How Has Orthodoxy Been Perverted?

Recently a good Orthodox friend of mine and I got into a discussion via text about various things not related to our original topic (you don’t say?). And as we proceeded down our mobile oblivion of fruitless conversation, he stated, “orthodoxy has been perverted too. those in the orthobox choose not to see.”

I asked how Orthodoxy had been perverted but never got an answer, and we left it there, but it got me thinking. The other night, another friend of mine who is an atheist posted some straw man attack on Christianity on Instagram, and that got me thinking too…

I find it difficult living in 2019, people ask me something, I respond, and they’re upset or offended or both. It’s weird to me; I try to be Stoic, contemplative, and open to the possibility that I could be wrong. Especially over words, I believe in freedom of speech, so words, whether written or spoken, never offend me no matter what they convey. It interests me when people criticize the Church but offer no proof for their criticism; who will they call in their hour of need? Who will pray for them at the separation of the soul from the body? Who will bury them? A Rabbi? An Imam? An atheist will die alone like Donnie Darko informed us years ago. But Orthodox Christians—whether nominal, lapsed, lazy, or angry—like Israel in the Old Testament, will call upon the Lord after they see the rotten fruit their works have brought forth—they will call their Orthodox priest. They always do. Why is that?

Because those who criticize the Church (anti-Christian atheists included) for whatever petty reasons still believe what I believe: the Church is where Christ is, and Christ Himself said that the gates of hades will not prevail against Her. Those who criticize without being able to give a reason don’t need to be convinced: they already know. I don’t know much, but I know that there is no salvation outside the Church, and so I’ll stay in that so-called “orthobox.” One can know a tree by the fruit that it bears, and the fruit that Orthodoxy has given me speaks volumes for the mercy Christ has to offer those who accept it and in humility say “your will, Lord, and not mine.” Powerful words in a world that has accepted the Satanic dogma of self-will. If the Orthodox Church has been perverted, I’d love to know where, when, how, and by who, because I am more than willing to see it. Diagnosing a problem is the first step in healing the problem. I’d bet though this is more a pot calling the kettle black type of situation: it always is. But then again we know that hence the Eden story.

Hermann Freiherr von Soden’s Greek New Testament

On page ix in The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, we read thus “The primary source for establishing the readings of the Byzantine Textform remains the massive apparatus of Hermann Freiherr von Soden…” and are given the following footnote: “Hermann Freiherr von Soden, Die Schriften Des Neuen Testament in Ihrer Ältesten Erreichbaren Textgestalt, 2 vols. in 4 parts (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1911).”

There are three places I found this text. Two places on the internet and the third in Logos (pre-pub?). They can be found below, and if anyone knows where I can obtain a physical copy please contact me.

Internet Archive:
Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte (Vol. 1, Pt. 1)

Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte (Vol. 1, Pt. 2)

Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte (Vol. 1, Pt. 3)

Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte (Vol. 2)

CSNTM:
Die Schriften des neuen Testaments, vol. 1

Die Schriften des neuen Testaments, vol. 2

Die Schriften des neuen Testaments, vol. 3

Die Schriften des neuen Testaments, vol. 4

Logos:
Von Soden Greek New Testament (4 vols.)

Textual Criticism: Byzantine Text Proponents

I started this list off of searching a bunch of last names that Dr. Robinson wrote in a response to a blog post. The point is people who “paved the way” for the Byzantine Text, as opposed to the Textus Receptus. Any help in expanding and clarifying this list is greatly appreciated.

1794-1852 – Johann Martin Augustin Scholz

1813-1891 – Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener

1886 – Edward Miller – A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament

1893 – Rev. S. W. Whitney – The Revisers’ Greek Text Volume 1 & Volume 2

2005-2018 – Dr. Maurice Robinson

How Are You Still Not Doing This?

From today’s Daily Stoic email:

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria wrote in Vita Antonii that the reason he did his journaling–his confessing, as the genre was called by the Christians–was that it was a safeguard against sinning. By observing and then writing about his own behavior, he was able to hold himself accountable and make himself better.

“Let us each note and write down our actions and impulses of the soul,” he wrote, “as though we were to report them to each other; and you may rest assured that from utter shame of becoming known we shall stop sinning and entertaining sinful thoughts altogether…Just as we would not give ourselves to lust within sight of each other so if we were to write down our thoughts as if telling them to each other, we shall so much the more guard ourselves against foul thoughts for shame of being known. Now, then, let the written account stand for the eyes of our fellow ascetics, so that blushing at writing the same as if we were actually seen, we may never ponder evil.”

