Review of Orthodox Study Bible (New Testament)

A friend sent me this a few years ago.  Even when I was sympathetic to Orthodoxy, I had mixed reactions.

Pros:

  1. The articles are fairly useful and well-written, except for one that warned against reading Old Testament promises and rules as having anything to do with us today (this isn’t a slam against Orthodoxy;  this is an Orthodox guy who is writing from a thoroughly bourgeousie American perspective).
  2. The prayers at the back of the book, making exceptions here and there, are well-organized.  Even more interesting is the rotating psalms for each day.  After a few months, the reader is quite familiar with about seventeen psalms that usually don’t get referenced.
  3. Some cross-referencing of passages.   Better than nothing, I suppose.

Cons:

  1. It’s hard to criticize a study bible fairly simply because it didn’t have a lot of commentary on your favorite passage.  That’s true of all study bibles.  However, since this is an Orthodox Study Bible, and Orthodoxy brags about how they are a continuation of the Fathers and such, I thought that they would have a lot of the Fathers’ commentary on various passages.   It didn’t.   Some, like Hilary on the Eucharist, which was interesting, but remarkably little.   This raises a deeper church history issue:  saying that x interprets Scripture in light of the Fathers is misleading.  The OSB couldn’t have performed this because the Fathers really didn’t interpret most Scriptures.  Their battles were usually over Christological passages.  Outside of that spectrum there is remarkably little interpretation.  This rules moot the argument that only an infallible interpreter (the church)* can infallibly interpret the Bible.  The church has given us no such list of infallibly interpreted verses.
  2. Similar to (1) the non-patristic commentary on the verses (which is most of it) offers little beyond common-sense observations.

Recommendations:

Should you get this?  Not for the price it is being offered.  It’s not bad as a study bible goes, and it is infinitely superior to the liberal versions.  But it is certainly not the best in terms of format and commentary (theology aside, that goes to the Nelson Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible).

*Of course, our reception of an infallible church’s commentary only pushes back the problem:  how do I know I am interpreting it correctly?  When two fathers disagree, or when the American Church refuses to abide by ancient canons (like one bishop per city), who then gets to adjudicate?

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5 comments on “Review of Orthodox Study Bible (New Testament)

  1. Eric Castleman says:

    I don’t think the Orthodox study bible is considered by many in Orthodoxy to be very good. One of the priests that I know worked on it, and from what I gather, it is somewhat a product of the Gillquist crowd.

    As for the interpretation issue. Orthodoxy isn’t Roman Catholicism. It isn’t a group of guys that sit behind closed doors and write letters that the laymen need to figure out on their own, but everything within the apostolic tradition is to be taught from those who have the prayer of heart, and understand theology from the heart of prayer. So, when something is read outside of the guidance of a priest, it becomes a closed text, only understood through rationalism of our own fallen minds. 2 Timothy 3 speaks clearly to this. Speaking of the laity as infants, who have been instructed onto adulthood, from those who have authority to teach. Read that with Hebrews 5 & 6 and you will see the same terms, and topics spoken about. Then, read Calvin’s commentary on those verses, and see that he says it can’t mean what it seems to mean, because it wouldn’t makes sense with his concluded system. This isn’t unique to how scripture is understood, but how repentance is understood (confession) and even entrance to the church (Baptism) each done through a priest. To become a priest, one must lay hands on another. If this is impractical, then why listen to a pastor preach the gospel? Why can’t I just read the bible? Why receive the elements, when I can serve myself in my own house? The system is built upon receiving from the past, and relying on having proper instruction from those who know God in a closer way than us.

    As for the bishop issue. That isn’t a disagreement, but a natural problem that has arose, but it is currently being worked out. My priest meets with all the Bishops every year, and that matter is discussed extensively, and is pretty much a fixed issue, that will be worked out in the near future as a reality.

  2. For the record, most (and I think all) Presbyterian ordinations lay hands. Further, I am a moderate charismatic on some points, so the laying of hands doesn’t bother me. As for your main point,

    ***It isn’t a group of guys that sit behind closed doors and write letters that the laymen need to figure out on their own, but everything within the apostolic tradition is to be taught from those who have the prayer of heart, and understand theology from the heart of prayer.***

    Maybe so. But there are difficulties in identifying “apostolic tradition” (as Tertullian admits) and if there are difficulties in such an identification, then the claim “we interpret Scripture by the fathers and tradition” (as Blessed Seraphim Rose is wont to say) is rather difficult to apply.

    Agreed about the Study Bible. An even bigger irony is that it is published by a hyper-evangelical publisher.

  3. Andrew says:

    An even bigger irony is that it is published by a hyper-evangelical publisher.

    The Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt, is a deacon in the Orthodox Church.

  4. Right. I know, but 99% of the works Thomas Nelson publishes are Evangelical works.

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