< Grammar 25—Russian Synodal Bible

Grammar 25—Russian Synodal Bible

Before the 19th century Russians who wanted to read God’s Word read it in the Slavonic Bible used by the Orthodox Church in its services. Though the Slavonic language is from the same family as Russian, it is not Russian and learning it requires considerable effort. It is much harder than reading the King James Version or Shakespeare. It is comparable to reading Chaucer. Despite the fact that few understand this translation well, it is still used on Orthodox services. However, by the beginning of the 19th century there were calls for a Russian-language Bible for reading at home.

Work on a translation into Russian was begun around 1816 by the Russian Bible Society. In 1818 the Gospels were published and in 1822 a volume of the New Testament and Psalms was published. A translation of Genesis through Ruth was completed, but due to political changes it was not widely circulated and some print runs were burned. The work of the Russian Bible Society was suspended by order of the emperor in 1826 and not resumed until 1858. A revised volume of the Four Gospels was published in 1860 and additional volumes followed until a complete Bible was issued in 1876. Today it is known as the Синодальный перевод (Synodal Translation) or Синодальное издание (Synodal Edition) which names reflect the fact that it is approved by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Later Russian Bible Translations

Until recently the Synodal Edition was the only complete Bible translation available to the average reader. After the fall of the Soviet Union work on translating the Bible into Russian was renewed and a number of new translations entered widespread circulation around the end of the 20th century. These include:

NamePublisherYear Published
Kassian’s Translation of the New Testament British and Foreign Bible Society 1970

Библия. Современный перевод библейских текстов.

The Bible—A Modern Translation of the Biblical Texts

World Bible Translation Center 1999

Библия, Новый Перевод на Русский Язык

The Bible, a New Translation into the Russian Language

Biblica, the International Bible Society 2007

Перевод нового мира свершений писаний

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Greek Scriptures in 2001, Hebrew Scriptures and revised Greek Scriptures in one volume in 2007

Библия. Современный русский перевод

The Bible, a Modern Russian Translation

The Russian Bible Society In parts from 1999 to 2010, in one volume in 2011

Organization of the Text

Most English Bibles follow the order of the books, the names of the books, and the chapter and verse divisions of the King James Version. The Synodal Edition displays certain differences:

The Language of the Translation

At the time work was begun on a Russian Bible translation in 1816 the great works of Russian literature were still in the future. The process of resolving the various dialects of Russian into a single widely-accepted literary language was not complete.

The New Testament (first published in 1820) is written in a form of Russian heavily influenced by the language of the Slavonic Bible. Alternative “biblical” words and forms of some words are used instead of the usual Russian forms. (See below.) Heavy use is made of abstract nouns formed from verbs, adjectives formed from verbs, and adverbs. At times this can make the language sound overly formal to the modern reader and even obscure.

The translation of the Hebrew Bible is written with a style and vocabulary much closer to modern literary Russian. It is translated from the Masoretic Text, but the Greek names of some notable Bible characters are retained. For example, Joshua the servant of Moses is consistently called “Иисус” (Jesus), a form of his name which the English reader of the KJV encounters only in the the Greek Scriptures at Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8.

The grammar and usage of the Synodal Edition displays some characteristics which are now rare in Russian. These include:

Special Vocabulary of the Synodal Edition

As noted above, the Synodal edition sometimes uses alternative words or forms of words, particularly in the translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Some which you will encounter most frequently are shown in the table below:

Synodal Edition WordModern Russian WordEnglish Translation
отворитьоткрытьto open (a door or gate)
простиратьпротянутьto extend (generally the hand)
десницаправая рукаthe right hand
одеснуюу правой рукиat the right hand

Possessive Forms

A possessive can be formed from masculine names ending in a consonant by adding -ов or -ев:

Accusative Animate-ова-ову-ово-овых

A possessive can be formed from any declinable personal name by adding -ин. The best known example is “Иисус сын Навин” which means “Jesus Nav’s son” (Joshua the son of Nun). The -ин ending is declined using a mixture of the rules for nouns and adjectives:

Accusative Animate-ина-ину-ино-инов

Declension of Сей

In the vast majority of instances the Synodal Translation uses the adjective сей instead of этот. Сей is declined as follows:

Accusative Animateсегосеюсиесих
Instrumentalсимсей, сею, сиеюсимсими

Conjugation of Быть

In modern Russian the verb “быть” (to be) is so seldom used in the present tense that forms other than “есть” have been all but forgotten. Several of these nearly forgotten forms are used in the Synodal Edition.

1stя есмь-
2ndты еси́-
3rdон естьони суть

Rendering of the Tetragrammaton

In most cases the personal name of God is replaced with the word “господь” which is an archaic form of the word “господин” (lord, master, mister). It is transliterated “Иегова” in the following nine places:

Genesis 22:14As part of place name “Jehovah-Jireh”
Exodus 3:14In parenthesis in some editions
Exodus 6:3In a footnote to the word “Господь
Exodus 15:3In one of two instances
Exodus 17:15As part of the place name “Jehovah-Nessi”
Exodus 33:19
Exodus 34:5
Judges 6:24As part of the place name “Jehovah-Shalom”
Hosea 12:5In parenthesis

See the discussion of Psalm 83:18 below.

Noteworthy Readings

This is a list of verses which are rendered in interesting ways in the Synodal Edition. It is helpful to be familiar with these readings if you intend to discuss the Bible with readers of the Synodal Edition.

ScriptureSynodal EditionEnglish Translation of Synodal Rendering Comments
Exodus 3:14Бог сказал Моисею: Я есмь Сущий. И сказал: так скажи сынам Израилевым: Сущий (Иегова) послал меня к вам. God said to Moses: I am the Existing. And said: say thus to Israel’s sons: The Existing (Jehovah) sent me to you. God calls himself “the Existing” rather than the “I AM” of the KJV.
Exodus 7:1Но Господь сказал Моисею: смотри, Я поставил тебя Богом фараону, а Аарон, брат твой, будет твоим пророком: But the Lord said to Moses: look, I have set thee as a God to pharaoh, while Aaron thy brother will be thy prophet. Instrumental case is used to indicate that godship is a role which Moses will take on rather than an intrinsic aspect of his being.
Exodus 15:3Господь муж брани, Иегова имя Ему. The Lord is a man of war, Jehovah is his name. One of the few places in the Synodal Edition where the name “Jehovah” is preserved.
Psalm 82:19 (Psalm 83:18) и да познают, что Ты, Которого одного имя Господь, Всевышний над всею землею. and let them know that Thou, whose name alone is Lord, art the most high over all the earth. Unlike in the KJV, the personal name “Jehovah” is replaced with the title “Господь” (Lord, Master). This produces the puzzling assertion that God alone is called “Lord”.
Psalm 109:3 (Psalm 110:3) В день силы Твоей народ Твой готов во благолепии святыни; из чрева прежде денницы подобно росе рождение Твое. In the day of thy force thy people is ready in the splendor of holiness; from the womb before the daystar like unto dew is thy birth. The wording of the Hebrew original is obscure here. The Synodal Edition follows the interpretation of the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate. Trinitarian interpreters see a statement here about the origin of the Messiah.
Proverbs 8:22, 23

Господь имел меня началом пути Своего, прежде созданий Своих, искони; от века я помазана, от начала, прежде бытия земли.

The Lord had me as the beginning of His way, before his works, from the dim past, for ages, I am anointed, from the beginning, before the existence of the earth. This famous Arian proof text is rendered ambiguously. This is in contrast to the KJV which gives it a distinctly trinitarian interpretation.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Все соделал Он прекрасным в свое время, и вложил мир в сердце их, хотя человек не может постигнуть дел, которые Бог делает, от начала до конца.

