A Blessed Theophany to All!

The Theophany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
At Your Baptism in the Jordan, O Lord,
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest;
For the Father’s voice bore witness to You,
By calling You His Beloved Son,
And the Spirit in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of the words,
0 Christ God You appeared from above and enlightened the world
Glory be to You!


  1. lexcaritas says

    What’s wrong with the way we sing it?

    When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan,
    The worship of the Trinity was made manifest,
    And the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee,
    Calling Thee His Beloved Son,
    And the Spirit in the likeness of a dove
    Confirmed the truthfulness of His words.
    O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world–
    Glory be to Thee!

    By the way, thees and thous are easier to sing and more pleasant to the the ear than yous: thee being a pure vowel and thou only a mild diphthong whereas is diphthong that, around here, tends to morph into a nazalized triphthong.

    The only thing hard about what we call late Elizabethan English is disuse. It was still common in my childhood–and no, I’m neither ancient nor was I raised a Fundamentalist. But it was still common to hear and use the language when reading the Bible or praying and there was, and is, nothing hard about it. Use it and become fluent.

    The letters our ancestors wrote, and the speeches our statesmen gave, but two generations ago were often sublime, as was the hand in which even the common man wrote. But since about 1962 the decline has been swift and accelerating.

    Thanks be to God, Christ is in our midst. May He make us worthy of His love and enable us to glorify Him in all we do.


    • Even More Annoyed says

      would “thou” be a “heavy dipthong?”

      I always wince when we get to “When thou,” sung to the common Russian tone 1 troparion, with the “thou” landing on the main first notes of the melisma. Very strange and unpleasant to center the first melodic unit on a syllable with “ow”.

      • Engaged Observer says

        It would sound even more bizarre with “You” —

        Tone 1: “When Yooo-oou, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan….” Ugh.

        It seems there was a move to get rid of the “Thees” and “Thys” in favor of “Yous” and “Yours” in order to make God more personal and approachable. In my opinion, it doesn’t work, and is too overly protestantizing, i.e., “Jesus is my friend.” Actually Jesus is our Lord and God and Savior, who merits Thee and Thy and Thine.

        Compare these two bibilical passages using the formal as compared with the personal:

        John 17: 9-11 (RSV):
        I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee

        John 17: 9-11 (NKJV):
        I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You.

        The Lord is King, He is robed in majesty! And He should have Thy, Thine, Thou, and Thee.

        Plus you otherwise lose the wonderful literary rhyme: “all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.”

        • Rdr Thomas says

          I must say, and this is someone who loves and encourages the “thee/thou” language….”thy/thine/thou/thee” are all informal, personal references. In actuality, “you/yours/ye” is the more formal language.

          A little bit of Google searching will bear me out.

          It is true that the “thee/thou” language is much more poetic, but calling “thee/thou” formal isn’t entirely accurate. It does however have more beauty, at least to the modern ear!

      • The normal way of singing diphthongs is to hold the first vowel of the diphthong thoughout any moving notes, and then bring in the second vowel at the very end. Really no different from holding a diphthong on a long single non-moving note. Also, while “ow” is a combination of “ah” and “oo,” the “ah” needs to be darkened a bit. All singing 101 — if you are wincing (and I don’t doubt that you do wince), it is because of the delivery, not the message.

        Of course, if one were to since “when You,” instead, you have the same problem. That word is a combination of “ee” and “oo” except that one needs to get off the opening “ee” immediately, just as one needs to hold off on the closing “oo” until the last moment in “Thou.” If a choir were to sing “When eeeeeeeee-ooooo” — any listener would wince, too, and wonder if the choir had just smelled something particularly pungent..

      • Monk James says

        Even More Annoyed says:

        January 7, 2015 at 9:14 am

        would “thou” be a “heavy dipthong?”

        I always wince when we get to “When thou,” sung to the common Russian tone 1 troparion, with the “thou” landing on the main first notes of the melisma. Very strange and unpleasant to center the first melodic unit on a syllable with “ow”.



        This is why all the best efforts to translate this hymn start with ‘In the Jordan’ as we find it in Greek and Church Slavonic.

        As I continue to assert, I’m a ‘nuts and bolts’ translator. I get to the accurate meaning of our texts, but it takes poets and musicians. skilled editors, to take those accurate words and work them into something beautiful and worthy of divine worship.

        More than twenty years ago, I developed a system for this and I drew it out on a flow chart, which languishes even until now in some file box at OCA Central, no action taken.

        In the meantime, we’re stuck with a lot of drivel since what gets printed first grows legs and gets internalized by the faithful (especially our choirs) who are mostly not well enough educated to recognize the differences between good and bad translations — ‘at least it’s in English’….

    • pelagiaeast says

      Let’s hear it for GOOD English, not the dumbed down version. Thanks, Lexcaritas for explaining what is going on. This sort of thing is one problem I see coming with the Assemby of Bishops’ work. Sigh.

  2. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Beautiful. Thank you for this George. May you and yours and everyone have a Blessed Theophany.

    Peter A. Papoutsis

    • Rev. Dn. Andrew J. Rubis says

      A blessed Theophany to all!

      While I agree that “thee,” “thou,” and “thy” are easier for choirs to enunciate clearly, I din’t find that “you” and “your” presented any challenge to a chanter, having served in both roles for more than 20 years.

      It is safe to say that most Orthodox communities in the English-speaking world tend to be multilingual or, at least, bilingual. That is: English & Greek; English & Slavonic; English & Serbian, etc. I serve in one that regularly uses English, Albanian, Slavonic, Russian, Ukrainian, and Georgian.

      More to the point, it is probably safe to say that most communities have some members for whom English is a second language, perhaps only acquired as an adult upon their arrival in the English-speaking lands. For them, Elizabethan English presents an enormous barrier to understanding the hymnography and scriptures. For their sake, I think that it behooves us to use modern English in such situations.

      In Christ, Dn. A.

      • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        I’m all for thees and thous, but I don’t buy the singability argument. Today’s English is easier to sing because it’s more familiar; our mouths are already accustomed to making its sounds. “Elizabethan” English takes more care — not the thees and thous, but the -th and -st endings, and the often odd syntax making both reading and comprehension difficult. Grammatical differences are also sometimes jarring to the modern ear: “Glory to Thee Who hast showed us the light”? Why not make that “shown,” just to eliminate the distraction and discomfort of what is today bad English?

        There are better arguments for older English. First, it’s distinctive, which aids in memory and recognition: We know when someone’s quoting the King James; we often don’t know when someone’s quoting one of the many money-making modern translations. Second, it’s only natural to speak to God and of God is a manner different from other speech: It shows respect, reminding us to take special care of things divine. Third, the Orthodox have always taught respect for tradition, especially traditional languages of worship; one can take linguistical tradition too far, but one can also fall victim to thoughtless modernization, forgetting that anti-traditional “language reform” is an item on every leftist agenda.

        For those reasons, it’s not too much to expect immigrants to learn a little more English for church use. The barrier to understanding is not insurmountable.

        • Father, Deacon, I agree. No insurmountable at all. The “thee”s and “thou”s and “you”s of Elizabethan English are actually closer to many other languages than modern English. Don’t they persist in French, Spanish, Italian, German . . .?

          By the way, I appreciate your article in this month’s Touchstone magazine.

          As for the pronunciation of “thou” it’s not actually “thow” — but more like “though” and the Elizabethan ending do not have to be over-pronounced,” as they are by those of us who are not accustomed to them. I would suggest they are actually quite “soft”–which is how they have “morphed” away.

          I have been praying the Coverdale Psalms daily for years now and they present absolutely no trouble whatsoever either to pronounce or to understand. All it takes is repetition–pretty much like any language. The fact is we moderns are simply for the most part lazy and inarticulate. Our great grandparents for the most part wrote often memorable thoughts with a beautiful hand, using real pens. This is rarely the case in the last two generations. Most of my students write very poorly indeed–both in content and presentation. It does not have to be so. Why is it?

