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The Apologists Bible Commentary
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" Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
The phrase "our Lord and our God" in
this verse has long been cited by Greek grammarians and scholars as a
parallel to John 20:28. Some who
deny that Thomas is addressing Jesus as "my Lord and my God"
have argued that had Thomas been addressing Jesus, he would have used the
grammatical case known as the 'vocative.' However, in NT Greek, the
nominative case is often used in place of the vocative, as it does
here. This verse demonstrates that Jewish believers in the NT era
were comfortable addressing their Lord and their God in the nominative,
just as Thomas does.
This verse is also significant for the student of Christology because it serves as a parallel to Revelation 5:13. As Richard Bauckham notes, "The the circle [of worship] expands and the myriad of angels join the living creatures and the elders in a form of worship (5:12) clearly parallel to that offered to God (4:11)" (Revelation, p. 60).
Rev 4:11 - Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory honour, and power,.... The Alexandrian copy, and some others, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin version, and all the Oriental ones, read, "thou art worthy, O Lord, and our God, to receive"; that is, to receive the acknowledgment and ascription of glory, honour, and power; for otherwise God cannot be said to receive these from his creatures, than by their confessing and declaring that they belong unto him: and that for the reasons following...(Gill).
Ò kurios kai Ò qeos `hmwn
hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS hÊMÔN
the Lord and the God of us
Nominative for vocative
The nominative for vocative has exactly the same force and meaning as the vocative. This can be seen in numerous parallel passages in the Gospels, in which the vocative appears in one and the nominative in another (see, for example, Matt 27:46 [thee mou, thee mou] and Mark 15:34 [ho theos mou, ho theos mou]).
objection: Some Jehovah's Witnesses have argued that the text of this verse as it appears in the two authoritative Greek New Testaments (UBS4 and NA27) is not supported by the "earliest and best" manuscript evidence. One Witness website puts it this way:
Other Witnesses have stated that Herman Hoskier lists over 60 manuscripts with the KURIE reading "dating from the 4th Century (Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, Collations of All Existing Available Greek Documents with the Standard Text of Stephen's Third Edition, Together With the Testimony of Versions, Commentaries and Fathers, A complete Conspectus of All Authorities, Vol 2, p. 139).
The Witnesses thus argue on the basis of external evidence (best manuscript attestation) and internal evidence (parallels within Revelation itself) that the vocative reading was most likely the original, and thus cannot be used as a legitimate parallel to John 20:28.
Response: I will address each line of evidence in turn:
External (Textual) Evidence
Both NA27 and UBS4
have ho kurios kai ho theos. Thus, the editorial committees
of both authoritative Greek New Testaments selected this text over the
vocatival variants. While claims can be made by online apologists,
the fact remains that those scholars who have spent their professional
lives evaluating various NT manuscripts with the goal of producing the
most accurate text possible believed the nominative variant to be the one
most likely representing what John actually wrote.
This is false. There are not "a
number" of texts dating from the 4th Century. There is
one. The textual apparatus in
NA27 list the variants of this verse as follows:
1854: KURIE - 11th Century. Revelation =
Category II ("Manuscripts of a special quality, but distinguished
from manuscripts of category I by the presence of alien influences" -
Aland). While it is true that Aland regards Category II manuscripts
valuable for determining the original reading, again it is clear that he
did not regard this variant significant in establishing the original text
of Revelation 4:11.
The website quoted above states: "Additionally, we find this to be the normal usage in Revelation. This can be seen at Rev 7:14; 11:17; 15:3, 4; 16:7; 22:20. Without question this is the normal usage and also the most likely within this book."
This argument betrays a lack of understanding about how textual critics assess internal evidence. Let's consider some of the Kurt Aland's "Twelve Basic Rules for Textual Criticism" (from Aland & Aland, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 280-281):
Thus, if the Witnesses have not established that the external evidence is so great as to overturn the two critical Greek New Testaments (which they have not), they cannot legitimately claim internal evidence should be decisive.
More importantly, textual critics consider readings that harmonize with other texts as suspect. Why? Because copyists were not in the habit of creating unique readings. When they corrected a text, they did so in the direction of making it read more smoothly or bringing it into conformity with other, similar texts. As Aland puts it:
Keeping Aland's caveats in mind, we may safely conclude that simply because the vocative kurie is the more usual form of address in Revelation does not demand that it be so in Revelation 4:11. In fact, its uniqueness is actually an argument in favor of it being original. The variant in Aleph is also a longer variant, and therefore less likely to be original.
Textual critics also consider how a variant may have arisen (conscious correction or error) and try logically to deduce which version was more likely the original. The compilers of NA27 and UBS obviously took these criteria into consideration when they chose the nominative over the vocative in Rev 4:11. Let's see if we can reconstruct their reasoning:
Number 3 is by far the most logical. Again, copyists were not in the habit of creating distinctive readings - instead, they corrected in the direction of conformity.
The nominative is, thus, the most likely original, even on the basis of internal evidence.
Finally, we may note that regardless of whether the copyist changed from the nominative to the vocative or vice verse, the fact that one may be substituted for the other without changing the meaning of the text simply strengthens the case that it doesn't matter in which case the nouns occur, the direct address to God is obvious - just as it is in John 20:28.
objection: A Jehovah's Witness apologist who frequents a number of discussion boards raised the following objection to Revelation 4:11 as a parallel to John 20:28: