You can donate directly through St. Jonah’s Church, with a memo of “Bible translation project,” or here.
OVERVIEW. “The First Bible of the Church” (FBC) aims to be the first complete English Bible translation from the earliest known full Greek manuscripts used by the 4th-5th century Church – produced solely by Orthodox Christians! Now, that is a mouthful! This huge undertaking will need much prayer, blessing, and varied means of support to make it a reality!
PURPOSE. A curious gap exists in modern English translations of the Bible. Most translations are from the Jewish Old Testament and a scholar’s compendium of New Testament manuscript portions. Most leave out the historic Deuterocanonical books. Shouldn’t we be reading the Bible the early Church gave us? Why isn’t there a contemporary English translation of the entire Greek Old Testament? Should our only options for the New Testament be the Textus Receptus or the critical text of the scholars? The truth is, the complete Bible used by the early Orthodox Church is still only available in its Greek original.
PLAN. The “First Bible of the Church” aims to present the first English translation of the first complete Bible of the Orthodox Church, translated by members of the Orthodox Church! Thus, its basis is the readings from the earliest full manuscripts of the Old and New Testament found in the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (3rd century) and Alexandrinus (4th century). It will include not only the standard “Deuterocanonical” texts found in most English translations but all of the Septuagint books (including 3 & 4 Maccabees and Psalms of Solomon). It will also include the alternate manuscript parallels and additions found in Ralfhs and Göttingen Septuagint translations. It will be compared and aligned to the standard Greek Patriarchal Text of the New Testament where there is any divergence. The New Testament “Deuterocanonical” texts in the table of contents are included in these codices. Some of these texts were considered to be inspired Scripture by the Church before an authoritative canon of the New Testament was decided. Thus, the project’s scope will include: 1-2 Clement, Letter of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas.
WHAT MAKES THE FBC UNIQUE.
1) A FRESH TRANSLATION. The FBC will be translated directly from the Ancient Greek texts. Nevertheless, for the Old Testament, Brenton’s English Septuagint will be the base text of comparison; for the New Testament, the Patriarchal Greek Text (1904/1912) and the King James Version (1611).
A) Fidelity to Tradition: Patristic readings, the Byzantine/Majority Text witness, and any relevant Patristic comments will be footnoted, and alternative readings from the three ancient codices will be footnoted.
B) Unique formatting: including poetical breaks and sub-headings.
C) A blend of reference Bible and study Bible: its aim is to have helpful and thorough, but non-distracting translation and background notes. Where a biblical reference is deemed especially useful, it is included in the footnotes or in sub-headings.
D) A cross between a “word for word” and “dynamic equivalence” translation: while translating root word forms with consistent equivalents, it also renders difficult or obscure Greek words/phrases/sentences into “intended thoughts/interpretations,” corresponding to the most likely authorial purpose and according to consensual Patristic interpretation.
E) Standard spellings of Hebrew and Greek names will be used for familiarity, including all caps “LORD” for the Greek equivalent of the Divine Name.
2) COMPLETE SEPTUAGINT (LXX). Includes not only the standard “Deuterocanonical” texts found in most English translations, but all of the LXX books (including 3 & 4 Maccabees and Psalms of Solomon). It also includes the alternate manuscript parallels and additions found in Ralfhs and Göttingen LXX translations.
3) THE BIBLE OF THE EARLY CHURCH. FBC aims to present an Orthodox produced English translation of the first complete Bible of the Early Church. Thus, the readings from the Old and New Testament found in the codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus are given preference. This also means that the New Testament “Deuterocanonical” texts included in these codices are part of the project: 1-2 Clement, Letter of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas.
4) ACCESSIBLE. The intended audience is 15+ age reading competency. Archaic English words, Hebrew/Greek idioms, and complex sentences are exchanged for common, understandable terminology and succinct expressions, without degrading into slang.
The whole project will be released in stages:
Old Testament [estimated completion time: 3.25 years (first draft) – 4 years (final draft)]
1) Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
*estimated completion time: 27 weeks
2) Historical Books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-4 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, 1-2 Esdras, Esther, Judith, Tobit, 1-4 Maccabees, Susanna, Daniel, Bel and the Dragon)
*estimated completion time: 56 weeks
3) Wisdom Books (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms of Solomon)
*estimated completion time: 45 weeks
4) Prophetical Books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Letter of Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
*estimated completion time: 35 weeks
New Testament [estimated completion time: 1.25 years (first draft) – 2 years (final draft)]
1) Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, John)
*estimated completion time: 17 weeks
2) Letters (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Revelation)
*estimated completion time: 20 weeks
3) “Deuterocanon” (1-2 Clement, Letter of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas)
*estimated completion time: 21 weeks
PARTICIPATION. Your donation will primarily fund full-time professional translation, hire Orthodox iconographers and artists to illustrate portions of the text, and cover the cost of printing on-demand copies, digital formats, and an audio version.
