Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bible Study Series Update

First off, thank you for all the comments and ideas. I have certainly read them and considered each of them as I begin this new regular series. I think one of the more helpful suggestions was that we should begin with a shorter book of the Bible. I agree 100%. In addition, I think it might be interesting if we were to examine some of the lesser known or referenced books of the Bible to start with. (I am sure we will at some point turn to the Gospels or Genesis or Romans in the future.)

There are, of course, many ways in which I could go about leading these studies. Should it be more historical? Pastoral? Theological? Spiritual? I think that any decent Catholic Bible study should encompass all those things in some way, particularly in light of Dei Verbum and paragraphs 105-119 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ultimately, my main goal is to provide a space where we can examine particular passages of Scripture from a Catholic perspective.

The plan, then, is that I will divide up each Biblical book we will study into more manageable pieces. For each "piece" discussed, I will provide the text, from at least one English translation, along with some insights I have gathered from a variety of sources. (I will list the sources that I use for each post.) This is not meant to be the only word on that piece of Scripture, so I encourage all of you to contribute insights you have found. These insights can be historical, pastoral, theological, translational, and spiritual. My hope is that our discussions on each passage could last a couple of days, with around two studies posted per week. (Perhaps I am being ambitious?)

So what are we going to study first? Well, in light of the release of NT Wright's The Early Christian Letters for Everyone, we will begin with the Letter of Judah (Jude). While it is a very short letter, there is a lot in those 25 verses that can be applicable to today. I will likely break the letter up into three sections starting next week. We'll get started early next week with an intro post on some of the issues related to the letter we are studying. I hope you will consider joining me in this new series.


Francesco said...


Will we have to read the relevant parts of 1 Enoch to get at 1:14?

Timothy said...

The use of apocryphal writtings make Jude even more interesting, so we will certainly reference Enoch and the Assumption of Moses.

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

I finally have a use for my 2500-page set of "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha"!

I thought I found a use for them in debating with someone online about the origins of Christianity, but he seems to have left the debate (not because I proved my case, either - probably a lack of time?).

Timothy said...


Excellent! You will be our OT Pseudepigrapha expert!

Theophrastus said...


I don't know if you saw it, but Nickelsburg completed his 1 Enoch commentary (volume 1, volume 2).

I read the first volume, and really liked it, but I haven't read the second volume yet.

I have heard that some scholars don't care for E. Isaac's translation (in the Charlesworth volume). I don't read Ethiopic, so I don't have an independent opinion.

However, the Charlesworth volumes are a great one-stop source for intertestamental and apocryphal Jewish writings. Did you know that Charlesworth is working on supplementary volumes, with even more pseudepigrapha?

Theophrastus said...

Oops. I wrote that Nickelsburg completed his 1 Enoch commentary, but now I see that he merely completed it through chapter 82, and he still needs to complete his commentary of chapters 83-108.

However, his complete translation (sans commentary) is <a href=">separately published</a>.

Chrysostom said...

I didn't even know there were any more pseudepigrapha, at least for the OT.

As far as I thought, anything not contained in that voluminous collection passes out of the realm of polite literary fiction of the ancients and in to straight forgery, such as "The Gospel of Barnabas", "Sefer ha-Yashar", "The Book of Mormon", "The Greater Key of Solomon", the sixth and seventh books of Moses, etc., written in the Middle Ages; it's always seemed to me (perhaps arbitrarily) that anything younger than late antiquity is no longer an OT pseudepigraphon, but, as mentioned, a hoax or forgery (as far as NT pseudepigrapha goes, the situation is a bit more complex - "Secret Mark", anyone?).

I can't read Ge'ez either (not even the script), so, again, I have nothing to compare it to, and I believe the JHC compendium's translation, while undoubtedly full of emendations and quite dynamic in philosophy, is generally superior to the old RHC translation, not least in being based on an eclectic text (or at least as far as that term applies to Ethiopic Enoch) much as the "NETS" is superior to the LCL Brenton LXX.

