On Englishing the Bible of the Orthodox Church

In an infamous Orthodox discussion list that shouldn’t be read by anyone (and is therefore not linked here), notice was recently given regarding two active projects whose goal is translate into English the Bible of the Orthodox Church, and which are worthy of mention:

1) The Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible (in which project a friend of ours seems to have collaborated!). The New Testament of this version is already available for purchase and even for free download1; peer review of the text is both encouraged and welcome. It laudably translates the 1904 Patriarchal Greek text, which is, for all practical purposes, the only authoritative Orthodox edition of the ecclesiastical text of the New Testament. Divergences from the modern critical text of the New Testament (NA/UBS) are marked by footnotes, as are textual variants from patristic sources. The departing point for the EOB NT was the public domain World English Bible, a revision of the American Standard Version (1901) on the basis of the Majority Text, which is very close indeed to the Greek text printed in the Patriarchal edition.

According to the website, the EOB Old Testament will be a (one hopes extensive) revision of Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint, and should appear by December 31, 2007. [UPDATE: But Kevin Edgecomb suggests in the comments that it will yet be a while before the full text of the Old Testament will be in fact available.]

2) One Michael Asser has produced a revision of the King James Version’s Psalter according to the Septuagint (also available in booklet format here). The Psalter is suitably arranged according to the traditional order of kathismata for liturgical reading, and includes the nine Biblical Odes, as well as the full order for reading the Psalter throughout the year. This is, then, a most useful Psalter for Orthodox use and deserves wide recognition. A printed edition of this text, further revised and corrected by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Patapios, is forthcoming from the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies. Mr Asser states in his foreword: “If this version of the Psalter finds any favour with English-speaking Orthodox, I hope in time to produce a complete ‘KJV-Septuagint’ Old Testament.” Some of us would most certainly welcome such a volume! I intend to start using Mr Asser’s KJV-LXX Psalter at once, and look forward to the CTOS’s release of the printed version.


The EOB is being released under a limited copyright license. According to the front matter of this edition, “Permissions to use, quote, reproduce and modify for non-commercial, liturgical or scholarly purposes is [….] granted to all institutions, parishes, clergy, or lay members of SCOBA affiliated jurisdictions and agencies.” While certainly understand the desire to make the text unavailable to the self-aggrandizing posturing of deluded vagantes of various stripes, this copyright limitation to “SCOBA” (the so-called Standing Conference of [Canonical] Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) is problematic. As is well known,
SCOBA does not gather all Orthodox Bishops in the Americas: the Bishops of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad, for instance, do not participate in this “clergy association” for Bishops (which is, in the end, all that SCOBA is). Therefore, a significant number of North American English-speaking faithful are ipso facto left out from this provision. Nor is that all: the provision also leaves out English-speaking Orthodox throughout the Commonwealth (excepting Canada)! Surely they would also (or perhaps especially) like to benefit from the permission to modify the text for liturgical use. One hopes that such difficulties are taken into account, and that more sensible copyright terms will be drafted before too long. [UPDATE: I am pleased to note that the copyright terms have indeed been modified to take the above considerations into account.]

3 responses to “On Englishing the Bible of the Orthodox Church

  1. Yes, Fr Cleenewerck included my translation of the Prayer of Manasses, and I’ll be doing Sirach, too, which is complicated, but fun.

    The good thing about this particular translation is that presentation-wise it’ll be somewhat like the NET Bible, with various online versions, and eventually a printed edition once the text is fully stabilized. So, it’ll be a while before the final version of the OT is done, I think, though the NT looks pretty good already.


  2. Thank you, Kevin, for your comments on the EOB! I do look forward to seeing your work on the PrMan, and especially on Sirach, a book right dear to my heart. Also, the comparison with the NET Bible is very helpful, and helps one put the nature of this project in context.

    I quite agree that the EOB NT looks pretty good as it stands, though I must admit that there are some things in what I’ve read so far that sound a bit odd to my ear (but they are, almost without exception, bracketed!). In any event, I’m eager to buy a printed copy; this NT is far preferable for Orthodox use than any other existing edition, and I’ve been wishing for something similar for a long time.


  3. You’re always welcome! Go ahead and write to Fr Cleenewerck with your concerns. He did all that work on the NT himself, and I’m sure he’d appreciate the input.


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