Orthodox Study Bible redux

Orthodox bloggers Felix Culpa and Esteban will both be commenting on the Orthodox Study Bible in coming days. I recommend you to check their blogs for their insightful critiques. I think this will be the last post of mine dealing more than in passing with the new Orthodox Study Bible. I’ve noted a few more problems with this Bible, two of which are “deal breakers” which, for me, means it will join its predecessor and various other study Bibles to collect dust. This is unfortunate, as some of the translated texts are done quite well. The problem is that not all of them are, and that the presentation in this volume inadequately reflects the nobility of the subject matter. Let us cut to the chase!

On Tobit. There are two texts of Tobit, the short text as found in the majority of manuscripts (Hanhart’s GI, found in Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and others, as well as represented in Jerome’s admittedly half-hearted Vulgate translation), and the long text (Hanhart’s GII, found in Codex Sinaiticus with lacunae, and a few fragments otherwise, but well-represented in the Old Latin translation). The GII text is universally recognized to the be the older of the two, with GI representing a later reworking of the text. In such a case, the presentation of both versions or the longer alone (perhaps with an indication of which passages are lacking in the shorter version) would be preferable. While it is known that the text of Codex Alexandrinus is the Old Testament in favor on Mount Athos, and so the shorter version of Tobit will be preferred there, there is no canonical statement finding for either ancient text. The fuller text does tell the story better, however, and for that reason alone it might be preferred. But it appears that the Revised Standard Version was the boilerplate for the Orthodox Study Bible in the books called anaginōskomena (“readable”) among the Orthodox and “apocrypha” generally, and the RSV used the shorter text. Again, the NETS actually provides translations of both texts in parallel, as it does for the case of all such divergent texts in the Septuagint tradition: in Iesous (Joshua), Judges, Esther (giving the Old Greek and the Alpha text, which is a bonus!), Tobit (the GII and GI texts), Sousanna, Daniel, Bel and the Dragon (all three have both Old Greek and Theodotion). The approach of NETS is preferable.

Regarding the notes in the OSB, I thought I’d take a look at something which would naturally have occurred to a good editor: to make certain that the points made in the separate articles about various texts were also included in the notes to those texts. Here too the OSB earns a failing grade. Take, for example, the article “Types of Mary in the Old Testament.” Firstly, why just “Mary” and not a properly Orthodox reference like “Champion of the Faithful” or “Mary the Theotokos”? How about even “Mary, Mother of God”? This OSB, however, is actually directed at Protestants as a conversionary ploy, not at Orthodox, so one couldn’t possibly call her what Orthodox actually call her in what is supposed to be their own Bible! Secondly, of the eighteen Scriptural references given in the article on Mary, ten are not represented in the notes to those texts. That is, at those points in the notes, where a reader is most likely to be looking for information on how the Orthodox Church reads the verse, there is no notice that these various ten verses are read to reflect Mary the Theotokos. Even aside from this, and it really is unforgivable, Isaiah 7 and 9 are not included in the article! How can the primary prophecy of the Theotokos in Isaiah 7.14, recognized even in the Gospels, not be included in an article on the subject? That’s laughable! Likewise, there are many other references which were not included. The author of the article could simply have sat down with an annotated copy of the services for the Orthodox Church’s Feasts, like The Festal Menaion put together by Bishop Kallistos, and made a list of all the Scripture readings and allusions therein and made sure the editor would ensure appropriate commentary in the notes for each. This would’ve taken mere minutes, not hours or days. In addition to this shortcoming in this particular article, there is another more editorial shortcoming: the text of no article fills the page dedicated to it. It appears that the font of the articles was changed along the line somewhere so that it is smaller and no longer fills the page. This is sloppy. The extra space could’ve been used to better the articles.

Randomly flipping through the OSB, I found that a number of notes are problematic in historical or factual matters. A note to Isaiah 22.1-5 indicates “Jerusalem fell to the Assyrians.” This is not the case. A note to 2 Kingdoms 15.7-12 (the text of 15.7 begins “Four years later…”) reads “After four years (the LXX has “forty”)….” So, this quite apparently answers our question as to whether this is a translation of the Septuagint or not. Clearly it is not! It is guided by other motivations, which allowed some of the translators to adjust their text toward the Hebrew. This is not in itself a bad idea, but it is not what the Old Testaement of the OSB (or rather the “St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint™” [sic]) proclaims itself to be. The note to Judith 1.1 places the entire book in the wrong light: “This opening verse is anachronistic in that the father of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebopolassar, destroyed Nineveh in about 607 BC.” Aside from the error that Nineveh was not destroyed in “about 607” but in 612 BC, with no “about” about it, and the oddly spelled Nebopolassar rather than the standard Nabopolassar, this misses the entire point of the book in its parabolic masking of various historical characters with names drawn from the rest of the Old Testament, of which Judith is a part. Nineveh represents Seleucia, and Nebuchadnezzar the Seleucid king, and so on. Reading this as a straight historical account is as much a mistake as reading it as an entirely allegorical one. Bad form! A relatively good note appears at Daniel 5.2: “St. Jerome remarks that ‘vice always glories in defiling what is noble.’ He sees in Belshazzar’s blatant misuse of the holy vessels a type of the misuse and twisting of Scripture by heretics for the purpose of drawing others into false doctrine and worship.” Now that is an excellent patristic note, at least. Yet there is no way to find out where St Jerome elaborates on this, as there is no reference to his undoubtedly pithy statement on the matter. It would perhaps have been preferable to leave out the vast number of inane notes in preference for more substantial patristic quotations which included references to the works (at the very least!) in which they appear. But I tire of this.

There are some very good translations in the OSB Old Testament. Isaiah and Job are quite well done, as is Jeremiah. I haven’t delved too much into others, as this edition is not conducive to reading. Most of the Prophets suffer from the serious drawback that their texts are not presented (I kid you not) in poetic scansion. The lines are all run together as though everything in them were prose. And the density of this font in combination with the close line spacing and the horribly thin paper (with its subsequent bleedthrough) makes for very uncomfortable reading indeed. For me, this is one of the “deal breakers” I mentioned above. For whatever reason the verses weren’t presented in poetic format, the verdict is the same: poorly done indeed!

Add to this the occasion that the very complicated issues of verse numbering in various books have received the least useful solution in this OSB: that of creating a versification unused by anyone else, and probably not even by all the annotators in the volume! This is the other “deal breaker” I mentioned. This is wholly unacceptable and unjustifiable. A better solution, again, is presented in the NETS: the versification of the standard editions is retained, and the versification of the Hebrew text is indicated in small raised parentheses.

Readers will need to follow the progress of the other Orthodox Septuagint translation projects in order to eventually obtain a decent Orthodox translation of the Church’s Old Testament. The OSB is not that. In the meantime, I would continue to recommend the NETS. While it may not be a perfect translation (which translation is?), it is an academic translation geared toward usefulness as a tool in better understanding the underlying Greek texts, and it is of a vastly higher consistent quality than is the OSB. If a reader wants to read a contemporary English translation of the Septuagint, then the NETS edition is the one to read.


  1. There are at least three verse numbering systems in common use.

    There is the verse numbering system used in the Septuagint, the verse numbering system used in the Hebrew, and the verse numbering system used in most English Bibles.

    For example, in most Psalms verse 1 in the Hebrew is treated as the title in most English Bibles. Psalms 13:6 in the Hebrew is split into two verses in the English. Genesis 32:1 in the Hebrew is Genesis 31:55 in the English.

    I must admit that if someone simply gives me a chapter/verse citation, without quoting the verse, I quite frequently find the wrong verse!

  2. In this indexing I’m doing of Charlesworth’s OTP, there are often no indications of which versification the author is using in his citations, so it might take a try of all three before I get it right! Perhaps it’s because I’m so sensitized by my annoyance that my reaction to the OSB renumbering is so bad. I should explain in more detail for those who don’t know what we’re talking about.

    An excellent resource book for anyone dealing with the Bible is The SBL Handbook of Style. Appendix E is a chart titled English/Hebrew/Greek Versification Compared. It’s a very helpful tool to find divergences in the different systems, which differ due to historical exigencies. While the Greek generally follows the Hebrew versification, there are a number of exceptions. These occur especially in the later chapters of Exodus, in several early chapters of 3 Kingdoms (=1Kings), in the Psalms, and most confusingly in Jeremiah, which has chapters in a very different order than the Hebrew, and lacking a number of verses.

    An illustrative example of the wrong approach taken by the OSB is found in chapter 5 of Third Kingdoms. The first four verses of this chapter in the Septuagint are numbered 1-4, and immediately followed by verses 9 through 14, followed by 14a, 14b, then 15 through 30, then verse 32. This numbering of verses is helpful in itself, as it shows in this case the complicated textual history of this book, and that there are several verses lacking in comparison to the Hebrew. Anyone looking for a particular verse in a Greek Septuagint will also want to have the verse numbers matching, of course. But they will not find this in the OSB. It has made a mess by making the verse numbering continue from 1 through to 29. It is likewise the case throughout the rest of the instances where numbering differs in the Greek tradition and there are “missing” verse numbers. One would expect one’s Bible to be numbered properly! As Iyov mentioned, it’s hard enough with even normal versification to find what you’re looking for. This OSB blunder of reversification makes it impossible!

    Oh, and another thing that I should mention: the OSB stinks, quite literally. It smells very bad, almost like gasoline fumes. Yuck.

  3. Oh, and another thing that I should mention: the OSB stinks, quite literally. It smells very bad, almost like gasoline fumes. Yuck.

    Kevin, I’m beginning to get the vague sense that perhaps the OSB is not your favorite edition of all time.

  4. The new OSB notes repeat the heteros vs. allos exegetical fallacy from the first OSB (NT + Psalms) notes on Galatians 1. While it’s possible that in this very limited context (Gal 1:6-7) St. Paul might be making a distinction between heteros and allos, to say that heteros means different in kind while allos means another of the same kind would mean that the “other” apostles (including James) in 1:19 (heteros) are a “different kind” of apostle than Peter. BDAG and BDF also weigh in against this distinction in Gal 1:6-7.

  5. Can you cite any heretical mistranslations in the OSB… because I would argue that the NETS translation of Genesis 1:2 is heretical. When you only have to get 2 verses into a translation to find such a gross mistranslation, I would say that is a far bigger deal breaker than anything I have seen cited regarding the OSB.

  6. Well, Fr Whiteford, I would lay on the table the OSB’s entire New Testament, a translation done not from the Church’s text, nor from the almost identical Byzantine text, but from a text that is often quite different, with its roots in the Reformation and its heresies which guided the choice of several of those textual variants. But I would refer you instead to the serious deficiences of theology as found in the articles and notes in this new edition of the OSB, which I’m sure you will find something to take issue with. Otherwise, I’m certain that the other bloggers I mentioned above will continue to critique the OSB in detail that may demonstrate its shortcomings to your satisfaction. I’m sure you have a hard time believing me that it’s really that bad. You’ll see. My frustration and disappointment with the volume is such that I’m falling back on the old maxim from childhood: “If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”! I didn’t and don’t need this in the middle of the Great Fast….

    Iyov, whatever gave you that idea?! Actually the worst-smelling book I have is the new edition of Trevor Bryce’s Kingdom of the Hittites. It is violently bad, like a waft of a toxic waste spill or something. One’s head involuntarily snaps back from it, usually with an expletive of some sort. Which reminds me I should write to Oxford about that and the already browning page edges…. This one isn’t that bad, but it’s definitely in the unpleasantly stinky end of the spectrum. Wiccans, and Russians, and Dollars, oh my! I expect the OSB will, like it’s predecessor, enjoy an entirely equivocal reputation, with some loving it and some . . . not so much.

