Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Permanent No More: Crossway walks back on its decision to freeze the text of the ESV

Crossway has abandoned its earlier plant to make the 2016 updates the permanent text of the ESV.

From their blog:
"We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake. We apologize for this and for any concern this has caused for readers of the ESV, and we want to explain what we now believe to be the way forward. Our desire, above all, is to do what is right before the Lord."
The announcement will be welcome to many observers. The decision was met with equal parts appreciation and skepticism, most of the controversy centering on the translation of Genesis 3:16. Conservative scholars saw the translation of this verse as influenced more by gender politics than sound scholarship. A more mainline scholarly critique was that the decision to freeze the text at all would eventually diminish the usefulness of the ESV as an academic translation. Indeed, the decision would have encapsulated the ESV from developments in Biblical Theology, and textual history.

Crossway was in a no-win situation when the announcement was made in August. Having succeeded in creating a text that was adopted for both religious observance and academic use, Crossway could neither freeze translation decisions that appeared too aligned with contemporary systematics nor make the ESV immune to future revision. To their credit, Crossway has thus far been able to balance both tasks with the ESV.

In all likelihood, the combination of scholarly critique and devotional critique probably influenced the decision.

It remains to be seen how the 2016 text will be received. We should know in a few more months as it slowly begins to displace the 2011 text. I suspect the next development involves Crossway deciding to keep both the 2011 text and the 2016 text in print.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ESV Reader's Bible 6 Volume Set - First Review appears online

If you are interested in the initial reaction to Crossway's 6 volume set of the Reader's Bible (Cowhide over board), you can find the (apparently) first review here.

The initial reaction is quite positive. We'll see more of these reviews trickle out over the next thirty or so days.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Update on Crossway's Reader's Bible

Crossway has a little more news trickling out ahead of the twin release of the 6 Volume Reader's Bible (Cowhide over board) and the one volume Cowhide edition (flying in below the radar).

Crossway has confirmed for me that both editions will utilize the 2016 ESV Permanent text. For background on the 2016 Permanent Text, you can consult Crossway's release here. Put briefly, after updates to the text of the ESV in 2007 and 2011, Crossway has made the determination to finalize the ESV with the next wave of updates and leave the text unchanged going forward.

The textual changes featured in the 2016 text number around 29 instances. The revisions have stirred no small amount of debate. You can find some some sense of the discussion with the following list:

The above list is by no means comprehensive and the conversation will likely continue.

The most controversial change seems to be that in the translation of Genesis 3:16. I have my opinion on the new translation of that particular verse - in all honesty, I think the LXX got it right. This, I have not read up enough on the full list of changes and ultimately we are talking about a whole work and not one particular piece.

For those interested in picking up Crossway's most anticipated edition, and arguably the preeminent release in the premium bible world this year, prepare to behold the final revision of the ESV.

Cambridge Clarion NIV

It has taken some time, but the Clarion edition of the NIV is available.

Randy has the full review.

Tyndale Select Black Calfskin (Review)

Just about a year has passed since Tyndale re-launched their premium bible line with their flagship translation. During this time, the Goatskin edition found itself amply represented in the world of Bible reviews, while the slightly less expensive calfskin edition was greeted with some rather understated fanfare. A year on since the general exuberance over the release of two premium editions of the NLT (the other being Schuyler's Caxton), it seems appropriate to revisit the Tyndale Select and focus on the less represented calfskin edition. With the aforementioned wave of exuberance now subsided, we can be afforded more perspective than is usually found in the initial months of a new release, and perhaps walk a way with a more refined appreciation of the final product.

To begin, I often feel as though an apologia for the NLT is often required before I say anything more about it. There is, I admit, a fair bit of head scratching when I mention the NLT and it frankly boils town the incongruence of someone who knows the original languages making time for a translation that most people consider a paraphrase.

