This year, 2016, I decided to read the Orthodox Study Bible. Last year I tried reading the New Living Translation but found it difficult to read with reverence for my devotions and damn near impossible to use for study. I gave up the NLT after only a few weeks and went back to my Authorized King James Version. The Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) grabbed my attention years ago when it was published as the New Testament and Psalms, which was a little misleading, only the notes were from the Eastern Orthodox perspective while the translation was taken from the New King James. I decided to wait until the OSB was published with the Old and New Testaments, including the deuterocanonical or apocrypha. A few thoughts on the OSB will follow.
POSITIVES: What I like about this Bible
=> The Bible itself (without the dust jacket) is beautiful! I find the red cover with gold embossing quite fetching. The 10 point text size and 8 point note size allows for easy reading. Throughout the OSB you will find colour Icons depicting different stories or people found in scripture.
=> If you are interested in learning about Eastern Orthodoxy this Bible might be the way to go. The study notes were taken from the church fathers including Ambrose of Milan, Elias the Presbyter, Eusebius, John Cassian, Leo the Great, Vincent of Lerins, etc. Many of the notes point to the Nicene Creed, Canon of St. Andrew and the Akathist Service. The notes also point out when a passage of scripture is read during a church service. For example, Genesis 13.12-18 has a note that reads, “This passage is read during Monday Vespers in the fifth week of Great Lent.” Again, “This passage is read during the Feasts of the Holy Fathers.” Genesis 14.14-20
=> Another aspect of the OSB that I find fascinating is the emphasis on pointing out the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whenever even the slightest hint of the Trinity can be found in scripture. A note from Genesis 1.2 reads, “The Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit (BasilG; EphS). He proceeds from the Father, and is ‘the Lord and Giver of Life’ (Creed). Since He is Lord, He is coequal with the Father, and is His Coworker in making heaven and earth.” (The source abbreviations represent Basil the Great and Ephraim the Syrian.) Not only do you find a strong Trinitarian theology in the notes you also find a quiet/not so quiet denial of the Filioque. Bavinck refers to the Eastern Orthodox denial of Holy Spirit descending from the Father AND the Son (Filioque) as the last remnant of Subordinationism but I digress.
=> Throughout this Bible you’ll find theological notes that are helpful in understanding the Eastern Orthodox denominational opinion as well as a Lectionary, Morning and Evening Prayers.
=> It’s the Septuagint. I’ve wanted to read a translation of the LXX for some time, this Bible contains the complete LXX canon with the LXX ordering of the Books. I’ve included a list of Orthodox, Roman and Protestant canons below.
NEGATIVES: What I dislike about this Bible
=> Thomas Nelson produces some of the worse quality Bibles on the market! The paper is ok but the binding is horrible. I will probably have this Bible rebound at the end of the year.
=> NO CROSS REFERENCES! I’m a cross reference fanatic. My favorite Bible is the Westminster Reference Bible from TBS because of his massive cross reference system. The OSB doesn’t offer any cross references unless you include the random references in the notes. It would have been cool to use a cross reference system that took one through the apocryphal works…
=> The theological notes are humanistic and man centered. If you are looking for great examples of eisegesis this Bible will supply you with many. Off the top of my head, notes on church government and authority seemed forced upon the scriptures rather than draw from the scriptures.
=> If you set out on a long journey in the wrong direct you will miss your destination. The Eastern Orthodox deny original sin. Some examples from the OSB, “Human nature remains inherently good after the fall…” and “after the fall the intellectual, desiring and incensive aspects of the soul are natural and therefore neutral.” For anyone considering conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy please take time to investigate original sin or radical corruption.
=> The ordering of the Old Testament is confusing. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for the ordering, it’s very random… I’ll get use to it in time.
=> I’ve discovered the LXX uses a mixture of translation philosophies including extreme literalism and paraphrasing. I can’t confirm this it’s just a detail I recall from my studies a few years ago.
=> When the OSB arrived from Amazon.ca the box had been opened and not secured shut again. At some point in its travels the dust jacket was ripped in half. That’s not a big deal really, the dust jacket had a creepy Icon representing Jesus Christ on it, I wasn’t going to use it anyway.
The Orthodox Study Bible will be an interesting read but it will not take the place of my plain Jane AV with references. I look forward to reading some of the apocryphal works just for kicks and reading through the LXX Psalms. Would I recommend this Bible? Too early to say. Maybe I’ll do a followup review.
Yours in the Lord,
PS: My wife and I are considering matching Bible with Sproul’s Reformation Bible ESV high on the list. Any other recommendations? Thanks