Biblical Hymns in Ancient Greek and Georgian Versions of The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete [1]

DOI: 10.55804/jtsuSPEKALI-17-18


The Great Canon of Repentance by St. Andrew of Crete is an important hymnographic monument. In modern liturgical practice, the Great Canon is performed twice - on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the first week of Great Lent, at nighttime, and on Thursday of the fifth week of the Great Lent, at matins. The reading of the canon in the first week is more of a recent phenomenon – originally, it was read only once, at dawn, on Thursday of the fifth week [Sin. Gr. 734-735:69r, Vat. Gr. 771:18v; Par.5:139r].

There are the following three editions of the Great Canon in the Georgian language: editions of St. Euthymius of Athos, George the Hagiorite and St. Arsen of Ikalto. As it is clear from the will of St. Arsen of Ikalto, the first translation, made by Euthymius of Athos, was incomplete, which prompted George the Hagiorite (St. Giorgi Mtatsmindeli) to attempt to translate the canon once again. However, this edition is much more extensive than the corresponding original Greek canon, since, he included all texts translated by St. Euthymius in his own translation [Par.5:154v]. Due to this circumstance, Arsen of Ikalto did the third translation of the Great Canon of Repentance by the order of David the Builder. According to St. Arsen’s will, George the Hagiorite extended the canon immensely and despite not having changed the tone, he did not take into account the irmos (the first verse of the ode) when translating. Thus, Arsen had a humble attempt to translate the canon for the third time without having changed the tone and having considered the Georgian translations of the verses whose original versions were indicated by St. Andrew in Greek [Par.5:154v].

The Georgian editions of the Great Canon are mainly studied. Among the recent editions, the research of 2020 by E. Metreveli and L. Grigolashvili - St. Andrew of Crete, Great Canon, Old Georgian Translations - may be the most comprehensive study. This edition applied the following manuscripts to study the text of the Great Canon edited by St. Arsen of Ikalto: Par. 5 (XII-XIII); Jer. 67 (XII); Sin. 70 (XII-XIII); Jer. 56 (XII-XIII); A 258 (XIII); A 446 (XIII); A 147 (XV); A 111 (1703-1715); S 4933 (1712); H 1076 (XVIII); H 263 (XVIII); H 2036 (XVIII) H 3108 (XVIII); Central National Archive – Manuscript 261 (1772) [Metreveli... 2020: 115].

In addition to the listed works, the Great Canon is also confirmed in the Manuscript K-79 preserved in the Kutaisi State Historical Museum. This is also indicated in the scholarly literature [Gabidzashvili, 2011: 452]. According to E. Nikoladze’s description, the manuscript is dated at the XV-XVIth centuries. It has not been published and studied so far [Manuscripts... 1953: 218].

From the editorial point of view, the texts of the biblical hymns confirmed in Manuscript K-79 turn out to lack consistency; therefore, the comparison of the Georgian manuscripts may be interesting for determining the interconnection of the manuscripts with each other.

The modern manner of serving the Great Canon includes a refrain between the troparia: “Have mercy on me, God, have mercy on me!” As the sources of Lenten Triodion testify, initially the Great Canon of Repentance did not include an attested refrain, but rather biblical hymns. The Georgian editions of the Great Canon are interesting with a view to studying the manner of including biblical hymns in the canon.

Biblical hymns are the original versions of matins – the former formed and developed the basis for the nine-ode system (Kern, 2021: 50). It should be noted here that Ode 2 gradually became a feature of the Great Lent period and is no longer recited in other periods of the liturgical year.

Sadly, even the Georgian researches of recent years indicate that the ancient Greek manuscripts of the Great Canon have not survived. Actually, it is not the case. The text of the Great Canon is preserved in the following manuscripts: Sin. Gr. 734-735 (X century) and Grottaferrata Δβ I. There is a reference to the fulfillment of the Great Canon in Vat. Gr. in 771. These manuscripts are one of the oldest sources of the ancient Greek text, Triodion [Mellas, 2020: 64].

