readings for vespers
This draft translation of the Readings for Vespers follows the Calendar published by the Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist in Great Britain. It therefore includes readings found in a number of different lectionaries, both Greek and Russian. In a few instances readings have been included which are not given in the Fellowship’s Calendar. These include those for the feast of Saints Athanasios and Cyril of Alexandria [18 January], which are given in the Greek Menaion, and those for the more recent offices by the late Fr Gerasimos for the Environment [1 September] and the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God [1/28 October]. It is worth remarking that the official Calendar of the Church of Cyprus for 2001 specifically orders the latter feast to be celebrated on 1 October, and not on the 28th. The readings for the feast of St John of Kronstadt pose a problem. They include none of the traditional readings for the feasts of holy persons, not do they appear to have any particular relevance to the Saint. The first two seem rather to be a political reading of two passages from the Prophet Joel in the light of the Russian revolution of 1917.
The Orthodox Church has always used the Greek Bible of Alexandria as its text of the Old Testament and therefore the text on which the translation is based is that of the Greek Septuagint [lxx], as it is found in the Greek Menaia. This qualification is important, since the lectionary text often differs quite sharply from that of the critical editions of the lxx and even more sharply from that found in the bilingual edition published by Samuel Bagster and frequently reprinted. This is not the place to discuss in detail the relationship between the standard Hebrew, or Masoretic [mt], and the Greek texts of the Old Testament, but is worth noting that the Greek text represents a very ancient version of the Hebrew which predates the Masoretic text by several centuries. In places where the Greek and Hebrew differ, it cannot automatically be assumed that the Hebrew has the better reading. Moreover, the text is a living text and reflects the living tradition of both Jews and Christians. As well as the standard critical editions of the Greek texts, the French version of the lxx Pentateuch, La Bible d’Alexandrie, which is mine of invaluable information on matters of lexicography and patristic exegesis, has, where possible, been regularly consulted.
Proper names have usually been given in their Greek form, rather than the pseudo-Hebrew familiar in Protestant bibles since the Reformation. Thus we use ‘Elias’, rather than ‘Elijah’. The Hebrew of the name is ‘Elijahu’. Some names are typologically significant. The pseudo-Hebrew ‘Joshua’ is in Greek ‘Jesus’, the typology of which is obvious, and is reflected in a number of liturgical texts. The New Testament Apostles are referred to as ‘Jacob’, like the Old Testament patriarch, after whom they are named, rather than ‘James’. There is no justification for using ‘Jacob’ in the ot and ‘James’ in the nt, but I have for the moment retained ‘James’ in the title of his Epistle.
One peculiarity of the lxx in the Pentateuch is that it commonly translates the divine name, yhwh, by Kyrios, without the definite article. This looks like an attempt to indicate that the Tetrgrammaton lies behind it, much in the same way as some modern versions use Lord, in upper case. There is perhaps something to be said for putting Lord where the Greek has anarthrous Kyrios referring to God.
All the readings, not only the ‘composite’ ones, have been given in full, since the Church’s text often differs noticeably from that to be found in modern translations of the Bible. This applies chiefly to the Old Testament, but also, though much less frequently, to the New.
Each of the readings has been given a number. Since many of the readings are used a number of times, this makes it possible to save space by simply referring the user to the number of the reading on second and subsequent occurrences. In this case the place where the text is to be found is given. Numbers have not been given to the readings for the Office for the Environment, St John of Kronstadt and the Dedication of a Church.
The majority of the readings are those for Vespers, but I have also included those for the Royal Hours of Christmas and Theophany and for the Great Blessing of Waters on the latter. The movable Sundays of the Fathers of the Councils and of the Ancestors are given on the first date on which they can fall.
A certain number of footnotes have been included. These are mostly concerned with problems of readings and translation, but some are of more general interest and could be expanded in a final draft. Where appropriate inclusive language is used, but it is perhaps worth remarking that the words anthropos and aner, though they normally denote ‘human being’ and ‘male person’ respectively, are not univocal. Anthropos may refer to a male person and aner to a human being.
Comments on this first draft will be welcomed by the translator.
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This page was last updated on 03 November 2008