FACULTY OF HUMANITIES
THE GELATI BIBLE WITH CATENAS
All countries have symbols – identification marks for itself and for others, to define itself and to define others. Symbols have one of two fates: either we get so accustomed to them that we fail to notice them, or else we do not know them at all because we do not need them anymore. The Gelati Academy is a key symbol of the founding of the successful Georgian state—and yet the 900th anniversary of its foundation is going unnoticed by the public, while the Gelati Bible with Catenas (a biblical text within which each section contains commentaries of various kinds and authors), remains a symbol of Georgian spirituality, intellect, education and literature has been known only to specialists. Overlooking these has been caused by several factors: first, there was an intellectual delay that lasted for centuries after King Tamar’s reign; then the Communist regime forbade Georgians to even mention the Bible; and finally, today’s material values ignore some important intellectual and spiritual values that seem unfamiliar and unnecessary. Two very large manuscripts of the Gelati Bible (the 12th century autographic list of the Georgian National Center of Manuscripts(A-1108) and its copies (Q-1152), discovered by Tedo Zhordania in the ruins of the Gelati Monastery almost a century ago, are still waiting to be studied, appreciated and—most important – used properly.
Ana Kharanauli, Associate Professor at Tbilisi State University and author of The Gelati Bible with Catenas has led research funded by the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation on the Bible and its preparation for publication. The project is implemented by professors (A. Kharanauli; D. Melikishvili; V. Jugeli), students (T. Jikurashvili; A. Maisuradze; L. Abralava) and MA students (Ts. Guledani; N. Dundua; N. Mirotadze) from the TSU Faculty of Humanities. By financing this project the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation is promoting the succession of generations of scientists, and teaching young people how to work jointly around one task.
The publication of the Gelati Bible itself has been a collective effort done by the funder, translators, editors and copyists, who created a scientific publication with an entire system of references and conventional signs. The Bible concentrates Old Testament commentaries, and with its full depth and diversity it represents Old Testament Theology. The team has created an extremely sophisticated meta languagethrough which complex theological nuances can be transmitted. It is a also a textbook, for those who will learn to read and understand the text comprehensively.
The biblical catenas are a collection of the most difficult composition. Initially they appeared in Palestine in the 6th century, then in Constantinople, and finally were found over all Byzantium. On Athos and in Italy, the Bible with Catenas was written before the 16th century. Many manuscripts and their wide dissemination confirm that there was a great demand for the Bible with Catenas in the MiddleAges. In Georgia, the Bible with Catenas became popular a bit later and there is no information on the existence of Georgian biblical commentaries in the pre-Athonite period. This work was launched by Euthymius the Athonite (in Georgian: Ekvtime Atoneli), continued by a Georgian monk at Antioch, Ephrem Mtsire (or Ephraim the Small) and completed at Gelati where a new, revised translation of the Gelati Bible and its commentaries was created.
The Gelati Bible with Catenas is important in many respects to portray a common picture of Georgian culture, writing, language, Georgian-Byzantine relations, translation theory and practice, Christian exegetics and the Christian world of the Middle Ages in general. Key aspects include:
It is an important link in the chain of Georgian-Byzantine relations in writing, reaffirming a uniform, purpose-oriented line of the Georgian translation school’s policy that endorsed the full use of Byzantine writing and reflects the interest that the Gelati school shows towards the commentary genre.
* The Kiemenon of the Gelati Bible with Catenas is a new stage of Georgian biblical text and this comprehensive study of the collection will enable us to provide full characteristics of this stage.
* The Gelati Bible with Catenas is an extremely important source of the Patristics and biblical hermeneutics in general, because the exegetical works of some authors have only been preserved in the form of catenas.
* The language of translations and its dialectic, syntactic or stylistic signs turn the Gelati Bible into an important document of Georgian language history.
The translation of the ideas of various exegetical schools required an extremely sophisticated specialized (theological) terminology, thus the collection provides rich materials for studying Georgian scientific terminology.
The Gelati autographic list (A-1108), which contains many corrections by its author, offers unique materials to observe the process of how medieval philologists worked.
Studying the interrelation of the autographic list and its copy (Q-1151) helps create an idea of the method and work style of medieval copyists – what problems they faced when copying manuscripts and particularly autographs; and what particular changes they had to make.
The creation of collections with Catenas implies many technical difficulties. The Gelati Bible with Catenas is a high-level manuscript. Marginal signs or the numeration style of commentaries, placement of Catenas and Kiemenon and their interrelations and other details make the manuscripts extremely interesting from a codicological point of view and demonstrate the high level of the book’s culture.
Studying the Gelati Bible with Catenas related first of all to identifying its origins. This is essential from several points of view:
It is impossible to identify the text of translation, especially such an ultra-elinophilic translation as that of the Gelati Bible with Catenas, without thoroughly comparing it with the original.
It is important to compare the biblical text with the original in order to define the history of the Georgian biblical text.
Comparison with the original is important in order to observe the translation techniques of the Gelati school of translation. Translations by various authors or various types of texts made by one and the same translator or within one school create an important spectrum for studying the Georgian elinophilic translation.
The Gelati Bible with Catenas is another example of neglected Georgian written monuments found while studying the Byzantine culture. Information on the existence of a Georgian translation of the Bible with Catenas is not provided in any fundamental descriptions or research on the subject.
Studying the Gelati Bible with Catenas is important for research on Greek collections with Catenas:
For Septuagint textual criticism;
to identify the texts of commentaries of separate authors; to identify the authors of separate commentaries; and to study the history of the text of a collection.
The key objective of the project financed by the Rustaveli Foundation is to prepare the text and commentaries of the three books included in the Gelati Bible for publishing: Leviticus; Numbers and Deuteronomy.
A year and a half has already passed since work began and certain results have already appeared. For example, we know what textual traditions the Greek original of Georgian translation had; we know what methods of translation were used; what principles were used in selecting the commentaries and how this choice reflected the interest of the public; and the criteria have been identified under which the autographic list should be published. After the project is over, hopefully new funding will be forthcoming for research on the text of the remaining parts of the Gelati Bible (Joshua, the Book of Ruth, Judges and Prophets) and that both the text and the research results will find a publisher. This will be the best celebration of the 900th anniversary of foundation of the Gelati Academy.