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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sacred Scripture



This is an I want post. I don't have enough I want moments in my life, so I'm allowing myself one now.

I want an Orthodox Bible. I want One that has all of the canonical books. I don't want to have to make do with one that confines parts of the Old Testament to one corner under the false and misleading title of "Apocrypha", which is properly reserved for those books that are actually apocryphal.

However, I need some advice.

I have heard of The Orthodox Study Bible, and believe that the New Testament and Psalms have been published together in one volume, with the Old Testament planned to become available at Pascha next year or thereabouts. Apparently, it has all manner of supplementary articles, explaining how various passages of Scripture have formed Orthodox theology and spirituality over the centuries.

I was all very excited about this until I read that the Old Testament has been produced by comparing the Old Testament of the New King James Version to the Septuagint, and correcting the former as necessary, where it differs from the text of the LXX.

I have no problem with the method. However, I do have a problem with the NKJV. The language is awful, and is such that I find myself unable to read it because I'm having to try too hard to read it. It simply removes some of the more archaic forms of English from the KJV, but doesn't actually go all the way in providing a contemporary language edition. The result is that is is neither traditional nor modern, but some bizarre hybrid of the two, which is sufficiently similar to the KJV to make one think that one knows the passage, but sufficiently different to grate when one comes across a difference. If I recall correctly, it is also riddled with modern-day Americanisms, which, while perfectly fine in their own context, do sound a bit odd when mixed with English archaisms as they are in the NKJV. I just find it a very poor rendering overall, and will only buy it if there's nothing better to be had.

The second Bible I'm considering has also been published in New Testament only so far, and may be viewed here. It is a translation produced by the Holy Apostles Convent in Colorado, and comes with commentaries from the Fathers and a whole host of icons. I'm aware of the Old Calendarist, "Genuine" Orthodox source, but this isn't a problem for me. The only issue I have is that I don't know how it was produced and what the language is like, as there are no samples on the site. Also, I've only heard via a third party that there are plans to produce an Old Testament. Does anybody know more about this?

Finally, there is the Holy Orthodox Bible (pictured above), which is the labour of love of Mr Peter Papoutsis. This looks good and, judging from the samples provided on the website, the language seems perfectly acceptable. My only concern with this is the same as my concern would be with any text translated by one person, and that is that pre-conceptions and inaccuracies go unchecked. I would be quite happy with this translation if it weren't for the fact that only the Pentateuch has been produced thus far, and there is no indication of a timescale for the rest of it.

What are people's thoughts and comments? I would certainly be pleased to hear of any experiences with these Bibles, and indeed, for any other suggestions.

9 comments:

Aristibule said...

Never seen the third, have owned both the former. I think the OSB is a 'seeker sensitive' project, designed to reel in American Evangelicals (and later spring on them Marian prayers and prayers for the departed.) I'm unhappy with the NKJV too.

The Buena Vista translation stumbles in its prose - and often refuses to translate Greek terms (I suppose because of the myth of English inadequacy?) The nicest job of printing I've seen though (though I like thinner pages.)

Never seen the third translation.

However, I think we all long for an Orthodox Bible in English translation - however, I don't think we'll get it until after we grow out of 'diaspora church' and move through 'missionary church'. Its going to take the action of some Synods, and years more of work. (Not in my lifetime.)

Michael said...

Thanks for this, Ari.

Yes, I see what you mean about the possible appeal of the OSB to American Evangelicals. I think the qualities that make it attractive to that audience are the same ones that make it unattractive to me, sadly, as clearly much effort has gone into it.

The Buena Vista one does indeed look like a wonderful set of volumes. I'm sory to hear about the language, though. I may try to get them in due course, if I can get a decent-language translation first. Do you know whether or not they are planning an Old Testament?

I have sent an e-mail to Mr Papoutsis, respectfully asking if there were any other translators/editors involved in the work and what sort of timescale we're looking at for the rest of the Old Testament, and also if there are plans for a New Testament. I'll post back when I get a response.

I know what you mean, as well, about the state of affairs of the diaspora-mentality. It is rather saddening, but I would rather see a definitive English translation than various efforts going on at the same time. Still, I greatly appreciate the work that these people are putting in. May God richly bless them!

Joe said...

The Buena Vista translations are the ones I'm most familiar with. It is indeed an aesthetically pleasing set of volumnes. I'm especially fond of having all the Icons right there at the correlating sections of scripture.

However I would strongly advise against getting this translation for three specific reasons:

1. as Ari said they deliberately do not translate certain greek terms. They also use a method of translation that is generally considered quite negative. I'm not smart enough to go into it, but I will try to dig up a reference to what I'm talking about. Its lost somewhere in the vast recesses of my bookmarks.

2. The commentaries used can lead to a very off perception of Orthodox tradition as they are particularly chosen to advance the schismatic agenda of "archbishop" Gregory and his followers (quotation marks used because he has been defrocked by more people than I can mention). While this work was done largely before they broke with ROCA it still has the seeds of their schismatic agenda in it (as well as some trumped up quotes to support things that I would say they are absolutely heretical on--double Baptisms and such).

3. Purchasing these volumnes puts money into their coffers which they use to lure more poor unsuspecting internet inquirerers to the faith into their net. These people surf the net looking for people who are inquiring into Orthodoxy and swoop down like a great horde out of the north clad in blue Ryssas to get these people hooked on their junk before they can be directed to true Orthodoxy. For that reason I generally avoid their publications as well as icons produced by "archbishop" gregory. For the same reason I avoid the stuff coming from HOCHNA even though that stuff is generally well within Orthodox tradition (being all old ROCOR stuff they hold the rights too--like the prayers for purity, and the liturgical sheet music).

Don't get me wrong, my days with ROAC planted in my heart a great desire and hunger for Orthodoxy and gave me the seeds of true faith. But not a day goes by that I don't thank almighty God that I saw the light on them before it was too late and came to the true Faith. Orthodoxy is a hard road, the teachings of Schismatics is easy to follow. The middle way is always difficult, but this is the true path according to the fathers.

I hope my post didn't confuse you.

Joe Zollars

Joe said...

for my own use, I use the KJV and Duay (original not Challoner-Rheims). Maybe I just like the way the language flows, but since I don't read greek I make do with what I can get.

Joe Zollars

Michael said...

Thanks so much for this, Joe.

I do understand your concerns about the results of funding the efforts of the "Genuine" Orthodox jurisdictions. You've really given me something to think about.

I'd be very interested if you could indeed find the information about the translation method. Physical beauty in a volume isn't everything, after all, (but they're sooo pretty! :-D)

I hadn't realised that such music was available from HOCNA. I'm now torn in two directions. (sigh)

Fr Matthew said...

Hmmm. I'm passingly familiar with the Buena Vista one--I picked up a used copy a few years ago for next to nothing. (un)Fortunately, it has sat on the bookshelf pretty much ever since.

In spite of it limitations, I find that I frequently use the OSB, especially for sermon preparation. The articles, footnotes, and Orthodox lectionary in the back make it a handy resource to have.

I'm curious about the version Mr Papoutsis has prepared. Your blog entry is the first mention I have seen of this and I'm tempted to get a copy for my own edification.

I'm kind with Ari on this one--we may long for a decent Orthodox Bible in English, but it's a long time coming. In the mean time, I've contented myself with multiple version/translations to keep me happy--a true form of bibliophilia!

The Rambler said...

While I don't support Archbishop. Gregory's ecclessiology or agenda, I personally have yet to find anything objectionable in the "four Gospels" volume I own (though admittedly I don't have the other volume which includes the Epistles and Apocalypse). While it's not the prettiest translation, it is from what I can tell quite sound, and certainly highlights common deficiencies in the various English translations, which are of course not being made by those with "Orthodox assumptions" (and thus their translation choices often reflect problematic doctrinal biases.)

I'd be curious to know just what the "double baptism" thing is about. Just what exactly is it in the commentaries which is wrong on this point? If Joe is referring to the practice of akribia with regard to heterodox baptisms, then I'd fear his problem is ultimatly with more than simply Archbishop Gregory. Though, I'm inclined to think he's refering to something else.

Anonymous said...

The New Testament from Holy Apostles was created by comparing the old King James Version with a bunch of ancient and less-ancient Greek manuscripts, and correcting the KJV in light of these manuscripts. The NT that results has a great critical apparatus in the back, giving details for the provenance of each verse that has multiple versions. For instance, the famous "Johannine comma" (1 Jn. 5:7) is included with notes about its inauthenticity. The 'maximalist' approach of the Holy Apostles NT is wonderful. Unlike modern bibles, none of the verses from the majority tradition of the Churches of East and West are eliminated, even if they don't show up in the 'most ancient' manuscripts from Alexandria. Still, the source of each verse is noted in the appendices so that the reader will understand how it all came together. Thus, this is probably the most traditionally-complete bible available.

Peter A. Papoutsis said...

Dear Michael, I just found your blog and the comments you made on my translation. Thank you so much for the mention, and I hope you and others will give my translation a try and see if you like it. I have posted more of my translation to be downloaded on my website, and hope you and others come by. Again, thank you for the mention and comments.

Yours In Christ

Peter A. Papoutsis