The Wor(l)dview of the Slavic Word

Neža Zajc

The present meditation is a result of an in-depth study of the textual opus and literary expression of two 16th century writers who, despite their different origins, chose Slavic languages as form of their personal expression. Because of this, their terminology offers a basis for understanding of the broader cultural-historical context of their time, i.e. the European Renaissance. The analysis of their lives and work opens new perspectives on the issue of Renaissance humanism and the formation of a new cultural phenomenon, the Early Modern Age. Both authors, Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek, also wrote in Latin, German, and Greek; however, they consciously chose Slavic languages as languages of self-expression for very specific reasons: Primož Trubar because it was his mother tongue and Maximus the Greek as a language of Salvation. 1  Their linguistic achievement and literary expression established a bridge between Eastern and Western Christianity and represents a significant contribution to the intellectual history of the European Renaissance. 

Among the multitude of significant historical, cultural, and political events from the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, we wish to emphasise the relevance of  the Union of Florence, the fall of Constantinople, the Protestant movement, and the Council of Trent; furthermore, the increasing drive in Muscovite Russia to establish the autocephaly of the Russian Church and in Slovene lands the establishment of the foundations of the so-called Slovene Church – both of these  were  marked by activities of two great men: Maximus the Greek in Russia and Primož Trubar in Slovene lands. Their biographies are outlined in the following sections. The life path of Michael Trivolis led from his homeland, Greece, to Northern Italy where, in prominent towns of the time, he made acquaintance with numerous scholars and where he was active in writing, copying and translation. After a ten-year post in a monastery on the holy Mount Athos, he set off to Muscovite Russia to serve as a translator on the invitation of the Russian Grand Prince Vasili III; he died there in 1556 as Maximus the Greek. The life of Primož Trubar will be outlined throughout the text in light of certain currently less known facts about his diverse literary and pastoral activities.

The study of the period in question cannot avoid the issue of the fundamental transition from writing to print, which had an impact on numerous controversial theological and philosophical movements of the 16th century.  Print was (traditionally?) considered a nonessential novelty, often seen as blasphemous from the standpoint of the Christian worldview. However, it also opened the possibility of fixing verbal expression that would consequently prevent the appearance of mistake, fraud, or addition – all of these were considered a sign of ‘human’ weakness (either fallibility or unethical behaviour). In this study the invention of print therefore served as a context in which to present the attitudes of Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek to questions of their time, as well as to the issue of the Biblical original. Namely, both writers considered the invention of print an important achievement of human technology which would contribute to greater accuracy and precision of verbal expression; the latter is reflected in Trubar’s simultaneous writing and printing of the Slovene word and in Greek’s all-round activities in Aldus Manutius’s Venetian printing house, whose influence he remained under also in Russia (thus he respectfully adopted an interpretation of A. Manutius’s printing symbol).

Printing activity of the 16th century was linked to an extensive flow of knowledge and various traditions from the treasury of human mind (also related to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453), a current within which many scholars and Christian thinkers of the time failed to adopt a clear-cut position, often even losing their basic Christian orientation. Both writers in question distinguished between the external, i.e. human knowledge, and internal or God-inspired wisdom. They both opposed dialectics as a relic of Classical wisdom and the abuse of the Holy Tradition as an ostensible tool of manipulation of individual worldviews. Trubar is resolutely opposed to (folk) superstition, which is in keeping with his theological conviction objecting to the wealth of the Church; Greek, on the other hand, is opposed to astrology (including numerology as a branch of astrology, but not geometry), which he sees as human calculation that prevents a believer from making the right decision and choosing the righteous path (in other words, he posits astrology against the agency of the free will).

Both Greek and Trubar understood the Holy Tradition and the human tradition as present in the consciousness of contemporary man, but at the same time as an internally hierarchized whole. Their contempt for the knowledge of Antiquity, viewed as pagan, was less pronounced in the case of rhetoric, poetry, natural sciences, and geography. Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar filtered Classical tradition in two ways: 1. by not rejecting what humanity had already adopted (the merging of pre-Christian origins with folk worship); 2. through a reasonable adoption (as opposed to unreasonable opposition for the sake of opposition itself, i.e. dialectical opposition) of the Classical level of thought reached by Greek philosophy. However, with both writers this adoption (which was in this sense only superficially concordant with the Renaissance attitude) exceeded a mere widening of spiritual horizons.

Starting from the point of view of orthodoxy, i.e. by accepting the so-called reasonable external wisdoms, Greek and Trubar also intimated the future of sciences: the uselessness of praise for the self-evident findings of natural sciences; the inevitability of geographical knowledge; the self-destructiveness of philosophy based on the dialectic method of rationalism without a simultaneous adherence to theological/historical tradition (historiosophy); the futility of ‘formalist’ grammatical/linguistic research separated from content (of holy and secular texts); the premonition of an end of theology or theology already completed ; the uselessness of a narrowly defined  national history (as opposed to the world history of human culture).

In the consciousness of a Christian writer the representation of the present world (difficult as it is) can only be credible in direct correlation or even complete correspondence to Biblical reality. The attitude to reality in which they lived, as reflected in their depictions, led to an attempt to comprehend their written expression as a textual unity. However, the only possible straightforward classification of their bodies of work–into translation and non-translation–would impoverish the characterisation of the linguistic and philological complexity of the relationship between the fundamental untranslatability of the Biblical original and the liturgical formation of the ‘original’ Early Christian atmosphere, characteristic of the intellectual consciousness of the time. The seeming methodological predicament of this research (determination of a field of research in a single maxim), however, is not necessarily a disadvantage but rather an expression of quality: the comprehensiveness of the writer. Within the verbal expression of Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek (i.e. the totality of their written work), a reflection (a word icon) of their personal theology was formed with a common characteristic: orientation towards man and a staunch individual faith in the preservation of the untouchability of the Trinity of Christian God.

In view of the indivisibility of their thought, Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar are traditional in the sense of the well-known characteristic of the Byzantine artistic style, i.e. non-differentiation between individual artistic styles: the earliest Christian representational tradition thus assumed the living presence or the so-called vitality of holy content. On the other hand, the Biblical morality expressed in the thought of Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek transcends traditional Christian dichotomy. Thus the modes of thought (as well as the already mentioned exegesis) of both writers cannot be fully delineated by adhering to the set patterns and criteria of evaluation of a written text. Their theological/liturgical argumentation which un-intentionally employed both written (Biblical) tradition as well as oral tradition (not only folk, but also classical, pagan, apocryphal, non-canonical, non-Biblical, and fundamentally archetypal), was understood as a reliable record of the history of human mind. Namely, Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek portrayed a state of human consciousness.

Given the complex relationship between the emerging and the already present elements of the linguistic tradition and the vaguely defined  borders between  Slovene (spoken language) and Old Russian (already a proto-national language) languages, the inadequacy of the original research apparatus had to be acknowledged and new criteria of observation as well as evaluation developed. Since translation (including the attitude to ‘mother tongue’) was, from its Christian beginnings, in fact an act of interpretation or exegesis inseparable from the knowledge of Christian history, in particular as it related to Church and its intellectual and spiritual tradition, the question of the ‘method’ of translation gave way to a more thorough study of the relation to Christian tradition.

The expression of Christian history (historiosophy), with an emphasis on the legitimate referencing of the provisions of Church councils and the inclusion of thought of the Church Fathers (patristics), was deliberately examined as part of the presented attitude to language. The fact that both writers relied on (the same) ecumenical Church councils may signify that (apart from the well-known Western European source, i.e. Gratian’s Decree) Trubar also used an Eastern Christian source in Church history (Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History) and that Greek referred to the period of the establishment of Slavic literacy, closely related to the work of Patriarch Photius. At the same time, Trubar’s cautious  distrust of Augustine’s ‘middle measure’ can be explained by his adherence to  the words of St. John Chrysostom, the founder of a strict inner-Biblical exegesis, whose homiletic oral and written work represents an Eastern Christian parallel to the period of St. Jerome’s, St. Ambrose’s, and St. Augustine’s activities in the Latin West. Historically speaking Trubar’s interpretation, oscillating between Chrysostom’s grammatical historical exegesis, Ambrose’s renouncement of the exegetic approach to the Bible, and the revelational adoption of Biblical word, points to a historically determinate period of time when unity between Eastern and Western Church was still imaginable. Maximus the Greek’s widespread and complex interpretation also reaches the heights of Byzantine as well as Western Christian exegetic patterns of understanding of the Biblical text.

