Posts Tagged 'New Testament'

Towards the Great Council

I mentioned earlier that I was researching the preparations that were going on in the 1970s for the Council that was supposed to happen at that time. Interlibrary loan hasn’t exactly been a ton of help; the acts of the preparatory meetings aren’t in any library that they can find, and then other publications are listed, but when a request is entered, it comes back as “unfillable”.

The one thing ILL has been able to come up with is the English edition of the collection of introductory reports of the Preparatory Commision, Towards the Great Council, prepared in 1971 and published in 1972. It’s a quick read, all of 52 pages. Here’s what the back cover says:

Preparations are under way for a Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, the first since the seventh Ecumenical Council of 787. No date has been fixed as yet, but it could take place as soon as the long stage of preparation is terminated. In 1974 the First Preconciliar Panorthodox Conference should convene at Chambésy near Geneva. Its task will be to examine the six reports prepared by the Interorthodox Preparatory Commission in 1971 and presented in this edition, as well as to revise the catalogue of themes for the Great Council which was prepared by the First Panorthodox Conference at Rhodes in 1961.

The Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church is planned to be held in all probability some time during 1974 and, in preparation for its discussions, the Interorthodox Preparatory Commission, representing the various Orthodox Churches, was commissioned to draw up a series of statements on six topics proposed, in 1968, by the Fourth Panorthodox Conference.

Well. I guess when you don’t have an emperor to see that things come together or else, four decade delays can happen, right?

There is much in here that is interesting and worthwhile; I’ve already discussed the report titled “Fuller participation by the laity in the worship and life of the Church”, which is two pages (well, just over one when you figure in the space for the title on the first page) and amounts to “This is not an issue of great concern; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The first report, “Divine Revelation and the way it expresses itself for the salvation of man”, has some very interesting things to say about Biblical scholarship.

…our Holy Orthodox Church declares that Scripture, being divinely inspired, preserves unimpaired within itself the presence of the Holy Spirit, in those revealed truths which it narrates, teaches and expounds for man’s salvation. In its words it preserves intact the collaboration between the divine and human factor in such a way that, even should the human presentation and clothing of God’s word be imperfect, yet the substance of the divine content of the revelation is not impaired. The essence and distinctive character of both remain intact; the human element is to be investigated according to human methods, while the divine aspect is not to be formulated in a one-sided, individualistic, and subjective fashion, but all the details are to be judged in accordance with the entirety of Holy Scripture and Revelation, and this entirety in its turn is to be judged in accordance with the Tradition of the Church from the beginning, there being but one source for both the unwritten and the written divine word. […]…it must be acknowledged that the attempt to ascertain which is the genuine and original Greek text according to tradition in the Orthodox Church, and the publication of an edition of the New Testament embodying such a text, is fraught with difficulties. This is especially so inasmuch as there exist several families and categories of different classes of manuscripts, on which most of the editions have been based, without any one of them being adjudged entirely accurate, complete, and perfect.

There also exist in our Eastern Church, on a somewhat more official level, editions issued by the local Orthodox Churches, such as (among others) the edition brought out in 1903 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This did not have the same aim as the so-called critical editions, that is, the discovery and restoration of the original text of the sacred books; but its aim was simply to restore the most ancient text…as found in the ecclesiastical tradition, and most notably in that of the Church of Constantinople. …[O]ur Holy Orthodox Church should entrust to expert Orthodox theologians the task of editing the best possible scholarly edition of the original Greek text of the New Testament, so that the text so prepared may thereafter be recognized and accepted by the whole of our Holy Orthodox Church. (pp. 6-7)

Now, there’s an interesting thought — that the Orthodox should take a bolder, more central role in Biblical scholarship, and that we should maybe be looking to the Greeks to produce the definitive critical edition of the Greek text.

It is the remaining four reports, “Adaptation of the ecclesiastical ordinances regarding fasting to meet present-day needs”, “Impediments to marriage”, “Concerning the calendar and the date of Easter”, and “Economy in the Orthodox Church”, where we get into material that no doubt sparks arguments.

The report on fasting is actually an illuminating — and sourced — walk through the history of fasting practices in Orthodox Christianity. It ultimately recommends what I would hesitate to call a relaxation of fasting norms (although they use that word), but rather more of a pastoral acknowledgment that one size doesn’t quite fit all. This, of course, already happens frequently at the parish level; here the recommendation is that this be formally and universally understood as what is going to happen. One of the big specific changes the Commission recommends is something that the Antiochians already do anyway — eliminate fasting altogether between Pascha and Ascension.

