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St John the Theologian Library - Commentary on St John's Gospel

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#1 Monk Herman

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Posted 22 May 2015 - 08:38 PM

+ A series of Lenten talks has resulted in the formation of a study group with the intention of producing a commentary on St John's Gospel.

 

With considerable trepidation I offer the beginnings -- we haven't gotten very far yet.

 

It's not intended to be the kind of commentary that would be produced by seminary, let alone university, scholars. We want to reflect liturgical usage and patristic opinion, and we want it to speak to us now, and to respond to challenges and opportunities present in our world today.

 

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? We look forward to your contributions.

 

H

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#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 12:13 PM

A few first thoughts if I may:

 

In what sense is this project more than a whim?
How is the material to be published? As a book, online, or how?
Who will give a blessing for this project? A commentary on what is arguably the greatest book ever written probably ought to have a hierarchical blessing and imprimatur; otherwise, how will anyone know if it is reliable and suitable?
What is your intended audience?
Are there other works which do something similar? If so, how is what you have in mind to do different from any other available material?
What do you expect to bring to this field that cannot be found elsewhere?
 



#3 Monk Herman

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 01:42 AM

Dear Reader

 

I appreciate your politeness! Of course you may offer your thoughts -- I wouldn't be asking for help if I didn't want it.

 

I can't think how the word "whim" could be relevant here. No Orthodox Christian studies any Biblical text, let alone makes the effort to think about it and to understand it well enough to write about it, just on a whim. So, it's more than a whim in the sense that -- as you obviously agree -- St John's gospel is "the greatest book ever written."

 

It's much too soon to think about publishing in any form. Nevertheless, I do want to put it together in a form that would emulate a Talmudic layout, with Greek and English on facing pages, surrounded by commentary. It has occurred to me that an online form would allow links to Patristic extracts. In printed form, there would just be far too much Patristic commentary to include. In the Ancient Christian Commentary series the extracts on just the first 18 verses take up fifty pages!

 

A blessing would have to come from my own Bishop. I have reason to believe that the OCA Diocese of the South will indeed have a Bishop sometime in the foreseeable future, although this is by no means certain. I hope to have something worth presenting by the time he's consecrated, as I very much hope he will be. Meanwhile, I have one or two friends who might be interested in the work.

 

I don't plan to approach any Roman Catholic Bishop for this purpose, so I'm not looking for either an imprimatur or a nihil obstat. A blessing will be quite enough. But imprimaturs and nihil obstats do not guarantee orthodoxy, which is much more significant in my mind. I'm sure that's really what you mean. There are plenty of books bearing imprimaturs and nihil obstats that are nevertheless riddled with purgatories and filioques.

 

The only way one can know whether anything is reliable and suitable is by reading it and evaluating it, using the God-given logos within them -- their mind and heart and soul.

 

The commentary is intended for anyone interested in what an Orthodox Christian might find in the Divine Scriptures. I'm not entirely sure, but I have a pretty good hunch that an exploration of any one piece of the fourfold Gospel will involve comment not just on the Gospel itself, but on the culture we live in. So it's for anyone interested in a traditional Christian response to our world. It's definitely not for university NT scholars who write articles with titles like 'Ezekiel's Shepherd and John's Jesus: A Case Study in the Appropriation of Biblical texts' (by Mary K. Deeley, 1997). At the other extreme, it's not intended for the kind of person who's willing to let her mind rot in front a TV screen. To borrow from Fr Lawrence Farley, it's for your grandmother, your plumber and me.

 

I'm sure the Library of Congress is stuffed with similar works by Protestant and Roman writers, but the Orthodox haven't given us much yet in English. I mentioned Fr Lawrence, but I don't see him referring to the Holy Fathers all that much, or responding to our culture. Fr Paul Tarazi's OT and NT Introductions are great, but a bit abstruse for most of us; and he surprises me with some very non-traditional ideas (St John's gospel was written by St Mark).

