Russia’s Scriptural “Reformation” in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

Barbara Skinner


The Russian Orthodox Church never experienced a movement that placed the authority of Scriptures over that of the Church, which was characteristic of the Protestant reformations in Western Europe. Nevertheless, an increased emphasis on the Scriptures and a desire to translate the Bible into the vernacular arose in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Russia. Aside from the work of the Russian Bible Society, scholars have not shed much light on this trend as it occurred within clerical education. This article argues that the episode of the Bible Society was a critical chapter within a larger story of important theological and pedagogical shifts within Russian Orthodox education and values. The roots of the Russian biblical translation effort extend back to the eighteenth century, when ethnic Russian clerical scholars gained the linguistic abilities in Greek and Hebrew to translate based on the ancient texts, and when more attention began to be paid to both vernacular Russian instruction and Scriptural study in the ecclesiastical schools. These trends flourished more deeply in the first half of the nineteenth century. Thus, although Russia did not undergo a reformation in the Western sense of the word, it underwent similar internal reforms that brought the Scriptures into a more central role in the church without undermining Church authority and tradition.


Orthodox Church, Bible Society, seminaries, Scriptures, Filaret Drozdov

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ISSN: 2333-1658