Friday, February 18, 2022

The EOB New Testament: Best English Translation Ever

             I am pleased to present and review a relatively new English New Testament:  the Eastern/Greek Orthodox New Testament, also known as the New Testament portion of the Eastern Orthodox Bible (abbreviated from here on as “EOB-NT”), which was initially published in 2013.


         “The EOB New Testament,” says its online presentation at Amazon, “is a new translation of the official Greek Orthodox text called the Patriarchal Text of 1904.”  It goes on to say that the EOB-NT is “a fresh and accessible translation created within the Orthodox community.”   Its editor is identified as Laurent Cleenewerck.  Presbyter Cleenewerck currently serves as the rector of Saint Innocent Orthodox Christian Church in Eureka, CA.

            New English translations are not uncommon nowadays:  the past 50 years have seen the premiere of the NIV 1984 (now discontinued), NASB (updated in 1995), ESV (updated in 2016), HCSB, CSB (2017), CEB, CEV, NLT, TNIV (now discontinued), NIV 2011, NRSVue, and so forth.  Meanwhile, many advocates of the KJV have resisted these translations, arguing (among other things) that they either omit a significant number of verses and phrases, or relegate them to the footnotes.

            The EOB New Testament poses a challenge to such objections.  In its extensive introduction (p. viii),  one finds a statement that the purpose of its Greek base-text “is not to offer an always speculative reconstruction of the original autographs but to provide a uniform ecclesiastical text which is a reliable and accurate witness to the truth of the Christian faith.”

            Because it is based on the 1904 Patriarchal Text, the EOB-NT includes all these verses and phrases (with footnotes mentioning the reading of the CT – Critical Text – in each case):  Matthew 6:13b, Matthew 12:47, Matthew 13:14 “spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” Matthew 16:2b-3, Matthew 17:21, Matthew 18:11, Matthew 20:16b, Matthew 23:14 (as 23:13), Mark 6:11b, Mark 7:16, Mark 9:29 “and fasting,” Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46, Mark 11:26, Mark 14:24 “new,” Mark 15:28, Mark 16:9-20, Luke 4:8, Luke 9:55-56, Luke 11:2b, Luke 11:4b, Luke 17:36, Luke 22:43-44, Luke 23:17, Luke 23:34a, Luke 24:12, Luke 24:40, Luke 24:42b, Luke 24:51b, John 3:13, “who is in heaven,” John 5:3-4, John 7:53-8:11, Acts 8:37, Acts 9:5-6, Acts 13:42, Acts 15:34, Acts 23:9b, Acts 24:6-8, Acts 28:29, Romans 1:16, “of Christ,” Romans 16:24, and First John 5:7-8.

            Although the EOB-NT contains the Johannine Comma in First John, its footnote states explicitly that this reading is supported by “a few recent Greek manuscripts,” and that “This passage is undoubtedly an interpolation or later theological comment seemingly of Spanish-Latin origin.”

            Unlike the NKJV and MEV, the EOB-NT rejects many of the readings in the Textus Receptus (and KJV) which are not supported by the Byzantine Text.  It is similar to the World English Bible (which makes sense considering that, as its introduction says, the EOB-NT “began as a revision of the WEB”).  Here are some examples of readings in the Gospel of Matthew in the EOB-NT that are different from the KJV due to different readings in their base-texts:

            3:8 – “fruit” (notfruits”)

            5:47 – “friends (not “brethren)

            7:2 – does not have “again”

            8:15 – “him” (not “them”)

            9:36 – “weary” (notfainted”)

            12:35 – does not have “of the heart”

            18:19 – “Again, amen” (not just “Again”)

            18:29 – does not have “all”

            20:22 – “or” (not “and”)

            20:26 – “shall be (not “let him be”)

            21:1 – “Bethsphage” (not “Bethphage”)

            26:26 – gave thanks for it” (not “blessed it”)

            27:35 – does not have “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots”

            27:41 – includes “and the Pharisees”


            The influence of a better and broader array of evidence manifests itself in many other passages.  Some samples: 

          ● Luke 7:31 does not begin with “And the Lord said,”

          ● John 1:28 refers to Bethany (not Bethabara),

          ● Acts 9:5 does not include “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks,”

          ● Acts 9:6 does not include “And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ And the Lord said unto him,”

          ● Ephesians 3:9 reads “dispensation,”

          ● Philippians 4:3 begins with “Yes” (not “And”)

          ● Colossians 1:6 includes “and growing,”

          ● Colossians 1:14 does not include “through his blood,”

          ● James 4:12 includes “and judge,”

          ● First Peter 2:2 includes “in salvation.”

