The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Revelation 5:9 translated in a bias way?

I am hoping someone who translates Biblical Greek can address this.
In Rev. 5:9 it states that the Lamb has purchased for God men from every tongue, tribe and nation. The problem is that according to the lexicon the simple word “pas” meaning “all” is the only adjective in the Greek to describe the purchase.
Can anyone tell me why this was not translated as
“The Lamb has purchased every or all tongue tribe and nation”?
The word is used quite simply as all in other parts of scripture.
Is this evidence of theological bias? Clearly translating in the simplest way leaves strong Universalist implications. Did they say, “Oh no we can’t let them think that even though that is the simplest reading of the Greek.” Appreciate any expert or educated input.

Pastor Mark’s suggestion did not include the word “εκ” which means “out of.”
It would have to be:

The Lamb has purchased out of every or all tongue tribe and nation.

However, it is not unusual in Greek to omit a word that is understood to be included—in the case “people” or “men.” This kind of omission occurs throughout the New Testament.

Another example:
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. (Matt 1:19 NKJV)

The word “man” does not occur in the Greek. That translators added it for clarification.

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Furthermore, regarding pas (all), is the following verse only referring to human beings?:

John 12:32
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [pas] men [implied] unto me.

And is this verse only referring to humans?:

John 3:17
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world [Gr. cosmos: the universe, by implication, Creation] through him.

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Thank you for that clarification. In that case it seems to lean away from Universalism as well as Arianism and lend strength to Calvinism does it not? It feels like the whole “some of every kind” argument I have heard from that camp. But the way it looks to me is obviously not the same as how it would look to ancient readers.

I don’t think so. Consider the translation of the NKJV that inserts “us” for the missing word:

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”

The Christians are thankful that Christ had redeemed them—they who have come out of every tribe and tongue and nation. Does that translation and interpretation make you feel better?

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Actually it does. Thanks for giving me fresh eyes on that. Although I wish there was a way to know what was going through translators minds when they have such disparate wordings that color the text so much in different ways. Are they guessing, experimenting, disagreeing, or just ever trying to hit a mysterious bullseye? I have no education in Greek and I should just probably stay out of it, but sometimes feel a sense of mistrust over the gatekeepers of the language and what they are up to.

The local context doesn’t stress that only some from every tribe or type of men are being saved. The four living creatures and 24 elders are representative of heavenly authorities (some of them perhaps originally human) giving thanks to God that God has chosen leaders to reign on earth, not only from one family or tribe or nation (i.e. from the Jews, as might have been expected), but from every race and language (i.e. from the Gentiles as well).

Contextually, these are leaders, representing thousands and ten thousands more like them already saved or unfallen, giving thanks to God that others shall be also chosen to have authority to lead on Earth. And then John sees forward (as he often flashforwards) to the result: LITERALLY EVERY CREATURE EVER CREATED IS LOYALLY PRAISING THE FATHER AND THE SON!

So, y’know. There’s that. :slight_smile:

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Thank you for that as well. Its amazing how the fatalistic interpretation of scripture is such a lens or shall I say scales over our eyes who have come up in traditional teaching.

Grammatically things are a little odd, and whenever I see that I suspect some kind of Aramaic grammar is going on in the background. RevJohn has some very interesting and unique examples of that in other regards (the most famous being the tendency to talk about the Alpha and the letter-not-the-word-spelled-out-Omega, for which there’s apparently a clear explanation in Aramaic).

But anyway. The Lamb (I think this is always “the little lamb” in RevJohn but English doesn’t always convey this) is worthy to break open the scroll and its seals, because he has verbed (passively been slain) and (starting a new clause) he has verbed (actively purchased)…

Well, he has actively verbed some direct object(s) for or to a couple of indirect objects (in the dative case). There are some interesting things going on in the grammar there.

The indirect objects (in the dative case) are “the God” (so for or to the God is implied by being the indirect object of active-purchase, the Lamb isn’t purchasing the God) and “in the blood of-you”. This is usually translated “with your blood”, i.e. purchasing the direct object(s) with the blood, but then grammatically that shouldn’t be in the dative case. The meaning is a lot stronger than only purchasing with his blood: the Lamb is purchasing the direct object(s) for himself (or Himself) with a poetic figure of his blood receiving and covering them.

Once the “in” has been accounted for (into his blood for his blood to receive), the {ek} from or out-from connects to that. But the {ek} is still a little odd, because, well… there’s no direct object exactly in the sentence!

That’s why translators make a reasonable guess to supply “men”, or “persons”. A direct object is implied by the grammar, and by the genitive prepositional phrases which finish out the sentence (keeping in mind there is no Greek word for the English “of”, which is signaled by suffix forms).

But the genitive prepositional forms are interesting, too. You not only have “of tribe” singular female, and “of tongue” singular female, and “of nation or ethnicity” singular neutral. You also have {laou} which is genitive masculine singular, which doesn’t translate well into English but it would be something like “of the one total people”. And kicking all that off, is “of all”, singular female.

Now, I strongly suspect that I’m over-parsing this, and that the genitive forms go with {ek} which would usually be accusative form (like a direct object), therefore signalling {ek} means something more specific which I’ve simply forgotten. The {ek} being normally accusative however might be signalling in an interesting and evocative way, that everything after the {ek} are the direct objects of the active-purchase verb being given to the blood of the lamb (and to the God).

But either way, the singular of-noun form would emphasize that totality of purchase.

Even some Calvs I think would agree with that: I recall reading two of them disputing on the idea (though not in regard to this verse). The dispute was over whether Jesus actually (putting it in terms of this verse) actively purchases all things with his blood, and then just chooses not to apply his blood to everything that he has purchased; or whether he actively purchases selections of all things with his blood.

The tension of that dispute, in the terms of this verse, is that the grammar would seem to emphasize that the Lamblet actively purchases absolutely all things in relation to the intention of his blood (i.e. actively purchases all sinners who need redeeming by the blood of the lamb, unfallen creatures not needing that redemption) – which for Calv soteriology would then require that Jesus not have intended to claim them for Himself in His blood; but the grammar also stresses that Jesus’ purpose of the sacrifice and the purchase (even with a {hoti} intention/goal signal introducing this clause!) is to claim those objects of His active purchase for Himself IN HIS BLOOD! – which for Calv soteriology would fit the assurance of salvation for everyone God intends to save from sin, but then they’d have to say Jesus was only choosing a selection of persons from those total groups.

Of course we’d say that both grammatic emphases can be, and are, true: just as (in GosJohn 17) the Father gives absolutely everything to the Son so that the Son can be honoring the Father by giving eonian life to everything that has been given to Him; or (as in GosJohn 5) the Father gives all judgment over absolutely everything to the Son, leading the Son to raise all persons, those who dishonor the Son and the Father as well as those who honor them, so that all those who dishonor God may be coming to positively honor/value God instead.

But again, to be fair, I may be overparsing the grammar here. :slight_smile: It doesn’t strictly matter if I’m getting things wrong about the extent of the intention of the grammatic implications, however, because the local context stresses the absolute totality of creatures loyally praising God and the little-lamb-who-is-also-the-conquering-lion-of-Judah-standing-in-the-seat-of-the-highest-throne-of-heaven.

If the odd grammatic forms point that way, too, that’s just a bonus.

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Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate it.
There is a lot of hope you have found in the language, which kind of leads back to my original concern. Is theological bias concealing this and would the average reader have this hidden from their eyes by the word choices of translation? All my Christian life the book of Revelations has been portrayed by the Prophecy experts as Gods last big gleeful destruction of all the progress mankind has accomplished and his final revenge on the unfortunate masses who didn’t or wouldn’t “get” Christ. Is this a hope story which has been cold forged into a horror story by tradition or translation or a bit of both?

Word order is very important in English, but would be totally confusing when translating earlier languages… For example, a Banker says “I help people save”, and a Life Guard would say “I help save people”… very same 4 words that when put in two different sentences have totally different meanings, and change the meaning of the word “save”, and because of the brevity of the sentences, one slip by a translator could change the entire picture. What if the person were neither a Banker or a Life Guard? What then? Or what word would be used when translating into a different language that might only have one meaning for the word “save”? Just goes to show how incredibly difficult translating documents, especially from early languages would be.

Can be very confusing save for the right answer. :wink:

I don’t see the problem, the verse in its context:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Not all men will reign with Christ on earth, but men from all tribes and tongues. This passage is not related to universalism at all. These people of all tribes refers to the ones singing that song. Greek text can be seen here:

You are absolutely correct Sven and this is yet another example of the constant problem which undermines universalist propositions… assuming a given text speaks thus when in fact it doesn’t — and then all the gymnastics involved in trying to squeeze said text into said proposition, which only undermines its own credibility.