A Textual Variant That Makes a Difference

In Revelation 11:17, the Textus Receptus has added the phrase “and who is coming” to the end of the first clause of thanksgiving. No doubt, the scribes were used to seeing “who is, and who was, and who is coming.” The best manuscripts do not have the phrase “and who is coming.” The omission of the phrase is a fascinating glimpse into the theology of the text. The reason why the original did not have the phrase is because, from the perspective of the twenty-four elders, Christ had already come! If, as seems likely, the seventh trumpet is a description of the very end of the current world, then we are getting a glimpse at what post-consummation worship looks like. It is rather important, then, that the phrase “and is coming” is NOT present in the text. It is gloriously absent!

4 Comments

  1. johntjeffery said,

    July 3, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak of the Textus Receptus (TR) “including” the phrase rather “adding” it. The inclusion of the three word phrase in the TR has some support in a variety of sources including:
    1) one numbered uncial (051), which is a consistently cited witness of the first order (“independent of the Byzantine Koine text type”);
    2) at least two miniscules (1006, 1841, and a few others — Metzger documents 15 more), both of which are consistently cited witnesses of the second order;
    3) two ancient versions (the Vulgate Editio Clementina, and the Bohairic dialect of the Coptic), which range in date from the 3rd to the 5th centuries A.D.; and,
    4) two Church Fathers, (Tyconius, and Beatus of Liebana), one of whom dates to the late 4th century A.D.
    Therefore, if these three words were added this was done long before the TR came on the scene.

    Source: Novum Testamentum Graece, eds. Eberhard and Erwin Nestle, 27th ed., eds. Barbara and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1898, 1993), pg. 654, along with pp. 51, 63-65, 68-70, and 75-76.

    I also hesitate to speak of the “best manuscripts” since such a subjective value judgment is debatable. The support for not including these three words may better be referred to objectively as either including: the oldest, the vast majority, the greatest variety, etc. of the extant resources, or as in the case here — all of the above. Since the editors of the Nestle-Aland, the Majority Text, and the Byzantine Textform all agree on not including these three words — while maintaining disagreements on what the “best manuscripts” are — the decision not to include these words would appear to be a “done deal.”

    Metzger refers to this as “…is a typical Byzantine accretion, in imitation of the tripartite expression in 1:4, 8; cf. 4:8.”
    Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: A Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (third edition) (Stuttgart, Germany: United Bible Societies, 1971), pg. 745; and Bruce M. Metzger, and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), pg. 672.

  2. July 3, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I appreciate John’s research in #1. I was heading to my library to check the same. I very much dislike the phrase “the best texts” because of its subjectivity and its implication that the debate is over. I appreciate the Majority Text partly because it does not rely on four flawed codices, some of which are not complete and none of which entirely agree with each other.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2015 at 8:37 am

    John, I did all this research before I wrote my post. I am stating my conclusion in the post, not the way in which I got there. In my opinion, the phrase was added at some point, which means that the TR also added it, though that need not have been consciously done. When in the process of determining which variant is the correct one, it is obviously better to say something like “plus” or “minus” in order not to prejudge which way the variant goes.

    Bob, I am only making a judgment on this particular variant. I am not making any kind of judgment on the manuscripts as a whole.

  4. July 4, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Lane, To be clear, I was not commenting on the verse, only the phrase “the best manuscripts.” In fact, the Majority Text does not include the phrase in question. I appreciate your caveat.


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