The History of Salvation in The Russian Primary Chronicle, Part 3

What follows is the third of four installments in which I will transcribe the full text of the “redemptive-historical” discourse delivered before St Vladimir, according to the Russian Primary Chronicle, by the Constantinopolitan scholar-envoy. For a discussion of the apologetic importance of this discourse, see my earlier post, The Conversion of St Vladimir and Orthodox Apologetics. The section transcribed below covers the judges, kings and prophets of Israel, and expounds theologically on the themes of messianism in the Old Testament and (rather crassly) supersessionism before the text moves on to the discussion of the “Christ-event.” As is usual, brackets mark all editorial changes to the printed text. It is fundamental to note that a good number of the texts represented as biblical quotations below (particularly in the earlier part of the text) are not strictly such, but are by-and-large periphrastic pastiches that often incorporate non-biblical interpretive material. The biblical references given after them, then, do not imply that these are exact quotations, but rather identify on which passages the author (or perhaps more precisely his source, the Slavonic Paleya) depended to redact his text. The question of the exactness of the quotations is further complicated by the fact that the translators appear to have used the 1901 American Standard Version for biblical quotations, adapting it in places to agree with the Slavonic. It would have been much preferable if they had simply translated the Slavonic itself, which would have allowed the reader to compare the text in the Chronicle with the LXX.

“Then Joshua, son of Nun, assumed the leadership. He entered the Promised Land, destroyed the Canaanites, and settled the children of Israel there in their stead. Then, when Joshua died, Judah was judge in his place. There were fourteen other judges. But in their time the people forgot God, who had led them out of Egypt, and they began to serve devils. Then God was wroth, and delivered them over to the violence of the Gentiles. But when they repented, he had mercy upon them. When he had freed them, they returned nevertheless to the worship of devils.

“Next, Eli the priest was judge, and after him, Samuel the prophet. The people said to Samuel, ‘Give us a king.’ Then the Lord was angered against Israel, and set Saul over them as king. But Saul would not walk in the law of the Lord, so the Lord chose David, and appointed him King over Israel. Now David found favor with God, and to him God swore that a God should be born of his lineage. Thus David began to prophe[s]y concerning the incarnation of God, saying, ‘I bore thee from my loins before the morning star’ (Ps., [cx], 3). He prophesied for forty years, and then died. After him, his son Solomon uttered prophecy. It was he who built a temple to God, and called it the Holy of Holies. He was a wise man, but in the end he fell from grace. He too reigned for forty years and then died. After him reigned his son Rehoboam, and in his day the kingdom was divided into two parts, since the Jews lived partly in Jerusalem, and the other portion in Samaria.

“In Samaria reigned Rehoboam, son of Solomon, who made two golden calves, one of which he set up in Bethel on the hill, and the other in Dan, saying, ‘These are your gods, [O] Israel.’ So the people worshiped them and and forgot God. Likewise in Jerusalem they forgot God, and began to worship Baal, called the god of war, who is Ares, and they forgot the God of their fathers. Then God began to send them prophets, and the prophets rebuked them for their iniquities, but when they were rebuked by the prophets, they killed them. Then God was wroth against Israel, and said, “I shall cast you from me, I shall call other peoples to serve. If they sin, I will not remember their iniquities.

“So the Lord sent his prophets, saying to them, ‘Prophe[s]y of the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles.’ Hosea was thus the first to prophesy, saying, ‘I will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease, I will break the bow of Israel, and I will no more have compassion on the house of Israel. But I will cast them off and reject them, saith the Lord, and they shall be wanderers among the nations’ (Hos. i, 4-6; ix, 17). And Jeremiah said, ‘If Samuel and Moses arise, I will not have mercy on them’ (Jer., xv, 1). Further, Jeremiah said, ‘Thus saith the Lord: “I have sworn by my great name that my name shall no more be mentioned henceforth by the lips of the Jews”‘ (Jer., xiv, 26). Likewise Ezekiel said, ‘Thus saith the Lord [God]: “I will scatter thee and the whole remnant of thee to all the winds, for that thou hast defiled my sanctuaries with thine abominations, I will reject thee and have no mercy upon thee”‘ (Ezek., v, 10-11).

“Malachi said, ‘I have no pleasure in you, saith [the Lord]. From the east to the west my name shall be glorified among the Gentiles. In every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering, for great is my name among the Gentiles. Wherefore I will deliver you into exile and to the scorn of all nations’ (Mal. i, 10-11; ii, 9). The great Isaiah said, ‘Thus saith the Lord: “I will stretch out my hand against thee, I will destroy thee and scatter thee, and restore thee no more”‘ (Is., i, 25). And further, ‘I have hated your feasts and your new moons; your Sabbaths I will not accept’ (Is. i, 13-14). Amos the prophet said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: “I will bring mourning upon you; the house of Israel was fallen and was not quick to arise”‘ (Amos, v, 1-2). Malachi said ‘Thus saith the Lord: “I will send upon you a curse, and will curse your blessing; I will destroy it, and it shall not be among you”‘ (Mal., ii, 2).

