Ways of Russian Theology



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Translation of the Russian Bible.


Formal discussion about a Russian translation of the Bible first began in 1816. As president of the Russian Bible Society, Golitsyn received a verbal directive from the Emperor “to propose to the Holy Synod His Majesty's sincere and precise wish that Russians be provided with the means to read God's word in their native language, which for them is more comprehensible than the Church Slavic now used for the publication of Holy Scripture.” At the same time, this new translation would be published parallel with the Slavic text, as had been done earlier with the Epistle to the Romans, a translation made with the permision of the Synod. 100 “Of course it is understood that the use of the Slavic text must remain inviolate in Church services.” The Russian translation would be only for personal use and home reading. Among other justifications for the contemporary Russian translation, Golitsyn referred to the letter of the Greek Patriarch Cyril VI, 101 which, similar circumstances, allowed the people to read the New Testament contemporary rather than ancient Greek. Cyril's letter had been printed in the minutes of the Russian Bible Society in 1814.

The Synod did not supervise or accept responsibility for the translation of the Bible. Perhaps higher authority suggested such course of action. Instead, the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools was placed in charge and was also required to find reliable translators in the St. Petersburg Academy. The Russian Bible Society would publish the completed translation. Such a translation would enjoy the Emperor's protection. He had originated the idea, or at least it was attributed to him.

Not only does he approve the utmost haste in this work of salvation, but he inspires the work of the Society with the ardor of his own heart. He himself set aside the printing in an incomprehensible language which to date has barred many Russians from the Gospel of Jesus, and he opens this book for the very youngest among the people, for whom it has been closed, not through the Gospel's intent, but solely through the darkness of time.

Actually this “incomprehensible language” did not so much make the Bible less accessible for the people as for the upper class, especially the Emperor, who customarily read De Sacy's popular French translation of the New Testament. 102 He continued to do so even after the publication of a Russian version.

The Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools entrusted supervision of the translation to Archimandrite Filaret, 103 the rector of the St. Petersburg Academy. Filaret also had the authority to select translators at his own discretion. It was assumed that the translation would be done at the Academy. Filaret translated the Gospel of John; G. P. Pavskii 104 translated Matthew; while Archimandrite Polikarp (Gaitannikov), 105 rector of the St. Petersburg Seminary and soon afterward rector at the Moscow Academy, worked on Mark; and Archimandrite Moisei (Antipov-Platonov), 106 a former instructor at the St. Petersburg Academy but at that time rector of the seminary in Kiev (later rector of the Kiev Academy and then Exarch of Georgia) translated Luke. A special committee in the Bible Society examined and verified the work of the individual translators. The committee included Mikhail Desnitskii, later metropolitan of St. Petersburg, Seraphim Glagolevskii, also a future St. Petersburg metropolitan, 107 Filaret, Labzin, and V. M. Popov, director of a department in the “Dual Ministry” and secretary of the Bible Society. Popov, a member of Madame Tatarinova's circle the translator of Lindel and Gossner, and a man of extreme mystical views, ended his life as a “humble fanatic” (Vigel') in the Zilantov Monastery of Kazan'. Characteristically, the supervisory committee consisted of an unexpected medley of members.

Filaret established the guidelines for the translation, as the style of those guidelines readily attests. The translation was to be made from the Greek, which, as the original language, was given preference to Slavic, on the condition that Slavic words be retained or used in the translation “if they, rather than Russian, more closely approximate the Greek without producing obscurity or awkwardness in the text,” or if the corresponding Russian words “do not conform to a pure literary language.” Accuracy, then clarity, and finally literary purity constituted the priorities. Several stylistic directives are quite characteristic “The Holy Scripture derives its majesty from the power, not the glitter, of its words; consequently one should not adhere excessively to Slavic words and phrases only for the sake of their supposed impressiveness.” Another remark is still more important: “The spirit of a passage must be painstakingly observed, so that conversation will be rendered in a colloquial style, narration in a narrative style, and so forth.” These propositions appeared as foul heresy to the literary “archaists” and proved to be of decisive moment in that turbulent “uprising” or intrigue of the 1820's against the Russian Bible.

