Brannan, Rick. The Apostolic Fathers in English. Lexham Classics; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2017. 289 pp.; Pb. $19.99 Link to Lexham Press
Rick Brannan is the “Information Architect for Logos Bible Software” He edited the Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear (Lexham Press, 2011), a resource available in Logos Bible Software. Brannan described his method for producing the interlinear edition in the introduction to that resource:
“Using the Greek text of Kirsopp Lake’s edition, tools provided by Logos Bible Software, and a whole lot of coffee, I spent my early mornings with the Apostolic Fathers working through each verse at least three times. One pass to consider the appropriate article to assign from the Louw-Nida lexicon, one pass to determine a proper lexical form gloss—somewhat like the gloss you would see in a Greek-English lexicon or dictionary, and one pass to align a context-sensitive English translation with each Greek word in the text. From here, sequence numbers were added to facilitate reassembly of the translation into something resembling a stilted English translation. Further, there are points where the stilted English is not sufficient, so an idiomatic translation of the phrase was further annotated.”
In the introduction to this new translation, Brannan indicates this new translation of the Apostolic Fathers is not meant to replace either Michael Holmes (1999, Baker) or the Loeb edition translated by Bart Ehrman (Harvard 2003). His goal was to “to create a tighter and more transparent relationship with the underlying Greek text.” He hopes this will be useful in reading the texts as well as studying “how words and structures found in the New Testament are used in contemporary literature.” (There is a typo in both the online and print version, “studing” rather than “studying.”)
For many years the standard edition of the Apostolic Fathers J. B. Lightfoot (originally published in 1891). Ehrman’s translation replaced Krisopp Lake in the Loeb library (originally published in 1912). Brannan edited the Krisopp Lake edition which now appears in the Logos library. Comparing one text from Didache 9:1-3 in five translations shows how Brannan’s translation is quite close to the others. Perhaps other examples would yield more differences.
B. Lightfoot (1891) But as touching the eucharistic thanksgiving give ye thanks thus. 2First, as regards the cup: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the holy vine of Thy son David, which Thou madest known unto us through Thy Son Jesus; Thine is the glory for ever and ever. 3Then as regards the broken bread: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou didst make known unto us through Thy Son Jesus; Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Kirsopp Lake, 1912 AND concerning the Eucharist, hold Eucharist thus: 2 First concerning the Cup, “We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which, thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy child; to thee be glory for ever.” 3 And concerning the broken Bread: “We give thee thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou didst make known to us though Jesus thy child. To thee be glory for ever.
Michael W. Holmes, 1999 Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks as follows. (2) First, concerning the cup: We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever. (3) And concerning the broken bread: We give you thanks, our Father for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever.
Bart Ehrman, 2012 And with respect to the thanksgiving meal [Literally: eucharist], you shall give thanks as follows. 2. First, with respect to the cup: “We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your child, which you made known to us through Jesus your child. To you be the glory forever.” 3. And with respect to the fragment of bread: “We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge that you made known to us through Jesus your child. To you be the glory forever.
Rick Brannan, 2012 Now, concerning the Eucharist, practice it as follows. 2 First, concerning the cup: We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of David your son, which you made known to us through Jesus your son, glory to you ⌊forever⌋. 3 Next, concerning the broken bread: We give thanks to you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your son, glory to you ⌊forever⌋.
Brannan translates οὕτω εὐχαριστήσατε as “practice it as follows.” Like Holmes, Brannan capitalizes Eucharist, perhaps implying a more formal liturgy than Lightfoot’s “eucharistic thanksgiving” or Ehrman’s “thanksgiving meal.” Lake and Ehrman translates Δαυὶδ τοῦ παιδός σου “your child,” Brannan clarifies the phrase as “your son,” whereas Holmes has “your servant,” a possible translation of παῖς. I am not sure why Brannan places “forever” in brackets. In the Greek interlinear version he explains these [I I] brackets indicate an idiomatic phrase, in this case εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ought to be translated idiomatically as “forever.” Since this is an extremely common idiom, I see no reason for the brackets.
One of the most valuable features of Brannan’s edition are his footnotes. Some of these provide alternate translations (often using the phrase “literally”). Others deal with textual variants and translation differences between Lightfoot, Lake and Ehrman. Others provide a brief commentary on a difficult passage. For example, Barnabas 10:6 contains the rather odd explanation for why the Law forbade rabbit: “You shall not become, he means, a child molester, or even seem like such as these, because the rabbit multiplies its anus each year, for as many years as it lives, so many holes it has.” In a footnote on this line, Brannan summarizes several suggestions from Kraft as well as his conclusion that “popular Hellenistic natural history…has been transformed into moral lessons in association with Mosaic food prohibitions.”
Brannan also include reference to citations of Scripture as well as potential allusions or cross-references to other texts. Although Ehrman occasionally identifies citations, Brannan provides far more potential allusions. For example, in Ignatius’s epistle to the Magnesians 7:1, Brannan suggests “Therefore, just as the Lord did nothing without the Father” alludes to John 8:28 and John 10:37. Both texts in John indicate the “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28). In the Epistle to the Philadelphians 2:2, the phrase “trustworthy wolves” is tagged as an allusion to Acts 20:29 and John 10:12; the phrase “take God’s runners captive” is tagged with 2 Timothy 3:6 (taking people captive with false teaching) and Galatians 5:7 (the metaphor of running a race). What is unclear is the point of these notes: are they suggested allusions or simply a cross-reference to verses with similar material? In either case this data will be valuable for studying the use of texts by later writers.
The electronic version of this book has a 2012 copyright, the print version is 2017. I notice there was a preface in the 2012 edition which does not appear in the 2017 edition. The section on Shepherd of Hermas adds a paragraph on the two different numbering systems used for the book.
Conclusion. Do we need another translation of the Apostolic Fathers? Perhaps not, especially if the translations use the same general method and only have minor differences from existing translations. There is nothing like a dynamic equivalence translation of the Apostolic Fathers let alone an easy to read paraphrase in the tradition of TheMessage.
Nevertheless, Brannan’s Apostolic Fathers is a very good translation with extremely helpful notes published in an inexpensive format.
NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.