Monday, April 14, 2008

Best OSB-Related Comment Yet!

Reader Kevin A. tells it like it is:
All this being said...I would be curious to know how many inquirers and catechumens are in YOUR parish[es] - those of you who are, oh, so critical!) are standing in line waiting to be received through baptism and chrism on Lazarus Saturday? In our parish we have 25 (2008); last year (2007): 22; previous year (2006); 18. These people LOVE the new OSB and are being enriched by it and yes by the notes too!

My point: these criticisms and dry, brittle, academic discussions really (in my view) miss the point: bringing people to Christ through His Church. Does the OSB have its flaws? I am sure. Will the OSB - despite its flaws, which academic eggheads will debate - help achieve God's purpose? YES!

We need to get beyond elitism in the Orthodox Church and with humility be thankful for the work being done in His Vineyard, not bitch about it on blogs!

How many people do you actually think are going to read a three-volume translation of the Septuagint O.T.?????


Anonymous said...

This is to the point. The Orthodox Church needs to develop methods to get inquiring Protestants in the door. The OSB can and will do this, because it presents the Orthodox Church in a form that is recognizable to them: The study bible! Orthodox do not understand how this form is so important to Protestants! The traditional Orthodox churches are not filling the halls with converts...because they lack the ability to converse with the potentially interested.

I have commented before about the negative criticisms of the OSB, and I think most of them largely miss the point of the exercise. It is stated in the introduction that it was aimed at a high-school level of education, not biblical scholars.

There are so many people in this country looking for the Truth that only the Orthodox can provide, and we make it so difficult for them. I believe we will be held accountable for the lousy results we have achieved in this country.

Andrew said...

I am being baptized this Saturday, and yes, I am thankful for the OSB.

Esteban Vázquez said...

I was Baptized seven years ago, and I have nothing to thank the OSB for.

canicus said...

I would agree with you about with the comment about its good uses. I am legitimately angry at the project, despite the good it will do though, and it will do a lot of good.

If it were just a poor translation, I could handle that. I plunked down a chunk of cash for the leather bound, but oh well. If the notes were also poor, I would still feel the same way. If the binding were still just one more problem for the price, I would feel the same.

It wouldn't be the first lemon I bought, and I'd just take what was good and leave. That's just life. The criticisms would, then, be just an academic exercise back and forth over something that will, inevitably do a good bit of good.

My problem is that I feel lied to. It is NOT a translation of the Septuagint. Three examples will suffice to show this. In Genesis 4.8, Cain talks to Abel and convinces him to go out to the field. In the LXX, we have his words "Let us go out into the plain". The LXX alone has these words, and they are absent from the MT.

Likewise at Genesis 3.15, the LXX says that the serpent will "guard against his [the woman's offspring] heel", and the seed will "gaurd against his head". There is no mention of bruising, but it is in the MT. They included this.

A third example is Psalm 22. There are a handful differences, but the only one that they changed was in the last verse.

There isn't anything inherently wrong with an eclectic text, though I would like to know their reasoning. There is, however, something morally repugnant about foisting a translation on an unknowing public that is advertised is an LXX, but is really an eclectic text. If it were the former, I'd shrug about the bad translations, and I probably wouldn't have bought it (I want a one volume Bible with the LXX). Since it's the latter, I feel lied to and cheated.

This last problem is different than lemons; it has to do with the integrity of the translators, which affects how much you can trust its words even more than the relative skill of the translators. For that reason, I have, and will, tell anyone that asks me about it "Stay as far away as possible", and it's a shame it comes from a group of Orthodox Christians.

Simka said...

25...22...18...Impressive numbers! Big stats! Very persuasive! A veritable Reign of Quantity! And, in the end, very true to the spirit of the OSB, if not to the entire spirit of modern America, don't you think?

Esteban Vázquez said...

Canicus, I agree with every word you wrote.

As for Kevin A.'s comment, I responded here.

Anonymous said...

'...and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.'

Also very true to the spirit of modern America.

Simka said...

Aaaah! But have you asked yourself why is the figure "3000"? It is the contention of not a few allegorical readers of sacred scripture that every word has significance above the merely literal. The deeper we read scripture, the more qualitative, which is to say spiritual, our reading becomes. We begin the depart the realm of necessity rule by the reign of quantity which rules this age (and of which America is the great paradigm) and emerge into a sacred sphere untouched by the realm of statistics and quanta, indeed, a realm where even the concept of number is important for it's qualitative, rather then quantitative, value. I believe that it is from this realm that we must draw our inspiration.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

So, we see the tactic change now to "The OSB isn't meant for you academic eggheads, but normal people." So much the more reason that more care should've been put into the OSB!!!

