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Slavic translations of the Bible

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This article deals with the history of translation of the Bible into Slavic languages, beginning in the the second half of the 9th century.


Old Church Slavonic and Church Slavonic

The oldest translation, commonly called the Old Church Slavonic, is closely connected with the activity of the two apostles to the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius, in Great Moravia, 864865. The oldest manuscripts are written either in the so-called Cyrillic or the Glagolitic character. The former is the Greek majuscule writing of the 9th century with the addition of new characters for Slavic sounds which are not found in the Greek of that time; the latter was a style writing that was completely independent of any other writing system, which ceased to be used as late as the 20th century.

The oldest manuscripts are written in the Glagolitic, which is older than the Cyrillic. The oldest manuscripts extant belong to the 10th or 11th century, and the first complete collection of Biblical books in the Church Slavonic language originated in Russia in the last decade of the 15th century. It was completed in 1499 under the auspices of Archbishop Gennady of Novgorod (1484-1504), and the Old Testament was translated partly from the Vulgate, and partly from the Septuagint. The New Testament is based upon the old Church Slavonic translation. That Bible, called the Gennady Bible (Gennadievskaia Biblia) is now housed in the State History Museum on Red Square.

Psalter of Ivan Fyodorov, 1570

During the 16th century a greater interest in the Bible was awakened in South and West Russia, owing to the controversies between adherents of the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics and Greek-Catholics. In the second half of the 16th century the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, and parts of the Psalter were often printed at Lviv and Vilnius, though the oldest edition of the Acts and Epistles was issued at Moscow in 1564.

In 1581 the first edition of the Church Slavonic Bible was published at Ostrog by Ivan Fyodorov, a number of Greek manuscripts, besides the Gennadius Bible, having been used for this edition. But neither the Gennadius nor the Ostrog Bible was satisfactory, and in 1663 a second somewhat revised edition of the latter was published at Moscow.

In 1712, Tsar Peter the Great issued an ukaz ordering the printed Slavonic text to be carefully compared with the Greek of the Septuagint and to be made in every respect conformable to it. The revision was completed in 1724 and was ordered to be printed, but the death of Peter (1725) prevented the execution of the order. The manuscript of the Old Testament of this revision is in the synodal library at Moscow.

Under the Empress Elizabeth the work of revision was resumed by an ukaz issued in 1744, and in 1751 a revised "Elizabeth" Bible, as it is called, was published. Three other editions were published in 1756, 1757, and 1759, the second somewhat revised. All later reprints of the Russian Church Bible are based upon this second edition, which is the authorized version of the Russian Church.

Old East Slavic

File:Bible skorina.gif
Bible, published by Francysk Skaryna

An effort to produce a version in the vernacular was made by Francysk Skaryna (d. after 1535), a native of Polatsk in White Russia. He published at Prague, 1517–19, twenty-two Old Testament books in Old East Slavic language, in the preparation of which he was greatly influenced by the Bohemian Bible of 1506. Other efforts were made during the 16th and 17th centuries, but the Church Slavonic predominated in all these efforts.


Bible of Kralice, title page, vol.1

The Czech literature of the Middle Ages is very rich in translations of Biblical books, made from the Vulgate. During the 14th century all parts of the Bible seem to have been translated at different times and by different hands. The oldest translations are those of the Psalter. The New Testament must also have existed at that time, for according to a statement of Wyclif, Anne, daughter of Charles IV, received in 1381 upon her marrying Richard II of England a Bohemian New Testament.

It is certain that Jan Huss had the Bible in Bohemian before him as a whole and he and his successors undertook a revision of the text according to the Vulgate. The work of Huss on the Bible antedated 1412. During the 15th century the revision was continued. The first complete Bible was published at Prague, 1488; other editions were issued at Kutná Hora, 1489, and Venice, 1506. These prints were the basis of other editions which were published from time to time.

