Stephen K. Batalden
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Empire and nation in the politics of the Russian Bible
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In the highly politicised world of nineteenth-century Russian religious culture, translation of the Bible became a source of major conflict. Who had the right to translate the Bible? What base texts were authoritative? What was to be the language of the modern Russian Bible? This chapter focuses on the controversy dividing Russian prelates in the 1850s over the renewal of Russian biblical translation efforts following the thirty-year hiatus imposed by Emperor Nicholas I. The chapter explores four touchstone moments when the politics of empire and nation came to be sharply represented in conflicts over biblical translation: (1) the conflict in the early nineteenth century over the imperially sanctioned Russian Bible Society; (2) the internal debate of the 1850s in the Holy Synod over the reopening of modern Russian biblical translation; (3) the conflicts linking the Jewish question with biblical translation in the last half of the nineteenth century; and, briefly, (4) the contemporary issue of biblical translation in the context of the current international conflict over Ukraine. The chapter argues that these fault lines reflected deep divisions over how best to accommodate ethnic diversity and incipient secularisation within Russian religious culture from the nineteenth century to the present day.

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Chosen peoples

The Bible, race and empire in the long nineteenth century


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