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Bible translations - Solly - 20-04-2007 01:00 PM

Is there a preferred English translation for Orthodox Christians? I have noticed that the King james version is favoured in some quarters, due to its textual basis in the Byzantine manuscripts. I use the English Standard Version myself, having used the KJV for 12 years in my previous Calvinist church.

Translations - John Charmley - 20-04-2007 01:51 PM

Dear Solly,

I have always tended to use the KJV or NKJV - the Orthodoxy Study Bible - my new preferred text, is NKJV. I gather there are sections of the Eastern Orthodox Church who object to it - but since they seem to spend a great deal of energy objecting to things, I'm not put off by that.

The OSB is well worth getting - there is an OT due soon, but the OSB NT has the Psalms and some good Orthodox commentaries with it; I have found it a great help.

In Christ,


- admin - 20-04-2007 02:46 PM

Hi Solly

I use a variety of translations but in Church we tend to use the KJV and the NKJV. Our bishop prefers the KJV, while the wider English speaking Coptic Orthodox in the West prefer the NKJV.

I like the Darby version of the NT, and I will use modern paraphrase versions sometimes if I want a new way of looking at a well known passage. But I tend to stick with the KJV and the NKJV, especially since I can use the KJV with various tools on my PC.


- Solly - 20-04-2007 03:35 PM

Thank you, I'll go rummaging for my copies. e-sword is a good help for alternate versions, and has a Darby bible, LXX, KJV and ESV. <!-- w --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- w -->

- Fr Gregory - 23-04-2007 09:25 AM

There are two questions, I think: (1) are criticisms of the so-called Orthodox Study Bible justified? and (2) is the tone taken by Eastern Orthodox with regard to the non-Chalcedonians appropriate?

I think the answer to (1) is: yes. The work is not, in any meaningful sense of the word, ?Orthodox? (as a basic example, if it was Orthodox it would use an Orthodox translation of the Psalms, and have the Psalms in their traditional Orthodox numbering and order). Archimandrite Ephrem is hardly a rabid fanatic, so his criticisms, at least, are well-balanced. It is the title to which I take exception: ?The NKJV with Some Orthodox Commentary? might have been preferable.

(2) is more difficult to deal with. No. Some approaches to the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox by the Chalcedonian Orthodox are ill-informed (and probably uninformable!) and uncharitable. Some of this is based in blind ignorance, some in wilful ignorance, and some in lack of access to appropriate information. As I have previously suggested, the Oriental Orthodox cannot simultaneously blame other Orthodox for ?not understanding? while simultaneously not ensuring ready availability of appropriate theological works and theologians to enable understanding to occur.

However, those within the Coptic community need to be careful about throwing stones! There are some vigorous and ignorant attacks on other Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants in quasi-official Coptic works. I recall sitting through a Coptic theological (I should write ?theological?) lecture in which ?the Protestants? (as if they are a unified category) were denounced for rejecting infant Baptism (confusing for the Anglican priest on one side of me) and Baptism by immersion (confusing for the Baptist minister on the other side). The Roman Catholics were denounced for unleavened bread (rather discomforting for the Armenians).

Perhaps, in the course of endless ?high level? theological dialogue, someone might like to produce a basic work providing sound historical and theological answers to basic questions of difference between the families of Orthodoxy. For example, Archbishop Hilarion (head of the ROCOR diocese in Australia, and a saintly and learned bishop) once asked me: ?Why do you not accept the Seven Ecumenical Councils?? Perhaps some of those reading this posting might like to attempt some answers!

Sadly, Coptic theology has been much more influenced by Protestant missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than by Orthodox influences ? a wonderful topic for some enthusiastic PhD or ThD student! This has also influenced the use (and interpretation) of Scripture.

Fr Gregory

Translations - John Charmley - 23-04-2007 11:02 AM

Dear Fr. Gregory,

As usual, we are all much in your debt; many thanks for such a good explanation.

One of the things which I have found is that it is often those who know the least about what others actually believe who are most critical of them. I have encountered those who respond to attempts at explanation by saying 'well, that is not what my Church teaches me, so even though you are in that Church and tell me what you tell me, I cannot believe it'; that is terribly sad. Both the sites mentioned do seem to have more than their fair share of such material amongst some more useful stuff, and perhaps one would be well advised to use with caution; do you think?

In terms of works giving us all guidance, what do think of Fr. Markos Hanna's works on the differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism, and Orthodoxy and Catholicism? Their tone seems much better than some of the web-based stuff.

Ecumenical Councils - well, that should bring Peter in! My understanding is that we recognise those after Ephesus as 'local' councils - and since some of them dealt with issues which have not vexed us, that seems sensible enough. The definition of an Ecumenical council is, of course, a fraught one; since we do not recognise that the decision at Chalcedon was ecumenical, we cannot in all conscience, recognise it as Ecumenical - can we?

Very many thanks, Father, for such a stimulating set of posts.

In Christ,


- Solly - 23-04-2007 11:40 AM

Thank you Father for the info. I have also seen that there are two other LXX translations due out, one called The Apostle's Bible - a revision of Brenton I believe, and the other The Apostolic Bible.

Re the point about Coptic views of protestants, i saw a forum last week for Copts which had those very criticisms voiced - they obviously haven't heard of Anglicans or Baptists!

Translations - John Charmley - 23-04-2007 11:50 AM

Dear Solly,

Many thanks.

Yes, as Fr. Gregory says, there is in some quarters a very basic knowledge of 'Protestants' - but one must understand that in Egypt, where some Protestant sects are 'sheep-stealing' one schismatic rustler must look pretty much like another.

Indeed, if one went on some of the things some Anglicans say they believe, in a roundabout way the Copts may even be right in some cases!

But we must always remember that other Christians are doing what they feel a call to do; and I find it hard to be judgemental - what I am doing, and who am I to take such a negative view? I may feel they are wrong - but it behoves me to understand more about where they are coming from; too easy to judge, I fear; since we all stand in fear of the Judgement, I tend to be very conscious of the great beams I keep finding in my own eyes!

(But then maybe I'm just wishy-washy after all?)

In Christ,


- Solly - 23-04-2007 12:04 PM

Actually John, I was surprised at how considerate the posts on the subject were. It was more a sense of, 'They believe that? What a shame!' than the usual scathing attitude I am used to from normal Christian discussion fora.

Translations - John Charmley - 23-04-2007 12:24 PM

Dear Solly,

That is good to know. I have been very fortunate in not coming across sniping of a sort I am familiar with elsewhere. I suspect it is something to do with centuries of persecution; the Coptic witness has been tremendously impressive.

In Christ,