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The Orthodox Study Bible, Hardcover: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World Hardcover – February 26, 2008
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From the Back Cover
This is the only resource Bible written with study aids and articles written from an Orthodox Christian perspective- the New Testament and Psalms are interpreted from the doctrinal foundation of the Orthodox Church. For the guidance of respected scholars of the Orthodox faith working within a tradition of biblical interpretation which goes back to the apostles themselves.
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The case for the Septuagint Old Testament:
The unique and most compelling reason to acquire the OSB: it is the only complete Bible in English to be published with the Greek OT right next to the NT. If you have one of those reference Bibles, I'm sure you've noticed that many of the OT quotes used in the NT mismatch when you actually look them up, sometimes to a great degree--this is because Jesus and the disciples apparently quoted from the Septuagint Greek, as opposed to other Hebrew sources, a vast majority of the time. This is so, because Greek was the common language of antiquity in the region and the Septuagint translation (which includes the apocryphal/deuterocanonical "hidden books" of the "second canon") was completed more than a century before Christ's birth. By the time of Jesus' ministry, it was in widespread use by Jews throughout the Diaspora, particularly outside of Palestine and, especially, Jerusalem by those who couldn't speak or read Hebrew. Bear in mind: the Hebrew OT, from which 99% of modern English Bibles are translated, relies on Masoretic Hebrew (Hebrew with fixed vowels) whose manuscripts didn't exist until the high middle ages, approximately the 9th century AD--almost a thousand years after Christ! By then, the methodology behind Jewish biblical scholarship had evolved immensely and the original meaning of certain passages were irrevocably changed. Isaiah 7:14 is the classic casualty of this: Masoretic Hebrew renders "young woman" while Septuagint Greek renders "virgin"--a pretty significant paradigm shift. Ever wonder why the OT books of the Christian Bible are in their current order as opposed to the way the Hebrew Bible orders them? That's right, the Septuagint lists them in order of Law, Histories, Writings, and Prophecy; the NT books are similarly ordered by Gospel, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation. In the end, the Masoretic/Septuagint wars will rage on; but the latter is still the most ancient and reliable source of the OT, it's quoted extensively by the ancient Church Fathers, and it was the de facto source of scripture for Jesus and His Disciples. If you don't already have a Septuagint, it's well worth picking one up, and the OSB version is preferable to the aging Brenton translation and even to the flawed-NRSV-based NETS (if you're a conservative practitioner of your faith, it's really hard to take the NRSV seriously with its literal-but-intentionally-unorthodox renderings of scripture as well as its politically-motivated gender-sterilized language).
The case for the NKJV New Testament:
Other reviewers have mentioned a distaste for the New King James Version and, as someone who also affirms most of the critical methods of modern NT scholarship, I can certainly empathize. Though the NKJV relies on the Textus Receptus (a Reformation Era-variant of Byzantine text-type manuscripts, compiled by Erasmus) and maintains such renderings in the body of scripture, its footnotes are the most comprehensive of any translation. In fact, all variations from the Majority Text as well as the Nestle-Aland/UBS editions (the "Critical Text" based on Alexandrian text-type manuscripts) are comprehensively documented. The overriding benefit to the selection of the TR is that the NKJV retains the same eloquent, familiar phraseology and literary grace that caused its predecessor to leave such an indelible mark on English language and literature ever after. And because it adheres to the principle of formal equivalence in translation, the NKJV maintains a vocabulary and style in accordance with high English--this is not a "dumbed-down" translation like many other popular ones out there. The result is that the Bible reads less like a contemporary novel or a daily newspaper, and more like dignified prose--which is befitting of sacred scripture.
