Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Vamva Greek Bible

It is not very often that I find out about a completely new online Bible - at least, a Bible that is new to me. In May 2007, I wrote about the Vamva version of the Bible on the Better Bibles Blog.

This 19th century version of the Bible by Neofitos Vamvas, a distinguished linguist and noted Bible scholar, was published in 1850 with the collaboration of British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS). It was not accepted by the Greek Orthodox Church which continues to use a version of the original Greek New Testament and the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible.

When I wrote about this Bible three years ago, I had only the New Testament, a copy which I had owned since my university days. However, now a commenter on my BBB post has let me know of an online version to the entire Bible in the Vamva version. He wrote,

Dear Suzanne, readers,

Good posting. I am surprised too about how little is known about the exceptional Vamva translation outside Greece. Let me encourage you and say that by now the Vamva translation has taken root and it’s the standard translation used in prevalent Greek Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations including the no 2 most widespread Christian denomination (considering the state church as the no 1.) While we have found in it some translation issues when compared to the original Greek NT manuscripts, it is in our view free of denominational biases (how can you beat that in a translation); also by far, richer linguistically, more accurate and reliable than the Septuagint (treading carefully here) and especially the later Greek translations which carry denominational biases.
Here are the opening verses of Genesis in the Septuagint and the Vamva Version.

1. Εν αρχή εποίησεν ο Θεός τον ουρανόν και την γην.
2. Η δε γη ήτο άμορφος και έρημος· και σκότος επί του προσώπου της αβύσσου. Και πνεύμα Θεού εφέρετο επί της επιφανείας των υδάτων.
3. Και είπεν ο Θεός, Γενηθήτω φώς· και έγεινε φώς·
4. και είδεν ο Θεός το φως ότι ήτο καλόν· και διεχώρισεν ο Θεός το φως από του σκότους·
5. και εκάλεσεν ο Θεός το φως, Ημέραν· το δε σκότος εκάλεσε, Νύκτα. Και έγεινεν εσπέρα και έγεινε πρωΐ, ημέρα πρώτη.

ΕΝ ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν.
2 ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ πνεῦμα Θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος.
3 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Θεός· γενηθήτω φῶς· καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς.
4 καὶ εἶδεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ φῶς, ὅτι καλόν· καὶ διεχώρισεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ φῶς, ὅτι καλόν· καὶ διεχώρισεν ὁ Θεὸς ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ φωτὸς καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σκότους.
5 καὶ ἐκάλεσεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ φῶς ἡμέραν καὶ τὸ σκότος ἐκάλεσε νύκτα. καὶ ἐγένετο ἑσπέρα καὶ ἐγένετο πρωΐ, ἡμέρα μία.

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.


J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for posting!

The Greek translational choices of the Vamva are fascinating in comparison to and contrast with the LXX.

For Proverbs 7:18, the Vamva:

ελθέ, ας μεθυσθώμεν από έρωτος μέχρι της αυγής· ας εντρυφήσωμεν εις έρωτας·

the LXX:

ἐλθὲ καὶ ἀπολαύσωμεν φιλίας ἕως ὄρθρου δεῦρο καὶ ἐγκυλισθῶμεν ἔρωτι

There are a couple of things to note here. The LXX generally seems to have avoided the explicit use of "erotic" love words and, by using "φιλίας" (philia love) in v 18 instead, makes a play on the earlier "ἐφίλησεν" (loving "kiss") in v 13. The Vamva rather emphasizes the "erotic" love (not exactly mirroring the two Hebrew words for love) without any play on the earlier word for kiss.

And at Judges 12:6, the Vamva transliterates the insider Hebrew word Σχίββωλεθ, which is ironically an unusual and difficult pronunciation for Greek speakers. Seems that most English translations and Alice and Iver Larsen's Danish translation likewise transliterate which makes outsiders of its readers. But the LXX has translated the Hebrew as the Hellene Στάχυς (for Ear [of corn]) - an apparent inclusive gesture towards the bilingual Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt.

There are a couple of delightful things the Vamva readers enjoy. There's unique wordplay with respect to gender; and there's a consistency in the name of Jesus/Joshua.

An example of the first is in Genesis 2:23 -

Και είπεν ο Αδάμ, Τούτο είναι τώρα οστούν εκ των οστέων μου και σαρξ εκ της σαρκός μου· αύτη θέλει ονομασθή ανδρίς, διότι εκ του ανδρός αύτη ελήφθη. (vs the LXX - γυνή, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς).

Then, the book of Joshua, of course, is the book of Jesus (Ιησούς Του Ναυή), which helps the readers of the gospels of Jesus make the allusions.

Dan Salter said...

Do you know of an online interlinear using the Vamva?

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks for those great insights! Its fascinating to discover something new like this.


This software is all I can offer.

Unknown said...

Hello look at there:

Grzegorz Kaszyński said...

Dear Suzanne,

If you have Vamvas NT in PDF (original view), please sent me. Grzegorz (Poland) -