An Initial Impression on the Complete OSB

The complete Orthodox Study Bible has started to ship at long last, and T. R. Valentine (an Orthodox layman whose articles on history, theology, and the ecclesiastical canon and text of Scripture I have always found both challenging and helpful) has made available his first impressions on the long-awaited volume. Since his remarks are likely to be of interest to readers of this blog, I reprint them here in their entirety by the kind permission of the author.

Orthodox Study Bible — initial impressions

I received my copy Saturday.

IMO, it is very good the books of the OT were arranged in canonical order (as done by the Greeks). But I wish they had rearranged the NT in the canonical order (as done by the Greeks) at the same time. Oh well.

I really dislike the ugly font used in the running header — zeroes are wider than the capital letter O; ones look like a capital I. The font used for the text has far too high an x-height: lower case letters are about 3/4 the size of capital letters instead of 1/2. But I can live with ugly. The content is far more important.

I was checking to see if ἐκκλησία was translated as ‘church’. To my delight, it was rendered ‘church’ in Psalm 21 (vv. 23, 26); Psalm 25 (vv. 5, 12); Psalms 34:18; 39:10; 67:27; and 88:6. I wish they had maintained that rendering for the remainder of the psalms, but for some reason did not in Psalm 106:32 and Psalm 149:1.

The word ἐκκλησία was also translated as ‘church’ in Job 30:28, Proverbs 5:14, and Lamentations 1:10. I really wish they had also used ‘church’ in the 23rd chapter of Deuteronomy (vv. 2, 3, 4, and 9) and Joel 2:16, but, alas, they did not.

When I was checking to see the rendering of ἐκκλησία in the four books of Kingdoms, I ran into a problem finding the verses. So I started digging into verse numbering.

What a mess!

The standard numbering of the books of the Old Testament [is], like it or not, based on the Masoretic text.

The ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text I have adapts to this by skipping verse numbers where the Church’s text does not have the equivalent of the Masoretic. Thus, in 1 Kingdoms, the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text numbers the first eleven verses of chapter 17 which basically parallel the Masoretic text, then skips numbers 12 through 31, numbers verses 32 through 40 which parallel the Masoretic text, skips verse 41, numbers verses 42 through 49 which parallel the Masoretic text, skips verse 50, numbers verses 51 through 54, and omits numbers 55 through 58. (Note: the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text includes the omitted verses from the Masoretic text in footnotes rendered in a distinct font.)

When there are verses present in the Church’s text that are not in the Masoretic text, the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) edition numbers verses with added letters. Thus, in Chapter 2 of 3 Kingdoms, it numbers the first 35 verses which parallel the Masoretic text, and then numbers the following verses 35α, 35β, 35γ, 35δ, … 35μ, 35ν, 35ξ. The next verse is numbered 36 as is the parallel verse in the Masoretic text.

The Brenton translation of the Septuagint basically uses the same numbering system as the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text, but instead of appending letters it has no verse numbering (effectively making 3 Kingdoms 2:35 a great long verse!).

The Orthodox Study Bible doesn’t follow either of these methods. Instead it uses what is, IMO, the worst possible method. It numbers verses sequentially regardless of the standard numbering of verses. Thus, where the Church’s text does not have text which parallels the Masoretic text, the Orthodox Study Bible ends up with few verse numbers than other editions. For instance, 1 Kingdoms 17:32 in the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text and the Brenton translation and 1 Samuel 17:32 in the NASB, is rendered in the OSB as 17:12! The same thing is done where there are additional verses, only this results in more verse numbers than other editions. For instance, what the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) edition counts as 35, 35α, 35β, 35γ, 35δ, … 35μ, 35ν, 35ξ, 36 is counted in the OSB as verses 35 through 49. So 3 Kingdoms 2:36 in the ΖΩΗ (ZOE) text and the Brenton translation and 1 Kings 2:36 in the NASB becomes 3 Kingdoms 2:50.

Like I said, it is a mess. Worse, there is no ‘conversion table’ that will allow a reader to find the equivalent of a verse found in any other translation/edition. Perhaps some enterprising soul(s) will create a web page with a conversion table.


In looking at 1 Kingdoms chapter 17 (the story of David and Goliath), I found two things which bothered me. The OSB has a verse 29 which parallels 1 Samuel 17:50 in the same place as it appears in the Masoretic text, but that verse DOES NOT EXIST in the Church’s text. I wonder if someone, working from the NKJV Old Testament (which was used as this project’s boilerplate), inadvertently left that verse in.

The second thing was the OSB’s note to 1 Kingdoms 17:4 — ‘Goliath is over nine feet tall.’ This would be true if one is following the Masoretic text which gives Goliath’s height as six cubits and a span (a cubit being about 18 inches makes six cubits approximately equal to nine feet), but the Church’s text — properly translated in the OSB — gives Goliath’s height as FOUR cubits and a span (which works out to about six feet plus a ‘span’, i.e. about 6’4″ instead of 9’4″)! It appears notes from the NKJV Old Testament may have been retained without checking.

The icons included in the OSB are quite good (and traditional). The Lectionary will be very useful. Of course, the patristic comments are important. The Index to Annotations looks like it will be helpful, but I haven’t had much chance to look through it.

Back to looking at the OSB.


An additional piece of information that I have learned elsewhere: although the book of 4 Maccabees was originally slated to appear in an appendix (as it does in the Greek Bible), it was not included in the end. Apparently, however, both text and annotations were produced for this book; it would be splendid if these were made available online for individual use.

I requested a review copy of the complete OSB sometime back, since previous posts and comments on the OSB on this blog continue to generate quite a bit of traffic. I do hope to receive a copy and make my own comments available in the near future, but I couldn’t neglect passing on Thomas’ initial comments.

2 responses to “An Initial Impression on the Complete OSB

  1. Several years ago I checked on the list of books to be included, their order and so on. Fourth Maccabees was planned to be printed at that time. I am positively shocked to find it missing in the printed edition.

    I am likewise shocked to see that not one single issue addressed in Archimandrite Ephrem’s critique (brought back to mind by Father / Felix Culpa at Ora et Labora) of the earlier NT/Psalms OSB was addressed. If anything the issue has been aggravated. The more I look at it, the more problems I find — not a happy experience in the first week of the Great Fast! This Orthodox Study Bible will never be recommended by me!


  2. What you say about the new OSB’s failure to heed Father Ephrem’s important critique (which as you might recall, I once defended over at John Hobbins’ blog, reposting my comment here afterwards) is the most troubling thing of all. I would like to do a point-by-point evaluation of the new OSB using the criteria of Father Ephrem’s review, but of course, that will have to wait until I can actually get my hands on a copy (which apparently might not be until summer; living in Puerto Rico has these kinds of disadvantages!). In the meantime, what I keep hearing from you and others is rather disheartening, even from the perspective of my low expectations.


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