“Many prophesied of their rejection, and to such prophets God gave his commandment to foretell the calling of other nations in their stead. Thus Isaiah called upon them, saying, ‘Law shall go forth from me, and my judgment is the light of nations. My justice approaches quickly; it shall go forth and in my arm shall the Gentiles hope’ (Is., li, 4-6). Jeremiah said, ‘Thus saith the Lord: “I will establish a new covenant for the house of Judah. I will give laws for their understanding, and write upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people”‘ (Jer., xxi, 31-34). Isaiah said, ‘The old things are passed away, but I declare the new. Before their appearance, it has been revealed unto you. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Those who serve me shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed throughout all the earth. My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ (Is., xlii, 9-10; lvi, 5-7). Likewise Isaiah said, ‘The Lord will show his right arm before all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see salvation from our God’ (Is., liii, 10). And David said, ‘Praise the Lord, all the nations, praise him, all ye people’ (Ps., cxviii, 1).

“Since God so loved his new people, he promised to descend among them himself, and to appear as a man in the flesh, and to suffer for the sin of Adam. Thus men began to prophesy concerning the incarnation of God. First David said, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord: “Sit upon my right, until I shall set thine enemies as a footstool for thy feet”‘ (Ps. [cx], 1). And again, ‘The Lord said unto me: “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee”‘ (Ps., ii, 7). And Isaiah said, ‘No ambassador nor messenger, but God himself shall come to save us’ (Is., lxiii, 9). And again, ‘A child is born to us in whose arm there is authority, and he shall be called the great counsellor of the angels. Great is his might, and of his peace there is no end’ (Is., ix, 6). And again, ‘Behold, a maiden shall conceive in the womb, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel’ (Is., vii, 14). Micah said, ‘Thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, art scarcely to be of slight account among the thousand of Jews. For out of thee shall come forth a ruler to be prince in Israel, and his going forth is from everlasting. Therefore he will scatter them till the time when the mother travails, and the rest of his brethren return to the sons of Israel’ (Mic., x, 2-3). Jeremiah thus said, ‘This is our God, and no other shall be compared with him[.] He has found all the way of wisdom, he has given it to Jacob his servant. Then he appeared on earth and lived among men’ (Baruch, iii, 35-38). And again, ‘Man exists. But who shall know how God exists or how man dies? (Jer., xvii, 9). Zachariah said, ‘They have not heeded my son, and I will not give ear to them, said the Lord’ (Zach., vii, 13). Hosea said, ‘Thus saith the Lord: “My flesh is from them”‘ (Hos., ix, 12).

“Prophe[c]ies were likewise uttered also concerning his passion. Thus Isaiah said, ‘Woe to their souls! For they have counselled evil counsel, saying, “Let us kill the just man”‘ (Is., iii, 9-10). Likewise he said, ‘Thus saith the Lord: “I will not resist them nor speak against them. I offered my back to wounds and my countenance to blows, and I turned my face not away from shame and from spitting”‘ (Is., i, 5-6). Jeremiah said, ‘Come, let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and cut him off from the land of living’ (Jer., xii, 19). Moses said of his crucifixion, ‘Thy life shall hang in doubt before the tree’ (Deut., xxviii, 66). David said, ‘Why are the nations stirred up’ (Ps., ii, 1). And Isaiah said, ‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter’ (Is., liii, 7). And Esdras said, ‘Blessed be the Lord: he stretched out his hands and saved Jerusalem’ (?)[.] They spoke also of the resurrection. David said, ‘Rise up, [O] Lord, judge the lands for thou shalt inherit all the nations’ (Ps., lxxxii, 8). And likewise, ‘Them the Lord awaked as one out of sleep’ (Ps., lxxviii, 65) and also ‘Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered’ (Ps., lxviii, 1). Likewise, ‘Arise, [O Lord]; [O] God, lift up thy hand’ (Ps., x, 12). Isaiah said, ‘Ye who walk into the land and the shadow of death, upon you shall shine the light’ (Is., ix, 2). And Zachariah said, ‘In the blood of thy covenant thou hast freed the captives from the waterless pit’ (Zach., ix, 11). Many things were prophesied concerning him, all of which have been fulfilled.

S.H. Cross and O.P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor (eds.), The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text [Cambridge: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953], pages 104-107.

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