Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Solomon, продолжение

В1.      Broader literary context


Vodolazkin discusses Prophecy in the context of Palaea and its possible sources. This context itself leads to the South Slavic literatures and, through them, to the Greek originals, regardless to the complicated history of the Palaea texts on the Russian soil. In fact, the relevant context is broader.

A quite relevant context of Prophecy is a very productive genre of South Slavic literatures, so-called Erotapokriseis (“Questions and Responses”), whose large part has been dedicated to the topics of faith and biblical exegesis. Most of this literature has been translated from Greek. In some cases, where the Greek originals are unknown, there are reasons to presume original South Slavic compilations, but, even here, the sources should be considered as translated from Greek[1].

Another parallel presents the genre of the anonymous Dialogue of Panagiotes with an Azymite, a late 13th century Byzantine anti-Latin polemical treatise preserved in original but also known in a South Slavic version (at least, its Slavonic version has never been included into the lists of allegedly Russian translations). Here, the author makes use of many sources close to the erotapokriseis literature and Palaea, including some textual intercessions. Prophecy of Solomon is structurally similar to the Dialogue of Panagiotes with an Azymite, while is directed against the Jews instead of the Latins.

All this illustrates the fact that Prophecy of Solomon, be it a South Slavonic translation from a Greek original, will never look strange within the context of the South Slavic literatures. However, in the context of the Russian literature, it has affinities with only some Palaea-related texts, whose ultimate sources are unidentified but presumably South Slavic translations from Greek, too.

Given that the best recension of Prophecy of Solomon is available in a South Slavic manuscript, and not only in a Russian one, and, moreover, that the claims of Russian origin of Prophecy turned out to be unsubstantiated, we have here the second argument in favour of the South Slavic origin of the Slavonic text of Prophecy.

So far we have never touched the question if Prophecy is translated from Greek. However, even now we can notice that this possibility is very likely, because the most of the relevant South Slavic works are translations.


2.      Date and Sitz im Leben


The text of Prophecy contains its own date, admitted before Vodolazkin by all its students. Vodolazkin revised the previous scholarship on this point, too. This innovation seems to me rather unhelpful.

The relevant part of the text is preserved in only three manuscripts. It runs as follows (p. 446.4-6 of the critical edition; cf. p. 308, discussion of the date by Vodolazkin):

“Is this your retribution, oh Jew, that from that captivity by Titus up to the present year you are in servitude by us for years 1000 and 200 without thirty and three years?”


Thus in the manuscript on which Vodolazkin’s and Rudi’s edition is founded. It contains an obvious scribal error corrected by all previous scholars and Vodolazkin and Rudi too: the word for “thirty” is spelled as стридесятехъ instead of тридесятехъ. Two other manuscripts (one of them is the Serbian one) contain simply “more than 1000 years”. It is by no means obvious how we have to count from this “captivity by Titus” these 1000 plus 200 minus 30 minus 3 years. It is obvious, however, that this computing leads to some date in the 13th century.

Previous scholars, and especially I. N. Zhdanov (1881), V. M. Istrin (1906), and A. A. Šaxmatov (1904) considered the exact date as genuine. If so, the approximate date “more than 1000 years” is to be taken as an editorial updating of the text. Indeed, this is the most natural way of thinking. It is a priori unlikely that such a detailed and complicated lectio difficilior is added by a later editor, while, on the contrary, an elimination of a reading that loses its actuality is quite common.

Vodolazkin is trying to date Prophecy to a period closer to the earliest manuscript and to the date that he proposes for Palaea Chronographica. Thus, he tries to avoid the acceptance of a 13th century date. He needs to provide some strong evidences that the “natural way of thinking” of the previous scholars is here inapplicable. Instead, he limits himself to saying that the date in the best, according to his own evaluation, manuscript resulted from a computational error of the scribe[2]. It would be better, however, before starting to judge scribe’s computational ability, to answer the question why he would have a need to insert a chronological precision whatever. Vodolazkin is silent on this matter, and so, we are free to go back to the early scholars who took the precise date seriously.

There is another difficulty what this precise date means. What is the date of “captivity by Titus”? And, more exactly, what is its date according to the chronology implied in Prophecy? Three previous scholars have left us three different answers.

Zhdanov has interpreted “captivity” as the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and, placing the beginning of computation on AM 5500, dated the work by 1237. Then, Istrin corrected him as historian, assuming that the correct date of “captivity” (which is not “fall”) is 75. Thus, his date is 1242. Finally, Šaxmatov corrected Istrin recalling that the “correct” era starts on AM 5508. Therefore, his date (generally accepted by the later scholars) is 1234.

Now we know that none of these dates could be accepted without additional evidences. The contents of Vodolazkin’s book is enough to realize that both AM 5500 and AM 5508 eras were actual to both Byzantine and Slavic scribes. It is also difficult to judge what event exactly is meant by “captivity”, and, moreover, what is its date implied by Prophecy. The fall of Jerusalem could be considered as the most likely (pace Istrin, and so, also Šaxmatov) because this is the most remarkable event for the chronology, but this is only a supposition and, even it is right, we have no its exact date according to Prophecy’s chronology. Our knowledge that this occurred on 70 AD, regardless how exact it could be is not that that we actually need.

Therefore, without additional evidences, we can cautionary date Prophecy to the interval between  ca. 1220 and ca. 1245. The dates of 1237 (Zhdanov) and 1229 are especially probable. The latter date results from the same reasoning as Zhdanov’s one while supposing the era of AM 5508 instead of AM 5500. Istrin’s detailed knowledge of historical events of the first Jewish war seems to me hardly applicable to the reasons of the computists.

Our next step will be most natural, but, oddly enough, has been never performed so far. We have to look for any remarkable conflict with the Jews in either Slavonic or Byzantine lands whose date is fitting our conditions.

The answer appears immediately, and it is only one: beginning of persecution of the Jews by the Emperor of Epiros Thodore Komnenos Doukas when he conquered Thessalonica, in 1229[3].

This observation would be almost enough to define the Sitz im Leben of Prophecy, but I will elaborate below on its Byzantine connections.

[1] See now a large introduction to the whole this area, together with a critical edition of some important texts: А. Милтенова, Erotapokriseis. Съчиненията от кратки въпроси и отговори в старобългарската литература (София, 2004) [A. Miltenova, Erotapokriseis. The Works Containing Short Questions and Responses in the Old Bulgarian Literature (Sofia, 2004)].

[2] «Учитывая многочисленные неточности, допускавшиеся древнерусскими книжниками в хронологических выкладках, ошибку в указании лет можно допустить и в расчетах КБ» [“Taking into account how many inaccuracies were committed by the Old Russian scribes in the chronological computing, it is allowable to assume an error in indicating of years also in the computus of <the ms> КБ”] (p. 308).

[3] P. Charanis, The Jews in the Byzantine Empire under the First Palaeologi, Speculum 22 (1947) 75–77.ки

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