When a scribe tries to correct an Apostle!

I am reviewing my lecture for next week’s class for a course on the theology of the Bible that I teach at the Grace Bible Institute in Frederick and couldn’t help but chuckle out loud. We will be examining how copyist errors crept into Greek manuscripts and in Revelation 1:4 we see how a scribe tried to correct John’s grammar. John addresses the seven churches and greets them before giving the source of the blessings. We read:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne (Rev 1:4 – NASB)

The Greek text reads,

Ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ (NA 27)

In the expression “from Him who is and who was and who is come” John employs the preposition ἀπό which is used with the genitive case. However John uses three participles in the nominative case ( ὢν ἦν …. ἐρχόμενος). This is not good Greek grammar. Scribes sought to “fix” John by adding the genitive case θεοῦ so that the reading is then “from God who is and who was and who is coming.”

What the scribes failed to realize is that what seems like an error is actually intentional. Twice (v.8) John records this expression which is a clear allusion to the declaration of God’s deity from Ex 3:14 (LXX): Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (John = ὁ ὢν)

John wants to keep the title and not “inflect” it!

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