The History of Salvation in The Russian Primary Chronicle, Part 4

What follows is the fourth and final installment of my transcription of 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 narrates the redemptive Christ-event (including the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost), then moves to a theological exposition of the need for Baptism, and closes with an unambiguous exhortation to conversion based on the anticipation of the Last Judgement. As usual, brackets reflect editorial changes to the printed text.

Then Vladimir inquired, “When was this fulfilled? Has it happened or is it yet to occur?” The scholar answered him and said:

“All was accomplished when God was incarnate. For as I said before, when the Jews killed the prophets and their kings transgressed against the law, he gave them over to destruction, and they were led into captivity in Assyria because of their sins. They labored there seventy years. Then they returned to their native land, but had no king. Thus the high priests ruled over them until the time of the foreigner Herod, who reigned over them. During his reign, in the year 5500, the Angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth to the Virgin Mary, of the tribe of David. He said unto her, ‘Rejoice, thou who art [blessed], the Lord is with thee.’ In consequence of the this Annunciation, she conceived the Word of God in her womb, and bore a son, and called his name Jesus.

“Now behold, wise men came from the east, saying, ‘Where is he who is born king of the Jews?’ For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And having called together the scribes and the elders of the people, he asked of them where the Christ should be born. They made reply ‘In Bethlehem of the Jews.’ When Herod heard these words, he gave command to slay all the children under two years of age. So his soldiers went forth and killed the children. But in her fear, Mary hid the Child, and Joseph, together with Mary, took the Child and fled into Egypt, where they remained until the death of Herod. In Egypt, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, saying, ‘Arise, take the Child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel.’

“When he thus returned, he settled in Nazareth. After the Child grew up, and had reached the age of thirty years, he began to form miracles, and to preach the kingdom of God. He chose twelve followers whom he called disciples, and he began to work great marvels; to raise the dead, to cleanse lepers, to heal the lame, to give sight to the blind, and to perform many miracles, even as the prophets had foretold concerning him, saying, ‘He healed our sicknesses and cured our diseases’ (Is., liii, 4). He was baptized by John in the Jordan, showing regeneration to mankind. When he was baptized, behold, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, and a voice said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’

“He sent out his disciples to preach the kingdom of God and repentance for the remission of sins. Desirous of fulfilling the prophecy, he began to preach how the Son of Man should suffer, be crucified, and rise again on the third day. While he was teaching in the Temple, the high priests and the scribes, inspired by hatred, set out to kill him, and after taking him captive, they led him before Pilate, the governor. When Pilate discovered that they had arrested him without charge, he desired to release him, but they said, ‘If you release this man, you cannot be a friend of Caesar.’ Pilate then commanded that they should crucify him. So they led him to the Place of the Skull and crucified him there. And darkness was over all the earth from the sixth hour until the night, and at the ninth hour, Jesus gave up the ghost. The veil of the Temple was rent in twain, and many dead arose, whom he bade depart to Paradise.

“When they took him from the Cross, they laid him in a tomb, and the Jews sealed the tomb with a seal, and stationed guards there, saying, ‘Perhaps his disciples will steal him away.’ Then, upon the third day, he arose, and having arisen from the dead, he appeared to his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go among all the nations, and teach the peoples baptism in the name of the Father and [of] the Son and [of] the Holy Ghost.’ He remained with them forty days, appearing to them after the resurrection. When the forty days had elapsed, he bade them go to the Mount of Olives, and there he appeared to them and blessed them, saying, ‘Remain in the city of Jerusalem until I send the promise of my Father.’ Having thus spoken, he ascended into heaven. They worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem, where they gathered together in the Temple. When fifty days were passed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. After they had received the promise of the Holy Spirit, they separated throughout the world, teaching and baptizing with water.”

Then Vladimir said, “Wherefore was he born of a woman, and crucified on the tree, and baptized with water?” The scholar answered:

“Since the human race first sinned through woman, when the devil misled Adam through the agency of Eve so that he was deprived of Paradise, God for this reason avenged himself on the devil. Because of the first woman, victory fell to the devil’s lot, for it was through woman that Adam fell from Paradise. God suffered pain upon the tree in order that the devil might be conquered by the tree, and that the righteous might taste the tree of life. As to the regeneration by water: since in the time of Noah, when sin multiplied among men, God brought the flood upon the earth and drowned mankind with its waters, God said, ‘Inasmuch as I destroyed mankind with water because of their sins, I will now wash away the sins of man once more through the regeneration by water.’ For the Jewish people were cleansed by the sea from the evil custom of the Egyptians, since water was in the beginning the primary element. For it is said ‘The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.’ Thus men are now baptized with water and the Spirit.

“The first transfiguration was accomplished by means of water, as Gideon performed it. For when the angel came to him and bade him attack the Midianites, he laid a fleece upon the ground and to test God, Gideon said, ‘Let there be dew on the whole earth, but let the fleece remain dry.’ And it was so. This miracle signifies that the Gentiles were formerly dry, while the Jews were wet, and how afterward there was dew, that is, among the Gentiles, while dryness prevailed among the Jews. For the prophets had foretold that regeneration should be accomplished by means of water.

“Now that the apostles have taught men throughout the world to believe in God, we Greeks have inherited their teaching, and the world believes therein. God hath appointed a day, in which he shall come from heaven to judge both the quick and the dead, and to render to each according to his deeds; to the righteous, the kingdom of heaven and ineffable beauty, bliss without end, and eternal life; but to sinners, the torments of hell and a worm that sleeps not, and of their torments there shall be no end. Such shall be the penalties for those who do not believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. The unbaptized shall be tormented with fire.”

As he spoke thus, he exhibited to Vladimir a canvas on which was depicted the Judgment Day of the Lord, and showed him, on the right, the righteous going to their bliss in Paradise, and on the left, the sinners on their way to torment. Then Vladimir sighed and said, “[Blessed] are they upon the right, but woe to those upon the left!” The scholar replied, “If you desire to take your place on the right with the just, then accept baptism!” Vladimir took this counsel to heart, saying, “I shall wait yet a little longer,” for he wished to inquire about all the faiths. Vladimir then gave the scholar many gifts, and dismissed him with great honor.

S.H. Cross and O.P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor (eds.), The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text [Cambridge: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953], pages 107-110.


3 responses to “The History of Salvation in The Russian Primary Chronicle, Part 4

  1. You know, Stefan, I just read some stuff from Fr. Alexander Men… and while I was expecting modernist crap, I instead found what sounds alot like authentic faith. Am I anathema.


  2. Yes–but for ever doubting that, in spite of his doubtless many shortcomings, there was anything but authentic faith in the late Father Alexander.


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