Bandying about numbers! How about this number: "But whoso shall offend [skandalisê] one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." To scandalize is to make another stumble. (Have I done my proof-texting well? I'm not sure I'm all that good at it.)

Poor and misleading theology capable of misconstrual is scandalous in exactly that sense I give above. We're talking here about The Orthodox Church, and a Bible ostensibly presenting itself as an accurate representation of that Church. This OSB may very well be initially useful to bringing people to the Church, but under what conditions? Are we to accept that any tactic that gets people "in" is good, as though this is some kind of popularity contest, and just ignore the nourishment of those who are already part of the club? This deep ambivalence of the OSB and its more rabid supporters needs to be addressed: is the OSB for Orthodox Christians or not? If it is intended rather for attracting Protestants to Orthodoxy, then it should've been called something else.

Lotar said...

This type of reasoning, similar to that which seeks to justify nauseating podcasts (can we say "Simply Orthodox"), is completely beyond me.

Firstly, those behind it seem to think that the terms, forms and mediums of Evagecostalism are universally understood, neglecting the understanding of the "regular folk" who were either born into Orthodoxy or converted from something other than Evangelicalism. Protestantism in general only makes up half the US population (and even less of the Canadian), of which not all are Evangelicals. Why the fixation on this group? It reminds me of another AFR podcast (it seems I am a masochist) where an interviewer posed a question to Bp Joseph in terms of "we were taught as Evangelicals". Who is "we"?

Why not put effort into writing books that will help Evangelicals understand and transfer over to Orthodox understanding and praxis, instead of trying to translate Orthodoxy into Evangelical?

Secondly, this frame of mind is assuming that Evangelical capitulation and absorption into the secular capitalist marketing groupthink is a good thing. By good, I mean for the souls of those in the Church. Though, if we must speak of "growth", we seem to forget that Evangelicalism peaked in the late 90s, and according to the lastest pew survey, we aren't growing either – but when did growth become a measure of "good" anyway.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Even the flagship evangelical church, the Willow Creek Community, has noted problems with these superficial types of programs, and the craving of their people for deeper instruction. They get the people in with their alluring programs, and then can't hold onto them because resources are directed toward the allurements. The "caught fish" don't receive the necessary care. See here, with links. This Willow Creek model was that used by many (most?) evangelical churches over the last thirty years, and there are whiffs of it in this OSB and other projects with that particular aesthetic. Will admitted failure on the part of Willow Creek have more of an effect on those projects than the countless complaints of Orthodox Christians scattered over every and all the rungs of the Spiritual Ladder? One can hope so, however sad it is that they, excuse me, we have been and are ignored and ridiculed. If that's what it takes, it's worth it.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

I unfortunately still do not have my own copy of the new OSB. Did I read the comments correctly that they omitted "Let us go out into the field" in Genesis 4:8? That would indeed be a significant error. Even the NRSV has that one right.

Kevin B. said...

Have any of you acquired the EOB yet? Its website looks like the NT is now available. I noticed that there are already suggestions for corrections to the EOB, and I just wondered if any of you had any first hand experience with it. Is this first addition sufficient, or should be wait for future revisions? Also interesting is the EOB website's declaration that the EOB and OSB are "truly complementary."

canicus said...

Fr. bless,

Yes, you did read correctly. It is present only in the Septuagint (and maybe some other versions such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, but I only know about two), but it is not present in the Masoretic text.

The NRSV incorporated readings outside the MT into it, and that includes what Cain said to Abel to deceive him. The NKJV, however, is translated solely from the MT and lacks the words, and the OSB fails to add them.

This case, and others, reveal the OSB not to be a translation of the LXX, but rather, an eclectic text that is a hybrid of the LXX and MT.

Felix Culpa said...

I had initially been very much of two minds about whether to put up this post. I was afraid it would be a discredit to those who have offered thoughtful defenses of the OSB. I had expected that the majority of comments would come from defenders of the OSB who wished to distance themselves from both the tone and content of the posted comment. Imagine my surprise, then, when the reaction was quite the opposite.

For the moment I'll respond to lotar's really excellent observation that the OSB-OT is a hybrid text.

