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Adaptation of Canonical text of Psalms into Modern Georgian

By Ketevan Gadilia,
Ph D, the Coordinator of translation projects,
Institute for Bible translation

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in you
wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with
grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians, 3-16)

At the end of 2004 after two years of the intensive preparatory work, the Institute for Bible Translation started the project for Adaptation of the Old Georgian Canonical text of Psalms into Modern Georgian. The project has been blessed by His Holiness, Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II.

IBT started to produce the Modern Georgian translations in the early 70ies and until 2001 had been released more than eleven editions of the New Testament and Psalms under one cover. And, at last, not very long time ago, in 2002, IBT published the whole Bible in Georgian (about 20 000 copies).

Approximately the same time in 1970ies the Georgian Orthodox Church initiated a project of modern Bible translation. The group of talented and experienced Georgian writers, translators and scholars led and supported by GOC produced the new translation of whole Bible that was published in 1989 and currently is known as "the Patriarchy edition". Unfortunately because of some obscure reasons this fact has been kept unknown abroad. Even the famous researcher of Georgian Bible, Prof. J. Neville Birdsall from University of Birmingham in 1998 used to write: "Political, economic, cultural and theological factors have combined to bring it about that no full Georgian Bible in the modern form of the language is yet to hand" (Georgian Translations of the Bible, International Symposium on the Interpretation of the Bible, 1998).

This statement would have been true before 1989. In fact after hundreds-years-pause the end of 20th century can be accounted as the new era of revival of Bible translation activity in Georgia.

It may occur the question, whether it is a real need of the special project of Psalm's Adaptation.

What is the motivation? What is the argumentation?

The first motivation is the invaluable significance of the book of Psalms in the human history and culture, in the history of Christianity and in the life of Church in general. The book of Psalms belongs to the enduring masterpieces of world's spiritual and poetic heritage. About two thousand years Psalms are a pleasant repose in the arduous toil and didactic amusement for believers while their time of rest. The severe days of persecution the ears of first Christians were charmed by singing of Psalms. Psalms encouraged them to withstand the sufferings. And even nowadays singing Psalms constantly we are encouraged ourselves for great feats like our ancient ancestors. Psalter inspires us in everyday life and holds hardly the most important place in the liturgy practice.

Psalter is not only the eternal way of contact with God but also the most exalted way of communication between believers: "Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians, 5:18-19).

The Lord Himself demonstrates the top-priority of Psalter with quotations from Psalms. Among the books of Old Testament, the book of Psalms ranks as one of the quoted Holy text in New Testament. I dare to remind some of the well known passages. The most dreadful, heaviest and dearest words for each Christian pronounced during Crucifixion are from Psalms: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew, 27:46) - " My God,My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1).

Or, the most pathetic words in the human history: "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit'" (Luke 23:46) - "Into Your hand I commit my spirit" (Psalm 31:5).

The extraordinary meaning of Psalms is emphasized in multitudinous references in Acts such as 2:25-28 - Ps. 16- 8:11; 4:11 or even direct quotations 13:33 - Ps. 2:7 ("As it is written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'").

Some expressions even became proverbial in many languages as well as in Georgian like "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, You have perfected praise" (Matthew, 21:16) -"Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, you have ordained strength" (Psalms 8:2).

The second motivation is the exclusively high readability of Psalms in Georgia all Christian history long. Is it fortuitous that the first mentioning of Psalms is already happened in the oldest literary monument the "Martyrdom of St. Shushaniki" (5th C.)?! Even the first printed Georgian Bible book published in 1705 was the Psalter.

Almost every year the publishing house of Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) produces number of copies of Psalter of various size, design and format. A person who is able to read the whole Psalter during a day receives God's blessing, capability of spiritual strengthening and rising. As it is a very difficult task to reach this purpose alone there is a tradition of reading Psalms in groups. Almost all publications introduce the rules of group reading. There are two types of Psalms- reading. Each group is guided by a leader. One type is distribution of Psalms among 24 or 48 persons so that each of the group members is able to read for one or half an hour a day. Another type of reading needs twenty-man-group. The group starts reading the same day and proceeds with reading until completing all 150 psalms. The readers mention in prayers the names of group members, that creates the special atmosphere of love and unity.>>


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