    Jacob, that’s a good catch! I’m sure there’s been more recycling of the old OSB’s notes and so on. It’s a mystery why over the course of ten years that this thing was in preparation we end up with something that is the same not only in general but in detail. It’s very disappointing.

  7. Doug, I’m sorry I missed your comment earlier.

    I’ll refer you to to Felix Culpa’s post on the matter. The OSB’s peculiarities seem rooted in an appeal to a specifically Evangelical Protestant aesthetic. This isn’t too surprising, as the chief editors are former Evangelical Protestant converts to Orthodoxy and that aesthetic has consistently played a major role in their publications and other outreach (Conciliar Press, Ancient Faith Radio, etc). By an aesthetic, I mean something along the lines of a cultural worldview, and one that in this case can be said is not at all comfortable to all Orthodox Christians. Esteban has also covered this aspect.

  8. The Textus Receptus is not a heretical text, nor is it rooted in the Reformation. Erasmus was not a Protestant. He took 5 manuscripts that came from the Byzantine Textual tradition preserved by the Church, and put together the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament. The Slavonic Apostol seems to follow it very closely, as a matter of fact. Those 5 manuscripts may not have been the best possible five, and it may well be that Erasmus did not always make the best decisions when dealing with variants, but the text is a product of the Byzantine textual tradition, and is not a heretical text. On the other hand, translating Genesis 1:2 with “divine wind” is.

    There may well be deficiencies in the articles in the OSB, but so far, no one has pointed out one that was heretical. It may not be perfect, but I think the way the OSB has produced an Orthodox Translation of the Septuagint imperfectly is better than the way everyone before them has not done it at all. There may be cases in which they have not brought out all the nuances of the Greek in the Septuagint in favor of leaving the NKJV text as it was… but in those cases in which the LXX and the Hebrew Masoretic text are in essential unity, I would argue that we should be more concerned with bringing out the nuances of the Hebrew. Only when there is a real textual divergence should we feel free to disregard the Hebrew and start worry about the nuances of the Greek… because at the end of the day, the LXX is still a translation of the Hebrew, and when we are confident that the LXX and the Hebrew essentially agree, there is no good reason to not translate the Hebrew text.

  9. Father, that’s fine, but then they should certainly not have advertised this as a translation of the Septuagint. It most certainly is not completely one, but some kind of hybrid. I suppose that one can use this “substantially agree” method to gloss over the vast majority of those differences between the texts, but one should be more explicit about it and not call it a Septuagint when it is not. It is not a matter of nuances, but of the texts themselves. Such things may seem minor to you, but it seems like a lie to me, when this is trumpeted as a translation of the Septuagint that it clearly isn’t, and people who don’t know better are accepting it as such with much joy. I’m happy for their joy, but angry that they’ve been taken advantage of. They are rejoicing over something other than what they think they are. Isn’t that wrong?

    Still, delve into the articles, not just the translation, and see what depth lies there. Look at the notes and articles and consider how useful they might possibly be in catechesis. Are they clear? Do they avoid misconstrual? Do they avoid all error? Is the Orthodox faith clearly and explicitly expounded in them?

    We will differ on our opinion of the Reformation’s Bibles. The history of the TR includes many more than the Catholic Erasmus, who started the process. That is not, however, the Byzantine text, or any Church-approved text, even though it may be close to it, and there is contamination. The Johannine Comma is a case in point. Is the biblical text of an heretical tradition heretical in itself? It’s arguably so.

    I would disagree that the NETS “divine wind” is heretical. I would certainly say that it is a stupid translation, which seems to be rather common these days. Compare the Isaiah in NETS with the one in OSB and you’ll find them to be complementary, both are very well done. The same goes for Job and Jeremiah. But in the Kingdoms books, you will have to rely on NETS, as those are a mess in the OSB. Likewise the formatting in NETS in the Prophets is much better, as well, retaining the poetic formatting, which may not save space and paper and money, but makes for better reading.

  10. The Johannine Comma is found in the Slavonic Apostol. If you are going to argue that any edition of the Septuagint or New Testament that is done by the heterodox is ipso facto heretical, then there never has been a non-heretical Bible in the English language, and the NETS is in the same boat. However, the Church has never taken such a view. The TR has been widely used, because it reflects (albeit imperfectly) the traditional text of the Church. Any manuscript you can point to of the Greek New Testament or LXX likewise is at best an imperfect reflection of the tradition of the Church… you try to compare various manuscripts, and make a judgment call in the case of any discrepancy as to which reading is the best reflection of the tradition of the Church.

    As for the “hybrid” approach, the NETS did not just use the Greek LXX… did they not also use Hebrew fragments when available? I think the ideal approach from an Orthodox perspective would be to compare the LXX, the Peshitta, the Vulgate, and the Hebrew text (of various traditions, usually the masoretic) and try to find the reading that best reflects the text preserved by the Church, with obvious preference for the original Hebrew in those cases in which the text which the Church has preserved does not substantively disagree with what has survived in the Hebrew text. What we want is the best translation of the Scriptures, not necessarily the best translation of the Greek LXX — though when the textual traditions diverge, we give priority to the LXX and Peshitta (and to a lesser extent the Vulgate), since these are the text that have been preserved within the Church.

  11. … And as for the question of “divine wind” not being heretical. This reduces the Holy Spirit to an impersonal force. That is heresy, and is a far more serious matter than whether all the nuances of the Greek in Psalm 22, or have used too much of the NKJV because that is what English speakers are more familiar with.

  12. Fr Whiteford, the Johannine Comma may exist in some modern texts, but it doesn’t belong there! It exists in no authentic Eastern text of 1 John, and it is not a part of the Greek tradition. It certainly doesn’t belong in the text and only slipped in through Erasmus and others wishing to reflect this phrase in the Vulgate in their text. It’s an intruder and should be excised.

    What you describe as the NETS approach works in the opposite percentage to what was done in OSB. The base text used was the critically established text of the Goettingen Septuaginta Unternehmen volumes where existent, with Rahlfs or the Cambridge editions, or even other critical texts in some cases, all noted in the introductions, where the Goettingen is absent. The NRSV was supposedly used as boilerplate, but this is only rarely apparent, and every translation is only distantly comparable and only very rarely identical. The goal was to produce a Septuagint in English that can be quickly compared to a text of the Masoretic Hebrew in English, so that differences between the two are obvious, but the lack of gender-neutral language in NETS leads to many differences so that it is better compared to the RSV or even NASB rather than the NRSV. In that sense, it is a didactice tool, and one of the highest critical acumen. The introductions to each of the books alone are worth the price of the book. The OSB is not on the same footing, as they started and stayed with the Hebrew in English, altering the text only where “necessary.” This subjective understanding of “necessity” leads to much more of the text remaining, in places, reflective solely of the Hebrew, and not of the Septuagint. It is certainly not a full translation of the Greek guided by Hebrew and other traditions, including English, as the NETS is. In several of the books it is certainly more fully reliant on the Greek, as in those I mentioned above: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job. But OSB is not by a stretch of a consistent quality throughout, and is very disappointing in that way.

    What you describe as a translational goal for a truly Orthodox translation is something that I too consider a desideratum. But if this OSB is too widely accepted, faulty as it is, then that project will never see the light of day for an English audience. Its shortcomings need to be acknowledged and taken into consideration so that further and better work may proceed. Sweeping its differences under the carpet will do nothing to help Orthodox Anglophones.

    On “divine wind” this is a translational option, for pneuma, as you well know, is not always “spirit” but sometimes, wind, breath, and so on. The unfortunate decision to translate pneuma theou with “divine wind” is no doubt based on the same stupid translation in NRSV, “wind from God.” The translators are saying nothing about Christian or Jewish doctrine or any such thing, but using an alternate and legitimate understanding of pneuma in this instance, based on their assumptions about what would’ve been understood by this phrase in the original time of its translation, roughly 275 BC. We happen to disagree, and it is easy enough to correct with a pencil.

    Likewise, Father, it is not “nuances” in Psalm 22 that have been mistranslated, but the words themselves! Indeed, they’ve not been translated at all, but are simply, clearly, blatantly, the NKJV Hebrew-based text. They are not a translation at all, “nuances” or otherwise. To call OSB a complete translation of the Septuagint is false advertising.

    Your charity is immense, and admirable. I wish I had such! I’d appreciate your prayers toward my attaining it! As it is, I’m very disappointed by the shocking unevenness of the OSB’s work, which I’ve followed for the last nine years, just as I’ve followed the progress of NETS through the same time. For all that amount of time, to have the two bodies of translation so dissimilar in large part (though of good quality in the minority) and to see these other shortcomings of the OSB is extremely, entirely, vividly disappointing. As I said in my original post on the subject, “This Orthodox Study Bible could have been better and should have been better. Why was it not better?” I expect the highest quality attainable when it comes to honoring God through such things as translations of His Word, in liturgical texts and particularly in Holy Scriptures. This OSB is merely “good enough” or “passable.” It is not “excellent” or “magnificent” or “beautiful.” It should elicit such comments from readers of all backgrounds, familiar with the Greek (and Hebrew!) or otherwise. That it doesn’t is something of a scandal to those of us who are familiar with the originals. It implies for us that accuracy and fidelity to the tradition are not really so important, that we can knock off any kind of thing, slap the label “Orthodox” on it, and have it beloved in the pews. I don’t and can’t work that way, and I won’t!

    My reaction to the OSB is in several ways heartbreaking to me. I would be happy to love it, but can’t. As I said, I admire your charity in this. Pray for me, if you will, Father, that I might come to share it.

  13. Kevin, did you see St Luke 10:2 in the OSB yet?

    Is that that “slop” job? My leather OSB came with an errata sheet, and noted that “slop” in Luke 10:2 should read “them,” IIRC.

    FYI – I just sold my OSB for a few dollars less than I paid for it via pre-order. My wife has one, in case I need to refer to it. The disappointing aspects (thanks to you and Esteban and Felix, as well as the few things I looked at) outweighed the benefits for me at this time. I can read or struggle with the Greek LXX if need be and have a nice 8-version 1-volume Apocrypha (Greek + 7 translations), and in the hopefully-near-future Logos will release the Lexham Interlinear Greek-English LXX so I’ll be able to coordinate the English, Hebrew and Greek texts for study.

    I’ll pass on this until the fix the errata (more to come, I’m sure) and fix the format as well (doubtful).

  14. A big gripe I have is that the OSB does NOT indicate where the Hebrew text differs from the LXX, even though they had no problem keeping the NKJV notes in the NT that indicate where the text differs from UBS4/NA. Maybe that’s not their purpose, and maybe it’s beyond their abilities to give adequate notes. E.g., I noticed last night that Amos 4:13 in the LXX reads:

    διοτι ιδου εγω στερεων βροντην και κτιζων πνευμα και απαγγελλων εις ανθρωπους τον χριστον αυτου ποιων ορθρον και ομιχλην και επιβαινων επι τα υψη της γης κυριος ο θεος ο παντοκρατωρ ονομα αυτω

    I.e., “announcing to men his Messiah/Christ.”

    This seems to me to be based on a misreading of the Hebrew:

    כי הנה יוצר הרים וברא רוח ומגיד לאדם מה־שחו עשה שחר עיפה ודרך על־במתי ארץ יהוה אלהי־צבאות שמו

    where מה־שחו is misunderstood as “his messiah” instead of “his thoughts.” Unless the LXX Hebrew text indeed had “his messiah.” Since I like to see these things, a LXX text that doesn’t also compare the Hebrew is too simplistic for my tastes/use. But that’s just me!!

  15. I’ll have to see whether my copy says that at home. I don’t know what to say….

    Nor did my “leather” copy come with an errata list. How many hundreds of pages did it comprise? (Ha! Humor in facing the abyss!)

