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Beza and Revelation 16:5



Introduction

Revelation 16:5 in the KJV

"Which wert and art, and evermore shalt be!" - This epic line from the famous hymn by Reginald Heber (1783-1826) comes from Revelation 16:5 in the KJV.  Revelation 16:5 in the KJV says:

"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."

This KJV reading is based on Theodore Beza's 1598 edition of the Textus Receptus.  Critics, however, raise issue with the reading "and shalt be" (και ο εσομενος) because it does not appear in any existing manuscript.  Existing manuscripts read "holy one" (και οσιος), "that holy one" (ο οσιος) or "and holy one" (και οσιος).  For example, Revelation 16:5 in the Nestle-Aland 26 based NASB Update reads:

"And I heard the angel of the waters saying, "Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things;"

Since there is no existing manuscript with Beza's reading, critics dismiss Beza's reading as an unwarranted conjectural emendation.  However, an in-depth study of the issue will reveal enough evidence to validate Beza's conjectural emendation.

Beza's Conjectural Emendation

Beza gave the following explanation for his conjectural emendation in the footnote to Revelation 16:5:

Click the image to enlarge the original Latin footnote

English translation:

"Et Qui eris, και ο εσομενος": The usual publication is "και ο οσιος," 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 "οσιος, Sanctus," since a section (of the text) has worn away the part after "και," which would be absolutely necessary in connecting "δικαιος" and "οσιος." 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 "
και ο εσομενος," 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, "ο εσομενος." So why not truthfully, with good reason, write "ο ερχομενος" 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 sitting in judgment and exercising his just and eternal decrees.

(Theodore Beza, Novum Sive Novum Foedus Iesu Christi, 1589. Translated into English from the Latin footnote.)

Although Beza is silent, he could have been influenced in making his change based on a minority Latin textual variant.  There are two Latin commentaries with readings of Revelation 16:5 which agree with Beza in referring to the future aspect of God.

Beautus: "Futurus Es"

Beatus of Liebana, a Spanish theologian from the 8th century, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, "Commentaria In Apocalypsin".  A copy of it is available as a Google Book.  The date of Beatus' readings may go as far back as 360 AD as Beautus relied on Tyconius' materials.  The following is Beatus' excerpt of Revelation 16:5:


Beatus' text reads, "Justus es, qui fuisti, & futurus es Sanctus" (Just are you, which hast been and wilt be the Holy One).  This reading is not exactly the same as Beza's, but as in Beza's reading the future aspect is included in the address to God.

Haimo: "Es & Eris"

Haimo Halberstadensis, a German bishop in the 9th century, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation, also titled, "Commentaria in Apocalypsin".  A copy of it is available as a Google Book.  The following is the commentary portion of Revelation 16:5:




The text from "dicentem" to "eris" translated into English is:

"[Saying: Thou art just, who were holy.] In past times it is used here for three times, that is, for the past, present, and future.  Who were holy, are and shall be just."

There are two interesting features of this commentary.  First, the quotation from the biblical text, [dicentem: Justus es qui eras sanctus.] is not Beza's conjectured reading. However, it is neither the reading found in the existing manuscripts nor in the Vulgate.  The reading, being translated, "You are just, who were holy" is missing the clause, "and who are" (Latin: "& qui es").  The Vulgate reads, "dicentem iustus es qui es et qui eras sanctus". 

Second, the commentary includes the sentence, "
Who were holy, are and shall be just", using the verbs, "eras", "es" and "eris".  The association of "justice" with the past, present and future only occurs at Beza's Revelation 16:5.  The previous triadic declarations at 1:4, 1:8, 4:8 and 11:17 do not associate the formula with God's "justice".  Haimo's commentary text carries the sense of Beza's Latin translation of his 1598 Greek Textus Receptus, which reads, "Justus es, Domine, Qui es, & Qui eras, & Qui eris".  Beza chose "eris" as the translation of "εσομενος" (shalt be), which is also the Latin word in Haimo's commentary.  Haimo used "eris" (shalt be) for the future rather than "venturus est" (is to come) despite the previous occurrences of the formula in Revelation 1:4, 1:8 and 4:8 in the Vulgate having "venturus est" as the future.

It appears as though the original commentary included the biblical text as conjectured by Beza, and whoever compiled the present edition of the commentary took the commentary section from the original commentary and took the biblical text from a faulty version of the Vulgate.


