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- September 14, 2011 at 1:07 am #342156
Chernorizets Hrabar (Old Church Slavonic: Чрьнори́зьць Хра́бръ, Črĭnorizĭcĭ Hrabrŭ) was a Bulgarian monk, scholar and writer who worked at the Preslav Literary School at the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century, developing Medieval Bulgarian literature and spreading Old Church Slavonic.
His appellation is correctly translated as "Hrabar, the Black Robe Wearer" (i.e., Hrabar The Monk), "Hrabar" ("Hrabr") being his given name, chernorizets being the lowest rank in the monastic hierarchy. Sometimes he is referred to as "Chernorizets the Brave", brave being the translation of the given name.
No biographical information is available about him, but his name is usually considered to be a pseudonym used by one of the other famous men of letters at the Preslav Literary School or may be even by Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria (893-927), since normally monks assume Christian names of biblical or early Christian onomastics.
Chernorizets Hrabar is (as far as is known) the author of only one literary work, "An Account of Letters" (Old Church Slavonic: О писмєньхъ, O pismenech), one of the most admired and popular works of literature written in Old Church Slavonic. The work was supposedly written shortly after the Preslav Ecclesiastical People's Council in 893 and is the only known medieval literary work to quote the exact year of the invention of the Glagolitic alphabet (855).
In An Account of Letters, Chernorizets Hrabar defends the alphabet against its Greek critics and proves not only its right to existence but also its superiority to the Greek alphabet arguing that the Greek letters are neither the oldest known to man, nor divine. At the same time Chernorizets Hrabar opposes Glagolitic dogmatists and makes several suggestions as to how the alphabet can be further improved.
He also provided information critical to Slavonic palaeography with his mention that the pre-Christian Slavs employed "strokes and incisions" (Old Church Slavonic: чръты и рѣзы, črъty i rězy), translated as "tallies and sketches" below) writing that was, apparently, insufficient properly to reflect the spoken language. It is thought that this may have been a form of runic script but no authentic examples are known to have survived.
The manuscript of An Account of Letters has been preserved in some 80 copies, the oldest of which dates back to 1348 and was made by the monk Laurentius for Tsar Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria. The work has also been printed in Vilnius (1575–1580), Moscow (1637), Saint Petersburg (1776), Supraśl (1781).
THE LETTER :
" The Slavs at first had no books, but, being pagans, they read and divined by means of lines and notches. When they became Christians they had to write the Slavic tongue with unadapted Roman and Greek letters. But how can one write well with Greek letter God or Life or village or church….And so it was for many years.
Then, God who loves man and who takes care of everything and does not leave mankind senseless but leads all to reason and salvation, took mercy upon the Slavic race and sent it St. Constantine the Philosopher, called Cyrill….He devised for them 38
letters, some modeled on the Greek letters, others to fit the Slavic speech. He started from the Greek alphabet; they say "alpha" and he says " az" . Both alphabets thus begin with "a". Just as the Greeks made their letters imitating the Jewish, he modeled his on the Greek…. Some say:" Why did he devise 38 letters when fewer would be enough, just as the Greeks write with 24 letters?" However, they do not know how many letters the Greeks use. They have indeed 24 letters, but there are also 11 diphthongs and 3 for the numbers 6,90, and 900. They add up to 38. Similarly and in the same manner St. Cyril devised 38 letters.
Then others say: " Why should there be Slavic books? They are not original like the Jewish, Latin and Greek books which go back to the beginning and are accepted by God?" Still others think that God himself created the letters. They do not know, wretched souls, what they are talking about, and they think that God has ordered books to be written in three languages because it is written in the Gospel: " And there was a board with writing in Hebrew,Latin and Greek." Since the Slavic language was not there , the Slavic books are not God – given. What can we say to that and what can we reply to such fools? Let us answer as we have been taught from the holy texts, that all comes in its turn from God and from no one else."
"Then, after many years, by Gods will 70 men were found to translate ( the Old Testament) from hebrew into Greek. The Slavic books , however, were translated, and the letters were invented , by Cyril alone in a few years, whereas many men-seven-invented over many years the Greek letters and seventy made the translation. For this reason the Slavic letters are holier and more respectable because they were devised by a saint whereas the Greek letters were devised by pagan Greeks. If you ask the Greek bookmen, "who invented your letters and translated the books and when," few of them know. If you ask , however, the Slavic bookmen , " who invented your letters and translated the books," they all know and will reply , " St. Constantine the Philosopher; he and his brother, Methodius, invented our letters and translated the books," because there are still men alive who saw them. And if you ask them at what time, they know and will say that it was in the time of the byzantine emperor Michael and the Bulgarian Prince Boris….There are other answers which we will give elsewhere, for there is no time now. Thus, brothers, God has enlightened the Slavs. "
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