I found it very unfortunate to learn that the The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World (OSB) would have little to do with the A New English Translation of the Septuagint(NETS). True, NETS was begun after OSB had already commenced (though they worked much quicker, obviously), but it added much to our understanding of the text.

I received the OSB about a month ago and have been using it devotionally since then, which is how I think any Bible should be used before a final judgment is pronounced upon it. I have found a few issues with it (technical note: the tiny gutter really is annoying, I can’t imagine trying to use it in church to give a reading, perhaps they can produce a “pulpit” version next?). In general, I find most “study” Bibles to exhibit very poor scholarship, and this one is no exception unfortunately. The Author/Date/Theme sections beginning each book are generally not worth the paper they are written on. The “Date” section is the worst offender. It would have been far more useful to change “Date” to “Setting” and say that a particular book is “set” during a certain time. For example, Genesis is said to have been “written during Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness, in the time between the crossing of the Red Sea and the entrance into Canaan.” Oh? Based upon what evidence? Not only is this information not useful, adding nothing to the text of the book itself, but it is quite questionable and misleading. It would have been far better to say that Genesis is “Set” during the time of the earliest history of the world until Israel’s entrance into Egypt. Also Daniel, never a fun book to date, but the OSB says “Traditionally thought to have been written during the Babylonian captivity (603-530 BC).” Never mind the fact that this is another example of the overuse of the passive voice throughout the OSB, but who are the people who “traditionally thought” about the dates Daniel was written? I can’t think of anyone in Second Temple Judaism or ancient Christianity who was interested in such a question, much less put forth a “traditional thought” on the subject. The only “traditional thought” which assigns such a date to Daniel are those who hold to verbal plenary inspiration, which is a rather peculiar Protestant construction which has little to do with Orthodox traditional thinking. Since this note also applies to Susanna and Bel and the Dragon it opens the distinct possibility that academia will simply hold the OSB up for ridicule, and on this point they would well within their rights to do so.

Also, I found many notes to be rather strained and ignorant. For example: Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have committed two evils: They forsook Me, the fountain of living water, and hewed for themselves broken cisterns, unable to hold water.” The note reads “In both the old covenant and the new, the problem is the same: people forsake God, the living water, and damage the cisterns or containers, the places of God’s dwelling. As Orthodox believers, therefore, we adhere both to Christ and His Church.” Besides the awkward prose and the improper comma placement in the first sentence, this comment misses the point of the verse entirely. First, a cistern is not a container. Cisterns are large underground sealed caverns built in order to store water from the rainy season in order to have water in the dry season. Second, where you have “living water” you do not need to have a cistern. Living water unceasingly flows up from the ground, you don’t need to store it. Simply put, there are no cisterns in Dan. Such a thought is just silly. Third, it misses the connection of this verse to John 4, where Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, as she is drawing water from a cistern, that he is “living water.” Fourth, I think it is profanity to equate a cistern with God’s dwelling place. God’s dwelling place is the Temple, not a cistern filled with old, dirty, and stale water. Nothing in the rest of the Bible supports such an equation of images. In short, living water is good, cisterns are bad, having living water but building cisterns anyways, and leaky one’s at that, is an image which shows the stupidity of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

I also think it is unfortunate that Archimandrite Ephrem’s critiques were not the least bit engaged with. Sure, parts of his critique were subjective, a matter of personal taste, but other parts were spot on. He’s a good scholar, and a great Christian, ignoring him is rather inexcusable.

I would like to see us work towards a Revised version (ROSB?) which uses the research of the NETS and is less dependent upon “traditional” Protestant understandings of the Bible.