    Is that the Kohlenberger Parallel Apocrypha you mentioned? I should pick one of those up. I also need to get another REB, as I gave mine away as a gift to an Episcopalian friend.

    To cleanse the mental palette last night, I spent some time browsing through Johanna Manley’s The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox (from SVS Press), a volume that shows the path to be taken for an Orthodox “study Bible.” Ialso have her Psalms volume, but not the Job or Isaiah yet. I think I’ll order those promptly. More cleansing of the mental palette….

  16. Jacob, it’s NOT just you. You’re in very good company of longstanding. It’s exactly readings like that we’ll find the Fathers pick up on and expound, whether they were in the Hebrew or not. The Greek text, whether those are mistranslations or not, is our preferred base text, and several Fathers were adamant about its superiority, some going so far as to proclaim it inspired. In fact, we can only delight in the way that such lemons (errors of transcription) resulted in such delicious lemonade (patristic commentary).

  17. Yep, it’s Kohlenberger’s. I also have a worn used copy of that bulky (think LSJ-size) OOP Triglot Zondervan published: NIV + BHS + Rahlfs LXX (but sans Apocrypha).

  18. I would not wait too long to pick up a Parallel Apocrypha were I in your shoes. It is one of Oxford’s out of print titles, with no current plans to reprint. It is one of several parallel volumes that Oxford let go out of print, others including the Precise Parallel New Testament (NA27/KJV/Rheims (Challoner)/NASB/NRSV/NAB/NIV/”Amplified”) and the Complete Parallel Bible NRSV/REB/NAB/NJB.

    Instead, most of Oxford’s current Parallel New Testaments and Bibles are mostly aimed at an Evangelical market, and often include preliminary versions of different translations (notably, the TNIV). (Oxford also has a Parallel Catholic New Testament).

    As best I know, the only remaining parallel Biblical book with original languages is their useful MT/RSV/LXX/NETS psalter. I can only hope that Oxford will produce a complete parallel Bible in that format.

    Still, I am annoyed that Oxford let these volumes go out of print. The Evangelical market is well served by other publishers in parallel Bibles, and these now out of print volumes by Oxford were quite useful.

  19. Jacob, Fr Freeman and Presvytera Freeman are right to draw attention to those Septuagintal pearls. There are many, and the reader of OSB will be able to read a number of them, but not all of them, because of the pseudo-translation of several of the books. The full beauty of the Septuagint in this regard is insufficiently reflected. It’s as though it’s seen through an old mirror, with large spots of rust that don’t reflect, so all of its beauty cannot be seen in the reflection.

    Iyov, this is the same Parallel Apocrypha that I had in mind from your posting on it some time ago, as I recall. Though it’s out of print, I may just go ahead and get one (and the Psalms one, which sounds nice!) through one of the used booksellers. Sometimes that’s expensive, but I’ve been lucky before. Though it’s not really such a big deal since I usually use Bibleworks for that paralleling, but it doesn’t have the REB, which I quite like.

  20. Here is the Errata sheet:


    (FYI, the “slop” verse correction is re: Luke 10:2)

    E R R A T A
    Page xiii, the list of books in the Protestant Old Testament canon
    should read
    . . .
    . . .
    Page 313, first paragraph under Background, third sentence should
    read “During a time of famine in Israel, Naomi and her Israelite
    family moved to Moab as a matter of survival.”

    Page 319, second paragraph under Major Themes, last sentence
    should read “. . . His miraculous gift of a son to a barren
    woman, . . .”

    Page 1261, heading at top of page should read “Daniel 12:21.”

    Page 1385, Luke 10:2 should read “Then He said to them, ‘The
    harvest truly is great, . . .'”

    Page 1767, the reading for Wednesday of Cheesefare Week should
    read “Joel 2:12-26; Joel 4:12-21.”

  21. Nice! Thanks for that, Jacob.

    Even the errata are not quite right. I wrote about the odd problem with the “Daniel 21” on Page 1261. Pages 1262 will also need to be 12.22 in their solution! And then how will they correct the headers of pages 1237 and 1238, since they, with their peculiar choice of versification, have left Susanna without a chapter number, instead of properly being chapter 1? Ideally, Susanna would be chapter one, each chapter of Daniel would be one number higher, and Bel and the Dragon (what’s with “the Serpent”?) would be chapter 14. If they extend chapter 12, then perhaps they would also extend chapter 1 back to cover all Susanna? Who knows?

    I’d really like to know how that “slop” error came about. A quick search of the NKJV in Bibleworks shows it’s not a word that appears in that version at all.

  22. As for the argument that the Johannine Comma doesn’t exist in any authentic Eastern text of 1 John, and is not part of the Greek tradition — that is not the case. While I am of the opinion that the weight of the evidence argues against the inclusion of that text, the evidence against it is not quite as one sided as is often argued. See this page and this one.

    The fact that it is found in the Slavonic Apostol, used by the majority of the Orthodox Church today, is reason enough to not hang the OSB for including the text with a note that it is probably not original.

    While “divine wind” may be a defensible translation, it is also one that runs contrary to 2,000 years of Church interpretation, and the fact that the NETS went for shows that it is not a reliable translation for Orthodox Christians to use for anything other than comparison.

    You wrote: “The translators are saying nothing about Christian or Jewish doctrine or any such thing, but using an alternate and legitimate understanding of pneuma in this instance, based on their assumptions about what would’ve been understood by this phrase in the original time of its translation, roughly 275 BC.”

    I would argue that they clearly are saying something about Christian doctrine… and being of an iconoclastic liberal bent as the translators of the NRSV were, and as the translators of the NETS probably are as well, this was not a chance reading, but a deliberate departure from the Christian tradition. I suspect there are more such examples, but I only had a few chapters of the OSB which are online to compare with the NETS.

    Could you point out exactly what you see as the substantive differences between Psalm 22 in the OSB and in the LXX?

  23. To kick off 2008, I started a one-year reading program, using the One Year Bible (ESV). When the new OSB came out, I switched over, starting somewhere in Leviticus, Psalm 43, and Mark 10. I’ve temporarily eschewed reading my daily morsel of Proverbs–I’ll go back and read Proverbs in bigger chunks later.

    I’ve greatly enjoyed plowing through the OSB. Here are some ad hoc reflections, in no particular order:

    1) Numbers 24 was an amazing gem–wow, it’s Messianic! It really started dawning on me how the early church read the LXX as her Bible, and seeing Christ everywhere. Wow, Numbers 24 really does belong in the cycle of Christmas readings.

    2) I like reading an OT quotation from the NT, and flipping over to the OT, and finding major agreement for the most part. The editors probably should have corrected the NKJV to fit the new translation of the OT, but that’ll have to wait for the next edition, when they fix the #!&^!@#? slop verse in Luke 10.2. Groan.

    3) I’ve really liked plowing through the Psalms. I think Donald Sheehan at Dartmouth did both the translation and the notes. The editorial comment on Psalm 1:1 by itself might be worth the cost: “The Man in Ps 1 is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Incarnation sets the tone of Psalms, and in the Psalms the incarnate Lord teaches His Church how to pray. This is why Psalms is the prayer book of the Church.” Oh Oh Oh! … I also like how Sheehan (?) shows us the phrase in the superscriptions to the Psalms “to the end/telos” shows us how to read the Psalms, as referring to Romans 10:4, “Christ is the telos of the Law.” The worshipping church is not alienated from the Psalms she prays. We read the OT as Christo-telic.

    4) Most of my adult life, I’ve used the Oxford Annotated RSV as my primary English text. As much I loved my experience at Princeton–if there is such, Bruce Metzger is a Presbyterian saint–I can’t begin to describe how alienating it is to read “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14. The Oxford Annotated throughout is concerned to be a critical introduction to the Bible, with passing reference to issues of faith. By contrast, the OSB is intended to be the Bible of the worshipping community. The Bible is the Church’s book and can only be rightly understood in the context of worship. I’ve become increasingly hostile to the historical-critical method (via Ernst Troeltsch, Van Harvey, et.al.) or the quest for the historical Jesus. By separating the Bible from the Church, or Jesus from the Church, or for that matter, Jesus from the Bible, biblical scholars seek to alienate us from the Bible by manufacturing historical distance. By contrast, I’m delighted by the internal comments throughout the OSB where it notes how a certain passage is used in our liturgical worship. Any given vespers service or Holy Week service provides better intra-biblical connections and biblical interpretation than most NT scholars I tend to read.

    5) I did notice inconsistencies in “poetic scansion” (ooh, I love that phrase) in the Prophets. I’m aggravated that e.g. Isaiah is not presented as poetry, but plain text, like the old KJV used to be. But admit it, isn’t it great to read Isaiah 7:14 or 9:6 as messianic? Handel might not like it, but we don’t get into the weirdness of calling Jesus “Everlasting Father”. Other OSB books preserve the poetic scansion. Several years ago, I translated Habakkuk for the OSB, and also wrote the notes. I don’t have a copy of what I sent to Fr Jack. But it resembles for the most part what I remember. Here I translated Habakkuk entirely from scratch. In retrospect, I wish I had another pass at the book. I also wish I could have had access to Fr Ephrem Lash’s website. C’est la vie. But you’ll note that there’s good reason Habakkuk 3 is one of the eight odes we use during Orthros. You’d never know it from the MT, but Habakkuk 3 is messianic, and the OSB translation reflects the Orthodox Church’s conviction on this point. I wish Habakkuk 3:3 had a better note–“God will come from Teman, the Holy One from the mount of the shaded leafy trees”. I forget what I wrote at the time, but surely the verse deserves a better explanation.

    6) Yes, some OSB notes are banal.

    7) Maybe the prerequisite to becoming Orthodox is being a stinker. We’re awfully critical and hyperscrupulous at times. FYI, chanting at vespers or singing in the choir during Presanctified, I notice some real howlers of misspellings or more serious errata in our service books. I was really prepared to dislike the OSB when it was published, but I’ve been increasingly delighted with it, the more that I use it.

    I have to run to work. Have a blessed Lent.

  24. Father Whiteford, Dean Burgon is well known for his lack of appreciation for the decisions of Westcott-Hort’s criticism. His evidence is not, however, conclusive. His “quotations” by all those Fathers are anything but quotations, and some are plainly wrong. Even all of those cannot be used as evidence of the comma’s presence in the Latin tradition. It’s only in modern times that Eastern texts have included it, precisely through the influence of the Textus Receptus. I recommend to you the very clear exposition on the textual (in)validity of this passage as found in Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the New Testament, s.v. 1 John 5.7-8. There are in fact only eight Greek manuscripts, all late, and all with clear influence from either the Latin or the Textus Receptus itself, as most date to the sixteenth century and later. The passage is not found in any of the ancient versions (Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Arabic or Slavonic) nor is it in the Old Latin or the original Vulgate. It is never quoted by a Greek Father, and is first “quoted” as part of the Latin text in a treatise thought to come from the heretic Priscillian or one of his followers! In the course of the fifth century it is quoted by North African writers and makes its way into the text of the Vulgate through the next couple of centuries. It’s presence in the later Vulgate text is what led to its inclusion in the TR, nothing else.

    The translators of both NRSV and NETS did not make a “deliberate departure” from Christian tradition. If anything it was and is a stupid and faddish translation. I’m not defending it, and think it’s awful translation, but it’s also a minor point and easily corrected. The translators certainly don’t deserve to have their motivations impugned as heretical or iconoclastic! I really can’t stand the NRSV’s proclivities, but the NETS is much better (and particularly thankfully avoids the NRSV’s ridiculous gender neutral gymnastics) and still what the OSB most certainly is NOT: a translation in full of the Septuagint by people who know the Greek and Hebrew very well indeed, edited with care and well-presented in a clear and easily read text. It is a much more nicely produced volume, with much better paper, font, and a binding that would enable it to be rebound in a nicer manner. It would be much easier to use the NETS as a starting point for a proper full Orthodox version of the Septuagint than this hybrid OSB is.

