Revelation 1:9 in the New World Translation

The New World Translation reads: "I John, your brother and a sharer with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in company with Jesus, came to be in the isle that is called Patmos for speaking about God and bearing witness[martyrian] to Jesus."

Criticism: "Rev 1:9 should be "for the testimony of Jesus" Jesus being in the genitive case (of) not the dative case (to). Thus the New International Version renders the verse "...for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

It is true that "Jesus" in this place is in the genitive case. But there are a number of different genitives. The 'Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament,' by the Samuel G. Green lists 7 modifications under the heads, "Origin, Separation, Possession, Partition, Object, Relation and The Genitive Absolute." He says "The Genitive Case primarily signifies motion from, answering our question, Whence? From this general meaning arise many modifications, including the several notions expressed in English by the prepositions of or from."
Under "Objective" he writes: "The Genitive case is often objectively employed, that is, it expresses the object of some feeling or action, and may be rendered by various[English]prepositions." He then cites examples of this type of genitive. One example is Luke 6:12 where the Greek reads: "...en te proseuche tou theou." and literally translated into English is " the prayer of-the God." See Kingdom Interlinear Translation. We see here that "God" is in the genitive case. Here it is God who is the object of the prayer of Jesus. Hence, the New International Version reads here: "...and spent the night praying to God." Other examples of the objective genitive Green cites are John 2:17; 17:2; Acts 4:9 and 2 Cor.10:5.
In all of these places translators often recognise that the genitive is objective and will use various English prepositions to express it.

Two other translations that express clearly the same sense as the New World Translation has at Revelation 1:9 are the New American Bible(1989) "...I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus." Also, the Contemporary English Version(1995) reads here: "...I had preached God's message and had told about Jesus."
Yes, it was because of what John had been doing and saying, (" preached God's word and borne my testimony to Jesus,"-Revised English Bible , 1990)that he "came to be," as punshment, on the isle of Patmos.(Rev.W. H. Simcox wrote "dia ton...Iesou. Cf vi.9 and xx.4. Apart from these references[in verse 9]the words might mean (a) that [John] had gone to the island to preach the Gospel, (b) that(by special revelation or otherwise) he had withdrawn there to await this vision. As it is, the traditional view that he was banished there for being a Christian is clearly right.-Cambridge Greek New Testament, The Revelation of St John, 1906 reprint)
So we can see that the New World Translation at Revelation 1:9 is in accord with the underlying Greek and better expresses that the "witness of Jesus" was John's witness to or about Jesus rather than the witness of or by Jesus himself.
There is nothing wrong with the New International Version's rendering at this place but one could understand the English preposition "of" a number of different ways so that one could 'interpret' the NIV's rendering as translated by Weymouth "..and the truth told us by Jesus,"(The New Testament in Modern Speech, 2nd edition, 1903. Cp. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by W. F. Arndt and F Wilbur Gingrich; "Jesus also tesifies concerning himself in Rev 1: 2, 9...".(italics ours) or, and in agreement with the NWT again, Goodspeed's "..and testifying to Jesus."(The Bible-An American Translation, 1935)

Interestingly, the New Iinternational Version at Revelation 20:4 reads: "....And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus..." Gk: "dia ten martyrian Iesou." The Greek here is the same as at Rev.1:9. "dia ....ten martyrian Iesou." In both cases "Iesou" is in the genitive case. So the NIV could have rendered Rev.1:9 as "I John,...was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and my testimony for Jesus," understanding this also in the objective genitive. Please compare this with the Revised English Bible quoted above at this place. This rendering would convey the same sense as does the NWT's.

Lastly, we may quote from "A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament" regarding "martyrian Iesous," literally "witness of-Jesus," here at Revelation 1:9: "....m[artyrian] Iesous(gen[itive] obj[ective]) testimony *to* Jesus." (Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvener, Unabridged, Revised Edition in One Volume, Rome, Biblical Institute Press, 1981,p.743.asterisks ours- See also this work for Revelation 20:4.)

Considering the whole of verse 9 the NWTTC has obviously viewed "Iesou" in the objective genitive, as has the other English translations cited herein. There really is then no warrant for anyone to criticise the New World Translation here.
(last updated 9/30/2000)

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