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Thorough review of the OSB


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#1 Christophoros

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 01:40 PM

Notes on the Orthodox Study Bible

http://www.geocities..._OSB_notes1.htm

"I received my hardback copy of the Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) in June 2008, having ordered it from Amazon.com in January. Was it worth the wait?

In a word, no. I had hoped for a modern translation of the Greek Old Testament in English with the books in their proper order and all the parts in place. In their “Introduction to the Orthodox Study Bible,” the editors note that “in Orthodoxy’s 200 year history in North America, no English translation of the LXX has ever been produced by the Church.” From what I have seen to date, that statement may still be true: this translation abounds with errors, at least in Genesis and Exodus, as the table near the bottom of this page will demonstrate. When I began to compare the OSB Old Testament with the Greek, I suspected I would end up quibbling about a few passages on the grounds that the patristic understanding had not been taken into account, but end up recommending the work. I didn’t consider the possibility that the editors would permit so many plain mistakes to be published."

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 05:43 PM

This is not a thorough review of the OSB. It is an impression from reading through it for the past few months. Beginning with Genesis I have now reached 1 Kingdoms which is 1 Samuel in 'standard western bibles'.

As stated in a previous post what I am actually doing is accompanying this reading with the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) along with a standard (and hopefully reliable) English translation such as the New American Standard version. My main base versions though are the OSB & the NETS- I only refer to the NAS occasionally to help clarify a passage that is particularly difficult. I have to say that this simultaneous reading of a number of translations has been extremely helpful for each complements the other.

The basic principle of the NETS is to provide a translation of the underlying Greek text 'as it is'. Since the Greek text conveys much of the idiom of the Hebrew text it relied on, at the cost of using the literary or 'proper' Greek of the time, the NETS version also provides a direct English translation of this original Greek version. Thus at points the NETS can be quite obscure and also contain idioms which one would trust reflect the original Hebrew but which are difficult in English let alone Greek!

For all that though the NETS is I believe acceptable as part of ones spiritual reading of the Scripture. It is quite beautiful at points. On a basic level it also helps one to understand what the LXX is.

The OSB when read together with the NETS shows two major differences from it that are very important. One is that it is an obvious effort to translate the LXX as the Church's liturgical text. The second is that in translating into English it smoothes the underlying Greek so that it clarifies a number of passages that are obscure in the original and NETS.

A couple of examples which illustrate both points:

Gen. 1:2

OSB: The earth was invisible and unfinished; and darkness was over the deep. The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.
NETS: Yet the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss, and a divine wind was being carried over the water.

1 Kingdoms 2:35

OSB: Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do all that is in My heart and in My soul. I will build him a faithful house, and he shall walk before My Christ forever.
NETS (called 1 Reigns): And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do all that is my heart and in my soul, and I will build him a sure house, and he shall go about before my anointed one all the days.


In both examples one an clearly see that the OSB either uses the standard liturgical readings or else makes them into liturgical readings. It also tends to smooth out idioms or obscurities of the underlying text. (although it could be argued that the 'sure house' of the NETS is more smoothed out than the 'faithful house' of the OSB; NAS which consistently clarifies the meaning has 'enduring house').

This leads into the second main question which concerns what the LXX is in the first place.

The NETS works on the principle of recovering an underlying original version existing before subsequent changes to the text. Where the NETS translators are not confident of what the original text was it provides two columns side by side taken from manuscripts currently available. A point connected to this is that the NETS is based most often on the Gottingen Septuagint and on Rahlfs. I'm not sure to what extent these critical editions match the NETS principles of translation (about aiming for an original text). I'm assuming NETS must have had this question in mind in order not to undercut their own efforts.

As a comparison point I think that the NETS helps us to see what the OSB possibly is (I say 'possibly' because I am certainly no expert on this). The OSB does keep faithfully to the original Greek- even by the NETS definition- to be considered a genuine LXX I believe. In those few cases where Hebrew based readings (MT) have been chosen a number are where the underlying text itself is unclear and the Greek has varying manuscript traditions (these are often the cases where NETS gives two columns). It is also true that in some cases the OSB has chosen the Hebrew (MT) reading as in Gen 2:2 described in the linked review (in the post above) where the OSB has God finishing His works on the seventh day while the NETS has this on the sixth day. (however later on in the verse it is stated in all versions that God 'rested' on the seventh day. But more on that later.).