With the United Brethren a new period began for the translation of the Bible. In 1518 the New Testament appeared at Mladá Boleslav at the instance of Luke of Prague. It was not satisfactory and the same must be said of the edition of 1533. Altogether different was the translation made by Jan Blahoslav from the original Greek (1564, 1568). The Brethren anon undertook the translation of the Old Testament from the original and appointed for this work a number of scholars, who based their translation upon the Hebrew text published in the Antwerp Polyglot. The work began in 1577 and was completed in 1593, and from the place of printing, Kralice in Moravia, it is known as the Bible of Kralice (6 parts, 1579–93, containing also Blahoslav's New Testament). This excellent translation was issued in smaller size in 1596, and again in folio in 1613 (reprinted at Halle in 1722, 1745, 1766; Pressburg, 1787; Berlin, 1807).

After the year 1620 the publication of non-Catholic Bibles in Bohemia and Moravia ceased, and efforts were made to prepare Bibles for the Catholics. After some fruitless beginnings the work was entrusted to certain Jesuits, who took the Venice edition of 1506 as the basis, but relied greatly, especially for the Old Testament, on the Brethren's Bible. Between 1677 and 1715 the so-called St. Wenceslaus Bible was published at the expense of a society founded in honor of the saint. A new edition appeared at Prague 1769–71. A thoroughly revised edition, using the text of the Brethren's Bible, was published in 1778–80. Still more dependent on the Brethren's Bible was Prochaska's New Testament (Prague, 1786), and his edition of the whole Bible (1804). Editions of Prochaska's text, slightly amended, were issued in 1851 and 1857. The Bible edited by Besdka (Prague, 1860) gives the text of the Brethren's Bible with slight changes. G. Palkovi translated the Bible from the Vulgate into Slovak (2 parts, Gran, 1829).


The archimandrite Theodosius, abbot of the Bistritsa Monastery, translated the New Testament for the British and Foreign Bible Society, which was printed at London in 1828. This attempt to translate the Bible into modern Bulgarian was characterized with poor grammatical style and was greatly influenced by the Church-Slavonic version. The entire edition was sent to Saint Petersburg and is said to have been destroyed there.

An independent attempt to publish a Bulgarian translation of the New Testament occurred in 1828, as Petar Sapunov and his brother Father Serafim published a translation of the four gospels at the Bucharest metropolitan press in Wallachia (Romania). This translation was completed in the Eastern Bulgarian dialect.

In 1835 Bulgarian monk Neofit Rilski started a new translation of the New Testament. The translation was completed on April 18, 1838. The translation was done in the Bulgarian dialect from the area of Gorna Dzhumaya (present day Blagoevgrad in the region of Macedonia).In 1840 5,000 copies of the first complete translation of the New Testament were printed in Smyrna by the British and Foreign Bible Society. A second edition which was printed in Smyrna in 1850 was an almost exact reprint of the 1840 edition. A third edition followed in 1853 with 15,000 copies. The fourth edition was published in 1857 in Bucharest, and for the first time civil characters type was used. In 1859, two more editions were published. In 1866, a new “pocket” edition with text revised by Elias Riggs and Dr. Albert Long was printed in Constantinople. The New Testament was revised and reprinted a total of nine times.

In the period from 1840 to 1860 the Eastern (Tarnovo) dialect was adopted as literary Bulgarian language and the Macedonian dialect, in which the New Testament had been translated, was widely rejected. By 1858 Neofit Rilski has finished large portion of the Old Testament. Riggs met with Neofit Rilski and discussed a possible revision of the Bulgarian New Testament to remove the Macedonian dialect elements. Neofit objected the revision, so Riggs took the translation and returned to Constantinople. In January 1859 Riggs invited the Bulgarian teacher Hristodul Kostovich to help him with the revision.

