Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Solomon, Made in Russia

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Greek Sources 

The existence of Greek sources is not a direct proof of the Greek original of the whole compilation, but it is, indeed, natural, if such original did exist. In Istrin’s time, such sources were known only for relatively little part of the work that depends on Josephus and some chronicles, as well as for several quotes from the Byzantine hymnography (quoted along with other Christian Scriptures, as if a part of the New Testament), such as the canon for the Easter of John of Damascus (p. 394–395) and the Theotokia stichera of the Octoechos (p. 392)[1]. All these Greek sources were presumably available in Slavonic translations from an early epoch.

The Story of the Chalice of Solomon, also included into Prophecy, was unknown in Greek prior to 1967 and has been often considered as an original Slavic work (now two Greek manuscripts of the inscription on the Chalice of Solomon are available, while both contain a shorter text without any narrative at all[2]).

Unfortunately, there is no detailed inventory of the known sources of Prophecy, and the critical edition does not contain any reference to the extra-biblical sources. This lack of the references to the sources in the apparatus of a critical edition is not a particular sin of Vodolazkin and Rudi, but just another expression of the backward philological standards of the whole school (such references were mostly considered as unnecessary by the Russian prerevolutionary scholars).

The work is constructed as several series of the commentaries on biblical prophecies of Solomon, Isaiah, and Daniel (the story of the Chalice of Solomon is considered on the same level, as a part of the Scriptures) and the history of Jews under the Romans. Sometime these commentaries look as fragments of catenae, especially in the case of Canticle whose text is covered in a large part. Presently none of these texts is identified. The study of Prophecy within exegetical traditions remains a desideratum, and it is difficult to foretell the exact results of such research. My purpose here will be to point out several peculiarities.


Exegesis of Cant 5:10


Commentaries on Cant 5:10 (ἀδελφιδός μου λευκὸς καὶ πυρρός, ἐκλελοχισμένος ἀπὸ μυριάδων) occur two times in succession (p. 296 and 297), with a very short interval (filled by the commentary on Cant 2:3), but, second time, the verse is quoted in an altered form, and so, passes as a different verse attributed to Solomon and remains unidentified by the modern editors. Instead of “My kinsman is white and ruddy, chosen out from myriads” (Brenton’s tr.[3]) the text runs as “Give me whiteness and fire chosen” (Даи ми бѣлость и огнь избранныи). One has cut off “from myriads” at the end and divided into two the word at the beginning. Thus, instead of ἀδελφιδός μου appeared δός μου “give me”. Presumably, the initial part of the first word was understood as Nominative ἀδελφή “sister”, that is, an indication of the person to whom the following phrase is attributed. Needless to say that such an alteration is possible only in Greek.

The remaining words were reinterpreted accordingly. A usual expression in Septuagint λευκὸς καὶ πυρρός that means “white and red” has been reinterpreted in a literal way, so that the latter word acquired its etymological sense (from πῦρ “fire”). By the way, understanding of πυρρός as “of fire/fiery” became a common feature of the late Byzantine exegesis[4]; however, we don’t know when it appeared first. In this exegetic tradition, the fire becomes a symbol of the Holy Spirit, while the white colour becomes a symbol of flesh[5]. In the early Christian exegesis of this verse, it was an opposite understanding that dominated: the red colour was understood in the light of the famous “red garments from Bosor” (Is 63:1) as a symbol of flesh; thus, the white remained for the divinity[6].

The first occurrence of Cant 5:10 in Prophecy presents an undistorted text of the verse and goes in the line of the commentaries of Philo of Carpasius[7] and Gregory of Nyssa[8] (“white” for flesh, but “red” for blood of Christ), both widespread in the catenae[9].

We can conclude therefore, that the second intervention of Cant 5:10, unlike the first one, is, in several ways, anomalous. It trickles through on the surface of the 13th-century fashioned text from the margins of the contemporary Byzantine culture. Its ultimate source is still unclear.

[1] Probably, a comparison with their earliest available translations would make sense. Despite the complete lack of the references in the apparatus, this is not a difficult task to those who are acquainted, at least, superficially, with the Byzantine hymnography.

[2] See, for the details, В. М. Лурье, Чаша Соломона и скиния на Сионе. Часть 1. Надпись на Чаше Соломона: текст и контекст [B. Lourié, Chalice of Solomon and Tabernacle on Sion. Part 1. Inscription on the Chalice of Solomon: text and context], Византинороссика / Byzantinorossica 3 (2005) 8–74. Here I make use and quote the second Greek manuscript found by R. Stichel in the 1990s, but so far unpublished.

