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Book of the week — Arkhangel’ skoe evanglie, 1092 goda


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also. When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, the presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. — Matthew 2:1-12

Arkhangel’skoe evangelie, 1092 goda
Moskva, 1912
DK30 A7 1912

Facsimile. The Arkhangelsk Gospel is a lectionary — periscopes or Scripture readings for Church services according to the cycle of the liturgical  year. The lectionary established in the Eastern Orthodox Church dates to at least as early as the fourth century. This lectionary is written in Old Church Slavonic. It is the fourth oldest surviving early Rus’ Glagolitic manuscript and the second oldest Russian Slavonic Gospel (the first being the Ostromir Gospels (1056-1057). The Glogolitic script is the oldest known Slavic alphabet, believed to have been created in the 9th century by Saint Cyril, a monk from Thessaloniki. He and his brother, Saint Methodius, were sent by Emperor Michael III in 863 to Moravia to spread Christianity among the West Slavs in the area. The brothers translated liturgical books into Old Slavic, understandable to the general population. However, there was no script for this language. The brothers based this script on a cursive form of the Greek alphabet. The earliest documentation of East Slavic awareness of Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia (907-935) and of his sainthood is in this manuscript, appearing in its menology (list of fixed feasts of saints) as an entry for September 28th. The codex is dated 1092 at the end of the manuscript and signed by two scribes, Michka and presbyter Peter.

The text consists of an “Aprakos” (from the Greek “apraktos” workfree, holiday), a lectionary for Sundays and holidays.

The manuscript was written on parchment made from low-quality calf skins. As a result, approximately fifty pages have various defects. Over time, six of the eight folio quires and five separate leaves have been lost. Thus, it is lacking fifty-three of its leaves. Scribe A copied the text based on the Cyril and Methodius translations of the Gospels. Scribe B copied the text of the full Gospel lectionary. The order of the Arkhangelsk Gospels differs from that of the Ostromir Gospels. For example, there is an addition of weekday lessons that range from Pascha to Pentacost. The script deviates from the classical style in which other manuscripts of the period were written. It appears that two additional scribes (one named Jakim or Akim, the other unnamed) made some minor contributions to the manuscript, possibly at a later date.

Jakim/Akim is credited with writing ff. 175-177; the unnamed fourth scribe is credited with writing only f. 178.

The handwriting of these third and fourth scribes has been dated to the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries.

There are rubrications in vermilian (made from cinnabar) throughout.

The manuscript did not receive public recognition until 1877 when its owner, a peasant from the Arkhangelsk province in Northern Russia, brought it to Moscow and sold it to Commissioner S.T. Bolshakov. The manuscript was later resold to the Rumyantsev Museum for 500 rubles.

Front board

Bound in wood covers and fastened with knots.

The facsimile is accompanied by a descriptive eight-page pamphlet in Russian by Grigorii Petrovish Georgievsky (1866-1948), Curator of the Rumiantsev Museum. The facsimile was published by the museum for the commemoration of their fiftieth anniversary (1866-1948). The original is now held by the Russian State Library in Moscow. UNESCO’s website declares: “This manuscript has a great significance in the…written history of universal philosophy and culture. [it gives] a salient idea of the…development of ancient Russian literature, of its book-writing schools and workshop and of the dissemination of the Church Slavonic language.” It was included in UNESCO’s Memory of World Register in 1997. Facsimile edition of six hundred planned copies, of which only two hundred were produced.

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