The above-mentioned text also indicates that the tradition of including biblical hymns in the canon is preserved only through Georgian manuscripts: “As we know, the ancient Greek manuscripts of the Great Canon have not survived; the oldest manuscripts of the Georgian translations (10th-12th centuries) preserved the tradition of adding the biblical hymns to the canon, which is not a commonplace in the printed editions of the Great Canon, neither in Greek nor in Slavic editions” (translated from Georgian) [Metreveli... 2020: 17].

It turned out that the Manuscript Sin. Gr. 734-735 of the Great Canon (specifically, three odes)  includes biblical hymns. In Syn. Gr. In 734-735, biblical hymns accompany the second, fourth and seventh odes. Refrains from the Holy Scriptures are given on the edge of a piece of paper as the beginning, which once again proves that this tradition is about to die hard. Considering the above, this paper will focus on the biblical hymns attached to the texts of the second, fourth and seventh odes of the Great Canon.

Regarding the biblical hymns confirmed in the Georgian editions of the Great Canon, E. Metreveli and L. Grigolashvili note the following: “Comparing the texts of the biblical hymns attached to the Georgian translations and comparing these hymns with the pre-Hagioritian and George the Hagiorite’s translations also revealed that the biblical refrains of all three translations in the Parisian manuscript are edited by George the Hagiorite himself. Stemming from this, we may conclude that Euthymius the Athonite’s seventeenth-century translation of the Great Canon (Parisian collection) was, in fact, edited. However, it should also be noted here that the pre-Hagioritian and Hagioritian editions do not show big differences in relation to the biblical hymns” (translated from Georgian) [Metreveli... 2020:17-18].

The said remark should refer to the editorial affiliation of the texts, because, in terms of the distribution scheme (for example, in Ode 2), St. Arsen of Ikalto’s edition is mainly different from the rest. In his edition, the distribution scheme of the refrains in Ode 2 is different from the version of Sin. Gr. 734-735. In the Greek source, the text of the hymn begins at 32:20b of the Deuteronomy:

“For they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith” („ὅτι γενεὰ ἐξεστραμμένη ἐστίν, υἱοὶ οἷς οὐκ ἔστιν πίστις ἐν αὐτοῖς“) [Sin. Gr. 734-735: 70r].

And the Arsen of Ikalto’s edition has the first verse of the same chapter presented as the first refrain:

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth” [Par. 5:239v].

Interestingly enough, similar to Sinai Graecus 734-735, the editions of Euthymius and George have the hymns inserted in the second part of the twentieth verse:

For they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith” [Par. 5:128v; 140v].

The introduction of Ode 2 in the ancient Greek and all three Georgian editions ends with verse 43, which is also the end of the Song of Moses in the Holy Scriptures.

The refrain of Ode 2 from the Deuteronomy is quite extensive. George the Hagiorite did not fundamentally change the ancient Greek version since he provided the refrains from the Deuteronomy, 32:20b, even though the volume of the hymn allowed him to act otherwise (the Song of Moses takes verses 1-43 of chapter 32 in Deuteronomy). He followed the Greek source that was at his disposal in this case. Sinai Graecus 734-735 testifies to the fact that the inclusion of biblical hymns in Ode 2 began from 32:20b of the Deuteronomy.

Arsen of Ikalto’s edition offers two passages of the Song of Moses - 32:1-17 and 32:40-43 of the Deuteronomy as refrains. Therefore, the last verses of the refrain coincide with each other in the sources discussed above.

In the Georgian editions, the refrain of Ode 4 begins from the second verse of chapter 3 of Ambakum’s prophecy:

O LORD, I have heard thy speech and was afraid, I am awed, LORD, by what you accomplished“  [Par.5:131r; 144r; 242r].

And Syn. Gr. In 734-735 presents the fourth verse of the same chapter as the first refrain:

“And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power” („καὶ φέγγος αὐτοῦ ὡς φῶς ἔσται• κέρατα ἐν χερσὶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔθετο ἀγάπησιν κραταιὰν ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ“) [Sin. Gr. 734-735:73v].