    Regarding Psalm 22, I refer you to my earlier post, where the text of the Greek and of both OSB and NETS is given. You may not see any “substantive” differences there, but it is entirely clear that the OSB is NOT a translation of the original Greek. It is a translation of the Hebrew, and the differences are entirely apparent. I’d say it’s substantive indeed that a translation of the Hebrew is being passed off as a translation of the Septuagint. It’s simply false advertising, and I find that to be indeed truly scandalous.

  25. Esteban, it’s only in my housemates room, so it’s not far! It was a gift (a very nice Cambridge calfskin edition, too!) I thought it appropriate to make to her for her returning to a church after many years as a rather scoffing agnostic. As it was an Episcopalian church, the version of the gift seemed proper.

  26. John, thanks for the fun comment!

    I was really prepared to like the OSB, indeed to love it, if it had been what it was advertised as, which is an actual, full translation of the Septuagint. It would’ve been better to translate the New Testament in full, too. It’s extremely disappointing.

    The messianic readings of the Septuagint are well-known. There are also messianic readings of the Hebrew text that are not represented in the Septuagint, which is not at all as well-known. It would be good (something mentioned by Fr Whiteford above) to work on a truly Orthodox Bible that takes all the ancient versions of the Church in tandem (the current Ecclesiastical texts, and the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Slavonic and all the other ancient versions where available) and produce a Bible that reflects all of them. It would be a massive undertaking, requiring a great deal of expertise, and would require much better attention to detail and a different set of translation principles used than is apparent in the editorial work of the OSB. Patristic commentary, which exists for much of the Bible though not all of it, could be procured and translated into English where necessary. That, I’m sure would be a magnificent Orthodox Bible, and one that would be immensely popular in a much wider circle than even this OSB is. It would take a long time, but would be worth it.

  27. What I saw of the OSB disappointed me in terms of the number, length, and kinds of patristic notes. I know it can’t be a one-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, but it seems seriously deficient in providing the reader with patristic and church comments on the text.

    E.g., you can view online the samples of the OSB comments for Genesis 1:


    (above and by clicking on the “NEXT PAGE” links).

    You can also view online the first several pages from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture for Genesis 1-11 at Amazon.com for comparison:

    http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-Ancient-Christian-Commentary-Scripture/dp/083081471X/ (click on the “Search Inside” image)

    While the intro page to Genesis in the OSB mentions that God created ex nihilo, the footnotes to Genesis 1:


    say nothing of the sort, nor do they make any mention of the Spirit hovering over the waters foreshadowing baptism.

    A smaller font to provide room for more and more in-depth notes should be something the OSB committee should strive for in the next edition to make this an Orthodox STUDY Bible.

  28. Hmmm. Well, Esteban, if it’s that nice, then maybe you’d better watch your coffee around me…. So to speak! Right now, I’d like to figure out a way for you to share in the “fun” of the OSB, by getting a copy to you. Apparently my early receipt of it was something of a fluke even here, and others are still waiting for their pseudo-leather ones. I’ll try to get you a hardback and we’ll figure out how to get it sent to you after that!

  29. As I noted in Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blogpost on the OSB:

    I noticed in Psalm 68 (69) that they include the word “sea” in the first half of verse 3 (“I am stuck in the mire of the sea, and there is no place to stand;”), when the word thalassa (“sea”) only occurs in the Greek text in the second half of the verse (“I came into the depths of the sea, and the storm overwhelmed me.”). I would think the translators should have used italics when they insert words into the text that aren’t there, but are implied by it or added for meaning’s sake, just like the KJV and NKJV and NASB do.

    Also, the OSB translation misses the play between buthou (“depth/deep”) in the first half of the verse and bathē (“depth/bottom/deep water”) in the second half of the verse by leaving any word for “deep” out of the first half of the verse. I.e., they translated “mire of the deep” as “mire of the sea” and created a non-existent repetition of “sea” when what they should be showing is a repeated wordplay with “deep/depth.”

    For comparison, the NETS, more accurately reflecting the Greek where “deep” and “sea” are used, translates it: “I was stuck in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I came into the depths of the sea, and a tempest overwhelmed me.”

    I can’t let nit-picking take over my life, though. Hopefully all the in-depth reviews and comments of the OSB that y’all will be writing will be considered by Conciliar and Thomas Nelson for a future revision.

  30. Those are very good points, Jacob. Translation of poetry should be careful to convey those kinds of parallelisms. Obviously the NETS translator (Albert Pietersma) of the Psalms would agree!

    I also don’t want such nit-picking to take over my life. That’s why I’ve set aside the OSB, and am not going to deal with it on a detailed level. So much of it is so disappointingly shoddy that the good things in it (several of the translations are very good) are overwhelmed by the bad. That’s desperately unfortunate. I will not forget this disappointment for some time.

  31. John Burgon was a great patristics scholar, and I doubt that he claimed a father cited a passage of Scripture without there being a good basis for him to make that claim. One of his biggest criticisms of Tischendorff (which applies to the UBS footnotes, that have simply repeated Tischendorff’s work, without checking it) is that he often claimed a father did or did not support a reading on very dubious grounds.

    Over all, his critique of Westcott and Hort was devastating, and his criticisms are still well worth reading. His essay on the Johannine Comma put him on the thinest ice I have seen him on, and he acknowledges that the case is weaker than his other arguments in defense of the TR, but he does make the case that the reading is not an entirely baseless reading.

    You wrote: “It’s presence in the later Vulgate text is what led to its inclusion in the TR, nothing else.”

    It was included in one of the 5 Greek manuscripts that Erasmus used for the TR.

    As I said, I am of the opinion that the weight of the evidence argues against the Johannine Comma, but having seen how inaccurate Metzger can be in those cases I have studied extensively — such as in the case of the ending of Mark’s Gospel — I am not overly impressed, or inclined to believe that he accurate recounts all the facts. Often he repeats flawed arguments from other scholars that have long been shown to be bogus. The patristic testimony against the ending of Mark was shown to be misrepresented by Burgon more than 100 years ago. There is no excuse for repeating it now.

    You wrote: “The translators of both NRSV and NETS did not make a ‘deliberate departure’ from Christian tradition. If anything it was and is a stupid and faddish translation.”

    You don’t accidentally screw up a text that was read from space, on live television, and is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. You can only screw up a text like that if you are doing it quite on purpose. No Biblical scholar could be unaware of the traditional reading of that text, or of the most natural translation of the words in question. “Deliberate” is fair description.

    Your wrote: “The translators certainly don’t deserve to have their motivations impugned as heretical or iconoclastic!”

    What other possible motives could there be here? They clearly would have us believe that that author of Genesis did not believe the Holy Spirit to be a person… and obviously not that such a person was being referenced in this passage. Protestant scholars are by nature iconoclastic. You don’t get a Ph.D. for simply defending the traditional views of the Church. You only get a Ph.D. for coming up with some new twist on something that no one else has ever had.

    Your wrote: “I really can?t stand the NRSV’s proclivities, but the NETS is much better (and particularly thankfully avoids the NRSV’s ridiculous gender neutral gymnastics)…”

    What do you call “And let us make humankind according to our image…” (Gen 1:26)?

    You wrote: “Regarding Psalm 22, I refer you to my earlier post, where the text of the Greek and of both OSB and NETS is given. You may not see any ‘substantive’ differences there, but it is entirely clear that the OSB is NOT a translation of the original Greek.”

    I don’t see anything of substance that rises to the level of turning the Holy Spirit into a divine impersonal wind.

  32. I don’t see anything of substance that rises to the level of turning the Holy Spirit into a divine impersonal wind. – Fr. John Whiteford

    I was thinking perhaps that the phrasing of Genesis 8:1 might lend support to translating 1:2 (ruach elohim/pneuma theou) as “divine wind,” but the wording of both the Hebrew (weya’aver elohim ruach) and (moreso) the Greek (epēgagen ho theos pneuma) in 8:1 does not, IMO, parallel 1:2 closely enough to offer support for translating 1:2 as “divine wind.”

  33. Right, but I’m not saying that it should be translated “divine wind” at all. This is or was a faddish translation that’s entirely related to this generation’s scholarship. I think it’s stupid, and I certainly don’t think it should read that at all. If anything “Spirit of God” is like “angel of God” in the OT, both Hebrew and Greek, a circumlocution for God Himself. Translating it as “divine wind” is dumb, but it’s understandable according to the wider semantic range of both ruach and pneuma. But this is an academic misprision and not a religious one, certainly unworthy of being categorized as “heretical.” These gentlemen are not heretics, working at drawing the faithful into schism, but academics, who in this single unfortunate case have made a poor choice. So…take out a pencil, correct it and move on.

    Father Whiteford, Burgon was simply misinformed on this point. Whether you object to what Metzger (who was also quite a pious man in his own tradition) concerning another case is irrelevant. Here is the evidence presented from his commentary: [quote]
    (A) EXTERNAL EVIDENCE. (1) The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except eight, and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate. Four of the eight manuscripts contain the passage as a variant reading written in the margin as a later addition to the manuscript. The eight manuscripts are as follows:
    61: codex Montfortianus, dating from the early sixteenth century.
    88v.r.: a variant reading in a sixteenth century hand, added to the fourteenth-century codex Regius of Naples.
    221v.r.: a variant reading added to a tenth-century manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
    429v.r.: a variant reading added to a sixteenth-century manuscript at Wolfenbüttel.
    636v.r.: a variant reading added to a sixteenth-century manuscript at Naples.
    918: a sixteenth-century manuscript at the Escorial, Spain.
    2318: an eighteenth-century manuscript, influenced by the Clementine Vulgate, at Bucharest, Rumania.

    (2) The passage is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers, who, had they known it, would most certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies (Sabellian and Arian). Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin) Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215.

    (3) The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic), except the Latin; and it is not found (a) in the Old Latin in its early form (Tertullian Cyprian Augustine), or in the Vulgate (b) as issued by Jerome (codex Fuldensis [copied A.D. 541-46] and codex Amiatinus [copied before A.D. 716]) or (c) as revised by Alcuin (first hand of codex Vallicellianus [ninth century]).

    The earliest instance of the passage being quoted as a part of the actual text of the Epistle is in a fourth century Latin treatise entitled Liber Apologeticus (chap. 4), attributed either to the Spanish heretic Priscillian (died about 385) or to his follower Bishop Instantius. Apparently the gloss arose when the original passage was understood to symbolize the Trinity (through the mention of three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood), an interpretation that may have been written first as a marginal note that afterwards found its way into the text. In the fifth century the gloss was quoted by Latin Fathers in North Africa and Italy as part of the text of the Epistle, and from the sixth century onwards it is found more and more frequently in manuscripts of the Old Latin and of the Vulgate. In these various witnesses the wording of the passage differs in several particulars. (For examples of other intrusions into the Latin text of 1 John, see 2.17; 4.3; 5.6, and 20.)

    (B) INTERNAL PROBABILITIES. (1) As regards transcriptional probability, if the passage were original, no good reason can be found to account for its omission, either accidentally or intentionally, by copyists of hundreds of Greek manuscripts, and by translators of ancient versions.

    (2) As regards intrinsic probability, the passage makes an awkward break in the sense.

    For the story of how the spurious words came to be included in the Textus Receptus, see any critical commentary on 1 John, or Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 101 f.; cf. also Ezra Abbot, “I. John v. 7 and Luther’s German Bible,” in The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and Other Critical Essays (Boston, 1888), pp. 458-463. [unquote]

    Father Whiteford, the OSB simply isn’t what it claims. Claiming its Old Testament is a translation of the Septuagint is inaccurate. It should not say that. That’s false advertising, and it’s wrong. Regardless of the undoubted merits of having such a Bible, I cannot countenance (and will never, ever recommend) that such a thing be taken as representative of the Septuagint.

    You may pick as many nits in NETS as you wish, but were we to do so, at the end of the day, the pile of picked nits from the OSB (now to be unfortunately known as “The Slop Bible” because of that atrocious typo in Luke 10.2) will undoubtedly be that much larger. It is a simple irreducible fact that NETS is a better representative overall (not in every precise instance) of the Septuagint textual tradition than the OSB can claim to be.

  34. Right, but I’m not saying that it should be translated “divine wind” at all. This is or was a faddish translation that?s entirely related to this generation’s scholarship.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa!

    You are certainly free to disagree with this rendering, but you can hardly argue that this is a recent fad. In the Babylonian Talmud, Chagiga 12a says the correct translation is “wind”; Targum Onkelos agrees; and a long line of medieval Jewish commentators agree including Saadia, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Nachmanides, David Kimchi, and Hizkuni. Samuel David Luzzatto argued for this in 19th century, and in the 20th century Harry Orlinsky (see especially his article in Jewish Quarterly Review 58:2, October 1957, pp. 174-182) and Nahum Sarna have argued for it. There is also a 3rd century amora (Rav Judah in the name of Rav) who argues for this interpretation. Parallels are often drawn with Genesis 8:1, and (although I do not accept this line of reasoning) with parallels with Enuma Elish.

    Again, in the Septuagint, the argument is by parallelism with Genesis 8:1 — so I do not think the NETS translation is outside the scope of interpretation. Note also the influential Christian commentator Benno Jacob argued for this in his 1954 work on Genesis.

    This interpretation also works well with Genesis 3:8 — the cool [lit. breeze] of day — and makes a nice single narrative.

    Now this is not to say that ALL Jewish commentators read Genesis 1:2 this way (Cassuto is a notable exception) — but the majority peshat reading is for “wind” — and the tradition has dates back to the Rabbinic period (or, if one accepts the evidence of Mesopotamian texts, to the ancient Near East.)

    In other words, this is a defensible and historical translation tradition certainly for the Hebrew and even for the Septuagint. Now, it may be contrary to some Christian theological opinion or to some Patristic tradition — but the NETS was not intended, as I understand it, to be a religious translation but rather a scientific translation. I would argue that both religious and scientific translations are useful in providing the widest possible background for understanding the verse.

  35. Yes, Iyov, I know all this, but it’s never made an inroad into English Bible translation until the NRSV. Commentators, yes. But not the actual translation. It’s jarring, unnecessary, and, I think, quite wrong and won’t last long. Among other things, it simply doesn’t work on the level of the language. Yes, ruach/pneuma can both represent wind, and many think it would here. But the problem lies in the nominal and not adjectival word following it: elohim/theou. If it said elohi/theion, then I’d totally agree, and say that the “Spirit of God” is an alternate reading not supported by the text. We might have “wind of God” from either of these if the phrase weren’t used elsewhere with a different meaning. But you cannot have “wind from God” or “divine wind” except paraphrastically in this particular instance. The language itself just doesn’t say that. Related to all this, there is the appearance elsewhere in texts of various ages of ruach elohim/pneuma theou, and those most certianly don’t mean a wind from God or divine wind.

  36. Oh, and when I said “I know all this” I don’t mean to imply that I knew all the interesting detail that you presented from the Rabbinic literature. It’s the rationale that I meant to specify I’m familiar with. It’s mixing apples and oranges.

  37. I do not (and did not above) wish to argue the “correct” translation (or to even argue that the notion of “correct” translation is coherent.) In this comment, I merely wish to comment on its appearance in English Bible translations. I wish to suggest that perhaps one man, Harry Orlinsky, is primarily responsible for its appearance in the RSV footnote, the NJPS, and and the NRSV.

    You recall that I mentioned a 1957 article by Orlinsky above. Orlinsky was the primary translator of the NJPS Torah and included “wind from God” in his 1965 translation (actually Genesis appeared in 1962 in his “First Section”), far earlier than than the NRSV. Orlinsky also served on the RSV and NRSV panels, so it is certainly possible that he argued for identical wording in the NRSV (and the equivalent footnote in the RSV). Later English translations such as the NAB, NEB, and NJB followed suit.

    Orlinsky’s further justified his views in a translation notes which I reproduced here. Orlinsky attributes the interpretation of “Spirit” to Philo and then to Triune Christian theology, both of which postdate the LXX according to traditional accounts.

    We could, of course, argue the “correct” translation at great length, but such an argument is likely to generate more heat than light. I personally believe that attempting to interpret maaseh breishis (or maaseh merkvah) is as much an exercise in mysticism as linguistic analysis.

    In any case, the NJPS, NEB, NRSV, and NAB all mention the “spirit” of God as an alternative. (Interestingly, the NJB includes a footnote explicitly excluding “spirit” of God.)

  38. I think you’re right about Orlinsky. That rings a bell, if only dimly. It must’ve been something Bruce Metzger noted in passing in one of his discussions of the RSV and/or NRSV work. That should be why I associated this “wind from God” with recent stuff, even if it really was 50 years ago (entirely recent in my mind, since I was taught by a man born in 1906, and a saint of mine named Symeon the New Theologian died in the early 12th century). I certainly wouldn’t want to pin the credit/blame solely on him, though, though it’s very likely because of him that it’s in the NRSV, which granted it a certain caché it was earlier lacking, despite its respectable and lengthy history in the rabbinic writings.

    Aside from that (I know you’re not interested in this, but I certainly am!) it’s simply bad form to take a phrase found elsewhere in the corpus (also found in Ex 31.3; 35:31; Num 24.2; 1Sam 10.10; 11.6; 16.5; 16.16; 16.23; 18.10; 19.20; 19.23; 2Chr 15.1) with the very clear meaning as shown by the context of some kind of spirit (of divine inspiration or prophecy, or an inimical/evil spirit as in Saul’s case) sent by God, and say that in one particular instance alone the phrase means something else entirely. Context is everything, and not just the immediate context.

    So, sorry I mixed it up by associating it only with the NRSV. Obviously that’s wrong. But it’s very interesting that all those translations you mention it appears in are, to a one, considered liberal. Many more of both older translations and recent conservative (and some not-so-conservative) translations all opt for “spirit of God” in Gen 1.2 (courtesy of the lovely BibleWorks): American Standard Version (1901), Complete Jewish Bible (1998), Holman (2004), Darby (1884/1890), Douai-Rheims American edition (1899), English Revised Version (1885), English Standard Version (2007), Geneva Bible (1599), Jewish Publication Society (1917), King James Version (1611/1769), Brenton Septuagint Translation, the Modern Greek Bible, New American Standard Bible (1977/1995), New English Translation/NET Bible, New International Version (1984), New King James (1982), New Living Translation, Revised Standard Version, Revised Webster (1995), Webster (1833), Young’s (1862/1898). [That was fun!]

    Anyhow, this is all interesting stuff. Thanks for the comments, Iyov and everyone else!

  39. At the risk of beating a dead-horse:

    I do not understand the usage “liberal” or “conservative” when applied to translation. I can understand terms such as “formal” or “paraphrase”; I can claims that a translations follows a particular exegete or set of exegetes (e.g., a translation that follows Rashi); I can claims that a Bible translation is devotional; but what does “conservative” or “liberal” mean applied to translation?

    For example, most would say Metzger was a “conservative” religious Protestant, and I know “conservative” religious Protestants who praise the NRSV (e.g., Tom Wright).

    As another example, is the Russellite New World Translation liberal or conservative? Is the Joseph Smith version of the Bible liberal or conservative? (In my experience, both Russellites and Mormons tend to be politically and socially conservative). The terminology is not expressive.

    I also find it odd that we apply this terminology to translations of the Bible, but not to other types of translation — even of religious works (e.g., I have not heard “liberal” or “conservative” being applied to translations of Dante).

  40. I am sure Metzger was not being intentionally dishonest, but I have seen how he repeats erroneous scholarship in the very same text you are referencing. And what you provide is another example. He asserts that the reading was unknown in the Old Latin text known to St. Cyprian. However, St. Cyprian quotes the text in his treatise on the Unity of the Church, section 6:

    The Lord says, “I and the Father are one;” and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, “And these three are one.”

    I unfortunately do not have Burgon’s essay on this subject at hand, but he was a first rate patristic scholar… and when he said a father quoted a text, he did so based on his own reading of that father. Greek was literally his mother tongue, and he knew what he was talking about. According to several articles I found online, Raymond Brown, in The Anchor Bible, Epistles of John, p. 782, states that St. Athanasius quotes this passage 3 times in his works.

    Once again, I am not arguing that the reading is correct, but it is not as clear a case as is often presented, and given the fact that (due to the influence of the TR or not) this reading has been used throughout the Orthodox Church for the past several centuries at least, the OSB should not be castigated for retaining that reading, but providing a note that clearly states the reading is not likely original.

    And again, making the Holy Spirit into an impersonal force is not a nit picky kind of issue. I also doubt it is the only example of this sort of distortion of the text… it just happened to be what I found after looking two verses into that translation. The reading is heretical. That does not make the translators bad people. I know many very nice heretics, who sincerely believe what they believe. Clearly, these translators do not believe that the author of Genesis had a concept of the Holy Spirit that is anything like we know it. As heterodox scholars of a liberal bent, they undoubtedly have a flawed view of the doctrine of the Trinity… if they ascribe to that doctrine in any meaningful way. My own Hebrew professor from my college (who is probably a conservative Evangelical, in comparison with most of the translators of the NETS) would give lip service to the doctrine of the Trinity, but argued that it was a Greek construct that answers Greek Platonistic questions, that are no longer relevant to us — and so it was a correct answer to questions Greek Platonists would ask, but a culturally conditioned answer — and not necessarily the answer we needed to concern ourselves with today.

  41. Father Whiteford, Burgon is simply outdated. The evidence for the comma in Cyprian is anachronistic (it is nowhere in earlier and better preserved manuscripts of Augustine, for instance), indicating his treatises have been tampered with, as they all date to later than the establishment of the comma in the mainstream Vulgate tradition. In this, Cyprian is no more a witness to the Old Latin reading (which is preserved in manuscript) than your comment is. If you’re not arguing that it’s authentic, which Burgon and his forced interpretations (and those who cite him to this day) are claiming, then what’s the issue? The Johannine Comma is certainly not original, and does not exist in texts of Eastern versions. Nor does it belong in Eastern Orthodox texts. That it has been there for the last several hundred years is an aberration which is remediable.

    You continue to misunderstand. The translators are not “making the Holy Spirit into an impersonal force.” They’re translating a phrase (wrongly, I and many would argue) in the Hebrew/Greek in an awkward way that is just possible but not likely. There is a vast difference between the two. Their translation says nothing about the Holy Spirit, only about how they are understanding the phrases ruach elohim and pneuma theou in Genesis 1.2.

    I’m sure the translators of the NKJV New Testament were not Orthodox. What does the presence of a translation of the NT done by heterodox say about the value of the OSB? If you’re going to argue that the NETS cannot be used because of its orgin with heterodox translators, you’ll need to do the same with the NKJV and thus the OSB.

