Revelation 5:10 and "EPI": "On" or "Over"?

According to the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures Revelation 5:10 reads:

"and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule over[Gk 'epi']the Earth."

Surprisingly, we have come across a website that calls the New World Translation's rendering of the Greek word 'epi' by "over" as a "mistranslation", even calling upon their readers to check that this is so with regard to other translations and Greek Lexicons, though none are cited to justify this criticism!

Following is an e-mail we sent in this matter to the owner of that website:

"Dear Sir,

We were interested to see that you call the New World Translation's rendering of 'epi' as "over" at Revelation 5:10 as a "mistranslation". Our question is why?

The following translations also translate "epi" here as over:

  See also these well known Greek-English Lexicons:

Can you still call the New World Translation's rendering here, in all fairness, a "mistranslation"? Are you not being guilty of misleading some of your readers who will not bother to check up your statements for themselves and just accept what you have alleged? Are we to expect that this 'example' of a "mistranslation" by the New World Translation will now be removed from your web pages?  

Cordially Yours ..........................

As yet we have had no answer and the said criticism still appears on the site.

When "epi" is used with a verb denoting authority/rulership then "epi" indicates the compass of that authority/rulership. If a search is made of the Greek N.T. where "basileuw[to reign as a king]epi" occurs(as it does in Revelation 5:10)you will be able to see that in every case "epi" means "over", eg., Luke 1:33; Acts7:18.

Interestingly, Micah 4:7LXX contains the same verb "to reign as a king" with the prepositions "epi" and "en" and is translated by Brenton as "and the Lord shall reign over[basileuw epi] them in[en] mount Zion."

Two commentaries that support the rendering of EPI as "over."

1) Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:

"...KELLY translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Judges 9:8, Matthew 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth...."

Note here that translating EPI at Revelation 5:10 as "over" is "justified by the Greek."

2) John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible comments on Revelation 5:10.

"And hast made them - The redeemed. So they speak of themselves also in the third person, out of deep self - abasement. They shall reign over the earth - The new earth: herewith agree the golden crowns of the elders. The reign of the saints in general follows, under the trumpet of the seventh angel; particularly after the first resurrection, as also in eternity, Revelation 1:18; 15:7; 20:4; 22:5; Dan 7:27; Psa 49:14."

Notice "They shall reign over the earth"?

Two recent Bible translations also have "over" for "epi" here at Revelation 5:10.They being the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern(1998) and The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language (2002)by Eugene H. Peterson. Also, we note that The New Testament, Recovery Version(Revised edition, 1991, Living Stream Ministry)though it has "on the earth" has a footnote that says "Or, over."

One might point to Rev.5:3 and 5.13 where the same Greek words, namely, EPI THS GHS, literally, "on the earth," occur and so this points to the same meaning for EPI in 5.10. However in both these scriptures BASILENW, "to reign," is absent and also in both there are clear expressions that indicate that location is here meant for in both v.3 and v.13 there is "But neither(v.3)/And every creature(v.13) in heaven ....nor underneath the earth..." which expressions are absent from v.10 where EPI THS GHS occur. It would be poor exegesis then to simply point out that in verses 3 and 13 of the same chapter that EPI THS GHS occurs and yet place this truth over the more applicable truths as given above. Also, just because GHS, "earth" can refer to a place as well as a group of people(here in Revelation 5.10 to the 'earthly society of humans' whom these kings and priests will rule "over)does not mean that the meaning of "earth" here is ambiguous. The point of vv.9, 10 is not where these "kings" will rule but whom over they will for these "kings" are those who have been "bought...for God" and from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" and these kings will rule "over" these or the remnants of these. The same thought is given in Revelation 2.26 where we can read "To everyone[Gk; AUTW lit. "him")that conquers and continues to do my work to the end, I will give authority over[Gk; EPI] the nations."-New Revised Standard Version.

Clearly then, those translations that translate EPI as "over" at Revelation 5.10 are the more accurate in conveying the meaning of the original.