It is clear that the Commission views this recommendation as being made for pastoral reasons, not for purposes of modernizing:

[We recognize] that most of the faithful in the society of today do not keep all the rules of fasting, on account of the difficult circumstances in which they live. Contemporary conditions demand a form of fasting that is less severe and shorter in length. Such a change is necessary in order to avoid creating problems of conscience such as result from breaking the strict ecclesiastical ordinances — problems which poision the spiritual life of the faithful. A change in the rules of fasting currently in force does not conflict with the basic principles of fasting. (p. 28)

What’s fascinating, though — and what rather dates this text — is the bit about “the difficult circumstances in which” the faithful live necessitating changes. I would argue that nearly forty years later, at least in America and perhaps elsewhere, people don’t keep the fasts for exactly the opposite reasons — because their circumstances are great. Archimandrite Joseph (Morris), current abbot of St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio, tells a story about how after a homily given during Lent, one of the “cradles” in his parish came up to him and said, “Honey — ” (“They always call you ‘honey,'” he muses at this point in the story) “– Honey, I heard you talking about fasting. That’s the old country. We don’t do that here.” What seems to be implied is that many of the faithful with ethnic ties to the faith associate fasting with the poverty they or their forebears were trying to escape.

The calendar discussion, of course, is already controversial; the Commission recommends solving the problem by adopting the new calendar and the current manner of reckoning the vernal equinox, arguing that it is

quite evident that the First Ecumenical Council considered the astronomical factor as of prime importance for determining the common date of Easter. It thus follows that all the Orthodox Churches following the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council, are abound to celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, according to the most precise calculations that scientific astronomy can provide. In each case, this means employing the calendar considered by expert astronomers to be the most exact. (p. 37)

To its credit, the Commission “acknowledges certain local pastoral difficulties” with enacting and enforcing this idea, and “therefore proposes that the time and way of applying the resolution should be left to the discretion of the local Churches” (p. 38).

“Economy in the Orthodox Church” is doubtless the part that gets people in certain circles growling the “e” and “h” words. This is the issue the Commission seeks to address:

The problems concerning exactness and economy have attained vast proportions in contemporary Church life; for never before in the Church’s history have the issues of inter-Church and inter-confessional relations, of the rapprochement and union of Christians, and of ecumenical unity, been raised so persistently and in so many different guises. (p.41)

To that end, the Commission proposes, we may say the following about non-Orthodox:

The Church being one, all who are alienated from her may be considered as standing on different rungs of one and the same ladder leading up to her when they desire to return to the Church. More precisely, we could say that the Holy Spirit acts upon other Christians in very many ways, depending on their degree of faith and hope. It is consequently clear that Christians outside the Church, even when they do not maintain their faith intact and immaculate, none the less keep their link with Christ, through their unwavering hope in Him. These Christians rejoice ‘with the joy of hope’ (Rom. 12.12). They confess that, through hope, they possess Christ, the common Lord, along with all Christians, because the confession of Christ unites us all, He being our common Lord and the hope of our final salvation. (p. 45)


all [of Orthodoxy’s] relationships with [the other Christian Churches and Confessions] are founded on the quickest and most objective clarification possible of the ecclesiological question and of their doctrinal teaching as a whole. [The Orthodox Church] also recognizes that rapprochement with them will be brought about on terms having as their centre the divine-human structure of the Church. Yet she by no means intends to forget the existence also of the multiple pastoral responsibilities belonging to the Church of Christ, comprising her duty to preach the Gospel ‘unabridged’, and to remove from the conscience of the faithful everywhere all manner of censure; for it is truly a scandal to them that Christians are divided, since ‘Christ is not divided’ (1 Cor. 1.13).

Our Holy Orthodox Church will in no way fail to apply akribeia [translated earlier as “exactness”] to those articles of faith and sources of grace which must be upheld, yet she will not neglect to employ oikonomia wherever permissible in local contacts with those outside her — provided always that they believe in God adored in Trinity and the basic tenets of the Orthodox faith which follow from this, remaining always within the framework of the teaching of the ancient Church, one and indivisible.

A further goal is, on the one hand, to provide a living witness to Christ and the true faith within a secular society and a world which for the most part does not follow Christ and, on the other hand, to lead all to the one Lord, the one faith, the one baptism, the one breaking of bread, the one God and Father of all (Eph. 4.5-6). (p. 50)

Thus, among the goals the Commission recommends, we find the following:

Within the bounds of economy — identified with the extreme loving-kindness of the Godhead — to find ways and means of applying this economy to the contemporary situation of good relations between the Christian Churches; with a view to furthering all aspects of common life in Christ: ecclesiastical practice, worship, common prayer, theological collaboration and consultation, etc., until the efforts of all the Churches toward union have been crowned with success.


To act together on particular occasions, under the presuppositions accepted by the Orthodox Church…, in a spirit of mutual respect, striving, and cooperating in common for the edification of all in Christ. (p. 51)

Finally, the Commission maintains that, economy being the particular prerogative of the Orthodox Church and which “constitutes the only means whereby the church makes allowance for human weakness” (p. 51), these goals would constitute an application of economy “so that the work of man’s salvation on earth may come to fulfilment and all things may be reconciled in Christ at the last day” (p. 52).

If somebody would like to lend a hand in helping me unpack all of that, I’d be much obliged. It seems like there’s a lot there to which the people who feel strongly, one way or the other, about ecumenical activities might react, and I invite comments from all sides.

What is the most telling report of all in this little book, at least to me, is the section “Impediments to marriage”. Of particular interest is the two pages dealing with mixed marriages; we may sum up these two pages by saying, “We all handle this question a little differently, so we’re not sure what to do here.” It observes that each national church has a varying practice when it comes to mixed marriages, and that uniformity of practice would be good, but they are uncertain how to achieve that. Thus, “the Commission proposes that ways and means of applying economy in this matter be studied, and that in the meantime it should be left to the local Orthodox Churches to determine whether to apply economy under circumstances of necessity” (p. 35).

I had a professor of medieval history in my undergrad who said that a problem a unified Christendom ran into was that differing practices don’t have to be a problem, but that only works as long as they don’t have to be right next to each other, or as long as two groups in communion with each other but with different practices aren’t trying to evangelize the same people. Along related lines, in reading Clogg’s A Concise History of Greece recently, it became clear to me that part of the reason the various ethnic jurisdictions kept to themselves in this country for so long is because, well, they don’t like each other too terribly much (and not for bad historical reasons).

I am reminded of an edict from Rome I heard discussed a few years ago that Byzantine Catholic married priests are to stay away from the Vatican, because they will only serve to confuse the issue of priestly celibacy. Basically, the reality of different practices seems to be, “Sure, we can coexist and be in communion, but I’m afraid your difference in how you do things will only confuse my people if we interact too closely,” with a concomitant fear that efforts to standardize practice can only result in laxity (or rigidity, perhaps).

I have no idea how much this particular set of reports will inform the planned Council in its current form, but it is interesting to see what problems the Church hoped to solve at that time. The announced issues to be discussed this time around are as follows, per this article:

  1. The Orthodox diaspora, where the jurisdiction over the Orthodox flock beyond national borders will be defined. According to the canons now in effect, before the growth in the phenomenon of emigration the faithful outside of their home country belong to the ecumenical patriarchate.
  2. The manner of recognizing the status of autocephalous Church.
  3. The manner of recognizing the status of Church autonomy.
  4. Dypticha, meaning the rules of mutual canonical recognition among the Orthodox Churches.
  5. Establishing a common calendar for feasts. For example, some Churches celebrate the Nativity on December 25, others 10 (sic) days later.
  6. Impediments and canonicity of the sacrament of matrimony.
  7. The question of fasting in the contemporary world.
  8. Relationships with the other Christian confessions.
  9. The ecumenical movement.
  10. The contribution of the Orthodox in affirming the Christian ideals of peace, fraternity, and freedom.

Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 seem to be directly related to what’s discussed in Towards the Great Council; we’ll see how much has changed in the intervening years when it comes down to actually talking about them.

Meanwhile, I’d still love to get my hands on the other preparatory materials from the 1970s in a way that doesn’t involve me having to travel to Geneva. If anybody has any thoughts, I’m all ears.


Exercises in translating liturgical Greek: “With these blessed powers…”

I’ve been getting something of a double-dose of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil this Great Lent; our priest has decided to follow the practice of doing a Saturday of Souls Divine Liturgy every Saturday of the fast, and he has done so with St. Basil’s.