          ● Jude verse 4 refers to “our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ,”

          ● Revelation 6:12 refers to the “whole moon,”

          ● Revelation 8:13 refers to “an eagle,” and

          ● Revelation 22:20 refers to the “tree of life” (not “book of life” as in the KJV).

            At all these points (and many more) the EOB-NT’s base-text has preserved the original text better than the Textus Receptus.

            To illustrate the EOB-NT's translation-technique, here are three sample extracts from the EOB-NT:

            JOHN 1:12:  “But as many as received him, to them he gave the ability to become God’s children, to those who believe in his Name.”

            FIRST TIMOTHY 3:2:  “The overseer must be irreproachable, a husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, modest, hospitable and a good teacher.”

            TITUS 3:4-5:  “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward mankind appeared (not by works of righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy), he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

            The translation-technique of the EOB-NT comes very close to Bruce Metzger’s ideal of “as literal as possible, as free as necessary.”  Monetary terms and ancient measurement-units are not converted into their modern equivalents; instead, footnotes explain the ancient terms via modern counterparts.  The most unusual rendering is perhaps found in Philippians 4:3, where the Greek word that is often rendered “yokefellow” or “fellow-worker” is rendered in the EOB-NT as a proper name, Syzygus – with a footnote conveying that this rendering is not airtight.    

            Extensive quotations from the Old Testament are italicized.

            Instead of resorting to headings that interrupt the text, all of the EOB-NT’s headings are in the side-margin, in italicized red print.

            The myriad footnotes in the EOB-NT mention very many textual variants in the Textus Receptus, the Majority Text, and the Critical Text – far more than the footnotes in the ESV and NIV and CSB – almost enough to give 100% validation to the introduction’s claim that “All significant variants between PT/MT/TR and CT have been studied and footnoted to provide variant readings.”  Even some of Codex Bezae’s very unusual readings have found a home in the EOB-NT’s footnotes, such as at Matthew 20:28, Luke 22:19, 24:3, etc. – but not in the book of Acts.

            Many footnotes point out passages where a New Testament author’s citation of an Old Testament passage agrees with the Septuagint.   Most of the footnotes are brief, but some come close to commentary-summarizations; for instance, the footnotes for John 1:1-2, John 8:58, and Second Thessalonians 2:7 seem too prolix.

            Footnote-readers will encounter occasional Greek words.  And, unlike the writers of the footnotes in other English New Testaments, the EOB-NT’s footnote-writer was not afraid to mention patristic writers such as Irenaeus, Clement, Hippolytus, Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome, Basil, Hilary, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodoret.  It is highly recommended that readers carefully absorb the Introduction to the EOB-NT and the prefatory Abbreviations and Codes (which identifies, among other things, the abbreviations for several English translations and 21 witnesses (mainly Greek manuscripts).  However, that will not help the typical American reader to whom patristic authors are, sadly, a complete mystery.  Such readers will just have to learn!                   

        I suspect that the EOB-NT embodies the kind of revision of the traditional New Testament text that John Burgon wished for in the late 1800s – avoiding the Egypt-centric compilation that is currently presented as the text of “reasonable eclecticism” (in real life, it is 99% Alexandrian), and which is the basis of the New Testament in the ESV, NIV, CSB, NASB, NRSV, and NLT.  The EOB-NT stands apart from these versions and is superior to them all.

            This is not to say that the EOB-NT is flawless.  Some of the readings in its base-text are not original.  For instance, Matthew 25:13 in the EOB-NT concludes with “that the Son of Man is coming,” which surely originated in the Byzantine Text for the purpose of wrapping up a lection.  But as far as I can tell, these accretions are, one and all, quite benign, and they tend to clarify the meaning of the passage in which they occur, just as the NIV routinely inserts a proper name where there is no proper name in its base-text.

         I have only physically met the EOB-NT in the form of its Portable Edition, which was published by New Rome Press in 2019 (and can be purchased for $40 at their website).  The features of the EOB-NT Portable Edition are notable: 

            Its burgundy leather cover has two ribbons, yellow and red.  A zipper protects the pages (but also prevents them from laying flat).  The print is small; some readers may need a magnifying-glass.  There are two columns of text on each page.

            The text is formatted into logical paragraphs.

