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Versions, Georgian, Gothic, Slavonic

VERSIONS, GEORGIAN, GOTHIC, SLAVONIC

jor'-ji-an, goth'-ik, sla-von'-ik:

1. The Georgian Version:

Georgia is the name given to the territory extending to the East of the Black Sea, a country that has had an independent national existence of 2,000 years but is now (under the name Grusinia) a part of the trans-Caucasian domain of Russia. The language has no affinities with any of the recognized groups, but is becoming obsolete under Russian pressure. Christianity was introduced into Georgia m the 4th century, and a national conversion followed. A well-supported tradition makes the first translation of the Bible almost contemporaneous with this conversion and refers it to Mesrop (died 441; see ARMENIAN VERSIONS), but the fact is not quite certain and the beginnings of a native version may really be as much as two centuries later. The oldest manuscript extant is a Psalter of the 7th-8th centuries, and the earliest copy of the Gospels is perhaps a century later; in all, Gregory (Textkritik, 573-75) enumerates 17 Georgian manuscripts of the New Testament, but his list is not exhaustive.

The first printed Bible was produced in the ancient alphabet in Moscow in 1743 and has never been reprinted, but other edd, perhaps only of the New Testament, were issued at least in 1816 and 1818, using the nonecclesiastical alphabet. According to Conybeare (ZNTW, XI, 161-66, 232-39 (1910)) the Georgian version was first made from the Old Syriac and then later (11th century) revised from the Greek In 1910 a new edition, based on two manuscripts dated respectively 913 and 995, was begun (Quattuor Ev. versio Georgia vetus, Petersburg). The Georgian version was used by S. C. Malan, The Gospel according to John, translated from the 11 Oldest VSS, London, 1862.

2. The Gothic Version:

Ulfilas, the Arian bishop of the West Goths and the chief agent in their conversion to Christianity, was also the first translator of the Bible into Gothic, a work for which he had even to invent an alphabet. According to tradition, his translation included the entire Bible with the exception of Kings (which he thought unadapted to the already too warlike character of his converts), but there is doubt whether his work actually included more than the New Testament. Too little of the Old Testament has survived to enable a settling of this question, nor is it possible to tell how much revision the New Testament translation has undergone since Ulfilas' work.

A list of the six Gothic manuscripts is given in HDB, IV, 862, to which is to be added a bilingual Latin-Gothic manuscript containing portions of Luke 24, known as the Arsinoe Fragment (published in ZNTW, XI, 1-38 (1910) and separately (Giessen, 1910)). In all there have been preserved in the Old Testament Genesis 5 (in part); Psalms 52:2; Nehemiah 5-7 (in part), and in the New Testament the Gospels and Pauline Epistles (all incomplete), with quotations from Hebrews. The best complete edition is that of Stamm-Heyne(9) (Paderborn, 1896), but as the version is of basic importance for the history of the Germanic languages there are many editions of various portions prepared for philological purposes.

The Old Testament fragments are a translation of a text very closely allied to the Lucianic Greek (see SEPTUAGINT) and are certainly not from the Hebrew New Testament undoubtedly was made from a text of the type used in Antioch (Constantinople) in the 4th century, with very slight variations, none of which are "neutral" (von Soden classes them as of the I-type). Either in making the translation or (more probably) in a subsequent revision an Old-Latin text was used, of the type of Codex Brixianus (f), and certain Old-Latin readings are well marked. For brief lists of these peculiarities see Burkitt in Journal Theological Studies, I, 129-34 (1900), or von Soden, Schriften des New Testament, I, 1469 f (1906).

3. The Slavonic Version:

It is definitely known that the first Slavonic translation of the Bible was commenced in 864 or earlier by the two brothers Cyril (died 869) and Methodius (died 885), and that the latter worked on it after the former's death. Their work was undertaken for the benefit of the Balkan Slavs, and at first only the liturgical portions (Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Psalms) were translated, but, after the completion of this, Methodius carried the translation farther to include larger portions of the Old Testament. How much of this he accomplished is obscure, but he seems not to have finished the Old Testament entirely, while almost certainly he did not translate Revelation. Uncertain also is the exact dialect used for this work; although this dialect was the basis of the present liturgical language of the Russian church, it has undergone much transformation before arriving at its final stage. At different times the translation of the Bible was revised to conform to the changes of the language, in addition to other revisional changes, and, as a result, the manuscripts (some of which go back to the 10th century) exhibit very varying types of text that have not been satisfactorily classified.

An attempt to bring the discrepant material into order was made about 1495 by Archbishop Gennadius, but he was unable to find Slavonic manuscripts that included the entire Bible and was forced to supply the deficiencies (Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and most of Jeremiah and the Apocrypha) by a new translation made from the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) This Bible of Gennadius was the basis of the first printed edition, made at Ostrog in 1581, although the liturgical portions had been printed earlier (Ac and Epistles first of all in 1564). The Ostrog edition followed Gennadius fairly closely, but Esther, Canticles, and Wisdom were new translations made from the Septuagint. The next revision was undertaken by order of Peter the Great and was performed by using the Greek (Old Testament and New Testament), although the resulting text was not printed until 1751. A slightly emended edition of 1756 is still the official Bible of the Russian church.

This Slavonic version is to be distinguished from the version in the true Russian language, begun first in 1517, revised or remade at various times, with an excellent modern translation first published complete in 1876. See, on the whole subject, especially Bebb in Church Quart. Rev., XLI, 203-25, 1895.

LITERATURE.

On all three versions see HDB, IV, 861-64, 1902, and the article "Bibelubersetzung" in PRE3, III (1897), with the important supplement in XXIII (1913).

Burton Scott Easton


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'VERSIONS, GEORGIAN, GOTHIC, SLAVONIC'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.