Greek Fathers' Usage of "Kαι Ο Εσομενος"

There are at least two Greek fathers who used the phrase "ο... εσομενος" as a reference to a person of the Godhead.  This is noteworthy because the Greek New Testament never uses the phrase "ο εσομενος" to refer to God outside of Revelation 16:5 as it appears in Beza.  Christ in Revelation is elsewhere referred to as "ο ερχομενος (who is to come)" (Revelation 1:4, 1:8, 4:8 and 11:17).

Clement of Alexandria (3rd century) referred to God as "ο εσομενος" in The Stromata, Book V, 6:

"ἀτὰρ καὶ τὸ τετράγραμμον ὄνομα τὸ μυστικόν, ὃ περιέκειντο οἷς μόνοις τὸ ἄδυτον βάσιμον ἦν· λέγεται δὲ Ἰαού, ὃ μεθερμηνεύεται ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἐσόμενος."

"Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Jave, which is interpreted, “Who is and shall be.”" (Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

Gregory of Nyssa (4th century) referred to Christ as
"ο εσομενος" in On the Baptism of Christ:

"Κοσμήτωρ δὲ πάντως τῆς νύμφης ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ ὢν καὶ πρόων καὶ ἐσόμενος͵ εὐλογητὸς νῦν καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων͵ ἀμήν."

"And verily the Adorner of the bride is Christ, Who is, and was, and shall be, blessed now and for evermore. Amen." (Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

[Note: In a certain internet forum these facts have been called a "red herring" to the issue of whether "ο εσομενος" should be in Revelation 16:5.  By definition a "red herring" is something that is not relevant to the issue and carries no probative value.  If a hypothesis is made more likely by the existence of a fact than by the absence of the fact, that fact is not a red herring.  The fact that Greek fathers used "ο εσομενος" is not a red herring because the fact suggests that the future participle of "ειμι", in reference to Christ, is not a novel invention of a sixteenth century Western European scholar.  With proof of an ancient native Greek usage of "ο εσομενος", the hypothesis that John used the term is made more likely.  The weight to place on this evidence is debatable, but it is a misnomer to call it a red herring.]

Four Theories of How "Ο Εσομενος" Could Become Corrupt

Many people are not satisfied with Beza's conjecture or the reasons thereof, or the notion that Latin commentators or Greek Fathers may have been familiar with Beza's reading.  In the few literature available defending Beza's conjecture, there is usually no explanation as to how "ο εσομενος" could change to "ο οσιος".  Without an adequate theory as to the mechanism of the corruption, it is difficult to defend the position that there is a corruption.  This article proposes four theories to remedy this problem:
  • Theory 1: John wrote "ο εσομενος" in nomen sacrum form
  • Theory 2: Bad conditions gave rise to corruption
  • Theory 3: A scribe harmonized 16:5 with 11:17
  • Theory 4: A Hebraist imposed Hebraic style onto the text
Before considering these theories, it is important to understand the textual history of the book of Revelation and of Revelation 16:5 in particular.  There seems to be the misconception that the book of Revelation was just as well preserved as the other books of the Bible and that Revelation 16:5 in the existing manuscripts all have the same reading.  When we understand the troubled textual history of the entire book and of 16:5 in particular, the four theories and the reliance on a conjectural emendation may appear to be more plausible.


How A Conjecture May Be Justified

The Book of Revelation was Thoroughly Corrupted Very Early

Conjectural emendations are justified if we know that the text we are dealing with has a history of extensive and early corruption. The book of Revelation is such a text. As a word of assurance, however, there is no need to doubt the integrity of the text of Revelation as we now have in the Textus Receptus. God has promised to preserve his word. Although the existing manuscripts are often in conflict with one another, we must remember that the existing manuscripts for the most part came to us through the High Churches of the Orthodox East and the Catholic West. There were, however, countless Christians throughout history who lived outside of these institutions. The evidence of corrupted manuscripts is very much a history of the textual transmission of the High Churches. We trust God that he has providentially preserved his word to us through other faithful Churches even while the High Churches were transmitting corrupt texts. We trust that God was able to preserve the true reading of Revelation 16:5 until the advent of the printing press during the Reformation.

Please read the article at the following link for a prerequisite to understanding the extent of corruptions in the Book of Revelation: 
Book of Revelation in the Textus Receptus

The Curious Case of "Οσιος" at Revelation 15:4 in Papyrus 47

The word "Holy One" at Revelation 16:5 in all existing manuscripts is "οσιος".  This word occurs one other time in the book of Revelation at chapter 15 verse 4.  At Revelation 15:4, the Textus Receptus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus all read, "...και δοξασ(η)(ει) το ονομα σου οτι μονος οσιος οτι...." (...and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for....).  The earliest manuscript of Revelation 15:4, however, omits "οσιος".  P47 reads, "και δοξισει το ονομα σου οτι μονος ε̣ι̣ οτι...." (...and glorify thy name? for only if: for....).