By 1819, the Russian translation of the Gospels had been completed and published. In 1820, the entire New Testament appeared. A Russian translation of the Old Testament began immediately, with the Psalter translated first and, in January, 1822, published separately (in Russian only without the Slavic text). Work on the Pentateuch began at the same time. 108 More translators were enlisted from they newly opened academies in Moscow and Kiev, as well as from several seminaries.

The thorny and complex question of the relationship between the Hebrew and the Greek texts immediately arose. How worthy and meritorious is the Septuagint? How significant are the Massoretic texts? These questions were intensified because every departure from the Septuagint in effect also meant a divergence from the Slavic Bible, which remained in liturgical use. Therefore, some imposing justifications or disclaimers were needed. At the outset, the question received a simple solution: the Hebrew (Massoretic) text would serve as the basic or “original” text. A special preface was written in order to pacify those unacquainted with ancient languages about the discrepancies with the Slavic Bible. Filaret wrote the preface and Metropolitan Mikhail, Metropolitan Seraphim, (then metropolitan of Moscow) and Filaret, now archbishop of Iaroslavl', signed it. Final correction of the translation was entrusted to Father Gerasim Pavskii. The printing had been completed in 1825, but due to changed circumstances, not only did the work fail to see the light of day, but it was confiscated and hastily burned. Biblical work was halted and the Bible Society was closed and banned. The disastrous outcome of the Biblical work requires explanation. A Russian translation of the Bible commanded widespread attention and sympathy; numerous paeans of praise, and many ardent, enflamed phrases were openly proclaimed or publicly composed. Not everyone meant what they said, and a great deal of pure sycophancy existed. Yet many spoke from the heart and with full conviction. Publication of the Russian Bible answered an undoubted need and alleviated the “hunger to hear the Word of God,” as Filaret put it. One may recall that Tikhon Zadonskii also spoke plainly about the necessity for a Russian translation. 109 The Russian Bible Society version was not irreproachable, but the nature of its problems and shortcomings could be corrected only through public discussion and broad cooperation, not through fear, condemnation, or suspicion.

Strictly speaking, Prince Golitsyn, that “layman in heretical garb,” not the Russian Bible, was the object of attack. The final “uprising” against the Bible Society and its work united disparate people who scarcely had anything in common either temperamentally or in style. Two men, Archimandrite Fotii and Admiral Shishkov, 110 supplied the ideology for the entire anti-Bible intrigue. Actually, two ideologies were present. Archimandrite Fotii (Petr Spasskii, 1792-1838) typifies that troubled and giddy age with all its cankerous suspicion. Although a fanatical opponent of mystical and other diabolical intrigues, Fotii possessed the same psychology as his opponents and suffered from the same diseased ecstasy. In his autobiography, Fotii provides a most convincing and dreadful portrait of himself. A visionary and. devotee of ecstasy, he had nearly lost all sense of ecclesiastical-canonical reality. He is all the more pretentious for the utter lack of humility. His is the portrait of a conceited, insolent, and self-proclaimed charismatic, who presumptuously surrounds himself with an atmosphere of protective exaltation. A typical example of the seductive power of a false asceticism which becomes a terrible, blindly serpentine alley, Fotii existed in an emotional state, in a world of impressions and experiences. But he lacked perspective on religious life. Living in fear and apprehension, he dreaded and shrank from the public view. If he went on the offensive he did so from insurmountable fear. Herein lies the answer to the difficult question about Fotii's sincerity: he was not a vile hypocrite. His actions and accusations are consistent. He attacked the Bible Society in the genuine conviction that he was fighting with Beliar (“an archangelic struggle”). This personal conviction and sense of being a prophet who has been called or sent, the perception of an extraordinary mission or task, and a certain ecstatic egocentricity all characterize this type of fanatic. Fotii might be termed a man possessed rather than a hypocrite. In any case, the voice of the church's history and ancient traditions can scarcely be detected in Fotii's violent appeals and outbursts. He was too ignorant to do so, for he knew very little about patristic or even ascetical writings. He almost never refers to them. “I do not possess the [writings of the] Holy Fathers, I have and read only the Holy Bible.” In this regard, Fotii did not depart from the custom of that “Biblical” age. Neither a rigorous defender nor guardian of the church's customs and traditions, Fotii loved to do everything to suit himself, which resulted in quarrels with the church authorities. Usually he argues on the basis of personal revelations and inspirations; on the basis of visions apparitions, and dreams. In short, Fotii was not so much superstitious as fanatical.