Here though an important point needs to be made that is often lost in discussions on the LXX and the Church. Many proceed from the basis that within the Church the LXX is one definitive text with precise and given meanings. This is just not so. Even the most basic understanding of how the LXX was handed along through the Church should assure us that it has gone through many alterations over the centuries. These are due not mainly to technical reasons; eg mistakes in copying from the original. Rather they stem from interpretational issues of translation and meaning. As aids in this reference was made at times to the existing Hebrew in order to clarify this. This indeed accounts for the multiple versions found from the past rather than the idea of a deviation from an original which probably from very early on (possibly before the Church) no longer existed. In other words multiple versions of the LXX exist because of the Church's interpretational responsibility. As such then it could be strongly argued that the OSB actually reflects this larger tradition of the LXX within the Church when for example it chooses in Gen 2:2 that God finished His works on the seventh rather than on the sixth. 'Seventh' actually seems more consistent with what is stated in the verse as a whole. Again though this depends on whether it is accurate to see the LXX as an absolute text. Even the thought that the Church itself changed the 'divine wind' of Gen 1: 2 into the 'Spirit of God' should not really shock us.

I would say then that the OSB is very much a LXX version of the Scripture. Many of the questions raised about it do not really invalidate it as being part of the larger LXX tradition of the Church. Rather these questions should be placed back within the active framework of ongoing interpretation where they belong.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Christophoros

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 12:07 PM

I should have included in my original post that the review is ongoing; the author has stated elsewhere it is far from completed.

#4 Stuart Dunn

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 04:11 PM

So to those that have purchased the OSB, would you recommend purchasing it? I am a bibliophile (lover of books) and I guess you could say a Bible-ophile too. I currently have the New American Bible and the Navarre Bible (both Catholic) as well as the NETS Old Testament and the EOB New Testament. I am considering purchasing the OSB and Peter Papoutsis translation. I think the OSB would be invaluable for the notes alone, but just gauging others reactions.

#5 Eric Peterson

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 07:34 PM

I have the OSB. I am not impressed by the notes. It's hit and miss. Sometimes they're good, sometimes not, sometimes downright questionable. The main drawback is that you don't know where the material in the notes is coming from. Is it the writing of the Church Fathers or the annotator's opinion? Trying to figure that out is maddening, so I read the chapter first, and then the notes, so I'm not confused or disappointed. Maybe they're helpful to some people, but I can't help but wonder what could have been.

#6 Theodora E.

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 07:46 PM

So to those that have purchased the OSB, would you recommend purchasing it? I am a bibliophile (lover of books) and I guess you could say a Bible-ophile too. I currently have the New American Bible and the Navarre Bible (both Catholic) as well as the NETS Old Testament and the EOB New Testament. I am considering purchasing the OSB and Peter Papoutsis translation. I think the OSB would be invaluable for the notes alone, but just gauging others reactions.


Stuart,

I'm just an average Orthodox laywoman, although highly active in my parish. I have no Greek nor any of the biblical languages. Of the average laity I know, virtually all use the complete OSB and appreciate it. Some use the OSB in conjunction with another translation, such as the RSV, as I do. I'm OCA and the RSV is used for public reading during worship in my parish. I'm on the reader schedule, so while I tend to do daily readings in the OSB, I use the RSV for Sundays, as well as many other times. I have a copy of the nice small Ignatius Catholic RSV NT & Psalms that is often with me when not at home. I consult the KJV occasionally. I recently purchased the personal-sized Psalter According to the Seventy and am enjoying getting familiar with it.

In my 5+ years as an Orthodox, I've used both the OSB and the RSV. I happen to think the RSV is a bit smoother reading, but that's just my opinion. As the lay catechist in my parish says, some translations are better for private study (the OSB) and some are better for use in worship (the RSV).

I like the notes. Sometimes they're a bit cheesy (explaining the very obvious), but on the whole for this non-specialist, they're pretty decent. I tend to use the notes in the OT more, since for the NT I have Blessed Theophylact's Commentaries on the Four Gospels, as well as various volumes from Archbishop Dmitri (OCA Diocese of the South).

I'm going to suggest my parish using the OSB for the OT readings during Presanctified in Lent. My priest mentioned in a sermon last Lent that he had been using the just-released OSB alongside his RSV for the weekday OT readings, and he noticed that especially in Proverbs, the OSB often had more than a few verses the RSV was missing. I tried that experiment one Wednesday and found it to be true, so with permission, I read the OT lessons from the OSB at one Presanctified. Reading the OSB OT & the RSV OT side-by-side was quite an educational experience. I plan to do it again this Lent.

So, yes, I think buying the OSB would be a good thing, especially if you're looking for an Orthodox perspective in the notes.

