Thursday, August 31, 2006

The BBC Visits Jordanville

The BBC visited Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, to do a report on their Summer choral school. You can listen to the report by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Martyr Who Would Not Be Forced to Convert to Islam

Forced conversions to Islam is nothing new. Countless martyrs were either martyred for refusing to convert, or were forcibly converted, repented, and then were martyred for being "apostates", or for slandering "the prophet". Here is one martyr who would not renounce Christ, even though her family encouraged her to do so, to save her life.

Note: Chryse means "Golden" in Greek. She was Bulgarian, and so went by "Zlata" which means "Golden" in Slavonic.

Newmartyr Chryse (Zlata) of Meglena, Bulgaria
Commemorated on October 13

New Martyr Zlata (Chryse) This "golden vessel of virginity and undefiled bride of Christ," was born in the village of Slatena, Meglena diocese, on the border of Bulgaria and Serbia, while Bulgaria was under the Turkish Yoke.

From her youth Zlata displayed an unusually strong character, a firm faith in Christ, and was both chaste and beautiful. A certain Turk was obsessed with her, and seized her one day as she was gathering wood. He carried her off to his house, and repeatedly tried to seduce the maiden and force her to accept Islam. Since persuasion did not work, he began to threaten her with grievous tortures.

The glorious martyr was not frightened by these threats, but said she would never deny Christ no matter what they did to her. For six months the impious Hagarenes tried to make Zlata accept their religion, but she remained steadfast. Then they ordered the saint's parents and sisters to convince her to become a Moslem. Otherwise, they said, they would kill Zlata and torture them.

The parents and sisters of the saint wept and urged her to deny Christ "just for the sake of appearances," so that they all might be spared torments and death. St Zlata was unmoved by their pleas, and replied, "You who incite me to deny Christ are no longer my parents and sisters. Instead, I have the Lord Jesus Christ as my father, the Theotokos as my mother, and the saints as my brothers and sisters!"

When the Moslems saw that they could not weaken the resolve of the saint, they tormented her for three months, beating her with clubs. Later, they peeled strips of skin from her body so that the earth was reddened by her blood. Then they heated a skewer and passed it through her ears.

Nearby was her spiritual Father, the hieromonk Timothy of Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos. She sent word to him to pray that she would successfully complete the course of martyrdom. It was he who recorded her martyrdom.

Finally, the Moslems fell into a fury at having been conquered by a woman, so they tied her to a tree and cut her to pieces with their knives. Her pure soul was received by Christ, Who bestowed on her the double crowns of virginity and martyrdom. Certain Christians gathered her relics secretly and buried them with reverence. St Zlata suffered for Christ in the year 1795.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Price Tag for TIERS approaching 1 BILLION dollars

According to a recent article in INPUT, TIERS has so far cost the tax payers 800 million dollars. Mind you, this was necessary because the old system was costing the state 1.5 million dollars a year. At this rate, even if TIERS doesn't cost the state another penny... which of course it will, since TIERS still does not work as well as the old system by a long shot, the state will break even in the year 2540 A.D.

It is possible that INPUT has the figure wrong, because in 2005, the price tag admitted to by HHSC was approximately 300 million... and so if we stick with the lower figure, we will only have to wait until the year 2156 A.D. to break even, barring any further expenses needed to fix TIERS.

This, of course, does not take into account the intangible human costs of people doing without because a system doesn't deliver the services that they are supposed to be getting.

"Recent controversies surrounding "big bang" projects like the $800 million Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS) will drive states toward more iterative approaches to integrated eligibility. "Everyone looked past the low-key, successful implementations in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts a few years ago and got excited about the potentially huge short-term returns of a project like TIERS," added Dixon. "The next wave of projects will follow the more patient example of states like Utah, New York, and North Carolina, which are taking phased approaches that minimize the risk of service disruptions upon rollout of the new interface."" INPUT, August 23, 2006

One has to wonder when someone is going to be held accountable for such a huge amount of waste.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rowan Williams,as THE BISHOP

Read this article about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, handling of the current crisic in Anglicanism over gay marriage and the ordination of gays by clicking here.

Then watch Monty Python's "The Bishop":

This skit should make complete sense now in the light of the firm leadership we see to address this problem.

The Bishop: "It has made a decision that is not the decision of the wider body of Christ. In terms of the issue under consideration: there are enough Christians of good faith in every denomination – from evangelical to Roman Catholic – to whom it is not quite so self-evident, who are not absolutely sure that we have always read the Bible correctly. They are saying: this is an issue we must talk about. But if we are going to have time to discuss this prayerfully, thoughtfully, we really don’t need people saying: we must change it now."