Everything he has made beautiful in its time, and he put the world in their heart, though man cannot comprehend the deeds which God does, from the beginning to the end. Like the KJV, interprets the Hebrew word to mean “the world” rather than “eternity”. Russian readers may understand the word “мир” to mean “peace”.
Malachi 2:16

Если ты ненавидишь ее, отпусти, говорит Господь Бог Израилев; обида покроет одежду его, говорит Господь Саваоф; посему наблюдайте за духом вашим и не поступайте вероломно.

If thou hatest her, let her go, says the Lord God of Isreal; an offense covers his clothing, says the Lord Savaof; for this reason keep watch over your spirit and do not behave in a way that breaks faith. The wording of this verse is a bit obscure and translators parse it in various ways, but this reading is still unusual as it seems to condone divorce.
Matthew 5:22А Я говорю вам, что всякий, гневающийся на брата своего напрасно, подлежит суду; кто же скажет брату своему: "рака ", подлежит синедриону; а кто скажет: "безумный ", подлежит геенне огненной. Whereas I say to you, that anyone who is being angry at his brother without cause, is liable to the court of justice; as for the one who says to his brother “raka”, he is liable to the sanhedrin, whereas he who says “senseless one”, he is liable to fiery gehenna. Follows the Received Text which inserts “without cause”.
Matthew 24:36О дне же том и часе никто не знает, ни Ангелы небесные, а только Отец Мой один; As that day and hour no one knows, not the heavenly Angels, but My Father alone. Omits “nor the Son”.
Matthew 26:39И, отойдя немного, пал на лице Свое, молился и говорил: Отче Мой! если возможно, да минует Меня чаша сия; впрочем не как Я хочу, но как Ты. And, having stepped away a little, [he] fell on His face, prayed and said: O My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass Me by, otherwise not as I wish but as Thou wishest.
Mark 13:32О дне же том, или часе, никто не знает, ни Ангелы небесные, ни Сын, но только Отец. Concerning that day or hour no one knows, not the heavenly Angels, not the Son, but only the Father. Includes “nor the Son” omitted at Matthew 24:36.
John 1:1В начале было Слово, и Слово было у Бога, и Слово было Бог. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was by God, and the Word was God. Disregards the definite article used with “God” in the first instance, and the predicative use of “God” in the second instance. As in the KJV this creates the impression that the Word is that very God with whom he was. The translators could have elegantly conveyed the nuances of John’s statement by writing “Слово было Богом.” as they did for Moses at Exodus 7:1.
John 1:18Бога не видел никто никогда; Единородный Сын, сущий в недре Отчем, Он явил. No one has every seen God; the Only-Born Son, existing in the depths of the Father, He presented. Follows Received Text which has “son” instead of “god” as in the critical texts. Translates “at the bosom” in a mysterious manner.
John 8:25Тогда сказали Ему: кто же Ты? Иисус сказал им: от начала Сущий, как и говорю вам. Then they said to Him: Who then art Thou? Jesus said to them: the Existing from the beginning, like I have even been saying to you. The terse words of Jesus have two widely recognized possible interpretations, but in both cases “the beginning” refers to the beginning of the conversation. Here the translator, by inserting “the Existing”, has turned it into a statement about the origins of Jesus and created an “I AM” connection with Exodus 3:14.
John 8:28Итак Иисус сказал им: когда вознесете Сына Человеческого, тогда узнаете, что это Я и что ничего не делаю от Себя, но как научил Меня Отец Мой, так и говорю. And so Jesus said to them: when the Son of Man is lifted up then know that it is I and that I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father taught Me, thus I speak.
John 8:58Иисус сказал им: истинно, истинно говорю вам: прежде нежели был Авраам, Я есмь. Jesus said to them: truly, truly I am telling you: before Abraham was, I am. Same literal translation of verb tenses as in the KJV, but here it fails to create the “I AM” connection because the expression at Exodus 3:14 is different.
