Monday, February 9, 2009

Orthodox Study Bible

I was excited to hear that a study Bible had been done for the Orthodox Church.  I teach world religions and like to have resources to point to.  When I received my copy I was eager to delve in.  I found exactly what I was looking for; a source telling me about the beliefs and practices of the Orthodox Church.   It has a great section on the history and numerous articles that introduce various concepts and beliefs of the Orthodox Church.  In this aspect I was very satisfied.

As a pastor I was rather disappointed.   As a study Bible it failed to meet my expectations.  There are many notes and some do a fine job of helping you understand the text, but this Bible seems to have Orthodox belief in mind explaining how the passage connects to Orthodox belief and worship.  I also found that some of the notes were not very relative while more important information which helps to clarify a passage was omitted. 

I highly recommend this Bible for those interested in learning more about the Orthodox Church; it’s history, beliefs and practices.  I recommend finding another study Bible for those who want help in studying the Scripture. 


Anonymous said...

Hello Pastor Brian,

I just thought I'd leave a comment regarding what you've said about the Orthodox Study Bible.

I was raised in an Evangelical home and have always been a believer in Christ. In my early twenties I became disillusioned by the superficiality and downright lack of a sense of the sacred in the evangelical church environments I was raised in. During a subsequent time of church hopping I sampled everything from high-end charismatic Pentecostalism to the quiet brotherhood style services of the Brethren. Nothing satisfied me. Eventually through a series of external circumstances I converted to Orthodox Christianity. My comment here is not meant to be about my renunciation of Protestantism, but I thought that relaying to you that I have a Protestant background might make what I have to say now a bit more meaningful to you.

In your review, you claim that you were disappointed in the Orthodox Study Bible because the commentaries and study notes were oriented toward the beliefs and practices of the Orthodox Church. I presume you mean in contrast to the idea of "personal" study. Your comment is fair but seems to display the typical ignorance (and I don't mean this in a nasty or demeaning way) of the Protestant view of Christianity and the Bible. The Orthodox Church claims to be the historical continuation of the Church founded by Christ and the Apostles. As such, the reading of the Scriptures is an activity that takes place WITHIN the CONTEXT of that Church and is inextricably tied into her Tradition and theology. In fact, it is heresy to suggest that the Bible can be stripped away from the Church because the Church gave birth to the Bible. The Bible as we know it today is a product of the Church and must be interpreted THROUGH the life of that Church. This is precisely why the Orthodox Study Bible is oriented the way it is. The Orthodox Church does not believe in personalized, private interpretation of the scriptures. The "study" in the OSB is a reference to studying the scriptures within the context of the life of the Church - hence the commentaries are centered around Orthodox patristic teachings / sayings and the overall apostolic inheritance preserved in the Church.

Now, You may not agree with any of this, after all you are not an Orthodox Christian. But I felt the need to tell you why the OSB is what it is. I felt that it was a lack of understanding on your part about Orthodox Christianity in general that may have been the cause of your disappointment.

Warm wishes,

John in Canada

Pastor Brian B Van Dyke said...

Hey John. I don't know if you will read this or not. I appreciate your explaining the Orthodox perspective for which the OSB was written. It does explain why it seems to fail from a Protestant perspective. You are right. I am vaguely familiar with the Orthodox church and touch upon it when I teach Christianity. I usually explain that the Orthodox church is more experiential, and some say mystical, then Catholicism or Protestantism. So I am somewhat caught off guard when you say seem to imply that individual interpretation is discouraged. I would expect this of the Catholic church, but my understanding of the Orthodox being more experiential would lead me to believe that the Church would expect adherents to interpret Scripture privately and personally. Perhaps, if you do read this, you could clarify this for me. Does the Orthodox church dictate how an adherent experiences God? Is there were the use of icons and other tools such as incense come into play? Does the church expect the experience to be the same for all adherents? I would really like to know your perspective.

Again, thanks for leaving the comment.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brian, I happen upon your review of the OSB at the Thomas Nelson publishers website. The CEO of nelson is a deacon in the Orthodox Church and has fascinating podcast on Ancient Faith Radio ( He presents an informed and intelligent study of his faith and denomination (certainly made me look at things in a different way). Have a great day! Dale

Jnorm888 said...

I would say, "the Orthodox church guides how an adherent experiences God".

No christian is a lone Island. And so, in Orthodoxy, we stress the corporate understanding or mind of the Church.....of not only the present, but also of the past.

And so, the individual checks their present private interpretation with the rest of the community.....both past and present.

For it's easy to become an Arius, an Origenist, a Nestorian, A Valentinian, a Tertullian, a Marcian, a Novationist.....etc. if we always go our own way.

And so in short, our experiences are understood or interpreted within the is communal.

The whole idea of "experience" has everything to do with our epistemology in general. For us, we "know" or have "knowledge", because we experience it.

And this experience is not just limited to the mind or tongue alone. This experience is in regards to the whole person.....mind, body, and soul....or body and soul....depending on what tradition you adhere to.

But yeah, this epistemology......if adhered to, will keep one from talking about things they either do not know or can not know. It's helps us not to speculate too much about things we can't really know.

And so, it's used in almost everything, and not just how we read's a philosophy of life pretty much. And it ties in other things that we believe in as Apophaticism vs Catophaticism and the issue of God being Omni-Present.


Zahir Blue said...

I find your review puzzling. Why would you be disappointed or even surprised that an Orthodox Study Bible approached its subject from the Orthodox POV?

And frankly, I am myself disappointed you went into no details.