No... the rest of Christendom is not saying this is something that you must talk about. They're saying that you have departed from Christian tradition.

The Bishop: "Don't marry the gay guys Vic... don't marry the gay guys!


The Bishop: "We wuz too late!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

TIERS for the Elderly

Translation for those who don't know all the agency lingo below. The new Computer system that the State of Texas paid hundreds of millions of dollars for, and been trying to get up and running properly for the past 7 years, still doesn't work, and so they are now telling staff that work with Medicaid for the elderly and disabled to go back to using the old system for any cases that are new, or haven't already been converted into the new (but dysfunctional) system.

To: TIERS/State Portal Users
From: TIERS Application Support
Subject: ME/DADS New Applications
Date: August 9, 2006

The Office of Eligibility Services has requested the Medicaid for the Elderly and People with Disabilities staff located in the Integrated Eligibility pilot offices to discontinue processing applications for clients who are unknown to SAVERR and TIERS through the TIERS system. These applications should be processed using the legacy system (SAVERR/MECM) effective July 15, 2006.

In order to keep consistent with this process, The Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) staff located in the Integrated Eligibility pilot offices (Travis and Hays Counties) will discontinue processing applications for clients who are unknown to SAVERR, SAS and TIERS through the TIERS system. These client applications should be processed using legacy systems (SASO/SAS Wizards) effective July 15, 2006.

ME/DADS cases currently in TIERS should continue to be worked in TIERS.

Texas Works staff located in the Integrated Eligibility pilot offices should continue processing new applications through the TIERS system.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bible Translations, Part 2 of a Draft Article

This is the second installment of a series of draft portions of an article I am writing on Biblical translations. Comments are welcome via e-mail.

2. The Text Behind the Text

I will address the question of the original text of the Greek New Testament in more detail in a subsequent article, but will touch upon the subject here briefly, as well as the question of the original text of the Old Testament. In short, there are the two versions of the Old Testament text that the Orthodox Church considers authoritative, and one of the New Testament.

A. The Old Testament Text

For the Old Testament, the two textual traditions that the Church has preserved are that of the Greek Septuagint and the Syriac Peshitta. The Latin Vulgate played an important role in the pre-schism western Church, and so it too is a translation is worthy of consultation. The Orthodox Church is of course well aware of the fact that most of the canonical Old Testament books were written in Hebrew and Aramaic (the Deuterocanonical books having mostly been written in Greek), however, the Hebrew text that we have today is not the same text that existed during the Old Testament period or at the time of Christ. This is seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as in the Septuagint, Peshitta, and Latin Vulgate -- which were all translated from the Hebrew, and yet reflect a Hebrew original that often differs from that which we have today.

The Hebrew Text that has served as the basis for most translations of the Old Testament into English is based almost entirely on the Leningrad Codex, which dates from 1008 A.D. In comparison to the textual evidence that we have for the New Testament Greek text, this is a very late manuscript. It is an example of the Masoretic recension, which is usually dated to have been shaped between the 6th and 10th centuries A.D. This is well after the Septuagint was translated (3rd century before Christ), the Peshitta (1st and 2nd Centuries A.D.), or the Vulgate (4th Century A.D.). According to Christian tradition, the non-Christian Jews began making changes in the Old Testament text to undercut the Christian use of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. In any case, the Hebrew Text that we now have was preserved outside the Church. The Septuagint and Peshitta texts were preserved within the Church, and so the Church believes that the text of the Old Testament was been authoritatively preserved in these textual traditions.

Furthermore, it is clear that the text that Christ and the Apostles used matches the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text. For example, in Acts 7:43, the Protomartyr Stephen quotes from the book of Amos as follows:

“Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them” (KJV).

But when you look this quote up in Amos 5:26 in most translations, you will find that the quotation doesn’t match:

“You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves.” (NKJV).

Compare the above with the Latin Vulgate:

“But you carried a tabernacle for your Moloch, and the image of your idols, the star of your god, which you made to yourselves” (Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate).

And then with the Septuagint:

“Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them which y made for yourselves” (Sir Lancelot Brenton translation of the Septuagint).

Also, there are several sections of the Hebrew text that are simply unreadable without keeping one eye on the Hebrew text and one eye on the Septuagint. For example, if you look at the footnotes for the book of Habakkuk in the NRSV there are 5 places in which it states that the Hebrew text is uncertain, and 3 times in which they state that they are simply translating from the Septuagint, Peshitta, and/or the Vulgate, because the Hebrew text is so unclear.

