2022, Volume 19, Issue 2

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Tatiana G. Popova
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University
Kaliningrad, Russia

Old Testament Names in the Text of the Ladder of John Climacus

Voprosy onomastiki, 2022, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp. 66–84 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2022.19.2.017

Received on 31 August 2020

Abstract: The paper explores twenty-one Old Testament names found in the text of the translated monument of early Slavic writing, the Ladder of John Climacus. These personal names are a special kind of biblical quotations referring to the events of the Holy History. The study builds on a comparative analysis of the Greek text of the Ladder according to the publication in Patrologia Graeca (Vol. 88) and the text of the oldest Russian manuscript of the 12th century. The author looks to identify various strategies of delivering biblical citations used by the author, translator and scribe of the book, which is explained by the absence of the canonical text of the Holy Scriptures and the long history of existence of the Ladder in Byzantine and Slavic book literature. The article follows research on the collective church memory of medieval scribes which manifests itself in the commonality of topics, images, plots, ideas, and expressions that go back to the text of the Bible. The novelty of the work lies in incorporating new linguistic material extracted both from the text published in Patrologia Graeca and from the texts of unpublished Byzantine and Slavic codes. Personal names found in the Greek text of the Ladder (Jacob, Moses, David, Job, Lot, Adam) allude to key symbolic images and reveal several functions of the Old Testament anthroponyms in the Ladder texts: referential, symbolic, emphatic and indexical. Observations on the text of the translation evidenced to the high skill and erudition of the author of the first Slavic translation but at the same time revealed a translation error (new Adam), which was obviously caused by illegible or incorrect reading in the Greek version used as a source text for the translation. Contrastingly, the Russian manuscript under study showcases spelling inconsistencies in relation to Old Testament names as well as multiple errors and omissions of the names of characters. These are the result of multiple copies of the book made by inattentive and inexperienced scribes, one of whom was the scribe of the oldest surviving manuscript of the Ladder, created two centuries after the first translation appeared.

Keywords: Old Testament, Ladder of John Climacus, biblical anthroponymy, early Slavic translations from Greek, collective church memory, Bible quotes, Old Russian language, Old Slavonic language.


The paper was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (Project No. 22-18-00005 Iconography and hagiography of “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” by John Climacus) to which the author expresses her heartful gratitude.


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