Thursday, March 13, 2008

Orthodox Study Bible, round two

Kevin P. Edgecomb has a really superb review of the new Orthodox Study Bible here. The whole thing is worth reading, but I'll cut to the chase with his concluding paragraph:
So, for me, NETS [New English Translation of the Septuagint] will remain my English Septuagint of choice, and it will remain the English Septuagint that I recommend to others, without reservation and with whole-hearted, honest enthusiasm. I’m not particularly fond of “study Bibles” in any case. I am particularly not fond of those claiming to be something they aren’t (in this case a complete translation of the Septuagint), and with a supposedly sanctifying veneer of Orthodoxy about them. Don’t get me wrong: I love Orthodoxy, entirely and wholly; it is my life. But slapping the word Orthodox onto a Bible which is insufficiently representative of the richness and beauty of the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, even at the level of its own language, does absolutely nothing for me, and in fact makes me rather angry. This Orthodox Study Bible could have been better and should have been better. Why was it not better?
There is also a very interesting post by T. R. Valentine here. Excerpt:
The standard numbering of the books of the Old Testament [is], like it or not, based on the Masoretic text.

The ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text I have adapts to this by skipping verse numbers where the Church's text does not have the equivalent of the Masoretic. Thus, in 1 Kingdoms, the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text numbers the first eleven verses of chapter 17 which basically parallel the Masoretic text, then skips numbers 12 through 31, numbers verses 32 through 40 which parallel the Masoretic text, skips verse 41, numbers verses 42 through 49 which parallel the Masoretic text, skips verse 50, numbers verses 51 through 54, and omits numbers 55 through 58. (Note: the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text includes the omitted verses from the Masoretic text in footnotes rendered in a distinct font.)

When there are verses present in the Church's text that are not in the Masoretic text, the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) edition numbers verses with added letters. Thus, in Chapter 2 of 3 Kingdoms, it numbers the first 35 verses which parallel the Masoretic text, and then numbers the following verses 35α, 35β, 35γ, 35δ, ... 35μ, 35ν, 35ξ. The next verse is numbered 36 as is the parallel verse in the Masoretic text.

The Brenton translation of the Septuagint basically uses the same numbering system as the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text, but instead of appending letters it has no verse numbering (effectively making 3 Kingdoms 2:35 a great long verse!).

The Orthodox Study Bible doesn't follow either of these methods. Instead it uses what is, IMO, the worst possible method. It numbers verses sequentially regardless of the standard numbering of verses. Thus, where the Church's text does not have text which parallels the Masoretic text, the Orthodox Study Bible ends up with few verse numbers than other editions. For instance, 1 Kingdoms 17:32 in the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text and the Brenton translation and 1 Samuel 17:32 in the NASB, is rendered in the OSB as 17:12! The same thing is done where there are additional verses, only this results in more verse numbers than other editions. For instance, what the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) edition counts as 35, 35α, 35β, 35γ, 35δ, ... 35μ, 35ν, 35ξ, 36 is counted in the OSB as verses 35 through 49. So 3 Kingdoms 2:36 in the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text and the Brenton translation and 1 Kings 2:36 in the NASB becomes 3 Kingdoms 2:50.
Hat tip to Stefan for both these links. Don't neglect reading Fr Ephrem Lash's review of the original Orthodox Study Bible, which is one of the Great Book Reviews of Our Times. I should have my own copy of the new edition in about two weeks, and shall comment thereon upon receipt.

6 comments:

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I thank you for your compliments, Father. I await your own comments. There are other issues I will cover, too. Stay tuned!

the student said...

On a similar note: What of "The Orthodox New Testament" and "The Orthodox Old Testament" put out by Holy Apostles Convent? Anybody?

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Student, I have their New Testament, but not the Old. It's a bit awkward English in some respects (trying to maintain verbal correspondence to Greek tenses is a gymnast's task, but they do attempt it). T the notes are quite nice, being mostly simply extracts from patristic commentary. It's too bad that they're endnotes, though. Footnotes are much more effective; I much prefer them. There are some interesting text-critical notes included too. The quality is really several steps above the OSB. It might not become your favorite English New Testament, but it's a very good one.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline will be doing a Septuagint too, one of the fathers there told me once via email. Now that should be nice! If it's anywhere near as fine as their Psalms, it'll be well worth waiting for. I think he said they were planning to start that after they have finished their Menaion.

the student said...

Thank-you Kevin,

I agree regarding the awkwardness of the English but have appreciated it thus far and do enjoy the physical quality of the work as well including the various icons and sketches throughout.

Thanks for the note

Felix Culpa said...

I found this description of "The Orthodox Old Testament" online:

"THE HOLY ORTHODOX BIBLE, V. 1, The Pentatuch. Translated from the Septuagint by Peter Papoutsis into a slightly modernized form of traditional English. This is a very readable and accurate translation, the first of a series of volumes making up the entire Old Testament. Cloth 279pp. d$52.00"

No mention is made of commentary. Note, too, that it's not translated by Holy Apostles Convent (i.e., Mother Miriam, the only nun there), so quality may differ from her NT translations.

I, too, like her NT volumes, but, like Kevin, I am simply not patient enough to bear going between text and endnotes.

Mention should also be made of the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" series, which I find very useful -- although I really prefer to read one Father's commentary on a given selection of Scripture rather than selections from half a dozen. Nonetheless, I refer to them often. I don't have any of the OT volumes to hand just at the moment, but don't they, too, follow the Septuagint? I'm looking through the commentary on St Matthew at the moment, and not finding a note explaining which translation they're using.

I'm sure the HTM edition of the Septuagint will be good, but they often take a very, very long time (read decades) to publish books. That Menaion project has been going on since at least the 70s, and has been seeing the light of day only now.

Kevin: Do you have a post on your favorite NT translations? Which English translation best corresponds to the text used by the Orthodox Church? I've also preferred the KJV for liturgical use and the RSV for personal use. At your recommendation, I did order a copy of the new Septuagint from Oxford.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Student, I forgot to mention the nice bindings, too. It's always a pleasure to have a good solid hardcover book in hand. And they really do last much longer. I also have her books on the Theotokos, the Apostles and the Prophets. All are bound the same way, with the good paper and illustrations. They're refreshing reading.

Father, I'm currently leaning toward the English Standard Version, which has many editions listed here, from large to small. It's contemporary but conservative in translation, in the KJV/ASV/RSV tradition. I'm also looking forward to a corrected edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, which is the 1611 King James Version text restored to its original by editor David Norton, but using modern orthography and laid out in paragraph format. I've been told that it's to be published later this year. I have Norton's companion volume describing his editorial principles, and it indicates that this will be the definitive King James Bible to have. I'm also still somewhat partial to the New International Version for reading, probably because of its consistency: they're the only translation project that utilized a style consultant, ensuring that the English is consistent and correct. Also, their heart was in the right place, even if their theology was oftimes not. The RSV has never really caught on with me for some reason. I do enjoy the NRSV for its comedic value; I can't be drinking anything while reading its NT lest I spew it out in shock. This reminds me that I corrected one of my copies of the NRSV (it's much better in the OT and "Apocrypha") NT towards the Byzantine text. I really should transcribe and post those. Though they really don't fix everything, they're at least a start. I'll have to put that on one of the burners on one of the stoves in one of the kitchens I'm working in these days.... Your blessing!