Maurice Robinson on Rev. 5:9
- I have with his permission added Dr. Maurice Robinson's comments on the
Rev. 5:9 variant where the NA27 follows Codex A and the Ethiopic against
all other witnesses. It is in an endnote in this Word document:
- David Robert Palmer referenced the following footnote:
>> Dr. Maurice Robinson offered his take on these variants in anemail I received from him on Tue, 29 Aug 2006:
"While certainly the NA/UBS reading is problematic from my
perspective due to its limited (singular) support, so also the TR
reading is problematic due to its slim support and what appears to
be an obvious attempt to smooth out the presumed difficulty. The
problem, however, from my "reasoned transmissional" perspective, is
why the great mass of Byzantine MSS (both Andreas and Q groups
united here) would join and maintain throughout transmissional
history a reading which, if not original, otherwise should have
been "corrected" on the large scale in order to eliminate the
apparent difficulty of interpretation. Since such did not occur on
the grand scale, then within the Byzantine-priority perspective it
would appear that there must have been some reason why the scribes
did not balk en masse.
So, just for the record, here is my take regarding one possible
explanation (not necessarily the only one that could be provided):
Context: (5:8) the four living creatures and the 24 elders fall upon
their faces and (5:9) "they sing" a new song.
Does "they" include both parties (i.e. the living creatures *and*
the elders together? Or might the "they" only involve those
comprising one or the other group at any given point?
My suspicion is that the referent of "they" fluctuates according to
the nature of the portion of the song cited; what one then finds is
something in the manner of an antiphonic chorus, with each group
taking its own proper part. Thus:
(5:9) And they [the 24 elders] sang a new song, saying, "You are
worthy to take the book and to open its seals, because you were
slain, and you redeemed _us_ to God by your blood, out of every
tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."
(5:10) [Antiphonic response by the four living creatures, perhaps
joined by the great multitude of angels surrounding the throne
mentioned in 5:10]: "And you made _them_ kings and priests to our
God, and _they_ shall reign upon the earth."
(5:11) [now discussing the entire mixed multitude]: And I saw and I
heard, as a voice/sound of many angels surrounding the throne, also
the living creatures, also the elders....[these all then continue
(5:12-14) with the song/statement in unison, following which two
separate reactions occur: *only* the four living creatures
say "Amen", while the 24 elders fall down and worship, thus
reflecting once again a separation of function and statement between
the two groups].
This certainly would seem to work and provide some plausible
explanation for the Byzantine reading. It would also help explain
why the vast majority of scribes appeared to have little or no
problem in perpetuating that particular sequence of text.
Others may differ in their evaluation or interpretation, but I think
it incumbent upon whatever text anyone favors that its supporters
offer a reasonable explanation not only for their favored reading in
context, but also in order to reasonably explain the rise and
dominance of the Byzantine reading (which too often is not done, and
more so in a complex book such as Revelation). There seems to be
enough other referent shifts within Revelation or the Johannine
writings (e.g. Rev 16:15; 22:6-7, 11-12; cf. Jn 8:31, 44) so that
the explanation give would find support; however, those other cases
are not essential to the interpretation suggested above.
Maurice A Robinson, PhD"<<
I might add to the above that such shifts of person are quite common
in the poetic passages of Scripture, and no further explanation is
For example, in Psalm 2 David begins by speaking of God, Christ, and
the heathen in the third person; then shifts to the first person
quoting the heathen referring to God; back to the third person; then
to the first person quoting God referring to His King; then the
first person quoting the Christ referring to God; back to the first
person quoting God referring to the Christ; then to the second
person referring to the heathen.
Many of these shifts are subtle and can be determined only by
context. But this Psalm was quoted four times in the NT with no
question as to who was saying what in reference to whom.