            An unfortunate formatting-error has survived in Matthew 27:31:  the words “Simon of Cyrene–The way to Golgotha– The crucifixion of the Lord” were intended to be in the margin in red print, but somehow they have been presented as if they are part of the text.  (Hopefully this will be remedied in future editions.)

            As one handles the EOB-NT Portable Edition, one may feel as if a New Testament manuscript is being held.  Each Gospel is preceded by a full-page illustration, and illustrations – more like icons – also appear before First Corinthians, and after Revelation.   Each book of the New Testament, large or small, is introduced with an artistic, uncomplicated red headpiece, and the book-title in artistic red lettering. Chapter-numbers and superscripted verse-numbers are red.  Footnote-numbers, in black, are also superscripted.

            The text is supplemented by useful colorful maps that deserve special mention.  They depict the Roman Empire, Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee, Jesus’ Journeys to Jerusalem, The Jewish Diaspora at Pentecost, Paul’s Early Travels, Paul’s Third Missionary Journey, Paul’s Trip to Rome, The Ministry of Peter and Philip, the Spread of Christianity During the 1st and 2nd Centuries A.D., and Early Christian Communities, followed by an icon of the Harrowing of Hell with Romans 8:31-34.  

            More information about the EOB-NT Portable Edition can be found in the video-reviews by Orthodox Review and R. Grant Jones and Biblical Studies and Reviews.




John said...

Matthew 29:31 ???
Now that’s a chapter that I’m not aware of! 😁

James Snapp Jr said...

Touche! It's repaired now; thanks!

Demian said...

I'm thinking that we now have very good representatives of the manuscripts used by the church in the east and the west. The Douay–Rheims Bible is pretty close to the manuscript Jerome had for his commentaries on the New Testament and I bet that the EOB will follow very closely Chrysostom's Greek text. We will have to wait now for a good translation in English of the text available to the church in Egypt. The ESV (or the NASB-95) may be an approximation, but not yet a good representative of the texts we find Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria using in their writings and commentaries.

yage said...

The design seems quite nice (although I do prefer single columns). This would be awesome with the Greek text, and no zipper.

Ross said...

I had to cut a ribbon (cut both then)since it got stuck in the zipper! The large paperback has the Mat 27 headings properly formatted. But they are not in the margin but are rather bold in text headings.

thechortling said...

does that mean that all those other translations were done by the DirtyWerck clan?

Display Name said...

Hi Dr Sapp. Thanks for your work. I have a scoefield kjv Bible, and I dislike and distrust and therefore ignore the many comments. Ive read about a quarter of it. What’s a good starting Bible for someone well educated who just wants to read it (i mostly get my analysis and exegesis from commentators elsewhere, esp podcasts and videos)? Is it the eob? Or is that a good second Bible? From a few years ago, I thought you had a post about this question but couldnt find it. I guess Id like to go with more modern English than kjv but will end-up going to kjv on occasion. (Frankly, is not too important but I wouldnt mind one without verse numbers, but is hard to find and all I found also has no paragraph or any other breaks and those mustve been in the originals.)

Display Name said...

Hi Dr Sapp. Thanks for your work. I have a scoefield kjv Bible, and I dislike and distrust and therefore ignore the many comments. Ive read about a quarter of it. What’s a good starting Bible for someone well educated who just wants to read it (i mostly get my analysis and exegesis from commentators elsewhere, esp podcasts and videos)?

Is it the eob? Or is that a good second Bible? From a few years ago, I thought you had a post about this question but couldnt find it. I guess Id like to go with more modern English than kjv but will end-up going to kjv on occasion. (Frankly, is not too important but I wouldnt mind one without verse numbers, but is hard to find, and the ones Ive seen also have no paragraph or any other breaks; such breaks must’ve been in the ancient Bibles, right?)

Display Name said...

Dunno if your name or your comment is funnier

Display Name said...

But regarding the New Testament, they all come from the same source right? So isn’t the ultimate job to take the three and integrate/reconcile them into a final version? (The three you just mentioned, jerome, chrysostom, and egypt’s). ie Why do we have two branches around?

Display Name said...

Im sure that’s a basic question, but Im new to this. And once in a blue moon such a person says something basic but useful (plus Im just legit curious)

Demian said...