          Christ is in our midst,

          • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            I did once hear a young priest, reading the King James, pronounce shew as “shoe” instead of “show,” but why do that?

            The fact is that the original pronunciation of Coverdale and the King James is lost to us and only hinted at in a few words with archaic spellings. Recontructing the original pronunciation would require a lot more effort. Speakers of both English English and American English would have to assume a foreign accent. The English would have to start pronouncing their postvocalic Rs, which they didn’t drop until the early 19th century, and the Americans would have to stop voicing their intervocalic Ts, so that “bitter” and “bidder” don’t sound the same.

            What would we gain? Nothing. The result would not sound better; it would only sound foreign.

          • Monk James says

            The problem with the Coverdale psalms — like those of the AV/KJV — is not their archaisms but their inaccuracies.

            It’s entirely possible, for example, to derive the distorted notions of the ‘stain of original sin’ and hence the ‘immaculate conception’ of the Mother of God from their renderings of Psalm 50 (51 Hebrew). Psalm 117 (118) is another mess.

            Our translations must be based not on Hebrew as is the AV, or on Latin, as is Coverdale, but on the Greek 70. Insofar as they depart from the Greek, they are not fit for use by the Orthodox.

      • With all due respect, I disagree strongly.

        1. What we use liturgically is not “Elizabethan English.” Please educate yourself by reading actual Elizabethan literature and compare the differences. Compared to Elizabethan literature, the KJV, the Anglican BCP, and the Coverdale Psalter (the prototypes of liturgical English) have extremely limited vocabularies and particular constructions that were self-consciously designed to suit liturgical use and public prayer. The style was even self-consciously archaic at the time.

        2. I have not encountered any problems with immigrants understanding our liturgical English texts — in fact, immigrants are more capable of understanding certain basic concepts (such as why we use thee/thou and ye/you for 2 person singular and plural pronouns) because they match the realities of their own vernacular and liturgical languages, where there is a most useful distinction between second person singular and plural. English stands virtually alone as a language with no such distinction — unless one uses liturgical English, with the thee/thou and ye/you pronouns and corresponding verb forms.

        3. The level of comprehension of liturgical English texts is extremely high for those competent in modern English — this is because liturgical English is a part of a family called “early modern English.” It is not “Old English,” as some ignorantly call it (cf. Beowulf for an actual example). It is far more comprehensible to a literate Russian immigrant than is Church Slavonic — or so I have been told by those who would know from experience.

        4. If we are going to say that modern intelligibility for immigrants is the goal, then first abolish Church Slavonic and liturgical Greek (beginning in the “old countries”), and change everything into their modern equivalents. Only after that should we be going on a crusade for “modern English” in our liturgical services for the sake of non-native English speakers.

        5. Traditional liturgical English is actually a quite good corollary to Church Slavonic and liturgical Greek — which exist for a reason. Just as modern services are composed into Church Slavonic and liturgical Greek, not modern vernacular Russian and Greek (or whatever), so translators have been translating into a basically stable form of liturgical English for at least 400 years. What was translated 400 years ago and what is translated today are mutually intelligible, although things have of course evolved slowly. A Byzantine chanter would be able to read and understand services composed in Greek today, but would not comprehend a modern Greek newspaper, for instance, even when accounting for new vocabulary.

        6. All liturgical language is artificial and archaic — this is the nature of liturgy. Here is an example: we sing “Blessed art Thou, O Lord.” Archaic? absolutely, but also perfectly intelligible to anyone who speaks English at a modest level. So the modernizers in the OCA and elsewhere change it to “Bles-sed are you, O Lord.” Oh, really? Who actually talks like that? Nobody. Wrong pronunciation, wrong word order. So how about “you are blessed (pronounced “blest”), O Lord?” Closer, but still archaic, since the vocative “O” dropped out of English usage long ago. So, “you are blest, Lord?” Closest yet, but the vast majority of native English speakers would put the person being addressed first: “Lord, you are blessed (blest).” But of course we have worked our way into a corner, since any native English speaker would understand this to mean that someone is blessing the Lord (if you can find a modern who even understands or accepts the concept of “blessed” or “blessing.” By modernizing it, the meaning actually has now changed to where it no longer means what the original text says. It would actually be more accurate to evolve the phrase into “Lord, you da’ man.” Dynamic equivalence, yes, but actually the closest of the “modern” examples I have given so far.

        When we accept that some level of archaic usage is necessary to convey what are, by modern lights, archaic and foreign concepts, the whole idea that thee/thou and ye/you must be sacrificed on the altar of modernism is shown for the small-minded silliness that it is — especially when that sacrifice destroys the possibility of clearly and accurately translating the second person pronouns that are found in the Greek and Slavonic originals.

        Call it what it is — Protestants and liberal Catholics have been destroying their liturgical language heritage for more than half a century, and I can bear witness to the fact that these retranslations done purportedly for the sake of “intelligibility” have been used to drive whole Mac trucks full of modernizations/liberalizations of meaning into the sanctuaries of those churches. Modern thinking Orthodox theologues don’t want to be left out, and are copycatting away, as this type always does (cf. Robert Arida), without an original bone in their bodies. Logic, tradition, the Orthodox heritage of liturgical language, stability of a language of theology and prayer — all of these are on the side of traditional liturgical English. Throw it all out if you will, but lets be honest about what is really going on — a desire to fit in with the modern Protestant and Catholic scenes, and we faithful are expected to go along with the cocktail party agenda.

        I may have to accept it, but I won’t accept the superficial and facile arguments made by the proponents, most of whom know little about the heritage of the English language. One of our illustrious members, on another forum, recently proceeded to make embarrassingly ignorant comments about the KJV and Coverdale, things that I as someone with no pretenses of being a “translator” could explain off the top of my head without cracking a book.

        Father, I know you didn’t ask for any of that — your intentions are honorable and, on the surface, understandable — but you have been sold a bill of goods…

        • The style was even self-consciously archaic at the time.

          Indeed. And in fact, elements of the original Greek liturgical texts were self-consciously archaic at the time they were written.

          For example, as the excellent Introduction in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery Menaion explains, the poetic and often punny verses in the Synaxarion were written in Homeric Greek—which was ancient even in the time of the Fathers. For us, it would be analogous to the proto-English of Beowulf.

          All that to say: Using a traditional form of the modern language is a universal tradition in Christian liturgy. It’s not unique to English and it’s not unique to our era.

          The fact is that language evolves quickly. A book written in contemporary prose from the 1940s will seem a bit dated. It is futile to try to translate such a vast library of liturgical material into the language of 2015, because in 2065 it will seem dated.

          The better solution is to choose a timeless form of the language that is still perfectly intelligible, as KJV/Elizabethan/”liturgical” English is. While it takes a little more effort, its conventions are fixed and it will stand the test of time.

          Not to mention that, when speaking of the Trinity, as well as groups of saints, it is extremely helpful to have the thou/you distinction.

        • lexcaritas says

          Thank you, Edward. These are a number of the points I would also like to have made, but not so well as you have. Forgive me, too, for having referred early to “Elizabethan English”. I actually meant what you did by “liturgical English.”

          Fr. Deacon Patrick, I appreciated your reference to “have showed” as in Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? ” For :”liturgical English” it seems to me either “showed” or “shown” will do.

          By the way, Edward, one can hardly disagree that the vocative “O” has pretty much dropped out of use (as a fully pronounce “O”u, but then it doesn’t have to be over pronounced, and when thought of *used or heard) as a very short, almost silent breath before the vocative noun to follow, it’s still present today in certain situations of urgency, compassion, sorrow, comfort and request.