The Stoics journaled for much the same reason. Seneca said the key was to put the day up for review so that one could see their faults and find a way to mend them. Epictetus said that by writing, reading and speaking our philosophical journal, we keep the teachings top of mind and are better able to follow them. Marcus, of course,said less on the subject of journaling, but left us the greatest lesson of all: his example.

When you pick up Meditations, what you see is a man confessing, debating, considering, and struggling with all of what it means to be human. Marcus said in one of his notes that he should “fight to be the person philosophy made you.” His journal is the play by play of that fight–it’s his battles with his temper, with his urges, with his fears, even with his mortality. It took a lot of work, but from what we know, he won most of those battles. Through his writing and his philosophy, light prevailed over darkness.

It’s a grand tradition and an inspiring example that each of us is called to follow. The Daily Stoic Journal is one way to do that. It prompts you to prepare for the day ahead and review the day just past. It gives you big questions to consider and standards to guide yourself towards. A blank notebook can work too. So can a letter or an email to a friend. So can a silent conversation with yourself on a long walk.

The point is, you have to do the work. You have to put up the safeguards. You have to actively fight to be the person philosophy wants you to be…in the pages of your journal.

David Bentley Hart’s “The New Testament: A Translation” & The Tyndale House Greek New Testament

Of the four most interesting books published in 2017, three of them are Christian, and of those three two are in Modern English, and one is in Koine Greek. Furthermore, of those three Christian books, two of them are the New Testament. In Greek, we have The Tyndale House Greek New Testament, and in English David Bentley Hart’s The New Testament: A Translation published by Yale. (For those interested, the other books of the four are The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, and Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink.)

One would think that a new edition of the Greek New Testament would be of real interest and impact for Greek nerds, but the months following the release of both have seen unfold a unique situation. Outside of Evangelical Textual Criticism, Exegetical Tools, B-Greek, Textkit, and Nerdy Language Majors it would appear that the scholars, critics, and the rest of the world are either silent about it, don’t care about it, or don’t know about it. Indeed, no Orthodox Christian—clergy, laity, or scholar—has even mentioned it to my knowledge.

On the other hand, DBH’s translation has been addressed by all the groups mentioned or alluded to: clergy, laity, scholars, many of the internet groups and websites previously mentioned—both Orthodox and heterodox—have been talking about this translation. And with everything I’ve been reading, the discussion over this translation has brought out a fantastic amount of discussion concerning Koine Greek, exegesis, hermeneutics, textual criticism, dogma κ.τ.λ.

This isn’t to fault the people behind the THGNT. I own a physical copy and a copy in Accordance too and was reading St. James’ Epistle from the physical Bible on my flight back to Toronto from Winnipeg after Christmas. So I think its great (even though I am a Byzantine Textform proponent). But I think what most people are really looking forward to is the textual commentary that will accompany it, and the audio version read aloud by monks from the Orthodox Christian Monastery of the Transfiguration, Nafpaktos, in proper Greek pronunciation via BibleMesh (well, at least I am looking forward to both).

So due to the amount of relevant Greek material DBH’s translation has brought about I figured I would list here all the reviews, articles, and podcasts I have read and listened to. If any of my readers have found any that I don’t have listed here, please feel free to mention them in the comments or email me the link, and I will post new reviews as I finish reading them.

As for my own thoughts on the translation, which  have been asked, I relayed them on Instagram and other than a couple grammatical errors, my thoughts remain the same (so far):

“I think it is incredibly interesting, especially once one really understands what he is and is not attempting to do with his translation. Most reviewers fail to understand, and it shows. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon after reading an excerpt from the preface or intro that appealed to my love of Greek, and at first, as I read it I thought the translation was only of any real value if you know Koine Greek. As I read more, the vividness and oddity of the Greek were really brought forth in the English, so much so I bought my wife a copy for Xmas. It is definitely not for Liturgical use, but that wasn’t his intent. My only criticism so far is that he used the NA28/UBS5 as his Greek text, though he does note Majority Text differences.”

To elaborate, the most disappointing thing about reading the reviews and articles is that they mostly fail to understand what Hart is doing and devise straw man attacks against him due to their misunderstanding. And Hart’s Orthodox opponents sadden me the most, especially when they call his translation into question and then resort to non-Orthodox scholars, translations, and commentaries to support their point—the same point from the same non-Orthodox scholars, translations, and commentaries which were the cause for the translation effort in the first place!