P47: "και δοξισει το ονομα σου οτι μονος ε̣ι̣ οτι...."1

This is another example of a corruption in the existing manuscripts of the book of Revelation, and a relevant one at that because it involves the word in dispute at Revelation 16:5.  If there is evidence of a scribal error involving "οσιος" at Revelation 15:4, it seems reasonable to suspect a scribal error involving the same word just one chapter later at Revelation 16:5.  If critics of Beza's emendation at Revelation 16:5 simply acquaint themselves with the types of errors in the manuscripts of Revelation, they would not be so quick to judge the notion that conjectural emendations might be necessary to restore original readings in a very corrupt body of manuscript evidence.

There is a Related Textual Problem in Revelation 11:17

There is also a textual corruption at Revelation 11:17 that is related to Beza's emendation in Revelation 16:5. Please read the page, Should "and art to come" be in Revelation 11:17?, for more information on this textual variant. Nestle-Aland 27 has "ευχαριστουμεν σοι κυριε ο θεος ο παντοκρατωρ ο ων και ο ην" (we thank you Lord God Almighty, who is and who was). There is no "and who is to come".  The Textus Receptus, however, has "ευχαριστουμεν σοι κυριε ο θεος ο παντοκρατωρ ο ων και ο ην και ο ερχομενος" (We thank you Lord God Almighty, who is and who was and who is to come). Here we see a similar situation as in Beza's Revelation 16:5 in which the Textus Receptus includes the mention of God's future aspect. The Textus Receptus reading is supported by Tyconius (4th century), 1841 (9th/10th century), 051 (10th century), 1006 (11th century), etc. (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)). The 1904 Patriarchal Text of the Greek Orthodox Church also has "και ο ερχομενος". The readings is also in the Clementine Vulgate: "Gratias agimus tibi, Domine Deus omnipotens, qui es, et qui eras, et qui venturus es".

This is a situation similar to Revelation 16:5 where the future aspect of God's existence is omitted in most manuscripts. Yet unlike Revelation 16:5, other Greek and Latin witnesses as well as Beza's Textus Receptus testify for the inclusion of the future aspect of God. If the future aspect of God should be the original reading of Revelation 11:17, there is manuscript evidence to support this.  And if so, there is evidence that the mention of God's future aspect could be corrupted in the transmission of Revelation.  This lends credence to the hypothesis that the mention of God's future aspect was likewise corrupted in Revelation 16:5.


Evidence of Corruption Justifies Conjectural Emendations

Did you know?

The guru of modern textual criticism, Bruce Metzger, approved of conjectural emendations in principle.
In situations where the extent of corruption is so great that there is a likelihood that original readings may be lost in all existing manuscripts, judiciously applied conjectural emendations might be necessary in order to restore the original readings. 
The leading modern textual critic, Bruce Metzger, approved the use of a conjectural emendation as a valid method of textual criticism.  He said:

"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 at 182)

Bruce Metzger approved the method for “the removal of an anomaly” that is “foreign to the author's intention”.  The conjectural emendation in Revelation 16:5 is justified because the majority reading in Revelation 16:5, “who is, and who was” followed by “that holy one,” is anomalous in not completing the declaration of God's past, present and future aspects, as is done in Revelation 1:4, 1:8, 4:8, 11:17*.  Beza replaced "ο οσιο
ς (that holy one)" with "και ο εσομενος (and shalt be)" to fix the anomaly.  He said:

"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?"

(Theodore Beza, Novum Sive Novum Foedus Iesu Christi, 1589. Translated into English from the Latin footnote.)

The appropriateness of Beza's conjectural emendation should be assessed in the context that Revelation was corrupted early and extensively, and today there are only 4 existing manuscripts of Revelation 16:5 from before the 10th century (as will be shown below).

Conformity With Both Hebrew and Greek Thought

From a stylistic angle, the conjecture is justified on the basis that its phrasing conforms with both Hebrew and Greek thought.  The formula in Beza's reading differs from the formula in Revelation 1:4, 1:8, 4:8 and 11:17* (having "shalt be" instead of "is to come");  but the phrase, "which art, and wast, and shalt be" is consistent with both Hebrew and Greek thought.  As such, it is fitting for our Lord to use the phrase for the Hebrew and Greek audience of Revelation.

