Mystery package!

As a friend was dropping me off at home after work today, we noticed something odd at the front step: a large white bag of woven plastic fibers, tied closed at around the middle of its height, sitting on my front porch. It having just been Halloween, I suggested that it might be a bag of dog poop, and so my friend helpfully suggested I avoid stomping on it if it spontaneously burst into flame. Fortunately, it was anything but a bag of poop! There was a mailing and customs tag attached to the bag, and I instantly was pleased at thinking what it might be, which indeed it turned out to be.

Last month I had ordered from Apostoliki Diakonia, the publishing arm of the Church of Greece, a copy of the Ōrologion to Mega and a copy of the Systēma Typikou (which no longer appears on the site; perhaps it’s simply sold out). I experienced an error in the middle of the process, so I was almost certain that the order was never received, as I myself never received a confirmation of the order. But all is well, and now I can enjoy these two volumes, along with a nifty little Synekdēmos that arrived the week before last!

For those who don’t know what these books are, the Ōrologion to Mega is “the Great Horologion”—a book containing the main daily liturgical services outside of the Divine Liturgy (which is not generally celebrated daily in the Orthodox Church), such as are common in monasteries especially, but which are becoming more common in large parishes as well. The Systēma Typikou is a typikon, a book describing in outline how various services are composed, which elements follow which, and such matters. The Synekdēmos is very much like a Latin Daily Missal, containing texts of the Divine Liturgies (mine has those of St John Chrysostom, St Basil, and that of Presanctified Gifts), kontakia and troparia of Saints throughout the year, daily prayers, and a selection of smaller services and canons. Very nice!

One of the reasons I’m so happy to have these is that my Greek Orthodox parish is bilingual. While most of the services are largely in English, a large percentage are mostly in Greek, and some few are entirely in Greek. There are not always easily available Greek-English texts for all these various services, for such of us who need them, so I plan to put some together in order to replace decades-old photocopies and such. I did that with the Salutations to the Theotokos services earlier this year, and that was a very useful thing to have, as I coupled the Greek with the Holy Transfiguration Monastery English translation on facing pages. So, that’ll be another pot on the stove….

16 Replies to “Mystery package!”

  1. To this day I still have my mother’s Synekdēmos as well as her Greek New Testament. Later in life when her diabetes prevented her from going to Church they were her comfort. She taught me the Divine Liturgy and Pascha services from this book, too bad I was too young to appriciate what she was doing for me. When my daughter gets to be much older I’ll given them to her to let her have a little piece of the grandmother she never had time to know, and hopefully she will read them as well, and maybe appriciate the Synekdēmos more than I did.

    Treasure your Synekdēmos Kevin. For us laity it is and always has been our missal and our connection to the rich litugical heritage of the Church. God bless you for bringing these little nuggets of happiness.


  2. I do treasure it, Peter! I was so happy when it arrived, and have enjoyed it ever since.

    Thank you for sharing that about your mother’s Synekdēmos. That’s a beautiful story. I’m sure your daughter will love to have Yia-yia’s Synekdēmos some day!

  3. It having just been Halloween, I suggested that it might be a bag of dog poop, and so my friend helpfully suggested I avoid stomping on it if it spontaneously burst into flame. Fortunately, it was anything but a bag of poop!

    I just thought that I should explain the above, because it might not make sense to some of my readers.

    Halloween, the American holiday on 31 October, used to be associated with pranks. One relatively harmless but rather messy prank was to place some (preferably very fresh!) dog poop in a small paper bag or wrapped in a piece of newspaper, put that suprise package on someone’s front porch, light the paper on fire, and then ring the doorbell and then run and hide somewhere nearby where you could see the person open the door, stomp out the fire, and then realize that they just got dog poop all over their shoe. It’s very much a boy’s prank, that, if it goes according to plan, can provide amusement on reminiscing over the moment for many years, even decades. Not that I’m saying I would know myself! But I’m not saying that I don’t, either!

  4. Thanks, Nick! This is also part of a wider long-term plan toward fluency not just in Greek, but in understanding of the intricacies of our liturgies, which are Byzantine in quite literally every sense of the word.

  5. Hi Kevin,
    I have an oddball question. And I feel kinda weird asking it, since I’m Eastern Orthodox myself. FYI, I go to St Stephen Orthodox Church (Antiochian) down in San Jose.
    I have a Nestle-Aland Greek text (not really sure what edition it is) that I regularly read from.
    Is there a semi-official or official Greek New Testament that the Greek Orthodox use? Can I buy one from Holy Cross or Apostoliki Diakonia?
    And since I’m asking questions here, what is its textual basis? I wouldn’t imagine it’s a critical “eclectic” text like Nestle-Aland, but I might be wrong here.
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Dear John:

    The Official Greek New Testament used by ALL the Orthodox Churches is the Patriarchal Greek New Testament of 1904, revised 1912. Both Greek, Russian and Antiochian, and all other Orthodox Churches follow this Greek NT text.