Fotii studied at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy “under the sharp eye of Archimandrite Filaret.” But he did not graduate because of an illness which took the form of a paroxysm induced by fears and spiritual exhaustion. Fotii became confused and paralyzed by the mysticism then prevalent in society. Many at the academy read too deeply in the poisonous books of the liar and apostate Jung-Stilling.

Newly published writings, such as Stilling, Eckartshausen, and similar novelistic and freethinking books could be read at the academy. . .Quarrels broke out over the Thousand Year Reign of Christ on earth, eternal damnation, and other religious questions; some loved to deviate from the Holy Scriptures, others found mysteries everywhere. The academy library would not lend the works of the Holy Fathers, for no one gave permission or provided the example. German and other foreign commentators on the Holy Scriptures, who caused more harm than they did good, were recommended and passed around.

Fotii became utterly confused in such an environment. He also seems to have learned a good deal during the little more than a year he spent at the academy, although there is little likelihood that he learned and became trained “to discover mysteries everywhere.” Nor did the academy infect him with a fashionable mania for interpreting the Apocalypse and divining the times through apocalyptical texts used as signs. Where Fotii's actual or imaginary enemies adduced the Kingdom of a Thousand Years from such texts, Fotii discerned the Antichrist. “The wood is already stacked and the fire is being kindled.”

After leaving the academy, Fotii became a teacher at the Aleksandr Nevskii schools, where he was under the supervision of Rector Innokentii. 111 In 1817, Fotii accepted tonsure and was quickly appointed a teacher of religion in the second military academy. 112 While his field of vision expanded, Fotii continued to gather polemical materials, reading, rereading, and reviewing newly printed seditious books, “especially those either manifestly or secretly revolutionary and pernicious.” His assortment and inventory of such books was rather diverse and disjointed and included books on English materialism, French pornography, freemasonry and magic, German philosophy, the sorcery of Boehme, Stilling, and similarly “satanic books,” “revolutionary and evil” books, “wretched Masonic” books, the works of that “Masonic heretic” Fenelon and that “foul French woman “ Guyon, and other works such as those “setting forth the teachings of the Methodists and the quietists, that is, of that Jacobinism and philosophy which hides behind the mask of Christianity.” Fotii always remained mistrustful of the “newly educated” clergy: “not a single collaborator was found suitable; each was prepared to put the truth up for sale.”

The Russian Bible made its appearance against this background. At first Fotii attacked actual Masons. As he put it, “At the risk of my life, I acted to counter Messenger of Zion [Sionskii Vestnik], Labzin, the Masonic lodges and heresies, trying to halt the spread of their schisms.” Fotii was correct about many things, but he described all such defects with an hysterical intensity which could be more irritating than convincing. He possessed a peculiarly ecstatic suspiciousness which disfigured his accurate observations through the addition of imaginary and imperceivable traits. Metropolitan Mikhail appointed Innokentii to calm Fotii. But Innokentii only further aroused him with his own bitter remarks about the snares of the devil. Fotii later wrote a Life [Zhitie] of Innokentii after his own likeness or in keeping with his imagined ideal. In reality, Innokentii was more subtle and profound, although he lacked sufficient self control and patience.