    Even still, you ignore the quality of the translation of the vast majority of the NETS. You pick at two words in one verse out of thousands and would reject the rest based on them. That’s your prerogative, but I think it’s mistaken. I will continue to recommend the NETS as it is actually what it claims to be: a translation of the Septuagint. I cannot recommend the OSB as a translation of the Septuagint because it is in too many places obviously NOT. That, Father, is false advertising, a lie, and that is wrong. People want a real translation of the Septuagint, and are being handed the OSB as if it is. That’s wrong!!! The best Septuagint translation right now is NETS, despite any shortcomings. Peter Papoutsis, an Orthodox layman, is working on a Septuagint, but I haven’t seen it. Orthodox priest Fr Laurent Cleenewerck is organizing an entire translation of the Bible which I’ve actually contributed to only in small part due to other committments, but his NT is very good. Others are leaping aboard his ship in horror at the OSB. Good! Something good will come of this OSB, but I doubt that it’ll be a second edition of it! It’s “translational” premises are wrong, and the good translations are outweighed by the bad. Sometimes the best a thing can do is make one recoil from it and go a different direction.

  42. Iyov, the “liberal” versus “conservative” regarding translations is just stuff I’ve heard others use. Traditionalist Catholics, for instance, avoid the NAB, calling it “liberal”, preferring the Douai-Rheims translation as “conservative” (and as based directly on the Latin). Among the Eastern Orthodox, the the RSV is considered more “conservative” than the NRSV, which is labeled as “liberal” particularly for its gender-neutral language, and for various translational choices. It’s a wider perception among users that the theological and academic issues driving a particular translation are sourced in a liberal or conservative worldview.

    What I find actually funny is that the RSV, which was tossed into book burning pyres soon after its publication because of its translation of Isaiah 7.14, and decried as liberal (in that bad way, like women wearing their skirt-hems above the knee or men walking about in public without a hat!) quite loudly, is now in a different generation considered a conservative translation!

  43. Burgeon may be dated in some respects, but most of what he says about Wescott and Hort’s text and theories is still spot on, and a devastating critique. Have you read any of his works? I would strongly recommend them. His comments on the ending of Mark have been largely echoed by William Farmer, in his book on the same subject.

    The argument that St. Cyprian did not quote this reading, because the reading did not exist in his time is a case of question begging. You concede that a Spanish heretic quoted it in the fourth century. Obviously, if he quoted in the fourth century, he did so from some text which at least some people accepted as authoritative. There is no reason to believe that this reading did not exist in some manuscripts in St. Cyprian’s day.

    The translation of Genesis 1:2 does say something about the Holy Spirit, and they are saying something about the Holy Spirit by translating it they way they do. I never said that the fact that the translators of the NETS were heretics made the text unusable. It is their heretical translation which intentionally flies in the face of 2,000 years of Church Tradition that makes the text unusable.

    The Johannine Comma is at worst a pious insertion into the text of something that is completely consistent with Orthodox theology. The NETS reading in Genesis 1:2 is a heretical distortion of the text.

    I don’t consider the RSV a conservative translation by any stretch. It is certainly not as bad as many, but it was certainly done by scholars of a primarily liberal bent… and by at least one non-Christian. The NRSV is worse of course, and I suppose the New World Translation is worse still… but since there are far better options, why use either one? The OSB may not be perfect, and perhaps a better option will be published at some point… but at this point it is the best option in English, and it would be far more productive to focus on what can make it better than to dismiss it, and promote a far worse text. I plan on getting a copy of the NETS for reference, and for that purpose, I think it is fine. But to suggest a typical laymen rely on such a translation as a primary translation of the Old Testament is very misguided in my opinion.

  44. As for what is considered liberal or conservative, one must keep in mind that this is always relative to something else. Stalin was probably a conservative compared to Trotsky, but both were radicals in comparison with almost anyone else outside the realm of Bolshevism. A conservative Anglican today is one who believes in the Deity of Christ. Such an Anglican would generally have been a liberal Anglican a century ago. The fact that something is conservative relative to something else, doesn’t make it conservative in relation to the Tradition of the Church.

  45. Father Whiteford, it’s not question-begging to suggest that Cyprian’s text has been tampered with, but simple induction. Is it likely that third century Cyprian happened to have a text of the Comma identical to its medieval form and fourth/fifth century Augustine, mere miles from Carthage, didn’t? What would be the likelihood that various altered forms of this comma appear starting with a heretic’s treatise two centuries after Cyprian would then develop through texts and centuries to eventually match the Cyprianic text? Or did an unscrupulous medieval scribe simply insert it in various of Cyprian’s works because he knew it and it supported Cyprian’s arguments? Why would it not have been used in the Christological and Pnematological controversies if it had existed? I daresay that we will not find in any Eastern work the phrasing “Father, Word, and Holy Spirit”! If it is truly of Priscillianist origin, then this is some kind of slogan from a gnostic-dualistic heresy, and should be excised from every Bible.

    I know of Dean Burgon’s various works. I know he has quite a following, but harking back to an earlier stage of textual criticism is mere obscurantism. If one is to confront a textual matter, the current tools, texts and methods must be used, and current information on critical editions of the works of the Fathers and on the various textual traditions are paramount to understand the issues. Burgon is completely out of date in that respect, so he is useless. His argumentation may be interesting, but things have developed too much since his time for him to be of primary value.

    Father, I think it’s clear we agree at least in finding one another’s approach to the OSB misguided! Orthodox Christians are now buying the OSB not just as a Bible, but as a Bible that has an Old Testaement claimed to be a translation of the Septuagint. They’re quite excited about that. Were it true, we could all rejoice! But instead, it is clear we’ve been lied to. It is not fully a Septuagint by any means, and it is entirely unhelpful to gloss over this. If someone asks me (and they have, by the way) for a good English translation of the Septuagint, I am of course going to recommend the NETS (as indeed I have), even with its problems in not being designed for devotional reading, but academic study. When Peter Papoutsis’ translation is done, I’ll get a copy of his, and will very likely recommend that. When someday, Fr Cleenewerck’s is done, I’ll get a copy of that and likely recommend it, too. I know, from what I know of those gentlemen, that both of those translations are actual translations of the Septuagint and will be much better than the OSB, but they’re unfortunately not complete yet. The OSB would require so much of an overhaul that I doubt Nelson would even consider it. It would require a new project, new editing, new contributions. A second edition would have to be an entirely different book for it to begin to be acceptably categorized as a translation of the Septuagint. (I leave completely to the side the issue of the jejune annotations!) I am distressed that people are digging into the OT (or rather the “St Athanasius Academy Septuagint

  46. I’m not sure that I understand the proposed definition of “conservative” or “liberal”. Kevin suggests that this is simply common terminology (the way other people use the term) — which is a very clever answer, but also hints that the way people use the term is consistent (which is not at all clear). Moreover, it suggests the term is meaningless without common usage, which means that we have no way to judge whether a particular new translation (“translation X”) is liberal or conservative until a popular consensus has formed about it — which begs the question of how the popular consensus forms. For example, can we generally say (to deliberately misinterpret Kevin’s words) that translations made from the Vulgate are more conservative than translations made from the Greek (or Hebrew)?

    Father Whiteford suggests that the identity of the people who made the translation determines whether a translation is liberal or conservative: “I don

  47. Sorry, my last paragraph was mangled: I meant to say —

    The latter notion (b) poses a real problem for Protestants who claim to adhere to a purely Biblically-based theology because by definition, such believers claim to read Scripture afresh and not necessarily adhere to any particular tradition-based interpretation.

  48. Close, Iyov. My own perspective on what’s a “liberal” versus “conservative” translation is different from my clever answer (which I enjoyed!) that “people say” this kind of thing, but is more related, as you noted, to the streams of tradition within which the different translations appear, which are several. (I think of paraphrase/literal in those terms, not as liberal/conservative.) So, yes, for the Roman Catholic crowd, the Vulgate used to be the required text (and still is for the mass in Latin), which was translated into English in the Douai-Rheims (and some partial earlier translations; I’ve reworked the Douai-Rheims NT Introduction and OT Introduction to be more readable, which describes some of that). In the wake of Vatican II, the Latin Vulgate was no longer required as the basis for translation, and there we have the New American Bible (which is required to be used in English services), and the New Jerusalem Bible, both in the Catholic tradition, but very different from anything before. I think that’s why they were labeled by people more comfortable with the older translations “liberal,” just because they didn’t hold to the older tradition. “Innovation” is, after all, in some quarters quite a dirty word.

    And generally, I think English-speaking people would agree that something closer to the King James Version is somehow more traditional and therefore more conservative, so influential was the KJV. We run into this even in my Greek Orthodox parish, where the English reader prefers more “traditional” translations, that is, ones closer to the KJV, followed by the Greek reader reading the ancient Greek, of course.

    I really do think the King James Bible is the standard by which English translations are judged either “conservative” or “liberal.” That these two terms map to “traditional” and “innovating” is not too surprising that way. And that is a completely separate issue, though the terms are the same, for the groups using those descriptors to label their social perspectives. That is, an innovating/liberal translation doesn’t require an innovating/liberal reader, etc. As Fr Whiteford said above, there’s the issue of context, too. One man’s conservative translation (the RSV) is another man’s liberal one!

  49. Note that a translation such as the “Living Bible” or even the NIV, which vary substantially from the KJV, are “innovating” but still “conservative” by most accounts.

    Similarly, the D-R enjoys a status not enjoyed by Knox’s translation of the Vulgate. I note that Knox was severely criticized by his contemporaries for liberalism. Nonetheless, Knox clearly follows the traditional Latin more closely than the various Challoner revisions of the D-R (which, as many critics point out, are closer to the KJV than the Latin). So arguably, the Challoner D-R is more “innovating” and yet more “conservative.”

    [Note: And to add to the ironies, the most widely read Vulgate today, the Nova Vulgata, is as much a product of “liberal scholarship” as the RSV.]

  50. As for the text of St. Cyprian’s treatise. There is also a theory that the Johannine Comma gained what popularity that it had based on the influence of his citation. In any case, it is speculation to argue that this citation was a later gloss, without any manuscript evidence to base such an argument upon. The fact is, in the text we have, he does cite it. To assert then, as Metzger does, that St. Cyprian was unaware of it, without so much as noting that this text does cite it, is sloppy scholarship at best.

    I would recommend you read Burgon before you make the determination that his writings are useless. I would also suggest you read Thomas Oden’s stuff… particularly, After Modernity… What?, or if you can get your hands on the original version of that boook “Agenda for Theology” read that. The assumption that that which is new is better is one you should question. Yes, textual criticism has developed since Burgon… but I would argue it has developed mostly in the wrong direction. Burgon’s assumptions were generally more consistent with those of the Orthodox approach to tradition. The Wescott-Hort approach is essentially based on the assumption that the Holy Spirit has not preserved the text, that the Church has not preserved it either, and that one must reconstruct it based on a few early manuscripts that differ substantially from the text preserved in almost every other manuscript, translation, or patristic quote that we have.

    I have very little faith in contemporary academia, particularly in the field of Biblical Studies.

    There are contemporary scholars who have essentially argued in favor of Burgon’s approach, so one doesn’t have to depend on his work alone, but unlike most textual critics, he was also a Patristic scholar, and so when he talks about citations in the Fathers, he is not simply repeating someone else’s erroneous scholarship without checking it himself (like Metzger and most other contemporary scholars have done), but based his comments on his own readings of the fathers.

  51. Fr Whiteford, now that’s certainly begging the question. The manuscript evidence for 1 John is conclusive. There is no evidence of a biblical text of Cyprian’s time that would have included the comma, not in any language. That”s just a fact. And it would require, according to his usage of it as explicitly stated to be Scripture, that they would be in there. The rank impossibility of that leads to the conclusion that his text has been tampered with. A late manuscript of Cyprian tied with an identical late text of the comma is conclusive proof that the comma in this case is intrusive. You can’t seriously argue in the face of all the versional evidence, East and West, that the comma is authentic, Burgon or no Burgon!

