I previously assumed that the ten kings and the beast develop hatred for Babylon the Great and destroy Babylon the Great with fire. You may wonder why I assumed that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy Babylon the Great with fire when the King James Bible’s rendering of Revelation 17:16 suggests that only the ten kings hate Babylon the Great and destroy Babylon the Great with fire:

And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. (Revelation 17:16)

The main reason for this contradiction is that I studied under the assumption that the Greek suggested that it is the ten kings and the beast who hate and destroy Babylon the Great. Here are some of the reasons why I studied under this assumption:

  • I have two New Testament commentaries that analyze Greek, Vincent’s Word Studies and Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament. Each of these commentaries suggest that the Greek text conveys the idea that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy her with fire. Vincent’s Word Studies suggests this idea while displaying the King James Bible’s rendering of Revelation 17:16 (specifically the phrase “upon the beast”).
  • In addition, I have read numerous scholarly articles which state that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy Babylon the Great with fire. The authors of these articles know far more about the Greek language than me, so I took their analysis of the Greek seriously.
  • A third, very minor consideration (as I trust the King James Version the most) was that several other Bible versions like the NASB agree with the way that the different sources I mentioned above render/describe Revelation 17:16. I thought that there must be something in the Greek that makes these variety of sources (Greek commentaries, scholarly articles, and Bible versions) agree that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy her with fire.

Late last week I became curious about why the New Testament Greek language commentaries I mentioned and why other Bible versions suggest that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy her with fire when the King James Bible suggests that only the ten kings hate Babylon the Great and destroy her with fire. I spent this past weekend looking for answers, and today I’ll finally share much of what I found with you.
First, I noticed that the Greek text that the King James Bible was based primarily on (the Textus Receptus), is different than the Greek texts that other Bible versions are based on (the Westcott-Hort text and the Nestle-Aland text) when it comes to Revelation 17:16. The following table illustrates the difference between these Greek texts:

  • The Greek highlighted in yellow is not found in the Westcott-Hort text and in the Nestle-Aland text while the Greek highlighted in turquoise is not found in the Textus Receptus:
Comparing Revelation 17:16 Across Three Major Greek Texts
Westcott-HortNestle-AlandTextus Receptus
και τα δεκα κερατα α ειδες και το θηριον ουτοι μισησουσιν την πορνην και ηρημωμενην ποιησουσιν αυτην και γυμνηνκαι τας σαρκας αυτης φαγονται και αυτην κατακαυσουσιν [εν] πυρι …και τα δεκα κερατα α ειδες και το θηριον ουτοι μισησουσιν την πορνην και ηρημωμενην ποιησουσιν αυτην και γυμνην και τας σαρκας αυτης φαγονται και αυτην κατακαυσουσιν εν πυρικαι τα δεκα κερατα α ειδες επι το θηριον ουτοι μισησουσιν την πορνην και ηρημωμενην ποιησουσιν αυτην και γυμνην και τας σαρκας αυτης φαγονται και αυτην κατακαυσουσιν εν πυρι …
Westcott-Hort and Textus Receptus Comparison: http://bit.ly/ouN4iw
Nestle-Aland: http://bit.ly/q0KO5x

The main difference that stands out to me is that the Westcott-Hort text and Nestle-Aland text use και instead of επι or “epi”. According to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, “epi” means “upon” in Greek.1 Again, I’m not an expert on the Greek language, but my suspicion is that the lack of the word “epi” in the Westcott & Hort text and in the Nestle-Aland text is largely responsible for the difference between the King James Bible’s rendering of Revelation 17:16 (which says the ten kings upon the beast hate and destroy Babylon the Great) and the other Bible versions’ rendering of Revelation 17:16 (which tend to say that the ten kings and the beast hate and destroy Babylon the Great).

