7:19 ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν, ἀλλ̓ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν, καὶ εἰς τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται, καθαρίζον πάντα τὰ βρώματα.
καθαρίζον πάντα τὰ βρώματα. This is an interesting example of how the difference in grammatical gender can cause a different understanding and much confusion. In the Byzantine Text as seen in the Patriarchal Text above, καθαρίζον is present active participle nominative neuter singular of καθαρίζω, and due to it being neuter, we get the understanding of “purging/cleansing all foods” and is apart of what Jesus is explaining to the disciples. However, the non-Byzantine reading (I have seen it in the Alexandrian and Caesarian Text-types, which is not difficult to find) is καθαρίζων, being masculine rather than neuter, and thus referring back to Jesus in verse 18 (which begins, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς·) and leads to the understanding that the words are not a part of what Jesus is explaining, but rather a comment by St. Mark, namely that Jesus in explaining the parable is “cleansing all foods” (the participle is present tense); and this is the reading Origen, St. Gregory The Wonder-Worker, and St. John Chrysostom have, καθαρίζων.
The Patristic witness leads me to conclude two textual options: 1. The Byzantine text has the wrong reading here, and it should be the masculine, or 2. The Byzantine text has the original reading here, and the Text that Origen and St. Gregory used had been corrupted. A problem that comes to mind is that if St. Chrysostom used the Byzantine Text (as most people say), then why does his Byzantine Text read καθαρίζων and our current Byzantine Text(s) read καθαρίζον? I need to find time to look through von Soden’s manuscripts (K, Kx, Kr etc.) to see the texts for myself to go further here; at any rate, the UBS5 apparatus does inform us that the Byzantine Text is divided on this reading whereas Byz2005 doesn’t (my Byz2018 is in a box in another Province, so I cannot check it at the moment). But also we could think of the wording as constructio ad sensum, which is what David Bentley Hart (who translated from the Critical Text, thus καθαρίζων) appears to have done: “purging away everything that has been eaten?” (UBS5 has a Greek question mark at the end, as Hart translated.)
A few words about how we see this played out in Orthodox translations. First, we ignore The Orthodox Study Bible here because its New Testament is unfortunately translated from the Textus Receptus. Secondly, The Holy Apostles Convent Evangelistarion mistranslated this passage; they translated from the Patriarchal Text thus: this He said making all the foods clean. We read in the notes that the translator arrived at this translation probably under the influence of Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament or A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament and from misidentifying the neuter καθαρίζον for the masculine καθαρίζων. However, the translator does support their translation by appealing to St. John Chrysostom (as discussed above). And finally, the EOB New Testament has both readings, but the translator put the correct reading—καθαρίζον, according to the Greek of the Patriarchal Text—in the footnote, “thus purging all foods” and added a question mark in the main text, as found in the Critical Text(s).
Footnotes can be found here.
I read something inaccurate today: The patristic period (AD 95–750) is the time of the fathers of the church, when the exegesis of Scripture texts was in its primitive formation. This period spans from Clement of Rome to John of Damascus, embracing seven centuries of biblical interpretation, from the end of the New Testament to the mid-eighth century, including the Venerable Bede. This reminded me of a similar timeframe given for the Church Fathers in the Introduction to the edition of St. John of Damascus’ The Fount of Knowledge in the Catholic University of America Press’ The Fathers of the Church series (volume 37). In there we are told “The Fount of Knowledge is one of the most important single works produced in the Greek patristic period, of which it marks the end . . . And it is the last work of any theological importance to appear in the East.”
For Roman Catholics, this position, of course, must be held to counter the Orthodox theology of St. Gregory Palamas, who is, of course, a Church Father. So, in the Orthodox Church, the patristic period at the very least is AD 95-1359. But then what about Elder Joseph the Hesychast? Ok, so then AD 95-1959. But then what about St. John of Shanghai? Ok, so then AD 95-1966. But what about Elder Ephraim, who is still alive and whose spiritual father is Elder Joseph? Ok, so the AD 95-2019. I think the point is clear: the patristic period has never ended for Orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christianity isn’t a “museum Faith,” it is vibrant with the uncreated energies of God.
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.
An Orthodox Christian Handbook on the Koine Greek Bible: LXX/OG & Byzantine Textform by Fr. Dcn. Thomas Sandberg (in progress)
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 money: The 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.
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
24 January 2018 – Translating the N. T. Wright and David Bentley Hart Tussle
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.
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
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
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).
