Slavic Scriptures: The Formation of the Church Slavonic Version of the Holy Bible

Slavic Scriptures: The Formation of the Church Slavonic Version of the Holy Bible

Slavic Scriptures: The Formation of the Church Slavonic Version of the Holy Bible

Slavic Scriptures: The Formation of the Church Slavonic Version of the Holy Bible


"Literally thousands of items have been written about Cyril, Methodius, and the Church Slavonic Bible. And the Bible itself exists in fragments from perhaps as far back as 1000 C. E. In approaching the mass of scholarly, semischolarly, pseudo-scholarly, and popularizing material that has accumlated over the past two hundred years, Slavic Scriptures attempts to analyze and synthesize the most cogent arguments of the best scholars, from the earliest studies of the Czech proto-Slavicist and biblicist Joseph Dobrovsky to the contemporary works of Francis Thomson (Antwerp) and A. A. Alekseev (St. Petersburg). As for the manuscript evidence, it has been considered directly, in published editions, but in larger part indirectly, through the studies of those who have had firsthand access to basic material (most notoriously the first full manuscript of the Church Slavonic Bible from 1499, but published only in the 1990s and still only in part). Every conscious effort has been made to avoid confessional bias in interpreting the historical and textual records, but it must be admitted that some of the best analyses consulted for Slavic Scriptures rest on strongly held beliefs that chafe at scholarly dispassion. By and large the methodology of the volume is inductive, in order to minimize the role of preconceived theses, but with the abiding understanding that the uncontestable facts are few and often far between. Slavic Scriptures offers as its conclusions that neither Cyril nor Methodius (to whom it is traditionally ascribed) managed to complete a full translation of the Bible in their lifetimes. The bulk of the credit for creating the surviving version of the Church Slavonic Bible belongs to South Slavic translators of the ninth-fourteenth centuries. Its finishing touches were applied by East Slavs in rounding out the full canon, printing, revising, and authorizing the text between the late fifteenth and mid-eighteenth centuries. The Church Slavonic Version serves the Orthodox of the twenty-first century both as a touchstone of their millennial religious culture and a challenge to their further biblical development." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Book of books, our people's strength…
wisdom comes to those who know thee,
all the best we have we owe thee.

—Percy Dearmer (1867–1936)

MY BOOK IS THE STORY OF A BOOK, THE BIBLE, IN FACT A BOOK OF books, and for many theBook of Books, as it evolved over time among the Slavs. It is a story not often told, or told in languages not readily accessible to large parts of my target audience, or told in such fine detail that a specialist's knowledge of Slavistics and Biblicistics is re- quired. I aim elsewhere: at students of Slavic languages, literatures, and linguistics who may be approaching Slavic biblical texts for the first time; at those interested in Bible studies whose own linguistic abilities may not extend to a reading knowledge of the Slavic lan- guages; to colleagues in Slavic studies who specialize in the religious history and practices of the Slavs; and—perhaps I am casting my net too wide—I aim also at those who enjoy an interesting, occasionally even intriguing and mysterious story of how something we now take for granted, a Bible translation, came to be. In the process I hope I raise as many questions as I answer, to encourage further growth in a field, Slavic Bible studies, which after a long and painful fallow period is once again “ripe for harvesting” (John 4:35).

My methodology in this study involves synthesis rather than dis- covery. While I have consulted manuscripts, I have done no archival work per se. Massive studies have been done by scholars in a far bet- ter position than I to examine the documentary evidence, such as it has survived. It is on their conclusions that I usually rely for my data. And where scholars disagree, I have attempted to follow the best and most reasonable arguments, which invariably, I have found, are those that hew most closely to the original sources. Insofar as it has been possible, I have tried to avoid confessional bias, which, at least until relatively recently, was an “occupational hazard” of Bible scholars. And I have sought as much as possible to question “textbook wis- dom,” those postulates whose origins are often obscure but whose . . .

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