Fotii soon came to be too obstreperous for the capital and was dispatched to Novgorod as abbot of the Derevianits Monastery, then Skovoroda Monastery, and finally the Iur'ev Monastery, where he served as archimandrite. While at the Iur'ev Monastery, Fotii formed a close friendship with Countess A.A. Orlova, 113 which proved to be the decisive event in his life. Through “Countess Anna,” Fotii unexpectedly began his friendship with Prince Golitsyn during those same years. Their correspondence which has been preserved, possesses a warm and sincere character. 114 In his “autobiography,” Fotii recalls his long and extensive conversations with Golitsyn at Countess Orlova's home. These talks sometimes lasted nine hours without interruption. Fotii emphasizes that Golitsyn passionately came to love him and was prepared to fulfill his every wish. Judging by Golitsyn's actual letters, Fotii did not exaggerate. He succeeded for a time in reconciling Golitsyn with Metropolitan Seraphim. Golitsyn saw in Fotii another St. John Chrysostom and a “youthful starets” [elder] . At the time, Fotii was barely thirty. Fotii did not conceal his own warm feelings: “You and I — the two of us — are like one body and soul, one mind and heart; we are one because Christ is in our midst.”

The “uprising” broke out in 1824. As Filaret recalls, “The uprising against the Ministry of Religious Affairs and against the Bible Society and the translation of the Holy Scriptures had been organized by people guided by personal interests, who not only spread farfetched and exaggerated suspicions, but even produced fabrications and slanders, hoping to attract other, well-intentioned people to their cause.” Arakcheev's115 role in this intrigue needs no elaboration. For him the intrigue was the denouement and the means for removing from authority and influence a powerful rival with personal ties to the Tsar.

The appearance of Gossner's book On the Gospel of Matthew [O Evangelii ot Matfeia] in Russian translation served as the occasion and the pretext for decisive action. The translation could only have been an excuse, for the book was indistinguishable from the multitude of such edifying and pietistic works then being published. Several times Fotii wrote frenzied letters to the Tsar, warning him of danger. He did so with the knowledge and conviction that he had been consecrated and sent to testify in defense of the beleaguered church and fatherland. An angel of the Lord had been sent to him on Palm Sunday. The angel, appearing before him during a dream, held in his hand a book with large letters inscribed on its cover: “this book has been composed for revolution and at this moment its intention is revolution.” The book, it turned out, was A Summons to men to follow the inner inclination of the Spirit of Christ. 116 Fotii defines the basic idea of this cunning and impious pamphlet as “an appeal to apostasy from the faith of Christ and a summons to alter the civil order in all of its parts.”

The only argument which might possibly undermine the combined ministry in the eyes of Alexander I was “revolution.” Fotii candidly says that: “Such political activities and plots had much greater influence on him [Alexander] than did the welfare of the whole Church.” Religiously, Alexander was no less radical than Golitsyn. Fotii testified that “residing in this city for one and a half months, I secretly observed Gossner and learned that he was preparing revolution in those minds which he had been brought here to teach. He has been so well protected that no one dares touch him; he was summoned here because none among our Orthodox clergy could be found capable of such schemes.” Fotii's letters aroused the Tsar's interest precisely because of their hysterically apocalyptical character. Consequently, he wished to meet Fotii personally. He had earlier met with Metropolitan Seraphim. After his audience with Alexander, Fotii twice visited Golitsyn and at the second meeting cursed him to his face.

Fotii stands before the holy icons: a candle burns, the holy sacraments of Christ are before him, the Bible is open (at Jeremiah 23). The prince enters like a beast of prey (Jeremiah 5:6), extending his hand for the blessing. But Fotii gives him no blessing, speaking thus: in the book Mystery of the Cross [Tainstvo kresta], printed under thy supervision, it is written: the clergy are beasts; and I, Fotii, a member of the clergy, am a priest of God, so I do not want to bless thee, and anyway thou dost not need it. (He gave him Jeremiah 23 to read). However, Prince Golitsyn refused to do so and fled, but Fotii shouted after Golitsyn through the door he left ajar: if thou dost not repent, thou shalt fall into Hell.

