On the JST of Revelation 13-22

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF REVELATION 13-22

Kevin Barney

1. Revelation 13:1

And I saw another sign, in the likeness of the kingdoms of the earth; a beast rise up out of the sea; and he stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

    This is a remarkable revision. Modern translations have the first part of this verse as Revelation 12:18 (the last verse of the preceding chapter) rather than the first part of 13:1. The NET for 12:18 reads “And the dragon stood [estathe, third person] on the sand of the seashore.” The Textus Receptus, followed by the KJV, combines these words into the beginning of 13:1: “And I stood [estathen, first person referring to the narrator, not the beast/dragon] upon the sand of the sea.” Remarkably (and correctly), the JST has the beast and not the narrator as the one standing on the sand of the seashore. This is widely regarded as the original reading. The NET explains: 

“tc Grk (estathe “he stood”). The reading followed by the translation is attested by the better mss [technical listing of mss omitted] while the majority of mss [technical listing omitted] have the reading estathen (“I stood”). Thus the majority of mss make the narrator, rather than the dragon of 12:17, the subject of the verb. The first person reading is most likely an assimilation to the following verb in 13:1, “I saw.” The reading “I stood” was introduced either by accident or to produce a smoother flow, giving the narrator a vantage point on the sea’s edge from which to observe the beast rising out of the sea in 13:1. But almost everywhere else in the book, the phrase kai eidon (“I saw”) marks a transition to a new vision, without reference to the narrator’s activity. On both external and internal grounds, it is best to adopt the third person reading, “he stood.”

Is it possible Smith derived this from a secondary source? Sure, but a few factors would seem to make that unlikely. First, I checked both the Adam Clarke Commentary and Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, and neither source mentions this variant, so if this change derived from a secondary source it would have been something more obscure than those two obvious possibilities. Further, to me the way Smith worded the revision would seem to argue against secondary source influence. A scholar would have revised this text precisely, as with a scalpel, simply by changing the verb from first to third person and changing the subject from the narrator to the beast/dragon. But instead of just jettisoning the first person as a scholar would do, Smith keeps it but redeploys it by attaching it to a new, general introductory statement by the narrator, after which he applies the third person verb (correctly) to the beast/dragon. So the JST still begins with KJV “And I,” but that “I” now is the subject of a different, general introductory statement. The JST then transitions to the beast, and has the beast as the one who stands on the sands of the seashore, not the narrator.

    Paradigm Classification E (Textual Restoration)

2. Revelation 14:1

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an a hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.

    This is a modernization. The modern rule is that with words beginning with h-, one uses “an” before words where the h- is silent, but “a” before words where it is voiced. But the KJV used “an” before all h- words, whether or not voiced (such as an house or an horse, where today we would use “a”). So the JST is applying the correct modern style to this KJV oddity.

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

3. Revelation 14:20

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse horses’ bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

    The Greek has ton hippon, genitive plural, so JST “horses’” is correct. NET similarly has “and blood poured out of the winepress up to the height of horses’ bridles.” The vast majority of modern translations reflect it as a plural, either “horses’ bridles” or “bridles of horses.”

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

4. Revelation 16:7

And I heard another angel who came out of from the altar say saying, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

    The Greek literally says “I heard the altar saying” or “I heard from the altar saying.” The voice is either the altar itself or some unidentified presence speaking from the altar. Since in this chapter we are receiving messages from seven numbered angels, the JST provides for “another” to modify (an unnumbered) angel who came from the altar, rather than having the inanimate altar speaking in a personified fashion. KJV “another” in the midst of these messages from the seven angels would naturally appear to be a reference to “another angel.” As the KJV does not use actual quotation marks, a common way to mark a quotation in the KJV was with the word “saying” followed by a comma and with the first word of the quote capitalized, and the JST deploys that style of marking a quotation here.

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

5. Revelation 17:17

 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be are fulfilled.

    It is true that the verb at the end of the passage, telesthesontai, is a future passive, and so is literally rendered “shall be fulfilled” in the KJV. The clause is introduced, however, by the conjunction achri “until,” which already puts this clause into a future frame, and so some translations use a present, “are fulfilled,” to make the verb more vivid, such as NET “until the words of God are fulfilled.”

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

6. Revelation 19:2

 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants saints at her hand.

    The Greek word doulos literally means “slave,” often in the NT with the sense of one who has voluntarily sold himself into slavery to God. This concept can be hard to grasp in in our modern culture, which is why the KJV commonly uses the softer translation “servant.” The JST goes even further, changing “servants” to “saints.”

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

7. Revelation 19:5

And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants saints, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

    (See comment on “saints” in Revelation 19:2)

8. Revelation 19:10

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

    This is a simple modernization.

