Russian Version of the Scriptures
Russian Version Of The Scriptures.
The Russian language, which is understood from Archangel to Astrakhan, admits of but two principal divisions, namely, Great Russian--the literary and official language of the nation, spoken in Moscow and the northern parts of the empire — and Little, or Malo, Russian, which contains many obsolete forms of expression, and is predominant in the south of European Russia, especially towards the east. To this may be added the White, or Polish, Russian, spoken by the common people in parts of Lithuania and in White Russia. The earliest Russian version of the Scriptures was written in White Russian, and in 1517 parts of the Old Test. were printed at Prague, while the Acts and the Epistles appeared at Wilna in 1527. The translator is said to have been Fr. Skorina. At the close of the 17th century another attempt was made to produce a version of the Scriptures in the Great Russian. The promoter of this version was the Lutheran pastor Ernest Glück, of Livonia, who made it from the Old Slavonic text. Unhappily, at the siege of Marienburg, in 1702, the whole of Glück's MSS. were destroyed. In the year 1816 the Russian Bible Society laid before the emperor Alexander some copies of a new version, and he was much struck at perceiving that, while so many barbarous tribes had been thus put in possession of the oracles of God, "his own Russians still remained destitute of the boon mercifully designed to be freely communicated to all." At his instigation an order was immediately forwarded through the president of the society to the Holy Synod, enjoining the translation of the New Test. into modern Russ. Under the auspices of the Religious Academy of St. Petersburg, the work was undertaken by the archimandrite Philaret, and, after three years had been devoted to the undertaking, an edition of the Four Gospels was struck off, in parallel columns with the Slavonic text. The preface to the Gospels, which appeared in 1819, was signed by Philaret, Michael, metropolitan of Novgorod, and Seraphim of Moscow. The demand for this work was such that in 1820 the fourth edition of the Gospels was published; in the same year the second edition of the Acts was printed, while the first edition of the entire New Test. did not appear till 1823. As to the order of the books of the New Test., which were reprinted and published by Tauchnitz, of Leipsic, in 1838, and again in London in 1862, it is as follows: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts; the epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; Romans, Philemon, Hebrews, Revelation.
Of the Old Test., only the Psalms were translated by the Rev. Dr. Pavsky, of the Cathedral of St. Petersburg, the first Hebrew scholar in the empire. The first edition appeared in 1822, and consisted of 15,000 copies; yet so great was the demand that within the space of two years no less than 100,000 copies left the press. In 1853 Mr. Tauchnitz, of Leipsic, published an edition in Hebrew and Russian. The edition before us, in Russ alone, was published at London in 1862, and we notice that the word "Selah" is always put in brackets; that the number of verses in the different psalms does not agree with the English, but with the Hebrew, as the superscriptions, which are found in the English Bible in small type, are counted as a verse; Ps 9; Ps 10 are translated according to the Sept. as one, and thus, e.g., the 18th is the 17th Psalm; the 147th Psalm of the Hebrew is divided, as in the Sept., into two — 146, from 1-11, and 147, from 12-20 — and thus the usual number of 150 psalms is gained. The translation of the other books of the Old Test. from the Hebrew proceeded under the direction of the religious academies of St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kief; and an edition to consist of 10,000 copies of the Pentateuch and the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, was subsequently undertaken; but in 1826 the Russian Bible Society was suspended by the ukase of the emperor Nicholas. A new translation has of late been issued by the Holy Synod, while the British and Foreign Bible Society also published a version, which is largely circulated ill Russia. See The Bible of Every Land, p. 296 sq.; Dalton, Das Gebet des Herrn in den Sprachen Russlands, p. 37 sq.; Reuss, Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des Neuen Testaments (Brunswick, 1874), § 490; also the Annual Reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society. (B.P.)