    I realize that you have little faith in contemporary academia, particularly in the field of Biblical Studies, but you misunderstand me. I have my own issues with many of the conclusions presented as fact within this field. That doesn’t mean that sloppy scholarship may be excused simply when it counters them. It means that more rigorous work needs to be done in order to obtain better answers. And that work must utilize the methods and tools developed over the course of the last century, like the Robinson-Pierpont edition of the Byzantine Text of the New Testament, which is available both in print and free online. It is a product of modern textual criticism, and nothing to be sneezed at. Many of the tools and certainly the methods themselves are objectively effective, though many of the conclusions reached in using them may be wrong.

    Your impression of Metzger is wrong. He was certainly familiar with the Fathers, and read and worked with them in a variety of languages which is rarely paralleled. There may be points on issues of text that you disagree with, and that’s fine. But he was a much better scholar than Burgon was, and than either of us. I would recommend to you particularly Metzger’s Text of the New Testament (the older edition is preferable to the one with Bart Ehrman) and particularly his Early Versions of the New Testament. In addition, Kurt and Barbara Aland’s Text of the New Testament: an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Now you may disagree with their findings, but the methods are available to everyone, and you may counter them as you will. You must, however, know them to do so.

  52. Iyov, I think that’s only secondarily the case. I remember when the NIV was new back in 1984 it was chided for being too “liberal” in the sense of paraphrastic, and not appropriately “conservative” in literal translation like the KJV. The NASB had a much better reception that way, right around the same time. But it’s definitely the case that the NIV is now perceived as conservative due to its use by social conservatives, but this is a secondary issue to the text itself.

    Even within the NIV, within the constraints of its paraphrase, they clearly follow along the KJV traditional lines in punctuation, which makes for striking differences in, say, John 1 between the NIV and NRSV. The former is more recognizably related to the KJV than the latter, even right at verses three and four. The same kind of non-traditional punctuation comes into play in some of Paul’s letters (I can’t recall exact examples) which make some of the text in the NRSV only vaguely familiar, while in the NIV, even with its more paraphrastic text, the passages are recognizable. So, it’s a bit more complex than even just the literal/paraphrastic spectrum of the language, but I suppose the wider traditional input of a variety of approaches to the text, including the text itself, punctuation, and then translational style itself.

  53. I’m sure Metzger is sorely missed by many, and his absence will perhaps be most greatly felt at the Evangelical Theological Society conference in Providence, Rhode Island, November 19-21, where the theme will be “Text and Canon”:


    It’s open to non-members, for a low registration fee, and as in the past, I expect all the sessions will be taped and available on MP3 CDs for those who want to hear all the discussions. (The pre-order price – pd. when mailing in your registration – is usually at a great discount from the price for the CDs at the conference.)

  54. You wrote: “Fr Whiteford, now that’s certainly begging the question. The manuscript evidence for 1 John is conclusive. There is no evidence of a biblical text of Cyprian’s time that would have included the comma, not in any language.”

    Me: Yes there is… St. Cyrpian quotes from it in all the manuscripts of his treatise on the unity of the Church which we have. That is evidence that it existed during his time. If you had some version of St. Cyprians treatise that did not quote from it, then you would have evidence to support your assertion that this was a gloss. As it is, you have you only speculation, based on the circular assumption that it must be a gloss because it could not have been in a text in the 3rd century. But if it certainly was in a text in the 4th century, and it is quoted in all the available texts of a 3rd century writer, there is no reason at all to assume that there could not have been such a text in the 3rd century.

    KE: “You can’t seriously argue in the face of all the versional evidence, East and West, that the comma is authentic, Burgon or no Burgon!”

    Me: I have repeatedly stated that I was not making any such argument. Only that the reading is older and has more support than you are admitting to. I would not object to any text that omitted these reading (though it’s historical importance probably at least warrants a margin note), but I would also not get too worked up about any text that included it. The St. Tikhon Apostol includes, for example.

    KE: “And that work must utilize the methods and tools developed over the course of the last century, like the Robinson-Pierpont edition of the Byzantine Text of the New Testament, which is available both in print and free online. It is a product of modern textual criticism, and nothing to be sneezed at. Many of the tools and certainly the methods themselves are objectively effective, though many of the conclusions reached in using them may be wrong.”

    Me: The methods and “tools” of textual criticism are all based on assumptions that are not provable in any “scientific” way, and those assumptions are either good or bad… consistent with an Orthodox view of Scripture and Tradition or not. I would argue that much of what is passed off as objective scientific methodology here is anything but that, and rooted in rationalistic and anti-traditional assumptions. Burgon, while still a Protestant, and thus not completely in line with our way of approaching the text, is far closer than most of the alternatives. I would encourage you to read his essay on the ending of St. Mark’s Gospel, for starters. The Johannine Comma is the weakest textual issue for the Textus Receptus, but in my opinion, the ending of Mark is the weakest link in the Wescott-Hort, UBS, Nestle-Aland position.

    KE: “Your impression of Metzger is wrong. He was certainly familiar with the Fathers, and read and worked with them in a variety of languages which is rarely paralleled. There may be points on issues of text that you disagree with, and that?s fine. But he was a much better scholar than Burgon was, and than either of us. I would recommend to you particularly Metzger’s Text of the New Testament (the older edition is preferable to the one with Bart Ehrman) and particularly his Early Versions of the New Testament.”

    Me: You can make that assertion all you want, but I only know that I have caught Metzger repeating demonstrably false information regarding the ending of St. Mark’s Gospel — and the facts were out there and available, had he been inclined to acquaint himself with them. I have not found Burgon to have repeated demonstrably false information that he should have known better of. Also, if you haven’t read Burgon, on what basis do you reach this conclusion?

    KE: “In addition, Kurt and Barbara Aland’s Text of the New Testament: an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Now you may disagree with their findings, but the methods are available to everyone, and you may counter them as you will. You must, however, know them to do so.”

    Me: I am familiar with those methods. It has been about 20 years since I made an extensive study of the issue, but I read scholars on all sides, and even debates between opposing scholars on the issue. I began the study with no opinion one way or the other (before hand I used translations based on the UBS/ Nestle-Aland, not knowing the issues behind those editions), and became convinced that the Majority Text approach was the one that made the most sense… and after I became Orthodox, the idea that the text which has been preserved throughout the Church is the most reliable text made even more sense.

  55. Father Whiteford, you’re misunderstanding me. The methods of textual criticism and its tools (which are critical texts of patristic writers, in particular) are objective. It’s the way that they’re wielded which can lead to errors. The data given by Metzger above is objective. Your conclusions may vary, but the data itself is unquestionable. Metzger and the others use the objective data in regards to various other points too, like the ending of Mark, yet their conclusions can be just as wrong as anyone else’s. The data is not the issue, but the interpretation of it. The methods and the tools stand to one side to be used by anyone. And if you know them very well, then you can use them, too.

    There are no third century texts of Cyprian, so we most certainly cannot say that the actual text of Cyprian is exactly as he left it and that he included the comma or something like it in his original. In fact, we know that his text is not as he left it, and that it has been worked over in several different directions, leading to divergent texts. We learn all that from the people that have done the work to compile those texts and examine their differences. It does no one any good to ignore that work or demean it. The Johannine Comma appears in the late fourth century among the Priscillianists. Is that not early enough for you?

    For me, it matters not too much what the precise original of the text was, as the Byzantine/Majority Text of the New Testament is the sacred text of the Church, whatever its age, just as the complicated families of texts called the Septuagint is our Old Testament. Our printed texts should reflect that tradition, and certainly not the later pseudo-critical Textus Receptus, which is too contaminated precisely by Latin readings. Certainly the modern UBS critical edition makes a hash of things, as it is guided by some questionable assumptions, so different conclusions are reached. The same methods, however, may be used to good effect, as in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Majority Text edition that I linked to in an earlier comment.

  56. You wrote: “Father Whiteford, you’re misunderstanding me. The methods of textual criticism and its tools (which are critical texts of patristic writers, in particular) are objective.”

    Me: On what basis do you assert that the methods of textual criticism are objective? Says who? By what standard? Which set of methods? These methods are based on particular cultural, theology, and philosophical assumptions, and those assumptions are not objective undeniable truths.

    KE: “It’s the way that they’re wielded which can lead to errors. The data given by Metzger above is objective. Your conclusions may vary, but the data itself is unquestionable. Metzger and the others use the objective data in regards to various other points too, like the ending of Mark, yet their conclusions can be just as wrong as anyone else’s.”

    Me: When they list fathers as supporting the omission of the ending of Mark, simply on the basis that they do not quote from Mark’s ending… when in some cases they never quoted from the Gospel of Mark at all in the writings we have from them, that is not objective data… that is a dishonest twist on the data which completely misrepresents the actual facts, and this sort of nonsense is repeated without most folks checking out the actual data (what the texts actually say or do not say).

  57. Yes, Father, those are misuses of the methods. The methods utilized in textual criticism are themselves very general principles that are based upon observation of scribal practice based in actual, real, manuscripts, observable by anyone. This is called lower criticism, and it is objective. You’re objecting to higher criticism, which is the subjective theorizing done to explain why a particular text is as it is. Higher criticism is well-known for overreaching itself. Lower criticism is, however, the foundation for all of the rest and is objective, because it would actually present the text, say very specific, limited, objective things about it, and then leave it at that. Higher criticism is the one that goes crazy with it, that has essentially no controls, but that dead Germans thought was more impressive so they gave it the “higher” name, and the good, objective work the “lower” name. It’s really a case of “the first shall be last,” etc.

  58. I don’t know if anyone else has commented on this; if so I haven’t seen it.

    The notes in Genesis, at the Hospitality of Abraham, specifically state that the three men are the Lord and two angels. From what I understand, the idea that that was a manifestation of the Trinity is not dogmatized or anything, but surely that belief is important enough to be mentioned, especially considering the famous Icon (which is reproduced in the OSB, and labeled as being the Holy Trinity or the Hospitality of Abraham.)

  59. Thanks for mentioning that, Peter. That’s a perfect example of another missed opportunity. It really should have been explained in detail since the icon is actually included in the volume.

    And about that icon: why not use an image of the Rublev Hospitality of Abraham instead of one of the modern knock-offs of it? To say nothing of its spiritual value, the Rublev original is a universally recognized artistic masterpiece, so beautiful that even the atheist Bolsheviks didn’t destroy it. The one in the OSB? Not so much.

  60. Kevin,

    Since you seem to know some of the people (or know of them) who are working on new Orthodox translations of the LXX and the NT, would you care to put in a plug for all of us regarding the quality of binding and paper and type face??? 🙂 How nice it would be to have a Bible that reflects the full beauty of Orthodoxy. I know it would be expensive, and perhaps require two volumes, but I suspect it would be a hit. I would buy my share!

    Kevin B.

  61. Oh, give me a break…do you really think the OSB was done for academic eggheads like you!? It is very readable and the notes are useful and if Orthodoxy is about ‘who is a heretic and who isn’t’ then I fear for our future ! I am sure the OSB version ISN’T perfect…but it is a wonderful translation that will bring many to the faith and nourish many of us who are. For the rest of you, all I can say is “complain, complain, complain!”

  62. Well, Kevin, that the OSB OT is not by any stretch of any standard “a wonderful translation” is an issue. That it claims to be a full translation of the Septuagint, and is not, is likewise an issue, as this is misleading at best and false advertising at worst. How is it acceptable to slap the label “Orthodox” on it and expect it to receive a pass by that? There are quite a number of people, “academic eggheads” or not, Orthodox or not, who take issue with the OSB, whether on the issue of the translation itself (which is the first issue I have brought up), the physical quality of the volume itself (which is low), or the notes and articles, claimed to be full of Patristic wisdom when they are not — more false advertising. The whole thing, for the length of time of its preparation (roughly fifteen years, all told), is a serious disappointment.

