The EOB and the Ecclesiastical Text of the New Testament

Frequent readers of this blog will know that, ever since I learned of the project a couple of years ago, I have followed with keen interest the developments surrounding the upcoming publication of the Greek / Eastern Orthodox Bible (EOB), edited by Fr Laurent Cleenewerck. Although the project website does not appear to have been updated in quite some time, interested parties should note that the final edition of the New Testament seems to have been released last year as scheduled, and is available for download and purchase. The EOB Old Testament still awaits completion.

Of course, the chief selling point of the EOB NT is that it professes to be a translation of the Patriarchal Text of the New Testament, which is thus far the only authoritative edition of the Ecclesiastical Text of the New Testament as used in the Orthodox Church. There are various ways of testing this claim: for instance, one could look at such texts as St Matthew 19:9 or St Mark 9:29 and check whether they conform to the Critical Text or to the Ecclesiastical Text. One may safely assume, however, that any translation that seeks to represent the so-called “Byzantine texttype” will not neglect the places where the Ecclesiastical Text and the Critical Text at more obviously at variance. A better test, I believe, would be to check the translation at places where the differences are subtler.

One such place is Romans 12:1-2, which reads as follows in the Patriarchal New Testament:

Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ, παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν, ἁγίαν, εὐάρεστον τῷ Θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν, καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθαι τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθαι τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν, εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον.

The Critical Text is virtually identical to the Ecclesiastical Text here, except for three small differences in verse 2: for the more polished infinitives συσχηματίζεσθαι and μεταμορφοῦσθαι, it has the rougher imperatives συσχηματίζεσθε and μεταμορφοῦσθε (a variant obviously arising from “faulty hearing,” to borrow Metzger’s charming description), and there is no ὑμῶν modifying νοὸς. Interestingly, the Textus Receptus (which lies behind the King James and New King James Versions) agrees with the Critical Text in the first two instances, and with the Ecclesiastical Text on the third.

The EOB NT has the following:

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your rational offering of divine service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

So it turns out that the EOB reflects here the reading, not of the Ecclesiastical Text, but of the Textus Receptus! A translation of the former perhaps would have run more or less as follows:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your rational offering of divine service; and to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Further, there is no footnote documenting the textual variant at this point. It is true that the EOB only promises to note significant variants; but this admittedly minor textual variation represents a distinctive reading of the Ecclesiastical Text that was for whatever reason not reflected in the text of the EOB, and it ought to have been at least footnoted.

Fortunately, while the EOB might have failed this particular test, it remains on the whole a successful (if at points peculiar) translation of the Church’s Textand given the nature of the project, one can trust that as minor blemishes such as the one here discussed continue to surface, the translation will only continue to be improved.

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5 responses to “The EOB and the Ecclesiastical Text of the New Testament

  1. Michael> By all means, purchase a copy right now! Wear it down and thumb it well. I would advise against having it rebound just yet, though: there is still much that could be improved in the EOB, but like with other translations, this will doubtless require a few years’ worth of input from sharp-eyed readers. I would wait perhaps until the next edition to have a copy rebound.

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  2. Esteban,

    Thanks. The idea of having a genuinely well done Orthodox English translation of the Bible in my hands makes me a little giddy. :-)

    If I could afford it, I would sequester my own 70, pay them double their salary for a year, and tell them not to come out until they have the Orthodox Bible and all the service books faithfully translated into magnificent English.

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  3. I’ve been using it quite a bit and I really like it. I’ve had some minor problems with certain passages and came across a couple of places where they followed the TR, but overall I really like it.

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  4. Michael> I know, right? Franklly, it’s unbelievable that nothing like this has been available before now.

    And hey, you don’t need to sequester 70 people to produce at least an acceptable New Testament and Psalter! Plan on 2 or 3, which should be more than enough. Oh, and let me know where I can apply. ;-)

    Charles> Have you purchased a copy, or have you been working with the PDF? I myself haven’t bought a hard copy, but I will do it soon. I do really like it as well, even though there are renderings that I find idiosyncratic, and some others that I find just infelicitous. But as I’ve said before, the good thing is that these are all minor points that can easily be polished for subsequent editions. This is very encouraging.

    I really don’t know what’s up with the TR readings that pop up here and there, unless they were already present in the WEB and are a carryover from that. I should start a list — and so should you!

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