Redemption has its roots and foundations in the past, but its true realization lies in the future, and connects directly with the period and transactions to which our text relates. The Scriptures everywhere point forward to Christs Apocalypse, as the time when first the mystery shall be finished, and the long process reach its proper consummation.4This is similar to Boazs redemption of land for Naomi (Ru. Ru. 4:1-11). Like Boaz, Jesus is the Goel. The term Goel describes the person who is next of kin and his respective duties as kinsman-redeemer : to buy back what his poor brother has sold and cannot himself regain (Lev. Lev. 25:25-26); to avenge any wrong done to a next of kin, particularly murder (Num. Num. 35:12-27); to purchase land belonging to one deceased who was next of kin and to marry his widow and to raise up children for the deceased (Ru. Ru. 2:20; Ru. 4:14). There are small variations in the manuscript evidence for verses 9 and 10 which impinge on a significant theological issue: the identity of the twenty-four elders. Are the elders included among the redeemed or not? The TR text for these two verses (reflected in the KJV and NKJV) is shown below. We have marked the places where other manuscripts differ.
. . . For you were slain and have redeemed usA to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made usB kings and priests to our God; and weC shall reign on the earth. (Rev. Rev. 5:9-10+, NKJV)
Tregelles retains us, remarking in verse 9, eemas, us, should certainly be read. There was an opinion, many years ago, that it rested on but slight authority. This arose through an error in a reprint of Griesbachs text; so that he was supposed to have excluded it. On this misprint interpretations were based. Now of all collated manuscripts, the Codex Alexandrinus alone omits eemas (and this is thought to have some support from the Ethiopic version); and one manuscript has eemon instead. The consent of the ancient versions has much weight in a case of this kind. It is surprising that some later editors have omitted it only on the authority mentioned. [S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christs Second Coming, p. 69, 70 note].8
Some critics and expositors have rejected this ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] (us), for the reason that it is omitted in the Codex Alexandrinus, and in the Ethiopic version; though the latter is not much more than a loose paraphrase. The Codex Sinaiticus, however, which was discovered in 1860, and which is of equal antiquity and authority with the Codex Alexandrinus, contains it. The Codex Basilianus, in the Vatican, contains it. The Latin, Coptic or Memphitic, and Armenian, which are of great value, contain it. And so do all other manuscripts and versions. And to discredit it simply and only because it does not appear in that one single Codex of Alexandria, is most unreasonable and unjust to the weight of authority for its retention.9Here we encounter an excellent example of the arbitrary and subjective nature of textual criticism underwriting the NU text which omits us. The motives are no doubt well-intentioned as is the logiconce applied. But the guidelines employed in the selection of the preferred text from among the variant readings are flawed. Proponents of the Critical Text attempt to pass off as scientific analysis that which is largely arbitrary. For it is impossible to accurately restore an original text when subjective guesswork, hundreds of years after-the-fact, guides the selection process. The approach relies heavily on heuristics: general guidelines which seem to make sense, but which cannot be known to actually reflect the facts. And therein lies the vulnerability of the method. In the case at hand, we have us in every significant manuscript known with the exception of one. But that doesnt deter the logic of textual criticism which arrives at a conclusion rejecting the overwhelming evidence in favor of the one exceptional reading:10
Although the evidence for τῶι θεῶι [tō theō] is slight, . . . this reading best accounts for the origin of the others. Wishing to provide ἠγόρασας [ēgorasas] with a more exactly determined object than is found in the words ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς κ.τ.λ. [ek pasēs phylēs kṭl] , some scribes introduced ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] either before τῶι θεῶι [tō theō] (94 2344 al) or after τῶι θεῶι [tō theō] (א 046 1006 1611 2053 al), while others replaced τῶι θεῶι [tō theō] with ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] (1 2065* Cyprian al). Those who made the emendations, however, overlooked the unsuitability of ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] with αὐτούς [autous] in the following verse (where, indeed, the Textus Receptus reads ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] , but with quite inadequate authority).11