That is Fotii's version. In his Notes [Zapiski], Shishkov adds that: “Fotii shouted after him; `Anathema! Thou shalt be damned.' That same day, a rescript was issued exiling Gossner from the country and ordering that the Russian translation of his book be burned at the hand of the public executioner. Furthermore, the translators and censors were to be placed under arrest. Fotii greatly feared the Tsar's wrath for his daring anathema, but he continued to send his appeals to the court, including one outlining a “plan for the destruction of Russia” as well as “directives for the immediate destruction of this plan in a quiet and felicitous manner.” The question of the Bible Society was posed most forcefully. “The Bible Society must be eliminated on the pretext that since the Bible has already been printed, it is now no longer needed.” The Ministry of Religious Affairs was to be abolished, and its present dignitary deprived of two other posts. Koshelev 117 should be removed, Gossner expelled, Fessler 118 banished into exile, and the Methodists driven out, or at least their leaders. Once again Fotii invoked divine inspiration: “Divine Providence does not now reveal that anything more should be done. I have proclaimed God's commandment; its fulfillment depends on Thee. Precisely twelve years have elapsed from 1812 to 1824. God conquered the visible Napoleon who invaded Russia. Through Thy person let Him conquer the spiritual Napoleon:' During the ensuing days, Fotii sent the Tsar several more of his alarming “missives.” “A great, fearful, and illegal mystery is at work, which I am revealing to thee, O thou powerful one with the strength and spirit of God.” The goal was achieved and on 15 May 1824, Golitsyn was dismissed, the combined ministry abolished, and the former departmental divisions reestablished. Nevertheless, Golitsyn did not fall into disfavor or lose his personal influence, even after Alexander's death.

The aged Admiral Shishkov, “the half-dead Shishkov dug up from oblivion,” was appointed minister of a separate Ministry of Education. Although Shishkov did not become Minister of Religious Affairs, inertia perpetuated the politics of the combined ministry only in reverse, for he persistently interfered with Synodal affairs. Shishkov had no very precise religious views. He was a moderate free-thinker of the eighteenth century, who limited his rationalism out of national-political considerations. Even close friends who were well disposed toward him testified that Shishkov held “views closely approximating, if they did not actually coincide with, Socinianism.” 119 Fotii referred to him rather evasively: “He defended the Orthodox Church to the extent that he possessed any knowledge.” Fotii knew perfectly well such “knowledge” was rather meager and related more to the church's role in a state which had called upon it to be a pillar and a bulwark against rebellion and revolution. However, Shishkov had his own firm opinions about Biblical translation. The very idea of translating the Bible seemed to him the foulest of heresies, although above all a “literary heresy,” in Sverbeev's 120 clever phrase. For Shishkov denied the very existence of a Russian language. “As though it was something distinct,” he would say perplexedly. “Our Slavic and Russian language is one and the same, differentiated only into higher language and common speech.” This was Shishkov's basic religious-philological thesis. Literary or colloquial Russian in his view and understanding is “only the dialect of The common people” within a Slavic- Russian language. “What is the Russian language divorced from Slavic? A dream, a riddle!. . . .Is it not odd to affirm the existence of a language which does not contain a single word?” The lexicon is one and the same for both styles of dialects. “By Slavic we mean nothing else than that language which is higher than colloquial and which, consequently, can only be learned by reading; it is the lofty, learned literary language.”

In the final analysis, Shishkov distinguished between the two languages: the “language of faith” and the “language of passions “ or to put it another way, the “language of the church” and the “language of the theater.” Biblical translation appeared to him to be a “transposition” of the Word of God from the lofty and dignified dialect to that low-styled language of the passions and the theater. He believed that such a step was being taken in order to deliberately belittle the Bible, hence his constant fuss over “the observance of Orthodoxy in literary style.” He also considered the translation hastily made; “thrown to a few students at the Academy with instructions to do it as quickly as possible.” The Russian translation's departure from Church Slavic cast a shadow on a text which had become familiar and hallowed by church usage and thereby undermined confidence in it. “The pride of some monk [Filaret?] or learned braggart says: thus it is in Hebrew. Well, who will convince me that he knows the full force of such a little known language, written so long ago?” Quite frequently Shishkov speaks as if Slavic was the original language of Holy Scripture. “How dare they alter words considered to come from the mouth of God?”

