Bulgarian Version of the Scriptures
Bulgarian Version Of The Scriptures This is in the vernacular of the Bulgarians, "a race, next to the Huns, the most terrible and most hateful to the invaded Europeans, and known in the West as early as the reign of Theodoric the Ostrogoth. Either mingling with, or bordering upon, the Slavonians, they spread over a large tract of territory, from the shores of the Palus Maeotis and the Euxine, along the course of the Lower Danube" (Milman, Latin Christianity, ii, 418). Towards the close of the 7th century they attacked and conquered the division of the Slavs settled in Moesia, and, in the first instance, gave their own name to the tribes they had subdued. In the course of two centuries, however, having adopted the language and manners of the Slavonians, the conquerors became identified with their subjects (Krasinski, Lectures on Slavonia, 1851, p. 20, note). Referring to the article Bulgaria in this Cyclopaedia, we will state that the Bulgarian, together with the Russian and the Illyrian, belongs to the Eastern branch of the Slavonic languages, properly so called. " The most ancient document of this Eastern branch is the so-called ecclesiastical Slavonic, i.e. the ancient Bulgarian, into which Cyrillus and Methodius translated the Bible in the middle of the 9th century. This is still the authorized version of the Bible for the whole Slavonic race, and to the student of the Slavonic languages it is what Gothic is to the student of German. The modern Bulgarian, on the contrary, as far as grammatical forms are concerned, is the most reduced among the Slavonic languages" (Muller, Science of Language, i, 205), yet it was not till after the commencement of the operations of Bible Societies that any successful effort was made to produce a Bulgarian version of the Scriptures. See Bible of Every Land, p. 307.
A translation was commenced in 1820, at- the suggestion of Dr. Pinkerton. An archimandrite, named Theodosios, who had been recommended by the Greek patriarch of Constantinople as the person best qualified for such a work, was appointed to prepare this version, which he completed in 1821. The work was forwarded to St. Petersburg for publication, and the Gospel of St. Matthew left the press in that city during the year 1822. This translation proved, however, to have been very inaccurately executed, and, as the Russian Bible Society was shortly afterwards suspended, the continuation of the work was given up.
In 1827 another translation of the New Test. was completed by Sapounoff, with the design of publishing an edition on his own account at the press of the metropolitan of Bucharest. In consequence of his limited means only the four Gospels were published, but they were received with much favor bythe people. This induced the British and Foreign Bible Society to make arrangements, through their agent, Mr. Barker, to print an edition of the entire version; but owing to some difficulties, an entirely new translation was commenced in 1836 by Mr. Barker, which was completed at the press in Smyrna in 1840. The success which accompanied this publication induced the British and Foreign Bible Society to proceed with the translation of the Old Test., which was announced as completed in 1858, some parts of the Old Test. having been published in the meantime. Although the interest of the Bulgarians themselves in the Scriptures was very great, one of the newspapers having made the statement that " it is the study of the Bible which makes a nation great," and recommended the study of the Scriptures throughout the country, yet it was not till 1864 that an entire Bible was given to that people, the printing having been done at Constantinople. In the annual report for the year 1860, the Rev. S. B. Bergne communicates the following, which we subjoin:
"It appears that there is some difference between the Macedonian, or Western, and the Eastern dialects of the Bulgarian. Formerly the Western dialect was in the ascendant, but latterly it is becoming superseded by the Eastern. There is a review and several newspapers published in Bulgaria; these adopt the Eastern dialect; and there is every probability that, in a short time, it will push out the Western dialect so far as the literary character of the language is concerned. Our New Test. is in the Western dialect; the translation was made twenty years since at Smyrna, by a monk of the name of Neophytus, and was carefully examined by a bishop. It was printed for the first time in 1840. Poor Photinoff, of whose character every one speaks in the highest terms, was engaged with Dr. Riggs in the translation of the Old Test., and in the early part of the work favored the Western dialect; but in correcting the work, as well as in the latter portion of the translation, he adopted the Eastern dialect; and Dr. Riggs feels assured that if his life had been spared he would have followed this course throughout the whole translation. Either dialect can be read in all parts of the country, but as the Macedonian is going into disuse, so far as literature is concerned, it would be extremely undesirable that it should be adopted in the Scriptures. Photinoff was very anxious to complete the work, and persevered in it, in spite of every remonstrance, almost to the day of his death. The present reviser, who succeeded Photinoff, and is a good scholar, follows the Eastern dialect. The revision of the Old Test. has proceeded as far as the Pentateuch; and Dr. Riggs is now desirous of going to press with as little delay as possible. Separate books of the Old Test. have already been printed; but instead of fixing on detached books, it is recommended that the whole of the Old Test. should be printed consecutively, say, in three parts- the first portion containing the Pentateuch, the second closing with the historical books or Job, and the third including the rest. Small editions, perhaps one thousand copies, are proposed. These copies will be placed in the hands of competent judges for remarks and criticisms, and by the time the last part is printed the necessary materials will be possessed for commencing the edition of the Bible in one volume. Dr. Riggs states that some slight changes will be desirable in the New Test., to bring the dialect into strict conformity with that adopted in the Old Test." When the Old Test. was finally published, in September, 1863, the Rev. Dr. Riggs of the American Board, and the Rev. Albert L. Long of the Methodist Episcopal Church, aided by two native literati. Costovich and Slaveikoff, undertook the revision of what may be esteemed a'new version of the New Test. in Eastern Bulgarian. This revision they accomplished about the close of 1864, and two editions, one of ten thousand copies (32mo), at the joint expense of the British and Foreign and American Bible Societies, and another, with references, of five thousand copies (12mo), at the sole expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society, were published in 1865. In 1874 a new and slightly revised edition of the Bulgarian Bible, in one volume, edited by the Rev. Dr. A. L. Long, was published at Constantinople. Up to March 31, 1883, the British and Foreign Bible Society disposed of 162,235 copies of the Scriptures, either as a whole or in parts. (B. P.)