The Jerusalem Targum, written by Jewish Rabbis, refers to God as "He who Am, and Was, and Will Be" at Deuteronomy 32:39 (J.W. Etheridge, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch. (1865), p. 669):

"When the Word of the Lord shall reveal Himself to redeem His people, He will say to all the nations: Behold now, that I am He who Am, and Was, and Will Be, and there is no other God beside Me:" (J.W. Etheridge, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch. (1865), p. 669).

On the Greek side of things, there is an ancient poem believed to be sung by Dodonian priestesses, which refers to Zeus as the one who was, and is, and shall be.  The poem is recorded by Pausanias in Description of Greece:

"The Peleiades are said to have been born still earlier than Phemonoe, and to have been the first women to chant these verses:–


    Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus shall be (Ζεὺς ἦν, Ζεὺς ἐστίν, Ζεὺς ἔσσεται);
 O mighty Zeus.
    Earth sends up the harvest, therefore sing the praise of earth as Mother."

(Pausanias, Description of Greece
(10.12.10), Translated by W. H. S. Jones)

The New Testament often took Greek philosophical words and formulas and applied them in Christian contexts.  For example, John took the philosophically loaded word "Logos" and gave it a Christian meaning (John 1:1)
.  Likewise, "which art, and wast, and shalt be" may have been intended as an allusion to the Greek song to Zeus.  In adopting this formula, God is claiming that he alone is the true eternal God.


The Textual History of Revelation 16:5

Only 4 Manuscripts of Revelation 16:5 Are From Before the 10th Century

Did you know?

Only 4 manuscripts of Revelation 16:5 exist from before the 10th century.  The 3 earliest witnesses of Revelation 16:5 do not even agree.
A look at the textual history of Revelation 16:5 will show that the evidence against Beza's reading is not as strong as one might think.  Although all known existing Greek manuscripts do not have "και ο εσομενος (and shalt be)," the body of evidence is relatively small and late, and even the existing evidence are not in full agreement with each other.

Of all the ancient papyri that include the book of Revelation (P18, P24, P43, P47, P85, P98, P115), only P47 includes Revelation 16:5. Of all the ancient uncials (pre-10th century) that include Revelation (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, 0163, 0169, 0207, 0229, 0308), only Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Ephraemi include Revelation 16:5. Vaticanus does not have the book of Revelation at all. Thus the only witnesses from before the 10th century which include Revelation 16:5 are P47, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Ephraemi.
Just 4 manuscripts in 10 centuries is not a lot of evidence. There is definitely room to suppose that a reading with "και ο εσομενος (and shalt be)" existed in the early years of transmission, especially since Revelation in general was corrupted very early and an erroneous reading could have easily gained supremacy. Critics who say "There are over 5000 Greek manuscripts and not one of them has Beza's reading" are misrepresenting the situation. Although there are over 5000 Greek manuscripts, only a fraction has Revelation 16:5, and just 4 from before the 10th century.  Since manuscript evidence (whether Alexandrian or Byzantine) is relatively scarce for Revelation 16:5 in comparison with other passages of scripture, the use of conjectural emendations is that much more justified for Revelation 16:5 than it normally would be for other passages.
 

Three Earliest Witnesses are Already Corrupt

The use of conjectural emendations is further justified because the three earliest witnesses of Revelation 16:5 already reveal corruption in this portion. Compare the portion in P47 (250 AD), Sinaiticus (350 AD) and Alexandrinus (400 AD) below (all readings are transcribed below in the same lower-case script for comparison purposes): 
  • "ο ων και ος ην και οσιος" (P47)
  • "ο ων και ο ην ο οσιος" (Sinaiticus)
  • "ο ων και ο ην οσιος" (Alexandrinus)

Papyrus 47
(
Image source: See footnote 1)

 
 
P47: "...KAI OC HN KAI OCIOC (...and which wast and holy one)"


Codex Sinaiticus

(
Image source: See footnote 2)


Sinaiticus: ""O ΩN KAI O HN O OCIOS (which art and which wast that holy one)"


Codex Alexandrinus
(Image source: See footnote 3)


Alexandrinus: "O ΩN KAI O HN OCIOS (which art and which wast holy one)"