In the discussed ancient Greek source, the biblical hymns do not fully accompany the texts of Ode 7. In Syn. Gr. In 734-735, Ode 7 includes eleven verses from the Book of Daniel. The first refrain is given after the second troparion. The adding of verses end on the fourteenth troparion. This is another proof of breaking with the old tradition. In addition, one may get the impression that the biblical hymns were added to the already transcribed text.

The beginning verse of biblical hymns is also different in Georgian editions. In particular, according to St. George the Hagiorite, refrains start from verse 33 of chapter 3:

„Now we have no right to open our mouths [Par. 5:150r].

In St. Euthymius and Arsen of Ikalto’s editions, the first verse of the first refrain is verse 26 of chapter 3:

Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, thy name is worthy to be praised and glorified for evermore” [Par.5:134r; 245v].

In Sin. Gr. 734-735, the first verse is from 3:37:

“For we are become less” (“ὃτι, δεσποτα, ἐσμικρύνθημεν“) [Sin. Gr. 734-735:78v]

It is a well-known fact that St. Arsen of Ikalto, as a loyal representative of Philhellenism, developed his piece of work following Greek texts not only in terms of content but also structure-wise. Therefore, it is clear that the differences revealed in his translation of the Great Canon cannot be accidental – it clearly follows the pattern of including biblical hymns similar to the one presented in the ancient Greek source of this work.

In general, the inconsistent manner of the biblical hymn distribution among the troparia, which emerges in Ode 7, makes it reasonable to assume that there were different options for the inclusion of hymns, and the sources examined here reflect these different options.

It is interesting whether the Georgian translators turned to the Georgian editions of the Holy Scriptures when adding biblical hymns to the text of the Great Canon.

As mentioned, from the editorial point of view, the verses of the biblical hymns revealed in K-79 differ from the version of Par-5 on a number of occasions. The differences are of the following nature: 1. the Gelatian version of the verse is confirmed; 2. the editions are mixed up (this is also a commonplace in Manuscript K-79); 3. editorially, there are different versions.

(1) As a sample of the Gelatian edition  (indicated by letter G), the following verse is given as the beginning: „his sons  have sinned to him” [K-79:165v].

For illustration, there are the following passages from the Georgian editions to testify: “They have spotted children, a froward and perverse generation” [Deuteronomy 32:5 BDES].

They have sinned, spotted children, a froward and perverse generation” [Deuteronomy 32:5 G].

There is a similar case in the following passage as well: “As an eagle would watch over his brood“  [K-79:166r].

As an eagle would watch over his brood”  [Deuteronomy 32:11 BDES].

The list above offers different versions of this verse: He has covered B. of own  BS. “As an eagle would watch over his brood” [Deuteronomy 32:11 G].

(2) Examples of editorial mix-up are rather fascinating. Since K-79 has the Great Canon refrains as a starting point, it is often difficult to identify the errors of mix-up. The examples verified here are believed to represent the overall nature of the mixing of editions.

He encircled him” [K-79:166r].

He encircled them, He instructed them, He kept them as the apple of His eye.” [Deuteronomy 32:10b ABDEKS].

He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” [Deuteronomy 32:10b G].

There is a similar case in the following passage as well:

They provoked me to anger” [K-79: 166r].

It is true that only the beginning of this verse of the manuscript is confirmed, but this is enough to determine its editorial affiliation.

They provoked me to anger with strange” [Deuteronomy 32: 16a BDES].

With this part of the verse, the difference between the presented manuscripts is related to one word only: foreigners B.

They provoked me to anger with strange” ”[Deuteronomy 32: 16a G].

(3) Oftentimes, Manuscript K-79 is different from the Georgian editions of the Old Testament, for example:

They sacrificed to devil” [K-79:166r].

They sacrificed to devils, and not to God; to gods whom they knew not: new and fresh gods came in, whom their fathers knew not” [Deuteronomy,32:17 BDES].

There are different versions confirmed in the following passage: [igini/igi] they/he S. Towards devils B.

They sacrificed to devils, and not to God; to gods whom they knew not: new and fresh gods came in, whom their fathers knew not” [Deuteronomy, 32:17 G].

Overall, Manuscript K-79 has such type of characteristics.

To illustrate the relationship between ancient Greek and Georgian sources and the connection of Par. 5 with Manuscript K-79, this paper offers a table below with the biblical hymns added to Ode 4. The first column presents the passage from Sin. Gr. 734-735, the second and third columns - the texts of the two manuscripts (Par.5 and K-79) of St. Arsen of Ikalto’s edition. This paper did not deem it necessary to have the distribution of biblical hymns include St. George the Hagiorite and Euthymius’s editions as they are different from ancient Greek version in terms of the number of troparia;

St. George the Hagiorite notes on the distribution characteristics of biblical hymns in his will confirming that Father Euthymius added verses in his own translation, which had not been included in Andrew of Crete’s original version. St. George the Hagiorite did not leave out the verses added by Father Euthymius, nor did he leave out the ones written by St. Andrew. For this reason, the canon got extended and it became necessary to divide the biblical hymns into smaller parts - [Par.5:158v-159r]. Based on the above, in this case, the first and last verses of the included texts (discussed above) should matter, and not their distribution scheme, which, naturally, will be different from the ancient Greek versions verified here.


IV გალობა

Sinai Graecus 734-735



[73v]κα φέγγος ατο [Hab. 3:4]

[242r] უფალო, მესმა სმენაჲ შენი [ამბ. 3:2a]


[167r] უფალო, მესმა სმენა შენი და შემეშინა, უფალო, გან...[ამბ. 3:2ab]

πρ προσώπου ατο [Hab. 3:5]

უფალო, განვიცადენ საქმენი შენნი

და დამიკჳრდა [ამბ. 3:2b]

შორის ორთა მათ ცხოველ  [ამბ. 3:2c]

στηκα σαλεύθη [Hab. 3:6a]

შორის ორთა მათ ცხოველთასა

იცნობე შენ, მოახლებასა წელთა

შენთასა გამოსცხადენ შენ ამბ. 3:2c)

მოწევნასა ჟამთასა საცნ. (ამბ. 3:2d)

διεθρύβη τ ρη βί [Hab. 3:6b-7a]

მოწევნასა ჟამთასა საცნაურ

იყო, შენ, შეძრწუნებასა სულისა

ჩემისასა, რისხვასა შინა

წყალობაჲ მოიჴსენი შენ (ამბ. 3:2d)

[167v] ღმერთი სამხრით მოვიდეს [ამბ. 3:3a]

σκηνώματα Αθιόπων· [Hab. 3:7b]

ღმერთი სამხრით მოვიდეს

და წმიდაჲ იგი მთით ჩრდილოჲთ

მაღნართაჲთ [ამბ. 3:3a]

დაფარნა ცანი [ამბ. 3:3b]

μ ν ποταμος [Hab. 3:8a]

დაფარნა ცანი შუენიერებამან

მისმან, და ქებითა მისითა აღივსო

ქუეყანაჲ [ამბ. 3:3b]

საყოფელნი ეთიოპე [ამბ. 3:7b]

τι πιβήσ [Hab. 3:8b]

შეძრწუნდეს საყოფელნი

ეთიოპელთანი და კარვები ქუეყანისა მადიამისაჲ [ამბ. 3:7b]

ნუ მდინარეთა ზედა [ამბ. 3:8a]

[74r]ντείνων νέτεινας τόξον [Hab. 3:9a]

მდინარეთა ზედა ნუ

განრისხნეა, უფალო, ანუ გულისწყრომაჲ შენი მდინარეთა ზედა,

გინა თუ ზღუასა ზედა სლვაჲ შენი? [ამბ. 3:8a]

