As the web-log-o-sphere (at least the part that I frequent) is humming with feelings from discontent and worse to glee concerning the “Orthodox Study Bible,” I figured I might as well throw caution to the wind and contribute some comments. Having always been a fan of a little Bible study, when I started exploring the Orthodox Church through the means of written word (not leaving aside attending my local Orthodox Church, of course) I was anxious to get my hands on some commentary on the Good Book. At that time the first half, rather, second half of the OSB, the New Testament, was lining the shelves. Not immediately wanting to shell out the dough I looked for alternative ways to weed the wisdom of the Church. To this effect, I found at my local library, being in Nashville at the time, a wonderful wealth in Johanna Manley’s The Bible and The Holy Fathers Now I could read scripture alongside comments spanning the history of the Church (although a majority are from the early centuries). The name of this book is apropos as it can’t be taken as strictly a commentary on the Church’s lexicon but it, however, definitely conveys the Bible through the lens of the fathers. The only problem for this neophyte was confusion over which reading went with which day. At that point I knew nothing of the so-called “old calendar” and “new calendar” and the differences in the Slavic lexicon and the Antiochian lexicon (I was partially attending an Antiochian church at the time). Once that problem was vanquished I was off to diving into the depths of deep space.
After eventually purchasing that portion of the OSB of which I earlier spoke I found myself seldom scratching its surface. When I did occasion to open, I rarely read the commentary and when I did I was decidedly disappointed by its lack of depth. On other occasional openings I have to say, however, that I did enjoy the fine prints of icons and short articles on feasts or saints.
So, I think you can gather at this point that I will not be purchasing the complete OSB.
Additionally besides recommending The Bible and The Holy Fathers I would like to draw your attention to Blessed Theophylact’s Explanation of the New Testament from Chrysostom Press The book version, naturally, has complete commentary while you can conveniently read the apropos sections on the Sunday Gospel readings here
Relatedly, I’d like to remind you what a spiritual school (Sunday School, seminary, etc.) should entail:
A Spiritual school must:
1) Strengthen one’s faith
2) Teach one to pray
3) Teach one to know oneself, one’s fallenness
4) Teach one to battle with sin and temptation, as did the holy fathers
5) Teach one to acquire the understanding and feeling of the works of the holy fathers, and through them and the Gospel, make them one’s own, natural, close to the heart, living, answering for all the needs of the soul in any state; not a subject of study
6) Teach one to look upon the commandments of the Gospel not as an obstacle to an unrestricted life but as a path to the present, here on earth, pearl of great price, which when a man has seen, joyfully and with pleasure sells all, that is all everyday, mundane interests, all that the world values, not by compulsion but by the attraction of the soul to the that pearl. This pearl can be found by everyone who has faith in Christ and with all their strength makes the effort.
Igumen Nikon (Vorobyov)
In conclusion, I have to also recommend St. John Chrysostom’s homilies to which I found myself turning after reading excerpts from them in The Bible and The Holy Fathers.
P.S.: Silence of the lips is better and more wonderful than any edifying conversation. Our fathers embraced it with reverence and were glorified through it. But since, in our weakness, we cannot yet follow the path of the perfect, let us talk of what edifies, and speak of such things with reference to the words of the fathers, without undertaking to interpret the Scriptures; for this latter is fraught with dangers for the ignorant. The Scriptures are written in the language of the spirit, and men of the flesh cannot understand spiritual things, It is best to use the words of the fathers in our conversations; then we shall find the profit they contain.
Sts. Barsanuphius and John
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