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[lxx] LXX Theology/Theologies

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  • Larry N Baker
    Since the Eastern (Orthodox) Church seeks to develop their theology from the LXX as their OT authority (including the Apocrypha) along with the Greek NT,
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 7, 2000
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      Since the Eastern (Orthodox) Church seeks to develop their theology from
      the LXX as their OT authority (including the Apocrypha) along with the
      Greek NT, Apostolic Fathers, and Patristic writers, have they any OT
      theological-doctrinal beliefs/statements based upon these documents that
      would differ from the Judaic and/or Evangelical/Protestant heritage whose
      OT theology's basis is the MT/Hebrew OT text? In other words, can a
      theology or theologies of the LXX be found in the writings of the Eastern
      (Orthodox) Church? If so, would anyone have a suggested Orthodox
      seminary that would be of such a research bent, as this?

      It is interesting to note that the Eastern (Orthodox) Church is presently
      putting together a modern English translation of the LXX. [Info. at
      www.LXX.org]

      Sincerely,
      Larry N. Baker
      American Bible College and Seminary
      Ok. City, OK
    • atombomb
      Blessed be God! ... I am an Orthodox Christian with an MA in Old Testament so maybe I can give you a few references to get you started at least. Off the top of
      Message 2 of 4 , Mar 8, 2000
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        Blessed be God!

        Larry N Baker wrote:
        >
        > Since the Eastern (Orthodox) Church seeks to develop their theology from
        > the LXX as their OT authority (including the Apocrypha) along with the
        > Greek NT, Apostolic Fathers, and Patristic writers, have they any OT
        > theological-doctrinal beliefs/statements based upon these documents that
        > would differ from the Judaic and/or Evangelical/Protestant heritage whose
        > OT theology's basis is the MT/Hebrew OT text? In other words, can a
        > theology or theologies of the LXX be found in the writings of the Eastern
        > (Orthodox) Church?

        I am an Orthodox Christian with an MA in Old Testament so maybe I can
        give you a few references to get you started at least.

        Off the top of my head I would say that the Orthodox Church does
        approach scripture somewhat differently than the Western Church, since
        we do not labor under the burden of Augustinianism. One area of
        difference that comes immediately to mind concerns the doctrine of
        'original sin'. In the classic statement of the Western doctrine, each
        child is born sharing Adam's guilt. In the East, it is rather considered
        that each child is born into a human condition which is the result of
        Adam's fall-- and therefore is in need of salvation, purification, and
        redemption-- but s/he is not co-guilty with Adam. A text used to
        illustrate this is to be found in Ps 50 (LXX), where it says, "in sins
        did my mother conceive me". With the Jews but against the Augustinians,
        we affirm that the plural "sins" means that my mother lived within, and
        I am born into, the common human sinful condition, but (as might be
        suggested if she had conceived me 'in sin') I am not characterized from
        conception as having *already* sinned.

        For more discussion of the difference between the Orthodox and Western
        views of judgment, salvation, hell, etc, see http://www.tca1.org/vol10/V10RiverFire.html.

        Another area of contrast might be the doctrine of creation itself, and
        the treatment of Genesis 1. The fathers of the church were not
        fundamentalists, nor creationists. Even though they do speak of Adam and
        Eve as real people, there is an awareness that in some way they are also
        just symbols for (as the LXX occasionally translates) 'man' (and
        'woman'). After all, 'adam' is ambiguous in Hebrew; this ambiguity is
        sometimes retained in the creation story. And so in fact in the painting
        of icons, it is not considered canonical to depict Adam and Eve-- for
        example on the icon of the Resurrection, which shows Christ smashing the
        gates of hell and raising Adam and Eve by the hand-- with halos, as they
        are not *necessarily* to be considered historical persons. Up to this
        point, Orthodoxy has been blessedly free of the controversy about
        creationism which so wracks your churches, although certain converts in
        the last couple of decades have been at pains to introduce this novelty
        among us.

        I could recommend a number of articles in the Collected Works of Prof.
        Georges Florovsky, particularly the article on "The Lost Scriptural
        Mind" in Vol. 1, *Bible, Church, and Tradition*, "The Fathers of the
        Church and the Old Testament" in Vol. 4, *Aspects of Church History*;
        and "Revelation, Philosophy, and Theology" and "The 'Immortality' of the
        Soul" in Vol. 3, *Creation and Redemption*. Actually, it is well worth
        the effort to browse through all 15 volumes of Fr. Florovsky, as he is
        one of the most significant Orthodox thinkers of the last two centuries.

