The Language Of The Apocalypse -- By: C. G. Ozanne

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 16:1 (NA 1965)
Article: The Language Of The Apocalypse
Author: C. G. Ozanne


The Language Of The Apocalypse*

C. G. Ozanne

* Biblical quotations if not otherwise marked are taken from the AV, except in the case of the Apocalypse where they are rendered directly from the Greek.

IT IS A well-known fact that the language of the Apocalypse is full of ungrammatical and unlexical usages. These range from the misuse of certain words to a variety of peculiarities respecting case, gender, number and tense. Altogether nearly a hundred different kinds have been detected, and each new edition of the Greek Testament restores a few more to the printed text.

It was thought by some of the Church Fathers, Dionysius of Alexandria being one,1 that the Apocalypse was linguistically barbaric and consequently unworthy of apostolic authorship. Unfortunately some moderns have vented the same opinion. One critic, for example, speaks of ‘blunders, which are such that they would disgrace the exercise of an English fifth-form schoolboy’.2 However, it is now generally admitted that the abnormalities of grammar and vocabulary cannot be attributed to ignorance of Greek.3 But to what cause they should be attributed is still a question which divides students of the Apocalypse.

C. C. Torrey, in a small book published posthumously, argues at length that the Apocalypse has been translated from Aramaic.4 Of this theory G. R. Driver writes, ‘The boldness with which the Aramaic origin of the Apocalypse is proclaimed, indeed, is only rivalled by the weakness of the arguments used to support it.’5Driver has shown that nearly all Torrey’s supposed Aramaisms can be explained equally well, and sometimes better, as Hebraisms. Akin to Torrey’s theory is that of R. B. Y. Scott that the Apocalypse has been translated from Hebrew.6 This idea has more to commend

it than the last, but several considerations argue decisively against it. Not only does it fail to account for the deliberate character of so many of the peculiarities, but it does not explain why most of the grammatical rules violated are faithfully observed elsewhere in the book, and thus shown to be perfectly familiar to the author.

The most widespread explanation is that popularized by R. H. Charles in the International Critical Commentary. He states his oft- quoted opinion that ‘while he (the author) writes in Greek, he thinks...

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