The most depressing thing, however, indeed must be that the Orthodox and heterodox alike seem to take a major issue, not with ἀποκατάστασις, but instead push back against him when it comes to moneyThe lady doth protest too much, methinks… It reminds me of a story my Bishop told us seminarians during breakfast one morning. A priest and a doctor were out for a walk one day, talking about this and that, lost in conversation when they neared the edge of a cliff. The priest fell and was holding onto the crumbling edge, fingers slowly losing their grip. The doctor yelled to the priest, “Give me your hand, Father!” The priest, unfortuantely, lost his grip and fell to his death. The doctor ran to the priest’s home to tell the presvytera the awful news. She answered the door and broke down in tears as the story was retold, the doctor recounting to her “I said to him, “Give me your hand!”” The presvytera looked up and said to the poor doctor, “Oh, you should’ve said “Take my hand,” instead.”

In case it escapes you, the moral of the story is that priests want to take and not give, they love money. And if the reviews of Hart’s translation are anything to go by, it appears money and the defence of having and acquiring it is one issue that Protestants and Orthodox are united on, amongst the laity, and sadly even more so among the clergy.

******

23/31 October 2017 – The Tears and Laughter of the New Testament: Why David Bentley Hart’s Translation is a Glorious Failure By Wesley Hill

November 2017 – The Gospel According to David Bentley – Paul V. Mankowski, S.J.

29 December 2017 – The Hart Idiosyncratic Version – Fr. John Whiteford

January/February 2018 – A Mind-Bending Translation of the New Testament – James Parker

15 January 2018 – The New Testament in the strange words of David Bentley Hart – N.T. Wright

8 February 2018 – A Wild and Indecent Book – Garry Wills

11 February 2018 – Anent Gary Wills and the “DBH” Version by David Bentley Hart

11 October 2018 – The Vale of Abraham by David Bentley Hart

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion, and a philosopher, writer and cultural commentator. He is an fellow/associate at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, and has held positions at the University of Virginia, Duke University, and Providence College. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and attends a Greek Orthodox parish.

Mormonism

Part I: Reading The Book of Mormon

I’ve been listening to this podcast habitually starting with Episode 1 since I discovered it. It is called Naked Mormonism, and if you ever wanted to know about what would appear to be the failure of religion, this is a great place to start.

As Orthodox Christians, we have two options. The first is that there is no salvation outside the Orthodox Church; this is the traditional view until the rise of the heresy of Ecumenism. The second option which has become en vogue today is that all people proclaiming to be Christians are in fact somehow Christians (how people who believe different things can have the same label is beyond me, but you make more money off conferences and academic articles if you play the Ecumenism game).

This leaves Orthodox Ecumenists (a real oxymoron) painted in a corner because the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Community of Christ are “Member Communions” of the National Council of Churches.

My point being that if Mormons and Orthodox Christians are both equally “Christian” then this podcast reveals the significant failure of Christianity. Littered throughout the episodes are the stories of the casualties of Ecumenical Christianity:  Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, Non-Denominationalism, Full-Gospel Non-Denominationalism, World Assemblies of God Fellowship (Assemblies of God), Messianic Judaism (Judaism too), and American Protestant Revivalism, Protestant Restorationism, and Classical Protestantism. People who were never taught—or at best taught poorly—share their stories; as someone educated in these matters, the ignorance and fallacious thought-processes are striking, and their personal stories heartbreaking. But this is what religious leaders are dealing with, or worse yet, are complicit in compounding.

My own interest in Mormonism goes way back to when I was an adolescent occultist. On TV the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would air these commercials on Canadian TV for free Book of Mormons and Mormon KJV Bibles. So, of course, I and my friend Critter would order ridiculous amounts of them using various names, but always the same address. This must’ve been around Grade 7, Junior High, whatever age that makes me I’m not sure.

Around this time I also saw the movie The God Makers on VHS, and lucky for me I had a copy of The Satanic Bible, so when the film brings out The Satanic Bible I was able to check “The Book of Lucifer” just to make sure they were lying, which of course I already knew—as I basically knew that whole Bible by heart already at that age. Maybe that’s why Mormonism stuck with me so much, perhaps I wondered why so-called Protestant groups would lie about what The Satanic Bible said in order to show Mormonism was false?

I kept up my studies of Mormonism throughout the years, and it was the summer prior to my first year of seminary, August of 2015?, when I first learned that the LDS had released photos of Smith’s seer stone that got me researching more and I concluded that Mormonism is not a human fabrication, but one of the best cases of the demonic, that it is a literally Satanic religion. I came to this conclusion as a demonologist, and it is from this perspective that the LDS movement is of great interest to me.

