Alice C. Linsley
I appreciate the great labor that went into producing The Orthodox Study Bible (OSB). Father Jack Norman Sparks was the principle overseer of the project. He was the Founder and Dean of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (Antiochian) in Elk Grove, California. The Project Director was Father Peter Gillquist. Both of these remarkable scholar-priests are now at repose. Memory eternal!
The Orthodox Church uses the 49 books of the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX). It was produced in the third century B.C. by seventy Jewish scholars who gathered in Alexandria, and it became the universally accepted version of the Old Testament.
Attention to the Seven Ecumenical Councils
A strength of the Orthodox Study Bible is its attention to the doctrinal consensus of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. The notes give primary attention to the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, The Incarnation, the centrality of the Church as the "dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), and the Virtues whereby God's people live righteous lives.
Attention to the Fathers
Another strength of the Orthodox Study Bible is the inclusion of interpretation of "the fathers of the ancient and undivided church." Doubtless this was one of the contributions of Fr. Jack Sparks who edited The Apostolic Fathers (Light and Life Publishers).
The inclusion of the fathers' interpretations in the annotations (footnotes) poses a difficulty. Should their views be treated comprehensively whereby all the views on a given passage are included, or should there be only one representative view? If only a representative view, we might miss a unique gem such as that offered by St. John Chrysostom when he wrote of Lamech the Elder's repentance and reception of divine mercy. Which fathers should be quoted? Since they do not always agree, should all their comments be included? If so, the notes would take up as much space on a page as the biblical text! Even with limited citation of the fathers, the annotations sometimes fill half the page. (See page 10, for an example.)
Perhaps there will be a complementary volume which more comprehensively addresses the Apostolic reflections on Scripture; something like the relationship of the Talmud and the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). The Talmud is a collection of rabbinic writings that most Jews regard as more important than the Tanakh. The Talmud encourages this view with statements such as this: “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah." (Talmud Erubin 21b)
Some Orthodoxy regard the apostolic fathers in a similar way. Yet, one must wonder if the fathers would want us to give their words the same spiritual weight at the Scriptures upon which they meditated? They understood how human counsel, even that of the spiritually enlightened, can err. They engaged in refuting rabbinic interpretations that obfuscated the Gospel.
In his review of the 2008 Orthodox Study Bible, Dr. John Collis wrote:
Judaism has its bible, the Tanakh, which is explained by the Talmud, the authoritative collection of writings drawn from the tradition of the Jewish people. Today, Orthodoxy has their study bible.
Tomorrow, Orthodox Christians should have an Orthodox Talmud, that is, Orthodox Christians should have an authoritative and well organized collection of writings drawn from the Orthodox Christian tradition. [From here.]
The Orthodox Study Bible on Genesis
There are inaccuracies in the notes on Genesis and this constitutes one of the deficiencies of the publication that I hope will be corrected in the future. Here are some corrections that would improve the Orthodox Study Bible notes on Genesis.
3:15 - The Orthodox Study Bible recognizes that this verse about the Woman's seed speaks of Christ, yet there is no mention of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Woman, and there is no reference to Jesus' self-description as the Seed in John 12:24.
4:16 - Nod is a play on the word Nok. In Hebrew, these words are almost identical. Nod means to wander and the people of Nok were known to wander with their cattle. These were Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors.
4:25 - Here the Orthodox Study Bible contradicts what the Bible reveals about the intermarriage of the lines of Cain and Seth. It states that Christ is a descendant of Seth only. However, analysis of the Genesis 4 and 5 king lists makes it clear that these lines intermarried. Therefore Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David and Jesus are descendants of both Cain and Seth.
5:3 - The OSB identifies Seth, Adam and Eve as a type of the Trinity. In this view, Seth is a type of Christ. However, this fails to take into account that Cain is the kingdom builder, not Seth. In fact, throughout the Bible Cain is identified with the office of king. Genesis 4:7 states that Cain would rule over Seth. In Jude's epistle (c. 68 AD) Cain is cast as the archetype of the earthly ruler. Jude warns those who might abandon Christ because of their suffering and false teachers that God punishes those who rebel against Him. He uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest. These were the three most sacred offices among Abraham’s people and they were often filled by people corrupted by the world. We have no Biblical evidence that Cain repented of his brother's murder, but there is much biblical evidence that God showed him mercy just as he did to the murderers Moses and David. He deserved to die, yet God protected him from those who might kill him. God allowed him to become a ruler, to build a city, and to be one of the ancestors of Christ our God.
Instead, the OSB should have noted that Genesis hints at the Trinity in Genesis 3:15. The Woman (not Eve, as she is not named until Genesis 3:20) is to conceive and bring forth the Seed of God. She conceives by God through the Holy Spirit and brings forth the Son of God. Here we have Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Abraham's people believed that this was to happen by divine "overshadowing" (cf. Luke 1:26-28). This is an aspect of the solar symbolism of the ancient Habiru/Hebrews.
Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors expected a Woman of their ruler-priest lines (Ha-biru/Hebrew) to bring forth the immortal Righteous Ruler. She was to conceive by divine overshadowing. Remember what the Angel Gabriel said to Mary? "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
11:10-31 - The OSB states, "The genealogy of Shem carries Christ's genealogy down to Abraham..." (p. 16). However, Abraham was a descendant of both Shem and Ham since the Scriptures make it clear that their lines intermarried.