          Christ is in our midst,

          • I don’t know about anyone else, but I find the lack of the vocative “O” very odd in modern-translation liturgical hymns. Things just don’t read right without it. “You, O Lord” is better than “You, Lord.”

          • Monk James says

            Ages says: January 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm

            I don’t know about anyone else, but I find the lack of the vocative “O” very odd in modern-translation liturgical hymns. Things just don’t read right without it. “You, O Lord” is better than “You, Lord.”


            Since English has very few markers for grammatical cases and tenses, and since pronouns now have but three cases while nouns have a single case marker for the possessive only, the language depends entirely on word order and syntax to make sense.

            So the exclusion of the vocative marker ‘O’ is normative for our contemporary idiom: except for sarcasm, exaggeration, or comedic effect, it went the way of all inflections which have fallen into disuse. That doesn’t mean that the vocative sense is gone, though, any more than the nominative or objective sense is gone now that their forms are identical. We just need to keep the words in their proper order.

            Here are a couple of examples:
            a. Thou, O Lord, didst create all things in wisdom.
            b. You, Lord, created all things in wisdom.
            c. Lord, You created all things in wisdom.

            In this set, a is not well represented by b, even though it preserves a’s word order. On the other hand, c does a better job of it because contemporary English doesn’t want the vocative to interrupt the statement.

            This construction is more malleable than it might at first seem. Consider these examples:
            d. …but Thou, O Lord, hast delivered me from mine enemies.
            e. …but You, Lord, delivered me from my enemies.
            f. …but You delivered me from my enemies, Lord.

            Here, the statement is one of contrast. emphasizing the Lord’s fidelity as distinguished from the perfidy of my foes, and that emphasis is better rendered by e’s interrupting the statement than by f’s separation of ‘but You’ and Lord’. This is not to say that f is not, on balance, an accurate modernization, but only that it misses the thrust of the archaic form.

            I hope that ‘Ages’ might be a little more gruntled now that it’s clear that the vocative case remains in force even without the ‘O’.

          • Monk James says

            lexcaritas says: January 13, 2015 at 1:25 pm

            Thank you, Edward. These are a number of the points I would also like to have made, but not so well as you have. Forgive me, too, for having referred early to “Elizabethan English”. I actually meant what you did by “liturgical English.”

            Fr. Deacon Patrick, I appreciated your reference to “have showed” as in Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? ” For :”liturgical English” it seems to me either “showed” or “shown” will do.

            By the way, Edward, one can hardly disagree that the vocative “O” has pretty much dropped out of use (as a fully pronounce “O”u, but then it doesn’t have to be over pronounced, and when thought of *used or heard) as a very short, almost silent breath before the vocative noun to follow, it’s still present today in certain situations of urgency, compassion, sorrow, comfort and request.

            Well, here’s one of those situations where the vocative ‘O’ is a practical necessity, so we don’t have the prophet speaking street talk such as ‘Didn’t the Lord show you that, man?!’

            ‘Showed’ is a simple past-tense form. The perfect participle ‘shown’ must now be used in all perfect tenses with forms of ‘have’, in both active- and passive-voice constructions.

            BTW: The Greek 70’s orthodox text is a bit different from the AV’s rendering adduced here:
            ‘Did He (the LORD) not make known to you, O man, what is good? Or what the LORD requires of you, but to do justice and to love mercy and to be ready to walk with the LORD, your God?

      • Michael Bauman says

        Modern English is without the necessary elements to adequately support either the theology, the poetry or the mystery of a the liturgical/sacramental prayers of the Church. Modern English is fast becoming a cess-pool of nonsense.

        • Michael Bauman says: January 12, 2015 at 9:27 pm

          Modern English is without the necessary elements to adequately support either the theology, the poetry or the mystery of a the liturgical/sacramental prayers of the Church. Modern English is fast becoming a cess-pool of nonsense.


          That’s just about the boldest and most gratuitous statement I’ve ever yet seen regarding our native language.

          FWIW, I notice that only the AV/KJV has men drinking their own ‘piss’ in 2 Kings and somebody who ‘pisseth’ on a wall in Samuel. Not a single one of the more contemporary versions in English employs what is now reliably and well considered to be a vulgarity. That’s only one of the many examples of distasteful and ambiguous vocabulary for which the AV is unsuitable for orthodox use. The AV’s incompatibility with the Greek 70 is actually a more serious reason to avoid it, but its inaccuracies continue even into the New Testament.

          It’s a truism in linguistics that languages don’t devolve, they just change. (I might make an exception for Modern Greek, considering how much that idiom lost over centuries of the Tourkokrateia.)

          More archaic languages tend to have many more grammatical cases and complicated structures than more modern ones. (Consider the differences between contemporary Lithuanian and Russian structures, or even English, for instance).

          But Modern English, from Shakespeare to our own time, is as capable of all the subtlety and precision and esthetics as is any other language, even its own earlier forms (Beowulf, Chaucer). It all depends on the skill of translators and editors, poets and musicians, all collaborating for the glory of God and the edification of the Body of Christ.

          • Michael Bauman says

            I mean, like really dude, how, you know, like how modernnnn do you want to, like you know want to get? I mean like wasn’t that Trinity thing a real like awesome or what?

        • Sean Richardson says

          I’m sorry to disagree with you, but modern English contains more words than any other language in the history of the world, and it has more ways to describe things, and perhaps this is the problem, there are actually choices. English includes many great pieces of literature and music (remember, Handel’s “Messiah” was written in English) and this idea that only in modified ancient Greek or old Slavonic can meaning and poetry be found is just wrong. My language is now and has always been English. I love it and have found that there are many poets, writers and lyricists who capture the depth and meaning of our human condition in English.

          • Michael Bauman says

            The point being that the depth of English, its beauty and its poetry is largely ignored and forgotten by moderns. We face the task of both recovering the depth and beauty of the English language AND the task of diving more deeply into the faith.

            For instance until we reach an understanding of the nous spiritually, we will always translate it with a small paragraph.

            Much of the English culture vitiates against an Orthodox understanding of the Trinity so our translations suffer modern or not. English has become a thoroughly non-traditional language. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that is what ‘modern’ English is, at least as I understand the term.

            Then there is the question of euphony.

        • what language are you using? says

          Utter rubbish

          • Michael Bauman says

            Perhaps the problem lies in what we considered modern. Handel’s Messiah is certainly not modern in my eyes. Currently used English has many words but more and more it is being dumbed down and increasingly defined by materialistic, scientistic, legalistic and licentious parameters and even simple words that accurately describe everyday situations are largely not comprehended by most, especially in the younger generations.

            To just ‘translate’ into so-called modern English is lazy and unless it is accompanied by a much deeper exploration of the faith AND our language it will produce dull and boring texts that are stripped of much of their meaning. Whatever English is used, it will not be understood by everyone because it will have to be ‘higher’ in quality, meaning, value and euphony. It should be reached for and include words that one has to look-up and meanings that puzzle the mind but enliven the heart.

            Any full translation will, of necessity, involve a great deal of grace. Like painting an icon it cannot be done well by everyone–even good artists cannot always paint icons well.

  3. Theophany Cancelled says

    On the right hand side of the webpage at http://www.stnicholasdc.org/

    Tuesday, January 6th
    10:00 AM – Liturgy (E,S) LITURGY CANCELED

    7:00 PM – Vigil (S)
    Nativity (Old Calendar)

    Wednesday, January 7th
    10:00 AM Liturgy (S)
    Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
    (Old Calendar)

  4. Monk James says

    We must always pay attention to the grammar of the original language in which our hymns were composed. BTW: It’s not always Greek.

    In the text adduced here, there’s missing a seriously important appreciation of the present- tense-passive dative absolute in the original greek text which is consistently missed in every translation into English. Some other grammatical points are usually missed, too, especially the meaning and tenses of participles.

    So I offer this:

    In the Jordan, as You were being baptized, Lord,
    the worship of the Trinity was revealed.
    For the voice of the Father, bearing witness to You,
    was naming You His most beloved Son.
    And the Spirit, in the appearance of a dove,
    confirmed the truth of His word.
    You were revealed, Christ (our) God.
    And, having enlightened the world,
    glory to You!l

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      The WORSHIPof the Trinity, however, was NOT revealed. nor did it take place at Christ’s baptism. Rather, the TRINITY was revealed, and THAT is the message of that troparipn< GOD was revealed and not His worship.

      • Vladyka Tikhon, what then is the proper translation of “ἡ τῆς Τριάδος ἐφανερώθη προσκύνησις” or “Тро́ическое яви́ся поклоне́ние?”

        I quite agree that the Trinity was revealed, but the troparion, for whatever reason, seems to emphasize that the particular way in which that took place on this feast was through making manifest the worship of the Trinity, and that Trinitarian worship emanates in some special way from this specific event.

        Both Rdr. Isaac Lambertson’s translation and the Jordanville Horologion translation translate that phrase in the same way as the standard OCA translation.

        Or perhaps I’m missing a subtlety in your point.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          I believe Bishop Tikhon is correct. The Trinity was revealed, but not its worship. I would translate the word προσκύνησις, given the overall context, as “Awe” or “Veneration.”

          Narthax Press actually goes with “Veneration.”

          Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the veneration of the Trinity was revealed. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved, and the Spirit, in the guise of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world. -Translation by Narthex Press

          However, I would still go with “Awe” in the sense of a profound emotion inspired by a deity or the revealing of said deity, which is what the context of the Lord’s Theophany was all about. When one is in Awe he or she automatically bows one’s head, if not one’s whole body, in reverence. Again the Trinity was revealed, but NOT its worship NOR, IMHO its Veneration. Thus, given the context of the entire passage and episode of Our Lord’s Baptism it is better to go with the word “Awe.”

          If we had the Trinity revealed to us would we not be in Awe and do Obeisance?

          Bishop Tikhon is correct.


        • M. Stankovich says

          The Greek text says:

          ἡ τῆς Τριάδος [of the Trinity] ἐφανερώθη [to make manifest, v.] προσκύνησις [adoration,n.]

          The use of manifest as a “public” declaration is distinguished from “the older Greek notion of “made known,” which was associated with “making famous,” and was replaced as early as the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea and St. Basil the Great. I think the translation is fairly straightforward.

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          I didn’t mean to criticize the translation; however I should have thought that at our Lord’s Baptism the (our) worship of the Trinity was made understandable rather than manifested.

      • Michael Bauman says

        When God reveals Himself is not worship the proper response?

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          That’s the proper response. Michael B., but no Evangelist mentioned ANY WORSHIP of the Trinity at Christ’s Baptism PERIOD. It was an appearance of God, an epiphany of the TRINITY—not worship of Him that was shown or made manifest

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            I agree. The word used does mean ‘Worship” per se, but if you do not look at the entire context then the meaning of the word changes. Again, where was the Worship revealed? Nowhere, thus, another meaning must be reached to fit the context of the entire event. Otherwise we are being bone literal when we do not have to be.

            Just my 2 cents.


    • M. Stankovich says

      This is a convoluted mess. Who could possibly sing this or begin to consider this “hymnography?” It is ridiculous. We honour St. Romonos as a “melodist,” St. John of Damascus as a “hymnographer,” and St. Symeon the New Theologian as a “poet/hymnographer .” This is foolishness.

      • I have to agree with Dr. Stankovich — Monk James has outdone himself with this one. Possibly accurate enough, but singable? Hardly. I like to think of myself as someone who can get the generic Russian melodies to fit almost any text in a way that is reasonably musical and intelligible, but after giving it quite a few tries, I have come to the conclusion that this translation is unsingable.

        • Rdr Thomas says

          I believe Fr. James’ intentions were good. The core of the problem is that English dropped many of the declensions necessary to render concepts in few words. As a result, English has gotten more verbose. It’s one of the reasons that I personally feel we should still be using the “archaic” forms of English (the “thee/thou” forms instead of “you/who” forms).

        • I would argue there is value in having some kind of “Young’s Literal Translation” version of some of our hymns to help communicate that which is missed in the process of translation. But those texts should not be used liturgically.

        • Monk James says

          Edward says: January 12, 2015 at 7:04 pm

          I have to agree with Dr. Stankovich — Monk James has outdone himself with this one. Possibly accurate enough, but singable? Hardly. I like to think of myself as someone who can get the generic Russian melodies to fit almost any text in a way that is reasonably musical and intelligible, but after giving it quite a few tries, I have come to the conclusion that this translation is unsingable.


          The rendering of the Theophany apolytikion which I offered here was not intended to be sung, but merely to point in the direction of accuracy in translation and fidelity to the original greek text, qualities which are often lacking in english-language versions of our hymns.

          Speaking of russian chant melodies — and there are many systems of them not only for the Oktoekhos but for special hymns (automelons, idiomelons, prosomoions) as well — I noticed many years ago that it was possible to sing gospodi vozzvakh( ‘Lord, I cry’) to the tune of ‘Stenka Razin’. Very flexible they are, those russian tones….

          • I can buy the idea of literal translations that are for educational demonstration purposes only. I apologize and retract the criticism. I wonder, then, why you don’t use thee, thou, ye, and you, since they allow for precision of translating pronouns. Jus askin…

            And could you add a “not intended for liturgical consumption” warning label next time?

            • M. Stankovich says

              What in heaven’s name is an “apolytikion not intended to be sung?” A convoluted mess. Moving along…

              I had the opportunity to mess around with an astonishing artificial communication and translation program in the university computer language lab in December, and I was floored in amazement. It’s task was to interview me, and my task was to trick it into admitting it was not a human. Great fun, great frustration. The most amazing aspect, however, was language translation. It’s conversational French was superb. It’s nuance for translating English idiomatic expressions and ability for abstract thinking (important in psychiatry because altered mental status is often characterized by “one-dimensional,” concrete thinking) was really good. Nevertheless, in asking it to translate the classic French poem, Le Corbeau et le Renard (The Crow & the Fox), for example:

              Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché
              Master Crow perched on a tree

              Tenait en son bec un fromage.
              Was holding a cheese in his beak.

              Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché,
              Master Fox attracted by the smell

              Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
              Said something [to him] like this:

              No way! No metre, No rhyme. No feeling. “That’s not poetry.” “But it’s correct.” Hmm…

              “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) We need to cultivate translators who are hymnographers & poets, not just choir directors and church musicians. As I have seen, machines are more than competent to provide us with accurate translations that are empty, cold, concrete, and heartless. Certainly the translations need to accurate – and so much of these arguments regarding “thee, thou, and you” are frequently overcome with time and repetition – but they must be singable and beautiful. Patriarch Alexei I of Moscow told his priests and choir directors that the faithful do not desire the “operatic arias” of this world, but the hymnography and music that touches the soul, opens the heart, and leads to the Kingdom which is to come. This is the “task” of translation.”

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                I agree 100%.

              • Monk James says

                M. Stankovich (among other things) says January 16, 2015 at 10:18 am:

                We need to cultivate translators who are hymnographers & poets, not just choir directors and church musicians.

                This is a bit unreasonable.

                As we’ve been reading lately in the Letter of James, each and all of us have different gifts, different divinely bestowed talents. It would be a wonderful thing if all the skills necessary for perfect translations of our scriptural and liturgical texts could be found in a single human person, but that’s almost certainly not going to happen.

                Instead, we should rejoice in the talents we recognize in each other, and all work together in a synergy which will bring glory to God and edify The Church, Christ’s own Body and Bride.

                It’s a shame that I can’t reproduce here my flow chart suggesting a process of translation, but the gist of it is that it moves in several stages involving different people all along the way. Here’s the chain of events:

                1. accurate translation from source texts
                2. competent editing for style, flow, literary values
                3. review by the original translators to assure that meanings remain accurately rendered
                4. assessment by musicians for adaptability to chant patterns, sonority, sense phrasing, etc.
                5. performance testing at seminaries and other places for practical concerns (singability, intelligibility, pastoral impact, etc.)
                6. finished work offered to episcopal synods and other authorities along with rationales (if needed) for departures from whatever’s out there now
                7. development of funds for publishing (everyone in the process so far is not paid)
                8. publication by competent church authorities

  5. Ashley Nevins says

    George, I know of no other way to contact you. I have found something that could potentially be the cutting edge of Orthodoxy in America at the OCL website. It is something I have wanted to see happen for years. Yes, I have concerns for it and I state them there at the comment section under the article. At the same time it is encouraging to see this outstanding breakthrough if it is what it says that it is.

    You strike me as someone who wants to be encouraging to your church even in the circumstances it is found in and that make it extremely difficult to find things encouraging. This is that and like nothing I have ever seen before in Orthodoxy. For me to say something like that must mean I am deeply impressed and so far I am. As you know I am not easily impressed and that is an understatement.

    It is called, SEEDS OF HOPE. It will speak for itself when you read it and its well worth the time to read it. I promise and all of my promises to the Orthodox come true. All of them.

    I love the Matthew 20:25-26 comparison it makes! It is astounding! It is about time the comparison is made by the Orthodox! This is modern church that is relevancy! It is exciting to see for the first time!

    George, if this is what it says it is then I HAVE THE MOST PROFOUND RESPECT FOR IT and you get my drift in the saying of that. There are two different kinds of respect, one of the corrupt and one for God over the corrupt. If this is what it says it is then it is worthy of Gods right kind of respect and needs to be fully supported by the Orthodox who want to see their church change from the state it is in.

    If you would like to have a private dialogue about it you have my email address. You have yet to experience a different Ashley and this brings it out while church corruption brings out something else in me, uncompromising confrontation of known church corruption and the rulers that lead that corruption. This has huge potential in paradigm shifting your church, but it will take time to develop and unfold. I hope it works. I really prayerfully do hope Seeds of Hope works.

    Orthodoxy in America is basically in a hopeless state and this is Gods hope come to your church if it is what it says it is. The more the Orthodox develop ministries to the Orthodox like this the more they will find correction and possibly stop their demographic implosion here. Then if they turn such ministry outward to the communities they exist in they will become more relevant.

    The Orthodox are searching for solution and this is potentially one of the solutions. It could be a starting point.

    I am at first look excited about this development but at the same time very cautious about it.

    Orthodox, pray that Seeds of Hope works and that it is what it says it is.

  6. When “thou’s” and “thee’s” were used in English, they were considered the informal form of the 2nd person pronoun. “You” was considered formal. This differed in different parts of England, for it wasn’t until later in history did a certain dialect of English became the standard dialect that everyone used. That dialect is the one we use here in the US, albeit with our particular Americanisms added to it.

    Now in modern English, the formal and informal 2nd person pronoun distinction has been lost, and “you” remains the only form, for both formal and informal.

    Other languages, such as the Romance languages, retain that distinction. However, the 2nd person pronoun form they use when addressing God is the informal form. For example in Spanish, the formal is “usted” and the informal is “tu”. When praying and doing the services in Spanish, one uses the informal “tu” when addressing God. So when we say “thou” or “thee”, we are in fact using the informal, not the formal.

    All that being said, ultimately, there needs to be a standard translation across all jurisdictions, and any translations we make need be done by faithful Orthodox Christians, and should not be done to try to appease or copy the secular world around us, as the OCA seems to be trying to do.

    • The formal/informal distinction was a relatively late development. I am unaware of a single example in the classic liturgical texts (KJV, Coverdale, BCP) that use thee/thou vs ye/you in any way other than distinguishing between singular and plural — replicating the distinction in Greek.

      In any event you are correct that no reverence directed toward a specific person is implied by the use of thou. Cf. “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

      • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        I agree. It does sound odd, perhaps because we don’t often address people that way unless we’re taking them to task. We don’t have the panegyric tradition of the ancients, who were accustomed to heaping exaggerated praise on superiors; we have instead the invective tradition of heaping abuse on enemies. We’re more likely to say, “You, sir, are a pompous ass,” than, “You, sir, are a scholar and a gentleman.” We say, “You idiot!” but not, “You genius!” We are less pointed with our compliments: We say, “You handled that very well, Mr. President,” not “You, Mr. President, handled that very well.”

    • Rdr. Daniel Kowalcheck says

      annoyed said:
      All that being said, ultimately, there needs to be a standard translation across all jurisdictions, and any translations we make need be done by faithful Orthodox Christians, and should not be done to try to appease or copy the secular world around us, as the OCA seems to be trying to do.

      A standard translation across jurisdictions would be great in theory, although I have no hope whatsoever that it would be in beautiful, traditional liturgical English, especially if it was by a pan-jurisdictional committee.

      Perhaps the OCA was copying the secular world and trying to relate to it, and the relaxing of some of the music language on the OCA website will attest to that. It is always a chore to scratch out the modern language and replace with the traditional in the Tropar/Kondak section, so it will at least flow with the rest of the appointed Resurrectional (SVS) ones.

      But to be fair since last Fall, oca.org has been offering “Thou/Thy” versions of the Texts for liturgical services. Moreover, the liturgical publications coming out of STS Press for some time have been in Revised Liturgical English (RLE) – bringing all 2nd person pronouns into consistent traditional English. Also, the recent release of the Hieratikon from STS Press, the excellent work of Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak), and Dr. Vitaly Permiakov, is based off of+Basil’s excellent Liturgikon. From all (admittedly limited) accounts, it has been well-received. If a standard translation in America is desired, it will probably be a case of cream rising to the top and given the “Amen” of the people (and clergy) instead of some committee’s work that few will like.

      I agree with the other posters here that say the Orthodox Church need not go the same route of the innumerable Protestant churches and even the Catholic Church in modernizing the language to appeal to the age. We see exactly how that has worked out for them. Efforts like +Basil’s Liturgikon (well-respected translation across many jurisdictions) and the collaborative (not committee) Hieratikon are great examples of elevated yet intelligible English.

      It’s also interesting that just coming out of the Nativity Season, I noticed how many traditional English (American) Christmas carols use a more traditional English (not necessarily Elizabethan). To be honest, I’ve never even thought about it before, but never in my life have I heard a complaint about “O come all ye faithful”, etc. Yet these carols have withstood the test of time, remaining relatively unchanged for hundreds of years in some cases.

      • Monk James says

        While I hate to rain on Daniel Kowalcheck’s parade, his otherwise reasonable post suggests to me that he is unaware that Bp Basil Essy originally cast his Liturgikon in contemporary English.

        Constraints of time and the demands of the publisher’s production schedules made it necessary for BpB to wrap up the project more hastily than he would have referred, and so he drew psalm quotes from Holy Transfiguration Monastery’s ‘Boston’ psalter, and modified the rest of the text to conform to that book’s archaic usage.

        The fact that the tortured language and inaccuracies of the ‘Boston’ psalter and the archaisms grafted into BpB’s Liturgikon suit some people’s tastes should not be taken as any sort of metric of general acceptance, but merely as an opportunity for those who prefer archaic language to have the sort of books they like.

        On the other hand, we’re left wondering: If BpB’s eminently useful book had indeed been published in our contemporary idiom with accurately rendered psalms — nothing else like it in print — would it have achieved the same popularity as it enjoys now even with its archaisms and mistranslated psalms?

        This is a rhetorical question, one which can not be answered by proponents of either style. Just something to ponder.

        • An apocryphal story, I suspect, from an “expert” who has yet to be able to point to a single published work of translation (I have invited him numerous times to point to one that I can buy.). And yet we are expected to take his word for it that he is a peer of the published translators he savages. How convenient that he can pillory the hard work and accomplishments of others (e.g. the Boston Psalter translators) with impunity, while we have no similar opportunity to comb through his own published works, looking for inaccuracies and infelicities.

          • M. Stankovich says


            We couldn’t be speaking of the same Infelicity, my lab partner in Human Anatomy, the woman of my dreams? Pardon me! That was Felicity. What was I thinking? Point, however, was well taken. Please leave a comment at my website with your email address. I would like to speak with you.

            • I’m afraid I don’t know what your website is — I seem to remember you linking to it at one point and my reading some of your posts, but I’ve forgotten what it was called. At one point, the woman of my dreams was also Felicity — Kendall, that is. Never got tired of watching her on “Good Neighbors” (or “The Good Life” as they called it in Britain). Of course when I met my future wife, poor Felicity faded and paled by comparison!

          • Monk James says

            Edward says: January 22, 2015 at 1:52 am

            An apocryphal story, I suspect, from an “expert” who has yet to be able to point to a single published work of translation (I have invited him numerous times to point to one that I can buy.). And yet we are expected to take his word for it that he is a peer of the published translators he savages. How convenient that he can pillory the hard work and accomplishments of others (e.g. the Boston Psalter translators) with impunity, while we have no similar opportunity to comb through his own published works, looking for inaccuracies and infelicities.


            No one else is being punished for writing here, so I suppose my relative ‘impunity’ isn’t anything special.
            I regret that our correspondent finds my disappointment in the ‘Boston’ psalter and other books so irritating. The odd thing about HTM’s liturgical books is that they are arguably the most beautiful available in English of any kind. (The physical BOOKS, not their convoluted language!)

            While I don’t know for sure, I’m going to guess that ‘Edward’ is describing my report of Bp Basil Essey’s pre-publication adventures as he worked to pull together his Liturgikon.as ‘apocryphal’.

            In any event, here the reader can be certain that this is a true account of a telephone conversation I had with him shorty after the book appeared in print.

            Anyone who is sincerely concerned about the truth of my words could always contact BpB and spare all of us his personal attacks on me.

            • What I suspect may or may not be true — that is what the word “suspect” means. Perhaps Bp. Basil prefers the language of the Living Bible for all I know. All I know is what he has actually published and what was standard usage in the Antiochians before him and remains so after his published works. Those translations of his are now being incorporated into publications by STS Press — crossing jurisdictional lines.

              Regarding your impunity compared to other posters, my point was, of course, a simple one: you do not represent yourself as just any poster, but rather as an expert translator who is particularly qualified to critique the published translations of others. Claims of expertise should be able to be validated and evaluated — in the case of translations, by pointing to published translations. Not that complicated.

              • Monk James says

                It seems to me that our anonymous ‘Edward’ might better consult Bp Basil on this matter before we discuss it again here. The relative acceptability of BpB’s Liturgikonmight be — as I mentioned earlier — a coincidence of timing and cannot be adduced as any sort of universal approbation of its style, merely of its undeniable utility.

                My personal efforts are largely not in print. My task isn’t to publish, but to collaborate after I screen and verify the meaning of our source texts, primarily in the psalms, which form the motherlode of our services.

                Just for the record, I have provided here my renderings of Psalms 50 and 117, both of which are seriously mistranslated nearly everywhere else. This is a major problem for us, considering how frequently they are used in the services.

                Perhaps ‘Edward’ can revisit those, and post a review of them here.

                And then we’ll talk.

                • M. Stankovich says

                  I’ve reviewed your translation of Psalm 50 posted here, and it suffers from the similar “mechanical” style of your “not-intended-to-be-sung” Liturgical translation, that offers no dramatic corrections in translation I can see, and in my estimation needlessly – and pointlessly – distracts from the translations to which so many have become accustomed. And most importantly, are merely “quibbling” over the thesaurus. Some examples:

                  Both the KJV & RSV consistently translate the word ἀνόμημά as “transgression” (e.g. “cleanse me of my [τὸ ἀνόμημά] my transgression…”; “for I know my transgression [ὅτι τὴν ἀνομίαν μου]…” etc.). Technically, going as far back as Diodorus of Sicily (430 BC), ἀνόμημά implied transgression of the law. It was understood. Why impose a change in the text of not only one, but two traditional renderings by referring to it as “lawlessness”, leading to an awkward sentence?

                  You have taken the phrase, generally translated “You will make me hear joy and gladness, the afflcted/broken [ἀγαλλιάσονται ὀστέα τεταπεινωμένα] bones will/shall rejoice,” and turned it into “humiliated bones,” whatever in heaven’s name that might mean And likewise, “My tongue [ἡ γλῶσσά μου] will rejoice in Your righteousness!” In the first case, the word used is τεταπεινωμένα which literally means “humbled, or made lowly” but these are terms understood purely in a moral sense; i.e. suggesting that the “core” of David’s being – not his bones – is “humbled” before God. This word is frequently used by St. Chrysostom & St. Basil the Great to convey this concept. And it is clearly distinguished from “A broken spirit is a sacrifice to God [θυσία τῷ Θεῷ πνεῦμα συντετριμμένον] where the final verb literally means to “crush into dust,” or to make jelly.”

                  In the second case, “[ἡ γλῶσσά μου] my tongue” is clearly understood to mean, not the “organ of speech,” but rather the “word of mouth,” “by the heart,” and finally “not from mere word of mouth, but after full argument.” It carries a deep, thoughtful, and sincere praise deliverance rendered in full speech.

                  And finally, I take exception to the “laundering” of the cry of David, having been confronted by the Prophet Nathaniel with his sin in all its detail before God and men, you would have him cry: “Rescue me from bloodshed, God, God of my salvation!” The LXX text says αἱμάτων which refers to blood, and even bloodshed, but in its very ancient understanding, anyone who heard this particular term understood it as murder. And if you did not know the sin of David to that point, his cry to God for deliverance/redemption [ρῦσαί] explained everything!

                  I say again, there is a life and a breath to this Psalm – and translation in general – that is entirely missed if you simply focus on the mechanics. This ability is a great gift from God, and I pray for those so talented.

                  • Monk James says

                    It appears that Michael Stankovich would prefer an editorial rendering rather than a translation, but that is the task of homilists, not of translators. Such comments as he offers here are better suited for footnotes.

                    In addition, it seems that MS strained out some of the tiny gnats which annoyed him in my rendering of Psalm 50, but swallowed entire camels by failing to notice the major differences in the nature of human sinfulness brought forward by a correct translation such as mine.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      When it comes to translating the Biblical texts into English two concerns immediately come to mind:

                      1.) What text to use, and
                      2.) What English form to use.

                      As to the first question Orthodox have continuously used the Septuagint for the Old Testament and the Traditional Greek Byzantine-Text-Type for the Greek New Testament. Most Orthodox Churches have adopted the Patriarchal Greek New Testament text of 1904/1912. However, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Professor I. D. Karavidopoulos, who was one of the critical editor’s of the 27th Edition Nestle-Alan Greek New Testament, have both expressed the idea that a NEW CRITICAL EDITION of the Greek New Testament needs to be undertaken. Prof. Karavidopoulos states:

                      The Church has journeyed through history for twenty centuries, producing theology and creating civilisation with important works of art. It confronted heresies on the one hand, while on the other it nourished its members with hymns, rituals of worship, and teachings, leading them to holiness. All these have been accomplished despite any kind of differences among biblical manuscripts, despite the omissions and imperfections of copyists, and despite the errors occurring later in printed editions.

