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Chernorizetz Khrabqr

The first of the secular writers, and by far the most original, was Chernorizets Khrabur, a monk who lived in Preslav, the capital city of Bulgaria, at the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century. His themes are polemical and his language is vigorous and straight-forward.


O Pismenah (An Account of Letters)

Hithertofor the Slavs lacked books and, being pagans, they could only read and surmise things with marks and notches. When they accepted Christianity, they were compelled to write the Slavic words in Roman and Greek letters .... But how is it possible to write well, with Greek letters, such words as GOD or LIFE or VILLAGE ... and others like these? And thus it remained for many years.

Thereafter the man-loving God who arranges everything, and who did not abandon man without an intellect, sent unto him Saint Kon-stantine the Philosopher, called Cyril, a righteous and truth-loving man, and he created for them thirty-eight letters: some of them were patterned after the Greek letters, and some of them according to pe-culiarities of Slavic speech. First he began with the Greeks: they, by the way, say alpha, and he, I. Both alphabets begin with the letter a. And as the Greeks made their letter from the pattern of the Hebrew letter, so did he take the Greek words for a pattern. The first letter in Hebrew is Aleph, which means "study." When the child is first taken to school, it is told: "Study by yourself"-this is aleph. And the Greeks imitating this said "alpha." And thus this Hebr'ew expression was adopted by the Greek language, and they tell the child "alpha" which, in Greek, means "Seek," saying, "Seek out learning." Similarly, Saint Konstantine too created the letter I. But as a first letter, and being given from God to Slavic people to untie the tongue of those who through the alphabet are taught reason, I is spoken with the mouth wide open and the subsequent letters are spoken out and pronounced with the mouth open only a little.

Some ask: Why did he create thirty-eight letters, when, like the Greeks with their twenty-four letters, we could have written with fewer? But they do not know with how many letters the Greeks write. True, they have twenty-four letters, but they have added to them eleven doubles and three numerals, 9, 90, 900. And when you total these, it is thirty-eight in all. Similarly, Saint Cyril created thirty-eight letters.

Still others ask: Why Slavic books? They were created neither by God nor by the angels, nor did they originate from the very beginning like the Hebrew, the Roman and the Greek books, which, coming from the very beginning, are acceptable to God.

And still others wonder why God created letters in the first place. They do not know, the poor ones, what they say and think when they maintain that God has ordered books to be written in but three languages, as it is written in the Gospel: "And there was a plank-board, written in Hebrew, Roman and Greek." And Slav there was not. That is why the Slav books are not from God.

What can we say to such lunatics? But let us answer them as we have learned from the holy books, that everything in due course comes from God and not from anyone else. First of all, God has not created either the Hebrew or the Greek language, but only the Syrian language that Adam spoke, and from Adam to the Deluge, and from the Deluge to the time God distributed the languages at the Tower of Babel, for it is written: "The languages were all mixed up." And as tHithertofor the Slavs lacked books and, being pagans, they could only read and surmise things with marks and notches. When they accepted Christianity, they were compelled to write the Slavic words in Roman and Greek letters .... But how is it possible to write well, with Greek letters, such words as GOD or LIFE or VILLAGE ... and others like these? And thus it remained for many years.

Thereafter the man-loving God who arranges everything, and who did not abandon man without an intellect, sent unto him Saint Kon-stantine the Philosopher, called Cyril, a righteous and truth-loving man, and he created for them thirty-eight letters: some of them were patterned after the Greek letters, and some of them according to pe-culiarities of Slavic speech. First he began with the Greeks: they, by the way, say alpha, and he, I. Both alphabets begin with the letter a. And as the Greeks made their letter from the pattern of the Hebrew letter, so did he take the Greek words for a pattern. The first letter in Hebrew is Aleph, which means "study." When the child is first taken to school, it is told: "Study by yourself"-this is aleph. And the Greeks imitating this said "alpha." And thus this Hebr'ew expression was adopted by the Greek language, and they tell the child "alpha" which, in Greek, means "Seek," saying, "Seek out learning." Similarly, Saint Konstantine too created the letter I. But as a first letter, and being given from God to Slavic people to untie the tongue of those who through the alphabet are taught reason, I is spoken with the mouth wide open and the subsequent letters are spoken out and pronounced with the mouth open only a little.