The case for the commentary:
If you're strictly an academic, you may find this to have a limited appeal; but if you consider yourself a member of the faithful laity, you'll get quite a lot out of this. Even if you're a Christian of Reformation descent, you'll appreciate the uniqueness in character of the OSB notes because it's the only modern commentary available that doesn't depend on the historical-critical method to elaborate on passages. Instead, it's comprehensively Christological, even in the OT where it succeeds in pointing out both significant and obscure messianic prophecies. The result is an OT commentary that approaches scripture holistically, with the same Christ-centered worldview that is readily present in the NT. If you're an Orthodox Christian, you'll love it more than not, even though the brevity characteristic of its notes contrasts with the immense depth and breadth typical of Church Fathers. In my humble opinion, the commentary's simplicity is its strength for ordinary study or prayerful reading. As someone who occasionally refers to the Haydock edition of the Douay-Rheims Bible to shed light on certain difficult scripture passages, I find the OSB's concise, pointed commentary to be a refreshing change, in contrast to Haydock's excessive wordiness for normal use. Sure, for more in-depth study you'll want a deeper commentary, but the vast majority of the time, and for the vast majority of people, the OSB's solidly patristic explanations are a sight for sore eyes. If you're an Eastern Catholic, this will fit you like a glove since all scripture references cited during Byzantine Divine Liturgy are clearly referenced and the appendix even includes a lectionary for the entire liturgical year. If you're a Roman Rite Catholic, like me, trust me: there's no better modern, complete Bible out there that's made to bolster your faith like this one. To wit: the single-volume Navarre Bible is hopefully in the works and, as of this writing, the NT of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is available for pre-order with the OT probably years away. The potential benefits to such future volumes would be references to papal encyclicals, pertinent teachings from the Catechism, and explanations by intellectual giants like Dr. Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, or other faithful scripture scholars. The OSB commentary, along with the introductions to each book, purposely limits its scope to the wisdom of the Holy Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium. While this may sound like a detractor at first, it has one substantial benefit: these are the teachings that predate any Reformation, or subsequently needed Counter-Reformation, as well as the Great East-West Schism. Essentially, these are the teachings of Christ's Church when that Church was One: singular and united.
The full biblical text is set in a two-column format and is graced with section headers within the chapters themselves for easier searching. The font is a nicely-readable 11-point for the text and about 8-point for the footnotes and commentary. Overall, the page layout is among the most practical and beautiful I've seen in any Bible. One major upshot to the OSB is the page thinness. In order to pack the wealth of information contained in this veritable library into a single volume, the pages evidently had to become nearly tissue-paper thin. Despite this, text ghosting from the other side is surprisingly minimal--I just worry about dropping this one day and forever creasing a couple hundred pages for its potential lack of resilience. Also, the tome measures about 7x10x2, so it's a bit larger than your average personal Bible. The bonded leather is elegant and sturdy but suffers some minor-but-still-irritating curl after use. The pages are gold-edged and the Bible has that humble and reverent look and feel that they surely ought to have for the sacred scripture they contain. Finally, the full-color, high quality, icons interspersed throughout are a blessing and further aid the sense of actually being "in church" as you read.
Other observations of note:
The OSB does suffer one logistical drawback shared, for example, by the Douay-Rheims (the traditional Catholic Bible translated from the Clementine Vulgate): the verse numberings occasionally deviate from the standard (which has been set by an OT in Hebrew and a NT in Greek). In the case of the Douay, this is a result of translating from the Latin text. With regard to the OSB, similar verse discrepancies occur only in the Greek-based OT. Outside the Septuagint Psalter, I've found such a phenomenon to be a rare occurrence, at least. The stock NKJV NT obviously follows standard versification.
As someone who, admittedly, is accustomed to Masoretic Hebrew renderings in the OT from my NOAB, adjusting to Septuagint ones is an occasionally surprising endeavor, but always a fruitful one. Since the NKJV OT was the base translation for this particular version of the Septuagint, many beloved passages you're used to are nearly identical; Psalm 23 is a good example that remains virtually unchanged. Others, like Proverbs 3:5 are completely different; showing, instead, a much closer relationship to the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom, chapter 8. Such "Easter eggs" are prevalent throughout the text and make having the Septuagint well worth it, even just for comparative study.
For all that you're getting, the OSB's price point is just right for both bonded leather and hard-bound. Also, the publisher has more or less recently come out with a red, genuine leather edition that is significantly pricier, but which sports a beautiful and ornate gold cover design.
In the end, the Orthodox Study Bible is a God-send (quite literally in many senses). If you're less interested in getting to know the "historical Jesus" as portrayed by scholars in most study Bibles, and more interested in meeting with Our Lord and Savior as understood by saints, "Highly recommended" would be an understatement.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam!