Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | June 10, 2009

Falling through the NETS

Don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been coveting a copy of one of those NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) Bibles. Not sure why… or that I want to admit why, but I do. Followed the discussion here and elsewhere. Just one of those things that makes you say, “Hmmmm”.

So with the recent passage of 52-card-pick-up day… I kept thinking someone would give it to me… I mean it’s easy to order on line and everything. But no dice. Now I sit around pondering pulling the trigger myself. I mean I am so a sucker for these things. And I’m sympathetic both to the spirit and challenge. And yet as I think about it… the difficulty in searching for the perfect text is that it can carry us away from “good enough”. Yes, “the best” is the enemy of “the good” as the engineers say… and brings the whole of it down. So I wonder whether this search for the perfect Bible isn’t like the search for some sort of absolute certainty and a manifestation of some sort of sickness itself.(And if so… I’m in trouble!!!)

So….while the case for wanting a text that really is all things to all people…and 100% spot on…. I wonder that we don’t have to bear in mind that somehow old St. John Chrysostom managed to get by with far inferior texts to even our worst gender-washed PETA approved versions. Oh… maybe not THAT bad… but we do know that somehow many saints either didn’t have the whole of the Gospel texts… or suffered from non-canonical texts, or worse. And yet somehow they got it done. And acknowledging this just pretty much convicts me dead in my tracks.

Yet I keep coming up excuses, huh?

So why is this? Are we just so text oriented, we can’t give up eye contact with the text and instead engrave it in our hearts… so we can really let it soak in? Is the Gospel to us… just really a text and nothing more? Probably. I don’t know about you… but my brain’s throughput don’t retain so much… let alone whole Psalms or passages from the Bible. I must have read the stick version or Etchasketch version of the Bible. Yeah… that’d be it.

Or maybe I’m just too afraid of pushing my prayer along to where I could see things like St. John sees in a crummy text? So instead I keep complaining about the text and “gittin’ the words right… and then I’ll get started.”. No, don’t think so.

There was a story once about Suzuki playing a violin to a standing ovation, and then he slammed the instrument across his knee into hundreds of pieces as the crowd gasped. They all thought it was a Strad. It wasn’t…something more like a $15 dime store instrument and his point was that technique counts for something… maybe even more than folks think. In fact, most music teachers who recite this story will tell you it’s technique that feeds the heart that plays the music. The audience hears it at a level of expectation…and we either measure up or we don’t… but so much of the rest is simply what their brains are telling them… not their ears. The problem is of course that we don’t really believe this… we get nervous and we choke… and we flub up. But that’s another story… My sub-point is not just that I’ve always felt the parallel between music and prayer is close… and maybe that’s why Orthodoxy speaks to me, but that there’s a lot going on here… and worrying about the text can get overwrought… which is more my problem!! than that of the author here linked!!

Yep. So I don’t know about you guys.. but my tecnnique stinks. But go ahead… gimme a better text so I can more precisely measure how short I fall. 🙂  And in truth, I do keep collecting them… but then I’m still the same old sinner… only better read. Go figure.


  1. I agree that the search for the best Bible text usually turns into a lack of reading any Bible at all. This is a problem.

    My priest said to read any translation as long as it isn’t some weird one. That is, read one of the mainstream ones and not one prepared by some random guy publishing out of his basement.

    I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong for the average lay reader in using the NRSV, though the RSV would be better. The KJV seems to be the most reliable from an Orthodox standpoint, but some really can’t decode the English, so the NKJV seems to be a good update for the average American (Brits seem to find it a particularly ‘American’ update, don’t know why). Even an NIV or an ESV are likely acceptable. Really, any Bible but a weirdo translation is OK.

    Of course, if you have questions due to a particular passage, asking your priest and checking other translations is probably in order.

    The main thing: read the Bible. Once that habit’s been learned, then, and only then, can bother be had regarding translation.

  2. I agree with your priest… and keep telling myself this… but my head won’t let go of the possibility that I’m dealing with a wobbly text somehow. I know it’s nuts… but there you are and seems like they’re lots out there that’ll feed this beast. So in practice… I think I’m collecting all the texts you mentioned! LOL! I’ve still got a soft spot for the KJV…’cause it’s the language I know best, grew up with, etc…. but I’m trying to do the Septuagint, and things do pop out you might miss otherwise… and it’s coming along.

    And then I have a collection of Psalters.. trying to get one that’s both handy and “does the trick”. I’m finding I tend to go with the Holy Transfiguration Monastery version.

    I think your note on getting some separate commentaries is a good one, too. I’ll need a librarian before I’m done!

    But you’re right about just going with anything… it’s gonna work than waiting around for something better. I’ve enjoyed your posts on NETS translation… and had corresponded with Kevin Edgecombe on it, too. Put it on the birthday list… but I think folks look at the collection and think: “Another one? He must really be nuts!” and they’re right.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I always fall back on Mark Twain’s comment:
    “Its not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that give me problems, its the parts I DO understand.” The nuances of textual criticism of the LXX vs. Masoretic OT MIGHT nuance my Christian walk, but in the end, the “red letter” texts of the Gospels are the end game, and there’s not a lot of variants that make much difference in those.

  4. FYI: Kevin Edgecomb just posted that the NETS is available online:

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