Monday, June 19, 2017

Revelation 5:10: Answering Dr. Robert Bowman

I and other Witnesses have written material addressing the NWT rendering of Revelation 5:10, "over the earth" as opposed to "on the earth." Yet Robert Bowman evidently continues to insist that "over the earth" is an unjustified and potentially agenda-driven translation. He maintains that NWT "has almost no scholarly support" and "is certainly wrong." While admitting that epi can mean "over" at times (Rev 9:11; 11:6), he still asserts that epi never denotes "over" when used in conjunction with a "place-noun" like earth. See Rev 5:3, 13. What should we make of Bowman's claims?

My assessment is that Bowman is "certainly wrong" about the NWT handling of Rev 5:10.

JFB Commentary:
Kelly translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Jud 9:8; Mt 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is justified by Re 3:10. "The elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is much larger" [Bengel].

Bengel's Gnomon: ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth) Ἐπὶ here denotes locality, as ch. Revelation 3:10 and everywhere: or rather power, as ch. Revelation 2:26; as it is said, βασιλεύει ἐπὶ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, Matthew 2:22. And thus the Septuagint, Jdg 9:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Kings 8:20; 2 Kings 11:3. I should not therefore venture to assert, from this phrase, that these remain on the earth, though they rule over the earth. The elders were meek (comp. Matthew 5:5): but the flock of the meek independently is much larger.

Brenton translates 2 Kings 11:3: "And he remained with her hid in the house of the Lord six years: and Athaliah{gr.Gotholia} reigned over the land."

"Gotholia was reigning over the land" (NETS).

On page 166 of his Revelation commentary, Grant R. Osborne explains that epi for authority or rule ("over") is "common"--then he cites Rev 5:10 as an example and Rev 17:18. However, to be fair, see the remarks that he later makes on 5:10. The point nonetheless stands that "over" is far from being wrong. Furthermore, there is adequate scholarly support for the NWT rendering.

See also

Cf. the discussion on epi in BDAG.

If one consults the major lexica and grammars on this issue, he/she will likely find that Bowman's place-noun rule dissipates under the heat of evidence.


Alethinon61 said...

Bowman seems to completely overlook the most important question, which has nothing to do with grammar: What was the focus of the ruler-ship in question? Was it the location of the ruler(s), or the realm over which authority would be exercised? If it's the latter, then "over the earth" is surely correct.

What arguments would he offer to suggest that the location of the rulers was the point of focus, rather than the rulers' sphere of authority?

I think it's time to leave Bowman in the rear-view mirror and look forward to more honest conversations.


Edgar Foster said...


The focus has to be the realm/sphere over which authority is exercised. The translation "over" does not imply/denote location and it is metaphorical. As for Bowman's arguments, I did not see many in the publication I referenced outside of the place-noun line of reasoning. Bowman also claimed there is not adequate scholarly support for the rendering. Besides those two reasons, one more that comes to mind is how epi ths ghs is handled in other verses. He appeals to Rev 5:3, 13. Those were the only points I saw him use.

I do not expect honest conversations from Bowman, but his misrepresentation of Rev 5:10 just seemed egregious beyond measure. And his comments are easily refuted.



Alethinon61 said...

Hi Edgar,

Yeah, Bowman doesn't read counterarguments with a willingness to entertain legitimate alternative possibilities. As he reads our arguments he has one purpose only: To try and come up with something to offer by way of refutation.

Honest dialogue in human affairs is a rare and precious commodity.