 

BUT PLEASE -- I would appreciate it if you could point me to any other Orthodox sources that may be available.

 

Finally, you might hear something to the effect that if you write a letter to your congressman, there are about 14000 like-minded others who didn't bother writing. All I can expect to bring is a voice and a set of concerns that will resonate with a few people for a few years: people who are unashamed of Christ in the space age and in the information age; who think that atheism is necessarily irrational and that it arises from a loss of logos; that the science and philosophy of the last 100 years have given extraordinary support to belief in God; that the NT writings are historically and theologically reliable; and I'm sure there's more: I'll think of it.

 

Or rather we'll think of it: because I'm seeking input from my little group, and from all the folk here at Monachos.

 

H



#4 John S.

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 02:32 PM

I'm sure the Library of Congress is stuffed with similar works by Protestant and Roman writers, but the Orthodox haven't given us much yet in English.

 

This comes to mind: Explanation of the Gospel of John by Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid.

 

http://www.chrysosto...lanation_4.html



#5 Monk Herman

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 05:54 PM

Thanks, John.

 

I should have clarified the sources that we have here already.

 

We've got the set of Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, including St Chrysostom and St Augustin.  

    We have Blessed Theophylact -- most of what's been made available so far.

Venerable Bede's Homilies on the Gospel and on the Catholic Epistles.  

    We have Fr Lawrence Farley on the Gospels and Acts, and some of the rest.

Most of Father Paul Tarazi's Introductions to the OT and NT.

    Most of the NT volumes in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series, and a few of the OT volumes. These are "chains" of extracts from the Fathers ("catenae"), not complete works; so their value is fairly limited.

 

We also have the Orthodox Study Bible

    The New International Version ("Evangelical")

The New American Bible (Roman)

    The Jerusalem Bible (Roman)

The Jewish Study Bible (OT only of course)

    The Annotated Jewish NT and

The English Standard Version ("Evangelical") in a primitive Kindle version.

 

We hope to soon have Dr David Stern's Messianic Jewish commentary on the Scripture.

 

I think that's all. What else should we have?

 

thx

 

H



#6 Phoebe K.

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 07:25 PM

Herman,

 

The original Greek of both the Old and New Testerments, would be a good place to start, or at least the interlinear forms as all translation involves a degree of interpretation.

 

A good English language resource is NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint), it is a academic translation from the Greek and includes all the texts the Church puts in the Old Tresterment, not the reduced number the western traditions use.

 

Phoebe



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 11:19 PM

No mention of the King James Bible, widely acknowledged as still one of the finest translations available.



#8 Antonios

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 12:28 AM

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? We look forward to your contributions.

 

 

You will need a much bigger list of sources my brother.  The Philokalia at the very least, as well as the writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Gregory Palamas. 

 

I applaud your efforts.  May it be blessed by our Lord!  :)


Edited by Antonios, 29 May 2015 - 12:29 AM.


#9 Monk Herman

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 03:20 AM

Dear Phoebe --

 

Of course I would forget something. We do have the Patriarchal NT courtesy of Elpenor Publishing (ISBN 978 147 504 6151). Alas, I'm the only one who can read it; but I am attempting to introduce the group to NT Greek. We also have the Eastern/Greek Orthodox NT (978 148 191 7650) -- a translation of the Patriarchal text.

 

We also have The Zondervan Parallel NT in GK and Eng.

 

I do have the NETS, but only the Kindle version.

 

Thank you very much.

 

 

Reader Andreas -- We do of course have several KJVs, in addition to the OSB which is a NKJV with the OT portion revised to conform to the LXX.

It seems there's more than just a little that I forgot!

 

I appreciate your comments!

 

 

Antonios -- Cute kid! Boy or girl? Name?

 

We do have the Philokalia. One of our participants actually has the second volume checked out. We also have a couple of other books of St Maximos. We have the Homilies of St Gregory Palamas and the portions of the Triads in the Paulist Press series -- the ones with the ghastly covers that we the Orthodox with such embarrassment cover over with plain paper as if it were pornographic.

