Revelation 16:5

"And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus."

The question arises concerning the Trinitarian phrase, "which art, and wast, and shalt be." Modern versions read, "which is, and was, the Holy One." Dr. Edward Hills has correctly cited passage as a conjectural emendation (The King James Version Defended, 208). Bruce Metzger defines this term as:

"The classical method of textual criticism . . . If the only reading, or each of several variant readings, which the documents of a text supply is impossible or incomprehensible, the editor's only remaining resource is to conjecture what the original reading must have been.

A typical emendation involves the removal of an anomaly. It must not be overlooked, however, that though some anomalies are the result of corruption in the transmission of the text, other anomalies may have been either intended or tolerated by the author himself. Before resorting to conjectural emendation, therefore, the critic must be so thoroughly acquainted with the style and thought of his author that he cannot but judge a certain anomaly to be foreign to the author's intention." (The Text Of The New Testament, 182.)

From this, we learn the following. 1). Conjectural emendation is a classical method of textual criticism often used in every translation or Greek text when there is question about the authenticity of a particular passage of scripture. 2). There should be more than one variant in the passage in question. 3). The variant in question contextually should fit and should be in agreement with the style of the writer.

Such is the case here. First of all, to change the Trinitarian phraseology (which is used in Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:3; and 11:17) does break the sense of the passage and is inconsistent with the phrase used elsewhere by John. Furthermore, the addition of "Holy One" is awkward and is repetitive of the use of the phrase "Thou art righteous, O Lord."

Secondly, there are some textual variances among the changes made. The Greek text of Beza reads, "o on, kai o en, kai o esomenos" (who is, and was, and shall be). It should be pointed out that among the Greek manuscripts the reading is different. Most of them read, "o on, kai o en, o osios" (who is, and was, the Holy one). The oldest Greek text of Revelation containing this passage, which is P47, has a textual variant. This Greek text reads, "o on kai, o en, kai osios" (who is, and was, and Holy one). It is interesting to note that while the actual manuscript itself uses both "kai" and "osios," and that only the word "osios" will fit, the text is rather worn here leaving the other words in the passage mostly unscathed.

Thirdly, P47 is not the only Greek text which is worn here. In fact, while P47 is slightly worn, the Greek text which Beza used was greatly worn. This is so noted by Beza himself in his footnote on Revelation 16:5 as he gives reason for his conjectural emendation:

""And shall be": The usual publication is "holy one," which shows a division, contrary to the whole phrase which is foolish, distorting what is put forth in scripture. The Vulgate, however, whether it is articulately correct or not, is not proper in making the change to "holy," since a section (of the text) has worn away the part after "and," which would be absolutely necessary in connecting "righteous" and "holy one." But with John there remains a completeness where the name of Jehovah (the Lord) is used, just as we have said before, 1:4; he always uses the three closely together, therefore it is certainly "and shall be," for why would he pass over it in this place? And so without doubting the genuine writing in this ancient manuscript, I faithfully restored in the good book what was certainly there, "shall be." So why not truthfully, with good reason, write "which is to come" as before in four other places, namely 1:4 and 8; likewise in 4:3 and 11:17, because the point is the just Christ shall come away from there and bring them into being: in this way he will in fact appear setting in judgment and exercising his just and eternal decrees." (Theodore Beza, Nouum Sive Nouum Foedus Iesu Christi, 1589. Translated into English from the Latin footnote.)

In addition to the Greek manuscript witnesses (which in this passage are few, as we have already noted), early translations should be considered. Again, the weight of the evidence falls on the side of "holy" and not "and shall be." Most translations, such as the Latin, omit the "and" using only "holy" (the Latin word is "sanctus"). Primasius, Bishop of Hadrumetum, wrote a commentary on Revelation around 552 AD and used the Latin word "pius" instead of "sanctus." They mean the same, but it does reveal yet another variance in the text. This, of course, brings us to yet another group of witnesses: Patristic citations.

Two things should be stated before continuing. One, as confirmed by Jerome, there were a number of various Latin editions of the New Testament which differed in both translation and content before and around 405 AD (when Jerome finished his Vulgate). Most of these we do not have. Two, as pointed out by Dr. John Wordsworth (who edited and footnoted a three volume critical edition of the New Testament in Latin) the like phrase in Revelation 1:4 "which is, and which was, and which is to come;" sometimes is rendered in Latin as "qui est et qui fuisti et futurus es" instead of the Vulgate "qui est et qui erat et qui uenturus est." (John Wordsworth, Nouum Testamentum Latine, vol.3, 422 and 424.)

Wordsworth also points out that in Revelation 16:5, Beatus of Liebana (who compiled a commentary on the book of Revelation) uses the Latin phrase "qui fuisti et futures es." This gives some additional evidence for the Greek reading by Beza (although he apparently drew his conclusion for other reasons). Beatus compiled his commentary in 786 AD. Furthermore, Beatus was not writing his own commentary. Instead he was making a compilation and thus preserving the work of Tyconius, who wrote his commentary on Revelation around 380 AD (Aland and Aland, 211 and 216. Altaner, 437. Wordsword, 533.). So, it would seem that as early as 786, and possibly even as early as 380, their was an Old Latin text which read as Beza's Greek text does.

It should be noted that none of the early English versions, nor the foreign translations, read as does the Authorized Version. However, they do not read as most modern versions do either. Instead they read somewhere in between using both the "and" with "holy." The New King James Version follows the reading of the Authorized Version.

New American Standard Version:

"And I heard the angel of the waters saying, "Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things."

The Great Bible:

"And I herde an Angell saye: Lorde, whych arte and wast, thou arte ryghteous and holy, because thou hast geven soche judgementes."

Bishops' Bible:

"And I heard the Angel of the waters say, Lorde, which art, and was, thou art righteous and that holy one, because thou hast given such judgements:"

Luther's German Bible:

"Und ich horte den Angel der Wasser sagen: herr, du bist gerecht, der da ist und der da war, und heilig, dab du solches geurteilt hast"

Italian Bible:

"Ed io udii L'angelo delle acque, che diceva: Tu sei giusto, O Signore, che sei, e che eri, che sei il Santo, d'aver fatti questi giudicii."

New King James Version:

"And I heard the angel of the waters saying: 'You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things."


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