Thursday, September 24, 2009


I received the following question the other day:

In our small group we have begun Randy Alcorn's study of his book, HEAVEN.

He writes, on pages 10 and 11, “Revelation 13:6 tells us the satanic beast ‘opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.’” In the page 11 footnote he writes, regarding Revelation 13:6, "The NASB supplies words not in the original (here, in italics), which make the three things that Satan slanders appear to be only two ‘And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.’ It equates God's dwelling place, his Tabernacle, with the people who live in Heaven. Hence it retains the two familiar ideas of the objects of Satan's slander-God and his people-while not recognizing the less familiar one, God's dwelling place, Heaven. The NASB reading offers an alternative understanding of the passage."

What would the Ball theologian have to say?



In reply to your question of Tuesday, September 22. Sorry I took so long to respond. What translation is Randy Alcorn using? You can usually find this out by looking at the page behind the title page. It will say something like “Scripture quotes are from the ____________ Bible … used by permission." I believe he’s using the NIV.

This is really a problem of textual criticism. I’m not sure if you are familiar with this science, so I’ll try to briefly explain. As you undoubtedly know, we do not have a copy of the original text of the New Testament.

There are literally thousands of ancient texts on the New Testament and no two are exactly alike. So, many scholars have devoted their lives to comparing manuscripts to try to determine which readings are as close to the original manuscripts as possible. They use various criteria, such as the age of the manuscript, its geographic distribution, possible reasons for errors, the possibility that it was wrongly “corrected,” etc.

I use the Nestle Greek text, 27th edition. It contains not only the text which was determined by scholars, but also a critical apparatus, which gives alternate readings and their sources. Most scholars use this text and it is the basis for most of our modern translations.

There are actually three alternate readings for the text in question. I’ll try to give a reasonable literal rendering of them.

“And he opened his mouth in blasphemies toward God, to blaspheme His Name and His dwelling, those in Heaven dwelling.” This reading is found in a great number of early manuscripts. It is the one used in the Nestle text and is the one used in the NASB, the NET Bible and the CSB. As you can see, there is no connecting word between the word “dwelling” and the word “those.” Both the NASB and the NET Bible supply “that is,” which I believe supplies the sense. The CSB simply supplies a dash. (There was no punctuation in the early manuscripts.)

A second reading supplies “and” between those words. This is found in a number of Greek manuscripts as well and is used in the NKJV and possibly the NIV, though I suspect the “and” may have been added by translators. This is the reading Mr. Alcorn prefers.

There is also a third reading which is based on one early manuscript. It reads simply .”… His Name and His dwelling in Heaven.” Most scholars write this one off.

So which one is the correct reading? I believe the first one. It is easy to see how some scribe may have added the “and” to make the reading smoother. I’ll not be as dogmatic as Mr. Alcorn.

This might appear to be a trivial matter as are many textual problems. However, it does make a difference in our interpretation, which is why, I suspect, Mr. Alcorn made such a big deal of it.

Taking the text I have chosen, we have God’s dwelling equated with the heaven dwellers as Mr. Alcorn states. Mr. Alcorn apparently dislikes this idea and wants the two to be thought of separately.

However, this reading makes perfect sense and is consistent with a theme found all through the Scriptures: that of God dwelling among His people.

Revelation 7:15: “… and He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”

Revelation 21:3: “Behold the dwelling of God is with men, and He will dwell with them …”

Exodus 25:8: “And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”

Zechariah 2:10: “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst.”

John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Add to that what Paul tells us – that we are God’s sanctuary (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16.)

So, when the Antichrist blasphemes God’s dwelling, he is really slandering us. We are God’s dwelling place. Here on earth in the present and as well as in Heaven! Isn’t that great?

Kris, I got so involved in this and put so much study into it that I figure I needed to post it on my blog.

Bill Ball


cbrent1963 said...

Thanks Bill... very interesting. Are you using the CSB much these days?

Bill Ball said...

I'm not but Uni is. She reads through the Bible every year and likes to try different translations. I do most of my reading in the Greek and Hebrew. I've compared it with the CSB and it looks pretty good. I use the TANACH and the NASB for my English reading.

Anonymous said...

Just keep making good posts.