He serves the Saturday liturgies without a deacon, so all of the prayers wind up being read aloud, more or less sequentially, and he told us on the first Saturday of Souls to use the opportunity to contemplate their content, that, as he put it, the story of our salvation is told very beautifully in those prayers.

With that in mind, and knowing that I needed to start preparing for a diagnostic exam in Greek this fall (also in Latin, but never mind that now), I thought that a very appropriate way to contemplate the content of St. Basil’s was to do my own translation of part of it — in particular the long prayer starting just after the Thrice Holy (the Sanctus, if my giving the Latin name of a section helps) and leading into the Words of Institution. I also decided that, in order to maximize the educational utility, I would pretty much look up everything, even words I knew, and force myself to get to know alternate definitions. For verbs I didn’t know, I would write down their principal parts. As much as possible, I would also analyze syntax and make sure I wasn’t just divining meaning based on familiarity with an English version. To that end, I would refer only to an English version (in this case, that printed in the Liturgikon published by the Antiochian Archdiocese) if I got absolutely and totally lost.

First I had to come up with a text; I’m going to look for an Ieratikon when I go to Greece (along with so many other things — one thing I’d be really curious to see is a textbook for Ancient Greek written in Modern Greek), but in the meantime, some digging produced this site as a source. I copied the text to a Word document, blew it up to 14pt, triple spaced it, printed it off, and armed with my good friends Hardy, Gerald, Henry George, Robert, Frederick, Walter, William, and Felix, off I went.

Just so we’re clear: this isn’t a critical edition or a translation intended for scholarly or literary use. At best this is a working document, intended primarily as an exercise for my own benefit, but in the spirit of the other Greek resources I’ve provided, if there is a way it can benefit other people, then terrific. Just know ahead of time that “Well, Richard Barrett says this…” is not likely to to win any arguments.

So, on this last Sunday of Great Lent on which the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is offered, here’s the Greek text:

Μετὰ τούτων τῶν μακαρίων Δυνάμεων, Δέσποτα φιλάνθρωπε, καὶ ἡμεῖς οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ βοῶμεν καὶ λέγομεν· Ἅγιος εἶ, ὡς ἀληθῶς, καὶ πανάγιος, καὶ οὐκ ἔστι μέτρον τῇ  μεγαλοπρεπείᾳ τῆς ἁγιωσύνης σου, καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις σου, ὅτι ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ κρίσει ἀληθινῇ πάντα ἐπήγασες ἡμῖν· πλάσας γὰρ τὸν ἄνθρωπον, χοῦν λαβὼν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, καὶ εἰκόνι τῇ  σῇ, ὁ Θεός, τιμήσας, τέθεικας αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ Παραδείσῳ τῆς τρυφῆς, ἀθανασίαν ζωῆς, καὶ ἀπόλαυσιν αἰωνίων ἀγαθῶν, ἐν τῇ τηρήσει τῶν ἐντολῶν σου, ἐπαγγειλάμενος αὐτῷ, ἀλλὰ παρακούσαντα σοῦ τοῦ ἀληθινοῦ Θεοῦ, τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν, καὶ τῇ  ἀπάτῃ τοῦ ὄφεως ὑπαχθέντα, νεκρωθέντα τε τοῖς οἰκείοις αὐτοῦ παραπτώμασιν, ἐξωρίσας αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ δικαιοκρισίᾳ σου, ὁ Θεός, ἐκ τοῦ Παραδείσου εἰς τὸν κόσμον τοῦτον, καὶ ἀπέστρεψας εἰς τὴν  γῆν ἐξ ἧς ἐλήφθη, οἰκονομῶν αὐτῷ τὴν  ἐκ παλιγγενεσίας σωτηρίαν, τὴν  ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Χριστῷ σου· οὐ γὰρ ἀπεστράφης τὸ πλάσμα σου εἰς τέλος, ὃ ἐποίησας, ἀγαθέ, οὐδὲ ἐπελάθου ἔργου χειρῶν σου, ἀλλ’ ἐπεσκέψω πολυτρόπως, διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους σου. Προφήτας ἐξαπέστειλας, ἐποίησας δυνάμεις διὰ τῶν Ἁγίων σου, τῶν καθ’ ἑκάστὴν  γενεὰν εὐαρεστησάντων σοι, ἐλάλησας ἡμῖν διὰ στόματος τῶν δούλων σου τῶν Προφητῶν, προκαταγγέλλων ἡμῖν τὴν  μέλλουσαν ἔσεσθαι σωτηρίαν, νόμον ἔδωκας εἰς βοήθειαν, Ἀγγέλους ἐπέστησας φύλακας. Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθε τὰ πλήρωμα τῶν καιρῶν, ἐλάλησας ἡμῖν ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Υἱῷ σου, δι’ οὗ καὶ τοὺς αἰῶνας ἐποίησας, ὅς, ὢν ἀπάγαυσμα τῆς δόξης σου, καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεώς σου, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα σοὶ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρί, ἀλλά, Θεὸς ὢν προαιώνιος, ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ὤφθη, καὶ τοῖς   ἀνθρώποις συνανεστράφη, καὶ ἐκ Παρθένου ἁγίας σαρκωθείς, ἐκένωσεν ἑαυτόν, μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, σύμμορφος γενόμενος τῷ σώματι τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν, ἵνα ἡμᾶς συμμόρφους ποιήσῃ τῆς εἰκόνος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον, καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος, ηὐδόκησεν ὁ μονογενής σου Υἱός, ὁ ὢν ἐν τοῖς κόλποις σοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρός, γενόμενος ἐκ γυναικός, τῆς ἁγίας Θεοτόκου καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας, γενόμενος ὑπὸ νόμον, κατακρῖναι τὴν  ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα οἱ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ ἀποθνήσκοντες, ζωοποιηθῶσιν ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Χριστῷ σου, καὶ ἐμπολιτευσάμενος τῷ κόσμω τούτῳ, δοὺς προστάγματα σωτηρίας, ἀποστήσας ἡμᾶς τῆς πλάνης τῶν εἰδώλων, προσήγαγε τῇ  ἐπιγνώσει σοῦ τοῦ ἀληθινοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρός, κτησάμενος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῶ λαὸν περιούσιον, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, καὶ καθαρίσας ἐν ὕδατι, καὶ ἁγιάσας τῷ Πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ, ἔδωκεν ἑαυτόν ἀντάλλαγμα τῷ θανάτῳ, ἐν ᾧ κατειχόμεθᾳ, πεπραμένοι ὑπὸ τὴν  ἁμαρτίαν, καὶ κατελθὼν διὰ τοῦ Σταυροῦ εἰς τόν, ᾍδην, ἵνα πληρώσῃ ἑαυτοῦ τὰ πάντα, ἔλυσε τάς ὀδύνας τοῦ θανάτου, καὶ ἀναστὰς τῇ  τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, καὶ ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν  ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀνάστασιν, καθότι οὐκ ἦν δυνατὸν κρατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῆς φθορᾶς τὸν ἀρχηγόν τῆς ζωῆς, ἐγένετο ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἵνα ἦ αὐτὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πρωτεύων·  καὶ ἀνελθὼν εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης σου ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, ὃς καὶ ἥξει, ἀποδοῦναι ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ. Κατέλιπε δὲ ἡμῖν ὑπομνήματα τοῦ σωτηρίου αὐτοῦ πάθους ταῦτα, ἃ προτεθείκαμεν ἐνώπιόν σου, κατὰ τὰς αὐτοῦ ἐντολάς. Μέλλων γὰρ ἐξιέναι ἐπὶ τὸν ἑκούσιον, καὶ ἀοίδιμον καὶ ζωοποιὸν αὐτοῦ θάνατον, τῇ  νυκτί, ᾗ παρεδίδου ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, λαβὼν ἄρτον ἐπὶ τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀχράντων χειρῶν, καὶ ἀναδείξας σοὶ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρί, εὐχαριστήσας, εὐλογήσας, ἁγιάσας, κλάσας.

Ἔδωκε τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ Μαθηταῖς καὶ Ἀποστόλοις, εἰπών·  Λάβετε, φάγετε. Tοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ Σῶμα, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν κλώμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. Ἀμήν.

Ὁμοίως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον ἐκ τοῦ γεννήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου λαβών, κεράσας, εὐχαριστήσας, εὐλογήσας, ἁγιάσας.

Ἔδωκε τοῖς   ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ Μαθηταῖς καὶ Ἀποστόλοις, εἰπών· Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες. Τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ Αἷμα μου, το τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης, τὸ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν καὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυνόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. Ἀμήν.

Τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν  ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν· ὁσάκις γὰρ ἂν ἐσθίητε τὸν Ἄρτον τοῦτον, καὶ τὸ Ποτήριον τοῦτο πίνητε, τὸν ἐμὸν θάνατον καταγγέλλετε, τὴν  ἐμὴν Ἀνάστασιν ὁμολογεῖτε. Μεμνημένοι οὖν, Δέσποτα, καὶ ἡμεῖς τῶν σωτηρίων αὐτοῦ Παθημάτων, τοῦ ζωοποιοῦ Σταυροῦ, τῆς τριημέρου Ταφῆς, τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀναστάσεως, τῆς εἰς οὐρανοὺς Ἀνόδου, τῆς ἐκ δεξιῶν σοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρὸς Καθέδρας, καὶ τῆς ἐνδόξου καὶ φοβερᾶς δευτέρας αὐτοῦ Παρουσίας.

Τὰ Σὰ ἐκ τῶν  Σῶν, σοὶ προσφέρομεν κατὰ πάντα, καὶ διὰ πάντα.

And here is my intentionally literal, uncleaned-up, unpoetic translation:

With these blessed powers, benevolent Master, even we the sinners cry out and say: Holy are you, so truly, and all-holy, and there is no measure for the majesty of your holiness, and devout are you in all your works, so that in true justice and judgment you built all things for us: for forming man, taking dust from the earth, and to your image, God, honoring, placing him in the Paradise of delight, immortality of life, and for enjoyment of good ages, in the observance of your commands, promising to him, but (man), ignoring you, the true God, having created him, and by the deception of the serpent being led away, being put to death with his kinsmen by means of his own transgressions, (you), banishing him in your just verdict from the Paradise into this world, and returned him unto the earth from which he was taken, planning for him the salvation of regeneration in your Christ himself: for you were not turned away from your handiwork unto the end, (your handiwork) which you made, O good (one), neither did you forget the work of your hands, but you looked after him in many ways, through the affection of your mercy. You sent prophets, you performed deeds of power through your saints, (the saints) well-pleasing to you according to each generation, you spoke to us through the mouth of your servants the prophets, (the ones) foretelling to us the salvation about to come, you gave the law unto (our) aid, you appointed angels (as) sentinels. And when the fullness of the times came, you spoke to us in your Son himself, through whom you formed even the ages, who, being (the) effulgence of your glory, and (the) outward appearance of your essence, and bearing all things by means of the word of his power, did not consider it robbery to be equal to you, the God and Father, but, God being pre-eternal, was seen on the earth and associated with men, and was enfleshed from the holy Virgin, emptied himself, taking the outward appearance of a slave, being made of the same form in body as our humble station, in order that he might make us of the same form as the image of his glory. For since through man sin entered into the world and through sin death (entered the world), your only-begotten Son, who being in your bosom, the God and Father, born from woman, (namely) the holy God-bearer and ever-virgin Mary, born under the law, consented to pass sentence on the sin in his flesh in order that the dead in Adam might be made alive in your Christ himself, and becoming a citizen in this world, giving orders of salvation, absolving us of the error of the idols, he drew near in the knowledge of you the true God and Father, procuring us for himself (as) a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and cleansed in water and consecrated to the Holy Spirit, he gave himself in exchange for death, in which we were confined, having been sold under sin, and going down through the Cross into Hades in order that he might fulfill all things of himself, he destroyed the distresses of death, and rising on the third day, and making a path for all flesh (of) the resurrection from the dead, because the originator of life was not able to be seized by corruption, he became the first portion of them having fallen asleep, first-born from the dead, in order that he might be first, all things in all things. And going up into the heavens, he sat on the right hand of your majesty in the heights, who even will come to recompense for each according to his works. And he left behind for us these remembrances of his salvific suffering, which we have set forth before you, according to his commandments. For, being about to go to his voluntary, famed, and life-giving death, on the night in which he was handing himself over on behalf of the life of the world, taking bread in his holy and undefiled hands, and showing forth to you the God and Father, giving thanks, blessing, consecrating, breaking:

He gave to his holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: Take, eat. This is my Body, which is broken on behalf of you unto forgiveness of sins. Amen (Let it be).