In 1862 Long and Riggs visited the noted Bulgarian writer and poet Petko Rachov Slaveykov in Tryavna. Slaveykov agreed to help with the translation and began the work on the revising of Neofit’s New Testament at once. Long joined the revision of the New Testament into the Eastern dialect in 1863 and later assisted with the translation of the Old Testament. In June 1871, after more than 12 years of revision and translation, 36,000 copies of the complete Bible translation in Bulgarian were published in Constantinople. The translation came to be known as the Tsarigrad (Constantinople) edition.

The decision to revise and publish the Bible in the Eastern dialect was the historical factor based on which the modern Bulgarian language departed from the Macedonian dialect to adopt the Eastern/Thracian dialect.[citation needed]

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, several organizations attempted to provide a new translation of the Bible in Bulgarian. In 1993 a Protestant New Testament was printed. A complete new Orthodox translation was published in 1995, followed by three new Protestant revisions of the Bulgarian Bible in the period of 2000-2001 by publishing houses of Veren (Faithful), Nov Chovek (New Man) and the Bible League.

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Bulgarian.


The versions of the Bible for the Slovenes are most closely connected with the activity of the Reformer of Carniola, Primož Trubar and his associates and successors. They were intended for the Evangelical Slovenes. Trubar translated the Gospel of Matthew, which was printed at Reutlingen in 1555. In 1557, the first part of the New Testament was published at Tübingen, the second part in 1560, and the complete New Testament was issued in 1582. The Psalms appeared in 1566.

Jurij Dalmatin, who assisted Trubar, translated the Old Testament and an edition of the entire Scriptures in Slovenian. This was published under his direction at Wittenberg in 1584. Stevan Kuezmics published a New Testament for the Hungarian Slovenes in their dialect at Halle in 1771. An edition published at Kőszeg (Guns) in 1848 includes the Psalms.

In 1784, part of the New Testament for use by Roman Catholics was printed at Ljubljana after being translated from the Vulgate by several hands. The second part of the New Testament was issued in 1786, and the Old Testament between 1791 and 1802.


Efforts were also made to prepare a Bible version for the Evangelical Croats and converts to the Evangelical faith.

A New Testament translated by Anton Dalmata and Stipan Consul was printed in Glagolitic characters (2 parts) at Tübingen between 1562–63. Jesuit Bartol Kašić translated the complete Bible 1622-1638, but his translation remained, due to political reasons, unpublished until 1999. In the 17th century, efforts were made to produce a translation for the Catholic Croats and Serbians in the so-called Illyrian dialect, but nothing was printed until the 19th century when a Bible in Latin letters together with the parallel text of the Vulgate was translated into the Illyric language, Bosnian dialect by Petrus Kataucsich. It was published at Budapest (6 parts, 1831) and closely follows the Vulgate.

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Croatian.


The Konikovo Gospel title page published in the book "Български старини от Македония", Йордан Иванов, С. 1931, с. 182.

In 1852 in Salonica the cleric Pavel Bozhigrobski, printed a bilingual manuscript. It contains a Greek evangeliarium and its translation to Solun-Voden dialect from today Slavic dialects of Greece, both written in Greek letters. The texts represent the vernacular, not church language. This translation is the oldest known text of greater scope, that directly reflects the living dialects of Aegean Macedonia of that period. Bulgarian Academician Jordan Ivanov, who found the titel page of the gospel in 1907, described it as written in Bulgarian dialect.[1] All the more on the titel page is written: Typed in Bulgarian language, [2] even the author himself, was known later as Bulgarian Exarchate's worker.[3] However the label "Bulgarian language" for various Macedonian dialects can be seen from early vernacular texts such as the four-language dictionary of Daniel Mоscopolites, the early works of Kiril Peichinovich and Yoakim Karchovski and such vernacular gospels written in the Greek alphabet. These written works influenced by or completely written in the local Slavic vernacular were registered in Macedonia in the 18th and beginning of the 19th century and their authors referred to their language as Bulgarian.[4] It is also considered by researchers from the University of Helsinki to be the oldest known Gospel translation in what would later be known as Macedonian language. Until the winter of 2003-04 it was believed that both the manuscript and the printed text, were destroyed. Only the front page was preserved and published in the book "Bulgarian antiquities in Macedonia", Jordan Ivanov, 1931, p. 182., among others. Then a group of researchers from the University of Helsinki found the original manuscript of the translation of the Alexandrian Patriarch, under the reference: Bibl.Patr.Alex. 268. Another example is the Kulakian gospel from 1863, which represents translation from Greek evangeliarium to Solun-Voden dialect and was written by hand with Greek letters from Еvstati Kipriadi in the town of Chalastra. On the titel page is also inscription: Written in Bulgarian language.[5][6]