        You'll find the fathers in many respects are interested in the
        scriptures much more as an image of the spiritual life and of
        inter-human relations than as a manual which can be mined for truths
        about history, creation, etc. To be sure, the scriptures do reveal the
        dogmatic truths of theology and the incarnation; but the fathers are
        particularly alive to what you might call the metaphoric and analogical
        dimensions of the text; to be sure, they take the historical statements
        and claims more or less at face value, but they would consider stopping
        with that to be an example of 'judaizing'.

        > If so, would anyone have a suggested Orthodox
        > seminary that would be of such a research bent, as this?

        In the Americas really the only Orthodox seminary where you're going to
        find a good mix of modern scholarship and patristic emphasis is St.
        Vladimir's in New York (see http://www.svots.edu/), with Holy Cross in
        Boston somewhat behind (see http://www.hchc.edu/cross.htm)-- the other
        seminaries could not be considered in any respect 'research'
        institutions and by and large do not have very exceptional faculty. Many
        RC seminaries and universities have excellent faculties in 'early
        church' and the like which also can be of help with this sort of
        interest, but they actually attempt to practice the patristic manner of
        life and I think experience is important.

        Outside the US you should consider the Universities of Thessalonika and
        of Athens, the St. Sergius Institute in Paris, and I understand
        Cambridge University is just in the throes of launching what portends to
        be an excellent Orthodox Institute.

        > It is interesting to note that the Eastern (Orthodox) Church is presently
        > putting together a modern English translation of the LXX. [Info. at
        > www.LXX.org]

        We wait with bated breath, because we have a great need for a
        translation of the scriptures that corresponds to the 27 volumes of
        service books that we work our way through in the course of a year, to
        say nothing of all the patristic commentary that of course presumes the
        LXX. Unfortunately, however, Holy Transfiguration Monastery (the
        translators' aegis) has the idea that archaic language somehow makes for
        a more noble and sacred text, so if their Psalter gives any clue as to
        what to expect, the entire OT will be well nigh unreadable. But that's
        another discussion.

        I hope this has been helpful; you can email me either on the list or off
        if you want further references or discussion; I'll see what I can find
        for you.

        Regards,

        John Burnett
      • james and tatiana miller
        Colleagues: A point of correction on John Burnett s post. He states that Holy Transfiguration Monastery [is} (the translators aegis) [for the Orthodox LXX
        Message 3 of 4 , Mar 8, 2000
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          Colleagues:

          A point of correction on John Burnett's post. He states that "Holy
          Transfiguration Monastery [is} (the translators' aegis)" [for the Orthodox
          LXX translation project mentioned by Larry Baker]. In fact, the translation
          project for the LXX that Larry Baker is referring to is being conducted in
          connection with (the former?) Conciliar Press and is headed by Fr. Jack
          Sparks. It has no formal connection with Holy Transfiguration Monastery. In
          fact, I believe they take a critical stance toward it. Additionally, a
          look at the translators' site (www.lxx.org) will reveal that they will be
          following the style and language conventions of the NKJ, which should
          produce something a bit different stylistically than the Holy
          Transfiguration Psalter John Burnett mentions. For further clarification,
          Holy Transfiguration Monastery does appear to be working on the scriptural
          portions of the Menaion (a service book containing scriptural readings
          embedded in accompanying liturgical material), but I do not believe that
          they have any plan to produce a translation of the entirety of the LXX such
          as that of the previously mentioned group. These differences, for the sake
          of the people involved in the respective projects, should be duly noted.

          The only further comment I would like to interject into this discussion is
          the artificiality of the conception of the LXX as being something like the
          "Orthodox OT". True, the OT canon as defined in the early Christian
          centuries was based on the LXX, and also true, patristic writers commenting
          on OT books or passages would invariably use a Greek translation of the OT
          material in question. But as far as OT material with a potential for being
          widely known, one must speak of excerpts read in connection with public
          worship, and thus of lectionaries, as being the "OT of the Orthodox
          Church." A recent survey of Rahlfs' Verzeichnis der griecheschen
          Handschriften des alten Testaments has provided me with numerical evidence
          to back up this assertion. Only 4.5% of the MSS listed there are complete,
          or possibly complete, OT's. More than twice as many (ca 11%) are listed as
          "lectionaries" while by far the highest percentage of OT MSS is Ps (with or
          without Odes [Odes, by the way, containing its own separate compendium of
          OT excerpts]) - over 56%. MSS containing single books of the OT, while not
          as common as the Ps/Odes MSS, nevertheless come in slightly ahead of
          lectionaries at 15%. Thus, it seems that full texts of the OT were the
          exception to the rule: the rule, on the contrary, for OT usage and
          familiarity would have been portions and excerpts, like the lectionaries.

