The Orthodox Study Bible has been prepared as a lay- and clergy oriented resource for personal Bible reading, group study, and the preparation of sermons and lessons. The Psalms have been included for Orthodox morning and evening prayers, which also appear in this volume. Other study and devotional helps include:
1. "Introducing the Orthodox Church" sets in historical context the development of the Church from her birth on the day of Pentecost, through the apostolic and post-apostolic eras, into the years of the Church Fathers and the seven Great Councils, down to the dawning of the twenty-first century.
2. "How to Read the Bible" by noted author Bishop KALLISTOS (Timothy) Ware provides help for all both in understanding the message of the New Testament and in gaining personal edification through its reading.
3. Morning and Evening Prayers. The text of these prayers can be traced back to the earliest centuries of the church.
4. "How to read the New Testament in a Year" is a systematic plan
designed to guide readers into a more comprehensive reading of the New Testament Scriptures from beginning to end. Daily prayer and the reading of the Holy Scriptures are a part of the spiritual discipline of Orthodox Christians. In preparing The Orthodox Study Bible, all involved have maintained the hope and prayer that those who use this book will commit themselves to a life of prayer and Bible reading.
5. The Concordance, while not exhaustive, will be of significant help in locating passages for study reference.
6. The Glossary has been prepared by Orthodox scholars to assist those who love the Church and those who want to better understand her doctrines and practices. The words defined in the Glossary include both biblical and extra biblical terms. In most entries, you will find one or more biblical references. In addition to these study aids, each book follows a consistent pattern of annotation.
An Introduction: Before reading a particular book, you have the opportunity to get a thorough overview of what you will read.
Each introduction includes:
· Major Theme(s)
· Background Information
· Outline of the Book
The New King James Version
The text of The Orthodox Study Bible is the New King James Version. The translators and editors, while sensitive to English idiom, believe in the divine inspiration of Scripture and have adhered faithfully to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The Koine Greek of the New Testament is influenced by the Hebrew background of the writers, for whom even the gospel narratives were not merely flat utterance but were often sung in various degrees of rhythm.
The style of the New King James Version is therefore designed to enhance the vividness and devotional quality of the Holy Scriptures: Words or phrases in italics indicate expressions in the original language which require clarification by additional English words; textual notes which will assist the reader to observe the variations between the different manuscript traditions of the New Testament; oblique type in the New Testament indicates a quotation from the Old Testament; verse numbers in bold type indicate the beginning of a paragraph; prose divided into paragraphs indicates the structure of thought; poetry structured as contemporary verse reflects the poetic form and beauty of the passage in the original language; and whenever the covenant name of God is quoted in the New Testament from a passage in the Old Testament, it has been translated from the Hebrew as LORD or GOD.
The text of the New Testament has more manuscript support than any other body of ancient literature. More than five thousand Greek, eight thousand Latin, and many more manuscripts in other languages attest the integrity of the New Testament. There is only one basic New Testament used by Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox, by conservatives and liberals. The traditional text of the Greek-speaking churches was first published in 1516, and later called the Textus Receptus or Received Text. Although based on the relatively few available manuscripts, these were representative of many more which existed at the time but only became known later. Those readings in the Textus Receptus which have weak support are indicated in the center reference column as being opposed- by both Critical and Majority Texts.
Since the 1880s most contemporary translations of the New Testament have relied upon a relatively few manuscripts discovered chiefly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such translations depend primarily on two manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, because of their greater age. The Greek text obtained by using these sources and the related papyri (our most ancient manuscripts) is known as the Alexandrian Text. However, some scholars have grounds for doubting the faithfulness of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, since they often disagree with one another, and Sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.
Another viewpoint of New Testament scholarship holds that the best text is based on the consensus of the majority of existing Greek manuscripts' This text is called the Majority Text. Most of these manuscripts are in substantial agreement. Even though many are late, and none is earlier than the fifth century, usually their readings are verified by papyri, ancient versions, quotations from the early Church Fathers, or a combination of these. The Majority Text is similar to the Textus Receptus, but it corrects those readings which have little or no support in the Greek manuscript tradition.
Today, scholars agree that the science of New Testament textual criticism is in a state of flux. Very few scholars still favor the Textus Receptus as such, and then often for its historical prestige. For about a century most have followed a Critical Text which depends heavily upon the Alexandrian type of text, and more recently many have abandoned this Critical Text for one that is more eclectic. A small but growing number of scholars prefer the Majority Text, which is close to the traditional text except in the Revelation. Major Critical and Majority Text variant readings in the New King James Version are indicated in the center reference column, but it is most important to emphasize that fully eighty-five percent of the New Testament text is the same in the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian Text, and the Majority Text.
Where significant variations occur in the New Testament Greek manuscripts, textual notes are classified as follows: (1) NU-Text: These variations from the traditional text generally represent the Alexandrian type of text. They are found in the Critical Text published in the twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (N) and in the United Bible Societies' third edition (U), hence the acronym, "NU-Text. " (2) M-Text: This symbol indicates points of variation in the Majority Text from the traditional text. M stands for whatever reading is printed in the published Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, whether supported by overwhelming, strong, or only a divided majority textual tradition.
A Challenge to Learn
Manuscript differences aside, we believe it is from an Orthodox Christian perspective that the Scriptures can best be understood. Here are some suggestions on how to do biblical study.
1. The New Testament is the place to begin. Try to read and under-
stand one book at a time. One method is to read carefully and systematically, from Matthew to Revelation. Another strategy is to follow the Lectionary for daily Bible reading, which may be obtained at any Orthodox parish. You might choose to follow one method this year, another next year.
2. It is always helpful to study the epistle and Gospel reading for the coming Sunday as noted in your church calendar.
3. Many people benefit from taking notes in the margin- of the Bible, and underlining verses which hold special meaning.
4. Set a goal to memorize a verse or more each week. It is not by accident that the Fathers of our faith have such a wonderful command of the Holy Scriptures: most spent long hours reading, memorizing, learning, absorbing,
5. Discuss what you are reading with your priest or spiritual director. Allow yourself to be spiritually formed by those who are mature in the faith, being careful to hold those opinions of the Scripture which are consistent with the historic creeds and councils of the church. For we follow not our private interpretations, but those which have been held by all, in all places at all times.
The Orthodox Christian faith is the faith revealed in the Bible. We listen to the Fathers because they listen to the Scriptures. We embrace the Creed for it distills the Gospel message. Therefore, it is imperative for us who want to be Orthodox to learn and live by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is revealed to us by His holy apostles in the New Testament.
Let us be a people who know and love the Word of God.
As you read, many passages will be footnoted to clarify meaning, historical context and other helpful insights. The footnotes will amplify the biblical text itself and its interpretation, Orthodox theology, liturgical use of a passage, people in the passage, and how the passage applies to our lives.
Headings and Sub-headings: Throughout the text, subject headings will help you follow the author's train of thought and provide continuity from subject to subject.
Cross-References in the center column enable you to look up passages that address similar subjects or contain parallel truths. Also, the center column will contain more literal translations and alternate renderings of certain words.
When the subject of a passage is dealt with at some length, the notes are included in a box under a subject heading. These are particularly helpful teaching aids.