#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 09:49 PM

So to those that have purchased the OSB, would you recommend purchasing it? I am a bibliophile (lover of books) and I guess you could say a Bible-ophile too. I currently have the New American Bible and the Navarre Bible (both Catholic) as well as the NETS Old Testament and the EOB New Testament. I am considering purchasing the OSB and Peter Papoutsis translation. I think the OSB would be invaluable for the notes alone, but just gauging others reactions.


Yes I would recommend having the OSB.

It is after all the first attempt we have at a liturgical OT which for us means the LXX.

Also I will tell you that coming from the Russian church (at least here in North America) that it is very rare to see a complete OT translated from the LXX. I have never seen one myself although they must exist. For example the complete OT in Russian for home use (year 2000) blessed by Patriarch Alexey is from the Russian Bible Society; ie it is based on the Hebrew text not the LXX.

So whereas Russians only get to hear very small portions of the LXX at services in church we now have the whole LXX available and at hand.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#8 Rick H.

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 10:48 PM

The Russian Bible is based on the Hebrew Scriptures. What is the LXX based on?

#9 Paul Cowan

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:37 AM

Though I would recommend having the OSB compared to any other Bible out there, it does has it's flaws. I wish I had waited until the final, final absolutely last proof was done before buying 2. I contacted the publisher on 3 different typos all within the first month of reading. I also find the footnotes redundent and repetitive. I know everything points to Christ from the OT to the NT. Why does it need to say so on almost every page? I wish there was more content to the footnotes. Some of them are simply one liners that I prefer to be expounded upon.

What is a "study" bible for if there are not enough notes to study from?

Paul

#10 Edward Henderson

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:47 AM

At Saint Tikhon's Seminary, we were blessed to receive free copies of the OSB last year from Fr. Peter Gilquist. When he addressed the seminary, he was very clear that the OSB is not a final definitive edition. He hopes that one day Orthodox linguists, theologians, historians, biblical scholars, etc. will get together and produce a definitive Orthodox translation of the Holy Scriptures. The OSB is here to facilitate the immediate need for a readable Study Bible for Orthodox Christians. It is not for liturgical use. They used the NKJV and compared it with the LXX and made changes where they thought it was necessary. Fr. Peter even admitted that it was not perfect and encouraged us to write and point out passages and translations that could be improved. So I think we ought to appreciate the OSB for what it is. No one else has been carrying out such work. Hopefully, one day we will get a definitive Orthodox translation of the Holy Scriptures. But this is the history of Orthodox translations into English. I think we are all grateful to the work of Orlov and Hapgood, even though we now have and use better translations for the services.

#11 Eric Peterson

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 03:01 AM

The Orthodox Study Bible Old Testament is not complete, since it does not contain 2/3/4 Esdras (different numbers depending on how the books are arranged, it's the last Esdras, anyway), appended to the Slavonic Bible, a book of 16 chapters, an example of apocalyptic literature featuring dreams and visions of the Prophet Ezra, of which little survives in the Greek (originally translated from Hebrew and Aramaic), though it exists in Latin.

Neither does the Orthodox Study Bible contain 4 Maccabees, appended in the Greek Bible.

The Revised Standard Version with expanded Apocrypha does, however, contain both books.

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 02:48 PM

Rick Henry wrote:

The Russian Bible is based on the Hebrew Scriptures.



This is not correct. The OT text used liturgically by the Russian Orthodox church is the LXX. However the complete Bibles published and blessed by the Moscow Patriarchate are most often Bible Society versions which have a long history in Russia. I would expect this to change however at some point just as it has here in the west for those Orthodox whose first language is English. Probably a LXX version will appear translated into Russian.

What is the LXX based on?


Originally Greek translations based on pre-Masoretic Hebrew versions.

However the Church also referred quite early on to translations into Greek of later existing Hebrew versions. We see this for example in the Church's use of Theodotion's Greek version of Daniel which eventually replaced the older LXX version.

The point here then is two fold concerning what the LXX is:

It is based originally on old pre Masoretic Hebrew versions.

These however are continually revised within the Church both in reference to existing Hebrew (ie later) versions and to interpretational variations.

Thus the fact that the LXX for many centuries now has not been based on one definitive version.

At the same time though as anyone who has read the Brookline Psalter can tell, the OSB and NETS Psalms definitely read as being in the same family of LXX versions.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 Christophoros

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 05:40 PM

So I think we ought to appreciate the OSB for what it is. No one else has been carrying out such work. Hopefully, one day we will get a definitive Orthodox translation of the Holy Scriptures. But this is the history of Orthodox translations into English.