If you are Orthodox and skilled at networking, marketing, or have advanced competence in ancient Greek, please contact me to explore ways you can participate in making this project flourish!
Tier 1 – Give $100, earn early access to Genesis OR Gospel of St. Matthew
Tier 2 – Give $200, earn early access to Pentateuch OR Gospels at completion, plus one tier 1 option
Tier 3 – Give $500+ and receive a bound print copy of the First Bible of the Church (FBC) (and free access to an electronic version)
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ANSWER.
1) How is the “First Bible of the Church” (FBC) different than the preexisting Septuagint translations and other Orthodox NT English versions?
First, it is a complete Bible translation that is produced solely by Orthodox Christians. Not even the Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) can make this claim, as the NKJV is its NT text, being a revision of the KJV made by English (Anglican) scholars in the early 17th century.
Second, there are four readily accessible English translations of the Greek Old Testament: Brenton, New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), The Lexham English Septuagint (LES), and the OSB. All are commendable in some aspects for their purposes. Since Brenton’s text is over one hundred and fifty years old, it is outdated, both in language and manuscript evidence. NETS is a scholarly translation meant for translators, that is literalistic to a fault, thus it is not as accessible as Brenton for the average reader. LES has more accessible wording than Brenton or NETS, but is still a bit too literalistic in our opinion for the average reader (self-admittedly taken from an interlinear model-see pages xii-xii in their introduction), and is based on Swete’s edition alone (page xi). Neither Brenton nor the OSB contain all the books included in Ralfhs’ standard Septuagint text. In general, the OSB is not a fresh translation of the Septuagint, but a modification of the Hebrew text, that is not always consistent. Importantly, OSB also does not contain the NT “Deuterocanon” of the codices Vaticanus/Sinaiticus/Alexandrinus, although these are foundational books of the Orthodox Church textual Tradition (as evidenced by their inclusion in these codices).
Although there are some modern English translations done by Orthodox folks of the NT and/or liturgical texts (or those claiming to be Orthodox), they are not based on these three early and standard codices. In our opinion, the Eastern Orthodox Bible (EOB) and the liturgical texts of St. Ignatius Orthodox Press are worth owning. Nonetheless, the scope of our project is different and unique to the aim of these versions.
2) What translation paradigm/principles does FBC employ?
FBC is primarily meant for home use, with the aim of helping more Orthodox Christians read their Bibles every day – and understand what they are reading! Thus, the initial scope of this project is to produce a lay-friendly contemporary “formal equivalence” (“word-for-word”) translation that does not devolve into slang or unnecessary “dynamic equivalence” (“thought-for-thought”). If interest develops for the production of a liturgical language text, that project would be considered, upon hierarchical blessing and/or request.
“The First Bible of the Church” (FBC) will have concise yet robust textual notes to differentiate important alternate readings within the Tradition of the Church, as well as Patristic comments that will help illuminate the meaning of the text. As the project develops, we will release a detailed translation principles document.
3) Are you claiming that this is the authorized or only version of the Orthodox Bible?
Definitely not. Orthodox Christians know that we have a Living Tradition that is not bound by pen and ink, or even antiquity. The Holy Spirit is living and active in the life of the Church, and thus inspires Christians within the Church for different tasks at different times – including Bible translations. So then, there will likely never be a single English version used by Orthodox Christians. This is one reason why certain jurisdictions still retain their ancient languages in the Divine Liturgy, such as Slavonic and Greek, because it is impossible to perfectly translate one language into another. Yet, antiquity and consensus lead to authorized versions, so these three ancient codices are extremely important witnesses to the fluid uniformity of the Bible of the 4th-5th centuries. In addition, the standard New Testament Greek Patriarchal Text will be the basis of comparison and will take precedence with any divergent reading of the ancient texts.
4) What does Septuagint, Deuterocanon, codex, codices mean?
Septuagint is a Latin-based word meaning “70.” It is related to the origin of the Greek Old Testament translation from the Hebrew Bible around 300 B.C., where seventy scholars were enlisted to translate the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures into the common Greek language of the time (often referred to as Koine = common, pronounced “Kee-nee”). Septuagint is now a common short-hand description for the entire Greek Old Testament Scriptures, including the Deuterocanon.
Deuterocanon is a Greek word meaning “second canon.’ These books were written during the time between the last Hebrew prophetical books and Christ’s Incarnation, commonly referred to as the Second Temple period. Modern Jews and Protestants do not accept these books as inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is ironic to say the least, since these books were part of the Jewish and Christian holy texts during the time before, during, and after the Apostolic Age.
Codex essentially means “book.” The ancient scriptural collections were originally written on papyrus scrolls and had to be unrolled to read. The final stage of ancient text technology was the “codex.” It was like our modern books, in that it had pages attached that could be opened and turned. Codices is the plural form of “codex.”
Click here to donate, and include a note that it is for the “First Bible Project.”