The Ritual of “Exposing the Thief” in Old Rus: from the Enactment by the Archbishop of Novgorod Ioann III to Apocryphal Manuscript Culture
The Old Russian ritual of “Exposing the Thief” (“The Decree on the Proskomedia to the Holy Three Confessors Gurias, Samonas and Abibus”) was written by the Archbishop of Novgorod, Ioann III. The creation of the text was inspired by the sign from the icon of the confessors on December 24, 1410 in St. Sophia Cathedral. The full text of the “Decree…” is preserved in two copies from the 16th –17th centuries, whereas the prayer alone until recently was known in two copies not earlier than the 17th century. The corpus of copies of the prayer was replenished with two copies in manuscripts from the end of the 14th or the beginning of the 15th century and from the 18th century, respectively. The discovery of the first copy raised the question about the original text written by Archbishop Ioann: did he write the prescriptive part for a previously known prayer only or the full text? A textual study of the “Decree...” and the copies of the prayer allows to reconstruct the history of the text and conclude that the archetype contained both the prayer and the prescriptive part. Thus, it could be confirmed that the author of both parts of the “Decree...” is Archbishop Ioann, but the prayer is a less uniform formation. The comparison with Slavic prayers showed that the fragment about the forefathers, going back to a Greek tradition, was borrowed by Ioann from a South Slavic manuscript, while the first part of the text about the three confessors was compiled by the archbishop himself in the context of the special attitude of Novgorod to the cult of St. Gurias, Samonas and Abibus.
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