რამეთუ აღჰჴდე შენ [ამბ. 3:8b]

ποταμν αγήσεται γ [Hab. 3:9b-10a]

რამეთუ აჰჴდე შენ ეტლთა შენთა ზედა, და მჴედრობაჲ შენი ცხორება არს [ამბ. 3:8b]

გარდაცუმით გაარდაცუ მშჳლდსა [ამბ. 3:9a]

σκορπίζων δατα πορείας· (Hab. 3:10b)


გარდაცუმით გარდააცუა

მშჳლდსა შენსა თესლთა ზედა,

იტყჳს უფალი [ამბ. 3:9a]

მდინარეთა ზედა (ამბ. 3:9b-10a)

πήρθη  λιος (Hab. 3:11a)

მდინარეთა განიპოს ქუეყანაჲ, გიხილონ შენ და ელმოდის ერთა (ამბ. 3:9b-10a)

განბნევად სლვასა წყალთასა (ამბ. 3:10b)

ες φς βολίδες [Amb. 3:11b]

[242v] განბნევად სლვასა წყალთასა, უფსკრულმან მოსცა ჴმაჲ თჳსი სიმაღლითა საოცრებათა

მისთაჲთა (ამბ. 3:10b)

[168r]ამაღლდა მზე და მთოვარე და დადგა [ამბ. 3:11a]

ν πειλ λιγώσεις [Amb. 3:12]

ამაღლდა მზე, და მთოვარე დადგა წესსა ზედა თჳსსა [ამბ. 3:11a]

ნათლად სასროლნი შენნი  [ამბ. 3:11b]

[74v]ξλθες ες σωτηρίαν [Amb. 3:13a]

ისარნი შენნი ნათლად

ვიდოდიან და ბრწყინვალებად

ელვისა საჭურველი შენი [ამბ. 3:11b]

ქადებით შეამწირო ქუჱყანა [ამბ. 3:12]

βαλες ες κεφαλς [Amb. 3:13b]

თქუმით შეამცირო ქუეყანაჲ და გულის-წყრომით შეჰმუსრნე

წარმართნი [ამბ. 3:12]

გამოხუედ მაცხოვრად ერისა [ამბ. 3:13a]

διέκοψας ν κστάσει [Amb. 3:14]

გამოხუედ მაცხოვრად ერისა შენისა და ჴსნად ცხებულთა შენთა [ამბ. 3:13a]

მოჰჴადე თავებსა ზედა [ამბ. 3:13b]

πιβιβς ες θάλασσαν [Amb. 3:15]

მიავლინე თავსა ზედა

უსჯულოთასა სიკუდილი, აღდგენ საკრველნი ვიდრე ქედადმდე სრულიად [ამბ. 3:13b]

წარჰკუჱთენ განკჳრვებით თავნი ძლიერთანი [ამბ. 3:14]

φυλαξάμην, κα πτοήθη [Amb. 3:16a]

შეჰმუსრენ განკჳრვებით თავნი ძლიერთანი, შეიძრნენ მას შინა, განახუენ აღჳრნი მათნი, ვითარცა ჭამნ რაჲ გლახაკი იდუმალ [ამბ. 3:14]

ივლინეს ზღუასა ზედა [ამბ. 3:15]

κα εσλθεν τρόμος [Amb. 3:16b]

და ივლინენ ზღუასა ზედა

ჰუნენი შენნი აღძრვად წყალთა

მრავალთა [ამბ. 3:15]

დავიცევ და შემიძრწუნდა გული [ამბ. 3:16a]

ναπαύσομαι [Amb. 3:16c)

დავიცევ და შემიძრწუნდა

გული ჩემი ჴმისაგან ლოცვისა

ბაგეთა ჩემთაჲსა [ამბ. 3:16a]

[168v]და შეედვა ძრწოლა (ამბ. 3:16b)

[75r]διότι συκ ο [Amb. 3:17a]