While it is true that the NLT does not shy away from making the occasionally gloss on the text when the translator sees fit, it should be noted that:

  1. All translation is a compromise between literal fidelity to the original language and literary cohesion with the new host language
  2. Literal or stilted translations do not in of themselves ensure fidelity to the original language where the original language of a text is dependent upon connotation, contemporary context, or poetic allusion
  3. Even the venerable Septuagint occasionally veers in the direction of paraphrase                       
The calfskin is soft and smooth to the touch, though the past down liner prevents any real flexibility. The grain appears to be natural/unpressed.

As you can see above, the block is not edge lined. If you are familiar with edge lined Bibles, you can see where the stress is placed. Still, my sense is that the binding is sufficiently constructed for daily use.

The paper is the typical fair Jongbloed provides for its Cambridge editions and, all told, this is a very typical example of a well produced Jongbloed volume. Jongbloed is consistent in the type of Bible it puts out, and to some extend one knows what one should expect. This being noted, this volume is, to the best of my knowledge, the first example of Jongbloed's calfskin binding I've held. It seems thicker than a goat skin bound volume, a bit more body and heft.

Reading experience is where the Tyndale Select shines.

The typeface of the book block is just about pitch perfect. Typography, line matching, page layout, the Select scores perfect in every category. Indeed, a year on, it seems almost impossible to fault this edition's book block. To this point, I defy you to find a bible with better typography. Be it the calfskin or goat skin edition, I suspect one would be hard pressed to find a better example of typography.

The two black ribbons included with the Select remain one of the best design choices. Although the actual make could be improved upon, the decision to use threaded ribbons as opposed to satin gives this a classic feel. Hopefully, Tyndale will continue this course but with a few design improvements.

Tyndale set out to revive its premium Bible line. It has achieved its objectives in a manner readers only could have hoped for. The binding on both editions satisfies on all levels. Most importantly, the typography has created a thoroughly readable edition, the experience of which cannot be lauded enough.

What was applicable of the goat skin edition still holds true here. Tyndale has delivered an iconic edition of their flagship text. Let's see where they go from here.

Note: Special thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this edition.

The Third Liturgical Movement

The heart of any religion resides in its expression of worship. In the nexus of rites, rituals and prayers, the preternatural meaning of its conception of the Deity and reality's relationship to it resides. The sure indicator of the health of any religion, therefore, is the degree to which its worship is preserved or degraded. Where the nexus is fractured, there will most likely follow confusion and obfuscation of the preternatural language.

The original liturgical movement developed into a nearly ecumenical phenomenon with the goals of a) rediscovering Christianity's preternatural language and b) discover a universal language of Christian liturgy that was cross denominational in scope. The degree to which either objective was achieved is debatable. However, in its origins, if we are to be precise, the original liturgical movement began as a distinctly Roman Catholic phenomenon. Although it would grow in scope as Anglicans and Lutherans lined up in the quest to rediscover the genius of the Western liturgical tradition, the Roman segment of the liturgical movement always carried particular pre-occupations revolving around reconciling the ecclesiology and liturgy with the early modern developments of the papacy and papal mandates for liturgical reform. By the end of the original liturgical movement, Roman Catholic liturgists ultimate focused largely on these pre-occupations, in no small part due to Paul VI's liturgical reforms.

The "new liturgical movement," which reader's of this blog will know I think flaunts absolute audacity by so flagrantly trying to claim the mantle of the original, has been in large measure a Roman phenomenon and in continuation of the aims that stagnated their predecessors. Or, to be more blunt, the "new liturgical movement" was largely concerned with inter Roman conflict regarding which new form of the Roman rite, 1962 or 1970, should be normative and how it ought to be celebrated. For the most part, when the "new liturgical movement" played its hand, it often proved to be little more than a movement oriented to applying the papal mandates of 1962, with no regard for how the early modern reforms of the Roman rite (by papal decree) disrupted the Latin tradition. On occasion one found authors who were more honest and noble in their intent. There were and are those who try to push our attention to the wealth of the Latin liturgical tradition without obsessing over papal mandate, and there are those who are keenly aware that the crisis in the Western Church is at such point that the focus of our attention ought to shift away from ideological fantasies and more towards actually inculcating a strong liturgical praxis. This being noted, their efforts are, sadly, overshadowed.

What is needed now is a "Third Liturgical Movement," a liturgical movement  dedicated to recovering and reapplying the full breadth and scope of the Latin/Western liturgical tradition and cultivating liturgical praxis. It is with this in mind that I pray Fr. Chadwick's endeavor to re-launch his website, As the Sun in its Orb, proves successful.

Fr. Chadwick states his intention quite elegantly:

I would like the website to be an objective reference for those who identify with my idea of a “liturgical movement” (for want of a better term). I consciously promote Sarum because it is an Anglican liturgy – it continued to be used from Henry VIII’s break from Rome until the first Prayer Book of 1549. I am English and Anglican. However, my “target” is wider in that there are others in the world who can appeal to their old traditions, whether they live in Lyons, Milan, Rouen, Toledo, Braga or other places where there was a solid local tradition before Tridentine centralism moved in with heavy-handed tactics.

It is this very paradigm shift which is sorely needed if any further attempts at a liturgical movement aspire to lift the Western Church out of the mire of modern liturgical reforms.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Searching for the Long Lonely Road to Pre-Tridentine Catholicism

One of the primary concerns of this blog, despite my religious affiliation, and dare I say one of the primary concerns of most of its readers, is the future of the Western or Latin Christian tradition, especially as said tradition is represented and passed on through the liturgy. 

This position does not see contemporary Roman Catholic Traditionalists as the guardians of the Latin tradition, and, in fact, it sees contemporary traditionalists as holding fast to propositions that do much to undermine the tradition. It takes a long view of the history of Western Christianity and determines that something of the heart of the tradition was lost in the post-Reformation/post-Tridentine landscape and that the processes of modernization and attrition date well before the sweeping reforms of Vatican II and Paul VI. This position also has an inherit critique of Roman ecclesiology, in so far as the attrition of the tradition was excelerated by the definition of a dogma which collapsed the tradition itself into the person and will of the Bishop of Rome. Rome, then, is not the answer to preserve the Latin tradition - indeed, it has been an agent of its attrition.

What then does one do? Where does one turn? 

These are honest questions and in a perfect world they would receive answers which were in of themselves action items. 

How one ought to proceed is largely dictated by one's own convictions. If one believes the Bishop of Rome is everything Pius IX proclaimed him to be, if one believes the Church of Christ IS the Roman Catholic Church, then, frankly, one ought to have the integrity to follow the Bishop of Rome in his dictates and decrees. We are now forty years past the introduction of the Pauline liturgy, and the postulations of so-called traditionalists haranging every aspect of post-Vatican II Catholicism while at at the same time professing an ultramontanist and exclusivist ecclesiology grows tiresome and reaks of both cognitive dissonance and absurdity. To this is to be added the tedious de facto ecclesiology of the SSPX which wants its ultramontanist and Roman exclusive ecclesiology while functionally emerging as the first examples of "Western Orthodoxy" in relationship. This is not mean as any sort of negative comment. However, it is only honest that should one want to maintain infallibility and papal centrism, then one should at least be consistent in practice and rhetoric.