Some ask: Why did he create thirty-eight letters, when, like the Greeks with their twenty-four letters, we could have written with fewer? But they do not know with how many letters the Greeks write. True, they have twenty-four letters, but they have added to them eleven doubles and three numerals, 9, 90, 900. And when you total these, it is thirty-eight in all. Similarly, Saint Cyril created thirty-eight letters.

Still others ask: Why Slavic books? They were created neither by God nor by the angels, nor did they originate from the very beginning like the Hebrew, the Roman and the Greek books, which, coming from the very beginning, are acceptable to God.

And still others wonder why God created letters in the first place. They do not know, the poor ones, what they say and think when they maintain that God has ordered books to be written in but three lan-.

guages, as it is written in the Gospel: "And there was a plank-board, written in Hebrew, Roman and Greek." And Slav there was not. That is why the Slav books are not from God.

What can we say to such lunatics? But let us answer them as we have learned from the holy books, that everything in due course comes from God and not from anyone else. First of all, God has not created either the Hebrew or the Greek language, but only the Syrian language that Adam spoke, and from Adam to the Deluge, and from the Deluge to the time God distributed the languages at the Tower of Babel, for it is written: "The languages were all mixed up." And as the languages were all mixed up, so were the mores, and the traditions, and the ways of life, and the laws, and the arts, according to the people: to the Egyptians went land-surveying, to the Persians, the Chaldeans, and the Assyrians went astrology, palmistry and witch-craft, bewitching and the other human arts; and to the Hebrews, meanwhile, the holy books, in which it is written that God created the heaven and the earth and everything which is on it and man and everything in an order, as it is written; to the Greeks, meanwhile, he gave grammar, rhetoric and philosphy.

Should you approach a Greek student and ask him who created your letters or translated your books and when, very few of them will know. However, if you approach even the youngest Slav pupil and ask him, "Who has created your alphabet and translated your books," all of them know and the answer they will give you is: "St. Konstantine the Philosopher, called Cyril: he created our alphabet and translated our books, along with his brother Methodius." And if you ask him when, he will know and will answer that it was done during the time of the Byzantine Tsar Michael and of Boris the Bulgarian Prince . . . in the year 6363 from the Creation of the World.

There are additional answers, too, which we are going to list some other place, for time is running short now. Thus, brothers, God has given intelligence to the Slavs; glory unto Him, honour and power, and veneration now and forever in worlds without end. Amen.

he languages were all mixed up, so were the mores, and the traditions, and the ways of life, and the laws, and the arts, according to the people: to the Egyptians went land-surveying, to the Persians, the Chaldeans, and the Assyrians went astrology, palmistry and witch-craft, bewitching and the other human arts; and to the Hebrews, meanwhile, the holy books, in which it is written that God created the heaven and the earth and everything which is on it and man and everything in an order, as it is written; to the Greeks, meanwhile, he gave grammar, rhetoric and philosphy.

Should you approach a Greek student and ask him who created your letters or translated your books and when, very few of them will know. However, if you approach even the youngest Slav pupil and ask him, "Who has created your alphabet and translated your books," all of them know and the answer they will give you is: "St. Konstantine the Philosopher, called Cyril: he created our alphabet and translated our books, along with his brother Methodius." And if you ask him when, he will know and will answer that it was done during the time of the Byzantine Tsar Michael and of Boris the Bulgarian Prince . . . in the year 6363 from the Creation of the World.

There are additional answers, too, which we are going to list some other place, for time is running short now. Thus, brothers, God has given intelligence to the Slavs; glory unto Him, honour and power, and veneration now and forever in worlds without end. Amen.

 

 


Last modified: December 23, 1997

p-miltenoff@nwu.edu