The Kulakian Gospel title page published in the book "Български старини от Македония", Йордан Иванов, С. 1931, с. 301.

The first complete New Testament translated in the Macedonian language was printed in 1964. The whole Bible (including the Deuterocanonical books) translated in Macedonian by the Archbishop Gavril was printed in 1990. An independent translation of the complete Bible was prepared by Duško Konstantinov in the mid 1970s, but it was not printed until 1996 by the Loucas Foundation[citation needed]. A dynamic translation of the New Testament prepared by Ivan Grozdanov and Goran Stojanov was published in 1999 under the umbrella of the International Bible Society.[7]

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Macedonian.


The history of the Polish translation of the Bible begins with the Psalter. Florian Psalter (Psałterz floriański), a manuscript of the second half of the 14th century, in the abbey of Saint Florian, near Linz, in Latin, Polish, and German is probably the oldest. A critical edition of the Polish part was published by Nehring (Psalterii Florianensis pars Polonica, Posen, 1883) with a very instructive introduction. Besides the Florian Psalter there is the Psalter of Puławy (now in Kraków) belonging to the end of the 15th century (published in facsimile, Posen, 1880).

Polish Bibles originated after the middle of the 15th century. An incomplete Bible, the so-called Sophia Bible (named after Queen Sophia, for whom it was intended, according to a remark from the 16th century; also called the Sarospatak Bible from the place where it is preserved), contains Genesis, Joshua, Ruth, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, II (III) Esdras, Tobit, and Judith. With the Reformation period, activity in the work of translation increased as the different confessions endeavored to supply their adherents with texts of the Bible. An effort to provide the Lutherans with the Bible in Polish was made by Duke Albert of Prussia in a letter directed in his name to Melanchthon.

Jan Sieklucki, preacher at Königsberg (d. 1578), was commissioned to prepare a translation, and he published, the New Testament at Konigsberg, 1551 and 1552. The Polish Reformed (Calvinists) received the Bible through Prince Nicholas Radziwill (1515–65). A company of Polish and foreign theologians and scholars undertook the task, and, after six years' labor at Pińczów, not far from Kraków, finished the translation of the Bible which was published at the expense of Radziwill in Brest-Litovsk, 1563 (hence called the Brest or Radziwill Bible - Biblia Brzeska).

The translators state that for the Old Testament they consulted besides the Hebrew text the ancient versions and different modern Latin ones. The Brest Bible was not universally welcomed. The Reformed suspected it of Socinian interpretations; the Socinians complained that it was not accurate enough. The Socinian Simon Budny especially charged against the Brest Bible that it was not prepared according to the original texts, but after the Vulgate and other modern versions, and that the translators cared more for elegant Polish than for a faithful rendering. He undertook a new rendering, and his translation ("made anew from the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin into the Polish") was printed in 1572 at Nesvizh. As changes were introduced in the printing which were not approved by Budny, he disclaimed the New Testament and published another edition (1574). The charges which he made against the Brest Bible were also made against his own, and the Socinian Adam Czechowicz published a new and improved edition of the New Testament (Rakow, 1577).

