Translating the Russian preface to the works of Methodius

This evening I sat down with the text of Michael Chub’s preface to his edition of a selection of the works of Methodius.[1].  I took the output from Google Translate, and went through it, smoothing and amending.

I got a very long way!  It’s about 3,400 words, and nearly all of it fell into English quite neatly.  But not all. If you know Russian, some thoughts in the comments on the following would be useful.

My first stop was:

The literary activity of St. Methodius, as can be seen, coincides with the end of the donikeyskogo period of development of theological thought, and, to some extent, can be regarded as a peculiar result of this development.

The period in question is that before the Edict of Milan in 313; but as I wrote this, it came to me that this meant “ante-Nicene”.

So far so good; but bluff and a machine translator will only take you so far.  Now it gets hard.

Молитва св. Мефодия, известная только в славянском тексте, вне всякого сомнения, ^ принадлежит к числу наиболее ранних христианских молитв. Употребленные в ней формулировки и выражения чрезвычайно характерны для суждения о догматическом словоупотреблении доникейской эпохи. Заслуживает особого внимания то место молитвы, где говорится о победе над смертью, совершенной страданиями и умерщвлением Бесстрастного и Бессмертного. Здесь встречаются и скрещиваются слоза и мысли, знакомые уже древнейшей христианской Церкви (сравн. Игнатий Богоносец, „Послание к Поликарпу”, 3, 2; Григорий Неокесарийский, „Послание к Феопомпу”, 7, 8, ІО) и прочно вошедшие в молитвенный обиход последующих веков (сравн., напр., в „Последовании на сон грядущим” в современных молитвословах Молитва вторая). Вся молитва имеет большое значение для суждения о прочности и устойчивости церковных традиций и, в частности, о способах сохранения и передачи этих традиций.

The prayer of St. Methodius, known only from the Slavonic text, no doubt, belongs among the earliest Christian prayers. Its formulation and expression are extremely characteristic for evaluating the dogmatic discourse of the ante-Nicene era. Deserving of special attention is a passage in the prayer, which says the victory over death, suffering and killing of a perfect passionless and Immortal. Here you can meet and interbreed sloza and thought, already familiar to the ancient Christian Church (cf. Ignatius, “Epistle to Polycarp,” 3:2, Gregory of Neocaesarea, “Message to Theopompus”, 7, 8, 10) and entered the everyday life of prayer of later ages (compare, for example, in the “Succession before sleep” in the modern prayer book, Prayer Two). The whole prayer is important for judging the strength and stability of church traditions and, in particular, on how to preserve and pass on these traditions.

I’ve often wanted to interbreed sloza and thought, of course.  Whatever sloza is.    Nor did the previous sentence make sense to me either.

При чтении трактата „О прокаженин” следует помнить, что по замыслу автора это диалог.

9) When reading the treatise “On prokazhenin” should be remembered that the author’s idea is a dialogue.

Mine too, as it happens!

Ссылки на Свящ. Писание после цитат не принадлежат св. Мефодию. Они вставлены в текст перевода для удобства чтения, причем прямые цитаты снабжены ссылками в круглых ( ) скобках, а непрямые цитаты и реминисценции — в квадратных скобках [ ].

Quotation marks from Holy Scripture are not by St. Methodius. They have been inserted into the translation for readability, and direct quotations are provided with round brackets, and indirect quotations and reminiscences – in square brackets [].

I’m pretty sure I’m confused here.  Does the text really put scripture in brackets?  Or in quotes?

По связи речи следует здесь же отметить, что проф. Н. Г. Бонвеч совсем не затрагивает тему о наличии аграфов в творениях св. Мефодия.

Speech Communication should also be noted here that Prof. N. G. Bonwetsch does not affect the subject of the presence of agrapha in the works of St. Methodius.

Any ideas?

The final chunk is rather serious: it’s the list of manuscripts and libraries of the Old Slavonic text.  Not that I can’t get a general idea: but specifically it’s not great.

Основной рукописью для работы над текстом названных творений явился „Сборник” XVI века, хранящийся в Ленинграде в Государственной Публичной Библиотеке имени Салтыкова-Щедрина (Q I 265).

Текст основной рукописи сличен с текстом следующих рукописей;

  • Рукопись Библиотеки Академии Наук Союза ССР 16. 16. 2 (XVII в.).
  • Рукопись Библиотеки им. Ленина из собрания Московской духовной академии №41, ранее находившаяся в Троице-Сергиевой Лавре (нач. XVII в.).
  • Рукопись Государственного Исторического Музея из Синодального собрания №170 (XVI в.).
  • Рукопись Библиотеки им. Ленина из собрания Моск. дух. академии № 40, написанная для Арсения Суханова (XVII в.).
  • Рукопись Библиотеки им. Ленина из собрания Общества Истории и Древностей Российских № 137 (XVII в.).

Кроме указанных выше рукописей, были привлечены следующие;

  • Рукопись Госуд. Исторического Музея из Уваровского собрания № 115 (XVI в.).
  • Рукопись Госуд. Истор. Музея из собрания Чудовского монастыря № 233 (XVI — XVII в).
  • Рукопись Госуд. Истор. Музея из собрания Чудовского монастыря № 205 (XVII в.).
  • Рукопись Госуд. Истор. Музея из собрания Единоверческого монастыря № 12 (XVII в.).
  • Рукопись Госуд. Истор. Музея из собрания Барсова № 264 (подделка — довольно искусная — под XVI век, воспроизводящая, по-видимому, слово в слово текст старинной рукописи, послужившей образцом для настоящей).