Shishkov was not alone in these religious-philological reflections. Curiously enough, for similar reasons, Speranskii also completely opposed a Russian translation of the Bible. The language of the “common people” seemed to him less expressive and precise. Would it not be better to teach everyone Slavic? Speranskii advised his daughter to use the English translation, not the Russian, when she encountered difficult passages. Many others shared this opinion. 121

Shishkov detected a particularly sinister scheme in the publication of the Pentateuch “separately from the Prophets.” Whereas in fact, the Pentateuch represented the first volume of a complete Russian Bible and had been planned for publication prior to the succeeding volumes in order to speed the work. Shishkov suspected that this separate publication had been conceived and executed in order to push the common people into the arms of the Molokane heresy or simply into Judaism. Might not someone understand the Mosaic law literally, particularly the observance of the Sabbath? . . . .Should not a qualification be added that all this can be explained figuratively and as shadows of the past? With the support of Metropolitan Seraphim, Shishkov succeeded in having the Russian Pentateuch burned at the brick factory of the Aleksandr Nevskii Monastery. Subsequently, Filaret of Kiev 122 could not recall this destruction of the Holy Scriptures without a terrible shudder.

Shishkov saw no need to distribute the Bible among laymen and the people generally. “Will not this imaginary need, by demeaning the significance of the Holy Scriptures, result in nothing other than heresies or schisms?” Would not the dignity of the Bible be lowered by having it in the home? “What can come of this? . . . .A vast sum will be expended in order that the Gospel, heretofore regarded with solemnity might suffer the loss of its importance, be sullied, ripped apart, thrown under benches, or serve as wrapping paper for household goods, and have no more ability to act on the human mind than on the human heart.” Shishkov writes still more emphatically that “this reading of the sacred books aims to destroy the true faith, disrupt the fatherland and produce strife and rebellion.” He believed that the Bible Society and revolution were synonyms.

Quite consistently, Shishkov also objected to translation of the Bible into other languages such as Tatar or Turkish, for who could vouch for the fidelity of the translation? Shishkov also feared commentaries on the Bible. Who will explain the Scriptures once they are so widely distributed and so easily accessible?

Without qualified interpreters and preachers, what will be the effect when large numbers of Bibles and separate books of the Bible have been disseminated? Amidst such an unchecked (and one might say universal) deluge of books of the Holy Scriptures, where will room be found for the Apostolic teachings, practices, and customs of the Church? In a word, for everything which heretofore has served as a bulwark of Orthodoxy? . . . All of these things will be dragged down, crushed, and trampled under foot.

Similarly, Shishkov viewed the publication of the Catechism [Katekhizis] as a dire plot. Why print so many copies, if not to spread an impure-faith? (A total of 18,000 copies had been printed). Once again the Russian language more than anything else frightened Shishkov. “It is unseemly in religious books to have such prayers as `I believe in One God' and the Pater Noster transposed into the common dialect.” The Catechism contained scriptural texts in Russian.

The catechism composed by Filaret (a task originally entrusted to Metropolitan Mikhail) had been issued in 1823 with the approval of the Holy Synod and by imperial directive. “At the request of the Minister of Education,” accompanied by the use of the Emperor's name, the Catechism was removed from sale at the end of 1824. Filaret immediately lodged a protest against its removal and openly raised the question about Orthodoxy. “If the Orthodoxy of the Catechism, so solemnly confirmed by the Holy Synod, is in doubt, then will not the Orthodoxy of the Holy Synod itself be called into question?” In reply, Metropolitan Seraphim insisted that the question of Orthodoxy had not been raised and that there was no doubt or dispute on that point. The Catechism had been suspended solely because of the language of the Biblical texts and of the “prayers.” Seraphim, with some disingenuousness, went on to say. You may ask why the Russian language should not have a place in the catechism, especially in its abbreviated form intended for young children entirely unfamiliar with Slavic and therefore incapable of understanding the truths of the faith expounded for them in that language, when it, that is, Russian, has been retained in the sacred books of the New Testament and in the Psalms. To this and many other questions which might be asked in this connection, I cannot give you any satisfactory answer. I hope that time will explain to us that which now seems clouded. In my opinion, that time will soon come . . .