The interesting preface states that Czechowicz endeavored to make an accurate translation, but did not suppress his Socinian ideas; e.g., he used "immersion" instead of "baptism." Another Socinian New Testament was published by Valentinus Smalcius (Rakow, 1606). The Brest Bible was superseded by the so-called Danzig Bible, which finally became the Bible of all Evangelical Poles. At the synod in Ozarowiec, 1600, a new edition of the Bible was proposed and the work was given to the Reformed minister Martin Janicki, who had already translated the Bible from the original texts. In 1603 the printing of this translation was decided upon, after the work had been carefully revised. The work of revision was entrusted to men of the Reformed and Lutheran confessions and members of the Moravian Church (1604), especially to Daniel Mikolajewski (d. 1633), superintendent of the Reformed churches in Great Poland, and Jan Turnowski, senior of the Moravian Church in Great Poland (d. 1629).

After it had been compared with the Janicki translation, the Brest, the Bohemian, Pagnini's, and the Vulgate, the new rendering was ordered printed. The Janicki translation as such has not been printed, and it is difficult to state how much of it is contained in the new Bible. The New Testament was first published at Danzig, 1606, and very often during the 16th and 17th centuries. The complete Bible was issued in 1632, and often since. The Danzig Bible differs so much from that of Brest that it may be regarded as a new translation. It is erroneously called also the Bible of Paliurus (a Moravian, senior of the Evangelical Churches in Great Poland, d. 1632); but he had no part in the work. For the Roman Catholics the Bible was translated from the Vulgate by John of Lemberg (Leopolita, hence this was called the Leopolitan Bible) and published at Kraków, 1561, 1574, and 1577.

This Bible was superseded by the new translation of Jakub Wujek (a Jesuit, b. about 1540; d. at Kraków 1593). Wujek criticized the Catholic and non-Catholic Bible versions and spoke very favorably of the Polish of the Brest Bible, but asserted that it was full of heresies and of errors in translation. With the approbation of the Holy See the New Testament was first published at Kraków, 1593, and the Old Testament in 1599, after Wujek's death. This Bible (Biblia Wujka) has often been reprinted. Wujek's translation follows, in the main, the Vulgate.

Today the official and most popular Bible in Poland is the Millennial Bible (Biblia Tysiąclecia) first published in 1965. Other popular catholic translations include Biblia Poznanska (Poznań Bible, 1975) and Biblia Warszawsko-Praska (1997).

Polish Protestants had been widely using Biblia Gdańska (Danzig Bible), until they prepared their modern translation: Biblia Warszawska (Warsaw Bible) in 1975.

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Polish.


Peter the Great felt that the mass of the Russian people needed a Bible in the vernacular and authorized Pastor Gluck in 1703 to prepare such an edition. Unhappily Gluck died in 1705 and nothing is known of his work. It was left to the 19th century in connection with the establishment of the Russian Bible Society (founded in 1812 at Saint Petersburg, with the consent of Alexander I) to prepare a Bible in the vernacular. The work was under taken by Filaret, rector of the Theological Academy of Saint Petersburg (afterward metropolitan of Moscow), and other members of the faculty of the academy.

The Gospels were published in 1818 and in 1822 the entire New Testament. In 1820 the translation of the Old Testament was undertaken, and in 1822 Philaret's translation of the Psalms was published. In 1825 the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth were issued. The year 1826 saw an end to the activity of the Bible Society in the ban put upon all kinds of private associations, even when non-political. Not before 1858 was the work of translation resumed. In 1876 the entire Bible was published in one volume. This translation is called the Synod Version. The Old Testament books, though based upon the Hebrew Bible, follow the order of the Septuagint and the Church Slavonic Bible. The Apocryphal books also form a part of the Russian Bible. The British and Foreign Bible Society also issued a Russian edition, omitting, however, the Apocrypha.

In September, 2000 the International Bible Society completed a Dynamic equivalence translation called Slovo Zhizny, the Russian equivalent of the English New International Version

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Russian.


The first Serbian Bible of Atanasie Ivanović Stoiković (published by the Russian Bible Society at Saint Petersburg, 1824) is not written in the vernacular, but is a mixture of Church Slavonic and Serbian.

