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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Ostroh Bible brought to Kyiv

Reminder of Ukrainian literature’s golden age
21 November, 2006 - 00:00
THE OSTROH BIBLE IS A UNIQUE PUBLICATION FROM THE RELIGIOUS AND SCHOLARLY STANDPOINTS. A GROUP OF SCHOLARS LED BY HERASYM SMOTRYTSKY, THE RECTOR OF OSTROH ACADEMY, WORKED ON IT / Photo by Borys KORPUSENKO, The Day “THE OSTROH BIBLE IS A PHENOMENON THAT INAUGURATED THE GOLDEN AGE OF UKRAINIAN LITERATURE. IT LASTED ALMOST A CENTURY,” SAYS RT. REV. RAFAIL TORKONIAK, “AND I HOPE THAT THE NEW THRIVING PERIOD THAT IS JUST BEGINNING LASTS MUCH LONGER” Photo by Borys KORPUSENKO, The Day

The 9th International Book World book fair is an irrefutable argument in the debate with those who consider books obsolete and a thing of the past. More than 250 publishers represented at the exhibit proved that books continue to be read. However they have somewhat changed and are now available in the form of parallel electronic analogs. At the same time, book publishing is developing at a quicker rate of progress.

In such conditions book publishing is becoming an elite business. Today mass products of publishing companies are increasingly less in demand, while semi-popular literature, philosophical reflections, and highly intellectual fiction is surging ahead. The Ukrainian reader appears to be fed up with cheap pocketbook-size novels and thrillers that have been flooding the market in the past couple of years. Readers want to think, which may be the most positive trend revealed by Book World 2006.

Further proof is the heightened interest in the Ostroh Academy National University Press. It was represented at the book fair not only by the unique Naukovi zapysky (Scholarly Papers) series, original texts of polemical literature dating from the late 16th century, and publications of the Institute for Ukrainian Diaspora Studies. Ostroh Academy brought to Kyiv a modern Ukrainian version of the Ostroh Bible, the brainchild of 30 years of painstaking work by Archimandrite Rafail Torkoniak, Ph.D. (Theology), who heads the Theology Chair at Ostroh Academy National University.

The completion of Rt. Rev. Torkoniak’s Herculean effort to study and translate the Ostroh Bible coincided with the 450 th anniversary of its original publication. “The Ostroh Bible is a phenomenon that inaugurated the golden age of Ukrainian literature. It lasted almost a century, and I hope that the new thriving period that is just beginning lasts much longer,” the biblical scholar said.

The Ostroh Bible is a unique publication from the religious and scientific points of view. A group of scholars led by Herasym Smotrytsky, the rector of Ostroh Academy, worked on it. They used various biblical texts and conducted a tremendous amount of research. Many scholars believe that this is the most complete and accurate translation of the Bible. “The Russian Orthodox Church has finally admitted that the Yekaterininskaia Bible is based on the Ostroh one,” the archimandrite proudly declares.

The launch of the Ukrainian version of the Ostroh Bible at the exhibit attracted considerable interest to both the publication and its author. Roman (Rafail) Torkoniak, who has a doctorate in Dogmatics from Pontifical Urbaniana University and a doctorate in Liturgics from Ukrainian Catholic University, and is fluent in 17 languages, has been nominated for the Shevchenko Prize. In fact, after completing work on the Ostroh Bible, the Rt. Rev. Torkoniak embarked on translating the Yekaterininskaia Bible to prove the inaccuracies that crept in during the writing of the text of the canonical Bible of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“Believe me, 30 years of work is enough for me, but I want to bring the whole matter to completion,” says this Ukrainian biblical scholar. In his case “completion” probably means proving to the world the value of the Ostroh Bible as a unique historic relic that is tremendously important for the Ukrainian people as well as the international community of nations, regardless of creed or religious preferences. After all, spiritual values and the preservation of historical memory are the prerogatives of any religion.

COMMENTARIES

Petro KRALIUK, Ph.D., deputy rector for scholarly work, Ostroh Academy National University:

The Ukrainian version of the Ostroh Bible and its publication are truly titanic efforts accomplished by the Rt. Rev. Rafail Torkoniak. He has spent more than 30 years translating this book, comparing biblical texts to those available in Greek, Latin, and ancient Hebrew. In the course of his work he arrived at the conclusion that the Ostroh Bible is Europe’s first scholarly translation of the Scriptures, based on various sources. This work required a certain kind of scholarly qualification and attested to the markedly high level of Ukrainian scholarship at the time.

The Rt. Rev. Rafail’s typographical approach to this publication is very interesting. He used computer graphics to accurately reproduce the kind of print used in the Ostroh Bible and render it in the original format along with his modern Ukrainian translation. Not surprisingly, this unique publication that has no analogues in Ukraine (and in many other countries) was a great success at Book World.

Mykola BENDIUK, restoration artist with the State History and Culture Museum of Ostroh:

No one except Rafail Torkoniak can best explain the spiritual significance of the Ostroh Bible. I might add a few words about what it means for Ostroh. After the academy’s decline Ostroh became another small provincial town, and the Ostroh Bible was the only reminder of its past grandeur. Of course, people remembered the academy through the Ostroh Bible. When it came time for the first presidential inauguration ceremony in independent Ukraine, the question was what the president had to have to lay his hand on to swear allegiance to his people: was it to be the Ostroh Bible or the Peresopnytsia Gospel. The latter was chosen because the Ostroh Bible was in Church Slavonic and the Peresopnytsia Gospel was in Ukrainian. And so Rafail Torkoniak’s efforts have brought the Ostroh Bible closer and made it understandable to the Ukrainian reader. I think the time will come when the oath of allegiance to the Ukraine people will be sworn on the Ostroh Bible.

By Olha RESHETYLOVA

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