Review of the ‘The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World’

OSB

The Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) is more interesting than the ordinary hack editions one finds in Christian shops, both for its unique features and for what it reveals about Eastern Orthodox Christianity, historic and present. Contained therein is the Septuagint translation of the Tanakh and Apocryphal books arranged in the distinctive Orthodox order, some of them having different or added material compared to the Protestant/ Jewish canon. Though I have little notion as to the accuracy of translation – or which of the Masoretic or Septuagint texts is the proper version of the Tanakh (though my limited knowledge leans me towards the LXX) – it is certainly easy to read, the language is modern yet not base, and the New Testament is the New King James Version.

The book has lovely full page Orthodox icons, maps and is well-formatted to the reader’s needs, one could probably find cheaper editions of the Septuagint but the value OSB is in its commentary and articles, not for their insight and depth, it is beginners teaching, nor theological correctness (would we expect anything better!) but for what they show of the Church itself. For example the article on Ancestral Sin (p. 7) maintains standard teaching that “Human nature remains inherently good after the Fall; mankind is not totally depraved” classic Pelagianism. The muddled and clouded view of the Mosaic Law which usually hold Christians is laid bare in the commentary on Exodus 21:5,6 “The Law honoured free will, for the permanent relationship of servant to master was based on it. Similarly, our service to the Lord Jesus Christ is based on free will.” (p. 93) This would not be too egregious were it not for the following four verses “If a man sells his daughter to be a domestic, she shall not go out as the maidservants do etc. etc.” which pass without comment; for the free-will advocate to try and explain such verses it would be more of an insult to our intelligence than if he kept quiet.

Absent also is any mention of Anti-Semitism, the comments do argue that the Church has replaced Israel and the Torah is abolished, but the rabid, mad, pathological hatred of Jewry which characterises the Church in Eastern Europe and Russia even to this day finds no mention. The OSB is issued from the American branch of the Church, which appears to have moved to be more ecumenical and politically correct than its mother in Russia, no doubt to avoid controversy and draw in American Christians who are among the most well-neutered and weak-kneed people in that country. The dishonesty is twofold: It is impossible to sweep away or turn a blind eye to the atrocities and violence which characterised relations between the Jews and the Roman and Orthodox Catholic Churches; and it ignores a potential implication of Christian replacement theology, that the Jews are the Christ-killers who refuse to go away though God has abandoned them (another implication is that the Jews remain a supreme chosen race parallel to the Christian Church, the view of Christian Zionists, both of which are built on false suppositions).

In other respects the OSB is rather conservative, strong statements are made against abortion and homosexuality, but it somewhat pussyfoots on feminism, Genesis 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 pass with hardly any comment, and for 1 Peter 3:1-5 and Ephesians 3:22-33 the notes avoid those reviled words like “authority” and “patriarchy”. The article on marriage (p. 1607) is similarly evasive, the word “order” is used to substitute for what ought to be “the man is in charge”. The topic of slavery is handled like a hot brick, Deuteronomy 11:10-14 goes without comment, the notes Philemon reveal a dislike for Elohim’s law on this topic, the note to Phil. 11-13 reads “Paul sees to it that Onesimus fulfils his legal responsibilities by returning him to his master, concerns about the justice of slavery notwithstanding.” Strange methinks, I see not how the Eastern Orthodox alternatives to Biblical law – Imperialism, Tsarist autocracy, Feudal Serfdom, compromise with political masters, even the Muslim Tatars and Ottomans, and during the Second World War with Stalin! – are more effective policies than Yahovah’s, but to these issues the OSB speaks not.

I shall desist from further examples, the reader understands now that the OSB is a good study in the dual nature of Christianity West or East, its uncompromising pragmatism, its well thought-out irrationalism, its unflinching evasiveness. Aside from that, if one wants a pretty looking Septuagint and Apocrypha or merely to learn more of Orthodox thought, then I recommend it, but only if; if you do not have the money and time to spend then there is no need to buy it.

Source: The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to the Modern World (2nd ed.) (St Athanasius Academy of Theology, 2009)

The Ulsterman

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ulsterman1690

Judaiser, Protestant, and a proud Briton.

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