 

All we have of St Symeon is the discreetly-covered Paulist Press collection.

 

Thank you very much!

 

Thanks to all! Please keep those suggestions coming!

 

with love in Christ

 

H



#10 Monk Herman

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Posted 30 May 2015 - 04:53 AM

I found a find!

 

Thanks-a-million to Daniel R., who provides the following link in his thread "Scripture with Orthodox Commentary."

 

www.tertullian.org/fathers/index.htm

 

Here I found the excruciatingly detailed commentary on St John's Gospel by St CYRIL of Alexandria.

 

Help me where I go wrong: This is a collection of Patristic texts that were translated by Anglican scholars in the 1800s but that were not included in the already immense collection of Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (and other ancient Christian writers) that we all love and admire so much. These texts would have expanded the existing collection by at least a dozen volumes. We are very lucky to have all this, and we should be grateful enough to offer the occasional prayer on behalf of those who conceived and completed this huge and wondrous work.

 

We the people -- and especially, specifically, we the Orthodox Christians -- are the logiki pimni tou Christou tou theou mas: the rational flock of Christ our God. Reasoning -- thinking things through -- is what we do. It is our life to love our God and Creator with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.

 

Atheism on the other hand (you will find that I have this "thing" about atheism) is the rejection of God.

 

It is the rejection of:

 

Father; Spirit, and Son:

Arkhe, pnevma and logos:

The source of all; the spirit of life; and Reason, word, language, meaning:

The very existence of the kosmos; of life; and of all that is distinctively human.

 

I believe, I trust that the holy Fathers and the Orthodox Christian tradition rightly understood, will give us insights into our culture: insights that will help us respond in intelligent ways that will "defeat" (if you will) the reasonings of the unreasoning forces present in our world today.

 

Logos filled us in our first beginning. Logos came to us, and dwelt among us; and logos lives in us IF we accept that logos and IF we develop its being within us.

 

Atheism is inherently irrational -- alogikos -- and it is our privilege and our duty to convey the truth of Christ the logos and of His pre-eternal Father and of His all-holy and good and life-creating Spirit, to the world we live in.

 

I'm a crappy human being, but I have a talent. After wasting that talent for (about) 65 years I will now engage with the world God put me in. Please forgive me for this!

 

Sorry to lecture!

 

I love you all.

 

H

 



#11 Monk Herman

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 07:45 PM

I'm sure we've all heard that the Greek word vaptismos means "immersion." I found it translated that way in Dr David Stern's Complete Jewish Bible, and it struck me as odd -- but really just because I'm not used to seeing it that way.

 

How does anyone feel about using the word "immersion" rather than "baptism?" The "John" in St John's Gospel would then be called "The Immerser."

 

I've come to like it because it helps to clarify the proper form of the sacrament.

 

I had also translated St John's first verse as "In the beginning was the Logos." Any comments on that?

 

H

 

 



#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 11:46 PM

My thought, for what it is worth, is that the word 'baptism' and the grammatical forms deriving from it are so well known in the English speaking world that to think of calling it 'immersion' would seem a contrived novelty. In any case, the word 'baptism', in its Greek form as well as its English form, has meant the sacrament for a very long time. We might recall that the form of the sacrament does not have to be reflected in a word which has the resonance of immersion: after all, the Russian and Slavic words for baptism are based on the word for 'cross' and do not at all carry any meaning of immersion.



#13 Monk Herman

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 03:00 AM

" 'immersion' would seem a contrived novelty."

 

It didn't seem contrived to me because I understood where it came from. But it did seem novel; I even used the word "odd." Yet a commentary would allow for the explication of the usage. At this time I don't think the translation would be intended for liturgical use. If it were I'd want to weed out anything that might seem quirky.

 

"the word 'baptism' ... has meant the sacrament for a very long time."