OK.  This comes out as something like this:

The main manuscript for the text of these works is the Sbornik 11 of the XVI century, kept in the Leningrad State Public Library in the Saltykov-Shchedrin (QI 265) 10.

The main text was produced by collating the following manuscripts;

1) Manuscript Library of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR 16. 16. 2 (XVII century).
2) Lenin Manuscript Library, from the Collection of the Moscow Theological Academy, number 41, previously found in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra (the beginning of the XVII century.).
3) The manuscript of the State Historical Museum of the Synodal Assembly number 170 (XVI century).
4) Lenin Manuscript Library, from the collection of the Spiritual Academy of Moscow number 40, written for Arsenius Sukhanov (XVII century).
5) Lenin Manuscript Library, from the meeting of the Society of History and Russian Antiquities number 137 (XVII century).

In addition to these manuscripts, the following were involved;

6) The manuscript gov’t. Historical Museum of Uvarov meeting ? 115 (XVI century).
7) The manuscript gov’t. History. The Museum from the collection of the monastery Chudovsky No 233 (XVI – XVII c).
8 ) The manuscript gov’t. History. The Museum from the collection of the monastery Chudovsky No 205 (XVII century).
9) The manuscript gov’t. History. The Museum from the collection of ? 12 Edinoverie monastery (XVII century).
10) The manuscript gov’t. History. The Museum from the collection of Autograph No 264 (a forgery – a rather ingenious one – from the XVI century, reproducing, apparently, word for word the text of an ancient manuscript that served as a model for this).

Could anyone with Russian skills help here?  We need to get a reliable list of manuscripts, if we’re going to put it online, as some poor soul may one day make his travel plans by this!

But that’s it.  Otherwise the 3,400 words is pretty much done.

  1. [1] M. Chub, Preface to the edition of the Slavic collection of the works of St. Methodius, Bogoslovskie Trudy (=’Theological works’) 2, Moscow Patriarchate, 1961, p.145-151.

12 Responses to “Translating the Russian preface to the works of Methodius”


  1. Maureen

    “mesto” just means “place.” But “passage” is a fair translation, in this bit.

    “That place in the prayer deserves special attention where it talks about the victory over death, by means of the perfect sufferings and killing of the impassive and undying one.” (Instrumental case. Google doesn’t love cases.)

  2. Maureen

    I think “sloza” means “words”, and is a poetic or slightly archaic word for them. It seems to come up with poems and lyrics. (Either that, or I’m forgetting another irregular noun form. I’m horrible with those, and Russian has as many as English, except with cases included. Arggh.)

    “Here words and thoughts already familiar to the ancient Christian Church, meet and intersect each other … and ones firmly included in the everyday life of prayer of subsequent ages…. “Sequence before sleep”…

  3. Maureen

    “prokazhenii” is “leprous”, so I think you know what treatise we’re at! “….it should be remembered that, by the author’s design, this is a dialogue.”

    Ssilki — I’m pretty sure this means “references” or “cross references”. (It means “links” on webpages.)

    [Chapter and verse] “References to Holy Scripture after a quotation were not put in by St. Methodius. They are inserted into the translated text for readability; direct references in parentheses, but indirect quotations and reminiscent expressions in square brackets.”

    “In connection to the speeches that follow, here it should be noted that Professor N.G. Bonwetsch completely does not touch upon the subject of the presence of agrapha in the works of St. Methodius.”

  4. Maureen

    Well, that’s the best I can figure out with my dictionary’s help. Not knowing much about Russian Orthodoxy or the rest of this stuff isn’t helping. (I assume that looking at the actual text would clear up whether it’s chapter and verse references in parentheses and brackets, or actual scriptural words, or what.)

  5. Teo

    доникейского периода – donikeyskogo period – donatiste period (eresy)

  6. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much indeed for these, Maureen! It’s more than I would have been able to do! We’ve probably got enough to push the whole preface online (I’ll try looking at the text itself for brackets etc — should have thought of that). I’ll try working out what Russian manuscript libraries were generally called — that should disentangle the list of manuscripts.

  7. Chub’s preface to Methodius now online at Roger Pearse

    […] was talking about this on Saturday, here.  It’s no work of scholarship, but the end product of some Google Translate and the kind […]

  8. Sean O'Ballilogh

    доникейского периода – donikeyskogo period – donatiste period (eresy)
    It’s mistake
    до-никейский is ‘antenicean’

  9. Sean O'Ballilogh

    Deserving of special attention is a passage in the prayer, which says the victory over death, suffering and killing of a perfect passionless and Immortal. Here you can meet and interbreed sloza and thought,

    sloza is слоза – it’s wrong recognized russian слова- words

  10. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much for these! Yes, I recognised the “ante-Nicene”, but I did not spot the OCR error for “sloza”!

  11. Sean O'Ballilogh

    Государственный Исторический музей – State Historical Museum (www.shm.ru)
    Библиотека Академии наук – The Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences (http://www.rasl.ru)
    Библиотека имени Ленина now Российская государственная библиотека – The Russian State Library (http://www.rsl.ru/en)

  12. Roger Pearse

    Thank you – those links are very useful to those of us who are not Russian speakers.



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