Also, granted that it seems there are thousands of translations of the Enochs out there by the "Apocryphiles", for lack of a better term (DaVinci Code fans and conspiracy theorists, etc.) that even a mediocre academic or scholarly venture is going to be in the top of the league. Not to mention the price: $100 for the set of some sixty or seventy pseudepigrapha, compared to $20 for most of the seemingly-crackpot translations of at most a "set" of apocrypha (such as 1-2-3-4 Enoch, the books about Adam and Eve, etc.).

The problem with sub-standard translations in anthologies is endemic, at least in every anthology I've read, so I don't see why the JHC's OTP would be any different. The Complete Works of Plato (1 volume) contain several excellent translations, and several more that are unworkable, lead in wrong directions or dead ends entirely, are idiomatic to a fault, and lose significance of Plato's thought while adding unintended significance less often; the same can be said for the Complete Works of Plato (Bollinger 2 volumes) - and I can read the proper Attic-blending-in-to-Koine dialect of Greek, albeit not as fluently as NT Greek.

And, if I would just bother to learn the script, I could probably study Hebrew in the original tongue - I've been doing recently extensive study of the LXX (I'm relatively alone outside of Greek Orthodoxy in believing it to be a generally more reliable witness than the MT; probably why I've not picked up any Hebrew) - if you know anything of Greek and the LXX, Septuagintarian Greek is almost "Hebrew in Greek letters" (as far as I've read; it could just be unintelligible Greek written by a foreigner or a madman) - there's no such thing as a modern English translation that compares to the level of formalism expressed in the LXX Pentateuch. By comparison, Young's Literal looks like an exemplar of functional equivalence, and an interlinear isn't that much more formal.

I did learn the Arabic script after all (you know, to see if the Koran and Hadith were really as bad as translations make them out to be - they're worse, and good portions of the Koran are just plain unintelligible, as in, either gobbledegook, or written in Hebrew, translated in to Greek (or Aramaic targumim) using the Syriac and then Arabic scripta defectiva, calqued and re-calqued, with random vowel pointing added later based on half-remembered, centuries-old tradition), and it's infinitely harder than the Hebrew due to the shapes of the letters (anything less than inch-high letters makes the words unreadable or unpronounceable to the non-native eye, as the vowel marking is lost).

And (square) Hebrew is one damned cool looking script, like something out of Stargate.

Chrysostom said...

Dauid, Dawood, David, Shalomo, Solomon, Sulayman, Salomon...

It's all Greek, Arabic, English and Hebrew to me.

Theophrastus said...


Regarding addition OT Pseudepigraph, see, for example here. Some of these are new discoveries, and some of them are as late as 600 CE (while Charlesworth sets a cut-off date of 200 CE).

You mentioned that you read the Bollingen Plato. Perhaps you would prefer the Hackett Plato -- I find it to be generally superior. (There is also a Modern Library Plato that is revised from Jowett -- but I don't recommend it.) You mentioned a two-volume edition of Bollingen Plato -- were you thinking of the Bollingen Aristotle?

Regarding the degree of literalness of the LXX, I find that it varies tremendously from book to book. I am also mindful of Sirach's Prologue -- in the RSV translation:

You are urged therefore to read with good will and attention, and to be indulgent in cases where, despite our diligent labor in translating, we may seem to have rendered some phrases imperfectly. For what was originally expressed in Hebrew does not have exactly the same sense when translated into another language. Not only this work, but even the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books differ not a little as originally expressed.

Chrysostom said...

Yes, I was thinking of Aristotle, and left a comment to that effect,

("Oops. The second time I mentioned Plato above, in "The Complete Works of Plato [2 vol Bollingen]", I actually meant Aristotle, as I'm sure you've deduced." - I think that's verbatim.)

so either it was censored (unlikely), or my Firefox security add-ons (NoScript, RequestPolicy, Cookiemonster, etc.) broke the site (which usually doesn't happen after getting them working the first time, but does whenever ANYTHING changes, even a 0x0 px image or URL).

Chrysostom said...