    Paradigm Classification A-3 (Modernization)

9. Revelation 19:11

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

    This change was motivated by the italics. Many modern translations similarly use “is called,” such as the NIV.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

10. Revelation 19:12

His eyes were as a flame of fire, and he had on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

    This change was motivated by the italicized “were.” The JST deletes both instances of “were” (italicized and not) and moves “he had” forward to provide a verb in lieu of the now deleted “were.”.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

11. Revelation 19:13

And he was is clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

    This change was motivated by the italics. Many modern translations similarly use “is” here, such as the NIV.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

12. Revelation 19:15

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that proceedeth the word of god, and with it he should will smite the nations: and he shall will rule them with a rod of iron the word of his mouth: and he treadeth the winepress of in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

    The JST is avoiding metaphor, changing both the sharp sword and the iron rod to the word of God that proceeds from his mouth (or “the word of his mouth”). (Note that the “rod of iron” passage is actually a quotation from Psalm 2:9.)

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

13. Revelation 19:16

And he hath on his a vesture, and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.

    This change was motivated by the italics. Some translations like CEV avoid the first “his” with something like “On the part of the robe which covered his thigh. . . .”

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

14. Revelation 19:18

That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all who fight against the lamb men, both free and bond and free, both small and great.

    The first change is a circumlocution to avoid the italicized “men.” The second is an assimilation to the more usual order “bond and free” as in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:11.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 and A-4 (Suspicion of Italicized Text and Assimilation)

15. Revelation 19:21

And the remnant were slain with the sword word of him that sat upon the horse, which sword word proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

    This change is based both on the italics and the desire to avoid the metaphor of a sword coming out of one’s mouth. (That “word” is close to “sword” was probably an influence as well.)

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

16. Revelation 20:1

And I saw an angel come down from out of heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

    This is an assimilation to the common expression “out of heaven” that occurs 13 times in the KJV.

    Paradigm Classification A-4 (Assimilation)

17. Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy is he that hath they who have part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

    The JST pluralizes the expression to make clear this result is available to all. The NIV similarly has “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.” CEB, CEV, ERV, EXB, GW, GNT, ICB and others also pluralize the expression.

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

18. Revelation 21:17

And he measured the wall thereof, an a hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

    (See comment on “a hundred” in Revelation 14:1)

19. Revelation 22:9

 Then saith he unto me, See that thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

    KJ21, DLNT, MEV, NKJV, OJB, RGT and TLV all use “that” in the same way as the JST here. The separation of fellowservant into two words is a modernization as in Revelation 19:10.

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

Comments

  1. Kevin, thanks so much. Last year, I read Michael Gorman’s Reading Revelation Responsibly which changed Revelation from “that weird book my odd relatives quote uncomfortably” to (against all odds!) a favorite of the NT book. I’m excited to circle back with your notes in tow and compare.

    I’m curious. Do you think any of Joseph Smith’s changes significantly alter the theology or messages of the book, in a way that would be foreign to other Christian commentators?

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Excellent question, Bryan. I’d have to review it again with that thought in mind, but my gut instinct is no. He was mostly reacting to what was right in front of him on the page as opposed to trying to rework it in a macro fashion to support his doctrinal ideas.

  3. Jacob H. says:

    For Rev 13:1, I imagine it was another instance of Joseph’s regular reworking to make the text make better sense. Revelation, as a series of visions, doesn’t require John of Patmos to be transported from site to site, so to have him suddenly standing on a seashore, without further context regarding such a flight, makes less sense than having something in the vision be standing on a shore.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Jacob, interesting take about the visionary not needing to physically be there to witness the scene…

  5. Kevin, can you recommend a good in depth book on the Book of Revelation, preferably from an LDS perspective, but I’m open to others as well. Thank you.

  6. James,

    I’m not Kevin, but the most in-depth look at Revelations from an LDS perspective is the BYU New Testimony Commentary volume by Richard Draper and Michael Rhodes. It relies upon a lot of good non-LDS scholarship. As for something that isn’t LDS, there are several excellent choices. I recommend Revelation: A Shorter Commentary by G.K. Beale with David H. Campbell. This is a non-technical simplification of Beale’s NIGTC volume. Beale tends to emphasize the OT references in Revelation. I also recommend Craig Koester’s’ Anchor Bible volume for a more traditional look. (It replaces the Anchor Bible volume that postulated that John the Baptist wrote Revelations). For a really unique view of Revelation, I recommend Margaret Barker’s volume.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    TerryH., I have the old Anchor Bible volume you refer to (1975 iirc), and zi’m glad you recommended the new one. I did not find the old one very useful, but then it was really early in the series.

  8. You should put these all together in a Word doc :)

  9. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    But before you do what BenS says, please do the Acts of the Apostles. That would complete the commentary.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark, I could definitely do Acts. The one that gives me pause is Romans. That book would be a beast; by my count it has 114 JST revisions! Maybe I’ll do Acts and put off a decision on Romans.

  11. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Cool – that would be great!

  12. Thank you Terry H and Kevin.

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