          Thank you, James Miller
        • atombomb
          Blessed be God. ... Thank you for this correction; I had only heard that the translation was being prepared in some connection with HTM (apparently not true),
          Message 4 of 4 , Mar 8, 2000
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            Blessed be God.

            james and tatiana miller wrote:
            >
            > A point of correction on John Burnett's post. He states that "Holy
            > Transfiguration Monastery [is} (the translators' aegis)" [for the Orthodox
            > LXX translation project mentioned by Larry Baker]. In fact, the translation
            > project for the LXX that Larry Baker is referring to is being conducted in
            > connection with (the former?) Conciliar Press and is headed by Fr. Jack
            > Sparks. It has no formal connection with Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

            Thank you for this correction; I had only heard that the translation was
            being prepared in some connection with HTM (apparently not true), and I
            had undoubtedly confused it with the translation of the Menaion that you
            mention. Since these things always take years and years and years, I
            haven't been following the progress of either translation. I'm relieved
            to hear that the language won't be so archaic as the Psalter, but have
            to admit I wonder why it should be archaic at all (sigh).

            Anyway, my error; thanx for the correction.

            > The only further comment I would like to interject into this discussion is
            > the artificiality of the conception of the LXX as being something like the
            > "Orthodox OT". True, the OT canon as defined in the early Christian
            > centuries was based on the LXX, and also true, patristic writers commenting
            > on OT books or passages would invariably use a Greek translation of the OT
            > material in question. But as far as OT material with a potential for being
            > widely known, one must speak of excerpts read in connection with public
            > worship, and thus of lectionaries, as being the "OT of the Orthodox
            > Church." A recent survey of Rahlfs' Verzeichnis der griecheschen
            > Handschriften des alten Testaments has provided me with numerical evidence
            > to back up this assertion. Only 4.5% of the MSS listed there are complete,
            > or possibly complete, OT's. More than twice as many (ca 11%) are listed as
            > "lectionaries" while by far the highest percentage of OT MSS is Ps (with or
            > without Odes [Odes, by the way, containing its own separate compendium of
            > OT excerpts]) - over 56%. MSS containing single books of the OT, while not
            > as common as the Ps/Odes MSS, nevertheless come in slightly ahead of
            > lectionaries at 15%. Thus, it seems that full texts of the OT were the
            > exception to the rule: the rule, on the contrary, for OT usage and
            > familiarity would have been portions and excerpts, like the lectionaries.

            Essentially this is true, and I can provide anecdotal evidence as well:
            I recently gave my priest a copy of the Slavonic Bible published by the
            ABS (sadly, out of print last I heard). He said it was only the second
            one he'd ever seen-- that Russian culture did not until recently, and
            then mostly under Western influence, have a concept of a "Bible" like we
            do. Certain books were studied more than others (this is probably the
            case even today among those who have "Bibles", eh?) but by and large the
            OT scriptures were (and still are) encountered by most people primarily
            in the context of worship. And encountered they were: there are several
            services during the year, for example, which have seven, or twelve, or
            fifteen scripture readings, some of them quite lengthy; also, apparently
            the lectionary we use today is rather attenuated in comparison to the
            practice of the first millennium-- for as I understand it, there was an
            OT reading at Vespers every evening, as today during Great Lent. But it
            was hard to produce or obtain manuscripts, so this approach to scripture
            is very much a practical matter and an effort to maximize, rather than
            to minimize, people's exposure to the Word of God.

            There was always an awareness, however, that the excerpts which were
            read during the services were excerpts from something-- a "Palaia
            Diatheke"-- so I think it is something of an exaggeration to say that
            the LXX was "not an 'Orthodox OT'", but that the lectionaries were this
            instead. Or rather, this is practically true, but not theoretically. The
            LXX has always been our "Palaia Diatheke".

            The Psalms and Odes are used constantly in the services of the Church
            and in fact bishops were required to have memorized them (and the
            gospels) in their entirety; I understand that in early monasticism this
            was also true of ordinary monks (from whose ranks the bishops were chosen).

            It is useful to have the statistics you mention.

            Regards,

            John Burnett
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