John 14:28Вы слышали, что Я сказал вам: иду от вас и приду к вам. Если бы вы любили Меня, то возрадовались бы, что Я сказал: иду к Отцу; ибо Отец Мой более Меня. You heard what I said to you: I am going away from you and I shall come to you. If it were that you loved me, then you would rejoice what I have said: I go to the Father, for My Father is greater than I.
Romans 9:3-5я желал бы сам быть отлученным от Христа за братьев моих, родных мне по плоти, то есть Израильтян, которым принадлежат усыновление и слава, и заветы, и законоположение, и богослужение, и обетования; их и отцы, и от них Христос по плоти, сущий над всем Бог, благословенный во веки, аминь. I would desire to be myself alienated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh, that is, for the Israelites, to whom belong the adoption and the glory and the covenant, and the law code, and the promise; theirs also are the fathers, and from them the Christ according to the flesh, the God existing over all, blessed for the ages, amen. As in the KJV, Paul’s words (which have no punctuation in the original) have been parsed to make a statement about Christ being “God over all” rather than the alternative which is a statement of respect for the divine providence in rejecting Israel according to the flesh.
1 Corinthians 15:24—28А затем конец, когда Он предаст Царство Богу и Отцу, когда упразднит всякое начальство и всякую власть и силу. Ибо Ему надлежит царствовать, доколе низложит всех врагов под ноги Свои. Последний же враг истребится - смерть, потому что все покорил под ноги Его. Когда же сказано, что Ему все покорено, то ясно, что кроме Того, Который покорил Ему все. Когда же все покорит Ему, тогда и Сам Сын покорится Покорившему все Ему, да будет Бог все во всем. And then the end, when he will hand over the Kingdom to God and Father, when [he] cancels all overseership and every authority and power. For he is to rule as king, until [he] lays low all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be annihilated is death, because [he] will have subjected everything under his feet. When then it is said that everything is subjected to him, it is clear that this is besides the One Who subjected everything to him. When he will have subjected all things to him, then the Son Himself will also subject himself to the Subjector of everything to him so that God will be all in all.
Philippians 2:5, 6Ибо в вас должны быть те же чувствования, какие и во Христе Иисусе: Он, будучи образом Божиим, не почитал хищением быть равным Богу; For in you their ought to be the very same feelings as there were in Christ Jesus: He, being the image of God, thought it not a seizure to be equal to God; As in the KJV Paul seems to be calling on Christians to be like Christ and seize equality with God.
Colossians 1:15Который есть образ Бога невидимого, рожденный прежде всякой твари; Who is the image of the God invisible, born before all creation; Trinitarian interpretation of the expression “firstborn of all creation” avoids the implication that he is part of creation.
1 Timothy 3:16И беспрекословно - великая благочестия тайна: Бог явился во плоти, оправдал Себя в Духе, показал Себя Ангелам, проповедан в народах, принят верою в мире, вознесся во славе. And indisputably great is the secret of piety: God was revealed in the flesh, justified Himself in the Spirit, showed Himself to Angels, was preached among the nations, accepted by faith in the world, ascended in glory. Follows the Received Text which by an extra pen stroke turns a word meaning “who” into an abbreviation for “Theos(God).
Hebrews 1:8А о Сыне: престол Твой, Боже, в век века; жезл царствия Твоего - жезл правоты. While of the Son: thy throne, O God, is for the ages; the rod of thy kingdom is a rod of righteousness The Greek text literally reads “the throne of you the god to the age of the age”. It is a quotation from Psalm 45:6. Whether the king is addressed as “god” or his throne is God or his throne is divine is a matter of much scholarly debate. Here in the Synodal Edition it is assumed that Jesus is addressed as God.
Hebrews 11:1Вера же есть осуществление ожидаемого и уверенность в невидимом. Faith now is the realization of the anticipated and confidence in the unseen.
1 John 5:7Ибо три свидетельствуют на небе: Отец, Слово и Святый Дух; и Сии три суть едино. For three bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. Includes the Johannine Comma