                      As the word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), sustaining the consequences of human nature (albeit “without sin”, according to Hebrews 4:15), in this way also the words of the Son and Logos of God taking the form of human language and being written down in manuscripts sustained the consequences of human weakness. The frequently tired copyists of the manuscripts (monks or people living in the world) sometimes made errors unconsciously, while at other times they consciously “improved” the text on the basis of their own philological knowledge.

                      Nevertheless, the above theological position towards the imperfections of the manuscripts neither excuses nor justifies the negligence or indifference of contemporary editors of the New Testament. Neither does it constitute a reason for us today to avoid a serious occupation with the publication of a carefully studied text of the Holy Scriptures with its variant readings which constitute a part of the ecclesiastical tradition. A critical edition of the ecclesiastical text is not useless scholasticism, but it is an expression of our love for the word of God.

                      There is an urgent need today for a new edition of the New Testament—a critical edition at this time—100 years and more after the first basic edition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which was created without a critical apparatus (apparatus criticus) of the ecclesiastical or liturgical text of the New Testament (i.e. the Byzantine text as referred to by foreign scholars). This new edition will consider as many manuscripts as possible. In other words, it will have a broader basis of manuscripts that did the 1904 edition.

                      as far as the Old Testament is concerned we have two text types to choose from: Hebrew/Massoretic & Greek/Septuagint. Ideally we should be translating the Hebrew, but being that the Hebrew text type that underlies the Septuagint is different from the current Hebrew text that we have, as evidenced by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint still gives us as great window into that Pre-Massoretic world. However there are still problems and/or issue in translating the underlying biblical text of the LXX vis-a-vis the Hebrew. Take Psalms 95(96 MT):5 for example, which reads: “All the gods of the Pagans are Demons.” The “issue” is with the word “Demon.”

                      Here is an explanation of this phrase and word “demon” from an eminent LXX and Biblical scholar and translator, which I will not name as he has not given me permission to so:

                      On Dec 1, 2014, at 6:22 PM, Peter Papoutsis wrote:

                      > Hi XXXX
                      > I hope all is well with you and yours and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and some needed time off. I have a question about Psalm 95:5. In the Septuagint the word used at the end of verse 5 to describe the gods of the heathen/people is δαιμόνια (demons). However, in the Hebrew the term is “elilim” which means “worthless” and which some translations translate this term as “Idols.”
                      > Am I missing something? Is the LXX more of a commentary in this area or were the LXX translators confused? Some commentators say that the word “elilim” sounds almost like “elohim,” but that would be “gods” not “demons” unless they equated them with the so-called Sons of God, the Fallen Angels or Watchers. I think that’s a stretch, but I don’t know. So am I missing something or is this a unique area of the LXX where it delves into commentary and departs from translation?


                      As for the Hebrew word in question, its sense is, as you say, “worthless” or such like. Commentators on the Hebrew, such as Briggs in the ICC, gloss elilim as “nothings.” In other words, rather than speaking of false gods in a descriptive manner, biblical authors often dub them useless non-entities. So, what are Greek translators to do with the word? Theorectically, they might have opted for a term of similar meaning such as achrestos or mataios. Though the latter term does occur in Zech 11:7, for Hebrew elilim, most often the translation is contextual.

                      So, 4x it is rendered by eidola (Lev 19:4; Hab 2:18; Ps 96[97]:7 = 1Chron 16:26), 5x cheiropoieta (Lev 26:1; Isa 2:18, 10:11, 19:1, 31:7), 2x bdelugmata (Isa 2:8, 20), 1x theoi (Isa 19:3), 1x mataia (Zech 11:7); 1x daimonia (Ps 95[96]:5). Eidola bespeaks the concept of unreality, cheiropoieta that of helplessness and dependence (qua gods), bdelugmata that of loathing/contempt, mataia that of uselessness. At first blush one might explain theoi as a confusion between elilim (worthlessnesses) and el (god) or elohim (God), but it is difficult to see how Isa 19:3 could use anything else than theoi. Furthermore, Isa clearly knows what elilim means.

                      That leaves daimonia in Ps 95[96]:5. To be sure, daimonia is interpretive but no more so than eidola in Ps 97:7, or any other glosses in the LXX, with the possible exception of mataia. Ps 95[96]:4-5 features a comparison between the Lord and the gods. Though in v.5 the translator might have used eidola, as he did in 96[97]:7, in that case he would have characterized the gods of the nations as phantoms/shades that lack reality. Since the reference is to “the gods of THE NATIONS” and thus in essence to the nations as political foes of Israel, it is perhaps no wonder that he opts for a characterization that signals not lack of reality but evil power instead.

                      As for the translation vs. commentary — remember the mantra: All translation is also interpretation. The question then becomes, What level of interpretation? And at what level of interpretation can one usefully speak of commentary?

                      As I noted at the beginning, Greek translators might have glossed all instances of elilim in the source text by a single equivalent lexically very similar to elilim, e.g. achrestos or mataios. Or they might have opted for a single equivalent like eidola, whether or not it always suited the context. In the LXX, in the case of elilim, we find neither option exercised. Instead it is the context, apparently, that determines lexical choice. Thus, I ‘d have no difficulty, in this case, to use terms like exegesis or commentary.

                      So you can see the line between translation and interpretation sometimes, maybe even many times, get’s crossed even in the Septuagint.

                      However, the underlying Hebrew should be our goal of ascertaining and then translating, but even then how did later generations of Jews prior to Christ’s arrival understanding these passages? This is where the Septuagint, Peshitta, Targums and even the Dead Sea Scrolls come into play.

                      We can put all of our eggs in the Septuagint basket, or we can open up the Biblical textual base and discover all the different and beautiful revelations God has given us. I personally prefer the later.

                      Finally, what form of English and what LEVEL of English should we use? Personally I like traditional English, albeit slightly modified, but Modern English is just as good and is obviously more advantageous in that that is the form of English most people use and understand. All in all everybody hear makes some very good points in regards to Biblical translation, but its the Church that must marshal its forces so she can produce an English translation that all of us can read and use in the future. Also, we should not and cannot be scared of modern biblical scholarship. It is something we need to learn, appreciate and understand that by doing so we do a service and not a diservice to our Church.

                      Take care


                  • M. Stankovich says

                    As near as I can tell, the “tongue” does not sing aloud, nor are the “bones “humiliated.” The word ἀνόμημά occurs hundreds of times in the Book of Leviticus in reference to transgressions of the law, not “lawlessness.” These are inaccuracies in translations, literally or figuratively. There is no excuse for the literal inaccuracies – particularly the “robotic” – and there is no justification for replacing words that equally correct, traditional, but not your preference. These are hardly footnotes or “homily.”

                    As for the figurative and the “laundered,” you do not seem capable of grasping the dramatic confrontation and power behind the emptying of David’s heart in Psalm 50:

                    “David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man that has done this thing shall surely die… And Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” Thus said the Lord God of Israel, “Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? you have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house; because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” (2 Sam. 12:5-12)

                    “And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (12:13) But the consequence for the man who had returned the Ark of the Covenant was that he would never see the Temple, yet, the Lord had forgiven him. He would never live to offer sacrifice in the Temple, cries out to God in joy over his deliverance, realizing “A broken spirit is a sacrifice to God.”

                    Mine is not annoyance, but pointing out to you that, while ἡ γλῶσσά μου, “my tongue” is robo-mechanically correct, the Greeks understood this to mean a voice emanating from his heart, not “waggling the organ.” Your translation may be “correct” – and I still do not see “major errors made by everyone” corrected by your version – but it is cold & lifeless.