I haven't yet written about this, but I'd encourage all of you to read a review posted by Theron Mathis, who himself worked on the OSB. Excerpt:

"This is not a wholly fresh translation, but will follow the NKJV translation tradition, except for the “Greek” books. This is for at least two reasons. First, it will keep a consistent NKJV flavor found in the New Testament. This is important for us, because so much of this will be read liturgically and therefore the sound of the text matters. Second, there are production issues. Apparently producing a completely fresh translation on a large scale is very costly. Revisions are cheaper, and in many ways this will be a revision of the NKJV. Therefore, the methodology used was to change the NKJV text only where it deviated from the LXX. As a translator this was difficult, and required a lot of restraint. At times, I felt I could phrase a passage better than the NKJV, but unless it changed the meaning I tended to leave it alone. This probably points to a third reason for using this method. It makes the editorial process much quicker. The editors had to spend their time on much fewer words than in full blown translation."

The comment by Peter A. Papoutsis is also worth reading. Excerpt:

"Second, the text is NOT a translation, but a slight emendation just chaging certain key portions from the Hebrew reading to the Greek reading, but that is not proper as you are left with a mess and miss-mash of a text that is not truly an translation of the Septuagint as used and preserved in the Orthodox Church.
For example please see the mis-translations of Genesis 3:15, Genesis 4:8 (The WHOLE phrase is missing!), Exodus Chapter 3 with the Divine name (The Existing One?)& Psalm 22 just to name a few. Also, the OSB omits 4th Maccabees. Why? Place it in an appendix. 4th Macabees has greatly influenced Orthodox (especially Greek) piety for centuries. Why omit such an important book?"

Read the whole thing here:

Felix Culpa said...

Sorry, that link doesn't work. I'm afraid I still haven't figured out how to create links in the comment box. Google "Orthodox Study Bible Theron Mathis" and it will come up.

(Could anyone advise me on how to create links in the comment box, using Firefox on an iBook G4? Bear in mind that I don't read Geek.)

Fr. John Whiteford said...

There is nothing wrong with taking an existing translation of the Masoretic text and correcting it based on the Septuagint. They obviously did do this in Genesis 1:2, for example:

In the case of Genesis 4:8, even though the NRSV generally follows the Masoretic text, they followed the LXX because on they figured it was simply more likely a better text than has been preserved by the Masoretic text -- so if the OSB omitted it, there is no good explanation for why they did.

On the other hand, however, if you were a Russian and you were using a Synodal translation, when it came to the books that are in the Hebrew canon, you would have been using a text that is even less of a translation of the LXX than the OSB is.

One thing that might b e constructive would be for someone to start compliing a list of errors and divergences from the LXX found in the OSB, and perhaps we may get a much improved second edition.

Felix Culpa said...

Fr John: Your suggestion is an excellent one. I'd be happy to keep a running tally of divergences (which I could post from time to time, as they accumulate) if people would post them as comments.

Your comment about the "Synodal" translation into Russian is quite true. But do bear in mind that, although it was printed with the Church's blessing, it was never intended or used as a liturgical translation. Most native Russian speakers I've consulted have told me they use the Slavonic text almost exclusively in their own reading and study.

I'm also really not sure that pointing out that the OSB may be closer to the Septuagint than the Russian translation is necessarily an argument in the OSB's favor.

What struck me most in Mr Mathis' remarks was this:

"Therefore, the methodology used was to change the NKJV text only where it deviated from the LXX. As a translator this was difficult, and required a lot of restraint. At times, I felt I could phrase a passage better than the NKJV, but unless it changed the meaning I tended to leave it alone."

Certainly (almost) every new translation of a Biblical text is derived from a previous one, but it seems, based on these remarks, that use of the NKJV as a template actually *restrained* the compilers (translators?) of the OSB.

If one reads the intro to the OSB carefully, one notices this sentence: "The Old Testament text presented in this volume does not claim to be a new or superior translation." That's a very telling admission.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

I don't think the OSB is intended to be a liturgical translation though either. I spoke with one of the translators, and asked him if they had any plans to publish a liturgical Psalter based on the text they used, and he said that they did not... and that his bishop (Bishop Joseph of the Antiochians) requires them to use the Boston Psalter. Holoviaks has published a Gospel book based on the NKJV, but that was quite independent of the OSB.

Andrew said...

Let me add that I am more thankful for my prayer book than I am for the OSB.