I was speaking of the LXX Pentateuch, more specifically, the Book of Genesis, part of the Book of Exodus, and the Book of Deuteronomy (to a lesser degree). There are some parts that are rather dynamic, like Isaiah; it's a puzzling book in the LXX, as the author (whether it's one or many) switches between seeming incompetence and one of the greatest abilities displayed in the LXX. 3 Maccabees doesn't have the problem, as it's a typically overwrought sophistic Greek original in any case. A many other books came in Greek originals, or in more balanced translations, compared to the Torah.

I have most of the relevant (i.e. well-known, not all of the pseudo-Plato or lesser-used works) Plato (Republic, Phaedo, Euthyphro, etc.) and Aristotelian (Ethics, Prior and Posterior Analytics, Metaphysics, etc.) in singular editions now, both for the ability to choose a good translation, and for the much improved commentary that's available in singular editions (albeit the best commentaries tend to remain separate editions: I'm partial to the ancient and mediaeval commentators myself).

However, for lesser-used works of Plato and Aristotle, I still use the Bollingen sets, which sometimes work, and sometimes don't. Most of the really unworkable translations, I've already received in a different version.

Again, it has much to do with price: buying the collected works of Plato outside of a single-volume edition, probably $1000, and still missing some of the pseudo-Plato it includes; buying it in the Bollingen set, $60.

But for beginning my studies in to "real" (i.e. ancient) philosophy (the first philosophy I ever read was a Modern Library Nieztsche collection, Being and Nothingness, Critique of Pure Reason, Meditations on First Philosophy, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and a few books by Ayn Rand: who would have thought that I would have looked to the ancients with a start like that! - I think Gottfreid Leibniz's "Monadology", of all things, got me interested, and Marcus Aurelius's Stoic "Meditations" lit a fire under me) I don't think I ever would have made it a foot off the ground except for the omnibus Plato, and to a lesser extent the omnibus Aristotle (if you've read them, Aristotle is dry; Plato is an excellent author/orator; it's like comparing the first five books of Livy's Rome with "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire").

Theophrastus said...

Chrysostom: Many interesting observations as always. I could easily comment on many points you raise, but I'm afraid it would take us too far away from the topic of this blog: Catholic Bibles.

However, if Tim will indulge me, maybe I can make one off-topic suggestion: you may wish to check out the Hackett Plato. I also relied heavily on the Bollingen Plato -- it was a constant companion when I was growing up, but I find the Hackett Plato superior.

Let me quote from Christopher Gill's lengthy review:

"By virtually every criterion, the Hackett is a significant improvement on the Bollingen. A key factor is completeness. Despite being in one volume, the Hackett is alone, among English translations, in including the full contents of the standard ancient collection, that of Thrasyllus. It contains the 35 dialogues Thrasyllus regarded as genuine (and the Letters) together with the dialogues and other works (the Definitions and Epigrams) he regarded as spurious. The Bollingen, by contrast,includes only 29 of Thrasyllus' genuine dialogues and none of the spurious ones. The Bollingen excludes Alcibiades, widely regarded as genuine in antiquity, on which two scholarly commentaries in English are currently in preparation. The associate editor of the Hackett volume, D. S. Hutchinson, has overseen the translation of the 15 spurious or disputed works (most of these specifically translated for this volume), as well as providing short introductions, outlining the likely origin and date of these works. Since scholars are now more open to the possibility that such works may be authentic or, if not, that they tell us about the Platonic tradition in later antiquity, the inclusion of these works adds significantly to the value of this collection.

"The Hackett also has the edge in editorial material. The Bollingen has a full, though rather generalized, overall introduction by Cairns, together with, frankly amateurish introductions to individual dialogues by Hamilton. The Hackett introduction, by the general editor, John Cooper, is both informative and challenging; it is quite differently conceived from that of Cairns, in ways discussed shortly. The Bollingen has virtually no notes, identifying only some of the poetic quotations. The Hackett footnotes, though economical, provide a range of useful information. They identify all (known) poetic quotations; supply relevant facts not obvious from the translation; note departures from Burnet's 1900-7 Oxford Classical Text which is taken as the basic text; offer alternative translations in some cases where the meaning is difficult or controversial."

If you would like the whole review, just shoot me an e-mail at what.i.learned.from.aristotle (at) gmail.