Home > Bible Study, Christian Authors, Revelation, S. Lewis Johnson > S. Lewis Johnson on S.P. Tregelles: Revelation 1, “To Him Who Loves Us” (Present Tense)

S. Lewis Johnson on S.P. Tregelles: Revelation 1, “To Him Who Loves Us” (Present Tense)

August 8, 2014

The Premillennial History series will continue next week, but a brief thought for today. I have just started S. Lewis Johnson’s “Revelation” series; here is an interesting story to share from the second message. Commenting on Revelation 1:5, the phrase where the apostle John says “To him who loves us” (“loveth” in the KJV), Dr. Johnson noted that this is the one New Testament text that describes God’s love for us in the present tense. We have plenty of verses that tell how God “loved” us (past tense), and good theology, but Revelation 1:5 has a present tense thought.

Not “loved us”, though that’s true. Paul says that in Galatians chapter 2 for example, “He loved us and gave Himself for us,” that’s perfectly all right. It’s good theology. He loved us in the cross of Christ, but “Unto him that loveth us,” that is, the love of Christ does not reach its culmination in the cross, but standing upon the cross, continues eternally for His own.

As S. Lewis Johnson related here, Samuel P. Tregelles (a 19th century classic premillennialist included in this list) was raised by Quakers (“the friends”) and thus never went to university, but later went on to become a strong Christian, self-taught, and learned the Greek language and worked for years on the Greek text of the New Testament. He actually edited a Greek New Testament in the 19th Century, which was highly regarded and still is recognized as a step along the way to the understanding of the textual history of our New Testament.

The great point of Tregelles’ study:

He said in all of his textual studies — and he devoted many, many hours to it — he said when he came to Revelation chapter 1 and verse 5 and read in what he considered the better of the Greek manuscripts, “Unto him that loveth us,” rather than, “Unto him that loved us,” as the Authorized Version had it, and realized that John probably wrote, “Unto him that loveth us.” And recognizing that this was the only place in the New Testament where this verb is used in the present tense of God’s love to us, “Unto him that loveth us,” continually, constantly, duratively, for that’s the sense of the tense. He said, “All of my studies on the text were worth it if I had only discovered this one thing, ‘Unto him that loveth us,’ not simply loved us, loveth us, continues to love us.”

  1. Neil Schoch
    August 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Hi Lynda!
    Thanks for all the interesting posts on this subject.
    I have no formal training and am not a scholar in the Greek language in any sense but I am fascinated by the way Greek/Hebrew words are translated in various Translations of the Bible.
    The Greek word for “loved” ie “agapao” in Revelation 1:5 is commonly used elsewhere as past tense or in the aorist tense.
    What is the difference in Revelation 1:5?
    If anyone can shed some light on this it would be appreciated as no matter how old or mature in the faith we may get, there is always much more to be learnt.
    I do notice that is translated in the present tense in some good translations but I would really like to know why in this one instance.

    • August 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Neil, thanks for your comment. As to translations, the KJV was translated from the Latin Vulgate as I understand, rather than the original Greek. In S. Lewis Johnson’s message on this, he simply says that the Greek word as used in Revelation 1:5 is, in the Greek text, in the present-tense form of that verb (agapao). SLJ’s description of Tregelles on this passage, “And recognizing that this was the only place in the New Testament where this verb is used in the present tense of God’s love to us”.

      • August 10, 2014 at 5:08 am

        I do not have the time to go into detail or provide documentation at the moment, but the KJV was not translated from the Latin Vulgate. As soon as possible I will get back to you with the information concerning: 1) the relationship between the KJV NewTestament and the Vulgate, and, 2) the Koine Greek textual basis for the KJV New Testament, usually referred to as the Textus Receptus and its relationship to the Latin Vulgate.

      • August 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm

        John Wycliffe’s (ca. 3120-1384 ) translation was from the Latin Vulgate text.
        See Leland Ryken, “The Legacy of the King James Bible” (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), pg. 22.

        William Tyndale (1494-1536), however, “…was a linguistic genius whose expertise in seven languages dazzled the scholarly world of his day.” [Ryken, op. cit., pp. 24-25.] The first of “The Principles of Translation that Tyndale Bequeathed to the KJV” [Ryken, op. cit., pg. 27] was:

        “…that an English translation of the Bible needs to start with the words of the original Hebrew and Greek of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. This may seem obvious to us, but it was not obvious before Tyndale’s time. The Latin Vulgate had been the assumed starting point for serious Bible study and translation for centuries. Even Wycliffe and his associates had no viable alternative but to start with the Latin translation of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.”
        [Ryken, op. cit., pg. 28.]