Rome has full faith in the results of its program of liturgical reform. If one finds either the liturgy of the 1962 Missal or the Pauline liturgy lacking, or if one is searching for more of the ancient Latin liturgical ethos, then one must necessarily look elsewhere. This point needs restating - criticism of the "modern Roman liturgies" (the Pius X breviary, the Pian reforms of the Missal, and, finally, the Pauline liturgy) have at their heart a desire to resist modernity and the associated impacts it has made on systems of religion, theology, and spirituality. Resistance to modern liturgical forms is not, nor has it ever been, simply due to liturgics, or even ecclesiology (although ecclesiology plays a critical role in the critique of the Pauline liturgical reform). Rather, the resistance to modernity is at the heart of things, silently predicated on the Perennialist School's thought that the modern world has created a spiritual crisis by the mutation of values and symbols, creating counterfits of the same categories that eventually exhaust themselves until the inverse of truth and indeed God becomes the dominant cultural norm at the base of a new world view. If one is attached to the Western tradition, but finds no satisfaction in the early modern attempts at reformed liturgy as acceptable susbstitutes, one necessarily resists because one sees in these attempts the mutation of values and symbol, and the first sign posts of their total inversion. Incidently, this would go some length at explaining the cognitive dissonance of many of the liturgical and ecclesiological consequences of Roman Catholic Traditionalism - having adopted an essentially modern paradigm, Roman Traditionalism is often unable to follow through with either category, largely because much of meaning behind each category has been mutated to the point of obscuring the original concept.

So, where does one go? There are a myriad of ways one can follow individual observance, but what of corporate or communal association? There are options for both corporate and communal association but, truth be told, neither is without valid criticism or drawbacks.

One such option is Western Rite Orthodoxy, however, the movement is plagued by a number of problems, the most persistent of which is the seemingly perpetual inconsistent perspective of the various Orthodox churches to the concept of Western Rite Orthodoxy. Antioch tolerates the Western Rite, although the movement itself is plagued by disorganization, a lack of interest by ex-Catholics, and a the distinct ineptitude of Orthodox hierarchs in relation to Western liturgical history and praxis. This last point needs some explaination. While certainly Orthodox scholars are generally speaking aware of the Western liturgical tradition, Orthodoxy, contra Rome, has not opened up the floodgates and allowed scholarly findings to influence the liturgics of Orthodoxy. Typically, when any case is made for doing as much, the response is along the lines of, "granted, but Rome did it and look how well that turned out." The most pressing issue Western Rite Orthodoxy has to content with is to what degree their liturgical books represent the Western Tradition, versus being a contemporary fabrication, largely through the artificial integration of distinctly Byzantine elements. To this end, what I have seen of Antioch's Western Rite books appears to retain more continuity with the actual liturgy of the Western Church.

Another option is to pivot towards those groups in the Anglican Church that are more determined to hold to the Western Tradition. For full disclosure, I know little to nothing about how these groups operate and what their composition looks like other than what is discernible based upon their web presence. My limited knowledge suggests the Anglican Catholic Church is the largest of such bodies.

To my understanding, The American Missal published by Lancelot Andrews Press, may be utilized in both ACC and Western Rite Orthodox churches. Previous glances at this missal have been brief, although its contents are certainly appealing.

Both of the aforementioned options are negatively impacted by geographic proximity - most people interested in such avenues will find relatively few churches - those that exist being often an impractical distance away to participate in any meaningful parish or communal life. In such instances, there is the argument to be made for moving to a mainly Orthodox church. This has its advantages and disadvantages. So far as aesthetics and ethos are concerned, one will find a certain experiential affinity between the two liturgical traditions. However, one has to be content with keeping one's appreciation of Western liturgical praxis or devotions as a largely private praxis. The Orthodox Church has no interest in integrating Western traditions. Where one will find many reasons as to why, in the United States the more practical rationale is the interest of self preservation. The Orthodox Church is a small body in the American context - it has enough to do to preserve its own tradition, it does not have the bandwidth to pick up the pieces of the Western tradition. Thus, one cannot join the Orthodox Church with the intention that one will find a "safe house" for one's devotion to traditional Western Christianity. One will be eventually be disappointed. One cannot survive and thrive in the Orthodox Church without adopting its liturgical praxis as one's own. Now, this is reasonable - one cannot integrate oneself into any religious body with the intention of jettisoning its praxis. When one enters any religious body, one does so, or ought to do so, with the full expectation and intention to adopt its prayer and praxis - at least that is the tradition. Any intention to impose one's desires on the body, or to obtain them by subterfuge, is, I would argue, in total violation of Tradition, both in the precise Christian sense and in the larger Perennialist sense, in favor of a distinctly modernist spirit which in its final stages reduces such notions as religion and tradition to essentially products for the consumer process before finally discarding them all together.

