[B-Greek] EIDO and BLEPO

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Fri May 15 11:54:13 EDT 2009

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Fridolin Janzen" <fjanzen at gmx.net>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 15. maj 2009 16:53
Subject: [B-Greek] EIDO and BLEPO

> There is an apparent contradiction between Revelation 5:1, where John says,
> "I saw . a scroll .", and 5:3, ". no man . was able . to look upon it", by
> the words chosen in translating the Greek.
> If he had seen the book (EIDON) than he had looked upon it (BLEPEIN), or
> not? If no one could "look upon it", than John shouldn't have been able
> either.
> Shouldn't one of the verbs be translated by one of its secondary meanings,
> maybe "unveil" for BLEPEIN?
> Maybe this question has more to do with translation, but since there is the
> definition of Greek terms involved,  I posted it here.
> Thank you!
> Fridolin Janzen

Yes, I would say you are correct. This has more to do with translation, and as usual the more 
literal versions are misleading. BLEPW is very rare in the aorist (Rev 22:8 being the only example I 
could find in the GNT, probably used for stylistic reasons). EIDON is used instead without any 
significant difference in meaning.

I think the key is the connector OUTE which you find in both 5:3 and 5:4:
5:3 καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ οὐδὲ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς οὐδὲ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον οὔτε 
βλέπειν αὐτό

When KAI is used to coordinate two nouns or verbs, the expectation in English is that they are two 
separate items or events. But in Greek, the two are often overlapping or the second gives further 
information about the first.
OUTE (and not) is in this respect similar to KAI, so again you can expect that the second event may 
further clarify the first or be part of the same overall event. The purpose of the opening is to see 
the writing.

BAGD has a comment under OUTE:
Cf. Arrian, Anab. 7, 14, 3 OUTE BASILEI OUTE ALEXANDRWi =neither for a king nor especially for 
Alex.). ... Rv 5:4

In Rev 5:3-4, the scroll must be opened before the writings in it can be seen and read. In verse 1 
the scroll could be seen sealed, but it was not opened yet. The context clarifies that BLEPEIN after 
the opening refers to seeing and consequently reading the message written in (and on) the scroll. 
The intended meaning is captured nicely by NLT:
"But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it."

An alternative would be: "But no one... was able to open the scroll and see what was written in it."

NIV says: "open the scroll or even look inside it." That is rather confusing and misleading.

Iver Larsen 

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