        When it came to the KJV:

        “The sources that the translators consulted went far beyond just the English translations that had preceded the KJV. Translators went back to the original Hebrew and Greek texts. They consulted other translations than the six named, including non-English ones like Luther’s German Bible and the Latin Vulgate. They consulted commentaries. They used the Syriac Testament and the Aramaic Targums.”
        [Ryken, op. cit., pg. 51. “I have taken the information that I present in this paragraph from Geddes MacGregor, “The Bible in the Making” (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1959), 163.” Ibid., note 12; pg. 236.]

        “About forty-eight choice Greek and Hebrew scholars were selected and divided into two working companies, two at Westminster, two at Oxford, and two at Cambridge.”
        [Neil R. Lightfoot, “How We Got the Bible”, 3rd ed., rev. and expanded (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1963, 1988, 2003), pg. 182.]

        “Reasons for its supremacy were not hard to find. First, Geek and Hebrew scholarship had made tremendous strides during the seventy-five years that had elapsed since the time of Tyndale. Study of the Biblical languages had ceased during the Middle Ages and had been revived only recently when Tyndale made his first translation. The sixteenth century, following Tyndale, was marked by such a resurgence of interest in the Biblical languages that, when it came time for King James to constitute his revision committee, he could look in many directions for men of capable and sound scholarship.”
        [Lightfoot, op. cit., pp. 183-184.]

        There is evidence for some influence of the Latin Vulgate on the Greek New Testament underlying the KJV:

        “Textus Receptus (Latin: “received text”) is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and most other Reformation-era New Testament translations throughout Western and Central Europe. The series originated with the first printed Greek New Testament, published in 1516—a work undertaken in Basel by the Dutch Catholic scholar and humanist Desiderius Erasmus. Although based mainly on late manuscripts of the Byzantine text-type, Erasmus’ edition differed markedly from the classic form of that text, and included some missing parts back translated from the Latin Vulgate.”
        [“Textus Receptus” on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textus_Receptus (accessed 10 AUG 2014)].

        On the subject of the Greek texts utilized by the KJV New Testament translators see especially
        Allan A. MacRae and Robert C. Newman, “Facts on the Textus Receptus and the King James Version” (Hatfield, PA: Biblical Theological Seminary, 1975); on Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute (IBRI) at http://www.ibri.org/Tracts/trkjvtct.htm [accessed 10 AUG 2014].

        Here are the initial entries in MacRae and Newman’s paper that clearly indicate: 1) the Greek textual basis for the KJV, and, 2) Erasmus’ use of the Latin Vulgate as a “fall back” for his Greek New Testament:

        “How did the term “textus receptus” originate?
        It originated through a highly exaggerated statement — actually a publisher’s blurb — in the preface to the second edition of the Greek New Testament that was published in Holland in 1633 by the Elzevir brothers. In this Latin preface they called their book “the text which is now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” This is how this Latin term textus receptus (text received) came to be applied to a particular text of the Greek New Testament. On the European continent, aside from Great Britain, the first Elzevir edition (pub. 1624) was for a long time the standard edition of the Greek New Testament.

        Did the King James translators use this “textus receptus” as the basis for their translation?
        No. Even the first Elzevir edition was not published until 13 years after the date of the KJV.

        What was the Greek text on which the KJV New Testament was based?
        It was based on the third edition of the Greek New Testament issued by the Parisian publisher Stephanus (Latinized form of Estienne) in 1550.

        Was the text of Stephanus on which the King James Version was based identical with the later “textus receptus”?
        No. The two differed in 287 places.

        How many Greek manuscripts agree exactly with the edition published by Stephanus, and how many agree exactly with the edition published by Elzevir?
        There is no Greek manuscript that agrees exactly with either of these. Both of them are conflate texts.

        Were the scholars who prepared the King James Version convinced that their text was absolutely correct?
        No. They recognized the possibility of copyists’ errors, and showed this by making marginal notes to variant readings at 13 places. For instance, in Luke 17:36 their marginal note reads: “This 36th verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.” In Acts 25:6, where their text reads: “When he had tarried among them more than ten days,” they inserted the following marginal note: “Or, as some copies read, no more than eight or ten days.”

        What was the source of most of the readings found both in the edition of Stephanus and in that of Elzevir?
        Most of the readings in both of these follow the edition of the Greek New Testament prepared by Erasmus, the great enemy of Luther, and published in 1516, the year before the Reformation began.

        How many manuscripts agree exactly with Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament?
        There is no Greek manuscript that agrees exactly with it. Erasmus made it by combining the readings of several manuscripts, none of them earlier than the tenth century A.D., and most of them still later. In some parts of the New Testament he had no manuscript at all, but simply retranslated from the Latin Bible.”

        John T. “Jack” Jeffery
        Pastor, Wayside Gospel Chapel
        Greentown, PA

      • August 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

        Thanks, John, for the details and the resources here, related to the history of this! Interesting information about the many Greek translations and the one used for the KJV translation.

  2. August 9, 2014 at 7:28 am

    This is wonderful! Thank you for posting it. I have passed it along to others.

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