    When you can come up with serious Orthodox reasons for why this is acceptable, you’ll find an audience. However, when you use such language as you did in your comment, before my editing it, you show that you have a way to go before you’ll have one.

  63. My apologies for the offensive language! You are correct to rebuke me for that!

    But if you want something worthy of all the blog space, rather than criticising a translation that will bring many to the Holy Orthodox Church and nourish many more (including this reader – a philosophy major with an English minor, and a journalist – here’s one: why do we continue to have 11 non-canonical Orthodox “jurisdictions” in the U.S., which presents a contradiction to our culture between the “unity” of the faith and Church which we proclaim and the ecclesiastical reality? Why are you and your bloggers obsessing about a positive contribution to Orthodox evangelism in the U.S. (the OSB) and failing to rail about that which is perhaps the greatest obstacle to the growth of Orthodoxy in America??

  64. Thank you for the apology, Kevin.

    I’ll say this: you need to broaden your scope. The Orthodox Study Bible is not just an American phenomenon, but an issue of the Orthodox Church, which is most certainly not solely an American phenomenon. My concern is with the accurate presentation of the faith of the Church, and not problems that exist solely in one geographical territory, particularly a problem with a very specific cause related to the nature of that territory as a nation of immigrants. That problem is very well-known, and will be addressed in time by the hierarchs responsible for its solution. Harping on the issue will help precisely this much: not at all.

    The OSB, on the other hand, seems to many not to be a problem at all, and that certainly needs to be addressed. Is it a “positive contribution” that the notes and articles of the OSB are not only misconstruable but in part heretical? Is its lack of quality a “positive contribution”? A bookbinding nun I know is shocked that the “leather” edition has a glued binding — that’s simply not done. Is its misrepresentation of its Old Testament as a translation of the Septuagint a “positive contribution”?

    Lastly, the others blogging with issues about the OSB are not “my” bloggers, but different people who, like me, have been greatly disappointed by this OSB, and so have been describing why this book is unworthy of the “Orthodox” in its title. None of the points I raised in the post above are fabrications, incorrect, or even equivocal. Something very bad has happened here with the OSB and that needs to be aired.

  65. You responded [of the jurisdictional mess in the U.S.]:

    “That problem is very well-known, and will be addressed in time by the hierarchs responsible for its solution.”

    I appreciate your faith in our hierarchs! (By the way it is not only the responsibility of the hierarchs to solve this problem -the laity has an important role too !)

    But after having expressed such faith in our hierarchs over one significant matter [unresolved for many years], I find it interesting that you are so critical of the Orthodox Study Bible, which the hierarchs in America (and some abroad) have given their imprimatur to and for which many of them served as the edition’s “Overview Committee”?

    Maybe you should send a letter of protest to the book’s “Overview Committee”, including its twelve (12) hierarchs, and then do as you suggested on the other matter– let those with responsibility address its solution!

  66. Kevin, you perhaps need a little more of the “behind the scenes” information. The fact of the matter is that not all those hierarchs saw the OSB prior to its publication (indeed and probably still have not!) nor did they know that they were part of such an “Overview Committee.” They certainly do not give an imprimatur to it by their names having been included while they have had nothing to do with it.

    What is this “the laity has an important role too”? Would you turn Orthodoxy into some kind of congregationalist claptrap? The role of the laity is prayer and obedience. And you too should have faith in your hierarchs. They are graced by God with charisms for their duties, which the laity is not.

  67. “Would you turn Orthodoxy into some kind of congregationalist claptrap? The role of the laity is prayer and obedience.”

    With respect, you are dead wrong on this point. Laity’s role goes far beyond just prayer and obedience in ecclesiastical life. Your defintion (prayer and obedience) is the exclusive purview of the monastic community, NOT the faithful laity (whose role is NOT and has never been passivity).

    Many times throughout Orthodox Christian history hierarchical decisions – including ‘reunification’ with Rome! – were rejected by the Orthodox faithful. This is nothing new and most certainly not “congregationalism”. I am sure you are very aware of this fact.

    Laity are and have been directly involved in the election of hiererchas. These include:

    * The election (prior to 1923) of the Ecumenical Patriarch (inc. laity)
    * The election of Patriarch Alexius II of Moscow (in.c laity)
    *The elections of Archbishoip Chrysostom of Cyprus and Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria (inc. laity)

    The Apostolic Constitution states:
    “Let the Bishop be ordained after he has been chosen by the people…”

    You write: “They are graced by God with charisms for their duties, which the laity is not.”

    Paul Evdokimov writes: “every baptized person is sealed with the gifts, anointed with the Holy Spirit in his very essence. Every lay person is the priest of his or her existence, offering (to God) his entire life and existence.” He goes on to call the Sacrament of Chrismation “the sacrament of universal priesthood…” To say that the position of lay people in the Holy Church is passive, Evdokimov states is “a flagrant conbtradiction of what the Church Fathers teach.”

    Fr. Dimitrios Constantelos writes: “It was neither the apostles (the bishops) nor the presbyters (priests) by themselves, but the whole church that determined the council’s actions and deliberations. It was nearly two centuries later, when, for several reasons, the Episcopal office emerged as the leading office, that bishops became either the only or the dominant participants in a council. The earliest church councils, in which the clergy and the laity both participated in imitation of the apostolic church, were held during the second half of the second century in Asia Minor to refute the misleading teachings of the Montanists.”

    My main point, though, is that on the one hand you tell me to “let the hierarchs address…”, that the role of the laity is “prayer and obedsiance”, etc. and then you spend all this blog time criticizing the OSB, which — unless the Editors have published the names of our hierachs falsely in bad faith — indicates 12 of them by individual name as the “Overview Committee”! Did the Editors lie?

    By the way, have any of these hierarchs – whom you claim did not see the book before its publication, or even know they were on the “Overview Committee” – made critical public comments about the validity of the edition since its publication, or protest their names being published in the front of the edition?

    I will be most happy to check with Fr. Peter Gillquist (and get back to you) on whether most of the hierachs listed in the publication did not know [as you state] that they were part of the

  68. You have much to learn, Kevin, about Orthodoxy.

    You quote the Apostolic Constitutions, a work with which I’m very familiar. It’s wrong to do so, because it is an Arian work, rejected explicitly by the Church.

    You do not understand that different charisms are given to the laity and the hierarchy. That’s surprising. Ask a bishop about it sometime. Ask a bishop about the role of the laity in his selection and ordination, for instance, or the role of the laity in an Ecumenical Council for that matter. Be prepared to be disappointed.

    My sources are not mistaken. You may not like the implications, but it’s reality. Note that I did not say “most” but “some.” It is perhaps the case that most of them did not see it and didn’t know they were on this “committee.” Some of them did not. Draw your own conclusions regarding the impropriety of such matters.

    What nit-picking is going on here? Nothing of what I’ve brought up are inconsequential matters of opinion, but serious concerns regarding integrity and a proper presentation of Orthodoxy, whether for internal Orthodox consumption or as a presentation of Orthodoxy to the English-speaking world.

    Do you suggest some large number of members are better than preserving Orthodoxy?! You want more people in the Church, but educated wrongly on Her doctrines? What happens when they’re confronted with the real thing? When will these members finally be considered worthy to be treated as adults and to be taught the True Faith?

    Nowhere do I object to the influx of Protestant converts, and I never would. I do, however, strenuously object to this glib, superficial, uninformed, dishonest and unOrthodox approach to the Faith that is being presented as Orthodox.

    The OSB neglects proper Orthodox theology and the precision of its formulation and expression for what? Watered down pap, Orthodoxy Lite. Actual heresy appears in those OSB notes in places. That is completely unacceptable.

    If you were upset with what I’ve written to this point, be prepared for more. After having looked at some of the notes in depth, it’s time. The gloves come off now….

  69. I will leave it at this and let you and your blog buddies continue to obsess over the OSB and its imperfections. But I will say: elitism and fundamentalism are a real problems in the Orthodox Church in the U.S. and frankly these pheneomena are directly tied to spiritual pride. Lord Have Mercy.

  70. You are calling “elitism and fundamentalism” what many others call “concern for properly expressed Orthodox theology.” That’s not our problem, but yours, Kevin. It is certainly some kind of obsessive pride that continually excuses error and defends a substandard product that will lead unwary Orthodox and others astray, possibly even into heresy, through poor phraseology and accustoming people to “theology lite.” There’s absolutely no excuse for that.

    Lord have mercy!

  71. …yes, well I am sure you have been appointed the job of determining – for the Orthodox Church – what is properly expressed Orthodox theology” and what is and isn’t “theology lite”!

  72. Nice, Kevin. Are you aware that there are a number of hierarchs (whose job that actually is, by the way) who are not happy with the OSB? Are you aware that there is a growing number of people (as soon as they receive copies, it seems, the howls begin!) trained in Orthodox theology that are likewise not happy with it? Are you aware that iconographers and even bookbinders find it substandard?

    Let’s take a look at some theology lite OSB style, shall we? Shall we take a page from the OSB and start referring to God as “They”? Hmm? Oh, yeah, that’s soundly Orthodox, all right! Ever heard of tritheism? It’s a heresy. And this loose language is precisely pointing toward it, the thought of three Gods. That’s dangerous and entirely unacceptable for a so-called Orthodox Bible that supposedly accurately reflects Orthodox theology. Precision and accuracy of theological language is paramount to Orthodox theology!

    No one, least of all me, is saying that Orthodox theology can only be expressed in long-winded esoteric tracts in theological journals with a readership of precisely five seminarians. What I and others are saying is that even the simpler expressions of Orthodox theology, whether outward-facing works designed for evangelisation or inward-facing works for the spiritual nourishment of Orthodox laity, need to be entirely and absolutely CORRECT theologically. This is not the case with the Orthodox Study Bible, which is scandalous.

    Another thing. The next time you go trolling around various people’s blogs leaving comments on your objections to their critiques, try to be a bit less petulant. Such a practice may actually make your comments seem to have some substance to them.

  73. Hm… Kevin, I wish to believe that your intentions are good here, but I think (and forgive me if I wrong you) that your manner is rather unbecoming. It seems to me that it would be valuable (no matter how thoroughly you dislike the OSB) to maintain a little more humility about your conclusions and suspicions, and a little more respect for those that do, in fact, approve of the OSB (especially those in authority in the Church – “protestant converts” or not). Charity seems always to be called for… sarcasm and cynicism – honestly I have to doubt their usefulness in any situation.

  74. Mikey, there’s no sarcasm or cynicism involved. The problems with the OSB are real. I understand the appeal to charity, but in the face of wrongly and dangerously, sometimes even heretically phrased theology, such is not an issue. These are not simply my conclusions, but those of quite a number of people, both willing to speak on the matter and not, including even Orthodox hierarchs and monastics. I know that I’m in very good company indeed. The OSB is a mess, and the reaction is not a personal one, but one that is common to those of us Orthodox who care about Theology, which is our proper speech about God, first and foremost. There can be no compromise there, and incorrect presentation of Orthodox theology in an ostensibly Orthodox Study Bible under preparation for more than a decade is inexcusable.

  75. Very interesting discussion. I found the “slop” error the other day, so I decided to search on it and found this blog. I very much appreciate the time and energy that has been put in here by all parties. Kevin E. thank you for being so bold to offer criticism. I think that we can all agree that there is no perfect Bible, but I will definitely look into the NETS text.

    I’m glad that we don’t subscribe to ‘sola scriptura’ and can resort to Orthodox praxis and prayer!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *