal usage and also the most likely within this book. Other Witnesses have stated that Herman Hoskier lists over 60 manuscripts with the KURIE reading "dating from the 4th Century (Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, Collations of All Existing Available Greek Documents with the Standard Text of Stephen's Third Edition, Together With the Testimony of Versions, Commentaries and Fathers, A complete Conspectus of All Authorities, Vol 2, p. 139). The Witnesses thus argue on the basis of external evidence (best manuscript attestation) and internal evidence (parallels within Revelation itself) that the vocative reading was most likely the original, and thus cannot be used as a legitimate parallel to John 20:28. Response: I will address each line of evidence in turn: External (Textual) Evidence Both NA27 and UBS4 have ho kurios kai ho theos. Thus, the editorial committees of both authoritative Greek New Testaments selected this text over the vocatival variants. While claims can be made by online apologists, the fact remains that those scholars who have spent their professional lives evaluating various NT manuscripts with the goal of producing the most accurate text possible believed the nominative variant to be the one most likely representing what John actually wrote. One of the members of the UBS committee was Bruce Metzger. His Textual Commentary on the UBS3 text doesn't even comment on the kurie variants, so they clearly were of little significance in the minds of the UBS translators. The website quoted above states: "There are a number of texts dating from the 4th Century that render this verse with KURIE" (emphasis added). This is false. There are not "a number" of texts dating from the 4th Century. There is one. The textual apparatus in NA27 list the variants of this verse as follows: Codex Aleph: "KURIE hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS" - 4th Century. Here's what Kurt Aland, a member of both the UBS and NA committees has to say about this Codex: "The text with numerous singular readings (and careless errors) was highly overrated by Tischendorf, and is distinctly inferior to B" (Aland, The Text of the New Testament, p. 107). The fact that Aland (and the other members of the NA and UBS committees) selected the nominative variant over the vocative/nominative combination in Aleph makes it clear that Aland regarded the general statements he made about Aleph to apply specifically to this verse. 1854: KURIE - 11th Century. Revelation = Category II ("Manuscripts of a special quality, but distinguished from manuscripts of category I by the presence of alien influences" - Aland). While it is true that Aland regards Category II manuscripts valuable for determining the original reading, again it is clear that he did not regard this variant significant in establishing the original text of Revelation 4:11. Majority Text MSS (tradition A): KURIE - post 6th-7th Centuries. Aland says that the A tradition (supporting KURIE) and the K tradition (supporting hO KURIOS) are about equal in number (op cit, p. 247). He says that a reading attested by Codex A (not Aleph, but Codex 02) and C, plus miniscules 2053, 2062, and 2344 "possess a textual value far superior to Aleph and P47)" (ibid). None of these manuscripts support the KURIE reading. Therefore, the 60-odd manuscripts listed in Hoskier's text are not at all decisive, as there as just as many Majority manuscripts that support the nominative as do the vocative, and the "far superior" tradition supports the nominative. Syraic (Harklensis): KURIE - 7th Century. A generally slavish translation of the Majority K tradition, with some variations, such as Rev 4:11. Only Codex Aleph dates from the 4th Century. It's early date does not guarantee textual accuracy, as Aland and other textual critics point out. The earliest manuscripts with the nominative reading date from the 5th Century (A and C). The remaining 60 manuscripts referred to by the website are from the Majority Text tradition, dating from the 6th Centuries and later. The same is true of Hoskier (who, by the way, lists over twice as many manuscripts supporting the nominative variant [op cit, p. 138]). Thus, the claim that there is "significant" evidence to support an original vocative is simply not true. The external evidence supports the nominative reading, as found in both NA27 and UBS4. Internal Evidence The website quoted above states: "Additionally, we find this to be the normal usage in Revelation. This can be seen at Rev 7:14; 11:17; 15:3, 4; 16:7; 22:20. Without question this is the normal usage and also the most likely within this book." This argument betrays a lack of understanding about how textual critics assess internal evidence. Let's consider some of the Kurt Aland's "Twelve Basic Rules for Textual Criticism" (from Aland & Aland, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 280-281): 2. Only the reading that best satisfies the requirements of both external and internal criteria can be original. 3. Criticism of the text must always begin from the evidence of the manuscript tradition and only afterward turn to a consideration of internal criteria. Thus, if the Witnesses have not established that the external evidence is so great as to overturn the two critical Greek New Testaments (which they have not), they cannot legitimately claim internal evidence should be decisive. More importantly, textual critics consider readings that harmonize with other texts as suspect. Why? Because copyists were not in the habit of creating unique readings. When they corrected a text, they did so in the direction of making it read more smoothly or bringing it into conformity with other, similar texts. As Aland puts it: 10. There is truth in the maxim: lectio diffilicior lectio potior ("the more difficult reading is the more probable reading"). But this principle must not be taken too mechanically. 11. The venerable maxim lectio brevior lectio potior ("the shorter reading is the more probable reading") is certainly right in many instances. But here again the principle cannot be applied mechanically....Neither should the commonly accepted rule of thumb that variants agreeing with parallel passages or with the Septuagint in Old Testament quotations are secondary be applied in a purely mechanical way. A blind consistency can be just as dangerous here as in Rule 10. Keeping Aland's caveats in mind, we may safely conclude that simply because the vocative kurie is the more usual form of address in Revelation does not demand that it be so in Revelation 4:11. In fact, its uniqueness is actually an argument in favor of it being original. The variant in Aleph is also a longer variant, and therefore less likely to be original. Textual critics also consider how a variant may have arisen (conscious correction or error) and try logically to deduce which version was more likely the original. The compilers of NA27 and UBS obviously took these criteria into consideration when they chose the nominative over the vocative in Rev 4:11. Let's see if we can reconstruct their reasoning: 1. Simple error would seem almost impossible. In the case of Aleph, the word kurie is added to the nominative ho kurios kai ho theos. It is difficult to see this being an accident. In the other variants, two words (ho and kurios) are juxtaposed with one (kurie). A simple scribal error would not account for both changes. 2. If a copyist removed kurie from Aleph (or in other manuscriptes, changed kurie to ho kurios), he was changing a text that was smoother and more in harmony with other verses to one that was more distinctive and unusual. 3. If a copyist added kurie to Aleph (or in other manuscripts changed ho kurios to kurie), he was changing a text that was rougher and more distinctive into one that was smoother and more in harmony with other verses. Number 3 is by far the most logical. Again, copyists were not in the habit of creating distinctive readings - instead, they corrected in the direction of conformity. The nominative is, thus, the most likely original, even on the basis of internal evidence. Finally, we may note that regardless of whether the copyist changed from the nominative to the vocative or vice verse, the fact that one may be substituted for the other without changing the meaning of the text simply strengthens the case that it doesn't matter in which case the nouns occur, the direct address to God is obvious - just as it is in John 20:28. objection: A Jehovah's Witness apologist who frequents a number of discussion boards raised the following objection to Revelation 4:11 as a parallel to John 20:28: In his article “Greek Grammar and the Personality of the Holy Spirit, Bulletin for Biblical Research 13.1, page 98, footnote 6, Wallace states “Eliminated from this list are the numerous examples in Revelation because it is hardly representative of the literary level and style found in the rest of the NT.” Wallace acknowledges that nominative for vocative is used of an address to an inferior unless it is a Semitism. (GGBB 57-58) While scholarship is mixed as to the severity of the solecisms found in the Greek of Revelation even Wallace categorizes Revelation as the most Semitic of the books in the NT. He even lists Mark ahead of John. (GGBB 30). Therefore it would be improper to appeal to a Semitic construction in Revelation and export that into the book of John. Wallace only gives one “test,” or as he says, the “key to determining” whether the nominative for vocative is standard Koine usage or the Hebrew “noun of address” -- that it is from a Semitic source. He then states that an example of this would be a translation from Hebrew into Greek like the LXX. I do not believe Wallace considers that the book of John, even in this phrase, was translated from Hebrew or Aramaic into Greek. He criticizes those who consider that this is the case for the book of Revelation because there is no manuscript evidence to support this. However he never exactly explains how John 20:28 could be from a Semitic source otherwise. Wallace appears to be taking some of his arguments from BDF §147 which says “Attic used the nominative (with article) with simple substantives only in addressing inferiors, who were, so to speak, thereby addressed in the 3rd person. (Attic citation deleted) The NT (in passages translated from a Semitic language) and the LXX do not conform to these limitations.” This is the only “test” BDF gives as well, but as you can see, they do not allow for this construction in Greek unless there is a translation from a Semitic language into Greek. Therefore if Wallace does not believe that either John or Revelation is translation Greek then he bears the burden of proof to show that this phenomena can result from some sort of ambiguous and undefined “Semitic” influence. Merely listing Ephesians 5:22 with one assertion about 5:25 is not sufficient. I will comment more on this later. There is something else that Wallace does not mention here. He cites GKC §126f and gives 2Sam 14:4 (GGBB 57, footnote 71) to show that the Hebrew noun of address does not need to be a superior to an inferior but never tells us that even in Hebrew this is a very unusual form. Seow's “A grammar for Biblical Hebrew” on page 55 says “the definite article may also rarely be used to indicate a vocative.” Wallace is constructing an exegesis based upon exceptions. First he must explain why the Koine articular nominative should not be understood in it normative usage and then he appeals to a very rare form of Hebrew to justify it! He also dilutes what BDF says about this requiring a translation from a Semitic source and tries to justify this with a brief comment on a questionable example (Eph. 5:22). Furthermore, in the example in his footnote on page 57, footnote 71, his example of 2Sam 14:4 introduces another problem. “Basics of Biblical Hebrew” section 5.11 says that this construction is to be translated 'O King,' 'O Man,' 'O Lord,' etc. Looking at the example in the footnote and we do indeed find 2Sam 14:4 is translated 'O King.' A survey of the English versions will show that most if not all major versions render it this way. Even if one were to concede that the Hebrew “noun of address” is used frequently enough to account for an occurrence in the NT, this should only happen if there is a translation from a Semitic language into Greek. However, even if this is the case, the example he cites does not fit John 20:28. 2Sam 14:4 is an example of a simple noun of address, not a noun modified in any way such as the possessive pronoun. There is no English version that renders John 20:28 as a Hebrew “noun of address”. No version puts the words “O My Lord and O My God” into the mouth of Thomas. As you can see I have been quoting Wallace as a hostile witness. Perhaps you are as well. He provides valuable insights as to some of the issues on these verses but in my opinion he is frequently overcome by his theology. This is one example. The category of “nominative of exclamation” better fits normal Koine and does not require an exegesis that is based upon exceptions. Wallace argues for a particular exegesis that is based upon exceptions, but he does not fully explain how precarious his position is. Let's list the exceptions. Wallace: 1) Acknowledges a violation of normative usage in Koine. 2) Appeals to an exceptional usage in Hebrew. 3) Dilutes the necessity of translation Greek to validate the example. 4) Appeals to a questionable “parallel” (e.g Eph 5:22) 5) Ignores the common rendering of the Hebrew noun of address (e.g. O King) This is an argument riddled by cumulative exceptions. Response: This Witness apologist argues that because Wallace says Revelation is "hardly representative of the literary level and style found in the rest of the NT," we should reject Rev 4:11 as a parallel to John 20:28. He is arguing from the general ("The style of Revelation is not representative") to the particular ("The style of Revelation is not representative of NT use of nominative for vocative"). The particularized conclusion is not logically warranted by the general premise. Simply because Revelation may not be representative NT style in general, does not mean that a grammatically correct sentence in Revelation may not be used as a valid parallel to another NT verse. Wallace is dealing with a particular kind of grammatical anomaly - the "apparent violation of the rules of gender" when a verb or predicate follows natural gender rather than grammatical gender. The location of the quoted footnote is following a list of examples from the NT in which grammatical gender has not been followed. Wallace excludes Revelation from his sample, because in that book there are numerous examples of verbs and predicates not following grammatical number or gender. For example, when the Father and the Lamb are referenced together, they are often accompanied by a verb in the singular. Thus, Wallace is simply being fair in excluding Revelation, because it does not follow 'normal' NT usage in gender agreement. But Wallace himself has written several articles on Revelation in which he argues various points on the basis of grammar, and on the basis of how words or phrases are used in other NT books: Clearly, he does not view the grammar of Revelation so appalling that we cannot draw conclusions from it. In the article referenced by the Witness apologist, Wallace is talking about examples in Revelation in which we find exceptions to 'normal' grammatical rules. Rev 4:11 is not such an example. The nominative for vocative is a common NT form of address. There is nothing unusual or ungrammatical about it. Wallace says it actually outnumbers the simple vocative in the NT. Rev 4:11 is grammatically sound Koine Greek. There is nothing about it that would lead us to conclude it differs from standard NT usage. The Witness writes: "Therefore the test for a Semitic source would be if the passage in the NT was translated from a Semitic language or a quote from the LXX." But he is reading too much into what Wallace says. An example (as in one example) of determining a "Semitic source" is a translation from Hebrew or a quote from the LXX. But an example does not logically equate to the only example. It doesn't really matter whether Wallace explains how John 20:28 could be from a Semitic source - the fact is that he so regards it, and therefore the Witness's argument is mute. Wallace obviously has other criteria for making this determination - and it appears to be one held by a number of other scholars. The Witness apologist writes: "This is the only "test" BDF gives as well, but as you can see, they do not allow for this construction in Greek unless there is a translation from a Semitic language into Greek. Therefore if Wallace does not believe that either John or Revelation is translation Greek then he bears the burden of proof to show that this phenomena can result from some sort of ambiguous and undefined "Semitic" influence." The Witness apologist is stacking the deck. BDF §147 also has this to say specifically about Jn 20:28 and Rev 4:11: "With attributive: 'ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou' Jn 20:28 (cf. Rev 4:11), ho laos mou Rev 18:4...Lk 12:32; Mk 9:25." The restrictive "test" the Witness argues for in BDF simply isn't there, when we review their list of examples. Wallace felt comfortable that BDF agreed with him that sufficient evidence exists apart from direct translation to account for the Semitic influence in this idiom. The Witness apologist writes: "There is something else that Wallace does not mention here. He cites GKC §126f and gives 2Sam 14:4 (GGBB 57, footnote 71) to show that the Hebrew noun of address does not need to be a superior to an inferior but never tells us that even in Hebrew this is a very unusual form. Seow's "A grammar for Biblical Hebrew" on page 55 says 'the definite article may