    A copy can be viewed on line and purchased from the Apostoliki Diakonia website. Most local Greek Orthodox Churches sell this New Testament with Greek Commentary from Mr. Kolitsaris or commentary from Sotir which broke away from the Zoe Brotherhood, I believe, back in the early to mid 70’s.

    The “Sotir” edition is the one most favored in Greek Orthodox Parishes today, but the “Kolitsaris” edition is still around. Pictures of the Ecumenical Partiarch show him holding the “Sotir” edition of the Greek New Testament, which has given it an unofficial/official sanction from Constandinople, but that was more a marketing ploy than anything else IMHO.

    Hope that helps.


  7. What Peter said, John! And never worry about asking questions, here or anywhere else! It’s how we learn best.

    In addition to the edition information Peter has given, I’ve heard mention of a new text in the works at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The current 1904/1912 edition was based on the scholarship of the time, which was not very advanced. It was basically a critical text of the day (I don’t recall which, but it was a precursor to the current Nestle-Aland) with the sections of lectionary readings altered where necessary to match. (This is the same practice used in the official Septuagint text, adjusting the Rahlfs edition of the time where necessary.) There’s been much more work on the Byzantine/Majority Text since then, and I would expect the next edition to fall more in line with that, with very few differences. Historically, it is the Byzantine Text which is the continuous text of the Church, without question.

    The major edition of the Byzantine Text is the Robinson-Pierpont The New Testament in the Original Greek, here and here. The editors include an appendix describing their alternative to the reigning “reasoned eclecticism”, which is “reasoned transmissionalism.” The gist is that there is no other way than the transmission and copying of the original documents to explain the universal spread of the Byzantine Text throughout the Christian world. Anyhow, that’s not an official Church text (which Peter describes above), but it is certainly historically important and, one would hope, the basis of the forthcoming Constantinopolitan text. We shall see!

  8. Thanks, Peter and Kevin. I googled Patriarchal Greek New Testament and couldn’t find it being sold anywhere here in the US. The bookstore at Holy Cross didn’t sell it either. Is the Robinson-Pierpont The New Testament in the Original Greek roughly equivalent?

  9. Hi John,
    Not really. They’re the same in the lectionary parts, but differ in various places otherwise.

    Try searching for “Η Καινη Διαθηκη” instead of an English title. It has no English in it at all, but is all Greek. Mine is the 7th edition of 2006, and has the ISBN 960-315-051-7.

    I hope that helps!

  10. I managed to find the Patriarchal Greek New Testament on Apostoliki Diakonia. Actually there are two of them–one 9 euros and the other 30 euros. Being a tightwad, I bought the 9 euro version. At least I think I did. They didn’t take any credit card information and the transaction apparently went through. I’ll see what shows up on my front porch step here in San Jose. Hopefully, it’ll show up sometime this year!

    1. It should arrive in about a month. I expect you’ll find the bill in the package.

      I think it’s probably a small paperback that you got. There’s also a small and large hardcover that I’ve seen mentioned in different places. I think Apostoliki Diakonia only lists what they have available in stock.

      The Orthodox Marketplace (the online shop for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) usually has them available, but they’re out of stock. I see mentioned there, curiously, a “Patriarchate Greek/English Parallel New Testament.” It’s a new release, but likewise out of stock. I know nothing more about this edition, particularly which English translation the Patriarchal text is paired with. It’ll be interesting to see.

      I should also specify that the differences between the Nestle-Aland and Patriarchal texts are not very many. There are occasional phrases or words that differ, and some phrases in the Patriarchal text are transferred to a footnote in the Nestle-Aland, or bracketed or somesuch. But a good 99% and more of the texts are identical.

  11. In regards to the “Patriarchate Greek/English Parallel New Testament” I was actually shown a pre-publication copy during my time at the 39th Clergy-Laity Congress in July of 2008. Talking with the American Bible socity rep. there he told be that it would be the Patriarchal Greek Text on one side and the Revised Standard Version on the other was the English version changed to conform to the Greek text. The RSV was chosen becuase it is the official English version of the Greek New Testament in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

    I checked with the ABS just recently and they told be that the project was on hold until After the Partiarch’s visit so as to offer his books and products while here in America and not to overshadow the Military New Testament and Psalms for Orthodox Christians that just came out.

    I am very excited about this project as I believe it will quickly take the place of the OSB New Testament IMHO.


  12. Very nice! Thanks for that information, Peter. That’ll definitely be an improvement on the OSB New Testament! I’m surprised that no one has publicized this more widely, as it’s a very welcome thing to more than just us Orthodox. An RSV text adjusted to the Patriarchal text, which is alot closer to the Majority Text than the Nestle-Aland/UBS text, will be more generally popular, as well.

    I suppose we should be able to order them by the end of the year, then. That’s exciting!

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