Is it heterodoxical to read the Bible in English?

NickK

Woodpecker
Orthodox
This is a good question. Every translation from the original contains small mistranslations that can lead someone (and have led in the past) to full blown heresies. A prime example is the vilification of the word 'tradition' by protestants, that stemed from a bad translation.

Is this enough to advise an inquirer to not read Scripture altogether? I don't know, I 'm not a priest, I'm hesitant of giving such advise on a forum. But my view is that reading Scripture (in any language) should be encouraged, with a spirit of discernment and humility.

Of course the best would be to have the blessing of a priest, who will guide you properly in the right direction.
 

jarlo

Woodpecker
Orthodox
Father John Whiteford's article "An Orthodox Look at English Translations of the Bible" is useful for this question.

Introduction:
If one wishes to study the Scriptures, one of the most important things that he must do is to acquire a good translation of the text, unless he just happens to know Biblical Hebrew, and Koine Greek. Especially nowadays, when it seems there is a new translation or study Bible that is published each year, it is not a simple choice to make.

There are several factors that must be taken into consideration:

1) How accurate is the translation?

2) What text is the translation based upon?

3) What is the theological perspective that underlies the translation?

4) How well done and how liturgically useful is the translation?

5) More recently, you must also add to the above considerations, how politically correct is the translation?
Main recommendation after working through the importance of each of the factors in the introduction:
So in the light of all that has been said, which translation of the Scriptures should we use? Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer for English speakers at present. I will address the question first in terms of the best options available for personal use, then the best options for liturgical use, and say a few words about how one can make use of the various translations available in their personal study of the Bible.

Options for Personal Use:

A. The King James Version


Generally speaking, the King James Version is where all English translations of Scripture should begin … and it remains one of the best options available, even without any revision. The pronouns and verbal forms that it uses are not hard to learn. The primary problem with it is the occasional translation that needs to be corrected, and the occasional word that is likely to confuse most contemporary readers. Most readers could easily remedy the second problem by simply expanding their vocabulary by about 200 or so words.
Conclusion:
Some dismiss concerns about Biblical translations as unimportant, or a simple matter of taste. “To each his own,” and “Whatever floats your boat” are the sacred proverbs of our culture today. However, as Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco noted, “the word ‘Orthodox’ itself implies a certain care about correct syntactics, semantics and pragmatics, the correct use of language …”[15] Words mean things, accuracy matters, fidelity to the traditional understanding of the Scriptures is essential, and beauty in worship (and thus in our translation of the Scriptures, which is at the core of our worship) is something we must strive for.

As with most things in the Orthodox Church, there are boundaries of acceptability within which there is a certain amount of diversity of opinion that is completely acceptable, but outside of which there is spiritual danger that must be avoided. There may even be some disagreement about exactly where the lines should be drawn that mark those boundaries, but Orthodox Christians should be in agreement that translations that distort and obscure the meaning of the text, that strip the text of significant Christological and prophetic concepts, and lack a reverence for the words that the Holy Spirit has inspired His prophets and apostles to write are to be avoided.

The translation of the Sacred Scriptures should be approached with the utmost care and reverence—this should be obvious. The selection of a translation calls for care and reverence as well. Furthermore, the reading of that translation calls for all of that plus a great deal of diligence, as we read in the Psalter:

Set before me for a law, O LORD, the way of Thy statutes, and I will seek after it continually. Give me understanding, and I will search out Thy law, and I will keep it with my whole heart (Psalm 118:34-35 LXX).

As anyone who has invested the effort into the reverent study of the Scriptures can attest, the rewards are well worth the effort.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Orthodox
Gold Member
Keep in mind that an Orthodox presence in English-speaking countries is still relatively new, and lacks the massive volume of English-fluent scholars that the protestant world can use to constantly put out new Bible translations. This makes creating an "official" Orthodox Bible more challenging that it might seem at first.

That being said, existing options will get you 99.9% of the way there. As Fr. John Whiteford mentions in the article above, the KJV, NKJV, Orthodox Study Bible, etc. are good options. Holy Apostles Convent has also put out their own translations of the New Testament, which can also be a good resource.

