The green horse
In Rev. 6 we read how the opening of the first four seals of the scroll is accompanied by the appearance of a horse. The subject of this article is the color of the fourth knight.
The first three horses are white, red (NBG: reddish, NBV: fiery red) and black. The color of the fourth horse seems to be less clear: pale (SV, NBG), pale yellow (NBV), gray (HSV). The following colors are mentioned in the Greek original text. The first horse is white (Greek: 'leukos'). The color of the second horse is 'purros', which means 'red'. The description of 'fire red' in the NBV is well chosen, because the word is derived from 'pur' which means 'fire'. The translation with 'ruddy' in the NBG seems to be inspired by the fact that there are no fire-red horses. The third knight is black (Greek: 'melas'). And the fourth horse has the color 'chloros'. This word appears four times in the New Testament. The first time is in the telling of the miraculous feeding with the five loaves and two fish: “He told them to command the people to sit in groups on the green grass” (Mark 6:39). In addition, twice more in the Revelation to John. At the blowing of the first trumpet we read: 'Then the first angel blew his trumpet. There came hail and fire, mingled with blood, and it was thrown to the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees and every green thing” (Rev. 8:7). And at the fifth trumpet: 'But, it was said, they were to leave the plants, shrubs and trees undisturbed. They were allowed to harm only those who did not have the seal of God in their foreheads” (Rev. 9:4). Here in Greek, 'bushes' literally means 'green things'. The NBG has 'crop'. Even closer to the original text are the SV with 'green' or the HSV with 'green plant'. The fourth time the word 'chloros' is used is when describing the fourth horse. So of the four times the word is used, three times clearly mean 'green'. And the fourth time, almost all translations do not choose 'green' but a different color: 'pale', 'pale green', 'gray', or something similar. We know from ancient Greek texts that the word 'chloros' can indeed have this meaning. But what are the considerations for choosing this translation here? And, is that right? We will go through the different arguments.
The first argument used is that there are no green horses. This argument also leads to the color of the second horse being translated as 'ruddy' instead of 'red'. Considering all the dragons and multi-headed monsters that John sees in his visions, there could also be a red and a green horse. This argument is therefore not very convincing.
Another argument is seen in the meaning of the horses. The one on the first white horse goes out to conquer. The rider of the second red horse causes a massacre. The rider on the third black horse announces a famine. And on the fourth, green horse sits death. He, and the realm of the dead that follows him, are given power to kill with the sword, hunger, death and wild beasts. Now the question arises whether the color of the horse has a relationship with the disaster caused by the rider. A massacre can easily be associated with the color red. Victory and the color white also go together. However, famine and black is already becoming more difficult. That takes some imagination. At death, as described in the fourth horse, a corpse color may be more appropriate than green. This certainly played a role in the usual translations.
The four horses from the Revelation to John have a clear relationship with the four horses from Zechariah 6. In Zechariah the horses also have different colors. Are these the same colors? The color of the first horse is 'adom'. The Greek translation of the Septuagint reads 'purros' here. This horse is red in color. The second horse is black (Hebrew 'sjachod', Greek 'melas'). And the color of the third horse is also clear: white (Hebrew 'laban', Greek 'leukos'). However, the color of the fourth horse is less clear. In Hebrew it says 'barod amots' and in Greek 'poikilos psaros'. 'Barod' means spotted, 'poikilos' means variegated, multi-coloured, spotted and 'psaros' means spotted, gray spotted, ash-coloured. The meaning of the word 'amots' is unclear. Many translations choose 'strong' and have it apply to all horses or only the fourth horse. For example, the NKJV reads: 'In front of the first chariot were red horses, in front of the second black horses, in front of the third white horses, and in front of the fourth spotted ones; strong horses'. And the NIV: 'There were bay horses yoked to the first chariot, black to the second, white to the third, and spotted to the fourth. They were strong horses'. However, it is an embarrassment translation; Presumably 'amots' refers to a color after all. It is thought that the meaning may be 'spotted'.
It is generally assumed that the four horses from Zechariah 6 have a relationship with the horses from Zechariah 1. Three colors are mentioned there. The first is red and the third white. The second color is 'saroq' in Hebrew and 'psaros (en) poikilos' in Greek, so equal to the fourth horse in Zechariah 6. The Hebrew word 'saroq' means something like reddish, brown, brown spotted.
If we look at the colors of the four horses from Rev. 6 compare with the four horses from Zech. 6, then it is clear that three colors correspond, namely red, black and white. However, the color of the fourth horse is clearly different. This means that the text from Zech. 6 cannot help us to clarify what color the fourth horse in Rev. has had 6.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word 'chloros' is used 16 times. In all cases the translation is 'green', 'crop', 'vegetable', 'the green' or something similar. The Revelation to John makes extensive use of the Old Testament, and it is not obvious that John would have used the word 'chloros' if he had meant something other than 'green'.
There is another consideration. In ancient times, the colors white, black, red and green were considered the four basic colors. This is described, for example, by Theophrastus who lived from approx. 371 to approx. 287 BC (Theophr. Sens. 13, 73-75). So perhaps the colors of the horses have no symbolic meaning at all. Also in Zechariah there is no relationship between the color of the horse and their effect. It is certainly conceivable that the colors of the horses in the Revelation to John have no special meaning. In that case it is quite possible that the four horses that Johannes saw simply had the four basic colors. Without ulterior motives.