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Think Grammatically (Rev 1:2) - Mondays with Mounce

Categories Biblical Studies Greek

Sometimes in translating we have to think grammatically, to think through the structure of the passage before trying to actually translate it. This is why all Greek students should do two translations of every verse, one more word-for-word and one in proper English. Revelation 1:2 is a good test case.

Think Grammatically

Verse 1 ends with Ἰωάννῃ, and v 2 will expand on it. Word-for-word it says, “who witnessed the word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ whatever he saw” (ὃς ἐμαρτύρησεν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ὅσα εἶδεν).

λόγον is certainly an accusative of reference: “who witnessed concerning the word of God.” And μαρτυρίαν is parallel with λόγον. Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ could be either an objective genitive, “the witness about Jesus Christ,” or a subjective genitive, “the witness received from Jesus Christ.” All that’s pretty straightforward. But how does ὅσα εἶδεν relate to the rest of the sentence?

One of the basic rules in translating a relative clause is to find the end of it. ὅσα is the correlative pronoun. At first, I thought it was outside the relative clause, but I couldn’t find a way to connect it to Ἰωάννῃ, so it must be part of the relative clause. But does ὅσα εἶδεν refer back to the “word” and “witness,” or does it refer to something more?

If you phrase the passage, you have to decide what ὅσα εἶδεν is connected with. Some translations see it parallel with “word” and “testimony,” which means in phrasing you would connect ὅσα to λόγον and μαρτυρίαν. “Who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw” (CSB). “Who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (NIV). “Who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ” (NET).

Other translations see it as something additional, which means you would make ὅσα εἶδεν go back to ἐμαρτύρησεν, as do λόγον and μαρτυρίαν, three objects of ἐμαρτύρησεν. “Who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (ESV, also NRSV). If you are looking for the Greek behind “even,” there is none.

I think I would I would vote for the former: “who bore witness to everything he saw, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” What would you do?


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