One of the more recognizable Scriptural quotations in the Byzantine liturgical tradition comes from Psalm 118:27 (117:27, LXX). This is sung with great ceremony towards the beginning of Matins on Sundays and Feasts, and immediately before the Communion at the Eucharistic Liturgy. Its visibility in our liturgical tradition makes it one of the more frequently quoted Scriptural statements in our circles; but at least in the English-speaking world, it is usually quoted according to a widespread liturgical rendering influenced by the King James Version, and later printed in the widely used Psalter According to the Seventy:
“God is the Lord, and hath appeared unto us…”
The text of Rahlf’s Septuaginta, which is identical to that found in our liturgical books, reads:
Θεὸς Κύριος καὶ ἐπέφανεν ἡμῖν…
(Slavonic: Бог Господь и явися нам…)
As far as I can tell, this is a rather straightforward translation of the Hebrew text, which reads:
אֵל יְהוָה וַיָּאֶר לָנוּ
Now, Θεὸς Κύριος (Theos Kyrios) can be translated either “God [is] the Lord” or “The Lord is God,” but which of the two is the correct subject of the omitted verb ἐστι(ν) [esti(n), is]? This is one of many points in which reference to the Hebrew Vorlage of the LXX (and therefore of a great many of our liturgical texts) is fundamental. By comparison with the Masoretic Text, which in this case appears to be identical to the Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint, we learn that (as in many other places in the LXX) the anarthrous Κύριος (Kyrios) stands here for the Divine Name, the Tetragrammaton. Thus the text should read “The Lord (=YHWH) is God,” and not the other way around.
Now, my friend Isaac asks:
What about Fr. Seraphim Dedes’ [translation]: “He is God, He is Lord and has revealed Himself to us…” Where does that come from?
With due respect to Father Seraphim, such a peculiar translation can only come from a lack of acquaintance with the style of the LXX in general, and with its underlying Hebrew Vorlage in particular. It should be noted, however, that this unfortunate rendering seems to have been abandoned; recent materials from the same source (such as those seen in this page) contain the customary (but also incorrect) “God is the Lord.”
As for the second part of the text, various translations are in use. In addition to “and hath appeared unto us” (shown above), one may also hear “who hath shown us light” (cf. “and he showed us light,” NETS) as well as “and hath revealed himself to us.” Each of these seeks to capture a different sense of the verb ἐπιφαίνω (epiphainō); I myself would prefer to emphasize God’s showing himself, revealing himself, appearing to us.