Mongolian Version of the Scriptures
Mongolian Version Of The Scriptures In the Mongolian there exist different versions:
I. The Burnia, or Northeran Mongolian, for the Buriats about lake Baikal, in Siberia, and for. the Kalka tribes of Mongolia. In 1824 the New Test. was printed at St. Petersburg, under the sunperintenence of Dr. Schmidt, who, with the aid of two learned Buriats, had commenced the translation, but during the work one of the Buriats died. The surviving Buriat was afterwards associated with Messrs. Swan, Stallybrass, and Yuille, missionaries at Selilnginsk, in the translation of the Old Test. and the revision of the New Test. The Old Test. was translated from the Hebrew, with constant reference to such critical apparatus as could be obtained. The style of writing adopted in this version holds a middle place between the vulgar colloquial language of the people, which varies in different districts, and the abstruse modes of expression employed in some of their books. It is above the common business dialect, but not so much higher as to place the subject beyond the reach of any one of common understanding. The Old Test. was completed at Khodon, in Siberia, in 1840, and during the same year Messrs. Swan and Stallybrass accomplished a fresh translation of the New Test. from the original Greek, based on the version previously made. An edition of this Testament was completed at press in 1846 at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society, while a reprint of it was undertaken in 1878 by the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, under the editorship of Mr. Schiefiner in the Mongolian type instead of the Manchu character, reducing thereby the size of the book by two thirds. This edition was completed at press in 1880, under the editorship of Mr. Pozdnieff, professor of Mongolian, in the St. Petersburg University, who had taken the place of superintendent after the death of professor Schiefiner.
II. The Kalmuck. or Western Mongoliant, for the Kalmucks of the Don and Volga, in Russia, and Eleuths, Kalmucks, and Soungars, of Mongolia. In this dialect there exist translations of the gospels of Matthew and John and of the Acts of the Apostles, published between 1815 and 1822. Concerning these efforts of translation and the Kalmucks themselves we read the following in the annual report of the British and Foreign Bible Society for the year 1877: "The Kalmucks are a Molgoian tribe, inhabiting the great salt steppe of the province of Astrakhan, about whose mode of life and habits not much is known in Western Europe. While it is not likely that they, at the present time at least, in ally way answer to the description given of themselves to the patriarch Nicon by thirty of their chiefs, as recorded by Macarius, and quoted by dean Stanley in his Eastern Church — where, being brought into the. presence of the patriarch, they are represented as saying to him, 'When we have conquered a man, we cut away his nose, and then carve him into pieces and eat him. Good Lord, whenever you have any men deserving of death. do not trouble yourself about their guilt or punishment, but give them us to eat, and you will do us a great kindness' — they are certainly in a very low state of civilization, even though their chiefs are sometimes educated in Russian schools. Mission work was begun among them early in this present century, and by the preaching of the Gospel and circulation of the Scriptures, parts of which had been translated into Kalmuck by the missionary Conrad Neitz, and others, and subsequently revised by Dr. Schmidt, laboring under the auspices of the emperor Alexander I, and of the British and Foreign Bible Society, a, number of conversions took place. But days of trouble and persecution fell upon the mission, and in a recent letter the pastor of the Moravian settlement of Sarepta, founded with the express purpose of evangelizing the Kalmucks, informs your agent that at present no thorough knowledge of Kalmuck is possessed by any of the brethren. A search made in the archives of the village revealed the presence of a few copies of the gospels of Matthew and John, besides a number of Kalmuck tracts. A copy of each of the gospels having been sent by your agent to London, specimen pages of a reduced, and convenient size have been printed by the photographic process. These were forwarded to Sarepta, and we now await the result of their critical examination by learned Kalmucks, if there be any, and to know the opinions of the brethren themselves. Should these be deemed satisfactory, and the committee otherwise see fit to proceed with the printing of the Scriptures in the vernacular of this tribe, future reports may contain something more interesting and instructive about the progress of Bible work among its members." From the report for the year 1880 we learn that the agent of, the British. and Foreign. Bible Society at St. Petersburg has been authorized to employ M. Pozdiieff and archpriest Smirnoff to translate the gospel of Matthew. M. Pozdnieff, as an eminent Kalmuck scholar, will make the translation, and archpriest Smirnoff, who lives among the Kalmucks, will see that the words and idioms are suited to the people. On this plan there is reason to hope that an excellent translation will be produced, and the question of proceeding with the other books of the New Test. will depend on the manner in which the gospel of Matthew is received. In the report for 1884 we read the gratifying statement that the committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society have authorized the publication of an edition of two thousand copies of the New Test. prepared by professor Pozdnieff. New type has been cut at the expense of the above society and cast at the expense of the academy.
III. The Southern, or Kalkhas Colloquial. In this dialect, used in Chinese Mongolia, the gospel of Matthew has been translated by the Reverend J. Edkins: and Dr. J.J. Schereschewsky, aided by a native Lama, and was printed in 1872 under the care of the Reverend J. Edkins, of Peking. This is the only part now extant. See Bible of Every Land, page 337.
For the study of the language, see Schmidt, Grammatik der mongolischen Sprache (1831); Zwick, Grammatik der westmongolischen Sprache (1851); — Castren, Versuch einer bujalischen Sprdchlehre (1857). (B.P.)