It is incorrect to claim that "no one else has been carrying out such work." There are several editions being prepared by several sources, who I would argue are far more qualified to translate/publish the Holy Scriptures than St. Athanasius Academy, which released their New Testament with study notes a mere 6 years after their entrance into the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1987. Even though many years have passed, and there admittedly is some improvement from the original New Testament edition, I continue to agree with Archimandrite Ephrem's assessment from 1993: it is "the product of people who, with the very best of intentions, are going too fast too soon."

#14 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 06:33 PM

Here is a review of the OSB that has been circulating on several sites. Mind you it is not exactly complimentary.

http://www.geocities..._OSB_notes1.htm

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#15 Rick H.

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:49 PM

When I said:

The Russian Bible is based on the Hebrew Scriptures.


I'm not sure why you said this is "not correct." I was quoting your post above mine. This was to confirm what you had written Father Raphael:

For example the complete OT in Russian for home use (year 2000) blessed by Patriarch Alexey is from the Russian Bible Society; ie it is based on the Hebrew text not the LXX.


So, after reading your last post, I guess what is being said here is that:

1.) The Russian Bible OT (for home use) is based on the Hebrew Scriptures

2.) The LXX is based on the Hebrew Scriptures

3.) The Russian Bible OT (used liturgically) is based on the LXX

I have asked in the past who the Hebrew Scholars are in Orthodoxy today and I don't think I have received an answer. Possibly, someone mentioned one man's name and I have forgotten; however, I would like to ask again in light of this information and the above post which states:

The point here then is two fold concerning what the LXX is:

It is based originally on old pre Masoretic Hebrew versions.

These however are continually revised within the Church both in reference to existing Hebrew (ie later) versions and to interpretational variations.



Who are the Hebrew scholars in Orthodoxy today?

#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 10:11 PM

To clarify:

The LXX is a translation into Greek based on pre-Masoretic Hebrew texts. In other words the early LXX and Hebrew texts of the time were basically equivalent (at least whatever Hebrew texts the LXX translators used).

However as the Masoretic versions became more widespread in Judaism a variation arose between the LXX and Hebrew versions which exists to this day.

Thus the LXX now represents a distinct tradition of Scripture from the Masoretic based texts even though both rely/relied on Hebrew originals.

The present popular Russian home Bibles mostly come from the Bible Society and thus are Masoretic based.

The official OT of the Russian Church however is the LXX and this is what is read in the services.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#17 Rick H.

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 12:05 PM

Thanks for the clarification. I gotcha now . . . after a quick check, I see that the Russian Bible Society is a part of the United Bible Society. This makes what you were saying crystal clear.

After sorting this out, I think I am all the more interested to find out who the Hebrew scholars are in Orthodoxy today.

#18 Mary Ann H.

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:15 PM

I have the OSB. I am not impressed by the notes. It's hit and miss. Sometimes they're good, sometimes not, sometimes downright questionable. The main drawback is that you don't know where the material in the notes is coming from. Is it the writing of the Church Fathers or the annotator's opinion? Trying to figure that out is maddening, so I read the chapter first, and then the notes, so I'm not confused or disappointed. Maybe they're helpful to some people, but I can't help but wonder what could have been.


I have to agree with Eric about the notes. There could be a lot more of them - many of those provided point out the obvious, while whenever I find something particularly intriguing or difficult to understand and wonder what there might be in the way of commentary, I find no note at all.

I wish that the references in the notes to the Psalms were given with the Septuaginta numbering. It is good that in the Book of Psalms itself both numbers (Septuaginta and Masoretic) are given, but I think that a Bible meant for Orthodox use should favor the traditional numbering.

And I wonder if any of you could help me with the frequent references to the "NU-text". What does the "NU" stand for? I keep leafing through the OSB looking for a solution, and so far I haven't been able to find it.

Mary Ann

#19 Ryan

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 08:50 PM

And I wonder if any of you could help me with the frequent references to the "NU-text". What does the "NU" stand for? I keep leafing through the OSB looking for a solution, and so far I haven't been able to find it.


The NU text is the Nestle-Aland/ United Bible Societies edition of the New Testament. It's an eclectic text, put together based on manuscripts that that the editors believe are the oldest available, with the assumption that older = more reliable. Most of the modern Bible translations rely primarily on the NU text for their New Testament.

#20 Mary Ann H.

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 06:40 AM

Thank you, Ryan! I am feeling much less frustrated already.




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