[3] Cf. new translation by Jay C. Treat in: A. Pietersma, B. G. Wright, eds. A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title (New York/Oxford, 2007) 664: “My brotherkin is radiant and ruddy, selected from ten thousands”.

[4] There is a bit curious case in an oration of a 12th century rhetor, Michael Italicus, who applied his partial explanation of Canticle to the personality of his addressee, the present Patriarch Michael II Oxeites (Kourkouas) (1143—1146); the exegetical tradition he relies on is nevertheless transparent: Bridegroom is “white” because of his purity achieved by the tears and ascetic life, and “fiery” because of the “fire of Spirit” that inflamed him. Cf. P. Gautier, Michel Italikos, Lettres et Discours (Paris, 1972) (Archives de l’Orient Chrétien, 14) 74.20-26 (Oratio 2). The same typology (“white” for flesh, “fiery” for Spirit) in one of the greatest theological authorities of his epoch, Neophytos the Recluse (1134—1219): B. S. Pseftonkas, Τὸ ᾎσμα ᾀσμάτων, in: I. Karabidopoulos, C. Oikonomou, D. G. Tsames, and N. Zacharopoulos, Ἁγίου Νεοφύτου τοῦ Ἐγκλείστου, Συγγράμματα 4 (Paphos, 2001) 643–674 (TLG 3085.012); Ch. 3, line 103-113.

[5] Probably, this tradition is already traceable in Didymus the Blind (4th cent.). See Didymus, Commentarii in Psalmos 40–44.4: ἀδελφιδοῦς μ[ου] λευκὸς καὶ <πυρρός>, οὐχ εἷς ἐστιν, ἄνθρωπος καὶ θεός ἐστιν; M. Gronewald, Didymos der Blinde, Psalmenkommentar, pt. 5 (Bonn, 1970) (Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen12) 297.21-22. In this explanation, the phrase “man and God” follows the order of “white and red”.

[6] Cf. Origen, Scholia in Canticum Canticorum, PG 17, 273.51-53, cited by Procopius of Gaza, Catenae in Canticum Canticorum, PG 87/2, 1692.8-9; Theodoretus of Cyrus, parallel commentaries in Explanatio in Canticum Canticorum, PG 81, 156–157, and Commentary in Isaiah (in 63:1): J.-N. Guinot, Téodoret de Cyr, Commentaire sur Isaïe. T. 3 (Sections 14-20) (Paris, 1984) (SC 315) (TLG 4089.008), tomos 19, lines 580-581.

[7] Philo Carpasiensis, Enarratio in Canticum Canticorum, PG 40, 108 B.

[8] Gregorii Nysseni Opera, Vol. 6: H. Langerbeck, Gregorii Nysseni, In Canticum Canticorum (Leiden, 1960) 387.13-22, 388.5-6, 389.14.

[9] Including an especially influential work of Procopius of Gaza, Catena in Canticum Canticorum, PG 87/2, 1692 AB, and the only catena in Canticle known in Slavonic translation (depending on the catena of Procopius): А. А. Алексеев, Песнь Песней в древней славяно-русской письменности (СПб., 2002) [A. A. Alekseev, “Song of Songs” in the Ancient Slavo-Russian Literary Tradition (St Petersburg, 2002)] 110. Here Alekseev repeats his claim that not only translation, but the very composition of this catena were performed by an East Slavic scribe (who would have know Greek and have access to the Greek manuscripts hardly accessible in Rus’) (ibid., p. 59–61). This viewpoint has been sharply criticized by Horace Lunt and Francis Thomson. In his 2002 book Alekseev enumerates their critical publications (p. 60, n. 43-44, however, omitting the 1999 republication of Thomson’s “Made in Russia”, while here in Addenda, p. 23, Thomson provides some additional linguistic evidences related to this catena) and his own earlier answers, together with publications of other Russian scholars critically disposed to Thomson but without touching the problem of this particular catena (p. 61, n. 45). À propos this claim of Alekseev, Thomson sharply remarks: “It scarcely needs to be pointed out that the reasoning because the catena has not been traced in Greek, ergo it is a Slav compilation is a non sequitur” (Thomson, ‘Made in Russia’..., 312, n. 96).и

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