Another example of a clearly corrupt reading in the Masoretic text is 1st Samuel 14:41, which reads as follows:

“Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, "Give Thummim". And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.”

Several modern translations correct this clearly erroneous text based on the Septuagint and Vulgate to read:

“Therefore Saul said, "O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim." And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped.”

The Masoretic text simply makes no sense, and obviously at some point a scribe skipped and entire line or two of the text. This is obvious because of the reference to the Urim and Thummim, which were two objects used by the priest of the Old Testament for discerning the will of God on matters such as that described in 1st Samuel 14.

Another example is the text quoted in Hebrews 1:6 (“And let all the angels of God worship him”) which is nowhere to be found in the Masoretic text, but is found in both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew text in Deuteronomy 32:43.

It should be pointed out that the Hebrew text should not be ignored entirely. Particularly when the Septuagint and the Hebrew text are in agreement, we will better understand the Septuagint as a translation if we compare it with the Hebrew text that it is clearly a translation of. It is extremely helpful to understand the range of meaning of the original Hebrew text (when we clearly have it). For example, it is helpful to know that Hebrew does not have a past or future tense, but only a perfect and imperfect tense… and so just because an English translation is clearly in either past, present, or future tense, it does not necessarily mean that this is what is implied by the Hebrew original. One often encounters the use of the “prophetic perfect”, where a prophecy of something that has not yet come to pass is in the perfect tense, and so is often translated with the English past tense, e.g. “…with His stripes, we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5), when from the perspective of the prophet, he was speaking of something in the future.

There are at present only limited options available in terms of English translations of the Septuagint. There is the translation of Sir Lancelot Brenton, which is often awkward and wooden. For the Psalms there is the Psalter According to the Seventy, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. There are also various editions of the Old Testament readings that are used liturgically. The complete Orthodox Study Bible is due to be published around Pascha of 2007, and it will be a translation of the complete Septuagint in the style of the New King James Version.

There are also some translations based on the Latin Vulgate that are closer to the Septuagint text than are text based on the Masoretic Hebrew Text. The Douay-Rheims version is a translation of the complete text of the Vulgate, and the Coverdale Psalter, which is found in the older editions of the Book of Common Prayer is also translated from the Vulgate.

B. The New Testament Text

I address this issue in far greater detail in “New Testament Textual Criticism and the Ending of Mark,” but suffice it to say here that there are essentially two versions of the Greek New Testament that form the basis of the various translations we have in English. There is the traditional text, which is variously referred to as the “Received Text,” the “Textus Receptus,” the “Byzantine Text,” and the “Majority Text”. Then there is the revised text, which is based on the textual theory of Wescott-Hort, and is currently to be found in either the Nestle-Aland edition, or the United Bible Societies edition.

The traditional text of the Greek New Testament is the text that the Church has actually used and preserved for the past 2,000 years, and is to be found in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, and is reflected in the vast majority of ancient translations of the New Testament—which in some cases originate from the time of the Apostles. The critical editions are based primarily a small number of manuscripts from Egypt, the earliest of which date from the mid 4th and century, as well as some of the papyri that likewise come from Egypt, some of which are dated as early as the 2nd or 3rd century.

The supporting premises of the theory that is behind the critical editions of the Greek New Testament has largely been shot to pieces by subsequent scholarship, but nevertheless, the theory remains the dominate approach to New Testament textual criticism because nothing has come along to replace it that has satisfied the majority of Protestant scholars.2 Consequently, almost all modern translations of the New Testament are based on the critical editions of the Greek New Testament, rather than the traditional text. The exceptions are of course the King James Version (along with various revised editions of the King James which are not really new translations but simply attempts to update the English), the New King James Version (which really is a new Translation, although it makes an attempt to maintain some continuity with the original King James Version, the Douay-Rheims, and a few other minor translations that are not in common use.

But are the differences between these two versions of the Greek New Testament significant? I have often answered this question by asking the proud owner of a translation based on the revised Greek text to look up John 5:4 and read it to me. It is always fun to watch as they discover that their Bible skips from verse 3 to verse 5. If you read this passage in context, removing verse 4 makes it entirely unclear what the paralytic is doing by the pool of Bethesda to begin with. Had the editors of the revised versions the guts to do it, you would also not find “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:43), or the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), but since they dared not remove those texts, you simply find them in brackets, with footnotes that tell you that “the earliest and most reliable manuscripts” do not contain them. In fact, if we accepted the assumptions of the revised Greek text, when the 3rd Matins Gospel Mark 16;9-20 is appointed, the priest would just have to whistle Dixie, because there would be no 3rd Matins Gospel.