In the same way, taking the cup of the fruit of the vine, mingling, giving thanks, blessing, consecrating:

He gave to his holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: Drink out of this, everybody. This is my Blood, which is of the New Covenent, which, on behalf of you and many, (is) poured out unto forgiveness of sins. Amen (Let it be).

Do this unto me for remembrance: for as often as you are eating this Bread, and drinking this Cup, you proclaim my death, you profess my resurrection. Remembering then, Master, his salvific Sufferings, his life-giving Cross, his three-day Burial, his Resurrection from the dead, his Ascension into the heavens, his sitting at the right hand of the God and Father, and his glorious and fearful second Advent:

We offer to you Your (things) of Your (things), on behalf of all (things) and through all (things).


In general, this text is an exercise in tracking participles. As you can see from the English, it’s really hard to figure out what goes with what when you don’t have inflection (that is, agreement in gender, number, and case) to tell you. It also demonstrates very clearly the Greek preference for participles over finite verbs, and how, in a cleaned-up English translation, participles would need to be re-spun into finite verbs that have relative pronouns as their subjects and objects in order to aid understanding. (I would do that here, except that I still have the voice of my first Greek teacher in my head telling me, “Translate what it says, not what you think it means” and “That’s an English problem, not a Greek problem”.)

There are three words in this text which you won’t find in BDAG, and then there are some variants with which BDAG won’t help much, either. σαρκωθείς, as I noted earlier, is found in Sophocles; ἀοίδιμον and ἀχράντων you will find in the “Middle Liddell”. Also, κρίσει, despite looking like an Attic dual, is a dative singular, thus identical in meaning to κρίσῃ. Similarly,  ἀπάγαυσμα is the same as ἀπαύγασμα, which is how the word is spelled in Hebrews 1:3. I don’t know enough to be certain if these are just common Byzantine variants or what; that’s my assumption, but somebody who actually knows what they are doing with Byzantine Greek hopefully can chime in here.

φιλάνθρωπε — translating this as “philanthropic” seemed to me to a) be a cop-out b) not really have the meaning in English that it does in Greek. Translating it as “man-loving” would be literally correct, but also not quite have the right connotation in English. BDAG gives “benevolent” as a possibility, so I went with it.

καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις σου — in this entire, very long, sentence, if we see a nominative masculine singular noun, adjective, or participle, and we can’t otherwise figure out how to make sense of it, we can see if it makes any sense if we pick up the εἶ from the beginning, adding “are you”. That works here, giving us “and devout are you in all your works” instead of the less-clear “and devout in all your works”. Since there’s only one thing something nominative, masculine, and singular could possibly agree with here, it makes sense anyway, but this helps to solve “the English problem”.

νεκρωθέντα τε τοῖς οἰκείοις αὐτοῦ παραπτώμασιν — I have yet to see an English transation which picks up τε τοῖς οἰκείοις at all, and I’m not sure why this is. I have taken it as a dative of accompaniment.

Ἀγγέλους ἐπέστησας φύλακας — the Antiochian translation says “thou didst appoint guardian angels,” which gets across the meaning, but φύλακας is properly a noun rather than an adjective, and given that it is separated from Ἀγγέλους, I have taken this as a double accusative — to appoint somebody (as) something. The translation on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website also reads it this way.

καὶ κατελθὼν διὰ τοῦ Σταυροῦ εἰς τόν, ᾍδην, ἵνα πληρώσῃ ἑαυτοῦ τὰ πάντα, ἔλυσε τάς ὀδύνας τοῦ θανάτου, καὶ ἀναστὰς τῇ  τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, καὶ ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν  ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀνάστασιν — this is very interesting, because the text doesn’t use a dative of means to describe how Christ descends into Hades, but rather uses διὰ + gen., which literally means “through”, similar to Latin via. I assume this is so that there is poetic resonance with ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν  ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀνάστασιν, “making a path for all flesh (of) the Resurrection from the dead”. Do note that, as with the Paschal apolytikion, it is not “from the dead” as from death as a stateνεκρῶν here is plural. Christ is risen from the place where all the dead people are.

ἀοίδιμον — the Antiochian and GOArch translation uses “ever-memorable”; the word is not to be found in either BDAG or Sophocles, but Liddell & Scott gives “sung of, famous in song or story”. I have thus gone with “famed” as something which is equivalent in meaning but doesn’t weigh down the translation.

