The Psalms: KJV-LXX

Emending a classic text for use in the Orthodox Church


God is gone up with a great shout, the Lord with a sound of trumpet. Sing praises unto our God, sing praises; sing praises unto our king, sing praises. For God is king of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding.

- Psalm 46:5,6

In what can only be described as a project only someone slightly crazy would attempt on their own, I somehow convinced myself that it would be interesting to try and correct the KJV Psalms to align to the Septuagint and be suitable for a more Orthodox context. There were a few other factors that helped motivate this project that I think are of some importance beyond just the affection for more classical English (skip to the bottom if you just want to download the PDF).

Copyright: While it may make sense to protect intellectual property, this seems completely wrong headed for text used for worship in the Church. This text should be made readily available for all believers to use in prayer and study. Copyright also imposes this peculiarity that leads to the thought that one can "own" sacred scripture; an idea totally foreign to the monks and scribes through the centuries who saw the text they copied as belonging to the Church rather than themselves (an aside, the most popular translation of the Psalms is probably the one "owned" by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, a group in open schism with every canonical Orthodox jurisdiction).

Access: Relating somewhat to the issue of Copyright is the manner by which important Church text is distributed. While technology has brought many new problems, it has also enhanced our ability to share things of importance. This is very helpful in our present era where it seems each English speaking Orthodox Church seems to survive on photocopies and printouts. Making text easily available helps to benefit individuals and groups looking to in effect "remix" existing text for their own particular use and needs.

Duplicated Work: Putting together a liturgical library at the moment is a very fragmented process, and one that is still somewhat incomplete due to having some works that remain to be brought into English. It would be nice to see collaborative efforts be made to standardise and enhance liturgical text rather than having so many independent projects.

Anyways, onto the Psalms...

The text takes its initial inspiration from the neglected work of the late Michael Asser who edited the KJV Old Testament to put it closer to that of the Septuagint (LXX). I sought to improve upon his idea by leveraging translations done by others with more linguistic skills but whose works were not presented in a KJV-style English. A few unique features that I sought to include are...

Attention to Definite Article: Greek only has a definite article (e.x. "the" in English); Greek indefinite articles don't exist and are instead inserted by translators to form comprehensible English. There are varying ideas on how literal English translations of Greek should be regarding use of articles. To ignore when they are and are not used leads to distortions in what the Greek is trying to try to convey (and sometimes these can be very significant; compare "the son of man" with "a son of man"). I took after the approach used by the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) team which takes a much more strict translation than others which I find to be important for the Psalms, being a work of poetry, prophecy, and theology.

Vocabulary: Most English translations seem to employ a philosophy of translating the Old Testament using one set of vocabulary and using another set for the New Testament. This obscures references that first century Christians clearly heard in the Psalms pertaining to Christ, "anointed one" in common translations, and the Church, "congregation" or "assembly" in common translations. There's also words that are used in Liturgy that are the same used in the Psalms, but tend not to be translated the same. We often hear "until ages of ages" in the Liturgy, but usage of phrases involving "age" in the Psalms often just get translated to be "forever" or something similar. I drew from the work Fr. Silviu Bunta to try and conform the vocabulary to that already common in our worship.

Versification: The verse numbering of the Psalms in English translations are all over the place. This makes it very difficult to reference particular verses with accuracy. I tried to adhere to the versification scheme used in the Eastern Orthodox Bible (EOB) which follows the 1904 Patriarchal Text authorised by Constatinople for verse numbering.

This work is far from perfect. If you find mistakes, you can contact me by email or by using the Github issue page. I'd be really happy if someone else with actual expertise in this field were able to take this project and make something more of it. I'm avoiding making public prints for the time being as I think it really needs more scrutiny.

Also, don't hesitate to send questions or comments by email. It would make me happy to know someone else has taken a look at a project that has consumed nearly a year's worth of my own leisure time.

PDF Link
Github Link