Seraphim's answer could signify that he either had not personally or actively participated in the new course of events, or that this apparent inconsistency could be quickly overcome by extending the ban to include both the Russian translation of the New Testament and the Bible Society. In any case, Seraphim simply lied when he denied that the Catechism's Orthodoxy had been questioned. Fotii emphatically and publicly pronounced it heretical, compared it with “canal water,” and unfavorably contrasted the Catechism with the older Orthodox Confession of Peter Mogila. 123 The Catechism was subjected to examination, if not officially, then at least officiously. Apparently Archpriest I.S. Kochetov (1790-1854), a candidate for a higher degree, who had graduated with the first class of the reformed St. Petersburg Academy, and at that time a religion teacher at the Tsarskoe Selo lycee, had been entrusted with the review. His evaluation, quickly arrived at, did not favor the catechism. Kochetov took more interest in questions of language than of theology. As a philologist, he served as a member of the Russian Academy, beginning in 1828. Later he achieved full membership. 124

Metropolitan Evgenii, 125 who recently had been summoned to attend the meetings of the Holy Synod, maintained a very critical attitude toward the Catechism. Filaret's successor at Tver' and Iaroslavl', Simeon Krylov-Platonov, 126 contemptuously dubbed the Catechism “a miserable pamphlet,” containing unheard of teaching and “insufferable insolence.” In any event, a revised edition of the Catechism was recirculated only after careful re-examination of all Biblical texts and citations, including their “presentation in Slavic rather than in the Russian dialect.” Even the language of exposition was deliberately adapted or made more nearly approximate to Slavic. However, only insignificant changes in content were made at that time.

Shishkov obtained Emperor Alexander's permission to forbid translations of the Bible as well as to close the Bible Society. He was able to supply some arguments himself, and others were suggested to him by such zealots as M. Magnitskii 127 and A.A. Pavlov 128 (who worked in the office of the Over Procurator of the Holy Synod). Fotii described Pavlov as that “brave warrior of 1824.” Metropolitan Seraphim acted as one with Shishkov. However, Seraphim acted on suggestion. A timid man, he lacked “sufficient clarity of mind” to distinguish responsibly enthusiasm and suspicions amidst the cross-currents of rumors and fears. Left to himself, Seraphim would have insisted only on the dismissal of the “blind minister.” All further reasons were suggested or even imposed on him. At one time Seraphim had studied in Novikov's “seminary,” and he had been an active member of the Bible Society, both as archbishop of Minsk and later as metropolitan of Moscow. He often delivered speeches filled with pathos in the meetings of the Moscow Bible Society. However, his sentiments were changed when he transferred to St. Petersburg. He immediately broke with Golitsyn. Following Golitsyn's removal from office, Metropolitan Seraphim, as president of the Bible Society, began to importune Emperor Alexander about abolishing and closing down all Bible societies and transferring all their affairs, property, and translation projects to the Holy Synod.

Such demands were not quickly realized, coming as they did only during the next reign under the fresh impact of the Decembrist revolt, 129 the responsibility for which Shishkov convincingly blamed on the “mystics.” However, the rescript of 12 April 1826 closing the Bible Society contained an important qualification: “I sanction the continued sale at the established price for those who desire them the books of the Holy Scriptures which have already been printed by the Bible Society in Slavic, Russian, and in other languages spoken by inhabitants of the Empire.” Even Nicholas I 130 was not fully prepared to follow Shishkov. In practice, however, the publications of the Bible Society were taken from circulation and only the committees concerned for prisons continued to supply the Russian translation of the New Testament to exiles and prisoners from their stocks.

Curiously enough, in 1828, Prince K.K. Liven, the former superintendent in Dorpat and a prominent and influential figure in the former Bible Society, replaced Shishkov as Minister of Education. Later, in 1832, he became the head of the revived German Bible Society. Prince Liven belonged to the Moravian Brethren. “Sometimes an official sent from somewhere with an important dispatch would discover him in the reception hall in front of the lectern, loudly singing the Psalms. Turning to the official, he would listen to him, but without answering, continue his liturgy” (Vigel'). Of course, Liven was a German and a Protestant; and it was the German Bible Society, which was restored. Yet as Minister of Education, he was called upon to administer to the whole empire. In any case, by that time, “the views of the government” had changed once again.




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