Thursday, May 16, 2024

Stump the Priest: "Indeed He is Risen!" or "Truly He is Risen!"?


Question: "Why do some Orthodox respond to "Christ is Risen!" with "Indeed He is Risen!" but others say, "Truly He is Risen!"? Which one is correct?"

Both responses are perfectly good translations of the responses in Greek and Slavonic. But "Truly He is Risen!" is most likely based on the Greek response, and "Indeed He is Risen!" is most likely based on the Slavonic.

The oldest English Orthodox text of the Paschal services that I have been able to find actually differs slightly from both. The Service book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church, which was translated by. Isabel Hapgood, and was originally published in 1906, and then published in a corrected edition in 1922, uses the phrase: "He is risen indeed!"

In Greek, the response is Alithos Anesti! (Αληθώς Ανέστη!), and the most natural translation of the Greek word "Alithos" would be "Truly." However, in Slavonic the response is Voistinu Voskrese! (Воистину Воскрес!), and the word "Воистину" has the prefix, "Во" which means "in" followed by "истину" which means "truth." So you could translate it literally as "In Truth," but "Indeed" is probably a more elegant way to translate it. In any case, that is how Isabell Hapgood translated it, and although we did not keep her phrasing exactly, it probably influenced the form we now commonly use.

I hope someone writes a good book on the history of English translations of Orthodox liturgical texts, because you can see that usage has evolved. For example, Hapgood translated "Theotokos" as "Birth giver of God," which is a good literal translation, but most English speaking Orthodox today simply use "Theotokos," which has been in English usage as theological term since at least 1868. On the other hand, it is interesting that Hapgood's translation of the Paschal Troparion ("Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life") is what is most commonly used today. So over time, what seems to work best in English bubbles to the surface, and we settle on particular translations.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

How James 2:18-24 Parallels Romans 3:27-4:22 According to James Dunn

Yesterday I participated in a discussion with one other Orthodox person and two Protestants on the question of Justification, and in particular, about whether the Scriptures teach the Protestant doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide).

One point that I raised was the parallels between Romans 3:27-4:22 and James 2:18-24, according to  the Protestant Biblical commentator Dr. James D. G. Dunn, who as it turns out was a Wesleyan Biblical scholar, though I bought his commentary on Romans, I simply bought it because I knew many consider it to be the best Protestant commentary on Romans. Here is the chart that he included in his commentary, laying out the parallels, which he of course discussed in far greater detail:

                                                                 Romans           James

Issue posed in terms of faith and works  3:27-28            2:18

Significance of claiming “God is one”   3:29-30            2:19

Appeal to Abraham as test case              4:1-2                2:20-22

Citation of proof text – Gen 15:6           4:3                    2:20-22

Interpretation of Gen 15:6                      4:4-21              2:23

Conclusion                                              4:22                 2:24

 (James D. G. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary: Romans 1-8, vol. 38a (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988), p. 197).

The fact that James 2 so closely and precisely parallels Romans 3 and 4 cannot be merely coincidental, and so what we have is St. James commenting on what St. Paul wrote -- not to contradict St. Paul, but to correct a misunderstanding of what St. Paul was saying. And so when St. James says "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24), he is directly contradicting the notion that St. Paul taught justification by faith alone. He did teach that we are justified by faith, but not by faith alone. Rather, as he says in Galatians 5:6, true faith is faith that "works by love," or as St. James also says, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).

What Dunn and many of the Fathers who comment on Romans point out is that St. Paul was not talking about "works" in general, as Protestants have generally taken it, but he is dealing with Jews (both those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and those who did not) as having a privileged position with God because of their adherence to the Law of Moses, and the ceremonial aspects of that Law in particular. His point in Romans 3 and 4 was that it is only on the basis of faith in what Christ did for us on the Cross that anyone is saved, and not on the basis of "the works of the law," which was the observance of the rules and rituals of the Mosaic covenant. He was not arguing that we are saved by "Faith alone," regardless of whether we are faithful to God's commandments, as they are properly understood in the light of the Gospel.