I would love to have a "Jordanville Bible" that would be a new translation (or adjustment from the KJV) using the Septuagint OT and the Byzantine NT text, which would be the same as used in Scripture readings in Church services so you'd be hearing and reading the same translation at home and at Church. Maybe someday. For now, I mostly use the KJV for home reading/study and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery Psalter, and find this to work quite well.
 

Basilus of Moro

Sparrow
Orthodox
As far as I can tell the Orthodox Church has never translated the Bible into English, so would that make all English versions of the Bible heterodox?

No, the Orthodox Church, known through her saints, has consistently translated the Scriptures into the vernacular. This usually takes time, however, as the theological depth of the Greek language needs to be preserved. Recently (in Orthodox time), for example, St. Herman (Germanus) of Alaska translated some (or all?) of the Scriptures into Inuit.

I recommend the Holy Apostles Convent (schismatics) NT for its patristic commentary, and the Lexham Septuagint for the OT.
 

Dr Mantis Toboggan

Kingfisher
Gold Member
Are we all supposed to become fluent in ancient Hebrew and Greek to comprehend the Word of God? Is this not disdain for the breadth of the Holy Spirit?

Not sure if there's any official Orthodox or Catholic teaching on this but certain translators of the Bible could also have been aided by the Holy Spirit, at least in the sense of nudging them in the right direction in the case of words with multiple possible translations in the target language?
 

NoMoreTO

Ostrich
Not sure if there's any official Orthodox or Catholic teaching on this but certain translators of the Bible could also have been aided by the Holy Spirit, at least in the sense of nudging them in the right direction in the case of words with multiple possible translations in the target language?


I read the douay rheims (DR) which is a Catholic translation of the latin vulgate, both were translated by men appointed by the Church. It gives me peace to know it was translated by a Holy Man of the Church. Also I have a Bible where I can read the latin (authoritative) on one side from the 4th century and the english on the other. I like DR for this reason. I also like it because it has that 1600 english similar to the KJV, although it does not read quite as elegantly in some cases, there are pretty suspicious issues in translation when you compare very specific passages. The Catholic Church has released newer versions which try to make the Bible more readable for kids or people who didn't get a good grade in Shakespeare, updating for changes in the english language.

I do find it surprising the Orthodox haven't translated their own version in english for just this reason. Others can correct me as to how it works but I would suppose that each Church (Russian, Greek, etc) would use their own language as the authoritative text, or perhaps Greek is authoritative.

I really do not understand why the Eastern Orthodox Church has yet to to create an English translation, among other languages like Spanish, Chinese etc. I just find it strange to read a Bible translated by someone outside the faith, even if only for day to day use. My understanding of the Orthodox Study bible is that it isn't the Orthodox that did the translation, but the notes and annotations for the reader? But perhaps I am wrong on that.

Translation is so important, a Protestant friend of mine quoted this recently which I wasn't aware of.
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book. Rev 22: 18-19

All that said I still do read my KJV sometimes as my travel/bedside Bible.
 

iop890

Peacock
Gold Member
I recommend the Holy Apostles Convent (schismatics) NT for its patristic commentary

I've had translation recommended before but was hesitant to buy it considering the source. Are you familiar with the EOB? And if so do you have an opinion on it?

I've been using it along with the OSB.
 

Sol Invictus

Sparrow
Orthodox Catechumen
I do find it surprising the Orthodox haven't translated their own version in english for just this reason. Others can correct me as to how it works but I would suppose that each Church (Russian, Greek, etc) would use their own language as the authoritative text, or perhaps Greek is authoritative.

I really do not understand why the Eastern Orthodox Church has yet to to create an English translation, among other languages like Spanish, Chinese etc. I just find it strange to read a Bible translated by someone outside the faith, even if only for day to day use. My understanding of the Orthodox Study bible is that it isn't the Orthodox that did the translation, but the notes and annotations for the reader? But perhaps I am wrong on that.
It would be nice to have an EO-approved translation, but it's not really necessary in order to have a good understanding of the scriptures. One thing that most people miss or just don't realize is that reading the Bible shouldn't be done in a bubble. That, after all, is how Protestantism came about and exploded into a mess of thousands of different heresies. Reading the Bible should entail serious study, including reading commentaries and discussing it with a priest. Too often, people forget about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:

"30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
 

tractor

Woodpecker
Orthodox
I don't think that an explicit Ortho-approved English translation is needed (not an English-speaker myself), since you're supposed to go to the Divine Liturgy, participate in Eucharist, confess your sins, talk to priests or monks. So if there're some minor inaccuracies in the translation, they can be "corrected" by your active participation in the Church. I think most priests know Greek or Hebrew anyway.
 

