Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bibliology: For the Record

Since the subject came up earlier today, for the record I prefer the Septuagint version of the Bible for the Old Testament. The Douay-Rheims Version is praiseworthy in that it is based in part on the work of St. Jerome. Of course, the DRV is a later "update" of the great saint's immortal Latin Vulgate; other "diuerse tongues" [sic.] were consulted, including Hebrew, and the text was later "compared" with the King James Version (the Old Testament of which is based on the Masoretic Hebrew text -- thank you, Bp. Challoner). Of course, St. Jerome's did not simply translate the LXX, adding ancient Hebrew texts -- but all these would be far more ancient than the Masoretic Text and are probably now lost to history. One can trust that God led St. Jerome, blessed his work, and allowed the Western part of the Church to use his text for centuries. (The Vulgate, his version then various attempts at "correction," was the official Bible of the West from long before the Schism.) The DRV is as far as I know the most widely available text at least partly based on his God-blessed work and the Bible our ancient Western Orthodox forebears would have read. Even with various changes, I find prefer the DRV to the KJV when reading the OT. (IMHO, its NT is also A-OK AFAIK. Decipher that alphabet soup ASAP.)

The Peshitta (Aramaic, which was Our Lord's tongue) is also well worth reading, if one can find a dependable version. For example, there is an odd Hebraic/Nestorian/"Luminous" group calling itself an "Orthodox Church" -- complete with its own "Patriarch of Jerusalem" -- selling its translation of the Peshitta (actually, the "Orthodox Peshitta" -- note the recurrence of a certain term); caveat emptor, and yet another reason to be wary of Pseudodox.

For the New Testament, I prefer the King James Version. In its absence, another version based upon the Byzantine Majority Text/Textus Receptus will do, or the DRV, but none have the serendipity of eloquence and cadence found in the KJV.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why so many Byzantines use the Revised Standard Version, whose Old Testament is based on the Masoretic Hebrew Text mixed with the Dead Sea Scrolls; and its NT is based on the 17th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece/higher-critical text. Its reading of Isaiah 7:14 states only "a young woman shall conceive," rather than "a virgin shall conceive." Does anyone know how the RSV came to be used in so many Byzantine Orthodox churches?

At any rate, that's what I read. How about you?


Blogger Eric Jobe said...

In case you do not already know:

One of the interesting features of the Peshitta is that is essentially a translation of the MT with some influence from LXX and Targums. Some debate whether or not it is a Jewish or Christian translation (or both).

I am currently working on a thesis where I am comparing the translation theories of the LXX, MT, Peshitta, Vulgate, Targum, and DSS versions of the Psalms of Ascent.

The Peshitta is an important witness , not only in and of itself, but in order to better understand the MT and LXX

3:51 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Eric,

I couldn't agree with you more about the value and importance of the Peshitta -- and of the much overlooked Syrian heritage of ancient Orthodoxy. Its uniquely Semitic outlook and heart-warming fervor should inspire us all.

I hope my views on the Peshitta came through; I focused on the Vulgate because of the Western orientation of the blog and its readers (and because of the previous post on the Douay-Rheims).

I've heard the Peshitta called a "proto-Masoretic." I'd be most interested in your conclusions -- any chance I might get you to share some more insights as they come along, or even send a copy of your thesis?

Thanks again for dropping in.

God bless,

4:47 PM  
Blogger Fr Matthew said...

I think part of the issue (at least in the Antiochian Archdiocese) is that the official Gospel Book for the Eastern Rite published by the Archdiocese is the RSV.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Jean-Michel said...

Do the Greeks English-speaking in the USA also prefer that KJV?
If only Russians or Russian-parish goers, I'd say : just look what original text has been used in old Slavonic versions.

In French versions, Orthodox of here use mainly only LXX translated text. For the "textus receptus", it's not the best, so it depends from bishops or even parishes for which translation to use. For Liturgy, french-talking Byzantines use anyway all the same translation, based on the "byzantine majority".

for saint Jerome, my remark will probably not be welcome, but errors were in it. In my Greek courses at the theological (orthodox) school, we have received a few of them, very interesting to see.
There is no infaillible, even in Orthodox West :-)


9:44 AM  
Blogger gabriel said...

The RSV has some significant backers among anti-liberal but not capital "T" Traditionalists as well, Father Neuhaus among them. The thinking is that it preserves some of the cadence and beauty of the KJV, avoids inclusive language, and maintains a more literal translation theory (as opposed to dynamic equivalence). If one doesn't opt for a translation with anachronistic language, it's probably the best one can find, Isaiah notwithstanding.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Fr. Matthew, yes, but I wonder why they chose the RSV in the first place? (And they're by no means alone in Byzantium.)

Jean-Michel, the Textus Receptus Greek NT (that of the King James) is in 98 percent agreement with the Byzantine Majority Text NT, so it's readily available and trustworthy. For St. Jerome's "mistakes," I assume you're referring to the infamous (for some) passage in the Book of Romans?

gabriel, the cadence of the RSV (and English Standard Version, I'm told) is better than the NIV, NRSV, NAS, etc., but the underlying text of all those is inferior to the KJV/NKJV/Third Millenium Bible. Which is why I don't read 'em.

10:38 PM  
Blogger gabriel said...

ben- I would prefer the RSV to the NKJV which retains more of the stiltedness of the KJV without the antiquity. While I've heard good things about the ESV, I'm completely unfamiliar with the Third Millenium bible.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Fr Matthew said...

The Archdiocese Gospel Book was compiled/edited by our now-retired Bishop DEMETRI. Other than that, I am not privy to the details behind the choice of using the RSV.

This seems dissonant with our Archdiocese's ongoing commitment to using traditional language (in both Rites) in our liturgical texts.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Eric John said...

The RSV was "blessed" (or something) for use by Patriarch Athenagoras (of Papal-embracing fame and/or infamy--depending on who you are). It's also used because only it and the NRSV have all the books which each Orthodox Church (minus Ethiopia and Eritrea which have many more books) uses. Not even St. Jerome's Vulgatus Indexus/Appendixus (forgive me, I am being silly) includes 2nd Esdras and 3rd and 4th Maccabees and Psalm 151 and the Prayer of Manasses (?--do correct me if I am wrong). Thus, without the RSV, Orthodox would be "out of the loop" Biblically. (Albeit Anglicans include 2nd Esdras for some reason. I think it's a good reason. 2nd Esdras answers a lot of life's difficult questions--really.)

10:20 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

From the prefatory pages to the Douay Bible:

'Indulgences for Reading Holy Scripture:

(a) to the faithful who shall have read the books of Sacred Scripture for at least a quarter of an hour with the reverence due to the Divine Word, and as spiritual reading, there is granted: an indulgence of 3 years. '


And this revised in 1989. Reformers take that!

8:45 AM  

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