The phrase gets shorter with the passage of time.
  The earliest reading from 250 AD says, "και οσιος" (P 47). Then by 350 AD scribes changed "και" to "ο" and the phrase became "ο οσιος" (Sinaiticus). Then by 400 AD scribes dropped the "ο" and the phrase became "οσιος" (Alexandrinus). Thereafter the Byzantine manuscripts vary between "οσιος" (as in Alexandrinus) and "ο οσιος" (Robinson/Pierpont Byzantine Text 2005). Consider the gradual change of the text with the passage of time:
  • "και οσιος" (250 AD)
  • "ο οσιος" (350 AD)
  • "οσιος" (400 AD)
This variant is evidence that scribes either edited this phrase to tweak the grammar or were careless in copying this phrase. It is reasonable to doubt the integrity of the text in all existing manuscripts.  The Greek texts of Erasmus 1522 and Stephanus 1550 have "ο ων και ο ην και ο οσιος."  These texts agree with P47 and other manuscripts such as 1006, 1841, 2053 and 2026 in having "και" before "οσιος" (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)).  Since P47 and other manuscripts have "και," Beza only replaced "οσιος" with "εσομενος.

Now that it has been established that the book of Revelation was corrupted early and extensively, and that the earliest manuscripts which do have Revelation 16:5 are corrupt, it is time to consider the 3 theories as to how "και ο εσομενος" (and shalt be) could have been the original reading.

Theory 1: John wrote "Ο Εσομενος" in Nomen Sacrum Form

Nomina Sacra

Nomina sacra (singular: nomen sacrum) are sacred names or titles of God which were often abbreviated in early manuscripts (Comfort, Philip W. and Barrett, David P. The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House. (2001), pp.34-35).  Examples include:

God
Θεός ΘΣ
Lord  Κύριος ΚΣ
Son Υἱός ΥΣ

The common features of nomina sacra are (1) an abbreviation; and (2) a line above the name. 
It is surprising to see some of the words which scribes wrote as nomina sacra.  Even remotely divine words such as "cross", "Israel", and "Jerusalem" were sometimes written as nomina sacra.  In P75 at John 3:8, both the noun, "πνεῦμα" (wind) and the verb, "πνεῖ" (blows) are written as nomina sacra (http://thequaternion.blogspot.com/2011/02/p75-and-nomina-sacra.html).  This peculiar nomen sacrum at John 3:8 was not carried over in future manuscripts.  However, it goes to show that just about anything that is remotely divine qualified as a nomen sacrum.

Although some scholars believe that nomina sacra were invented by later scribes, there is a possibility that the original writers of the New Testament were the originators of some of the more common nomina sacra (Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism, (2005) p. 10).  Perhaps the Apostle John himself wrote the words that refer to God in "κυριε ει ο ων και ο ην και ο εσομενος" (O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be) in an abbreviated nomina sacra form.


"Ων" (are), "ην" (was) and "εσομενος" (shall be) are conjugations of the verb "ειμι" (am), which is a suitable nomen sacrum.  In Exodus 3:14, we read, "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM" (KJV).  God's most sacred name is the great "I AM".  This verse in the Greek Septuagint is, "καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν" (LXX).  The following Orthodox art is an example of "ο ων" being used as Christ's divine name or title.  Notice the nomina sacra for "Jesus" and "Christ" on each side of Christ's halo, which contains "ο ων" with the individual letters dispersed in three quadrants):
(Image by Bethel Lutheran Church, University City, Missouri)

It is clear that at least "
ο ων" in Revelation 16:5 is an indisputable nomen sacrum.  The other forms of the verb in the phrase, "ο ων και ο ην και ο εσομενος" are also part of God's divine name.  The Jerusalem Targum, written by Jewish Rabbis, refers to God as "He who Am, and Was, and Will Be" at Deuteronomy 32:39:

"When the Word of the Lord shall reveal Himself to redeem His people, He will say to all the nations: Behold now, that I am He who Am, and Was, and Will Be, and there is no other God beside Me:" (J.W. Etheridge, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch. (1865), p. 669).

Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa also referred to God as "ο εσομενος" (see above).  If it were customary for Jews to refer to God as "He who Am, and Was, and Will Be", John may have written the entire line, "ο ων και ο ην και ο εσομενος" as a triadic string of nomina sacra.  He may have written the line as:

ΟΩΝКАІΟΗΝКАІΟЄC

In nomen sacrum form, "
ο εσομενος" might be abbreviated as OЄC.  In context where the present participle and the imperfect are mentioned together in sequence, the mere two letters "ЄC" may suffice to indicate the future participle of "ειμι". In fact, in the Codex Sinaiticus it appears as though the place where "OOCIOC" now appears may have contained a three-lettered word.  Sinaiticus has two full-sized Omicrons followed by "CIOC" all made to fit in the space of just one letter:


"O OCIOC" in Codex Sinaiticus


John may not have foreseen that the meaning of the abbreviation might be lost in future transmissions of the text.  However,
if the middle line in the rounded Epsilon of ΟЄC disappeared and the character became a Sigma, the word may have changed to ΟCC.  A scribe who saw this may have thought ΟCC to be a nomen sacrum abbreviation of ΟCΙΟC (Holy One).  Such a mistake is reasonable because ΟCΙΟC, meaning "Holy One", is also a suitable nomen sacrum.  Furthermore, if "КАІOЄC" changed to "КАІOCIOC", there is a reasonable explanation as to why P47 says, "και οσιος" rather than "και ο οσιος".

A critic might point out that if the words "
ΟΩΝКАІΟΗΝКАІΟЄC" were written in nomina sacra form, the words ought to have overlines just as we see in other nomina sacra.  Yet, how would such overlines disappear from every manuscript?  This problem could be overcome if we suppose that the nomina sacra form as we know today developed in two steps.  Perhaps the original writers wrote nomina sacra in abbreviated form without any overlines.  Then, later scribes may have invented the practice of adding overlines to make the nomina sacra more prominent.  Perhaps the later scribes added overlines above words such as "Jesus" and "God" but did not think to add overlines above "OΩΝ" or "OЄC".  As we have yet to fully understand the origin of the nomina sacra form, this is a possible hypothesis.  Perhaps there were no overlines over "ΟΩΝКАІΟΗΝКАІΟЄC" to begin with.

Theory 1: Conclusion

With the above being a possibility, the following chronological chart explains how the intended "και ο εσομενος" could have changed to "ο οσιος":


"КАІ ΟЄC" (100 AD)
John wrote "ο εσομενος" in nomen sacrum form

"КАІ ΟCC" (100-250AD)
The middle line in the rounded Epsilon disappeared

"КАІ OCIOC" (100-250 AD)
Scribes thought the nomen sacrum referred to "Holy One"

"КАІ OCIOC" (250 AD)
As seen in P47

"Ο ΟCΙΟC" (350 AD)
As seen in Sinaiticus

"ΟCΙΟC" (400 AD):
As seen in Alexandrinus


Theory 2: Bad Conditions Gave Rise to Corruption

Confirmable Transcription Errors

Scribes are known for making some strange transcription errors.  Consider the following confirmable mistakes of the scribe of Sinaiticus:
  • The proper reading in Revelation 10:1 is "ιρις" (rainbow).  However, the original hand of Sinaiticus has "θριξ" (hair).  Thus the original scribe of Sinaiticus wrote, "I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud with hair on his head."
  • The proper reading in Revelation 21:4 is "πρωτα" (former things).  However, the original hand of Sinaiticus has "προβατα" (sheep).  Thus the original scribe of Sinaiticus wrote, "neither shall there be any more sorrow, nor crying, nor pain; for the sheep have passed away."
  • The proper reading in Revelation 21:5 is "καινα" (new).  However, Sinaiticus has "κενα" (empty).  Thus the scribe of Sinaiticus wrote, "Behold, I make all things empty."
If a scribe could mistake "ιρις" for "θριξ," "πρωτα" for "προβατα," and "καινα" for "κενα," it is certainly reasonable to suppose that a scribe mistook "εσομενος" for "οσιος."  The common feature of all these other confirmable mistakes is that the original reading and the erred reading can look fairly similar.  For example, "ιρις" and "θριξ" share 2 same letters.  "πρωτα" and "προβατα" share the same beginning and ending letters.  "καινα" and "κενα" share the same beginning and ending letters.  Likewise, "εσομενος" and "οσιος" share enough of the same graphic features that a careless scribe might mistake one for the other.

Three Conditions That Could Give Rise to Erroneous Copying

Even if "ο εσομενος" was not written as a nomen sacrum, we can still provide a reasonable hypothesis as to how "ο εσομενος" could be confused as "οσιος".  There are three conditions that could lead to a scribe mistaking "εσομενος" for "οσιος". They are: 
  • A poorly written text
  • An abbreviated text
  • A damaged text

Poorly Written Text

Scribes did not always write words clearly. Consider how confusing and barely legible the word "οσιος" appears in Sinaiticus:
  
 
The underlined portion reads: "O ΩN KAI O HN O OCIOS (which art and which wast that holy one)"
 
 
The last four letters of "ο οσιος" are scrunched together and barely legible
 
"ο οσιος" is difficult to read in Sinaiticus not because of any effect of age, such as fading, but because the letters are scrunched together.  This word would have been just as difficult to read when the codex was still new.  Considering that a scribe could write "ο οσιος" as illegibly as it appears in Sinaiticus, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a scribe who saw "ο εσομενος" in a condensed and barely legible form mistook it for "ο οσιος".
 

Abbreviated Text

There is even a possibility that a scribe used an abbreviation for ο εσομενος, which may have looked very much like οσιος. Abbreviations for the purpose of nomina sacra have been discussed above, but even ordinary words were abbreviated on occasions.  An abbreviation may have been used to save space at the end of a line or page, for example. A subsequent copyist of a papyrus with that abbreviated form of ο εσομενος may have thought that it was οσιος. There is evidence that scribes had the tendency to abbreviate some common words. Consider the text of P47 and how the scribe adopted an unusual abbreviation for ανθρωπων at Revelation 9:15: 
 
 
The underlined portion is from Revelation 9:15
 
Sir Frederic G. Kenyon commented on this strange abbreviation. He says, "The very unusual (if not unique) abbreviation, αθν for ανθρωπων, occurs on fol. Iv, l. 19." (Preface to the Revelation portion of The Chester Beatty Biblical papyri : descriptions and texts of twelve manuscripts on papyrus of the Greek Bible). It would not be surprising if a scribe who abbreviated ανθρωπων as αθν also abbreviated ο εσομενος as something like ο εσμος, which could easily be confused with οσιος. Moreover, an abbreviation of ο εσομενος, such as ο εσμος, would have had a line above the abbreviation to indicate that it is an abbreviation.  But lines also indicated nomina sacra ("sacred names").  Thus a scribe seeing "εσμος" with a line above it could have mistakenly read the word as "οσιος" because "Holy One" would be a suitable sacred name of God.

Damaged Text

Scribes using damaged manuscripts may have had to make their best guesses as to what the damaged portions contained.  Beza had a manuscript that was damaged at Revelation 16:5.  He said:

"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."

(Theodore Beza, Novum Sive Novum Foedus Iesu Christi, 1589. Translated into English from the Latin footnote.)

Whereas Beza believed the damaged portion contained "
ο εσομενος", other scribes looking at a damaged copy of Revelation 16:5 may have believed the portion in question contained "ο οσιος".

Theory 2: Conclusion

With all of the above being possibilities, the following may have been the way the text in Revelation 16:5 became corrupt:
 
 
"και ο εσομενος" (100 AD)
As conjectured by Beza

"KAI O ЄCOMЄNOC" (100-250AD)
The word became illegible and/or abbreviated

"KAI OCIOC" (100-250AD)
A scribe attempted to salvage the illegible word

"KAI OCIOC" (250 AD)
As seen in P47

"Ο ΟCΙΟC" (350 AD)
As seen in Sinaiticus

"ΟCΙΟC" (400 AD):
As seen in Alexandrinus
 
 
A copyist error due to a poorly written script, an abbreviation, damaged papyrus, or a combination of all three factors may have arisen early in the transmission process.


Theory 3: A Scribe Harmonized 16:5 with 11:17

Revelation 11:17

Revelation 11:17 in the Textus Receptus reads, "ευχαριστουμεν σοι κυριε ο θεος ο παντοκρατωρ ο ων και ο ην και ο ερχομενος" (We thank you Lord God Almighty, who is and who was and who is to come).  However, some ancient manuscripts read differently, not having "και ο ερχομενος".  Although Tyconius (4th century), 1841 (9th/10th century), 051 (10th century), 1006 (11th century) and other witnesses have the clause, Sinaiticus (4th century) and Alexandrinus (5th century) do not (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)).

Harmonization

The triadic formula mentioning the past, present and future appear at Revelation 1:4, 1:8 and 4:8 in all manuscripts.  In a manuscript that does not have the future aspect of the formula at 11:17, it would appear as though the author of Revelation is saying that Christ has already come by 11:17.  Such a suspicion is strengthened by Revelation 11:15, which reads, "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."  Some interpret this verse 11:15, just two verses before 11:17, as saying that Christ has already come (However, a counterargument could be made that verse 15 only fulfills a claim to the temporal realm and Christ actually comes later at Revelation 19:11-16).  Perhaps 11:15 is the reason a scribe may have omitted "και ο ερχομενος" at 11:17.  Whether or not "και ο ερχομενος" is authentic at 11:17, the fact is that the future clause did not appear in some early manuscripts.

A scribe having a manuscript with the future clause omitted at 11:17, may have looked at a manuscript with "και ο εσομενος" at 16:5 and believed it to be an error.  Since the future aspect of Christ was no longer addressed by 11:17, it may have seemed erroneous to address the future aspect at 16:5.  This, of course, depends on whether the scribe read the narrative from 11:17 to 16:5 as a continuous chronological narrative.  If so, a scribe would have had contextual reasons to avoid transcribing
"και ο εσομενος" at 16:5.

This theory of harmonization could be best considered if it is considered in tandem with the other two theories, namely, the theory that "
ο εσομενος" was written as a nomen sacrum or the theory that poor conditions gave rise to corruptions of "ο εσομενος".  When "ο εσομενος" at 16:5 became indiscernible or illegible, the contextual factor that the future aspect of God was not mentioned at 11:17 may have persuaded a scribe to avoid having the future aspect at 16:5.  "O οσιος" may have been preferable for such a scribe.


Theory 4: A Hebraist imposed Hebraic style onto the text

The Hebrew perfect and imperfect

Greek has the future participle for the future tense of a verb.  The fact that Clement of Alexandria ( The Stromata, Book V, 6 ) and Gregory of Nyssa (On the Baptism of Christ) used the future participle "ο εσομενος" to refer to Jehovah and Christ, respectively, shows that the Greeks had no problem with referring to God with the future participle.  In fact, Greek would actually require the future tense to refer to the future aspect of God.  John, writing for the seven Gentile churches, would have been aware of the Greek use of the future participle.  In Hebrew, however, there are only two aspects - the perfect and the imperfect.  Whereas Greek verb tenses focus on the timing of the action (i.e. past, present, future), Hebrew verb aspects focus on the completeness of the action (i.e. complete or incomplete).  The Hebrew perfect signifies a completed action, which could correspond to the Greek past tense.  The Hebrew imperfect signifies an incomplete action, which could correspond to either the Greek present or future tense.

The fact that only two aspects are required to signify all three Greek tenses means that "ο ων και ο ην και ο εσομενος (which art, and wast, and shalt be)" may have appeared redundant to a Hebraic reader.  In Hebrew, the imperfect and perfect "ההוה והיה" captures all three Greek tenses.  "ההוה והיה" translated literally and minimally could be "ο ων και ο ην".  Therefore a Hebraist may have found the "ο ων και ο ην" at Revelation 16:5 to be sufficient to refer to God in all tenses.  Perhaps a scribe saw a corrupted form of "ο εσομενος" due to circumstances described in Theory 1 or Theory 2 above, and having known Hebraic style he may have preferred to resolve the text as "ο οσιος" rather than "ο εσομενος".


Summary

  • "Which art, and wast, and shalt be" completes a formula.
  • Beatus' excerpt mentions the future aspect of God.
  • Haimo alluded to this formula.
  • Copies of Revelation were extensively corrupted very early.
  • Revelation 15:4 in P47 has a corruption involving "οσιος".
  • Revelation 11:17 has a variant related to Revelation 16:5, but with more witnesses.
  • Bruce Metzger approved the use of conjectural emendations in principle.
  • There is rabbinical and Greek authority for Beza's conjectured triadic formula.
  • There are only four witnesses of Revelation 16:5 prior to the 10th century.
  • There is evidence of textual corruption in three of these earliest manuscripts.
  • "ο εσομενος" may have been abbreviated as a nomen sacrum, which may have been confused with a nomen sacrum of "ο οσιος".
  • εσομενος and οσιος can look similar if the quality of the writing or material is poor.
  • Sinaiticus has confirmable examples of a scribe confusing similar-looking words.
  • Sinaiticus exhibits a case where the writing of ο οσιος is poor.
  • οσιος may look similar to an abbreviated form of ο εσομενος.
  • P47 exhibits a scribal tendency to create strange abbreviations to common words.
  • Manuscripts were prone to damage.
  • There is contextual motive to harmonize Revelation 16:5 with Revelation 11:17.
  • The grammatical construction, completely acceptable in Greek, may have appeared erroneous to a Hebraist.
Beza’s conjectural emendation seems reasonable under these circumstances.

Further Studies: http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Revelation_16:5 provides many version comparisons and images of Revelation 16:5 in Greek and Latin editions.

Also read: The Greek Text (Textus Receptus) of the King James Version is Reliable


Images of manuscripts from:
  1. Kenyon, Frederic G. The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: Descriptions and Texts of Twelve Manuscripts on Papyrus of the Greek Bible. London: Emery Walker Ltd., 1933, 1937.
  2. http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/
  3. Codex Alexandrinus is housed at the British Library in London and has been made available for online viewing at the website of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_02/GA_02_0133b.jpg
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