"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bible Wars!

One of the most wonderfully provocative (there are many) of Stanley Hauerwas's books that I read a long time ago was his Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America, which begins by saying that no Bibles should be left lying about for untrained people to pick up and attempt to read for themselves. Hauerwas says nobody--not kids at their confirmation or graduation, not adults in church--should be able to just pick up a Bible and decide for himself what it means. We are all too corrupted by the reading habits of modernity to be able to do that and we need to submit to the Church to learn how to live in peace with one another before opening the Scriptures together under the authority of the Church.

That book came back to me in reading of a forthcoming study later this spring: Stephen Batalden, Russian Bible Wars: Modern Scriptural Translation and Cultural Authority (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 360pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Although biblical texts were known in Church Slavonic as early as the ninth century, translation of the Bible into Russian came about only in the nineteenth century. Modern scriptural translation generated major religious and cultural conflict within the Russian Orthodox church. The resulting divisions left church authority particularly vulnerable to political pressures exerted upon it in the twentieth century. Russian Bible Wars illuminates the fundamental issues of authority that have divided modern Russian religious culture. Set within the theoretical debate over secularization, the volume clarifies why the Russian Bible was issued relatively late and amidst great controversy. Stephen Batalden's study traces the development of biblical translation into Russian and of the 'Bible wars' that then occurred in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Russia. The annotated bibliography of the Russian Bible identifies the different editions and their publication history.

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