My Goodreads rating: 2 of 5 stars (2 stars on Goodreads = “it was ok”)
My Amazon.ca rating: 3 of 5 stars (3 stars on Amazon.ca = “It’s okay”)
“James: A Commentary on the Greek Text.” By William C. Varner. Fontes Press, 2017, 423 pp. ISBN: 1-948048-01-9, $22.90 on Amazon.ca.
There were many reasons why I wanted to read and review this book. Obviously, those that know me know that I’ve become a nerd over Ancient Greek. That is one reason. The other is that among Orthodox Christians—and ironically among Greek Orthodox Christians—the Biblical, Patristic, and original Liturgical languages are given very little thought. In fact, when they are it is in order to move away from them toward the vernacular or something similar; and so anything written about Greek interests me immensely.
The reasons for the general lack of interest in original languages are tied to our rich Orthodox history of bringing the Scriptures and Liturgy to the people in their own native tongue. Also, we don’t subscribe to verbal plenary inspiration—which is also why textual criticism is almost non-existent within and among us Orthodox. Well, that and the Orthodox φρόνημα and Tradition contain views such as Origen’s that all the variants were/are inspired, and the idea of the great Slavophile lay-theologian Aleksei Khomyakov’s that everything the (Orthodox) Church writes is Scripture.
One of the difficulties in reviewing a book by a non-Orthodox author is that it must be taken on its own merits and not measured against an Orthodox standard to which it was never written to be measured against, or as I believe Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick wrote somewhere: the Orthodox Church doesn’t theologize outside of Her bounds. With that in mind I proceed, and for those reading this, I am attempting to write from the stance of an Orthodox Christian who loves Greek writing to other Orthodox Christians who love Greek too.
William Varner’s James: A Commentary on the Greek Text is a serious piece of work; he subscribes to Porter’s view on “verbal aspect,” and in his recent appearance on Exegetical Tools, he says it is intended for those who are at least second-year Greek students. At 442 pages, it is much, much longer than the actual text it is commentating on, which can be to its detriment. It is easy to lose track of the verse in question and end up deep in a textual discussion related only to a section (or just one word) of the verse being commented upon. For comparison, The Epistle of Saint James: A Commentary by Archbishop Dimitri Royster (whose relics have been found to be incorrupt, but not officially declared as such) is 152 pages in length.
On page xv, we are told that it is a reworking of an earlier book, and while reading this book, it came to my attention that Evangelical academia has had a few issues with plagiarism as of late. And it was via the Facebook Nerdy Language Majors group that I discovered that unfortunately Varner’s original book of which this is a reworking of was one of them. I am not in any level of academia to be saying anything about those issues, but as a student myself plagiarism is always something on my mind and even more so now when I can see that even at the highest level it can occur, at least hopefully, accidentally. I didn’t want to mention this topic, but there were at least two areas in the present work where proper attestation was probably accidentally missed. A footnote appears to be missing sourcing Metzger’s Commentary on verse 1:19, and on page 325 a footnote sourcing Patrick J. Hartin’s commentary on James in the Sacra Pagina series appears to be missing.
Not a missing citations per se, but rather that there possibly should be citations; to clarify my point: on pp. 99-100, when I read that I thought I had read it before, and to me, it appears to come nearly verbatim from Metzger.
“Instead of the abrupt Ἴστε opening 1:19, the Byzantine family of manuscripts and the Textus Receptus connect the following ἔστω δὲ (dropping δὲ) more closely with 1:18 by substituting ὥστε, which is supported by a variety of later witnesses (Κ Π Ψ 614 Byz syrp). The reading adopted as the text, however, is strongly supported by both Alexandrian and Western witnesses (אc B C 81 1739 it vg).”
“Instead of reading the abrupt ἴστε, the Textus Receptus connects the following ἔστω (dropping δέ) more closely with ver. 18 by substituting ὥστε, in company with a variety of later witnesses (K P2 Ψ 614 Byz syrp, h al). The reading adopted as the text is strongly supported by both Alexandrian and Western witnesses (ℵc B C (81) 1739 itff vg al).”
Same with p. 325,
“This expression of dependence on the Lord is known as the “Jacobean condition” (conditio Jacobaea). Such a sentiment is not absent from secular authors. Probably the most characteristic example is found in the following exchange: “‘If you wish, Socrates.’ ‘That is not well said, Alcibiades.’ ‘Well, what should I say?’ ‘If God wills’ [ἐὰν βούλῃ σύ, ὦ Σώκρατες. οὐ καλῶς λέγεις, ὦ Ἁλκιβίαδη. ἀλλὰ πῶς χρὴ λέγειν; ὅτι ἐὰν θεὸς ἐθέλῃ]” (Plato, Alc. 1.135d). The attitude that it expresses, however, is thoroughly widespread among NT characters and authors.”
