On the JST of Revelation 1-2

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF REVELATION 1-2

Kevin Barney

1. Revelation 1:1

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which John, a servant of God gave which was given unto him of Jesus Christ, to shew show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and that he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

    The genitive in “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” is famously ambiguous. It could be an objective genitive (“the revelation about Jesus Christ”), a subjective genitive (“the revelation from Jesus Christ”), or both, sometimes called a general or plenary genitive (“the revelation from Jesus Christ about himself”). But note that these opening words seemed to have served the function of a title for the book anciently; the first Greek word of the text is Apokalupsis, whence we get English Revelation (or Apocalypse). And typically, in the expression [Title] of X, X is the (human) author of the book, which in this case would be John. Compare the Gospels, which were originally considered a single “Gospel” (according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John), then a fourfold “Gospel,” until eventually each text was itself considered a “Gospel.” We refer to these books today as the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of John (as the human authors of those works). So the JST is reflecting that same style here, making Revelation the title of the book (as indeed reflected on the KJV title page just above verse 1, “Revelation of John”) and making the following name that of the human author, John, and not the subject/object, Jesus Christ. The other changes in the verse accommodate this foundational change, such as clarifying that the revelation was given to John by Jesus Christ (thus suggesting a subjective genitive). About a half-dozen manuscripts give the opening line in a way similar to the JST with “an apocalypse of John of the divine word” (see J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1975), 373.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

2. Revelation 1:2

Who bare bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

    The verb martureo used here means “to bear witness.” The verb is an aorist and so would more properly be rendered as “bore witness” rather than “bear witness” (KJV “bare” is archaic). Many modern translations reflect this use of “bore” here.

    Paradigm Classification A-3 (Modernization)

3. Revelation 1:3

Blessed is he that readeth are they who read, and they that who hear and understand the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand of the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

    The singular “he that readeth” seems to conflict with the plural “they that hear,” and so the JST pluralizes it to make the number consistent. The change was probably influenced by the fact that the singular verb “is” is italicized. This also reflects a cultural translation, as anciently most people would have encountered this text by hearing it read in a liturgical setting, as most people were illiterate and could not themselves read. The JST is a cultural updating, since in our day it is more common for people to read the scriptures themselves independently. The Greek verb akouo fundamentally means “to hear” but also means “to understand,” and the JST explicitly reflects both nuances here. The NET also reflects both nuances with “hear and obey.” The expression “the time is at hand” reflects the adverb engus “near, close to, on the verge of.” The JST explicitly fleshes out the reference to what John is talking about to make it perfectly clear.

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-2 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text)

4. Revelation 1:4

Now this is the testimony of John to the seven servants who are over the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which who is, and which who was, and which who is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are who hath sent forth his angel from before his throne, to testify unto those who are the seven servants over the seven churches;

    Beginning “John” without any introduction is unclear; this would better be rendered “from John” as the sender of the letter. The JST describes this text as the “testimony of John,” which matches the JST emendation of “the Gospel of Matthew” and “the Gospel of John” (i.e., the apostles) to “the Testimony of Matthew” and “the Testimony of John.” (Note further that the genitive is subjective: the testimony John gave.) Instead of referring to the letter being directly sent to the seven churches, the JST consistently refers to the seven servants who are over the seven churches, which seems to reflect the common sense reality that to send a letter to a church or community one must actually send it to a human individual; the church as a collective cannot physically receive a letter. The JST consistently deletes references to the “seven Spirits.” Scholars are unsure what the seven Spirits are or are meant to represent (one possible guess being the seven archangels known from Jewish tradition). The JST seems to follow this angel idea, but ignores the ubiquitous number seven and instead represents the seven spirits with a singular “angel.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

5-6. Revelation 1:5-6

And Therefore, I, John, the faithful witness, bear record of the things which were delivered me of the angel, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto And unto him that who loved us, be glory; and who washed us from our sins in his own blood, And and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father; to. To him be glory and dominion, for ever forever and ever. Amen.

    The text recites Jesus Christ as “the faithful witness”; the main point of the JST here is to reorganize the text to make John “the faithful witness” so that he can be a witness of Christ. Again, the singular “angel” takes the place of the seven spirits. The italicized words surrounding the deleted “the faithful witness” seem also to have been an influence.

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-2 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text)

7. Revelation 1:7

Behold, For behold, he cometh with in the clouds; with ten thousands of his saints in the kingdom, clothed with the glory of his Father. and And every eye shall see him,; and they also which who pierced him:, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

    The addition of “with ten thousands of his saints in the kingdom” seems to be an assimilation to Deuteronomy 33:2 “and he came with ten thousands of saints,” and the addition of “clothed with the glory of his Father” is a reprise of JST Luke 21:36: “when he shall come clothed in the glory of his Father.” The lofty rhetoric is meant to highlight the great glory of the second coming,

    Paradigm Classification A-4 (Assimilation)

8. Revelation 1:8

For he saith, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which who is, and which who was, and which who is to come, the Almighty.

    The KJV has “saith the Lord” in the middle of this verse. Since the KJV does not use quotation marks, the extent of the quotation is left somewhat ambiguous. The JST deletes the “saith” in the middle of the verse and adds “For he saith” at the beginning of the verse to make it clear that the entire verse is to be understood as a quotation from the Lord.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

9. Revelation 1:12

And I turned to see from whence the voice came that spake with to me. And; and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

    This is a common-sense correction. “I turned to see the voice” is awkward, because one cannot actually see a voice, so JST “from whence the voice came” resolves that difficulty. The NET similarly has “I turned to see whose voice was speaking to me.” 

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

10. Revelation 1:16

 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

    This is a simple modernization. Most modern translations hyphenate the expression, either “two-edged” or “double-edged.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

11. Revelation 1:20

The This is the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels servants of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

    The words “This is” at the beginning are supplied for clarity; the NET similarly adds “is this” later in the verse for the same reason. The NET also suggests that “angels” here perhaps should be rendered “messengers” (similar to JST “servants”), as the Greek word angelos is ambiguous and can mean “angel,” “(human) messenger,” or “one who is sent.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

12. Revelation 2:1

Unto the angel servant of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

    (On the meaning of angelos as either divine or human see comment on Revelation 1:20.)

13. Revelation 2:8

And unto the angel servant of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

    (On the meaning of angelos as either divine or human see comment on Revelation 1:20.)

14. Revelation 2:12

And to the angel servant of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

    (On the meaning of angelos as either divine or human see comment on Revelation 1:20.)

15. Revelation 2:17

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth knowest saving he that receiveth it.

    The JST is mistaken here. In Jacobean usage -eth is a third-person singular verb ending;     -est would be second person singular.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

16. Revelation 2:18

And unto the angel servant of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

    (On the meaning of angelos as either divine or human see comment on Revelation 1:20.)

17. Revelation 2:21

And I gave her space to repent of her fornication fornications; and she repented not.

    The JST pluralizes fornication to make it clear this was an habitual practice, not a one-time event. Greek porneia would be better rendered “sexual immorality” in a general sense, but yes, not referring to a single event.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

18. Revelation 2:22

Behold, I will cast her into a bed hell, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

    Being cast into a bed (klinen) does not seem like an adequate punishment, so ancient scribes tended to replace “bed” with worse fates (such as prison [phulaken], a furnace [klibanon], illness [asthenian], or sorrow [Latin luctum]). The JST “hell” (Greek hades) has a similar impetus. The word “bed” here is actually a Semitic idiom for a bed of illness, and so it really was meant to be a punishment, not a vacation. To make the meaning clear in English it would be best to render “a sickbed.”

    Paradigm Classification A-5 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text Having Non-Original Textual Variants) 

19. Revelation 2:26

And he that to him who overcometh, and keepeth my works commandments unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations many kingdoms:

    The JST moves “to him” from the middle of the verse to the beginning combined with relative “that” (modernized to “who” in the JST text) so that it governs the entire verse. The expression “keep my works” doesn’t make sense in English, so the JST changes “works” to “commandments” as keeping commandments is more natural idiomatically. The Greek would better be rendered “who continues in my deeds” (NET), which conveys a similar sense to the JST. The Greek word ethnos rendered “nations” in the KJV is ambiguous; it can refer to nations or peoples, or it can refer to non-Jews, Gentiles, heathen, unbelievers. Like the KJV the JST takes the word in the correct sense here, with kingdoms perhaps being a bit more grandiose than nations to reflect the end of world context.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

20. Revelation 2:27

And he shall rule them with a rod of iron the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father.

    This verse is a quotation from Psalm 2:9 (made famous by Handel’s Messiah):

        Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

            Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

This is framed as a destructive punishment of the unbelievers, but the JST keeps the pottery metaphor but changes it to a description of magnanimous rule in the end times, with the “rod of iron” becoming the “word of God.” Instead of the people being dashed to pieces they will be molded by the potter’s hands, and the Savior will govern the people equitably.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

Comments

  1. Reading this post reminds me of the discussion you and I had about 15 years ago about Acts 20:28 on this very blog, where I invoked the Granville Sharpe rule to justify my personal rendering of Koine Greek and offered a guarded defense of the majority Byzantine text renderings against the more modern fetishism of Alexandrian texts. At the time, I remarked that it had been 10 years since I’d studied Greek. Now going on 25+ years, I’m utterly unprepared to comment with anything approaching the argumentative vigor of my 2006 self. You seem to have remained in perfect form. Hat’s off and great post!

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    DKL, anyone who has been out of school for a while but can still deploy the Granville Sharp rule gets an A from me!

  3. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    I really like this line in the analysis of Revelation 1:1:

    “The other changes in the verse accommodate this foundational change”

    There’s A LOT of that going on in JST changes and I think it’s important to differentiate the “foundational” changes from the derivative changes–or whatever it is best to call these. I do think it would be good if we could come up with some good analytic terminology for this–ideally from some branch of biblical and/or textual studies. Is “foundational” such a term or did you just pull that out of your hat? Also, even some non-foundational accommodating revisions could carry some meaning on a secondary level–I mean, many if not most of them still involve some word choice on JS’s part. And course selection can also have unintended consequences.

  4. Loving this Kev. Vs 1 comments reminded me of a development in post Nauvoo preaching using “the revelations of Jesus Christ” as a phrase mostly, but not exclusively used for inspirations in speaking, or previous personal revelation or reference to at least some passages or books of scripture.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark, I’m afraid I just pulled “foundational” out of, uh, the ether.

    Thanks for the comments, guys!

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