A translation of the New Testament into Serbian was made by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, the founder of modern Serbian literature, and published at Vienna in 1847. The Old Testament was translated by Vuk's pupil Đuro Daničić and issued at Belgrade in 1868.

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Serbian, in Cyrillic and Latin scripts.

Sorbian (Wendish)

The oldest Sorbian Bible version, that of the New Testament of 1547, is extant in a manuscript in the Royal Library at Berlin. The translator was Miklawusch Jakubica, who employed a now-extinct dialect of Lower Sorbian. In the 18th century Gottlieb Fabricius, a German, made a translation of the New Testament which was printed in 1709. In a revised form this version was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1860.

The Old Testament, translated by J. G. Fritz, was printed at Cottbus in 1796. An edition of the entire Bible was published by the Prussian Bible Society in 1868. Michael Frentzel, Pastor in Postwitz (d. 1706), translated the New Testament into the Upper Sorbian, and his version was published by his son, Abraham Frentzel (Zittau, 1706). A complete edition of the Bible, the work of different scholars, was first published at Bautzen, 1728. A second revised edition was prepared by Johann Gottfried Kuhn and issued in 1742; a third improved edition prepared by Johann Jacob Petschke was published in 1797. Passing over other editions, it is worth while to note that the ninth edition of the complete Bible (Bautzen, 1881) was revised by H. Immisch and others and contains a history of the Upper Lusatian Wendish Bible translation. For the Roman Catholic Wends of Upper Lusatia G. Lusanski and M. Hornik translated the New Testament from the Vulgate, and published it at Bautzen, 1887–92; the Psalms were translated from the Hebrew by J. Laras (Bautzen, 1872).


The known history of the Bible translation into Ukrainian began in 16th century with Peresopnytsia Gospels, which included only four Gospels of the New Testament. Later in 17-19th centuries, when the Ukrainian territory was a part of the Russian Empire, several other translations were made secretly because of the Russian Government restrictions on Ukrainian language [8][9]. At present there are several translations of Holy Scripture into Ukrainian:

Jehovah's Witnesses have translated the New Testament of their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Ukrainian.

See also


  1. ^ Български старини от Македония", Йордан Иванов, С. 1931, с. 182.
  2. ^ Евангелие на Господа Бога и Спаса нашего Иисуса Христо, сига ново типосано на богарской йезик за секоа неделя от година догодина со рет. Преписано и диортосано от мене Павел йероманах, бозигропски протосингел, родом Воденска (Епархия) от село Кониково. Солон, Стампа Кирякова Дарзилен 1852.
  3. ^ Български възрожденски книжовници от Македония. Избрани страници, Издателство на БАН, София, 1983, стр. 119.
  4. ^ F. A. K. Yasamee "NATIONALITY IN THE BALKANS: THE CASE OF THE MACEDONIANS" in Balkans: A Mirror of the New World Order, Istanbul: EREN, 1995; pp. 121-132.
  5. ^ Mazon, Andre et Andre Vaillant. L'evangeliaire de Kulakia un parler slave du Bas-Vardar, Paris 1938.
  6. ^ Господново и сфетаго евангелио на бога нашаго голема црикфа христианоф, искарено на бугарцко изик тувашно збор на Вардариа за уф неделите сати за гудината и за сати празницити големите за цела година за литургиата. Са писало ут Евстатио Киприади уф селото Колакиа на 30 ноемврио месиц 1863.
  7. ^ Macedonian New Testament - Dynamic Translation, published by the Good News Baptist Church, 1999.
  8. ^ Ukrainian Bible Society, History of Bible Translations
  9. ^ Marta Onufriv, Ukrains'ka Pravda
  10. ^ Conference in Kyiv Marks Birth Anniversary of First Translator of Holy Gospels into Ukrainian


External links


All translations of Translation of the Bible in the modern Bulgarian language and its Macedonian dialect

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