In other words, if you're going to go Orthodox, you've got to go Orthodox.

This is not to mean that one cannot retain an appreciation for the Western Tradition, nor does it mean one will not lament its near absolute degradation. In point of fact, I genuinely believe Orthodoxy will help offer perspective on the Tradition. In my case, Orthodoxy helped lift the blinders when it came to "the traditional Latin Mass" as opposed to pre-Tridentine Catholicism. The Tradition is best exemplified in pre-Tridentine Catholicism, which, sadly, has been consistently overlooked. The original liturgical movement was an early modern Roman Catholic phenomenon, the majority of which was concerned with early modern Roman Catholicism. The pretenses to a "new liturgical movement" maintained essentially the same agenda - whatever scholarly output there was, it was largely geared towards re-instituting early modern Roman Catholicism, save for Alcuin Read's passing mention that Pius X's reform of the Roman Breviary should have been based upon the Breviarium Monasticum.

Of course, none of this changes the fact that if one's goal is to re-discover pre-Tridentine Catholicism, one faces an uphill and frequently lonely battle - the options are few and the interest is scant. The greatest obstacle is contemporary Roman Catholicism - whatever movement would reach in a pre-Tridentine direction would be handicapped by the need to resolve cognitive dissonance and find evidence of early modern Roman Catholicism in the pre-Tridentine, pre-Reformation Western Church. In which case, the core problems that led to destabilization of the largest body representing the Western Tradition will persist.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Allan KJV 53 Longprimer Black Limited Edition

For those of you looking for unparalleled excellence in bible publication, take notice that R. L. Allan will open up pre-orders for the limited edition Black KJV Longprimer.

The details are as follows:
Preorders open 4pm Friday 23rd September, £160.
Black highland goatskin exterior with SILVER blocking, RED leather liner, RED UNDER SILVER page edges (world first?!), silver gilt lines inside, SILVER/RED/SILVER ribbons.
75 copies only, blocked 'ALLAN LIMITED EDITION' on inside back cover.
Due to the high percentage of previous limited editions that were immediately flipped at inflated prices, Allan has set a 1 copy per household limit on this edition.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Post-Traditionalist Aftermath

Today I had the chance to walk the campus of a small conservative-to-traditional leaning liberal arts Catholic college in the North Eastern United States. In recent years this same college gained some notoriety for playing host to various liturgical forums of conservative-to-traditional kind, although my impression is that such events have lessened since the tenure of the present papacy has taken hold.

My initial impression was that the campus was more underdeveloped than I thought it would be. Converted from a farm over thirty years ago, the road ways and parking are still lacking pavement, and the buildings and general grounds show their age - well weathered walkways and stairs laid well before the establishment of the college in some stage between being reclaimed by the earth, or having their structure give way. The library catalogue appeared to be managed by the old card system, and what is visible of the collection would not be mistaken as scholarly essentials. Some of the entries are just plain confounding. One does not expect to see Malachi Martin as a entry in any college library literary collection, but there you have it. The incongruity is potentially resolved when one considers the ideological leanings of the college and the likelihood that a number of personal collections from people of a similar persuasion under gird the library's selection.