Hi Display Name, I will comment on your question that was directed to me. That's right! There is only one source of scriptures, but when you read the church fathers, you soon realize that there are variations in their texts. Minor variations in the word of God is a historical fact! You can read Chrysostom's commentary on the gospel of John and compare with Cyril's and you will realize that there are variations in their texts. Chrysostom's text is byzantine and tends to be closer to the EOB, because that was the form of the text that was used by the Greek speaking church in the East. Cyril's MSS is Alexandrian and will be closer to the critical text, because that was the form of the text that was available to the Church in Egypt. The third major branch is represented by the Latin fathers like Augustine and Jerome. Their text will tend to be closer to the DRB. The business of textual criticism is to compare those texts from those major branches and come to a conclusion as to what textual variant is the original. I hope that helps!

Display Name said...

Thanks very much for the explanation. Very interesting.

You’re certainly welcome to comment on my other question; is already a lot but would also be greatly appreciated (if not even more so). Certainly my preference is toward matching original texts, but can’t have it all and there are undoubtedly other considerations for a relatively new believer (about two years, with MUCH study of exegesis but a paucity of simply reading the Bible itself, which I am ready to correct). Thanks again and God bless you very much so in Christ. 🙏🏻✝️

I still sortve wonder why all Bible versions come out intentionally close to one of the three branches rather than trying to use all three to work-out the best estimate of the originals. I guess one explanation is that a version IS trying to get to the original, but the translators/editors believe the branch near their version is the branch which is closest to the originals, while some others make a version close to a different branch because they believe otherwise.. they believe the branch near THEIR version is closest to the originals. I mean, Im just surprised to see modern Bibles being sortable into which branch they are from. Do you happen to know if that’s based on the beliefs of the ones making the version, like I said, or if they have other reasons such as wanting one close to the branch per se to use with fathers who had such? Anyway only if interested in replying further, and thanks again. And I hope you have a great day.

Demian said...

Brother, to me it's very simple. Any bible that will show you the textual variants in a footnote that have been utilized by Christians in those major branches is the historical Word of God. Take for example the ESV and the NKJV. Both will tell you for the most part what are the major textual variants either in the text or on the footnote. Sometimes we make a big deal out of textual variants and forget that Christians have always defended the same Word of God in the East, in the West and in Egypt. The message is the same everywhere. I personally think that there was an issue with the copyists in Egypt that skipped some portions of the Word of the God, especially in their copies of the gospels. But even so, giants of the orthodoxy like Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria defended respectively the deity of Christ and the hypostatic union in the person of Christ with the texts handed down to them. Also, if you read the letters of the apostles (excluding the book of revelation), you will notice that the degree of convergence to one text is even greater for those major branches. Take for example the letter to the Galatians. Read it in the ESV, the NKJV, the EOB or the DRB and you will see for yourself that you have essentially the same letter of the apostle Paul to the Galatians in all those versions. And above all. Don't let the spirit of sectarianism lead you astray. Those Christians who will disagree with you on a particular textual variant are doing so based on historical fact. They are not agents of the devil. They are Christians doing their best to ascertain what the apostles wrote. Even if you disagree with their conclusions, especially on this matter, never forget that it is a grievous sin to break the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) or go against Christ's prayer that prayed that we should be all one (John 17:21).

Display Name said...

Thanks for a great reply.

Jeff Dodson said...

I'm late to the game in terms of making a comment on this post. However, I'll give it a shot anyway.

In the Introduction of the EOB New Testament, it states "The translation of the New Testament included in the EOB is based on the official Greek text published by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1904 (Patriarchal Text or PT)." And later it states "...even though the Patriarchal text is primary for the main body of the EOB/NT, constant reference has been made to the so-called Critical Text (CT) published by the United Bible Society (UBS/NA27 4th edition)."

So in reading the EOB/NT, I get to Matthew 1:6, which reads, "Jesse became the father of King David. David became the father of Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah." If I understand correctly, the second half of that verse in the Patriarchal text, if translated into English similarly, would instead read, "David the king became the father..." or "King David became the father..." (emphasis mine).

My questions are these: Why is the phrase "the king" in the second half of Matthew 1:6 missing? Is this a mistake? Is it an instance of the translator deciding to follow the Critical Text here, as hinted at in the Introduction? And if it is a case of following the Critical Text, what makes this edition of the NT distinctive? If it followed the Patriarchal text throughout, I would understand the significance of it. But if it largely follows the Patriarchal text, but then follows the Critical Text here and there, what makes it significantly different from any of the other NT translations that take an eclectic approach when it comes to following a given Greek NT edition?

I like the EOB/NT translation generally, but I am simply confused at seeing it deviate from the Patriarchal text so early (i.e., at Matthew 1:6).

Demian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.