Sergius Bulgakov, The Bride of the Lamb. Boris Jakim (trans.) Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002. Index. 531 pp. Approx., $40.00 (paper).
Publication of the English translation of Bulgakovís magnum opus, The Bride of the Lamb (Nevesta Agntsa), marks an important event for the areas of Slavic literatures and cultures, Religious Studies, and humanities in general. Through his superb translation, Jakim brings to the English reader Bulgakovís major theological work and yet another work of Russian religious philosophy.
Works by the foremost Russian Orthodox theologian, Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944)ówhich were previously available mostly in Russian originals and French, and in part German, translationsóstarted becoming available to the English-speaking audience only recently. The works that appeared in English in the last decade include Philosophy of Economy (2000), Towards a Russian Political Theology (1999), The Holy Grail and the Eucharist (1997), and Sophia, the Wisdom of God (1993). At the same time, Cathrine Evtuhovís study, The Cross and the Sickle: Sergei Bulgakov and the Fate of Russian Religious Philosophy, became the first major contribution to the study of Bulgakovís intellectual biography. While these publications reflect the growth and deepening of the scholarly interest in Russian religious thought, they also inspire hope that the long overdue discovery by the English-speaking West of this eminent Orthodox theologian and sophiologist will ensue.
Bulgakovís scholarly career and oeuvre comprise several periods, reflecting influences by Marx and Kant, Vladimir Soloviov and Pavel Florenskii. The Bride of the Lamb was written at the time of Bulgakovís prime as a mystical thinker and theologian and is the last book in the trilogy, entitled On Divine Humanity. Widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern religious philosophy and Orthodox theology, The Bride of the Lamb was published posthumously in 1945. This and the first two volumes, The Lamb of God (1933) and The Comforter (1936), have an underlying thematic unity, yet each volume is a work in its own right. The first two volumes are dedicated respectively to Christology and pneumatology. The Bride of the Lamb, however, is Bulgakovís most complete exposition of ecclesiology and sophiology. It comprises three sections: The Creator and Creation; The Church, History and the Afterlife; and Eschatology, which extensively dwell on the issues of interrelation between God and created world, the doctrine of the Church and the eschatological subjects, including afterlife and salvation.
While many of Bulgakovís works remain difficult to find, they are also difficult to read. The present volume effectively deals with this problem, offering Bulgakovís magnum opus in an accessible form. The editionís user-friendly format is achieved by thorough reorganization of the text, including improved layout and numerous excisions. Thus, excessively long passages are conveniently truncated. For example, a passage that runs in the Russian (1945) edition for 5 pages (pp. 15-19) in Jakimís edition is divided into nine paragraphs (pp. 11-15). A number of authorial footnotes are removed or made more concise. On the other hand, the footnotes added by the translator supply the reader with valuable additional information, including explication of Bulgakovís terminology (e.g. soborností, onomadoxy). Importantly, Bulgakovís numerous Latin and Greek citations are supplied in Jakimís edition with translations unavailable in the Russian edition. Latin transcription of Greek citations is, however, an unfortunate change. The benefit of large incisions is also questionable. Thus, several long passages, which, as Jakim rightly notes, could have been published separately, are removed altogether. This is an unfortunate development, because their inclusion in the volumeís appendices would have preserved the integrity of the work, saving researchers time and effort of searching for the missing pieces.
Yet the attractive features of this volume by far outweigh its flaws. Other advantages of this edition include an index and a comprehensive introduction. The latter provides the reader with the essentials of Bulgakovís biography and contextualizes his work within the corpus of Russian religious philosophy and theology. The most important, however, is the outstanding quality of translation. A foremost translator of Russian religious thought, Boris Jakim brought to the Western reader many a work of Russian philosophy and theology. His translations include Frank and Soloviov, Florenskii, Khomiakov, Kireevskii, and Berdiaev. His translations of Bulgakov are several, including the present work, which he regards to be ďone of the most important works ever produced in the modern Orthodox Church.Ē
Jakimís translation of The Bride of the Lamb will be greatly appreciated by scholars or Russian and Eastern Orthodox traditions, contemporary religious thought, Russian literature and culture. It offers vast opportunities for research in these areas and is a valuable resource for the Slavic and Religious studies classroom.
Svitlana Kobets, University of Toronto, CREES