The campus chapel has to be commended for the use of icons (allegedly painted by a former faculty member) in lieu of the typical late romantic and pre-modern productions/prints that typically find flavor in Traditionalists communities. The liturgical books in service include the English Novus Ordo (the standard issue chapel edition published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company), The Edmund Campion Missal, the Adoremus Hymanl, the latest edition of the Roman lectionary, and the Anglo-Irish set of the contemporary Divine Office. The latest edition of the 1962 Missale Romanum published, I believe, jointly by the FSSP and the Society of John Cantius was present as well. After spending a few minutes flipping through it, I can safely say that the interested reader would to well to avoid the volume one account of the failure of contemporary book production to match the quality of sixty or so year ago. The cover feels synthetic and although the reproduction of the text is crystal clear, the paper quality is does not compare to the genuine article from the time. In the same area, though laid inside a class cabinet, was the latest chapel edition of the Pauline Missale Romanum, which despite being bound in imitation leather does a nice job at keeping parody with the larger altar edition published by the Vatican. It is a hefty volume, running the same thickness as many of the 1962 altar editions. Regardless of one's perspective on the modern Roman liturgy, the book is very well made - if you feel so inclined to make the investment, I suspect its durability will return on the initial price tag.

The combination of the liturgical resources, the scholarly materials, and the very insular nature of the student body (pointed out to me as either coming from the conservative-to-traditional wing - with the exception of one Orthodox student - and a high number of home schooled products), demonstrated just how marginalized the pursuit of the Latin Tradition has become in the Roman Church. Although the number of titles in the library that can hardly be passed off as anything other that traditionalist conspiracy theory was confounding, liturgical speaking, what this college offers would be mainstream in a healthier. Of course, this college is in the position of trying to make due with a less than ideal situation, trying to find the Western tradition in the midst modern liturgical observance. The very modernity of its liturgical solutions ought to mean the college has a very mainstream praxis - yet somehow even this method finds itself at the fringe of Roman observance.

There has always been a price to pay for groups in communion with Rome that try to have some pretense towards traditional observance. I suppose what is so striking in this instance is that you have a college which does not see itself as "traditionalist"  (in the taboo sense of the term) and is pursuing every avenue of rediscovering the sacred proposed during the previous two papacy, with active encouragement from Cardinal and then Pope Ratzinger. The end result is a college community that is intentionally insulated, hardly accredited, formed not with any objective to separate from Rome (thought one wonders what the tangible benefits are of remaining attached), but as a reaction to general disorientation and ideological reorganization that resulted from the papacies of John XXIII and Paul VI. Again, in a healthier church, much of what the college does would be mainstream - and its "eccentricities" would likely be absent in virtue of the community not being a reactionary response marginalized by the larger body. However, in a church that suddenly overly qualified or outright rejected elements that once substantiated core parts of its self perception, and filled the void with contemporary secular propositions, the observance seems, at best, out of place. The real sting here is that this is a situation manufactured by the hierarchy this academic community looks to for leadership and indeed divine proclamation, in virtue of the relatively recent dogma of infallibility. One cannot say the marginalization of liturgical observance recalling the Western tradition or a classical education was the result of an organic growth away from either approach. Rather, it was the deliberate decisions of ecclesiastical leadership that brought this situation to fruition.

The feeling of nostalgia was most palpable. Years ago my associations were part of a similar circle and we were convinced such a community - be it academic or religious - would aid in the recovery of the Western tradition and arrest the decline of Roman Church. Times change very quickly. It became apparent that the more measured approach of the Western Province of the Dominicans was probably the only viable approach forward (though it meant an exclusively Latin liturgy was out of the question) and I've long since left the Roman Church. The romantic hopes that an intentional community dedicated to liturgical preservation (even if it must be with the Pauline liturgy) could be founded and persist with steady growth. In reality, such a movement seems likely to be weighed down by rumors of conspiracy and the insular nature of its participants - in truth, I believe such a movement could, would, and should serve as an oasis for the serious seeker, as opposed to a promise of security for those who otherwise feel they have none of it. If one is to be honest, the movement rediscover the Latin tradition and recover the sacred was too limited in its horizons - it saw a religion in ideological turmoil and turned its concerns inward, complementing itself with pious platitudes about how it was focused on the more important work. Had it shored up its liturgical praxis earlier and engaged outward, it could have established itself as legitimate option in the contemporary milieu.