 

The problem I would want to address with the word "immersion" is that some readers might not be Orthodox. So to some the sacrament might mean pouring over the head or over the hands. It might mean sprinkling. Or it might mean immersion "in Jesus' name" -- although the language used might not naturally arise in a commentary on St John's Gospel.

 

"the form of the sacrament does not have to be reflected in a word [that means] immersion: ... the Russian and Slavic words for baptism are based on the word for 'cross' and do not at all carry any meaning of immersion."

 

I didn't know that. What is the Slavonic word for baptism?

 

But the Russian Churches do respect the form of the sacrament, even though the Russian denominations don't -- is that not so? So the Russian Churches understand what the Scriptural word means even if they use a different word for liturgical purposes. The denominations may be scrupulous about using the Biblical word while neglecting the form of the mystery.

 

Father Lawrence's commentaries are intended for your grandmother, your plumber and me. Your grandmother may have a Ph'D in physics but be weak in theology. Your plumber may understand literature, politics, and Chinese jade sculpture but not Scripture. I may have no education at all. But if we're all Orthodox we understand that baptism or (Slavonic) "crucifixion" means descending into the water, dying with Christ, and rising as a new creation. My RC group participants wouldn't get that from the word "baptism" alone; many others would miss it too; maybe even some Orthodox Christians.

 

On the whole it's probably a toss-up whether the word "immersion" should appear in the translation or just in the commentary. But if it's in the translation, it would probably have more Punch.

 

What is the Russian/Slavonic word for baptism in the Scripture? What is the liturgical word? Are they the same?

 

Thanks-a-Bunch



#14 Olga

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 09:00 AM

What is the Slavonic word for baptism?

 

Крещение (Kreshcheniye). The word for cross is крест (krest).

 

What is the Russian/Slavonic word for baptism in the Scripture? What is the liturgical word? Are they the same?

 

The same as above.



#15 Lakis Papas

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 01:26 PM

Fron Nicene Creed: ...I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;...

#16 Monk Herman

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Posted 08 June 2015 - 12:03 AM

Thank you, Olga!

 

I knew this when I was with my elder years ago, but my command of Slavonic was never much developed, and I've been away from it for quite some time.

 

In post #13 above I guessed that Kreshcheniye might mean something like "crucifixion." Have I guessed correctly? The apostle Paul writes that when we descend into the water of baptism we are buried with Christ, and that when we emerge we rise with a new life: we have "put on Christ." So "crucifixion" makes sense to me. Is that what Kreshcheniye means?

 

I know that the word for Kyriake (The Lord's Day; Sunday) means "Resurrection;" what is the Slavonic word for crucifixion?

 

A pan-Orthodox perspective will be very helpful in producing our commentary: help like this is exactly what we need.

And please notice that I will consistently say "our" and "we." This is our commentary, not just mine.

 

Thank you so much!

 

H

 

 

Lakis -- I take it you're voting to retain the word "baptism" in preference to "immersion," since "baptism" is so well established in the English rhetorical tradition. At present I'm inclined to agree, and to leave the explanation in the commentary. It would be really helpful, though, if you could put this into your own words, rather than letting me say it for you. We need to be reminded of what the Fathers wrote in the Creed, but we need the expression of your own Orthodox mind and heart.

 

Thanks-a-million!

 



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 08 June 2015 - 08:36 PM

In post #13 above I guessed that Kreshcheniye might mean something like "crucifixion." Have I guessed correctly? The apostle Paul writes that when we descend into the water of baptism we are buried with Christ, and that when we emerge we rise with a new life: we have "put on Christ." So "crucifixion" makes sense to me. Is that what Kreshcheniye means?

 

There is nothing in the word 'Kreshcheniye' that means 'crucifixion'. It derives only from the words 'Christ' and 'cross'.

 

Sunday in Russian is Bоскресенье (Voskresenie) and means 'Resurrection'.






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