“The expression “If the Lord wishes” has been called the “conditio Jacobaea.” However, the phrase was not coined by James, as there is ample evidence to show it was a common expression in the Greco-Roman world (“deo volente”): e.g., Plato’s Dialogue, Alcibiades I, contains an interesting exchange:
Socrates: And do you know how to escape out of your present state …?
Alcibiades: Yes, I do.
Alcibiades: By your help, Socrates.
Socrates: That is not well said, Alcibiades.
Alcibiades: What ought I to have said?
Socrates: By the help of God.
Alcibiades: I agree … (Plato, Alc. 1:135d [Jowett]; see also Plato, Phaed. 80d).
A similar thought and expression are found in other New Testament writings: e.g., “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills …” (1 Cor 4:19; see also 1 Cor 16:7; Acts 18:21; Heb 6:3). This shows that James is using a popular phrase from the culture of his world, be it Hellenistic or Christian.”
(Patrick J. Hartin, James, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, vol. 14, Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), 225.)
Could be a forgotten citation, could be different researchers independently arriving at the same conclusions, could be plagiarism. I don’t know, I just know that to me they appear too similar and make me more cautious with my own writing.
To be fair, typing those sections into Grammarly and turning on plagiarism detection yields nothing, and Metzger’s Commentary is listed in the Bibliography; however, Hartin’s Sacra Pagina volume is not, but other writings of his are.
Again, staying away from critiquing theological issues, it is pertinent to note that this book takes positions on St. James and the Theotokos which are incompatible with Orthodox Christianity. However, a point that is of concern for Orthodox Christians that I will comment on is Varner’s view that the Majority Text and the Byzantine Text are “basically synonymous.” I would say that he is basically correct, but that at higher levels of Greek scholarship the distinction between the Byzantine and Majority Texts should be stated and that they should be referred to as separate (a mistake even The Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text makes, in my opinion). I maintain this view despite what the editors of The Orthodox Study Bible with its NKJV English and Majority Text Greek say.
Furthermore, it is disappointing that the Robinson-Pierpont 2005 Byzantine Textform, the Hodges-Farstad 1985 Majority Text, the Patriarchal Text of 1904/1912 are not mentioned in the Bibliography. So one can only assume when Varner refers to the Byzantine and Majority Texts he is referring to 𝔐 as found in NA27, which follows the change NA26 made from NA25, as NA28 (at least in the Catholic Epistles) has brought back a wider variety of symbols regarding the Byzantine and Majority Texts. (It must be noted that as I write this I am in Niverville, Manitoba and I only have with me NA26 and NA28; my copies of NA25 and NA27 are in Toronto, Ontario in my dorm room. I will be back in Toronto on Saturday to correct any mistakes I may have made regarding these symbols and to what they are referring.) Tangent to this is that many times his preference for the Alexandrian Text comes through at the expense of assuming certain things about Byzantine scribal practices as well as their knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax (pp. 273 & 306).
What is great about this book, for me, is that he utilizes the THGNT, he mentions the Orthodox order of the Catholic Epistles in the Πραξαπόστολος on p. 34 (which ironically all printed Orthodox Bibles I’ve seen in Koine Greek, Katharevousa, Modern Greek, and English no longer follow), refers to oral recitation (pp. 106, 318, 324), refers to the ancient pronunciation (p. 225) in a manner Orthodox would agree with, and throughout the whole commentary he makes numerous references to Homer, Plato, Aristotle, the LXX (however, contrary to pp. 379-380, 2 Maccabees is cononical, at least in Orthodox Christianity), Philo, Josephus, the Apostolic Fathers, Epictetus, and St. Bede. For these reasons, I would recommend all second-year Greek students who are genuine Koine Greek nerds buy this book, and I would add further that I truly feel this book would be much better as a book in Accordance or Verbum/Logos/Noet, it would open up a lot of the references for more in-depth personal study.
But I must close by relaying that by far my biggest problem with the book is pretty much the same problem I have with modern Koine Greek pedagogy in general. The book relies far too much on English translations of Greek texts for discussion of Greek grammar and syntax and that there is a plethora of quotes from Greek sources are given in translation. In a book titled as a commentary on the Greek text of James, I would expect there would be almost zero English translation. But the fact that English far outweighs the Greek in this book leads me to conclude that this book is better thought of as a commentary on the Epistle of St. James with reference to Greek, rather than as a commentary on the Greek text itself.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Todd Scacewater and Fontes Press for this opportunity and for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence the thoughts and opinions expressed in my review.