A number of internal factors militate against the inclusion of ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] as part of the text of the autograph. A most obvious one is the impossibility of reconciling the first person plural with the third person plurals what are clearly the correct readings in the next verse. . . . Such an abrupt switch from first person to third person renders the language of the song meaningless, so the reading must be judged as impossible.12Here we see a bias of scholars of our age who frequently assume that those before us lacked the necessary care or intelligence to handle the text: they overlooked the unsuitability . . . in the following verse. They would have us believe that for hundreds of years, scribes preserved an obvious error which renders . . . the song meaningless. Centuries later, appealing to arbitrary and subjective guesswork, these critics reject the majority witness and elevate the single minority variant while claiming to restore the proper text. Such is the science of textual criticism. While we recognize the need for textual criticism, we regret that often arbitrary and unverifiable suppositions are given precedence over manuscript evidence leading to questionable conclusions as here. Part of the motivation for expunging us from this verse comes from a desire, possibly misplaced, to bring verse 9 into conformity with the majority of manuscripts which have them rather than us in verse 10: Indeed, all the critical authorities are unanimous in substituting the 3rd person for the 1st in the next verse [verse 10]. But if so, then we must have the 3rd person here and not the 1st person.13 There are two liabilities which attend such reasoning:
Some have sought to dissociate the elders from the redemption of which they sing (Rev. Rev. 5:9+) by deleting the word us from the text, affirming on that basis that these could not be the representatives of the church. On this point several things are to be observed. First, there is good manuscript evidence to include the word in the text. The word need not be deleted on textual grounds. In the second place, even if it were to be deleted it does not mean that the elders were not singing of their own redemption. In Exodus Ex. 15:13, Ex. 15:17, where Moses and the people of Israel are praising God for His judgment, which they manifestly experienced themselves, they sing in the third person. Scripture gives precedent, therefore, for dealing with that which is subjective as an objective fact. And in the third place, if the word were omitted and it could be proved that they were singing about a redemption which they did not experience themselves, it need not prove that the elders are not the church, for as the elders are brought into a knowledge of the judgments of God being poured out on the earth they anticipate the victory of the saints who are on the earth through these experiences and they can praise God for the redemption of these from every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Rev. Rev. 5:9+) who have experienced the tribulation, been saved in it, and who will be made kings and priests, and shall reign on the earth, (Rev. Rev. 5:10+; Rev. 20:6+).18by your blood
Behind phylēs (tribe) is the idea of the same descent. It is a group belonging to the same clan and united by family lineage (Lenski; Haily). People speaking the same language are intended in glōssēs (tongue) (cf. Acts Acts 2:4, Acts 2:6, Acts 2:8, Acts 2:11) (Lenski; Hailey). Laou (people) unites a people of the same race or stock (Hailey) or possibly of the same interests (Lenski). The group indicated by ethnous (nation) is one bound together by political unity (Lenski) or perhaps, more broadly, by habits, customs, and peculiarities [Cremer].20These facts all stand against the preterist interpretation which would localize these passages to Jerusalem and the Mediterranean attending the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or the subsequent fall of Rome.
1 [Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 110] raises the question as to whether the living creatures may participate in the song having a personal experience of redemption. We feel this view has little merit. For one, Scripture is entirely silent as to this possibility. For another, upon what basis would angelic redemption be based? For Christ came as the God-man, born of a woman to regain that which was lost by the first man Adam. How could fallen angels profit from human redemption? Our ignorance concerning the angelic realm is only surpassed by our tendency toward unprofitable speculation concerning that which we cannot know.
4 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 111.
5 Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According To The Majority Text (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1985), Rev. 5:9.
6 Ibid., Rev. 5:10.
9 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 108*.
10 Regarding the identification of the twenty-four elders as angels, Thomas who holds such a view, observes: If any one of the three readings including ἡμα῀ς [hēmas] is correct, it would mean that those singing this song are among the redeemed. This would necessitate a reconsideration of the conclusions reached above regarding the identities of the four living beings and twenty-four elders [as angels]. Unquestionable manuscript support for inclusion of the pronoun is impressive.Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 410.
15 A. R. Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 5:9.
16 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 172.
17 This passage illustrates the elasticity of the tenets of textual criticism and how easily its practitioners abandon their own grammatical heuristics when it seems useful.
19 Characteristics of Christs blood: Gen. Gen. 9:4; Ex. Ex. 12:23; Ex. 24:8; Lev. Lev. 17:11; Isa. Isa. 52:15; Zec. Zec. 9:11; Mtt. Mat. 26:28; Mat. 27:4; Luke Luke 22:20; John John 19:30; Acts Acts 20:28; Rom. Rom. 5:9; 1Cor. 1Cor. 10:16; Eph. Eph. 1:7; Eph. 2:13; Col Col. 1:14, Col. 1:20; Col. 2:14-15; Heb. Heb. 9:12, Heb. 9:14, Heb. 9:22; Heb. 10:19, Heb. 10:29; Heb. 11:28; Heb. 12:24; Heb. 13:12, Heb. 13:20; 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:18-19; 1Jn. 1Jn. 1:7; 1Jn. 5:8; Rev. Rev. 1:5+; Rev. 5:9+; Rev. 7:14+; Rev. 12:11+.