2 See Wilbur Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1980.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bible Translations, Part 1 of a draft article

This is the first installment of a series of draft portions of an article I am writing on Biblical translations. Comments are welcome via e-mail.

Which Translation Of The Bible Should I Use?

If one wishes to study the Scriptures, one of the most important things that they must do is to acquire a good translation of the text… unless they just happen 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 have to be taken into consideration:

1) How literal is the translation?

2) What text is the translation is based upon?

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

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

5) More recently, you must also add to the above considerations, how politically correct the translation is.

1. Formal Equivalence, Dynamic Equivalence, Paraphrase

Translations range from the woodenly literal, to the fantastically paraphrased. Somewhere between those extremes is the optimal level of literal accuracy. An example of a woodenly literal translation that has come onto the Orthodox scene in recent years is the edition of the “Orthodox New Testament” published by the Holy Apostles Convent in Buena Vista, Colorado. Instead of the familiar, “Do this in remembrance of me” we find the “improved” “Be doing this in remembrance of Me." Instead of the book of James, you find the far more “accurate” book of “Iakovos.” Thus, you could call this the “King Iakovos Version”.

On the opposite extreme, you have paraphrases, such as the Living Bible. Which has readings such as “"God even protects him from accidents,” rather than the more familiar (and more accurate) "He keepeth all His bones: not one of them is broken" (34:20 KJV). Another popular translation that is a more of a paraphrase (though not as bad as the Living Bible) is the Good News Version.

The New International Version (NIV), is an example of a “dynamic equivalence” translation. The theory is that instead of translating the text word for word, you translate it “thought for thought”, the problem is that when a translator does this, he has moved beyond translating the text, and into the realm of commentary on the text, because when you translate the thought, you are assuming the interpretation. Many points seem very clear in the NIV that simply are not based on what the text actually says, but rather on what the translator’s think it means. An example of how this distorts the text is to be found in how the NIV translates 2nd Thessalonians 2:15:

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Compare that with the more accurate reading found in the King James Version:

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

As Clark Carlton notes:

"The NIV translators, however, have effected what amounts to a literary sleight of hand. One would be tempted to call it a rather nifty move were it not for the fact that they have tampered with the written Word of God. Hold the traditions which ye have been taught. Traditions (paradoseis) is a noun in the objective case. It is derived from the verb to hand over (paradidomi). The phrase, which ye have been taught (edidachthate), is a form of to teach (didasko). The NIV turns the verb into the noun – hold to the teachings – and turns the noun into the verb – we passed on to you. If we were to translate the NIV translation back into Greek, instead of paradoseis, we would have didaskalias, and instead of edidachthate we would have paredothate.” 1

Another example is the way the NIV translates the Greek word sarx as “sinful nature” sometimes, and simply as “body” other times. The problem is that the word means “flesh” and it only implies a sinful nature at times, but the problem is that it is not always clear whether or not this is in fact implied, but if you are reading the NIV, you wouldn’t know that there was any ambiguity, because the translators have misled you into thinking that text clearly says things that are not so clear.

The most accurate translations available in English are the King James (or Authorized) Version (KJV or AV), the New King James Version (NKJV), The English Standard Version (ESV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – though all but the first two have problems that will be discussed under the other factors that we must consider. The King James is in fact generally so accurate that one could reconstruct the original text with a high degree of accuracy by translating the text back into Hebrew and Greek, but unlike woodenly literal translations (that are so literal that they actually distort the meaning of the text) it is also a beautiful translation.

1 Clark Carlton, The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, (Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 1997) p. 137f

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Granny was right

In last Sunday's Gospel reading (Matthew 14:14-22), in the King James Version, we run across the word "victuals". I had always heard this pronounced just as it is spelled, however someone in my parish told me it should be pronounced just like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies would speak of "vittles", and lo and behold, according to Webster's, Granny was right.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Different Take from a Rabbi on Mel Gibson

When Irish eyes are smiling...

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a different take on Mel Gibson and his recent DUI incident.

h/t Southern Appeal

As for the many other Jewish voices who are jumping on this to renew their attacks on the "Passion of the Christ" for its alleged anti-semitism, the elements in the movie that they point to as examples of anti-semitism are all found in the Gospels. Furthermore, Jewish tradition itself makes no bones about the fact that the Jewish authorities had Christ put to death. If saying so is anti-semitic, then Jewish tradition is anti-semitic.

This justify mistreating non-Christian Jews, any more than it does mistreating non-Christian Italians who also had a hand in putting Christ to death. It just happens to be the truth.