also rarely be used to indicate a vocative.'" Wallace says that Hebrew nouns of address "typically will have the article," and he cites GKC §126f as his support. Instead of going to GKC, however, the Witness quotes Seow - a source that nowhere appears in Wallace's text. When we examine Wallace's source, we find the following: The article is used "very often with the vocative." So, Wallace and GKC agree: the article is typically - or "very often" - used with the vocative. What of other Hebrew scholars? Let's see: "The article is usually found when the reference is made to persons who are present" (Jouon, Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, §137.g). "The article is used to mark a definite addressee, pointing out a particular individual who is present to the speaker and who is addressed in the vocative" (Waltke & O'Connor, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, §13.5.2). "Vocative, regularly with the article" (Williams, Hebrew Syntax, §34). "The so-called vocative often has the Art." (Davidson, Hebrew Syntax, §21.f). "Vocative...It generally takes the article" (Green, A Handbook of Old Testament Hebrew, §292). "The addressee is usually designated by the ordinary form of the noun with the article" (Merwe, Naude, Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, §34.4). These examples can be multiplied, but as these are generally regarded as the most authoritative by other scholars, there's really no need to do so. These scholars agree with Wallace: The Hebrew 'noun of address' typically has the article. So, what of Seow? The quote provided by the Witness apologist is all that Seow says on the matter. It occurs in a short section in which he discusses the various uses of the article. His statement is ambiguous. It could be taken - as the Witness does - that when we're considering the vocative, the articular use is rare. That would place Seow in opposition to the scholars quoted above. Or, his statement may be taken to mean that when we're considering the use of the article in general the vocatival use is rare. On this view Seow is not dealing with the percentage of vocatives with the article as opposed to without, but rather the percentage of times the article is used in a vocative as opposed to all other uses. This view would remove the contradiction between what he says and the other scholars. I take the latter to be by far the most likely, as Seow is unlikely to contradict what appears to be a scholarly consensus. However, even if Seow is a minority voice on this point, Wallace can hardly be faulted for following the majority. The Witness apologist writes: "Furthermore, in the example in his footnote on page 57, footnote 71, his example of 2Sam 14:4 introduces another problem. “Basics of Biblical Hebrew” section 5.11 says that this construction is to be translated 'O King,' 'O Man,' 'O Lord,' etc. Looking at the example in the footnote and we do indeed find 2Sam 14:4 is translated 'O King.' A survey of the English versions will show that most if not all major versions render it this way." And he continues: "Even if one were to concede that the Hebrew “noun of address” is used frequently enough to account for an occurrence in the NT, this should only happen if there is a translation from a Semitic language into Greek. However, even if this is the case, the example he cites does not fit John 20:28. 2Sam 14:4 is an example of a simple noun of address, not a noun modified in any way such as the possessive pronoun. There is no English version that renders John 20:28 as a Hebrew “noun of address”. No version puts the words “O My Lord and O My God” into the mouth of Thomas." There's not a Hebrew Grammar in the world that would suggest that all vocatives should be woodenly rendered with a preceding "O." A survey of English versions will show that few, if any, render the Hebrew noun of address in 1 Sam 17:58 as: O, young man." The Witness apologist concludes with these comments about Dan Wallace: "He provides valuable insights as to some of the issues on these verses but in my opinion he is frequently overcome by his theology. This is one example." Our apologist friend has been quoting Wallace and other scholars in a less than accurate fashion. In my opinion, he (the apologist) is frequently overcome by his theology. This reply reveals several examples.
Consult other comments:
Revelation 4:11 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Revelation 4:11 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Revelation 4:11 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible
Revelation 4:11 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke
Revelation 4:11 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics
Revelation 4:11 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)
Revelation 4:11 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
Revelation 4:11 - The Expositor’s Greek Testament by Robertson
Revelation 4:11 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary
Revelation 4:11 - Geneva Bible Notes
Revelation 4:11 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Revelation 4:11 - Gnomon of the New Testament
Revelation 4:11 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)
Revelation 4:11 - The Apologists Bible Commentary
Revelation 4:11 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Revelation 4:11 - Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer's New Testament Commentary
Revelation 4:11 - Church Pulpit Commentary
Revelation 4:11 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole
Revelation 4:11 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Revelation 4:11 - A Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 4:11 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)
Revelation 4:11 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Revelation 4:11 - Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
Revelation 4:11 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments