On the JST of Revelation 3-7

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF REVELATION 3-7

Kevin Barney

1. Revelation 3:1

And unto the angel servant of the church in Sardis, write; These things saith he that who hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, which are the seven servants of God; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art not dead.

    The Greek angelos, despite its common English cognate “angel,” can also mean a human messenger or one sent on some sort of a mission. The JST often takes it in this sense in Revelation with the word “servant.” Smith consistently edits references to the “seven Spirits of God” out of the text; the meaning of the allusion is unclear, but may be a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish tradition. Here Smith keeps the reference to the “seven stars,” but simply equates them with the seven servants, which Smith seems to intend to refer to the human leaders of the seven churches (to which Revelation was directed). The end of the verse should be rendered something like “I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead.” (NET) KJV “name” is a translation of onoma, which here actually means “reputation.” The end of the KJV translation doesn’t make sense: “thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead.” The KJV seems to be contradicting itself, which is why the JST adds a negative to the last clause, “thou art not dead.” This is a reaction to a KJV translation error. The conjunction kai most commonly means “and,” as the KJV takes it in this passage, but here kai has contrasting force and needs to be rendered “but” (as correctly rendered for instance in the NET).

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

2. Revelation 3:2

Be watchful therefore, and strengthen the things which those who remain, that who are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

    The JST adds “therefore” to emphasize that this rebuke is in consequence of the critique of the superficial Christianity of those at Sardis given in verse 1. The “things which remain” is a translation of ta loipa (neuter plural), but the sense is “what remains of your Christian life,” so
the JST correctly personalizes the situation to make it not about “things” but “people,” changing the text from “the things which remain” to “those who remain.”

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

3. Revelation 3:7

And to the angel servant of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

    (On the ability of Greek angelos to refer to either a divine or a human messenger, see comment on 3:1.)

4. Revelation 3:12

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which this is new New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

    The change from “which” to “this” was motivated by the italics. The capitalization of “New” is merely stylistic; a number of modern translations do the same.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

5. Revelation 3:14

And unto the angel servant of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

    (On the ability of Greek angelos to refer to either a divine or a human messenger, see comment on 3:1.)

6. Revelation 4:1

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in into heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew show thee things which must be hereafter.

    The Greek preposition en would customarily be rendered “in” as in the KJV. But one must remember that in the ancient Hebrew conception heaven was on the other side of the firmament (HEB raqiya), a solid dome separating earth from heaven, in which “windows” (like sluice gates) would need to be opened to allow the rains to fall from the celestial ocean. So from the perspective of earth the opening of a door in the firmament would be “into” heaven. The updated spelling of “shew” is a simple modernization.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 and A-3 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Modernization)

7. Revelation 4:3

And he that sat there was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

    The word “there” is added for sense. Both the Anchor Bible and the vast majority of modern translations also add “there” after the verb “sat.”

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

8. Revelation 4:4

And round about in the midst of the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of like gold.

    The Greek literally reads “And round about the throne there were 24 thrones. . . .” using the Greek word thronos in both places. The KJV uses English “throne” in the first instance but “seats” in the second, presumably for style to avoid the repetition of the word “throne.” But a “seat” is a part of a “throne,” and so the KJV seems to speak of a massive throne assembly with 25 seats (24 + 1) rather than a single throne surrounded by 24 other thrones. This misunderstanding was driven by the KJV using “seats” rather than the literal “thrones.” The motivation for changing “crowns of gold” to “crowns like gold” is unclear to me. The Greek word chrusos can mean “adorned with gold,” and so perhaps this is a practical concern that a crown made of solid gold would be too heavy to wear comfortably.

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

9. Revelation 4:5

And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits servants of God.

    (For the JST replacing “Spirits” with “servants” [meaning the human leaders of the seven churches] see the comment on 3:1.)

10. Revelation 4:6

 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, were the four and twenty elders; and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

    (For the 24 elders being on seats “in the midst of” the throne see the comment on Revelation 4:4.)

11. Revelation 4:9

And when those beasts give glory and honour honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

    This change in spelling is a simple modernization, preferring American over British spelling conventions.

    Paradigm Classification A-3 (Modernization)

12. Revelation 4:10

The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat sits on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

    The participle kathemenou is present tense, and so JST “sits” is correct, and most modern translations are in accord. Some translations, like the KJV here, use a past tense “sat,” presumably in a customary sense, as in “customarily sat.” In any event, the JST reading is correct.

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

13. Revelation 5:1

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat sits on the throne a book written within and on the backside back side, sealed with seven seals.

    (For the present tense participle “sits” as correct, see the comment on Revelation 4:10.) The change from “backside” to “back side” is a simple modernization.

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-3 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Modernization)

14. Revelation 5:2

And I saw a strong angel, and hear him  proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

    Since the narrator actually reports the words of the angel, it is apparent that he not only saw the angel but heard the angel’s proclamation, which the JST emendation makes clear.

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

15. Revelation 5:6

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven twelve horns and seven twelve eyes, which are the seven twelve  Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

    The JST here modifies the ubiquitous symbolic use of the number seven by replacing it with “twelve,” presumably to apply the symbolism in this verse to the Apostles. Some texts omit the number modifying “Spirits” entirely (Novum Testamentum Graece considers the textual evidence either way evenly matched and too close to call.)

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

16. Revelation 6:1

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, one of the four beasts, and I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

    The narrator uses two verbs, “and I saw” and “and I heard.”  What he saw and heard is given at the very end of the verse: “one of the four beasts saying, Come and See.” The JST moves “one of the four beasts” (i.e., what he saw) forward to separate the objects of the verbs “saw” (one of the four beasts) and “heard” (“Come and see”) into their own clauses (i.e., a “saw” clause and a “heard” clause) to make it clearer which object goes with which verb.

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

17. Revelation 6:6

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not thou the oil and the wine.

    This change was motivated by the italics. The introductory kai of the last clause is meant to show contrast, and so it should be rendered “but” instead of “and”: “But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”

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

18. Revelation 6:14

And the heaven departed opened as a scroll is opened when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places its place.

    Some like the KJV understand the heaven (or sky) as “disappearing” (thus KJV “departed”), but that doesn’t make sense because scrolls might get smaller when rolled up but they don’t actually disappear. The verb would be better translated with the sense of “be parted,” as in many translations such as the  NET “the sky was split apart,” which suggests a metaphor of opening a scroll rather than closing a scroll. The JST also correctly singularizes the construction at the end, because while “mountain” and “island” are two different things and so the Greek literally has a plural “their places,” both terms are governed by “every,” so in English grammar a singular construction is required. Many modern translations do the same, such as NET: “and every mountain and island was moved from its place.”.

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

19. Revelation 7:2

And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried and I heard him cry with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

    The initial verb of the passage is “I saw” from a first person perspective; the JST adds a parallel verb “and I heard him cry” so as to parallel the first person perspective of the first verb (i.e., I saw//I heard) and to be explicit about the auditory response in addition to the visual response.

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

20. Revelation 7:4

And I heard the number of them which who were sealed:, and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

    The verb “heard” introduced by the JST in verse 2 still governs this passage, so the repetition of the verb is deleted as unnecessary here. “Which” to “who” used of people is a modernization. The italics lead Smith to delete the second “sealed”; the text so modified still makes good sense, as the concept of being sealed is carried over from the first occurrence of that verb in this verse. There is no need to repeat the verb “sealed” a second time, as shown for instance in the NIV: “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel” and in many other modern translations.

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

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Errata: item 17 is Paradigm Classification A-2, not A-1.

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