Orthodox Study Bible...

I received my Orthodox Study Bible last Sunday and have been busy opening it up, taking a look around, and seeing how it works.

The Bible itself has been a long time coming and it definitely fills a need. Orthodox Christians seeking a Bible of their own, as it were, in a sea of study Bibles ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous had really nowhere to go until now. Prior to its arrival Orthodox woud need to read these other Bibles with a kind of internal editor in their head, a basic sense of the Tradition of our faith that could filter through the various notes and maps and comments to sift the wheat from the chaff. It could be done but this is so much better because now you can read for the sake of it and with more focus because that editor has a whole lot less to do.

Among the things that many Orthodox will find new is the use of the Septuagint for the Old Testament and what has been called the "Deuterocanonicals" books such as Maccabees and Tobit which, of they existed at all in Bibles were often put in a separate section between the testaments. In the Orthodox Study Bible they are placed where the Septuagint placed them and so they flow right with the books more familiar to many, especially to Protestants who have come to Orthodoxy. For example First Maccabees is right after Esther and Tobit follows Nehemiah.

The order and naming of the more familiar books is also restored to the original flow of the Septuagint so if, for example you've been used to seeing Isaiah right after Song of Solomon you might be suprised to find it after Malachi which many of us had simply assumed was the last book of the Old Testament. It will take some time to get used to but it does illustrate how great the need was for a Bible that reflected historical order and the Orthodox context. Some of the names of the books are slightly different as well. What many of us had learned as 1 and 2 Samuel are named 1 and 2 Kingdoms according to the Septuagint's usage. 1 and 2 Kings are identified as 3 and 4 Kingdoms in the study Bible. The New Testament bookd retain their familiar titles.

I was fortunate to have purchased an Orthodox Study Bible in advance at a discounted price but I would still reccommend the leather bound which is initially more expensive, just under $70, but if properly cared for (which for Orthodox means opened frequently but never abused) should last for years. I never mark up my Bibles or use highlighters first because individual verses, while emotionally and spiritually significant, should never be divorced from their context and second because it just cruds things up. It's also good to keep the Bible is a safe, dry, place appropriate for the storage of a fine book.

It should be noted that there are two great pleasures with owning a new Bible. The first is that initial opening up of the book, the new book smell and gently separating the gold leafed pages. Even if you've read the Bible many times there's something about a new one. The second will come over the years as you and the Bible share your life together. It, and you, will wear with age but those age marks in your Bible are the marks of how the precious things inside have journeyed with you over the years. An old Bible is like an old friend and when the new is gone everything valuable still remains.

There is a myth out there that the Orthodox church and Orthodox clergy don't want you to read the Scriptures. This is simply untrue. For many centuries Bibles were not widely available to the masses because they were hand copied. At times widespread illiteracy also played a part as did the oppression of the Orthodox Church in Muslim and Communist cultures. Sometimes, too, it was simply a matter of Orthodox being spiritually asleep. But the truth is that our faith is a biblical faith and if the opportunity is open each and every Orthodox Christian should be well versed in the Holy Scriptures, interpreting them in the larger context of their Tradition, and applying it's truth to their lives. I would dearly love for my entire parish to read, understand, and live the Bible, the book of books, even as I work to do so myself and I am convinced that the Orthodox Study Bible is an amazing gift for times such as this.

You can get the Orthodox Study Bible at http://www.concilliarpress.com/

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