DanielH

Pelican
Orthodox
It would be nice to have an EO-approved translation, but it's not really necessary in order to have a good understanding of the scriptures. One thing that most people miss or just don't realize is that reading the Bible shouldn't be done in a bubble. That, after all, is how Protestantism came about and exploded into a mess of thousands of different heresies. Reading the Bible should entail serious study, including reading commentaries and discussing it with a priest. Too often, people forget about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:

"30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
For this reason I think we need more formally trained and ordained subdeacons and deacons who can lead regular Bible studies. More qualified men should, in my opinion, sign up for certificate & masters programs to help educate people. There are inexpensive online programs for this.


This one at sihos .org is only $500 for a diploma in Orthodox Theology Studies.
 

Aboulia

Woodpecker
Orthodox
I really do not understand why the Eastern Orthodox Church has yet to to create an English translation, among other languages like Spanish, Chinese etc. I just find it strange to read a Bible translated by someone outside the faith, even if only for day to day use. My understanding of the Orthodox Study bible is that it isn't the Orthodox that did the translation, but the notes and annotations for the reader? But perhaps I am wrong on that.

There are parts of the services that aren't translated perfectly, it's a work in progress. There are individual readings tweaked for services, the services came before the Bible historically, and it should be the same for translations. There's already a huge volume of translations for the Bible, another one won't specifically help. I would personally love to see the remaining 4 volumes of "The Great Collection of the Lives of Saints" by St Dimitry Rostov translated from Russian to English, as those volumes contain the best written lives of Saints that I've read. I think that would be a far better investment than a Bible translation, as the faith is learned by example.
 

PaulC

Robin
For this reason I think we need more formally trained and ordained subdeacons and deacons who can lead regular Bible studies. More qualified men should, in my opinion, sign up for certificate & masters programs to help educate people. There are inexpensive online programs for this.


This one at sihos .org is only $500 for a diploma in Orthodox Theology Studies.

Jordanville Seminary has a Certificate in Theological Studies (Independent Study) program:
https://hts.edu/certificateintheologicalstudies

The Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America - ROCOR offers a one-year program leading to a Catechist Certificate:
http://www.orthodoxtheologicalschool.org
 

Basilus of Moro

Sparrow
Orthodox
Not sure if there's any official Orthodox or Catholic teaching on this but certain translators of the Bible could also have been aided by the Holy Spirit, at least in the sense of nudging them in the right direction in the case of words with multiple possible translations in the target language?
In as far as the Fathers of our Church are purified of passion, and illumined by God, they operate in synergy with God, therefore like our hymnographical works, translations can indeed be inspired by God.
 
This question got me a 7 day suspension. Maybe I did not phrase it correctly because some completely missed my point. All English translations are versions of the bible. The King James Version, the English Standard Version, the New International Version, The International Standard Version, ect. So if you are Orthodox, and have outright disdain for Protestants like many do on this forum, why would you read a protestant version of the bible? Would you read a Jewish bible translation?
I was going by the definition of heterodox from Roosh in another thread "The term heterodox is used by Orthodox to mean Non-Orthodox. As far as I know, it's not an insult that means "heretic" and the like,"
Sorry if it is a difficult question, but it seems to me that an English version of the bible, translated by Protestants for a protestant church is by definition heterodox.
While I am not KJV-only, I believe it along with Strong's Concordance are Divinely inspired work.
 
At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles, they began to speak in tongues, which was not a charismatic gugu gaga, but different languages, so that whereever they went, people were able to understand them.
As a native english speaker you have a more intimate relationship with the english language than you have with hebrew and koine greek.
Every english speaker should stick to the KJV, because it is impossible to translate better. If you stay away from the KJV, because it is an evangelical translation, you rob yourself. No Evangelical, Catholic or Orthodox can manufacture a more accurate, linguistically more beautiful translation.
I am not KJV-only, but every other translation appears to lack something in comparison. Read the KJV and in addition a systematic theology of your denomination and you're good.
 
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