τῇ  νυκτί, ᾗ παρεδίδου ἑαυτὸν — παρεδίδου is imperfect indicative active, meaning that Christ was handing himself over on a progressive and/or repeated basis. This is interesting; it suggests that during the whole night he was having to yield himself up, not just when he allowed himself to be arrested.

Tοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ Σῶμα…Τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ Αἷμα μου — 1 Cor 11:24. Ah, the big doctrinal question — and it depends on what your definition of “is” is, doesn’t it? Given that I belong to a Communion which proclaims the Real Presence in the Eucharist, my definition of “is” should be obvious, but besides that, I will point out that given that Greek doesn’t require the verb “to be” to express a predicate, the presence of the verb “to be” as well as a demonstrative pronoun come across very much as, “No, really, I’m serious, this actually is my Body and Blood.” Yes, fine, go ahead and trot out John 10:9, ἐγὼ εἰμι ἡ θύρα, but that fits in with the very specific Old Testament reference of “I AM”. There’s no corresponding “THERE IS” so far as I know.

Τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν  ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν· ὁσάκις γὰρ ἂν ἐσθίητε τὸν Ἄρτον τοῦτον, καὶ τὸ Ποτήριον τοῦτο πίνητε — ποιεῖτε is a present imperative; that is, rather than “do this once,” which would be an aorist imperative, it’s more like “be doing this continuously”. Additionally, the syntax of ἐσθίητε and πίνητε is that is present to show progressive/repeated aspect, subjunctive because it is in a present general temporal clause, showing simultaneous action (I think — I am assuming that ὁσάκις ἂν works the same way as ὅταν, a supposition which I believe to be backed up by Smythe’s Greek Grammar, 2383.A). This is simply a quote of 1 Cor 11:25-6, but given that the Greek makes very clear that the eating of this bread and drinking of this cup takes place on a continuous basis, it is unclear to me how one might argue that the celebration of the Eucharist as an ongoing liturgical act is unscriptural.

Μεμνημένοι — BDAG gives μέμνημαι as the perfect indicative active principal part of μιμνῄσκομαι, but also notes that is present in meaning. Thus, I translate it here as “remembering” (as the GOArch translation does) instead of “having remembered” (as the Antiochian translation does).

I invite questions, corrections, discussion, or feedback otherwise.

Acts 2:42: NA27 vs Robinson & Pierpont 2005

I’m not a New Testament textual scholar and have no aspirations to being one. Let’s make that clear from the get-go. I’ve got both NA27 and Robinson & Pierpont 2005 on my shelf because the former is the academic standard, and the latter is what my church actually uses (more or less). I’ve no particular academic interest in the technical minutiae of which is “better”.

That said, I encountered an example over the weekend of a tiny difference which is still fascinating. I was looking up the Greek of Acts 2:42 — some variant of “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” being how it is usually rendered. The key point I was looking up was the presence of the definite article with the word “prayers” (“ταῖς προσευχαῖς”, sure enough), but I found something even more interesting. Here’s the whole verse as it appears in NA27:

Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ, τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς.

Which, as shown, literally means something like “And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship/communion (that is, that of the apostles), and in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.”

However, let’s just for a moment remember that all commas represent editorial choices; they would not have been in the manuscripts. Take out the comma after κοινωνίᾳ, and it looks like this:

Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς.

Now, without the comma, my eye immediately goes to the conjunctions to figure out what sets things off, and here we have two. This seems to break it up into three units: τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων, τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου, and ταῖς προσευχαῖς. Read this way, τῇ κοινωνίᾳ is in apposition to τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου rather than being linked to τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων as the editorial comma suggests. In addition, καὶ… καὶ can have a “both… and” connotation. Translating it that way, it reads “And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles, (which is) both the fellowship/communion, (namely) the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.” This would seem to be a rather important difference in meaning with some interesting connotations.

However — and this is where things get interesting — if you open up Robinson & Pierpont 2005 to the same verse, there’s a conjunction which NA27 doesn’t have:

Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ καὶ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. (emphasis mine)

So, here, τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου is explicitly set off as a separate idea from τῇ κοινωνίᾳ and cannot be understood as being in apposition to it. “And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles, and the fellowship/communion, and the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.”

Even for somebody who isn’t a textual scholar, I have to say, that’s a really fascinating difference.

(By the way, I promise promise promise to have the notes for the next Hansen & Quinn chapter posted this week.)

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