შეედვა ძრწოლაჲ ძუალთა ჩემთა, და ძალი ჩემი შეძრწუნდა ჩემ თანა (ამბ. 3:16b)

განვისუჱნო მე დღესა ჭირი [ამბ. 3:16c]

ψεύσεται ργον λαία [Hab. 3:17b]

[243r]განვისუენო მე დღესა ჭირსა ჩემისასა აღსლვასა მას ჩემსა მის მწირობისა ჩემისასა [ამბ. 3:16c]

რამეთუ ლეღუმან არა გამოიღოს [ამბ. 3:17a]

ξέλιπεν π βρώσεως [Amb. 3:17c]

რამეთუ ლეღუმან არა

გამოიღოს ნაყოფი თჳსი, და ვენაჴისა გამონაღები არა იპოოს [ამბ. 3:17a]

ეცრუოს საქმე ზეთისხილისა [ამბ. 3:17b]

γ δ ν [Amb. 3:18]

ეცრუოს საქმე ზეთის-ხილისაჲ, და ველმან არა აღმოაცენოს საჭმელი [ამბ. 3:17b]

მოაკლდეს საჭმელთაგან ცხოვარნი [ამბ. 3:17c]

Κύριος  θες [Amb. 3:19a]

მოაკლდენ საჭმელთაგან

ცხოვარნი, და ჴარნი არა იპოვნენ ბაგასა [ამბ. 3:17c]

ხოლო მე უფლისა მიმართ ვიხარებდე [ამბ. 3:18]

κα τάξει τος πόδας μου [Amb. 3:19b]

ხოლო მე უფლისა მიმართ ვიხარებდე და მხიარულ ვიყო მე ღმრთისა მიმართ, მაცხოვრისა ჩემისა [ამბ. 3:18]

უფალი ღმერთი ძალ ჩემდა, დაამტკიცნა ფერჴნი ჩემნი სრულიად [ამბ. 3:19a]


მაღალთა ზედა დამადგინა მე

ძლევად გალობითა თჳსითა [ამბ. 3:19b]

[169r]მთათა ზედა დამადგინა მე [ამბ. 3:19b]

The table thoroughly presents the interconnection of the biblical hymns presented in St. Arsen of Ikalto’s addition with Sinai Graecus 734-735. It is believed that it provides a general idea about the changes of editorial characteristics revealed in K-79, even though similar changes are confirmed on more occasions in Ode 2. It should also be noted here that in the distribution scheme of biblical hymns added to Ode IV, K-79 differs from the Par.5 version.

Based on the reviewed material, it was feasible to identify the following:

The rule of adding biblical hymns to the Great Canon was not characteristic to Georgian manuscripts alone; it is confirmed in at least one ancient Greek source (Sin. Gr. 734-735).

In Georgian editions, the distribution of biblical hymns among troparia is different. From this perspective, the practice of Georgian translations often does not coincide with the variant revealed in the ancient Greek sources. This proves that there were different options for the distribution of biblical hymns.

Editorially, the biblical hymns confirmed in K-79 differ from the ones in Par.5. The influence of the Gelatian Bible is evident in K-79.

In K-79, the study identified the type of verses, which, at present, were not possible to confirm in the Georgian editions of the Old Testament.


ბიბლია, ძველი აღთქმა ტომი I, II, თბილისი.
გაბიძაშვილი ე.,
ძველი ქართული მწერლობის ნათარგმნი ძეგლები, 5. ლიტურგიკა, ჰიმნოგრაფია, თბილისი.
კერნი კ.,
ლიტურგიკა, ჰიმნოგრაფია და ეორტოლოგია, თბილისი.
მეტრეველი ე., გრიგოლაშვილი ლ.,
წმინდა ანდრია კრიტელი, „დიდი კანონი“, ძველი ქართული თარგმანები, თბილისი.
Mellas A.,
Liturgy and the Emotions in Byzantium, Cambridge.
ხელნაწერთა აღწერილობა, ტომი I, თბილისი