Considering the Greek Orthodox Church has a rich history, they use a variety of texts for their bible. From the King James Version to the Revised Standard Version to the ancient Greek and Byzantine texts, there are several versions of the bible used by the church.
Ancient Greek texts
Historically, the Septuagint has had a unique position in the Orthodox Church. It is based on the Hebrew Text and remains the only version of the Hebrew text accepted by the Church. It was also used as the basis for translations in Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopic.
Although the Orthodox Church does not canonize any specific manuscript tradition, it does not explicitly endorse a particular Greek Text. The Hebrew Text edition is meant to serve as an auxiliary in biblical instruction. It can never replace the Septuagint.
It is important to note that the Septuagint and the Hebrew Text differ in many ways. For example, the Septuagint contains omitted Hebrew words. The Hebrew Text has a number of additions. The Septuagint is also muddled.
In the Early Church, the Septuagint was used to locate the prophecies of Christ. However, this practice ended after the First Century. The two communities of the Church and the Synagogue were separate after that. During this time, Jewish scholars were consulted to change the Masoretic Text. This was considered a holy act.
During the Byzantine Empire, Greek scriptures were copied and preserved. The New Testament was produced in the Greek language, resulting in several versions. These include the Peshitta, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Gothic. They are printed in Greek and are generally superior to the Alexandrian Codices.
Some of the textual critics proposed a new edition of the New Testament after the Diocletian persecution. This version contains many readings that were previously unknown. It also contains several readings that were rarely if ever found.
A significant amount of the textual criticism is still being conducted. However, there are some historical and theoretical issues that still need to be addressed. A number of books have been published that argue for returning to the Byzantine text.
For example, Aland argues that a majority of the UNCIALS are Byzantine. He cites a quote that states, “I have never seen a Greek papyrus, but it would seem that a great number of the Uncials are Byzantine.” He then goes on to assert that “the most logical way to understand this is that the most logical way to understand this is that a large percentage of the Uncials are Byzantine.”
One of the most prominent examples of the Alexandrian text is the Sinaiticus. The Sinaiticus is the first hand of the Alexandrian text. It is a readable text that was produced after the Greek Church was founded.
King James Version
Despite its flaws, the King James Version continues to be the standard English text in the Orthodox Church. For centuries it has been revered and used by many, but not without some criticism.
The King James Version has been criticized for its archaic use of words. Its translators used archaic verb endings, and some words were difficult to understand. However, the translation is still used by thousands of faithful.
Another book about the King James Version is God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible. This book by Adam Nicolson is a scholarly analysis of the KJV’s creation. The book is available from Harper Collins Publishers.
Other new versions of the Bible are not translated from the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the King James Bible. Most new translations are based on an eclectic collection of Greek New Testament manuscripts.
A better comparison might be between the King James and the Revised Standard Version (RSV). The RSV is a free translation based on traditional texts. It is not a complete rewrite, but it does make an effort to conform to the Septuagint.
Revised Standard Version
Several translations of the Bible have been used by Orthodox Churches in the past. Some of them are still being used today. Others may come into use in the future.
The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is a revision of the King James Version. It contains the entire Old Testament in the Orthodox canon. It also includes the Apocrypha. In the English language edition of the Catholic Church’s Catechism, the Revised Standard Version is quoted in several places.
The Catholic Church adopted the Revised Standard Version in 1966. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople issued an edition with a few passages for feast days, mainly Sunday readings. It also included verses for Holy Week and Easter Services. These were published in 1973. It was followed by the Lenten Triodion.
The NIV is the most widely used translation of the Bible in the contemporary world. Its English is attractively printed and is not slangy. It avoids the controversy over “you-thou” words.