Reexamining the Greek Commentaries

I went to check which Greek text Vincent’s Word Studies and Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament used. This is what I found:

Vincent’s Word Studies Introduction:

I have not attempted textual criticism. I have followed principally the text of Westcott and Hort, comparing it with Tischendorf’s eighth edition, and commonly adopting any reading in which the two agree. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to say that the very literal and often uncouth renderings which frequently occur are given merely in order to throw sentences or phrases as nearly as possible into their Greek form, and are not suggested for adoption as versions. Each word or passage commented upon is cited first according to the authorized version.2

Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament Preface

The words of the Canterbury Version will be used, sometimes with my own rendering added, and the transliterated Greek put in parenthesis. Thus one who knows no Greek can read straight ahead and get the point simply by skipping the Greek words which are of great value to those who do know some Greek. The text of Westcott and Hort will be used though not slavishly. Those who know Greek are expected to keep the Greek text open as they read or study these volumes. The publishers insisted on the transliteration to cut down the cost of printing.3

Both commentaries utilized the Westcott-Hort text instead of the Textus Receptus. This explains why those commentaries suggest that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy her with fire. This also explains why Vincent’s Word Studies suggests this idea while showing the King James Bible’s rendering of Revelation 17:16 (specifically the phrase “upon the beast”).

What to Make of All This

This article is not intended to provide an in-depth history of the King James Bible and other versions of the Bible that are out there or to recommend that people use a specific version of the Bible. However, I will touch upon the subject of which Bible version I personally would rely most on before I discuss how all this information impacts how I view Revelation 17:16.

This past weekend I spent some time looking at some background information concerning the Textus Receptus, the Westcott-Hort text, and the Nestle-Aland text. After considering the information I saw, I still believe the King James Bible most accurately reflects the Word of God of the Bible versions available. The main issue I have with the Wescott-Hort text and the Nestle-Aland text is that these texts delete words and verses which are found in the Textus Receptus. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1

Westcott-HortNestle-AlandTextus Receptus
και επορευθησαν εις ετεραν κωμην …και επορευθησαν εις ετεραν κωμηνκαι ειπεν ουκ οιδατε οιου πνευματος εστε υμεις
9:56 ο γαρ υιος του ανθρωπου ουκ ηλθεν ψυχας ανθρωπων απολεσαι αλλα σωσαι και επορευθησαν εις ετεραν κωμην …
Westcott-Hort and Textus Receptus Comparison: http://bit.ly/ptb1uD
Nestle-Aland: http://bit.ly/oDnMvT

The verse in the table above is Luke 9:56, which says the following in the King James Bible:

For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:56)

Many Bible versions do not have “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” in Luke 9:56 because the Westcott-Hort text and the Nestle-Aland text do not include the Greek highlighted above.

Example 2

Westcott-HortNestle-AlandTextus Receptus
18:11 ηλθεν γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου σωσαι το απολωλος
Westcott-Hort and Textus Receptus Comparison: http://bit.ly/pCKe7J
Nestle-Aland: http://bit.ly/q48dJc

The blank boxes above are not a result of me forgetting to put the Greek text in the boxes. The Westcott-Hort text and the Nestle-Aland text do not include Matthew 18:11, which says the following in the King James Bible:

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” (Matt 18:11)

I do not know why the Nestle-Aland text and the Westcott-Hort text do not include Matthew 18:11. I think Matthew 18:11 is an important verse…

For this reason and others I tend to trust the King James Bible more than the other Bible versions available. I am not fully comfortable dealing with other Bible versions which may be based on Greek texts which delete words and verses that appear in the Textus Receptus.

The information I found this past weekend makes me seriously question whether the assumption that the ten kings and the beast hate Babylon the Great and destroy Babylon the Great with fire is a correct one. I am now leaning towards the idea that only the ten kings hate Babylon the Great and that only the ten kings destroy Babylon the Great with fire. This idea seems to line up best with what the Textus Receptus/King James Bible convey.

I now have to spend time thinking about why the ten kings hate and destroy Babylon the Great. More specifically, I have to spend time thinking about whether the destruction of Babylon the Great is an act the ten kings pursue to show their loyalty to the beast or a move by the ten kings to betray the beast.

Show 3 footnotes

  1.  Epi Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries: G1909
  2.  Vincent, Marvin. Vincent’s Word Studies. 1886 http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/vws/int000.htm
  3.  Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 1930