Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

solomon, made in russia, etc.

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ВAn Introduction to the Story of Chalice of Solomon


Before the Story of the Chalice of Solomon Prophecy introduces a short passage (p. 391) that may be a part of the story and, in any case, is interesting per se.

“Solomon has received from God a great wisdom, foreknowing with Spirit that the Lord has had to descend on the earth and to be born from the Virgin. Revealing the way (образ = τρόπος) of his descent[1], he [Solomon] arranged the Church, according to the command of God, and called it Holy of Holies. ‘Holy’ he called the Virgin Theotokos, and with ‘of Holies’ he revealed the Holy Trinity as the tripersonal divinity, that God has to dwell and to live in her [in the Virgin][2]. It is in this way that Solomon arranged the Church, and he established as well a chalice[3] for the service to God, revealing beforehand his birth, that he has to be born from the Virgin.”


The authentic meaning of the Hebrew idiom “Holy of Holies” that is a common superlative construction would be equally incomprehensible to either Greek or Slav unlearned audience. It is worth noting, however, that, in Greek, our text would imply a shift of the accent in ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων: to be applied to Theotokos, the first word must be read in feminine, that is, as ἁγία. Such shift would be negligible in writing, but not in utterance. In Slavonic, both feminine singular and neutre plural are spelled as святая and have no difference in pronunciation. I would prefer not to infer too much from this difference in the pronunciation of a bookish word.   

The fragment as a whole is especially interesting as a hallmark of the milieu where our Prophecy appeared. It is, in no way, learned elite but some much more simple people, similar to the milieu of origin of Dialogue of Panagiotes with an Azymite. It is in this milieu that the texts already buried in oblivion by the intellectuals, continued to exist in the living manuscript tradition, and this is why such “unlearned” Byzantine texts are so precise to the hunters for the early Christian or late Jewish traditions...


An unknown prophecy of Nathan


Our Prophecy quotes (p. 405–406) an unknown pseudepigraphon attributed to the prophet Nathan. It is an obviously Christian elaboration on Is 7:14 LXX, but it may go to the early centuries of the Christianity.

“Nathan prophet in the reign of David prophesised about Christ that he has to be born from the Virgin, as follows: ‘I saw, he said, a Virgin holding an infant, without getting married by the man.’[4]


Some Book of Nathan the Prophet is mentioned in 1 Chr 29:29 and 2 Chr 9:29. It is difficult to judge whether it is the same book that is meant in both cases, or not. In any case, however, these mentions form a sufficient ground to create a pseudepigraphon filling the void after this lost book.




I would like to note several interesting features more or less important to our understanding of the text.

 Poetic insertion. A relatively long passage (p. 400–401, from пришедъ и идольскыи мракъ прогна… to …и все древнее падение оправи) seems to be a poetic insertion. Probably, it needs to be studied separately.

Φήλιξ αὐτοκράτωρ in Byzantine minuscule. Prophecy lists the titles of Octavian Augustus as “Filiz Utorator, that is autocrat” (p. 415). Complete lack of editors’ commentaries leaves us in incertitude. What is Филизъ Утораторъ [ms В: Уторитор]? It is clear that one means here the official title Felix Imperator, or, in its Greek form, Φήλιξ αὐτοκράτωρ. Who is to be blamed for the obvious corruptions, the mediaeval scribes or the modern editors? At least, in the case of Филизъ, left without any correction, one can suppose a misreading of manuscripts by the editors, when the letter ksi ѯ has been misread as zemlja з. It is otherwise unclear why the editors did not correct this reading, as they use to do elsewhere when their main manuscript is corrupt.

The case of Утораторъ is more complicated. This title is provided by a correct Slavonic translation, and so, its meaning was certainly clear to the translator. Nevertheless, this is not to exclude a misspelling on his part, if the initial diphthong αὐ- has been read as οὐ- in minuscule, and κ has been lost in a ligature. I think, this corruption could mean that the Slavic translator of Prophecy has had in his hands a Greek manuscript written in minuscule (where it could be difficult to discern between αυ and ου), and so, he transliterated the Greek term incorrectly.

A case of téléscopage: Pompey under Augustus in the role of Titus. This curious fragment runs as follows (p. 417–418):

“August has sent upon you Pompey, Roman general, with a great force, and he has captured the whole your city Jerusalem and destroyed the Church, and he has killed you, and the remainder [of you] enslaved”.


This is, our text explains further, the final destroying of Jerusalem foretold by Daniel in his prophecy of the death of the Messiah and the subsequent fate of Jerusalem after the 62nd “week” (Dan 9:24–28 LXX). All this is said in the context of a rather detailed paraphrase of Josephus, without omitting even the names of high priests and other important personages. Josephus’ narrative seems to be here deliberately condensed. This kind of condensation is typical to the hagiography épique, as it was defined by Hippolyte Delehaye. The Bollandists coined it by the term téléscopage. In this procedure, all the events are projected onto the only epoch that is chosen in the same manner as the formative epoch in the epos. In our passage, this epoch is that of the birth of Christ, that of Augustus. This is the same epoch when Jerusalem has been destroyed — according to the literalistic understanding of Daniel by our author. Therefore, it is clear to me why Titus disappeared from this picture, and why Augustus appears. However, why the deeds of Titus were attributed to Pompey (who entered into the Holy of Holies in 63 BC but, in other matters, was extremely respectful toward Jews and the Temple) is to me completely obscure.

Be that as it may, we have here, in our text, a curious epitome of Josephus’ Wars.

[1] Unlike the editors, I accept here the reading of ms Я, and so, I read образ схода (“way of descent”) instead of an obviously erroneous reading образ исхода (“way of exodus”) of the rest of manuscripts. The general meaning of the phrase is that the Temple of Solomon was revealing the future descent (and not “exodus”, “disappearance” and the like) of the Lord. This is in the full accordance with the first half of the verse 2 Cor 6:16 (“For we are the temple of the living God” NRSV), the second part of whom is quoted below.

[2] The words яко хощет Бог вселитися и пожити в неи are a close paraphrase (unidentified by the editors) of 2 Cor 6:16: ὅτι ἐνοικήσω ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐμπεριπατήσω, despite the fact that for the latter verb the most close Slavonic rendering would be похожду. However, see, for the interchangeability between походити and пожити in the Old Slavonic, Slovník jazyka staroslověnského. Lexicon linguae palaeoslovenicae 3 (Praha, 1982) [reprint: Словарь старославянского языка 3 (СПб., 2006)] 226–227, s.v. походити. The verse belongs to the passage 2 Cor 6:14–7:1 whose Pauline origin is disputed, but, in the case of our Prophecy, I see no ground to suppose a source independent of Paul.

[3] The term used for “chalice” here (потир, from Greek ποτήριον) is different from the term used throughout the story itself (чаша, a word with Turkic etymology used along with потир in the Church Slavonic texts). This could indicate a different origin of this introduction from the story itself.

[4] Original text of Nathan’s testimonium: Видѣх, — рече, — Дѣвицу, держащу младенець без посяга мужеска.и


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