So my summer reading, thanks to this podcast, is to read the Book of Mormon, as I have never read the entire thing. So I plan on reading it cover-to-cover. At first I was going to read the Penguin edition, which is “based on the last edition supervised by Joseph Smith before his violent and untimely death at the age of thirty-eight,” but have since decided upon reading the Yale Book of Mormon, edited by the Mormon at the head of the Critical Text Project, Royal Skousen. Feel free to join me, and we can bounce ideas around. The Book of Mormon alone should make this a rather interesting Summer. So buy some excellent craft beer, roll out a blanket or open up an umbrella over a deck, and cheers to an honest reading of a book held to be North-American-made-Scripture by very many people all over the planet.

Part II: Timeline

(Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy etc. here)

Part III: Resources

Naked Mormonism Podcast

National Council of Churches – Member Communions

Community of Christ

The God makers

The Satanic Bible

The Book of Mormon – Penguin

The Book of Mormon – Yale

Royal Skousen

The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project

6 August 2015 – Book of Mormon Printer’s Manuscript, Photos of Seer Stone Featured in New Book

8 September 2015 – How BYU Destroyed Ancient Book of Mormon Studies

20 April 2016 – Are Mormons Developing Toward Greater Orthodoxy? – Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

May 2016 – MORMONS APPROACHING ORTHODOXY – Richard J. Mouw

June 2016 – Mormons at the Forefront – Terryl Givens

13 May 2017 – Utah’s Largest Newspaper Interviews Mormon to Orthodox Christian Convert – Cameron Davis

13 May 2017 – Utah Mormons, Protestants finding new spiritual home in ancient Orthodox church: Utah Mormons and Protestants are rediscovering a reverence for God by converting to Orthodoxy. – Bob Mims

3 January 2018 – Faith and Doubt: Mormonism and Orthodox Christianity – Arthur Hatton

 

The Heartbreak of Greek Orthodox​ Christianity

There is a quote attributed to Albert Camus that I shared on Instagram recently. It reads, “There is no happiness if the things we believe in are different than the things we do.” It caught my attention because recently I shared a Daily Wire article by Matt Walsh on my Facebook and Twitter, Dear Christians, There Is One Thing Worse Than Being An Atheist. When I came across the article it reminded me of St. Ignatius’ words in 4:1 of his Epistle to the Magnesians, “Πρέπον οὖν ἐστὶν μὴ μόνον καλεῖσθαι Χριστιανούς, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἶναι,” which I translate as “It is fitting, therefore, to be not only called ‘Christians,’ but rather to be.”

As I come to the end of my second year at seminary, those above are what are on my mind: Greeks do not care about Greek Orthodox Christianity. They will marry outside the Church, stay out late at cultural events and miss Liturgy the next day. I wonder about these things as I study to be a priest. God didn’t call me to be a cultural curator, he called me to shepherd His flock.

So why is this on my mind? Well, I found out today that 12 teenagers have pulled out of my parish’s Oratorical Festival. With a week to go. And Sunday School attendance is so low that it has been requested to shut down Sunday School for the older kids. This is spitting in the face to the volunteers, the donators, and the Church. religous education isn’t important? The sad irony is that Oratory and Rhetoric are genuinely deeply embedded in authentic Greek culture—Christian and pagan. So just what culture it is now that Greeks have chosen over the culture and Faith of our ancestors I do not know, but it sure seems to be a type of secular Græco-American “functional atheism,” to borrow that last part from my Spiritual Father.

It truly breaks my heart and makes me question where I am called to serve. I believe in the living Faith of Christ, not a museum display cultural daycare centre. I just don’t understand lukewarmness—especially when it is that state which Christ says will cause Him to spit us out (Apocalypse 3:16), and especially in a Faith where our ancestors in the relatively recent past died for their Faith and fought for their freedom.

To end this and thus say goodnight, I say to those who would object, who would say with their words this that and the other thing; I say your actions betray your mouth. Further, the crestfallen state of the lukewarmness of Greek Orthodox Christians is intensely absurd in light of the words of Scripture, “οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (Galatians 3:28).” But to know this one would actually have to read Scripture. We are dealing with people who have time to write nonsense for social media and essays for private Catholic schools but don’t know our Symbol of Faith in Greek nor English and have no time for the Church. We all pick our masters, and as Christ says, “Οὐδεὶς δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε Θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ” (Matthew 6:24).