Keynote lecture by Alexey Somov (Institute for Bible Translation, Russia, Moscow): ‘The authority of the old for producing the new: Bible translations in Russia in the 21st century’

The first Bible of the Russian Orthodox Church was the Church Slavonic Version (CSV), which is based on the LXX in the Old Testament. It remains the most authoritative for Russian Orthodox Christians. However, the Masoretic text was chosen as the primary basis for the Old Testament in the first authoritative translation into Russian, the Russian Synodal Bible (RSB). The RSB, though, has less authority than the CSV and is not officially used in liturgical practice. This is partly because the Masoretic text has always been under suspicion in Orthodoxy, while the LXX is venerated as the authentic Old Testament of the Church. Nonetheless, for the Catholic Church and most Protestant churches in Russia the RSB became the authoritative text. Therefore, the RSB wields significant influence on all new translations, not only into Russian but also into non-Slavic languages of the former USSR. New Bible translations in the Russian-speaking world must somehow relate to this authoritative version. This paper explores tendencies of the contemporary movement toward a new authoritative Bible translation in Russian. What might such a translation look like? What would its textual basis and translation principles be?

About the speaker

Alexey Somov did his Master thesis in Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA in 2008 and completed his PhD at VU University Amsterdam in 2014. His PhD thesis was about the representations of the afterlife in Luke-Acts. Since 2002 he has started working with the Institute for Bible Translation (IBT), Moscow, Russia, first as an exegete in Kurdish OT project, then as an exegete and translation adviser in Kalmyk OT project, and since 2014 as a translation consultant. He works with several IBT projects in Russia and Central Asia, including Dargin, Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Yakut, and Russian sign language. In 2019-2020, he was a Research Fellow at the DFG-Kollegforschungsgruppe “Beyond Canon_” (“Jenseits des Kanons”, FOR 2770), University of Regensburg (Faculty of Catholic Theology), Germany. In addition, he is an associated professor at St. Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute (Moscow).