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
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” (not “fruits”)
5:47 – “friends (not “brethren)
7:2 – does not have “again”
8:15 – “him” (not “them”)
9:36 – “weary” (not “fainted”)
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.
unfortunate formatting-error has survived in Matthew 27:31: the words “Simon of
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.