Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Orthodox Study Bible

I think it’s important to look at different perspectives on everything and most especially the Bible. It’s not that I think what I’ve been taught is wrong, but sometimes the other traditions have a useful perspective, and occasionally I find that the most accurate description of a biblical truth is somewhere in the middle of two extreme positions.

And, of course, we have to know what other people believe to know what and why we don’t believe.

To that end I have in my library some diverse Bible study resources including the Africa Bible Commentary, a Roman Catholic commentary, some rather liberal (even skeptical) works, and now an Orthodox Study Bible (full disclosure: a review copy).

What do I think of the Orthodox Study Bible?

Let me first say that I’m not qualified to say whether this is a good study Bible for those of the Orthodox tradition. My interest in it is, as I said above, as a tool for getting a different perspective and maybe learning something about Orthodox thought.

Features:
I’ll leave it to the reader to look at the official list of “features” of the Orthodox Study Bible, but I want to highlight some that grabbed me.

First, the commentary notes include quotations from the church fathers – including Athanasius, Irenaeus, and John Chrysostom. Second, it has an index of the notes by topic. Third, it has quite a few beautiful photographs of Christian art with … an eastern influence. Fourth, it includes a modern translation of the “deuterocanonical” books.

Positives:
First and foremost, the notes and articles present, as I understand it anyway, a good picture of the Orthodox perspective – e.g., their views on justification, deification, and Mary.

This study Bible is also very good at showing connections between the OT and NT. The commentary is often devotional as well as informative. Finally, it sees Christ and/or the Trinity in everything in the OT.

Negatives:
It sees Christ and/or the Trinity in everything in the OT; sometimes it seems to be a bit of a stretch. It also sees an apologetic for the Orthodox Church in strange places (e.g., Leviticus 10).

The OT translation is occasionally a little odd (NT is NKJ, OT is a new translation based on the LXX), and the OT chapters are occasionally numbered (Psalms) or ordered (Jeremiah and Malachi) differently than what we in the West are used to. Finally, the notes and articles occasionally present protestant views in ways I felt was not entirely accurate in the process of trying to refute them.

So what do I think of the Orthodox Study Bible?

I would certainly never recommend that anyone have this as their sole study Bible, but I think it would be a useful addition to the library of any who are interested in examining varying perspectives on the Bible.

Rating: Well worth reading (3 ½ stars)

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