            • Rdr. Daniel Kowalcheck says

              Monk James, you are not raining on my parade because even if what you say is true, it doesn’t change my premise that the Liturgikon is regarded by many to be one of the better liturgical publications on the current scene; and because of that, served as a model for some of the current work coming out of STS Press (with obvious differences for use in the Russian tradition). It is great to see quality works such as these coming out of various liturgical presses, and I think it bodes well for the future of Orthodoxy in America and her mission here, especially when almost all other Christian denominations are kicking tradition to the curb at ever-increasing rates.
              I was certainly unaware of your interesting narrative about +Basil’s Liturgikon as I am sure many of those who read this were also. I am not in the AOANA, but know some who are and have been, and I have not been able to verify your assertion. From all accounts he has always been a proponent of traditional liturgical language, so we would have to assume he has since changed his mind. I have met Syedna Basil myself, worshiped at services at which he presided, and have heard him preach and chant, and your story just doesn’t hold up to the man I have witnessed. Additionally, (and correct me if I’m wrong), but the Liturgikon project was funded by the Archdiocese which as Edward correctly pointed out has always used traditional language as the standard in their liturgical materials (making the pastoral exception for the EOC). Even you would have to agree that if your anecdotal evidence is true, it is very surprising.

              • No matter how surprising people might find my statement about Bp Basil Essey’s original intentions for his Liturgikon’s style, it’s pointless to discuss it here without someone’s contacting the man and asking him to confirm or deny my earlier words to you on the subject.

                No amount of inference will resolve the problem we’re discussing here.

                This question can be answered only by the two principals in the telephone conversation in which BpB told me that it had been his intention to use contemporary English, but that he was co-opted by other factors. Now that my accurate recollection of that conversation is on the record here, all that remains to be done is to ask BpB for his remembrance of it and report back to us.

                George? Anyone?

      • Rdr. Daniel:

        But to be fair since last Fall, oca.org has been offering “Thou/Thy” versions of the Texts for liturgical services. Moreover, the liturgical publications coming out of STS Press for some time have been in Revised Liturgical English (RLE) – bringing all 2nd person pronouns into consistent traditional English.

        Since the advent of English translations being introduced into churches formerly using Slavonic, there have been several “waves” of new translations. Over the years, many choirs have accumulated different English versions of the “very same” liturgical texts, set to the “very same” harmonies/melodies, BUT with variation BOTH in the scoring and the translation. Unless and until a single collection of texts supplies the needs for all parishes, the CHAOS of multiple versions of the SAME MUSIC will continue to reign supreme. Is Oca.org really doing anyone a service by offering yet another REVISION?

        • Rdr. Daniel Kowalcheck says

          OOM, oca.org is not offering another revision at all, but liturgical texts that are consistent with the traditional language of the rest of the services for the parishes/dioceses that use it.

          • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            STS Press has, in fact, revised its own Apostol to include many new phrasings and a few new words. Compare the Epistle reading for Pascha (Acts 1:1-8), and you will find a change in almost every sentence.

            Some changes are rather alarming. For example, “Remember those who rule over you” (Heb. 13:7) has become “Remember your preceptors.” Preceptors? Most English speakers won’t even know what the word means, and what it means is not what the Greek says.

            The Greek says μνημονεύετε τῶν ἡγουμένων ύμῶν. Most new translations (e.g., NIV, RSV, NRSV, NAB) render ἡγουμένων (whence hegumen) as “leaders,” but older translations say “those who have/had the rule over you.” (KJV, ASV)

            In contrast, preceptor means “teacher, instructor,” from the Latin praecipere, meaning “to teach.” It would appear that somebody at STS doesn’t like the idea that hegumens (abbots) might actually rule over their monasteries.

            • The very fact that they call the book Apostol is a red flag that something’s amiss. Lots of things, it seems.

              Lord, send us competent editors!

            • There are many improvements in the new Apostol, but some real problems, as you mention. It has some basic editing problems, and the editors made very idiosyncratic choices as to when to use traditional second person pronouns, sometimes switching usage in the middle of a passage. This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of why thee/thou and ye/you are important in our texts. It is not for a certain sound or style, although that is also important. It is mostly for distinguishing between singular and plural — something that Greek and virtually every other language does, but modern English cannot do. And they seem not always to be fluent in how those pronouns and their accompanying verb forms work properly.

              The fundamental problem seems to me that, regardless of what is claimed in the introduction, rather than making a new translation, they were attempting to back-engineer a more traditional language text and used the so-called NKJV as the base text. This is very difficult to do.

              It would have gone much more smoothly had they used the KJV as the base text and modernized the true archaicisms and corrected true mistranslations. This would be relatively easy to do.

              That said, the book overall showed a positive direction at STS, and I commend any step in the right direction.

              • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                I agree for the most part, but the earlier edition was more traditional and using the NKJV as a base was not a step in the right direction. They should have used the KJ21, which fixes most real problems with much less harm to the familiar text.

          • The website is offering two DIFFERENT texts, one with you/your, one with thou/thine. It’s up to the choir director or rector to decide which to use. Protodeacon Michael’s post shows that the Apostol is being revised. So, some parishes will use the older version, and some the newer. There is an endless tendency towards new iterations. I question the wisdom of that.

          • I have to say that I am shocked by this very new development at oca.org. For years, the website has very aggressively been pushing “you-who” English and pretending that traditional liturgical English usage just doesn’t exist in the OCA, in spite of STS publications becoming increasingly traditional.

            I would be fascinated to learn the back story behind the change. New management? Did a bishop say something? Did someone discover a proliferation of ROCOR translations in use in OCA parishes and decide they just couldn’t have that?

            In the short run, I don’t see any problem with multiple translations. In a couple hundred years one would hope for some standardization, but that will happen in time.

            • Rdr. Daniel Kowalcheck says


              I am not sure of the story behind the change, but my hunch is that there was a need for it, and they responded. It also seems to me that there has been increasing collaboration between SVS, STS and even Jordanville over the last view years, especially in the music dept…this may be spilling over into “translations”. At least one can hope! Some more positive influence from ROCOR since normalizing relations in 2007.

              Moreover, many parishes in the DOS and DOW (and others) use traditional language, so this is a tremendous help in keeping the divine services in consistent language. That’s what I was trying to explain to OOM (apparently with little success) and I’m not sure why they are so upset at this positive development. OOM also said that “It’s up to the choir director or rector to decide which to use” and while this may be true in practice, technically it’s the local bishops church, and he would have that final say.

              • Increasing cooperation, maybe. I hope so. But the need for traditional texts was just as acute before and was completely ignored. Those in charge of oca.org started their aggressive approach — using exclusively modern language — while Bp. Tikhon and Abp. Dimitri were still bishops, and it went on for many years.

                Something changed, and I am still curious about what it is. Not that it matters, ultimately.

                • Monk James says

                  The OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops decided in 1983 to publish new liturgical materials in our contemporary English, although publication of such texts these last thirty-two years has been inconsistent in style and has continued to reproduce errors which ought to have been corrected even before then.

                  I was invited to serve on the OCA’s Translations Committee around the same time and remained in that body until 2006 — not that we accomplished much….

                  To my knowledge, there has been no official reversal of the synod’s 1983 position, but then again there pretty much never is.

                  • Rdr. Daniel Kowalcheck says

                    So in 1983 the OCA’s Holy Synod decided to publish new liturgical materials in contemporary “you who” language, and then just a year later in 1984, STS Press (with bishop’s blessing) published the Vol. I and Vol. II Liturgy (a revision of the ’67 Liturgy book) in traditional English (when referring to God, which is 90% of the text). Do you have proof of this (yet again) anecdotal account? Why was this decision not followed months later with a major release of the Liturgies?