According to the principle of topological comparability, which is based on similarity, extracts of both writers included in the research were juxtaposed to allow us to decipher similarities between the worldviews of both writers. The results can be summed up in three lines of theological argumentation based on patristic exegesis and supported by our own interpretation (as well as translation): 1. an intense search for a suitable form for the content/meaning of Biblical words; 2. Old Testament justification of apostolic mission; 3. emphasis on the triune nature of God (correlation to the provisions of Church councils). However, both Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek include exegetic interpretation into the formation of their thought. Since scientific research requires a sharp critical stance toward everything apparently meaningful, the question arises of what can be learned from the fact that the two writers of different Christian denominations, in the same century, relied on ‘the same’ Biblical and patristic (mostly Early Church Fathers) fragments about the same theological questions – what does this tell us about the period in question and the personality of the writers? So far this intertwinement and merging of individual, historical, and theological topics on all linguistic levels has not been satisfactorily explained.

The Biblical reality (i.e. Christian dichotomy) was observed in relation to the writers’ present, as evident in their texts. The parallels in the worldviews of Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek in terms of thought and religion are the following: anti-Catholic orientation, the issue of the so-called Turkish threat, the rejection of Church luxury (Church property, ownership of land and ‘people’s souls’), and the reliance on Christian patristics (including Eastern). The similarities in their Christian orientation were easily determinable (through the analysis of references to the same Biblical maxims, the same Church councils and Church Fathers, comments or interpretations reflecting a similar worldview that supported and proved the hypothesis), however, as such failed to prove satisfactory, both scientifically and spiritually, and also in terms of the principal goal of the research: to attempt to understand and reveal the ‘secret’ of personal faith or theology of Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar. As a believer’s attitude to earthly authority is linked to Biblical origin, sacramental life seemed to be the field which could provide answers to two fundamental theological questions – the question of the full Eucharist and the question of the Filioque or the origin of the Holy Spirit – which fascinated both writers. However, their treatment of the two (and other) key questions of their theology gave no explanation as to why the aforementioned issues troubled them to such an extent. Therefore in section III of the research a deeper level of study was introduced, based on the changed criteria of scientific provability which required the delineation of differences between Slovene and Russian within the framework of seemingly similar, i.e. Slavic languages.

Language requires renaming: the attempt to define the specifics of theology and the attitude towards the Biblical text was defined as ‘Theology of the Word’. The representation of the individual Persons of the Holy Trinity contributed to the understanding of the strictly theological characteristics of a religious worldview. In the different linguistic realizations of the First Psalm, theoretically defined in the pre-speaking segments (to the Book of Psalms and to the First Psalm), we discovered the specifics of the personal attitude to the Word. The distinct focus on the meaning of individual words (with regard to the basic religious writing principle of inner-wordly adequacy of the form) and content led us to consider whether the notion of ‘style’ is fully applicable to the language of the 16th century. The un-emptiness or meaning-bearing of words, each word being a potential bearer not only of the self-evident/common/earthly but also and foremost of that which is higher, i.e. literally of Christ’s meaning or His theological value, seemed to be at the heart of the expression of Primož Trubar as well as Maximus the Greek. The problem of seeming semantic repetitions (a double, the “double formula” in Primož Trubar) and repetitions of form (word roots in Maximus the Greek) proved to be significant for the understanding of the personal attitude to the Biblical word.

A different approach towards the deciphering of the meaning of the terminological junctions was adopted: the notional field of ‘Confession’ (of an individual/believer) that moves into the  analysis of the relationship toward ‘last-ness’ of the (individual’s/believer’s) word opens up the question of Christian worldview toward the deceased (also based on funeral rites). Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek reflect the so-called reasonable acceptance of death, which is in compliance with Early Christian non-mourning (absent of mourning for the earthly world and fate), joyful comprehension (i.e. resurrectional comprehension, directly linked to faith in Christ’s redeeming power), an attitude which demonstrates both a belief in eternity as well as in the literal resurrection of the dead. The correlation between undivided content and form, realized in final expression before death, is clearly accomplished in the writer’s expression also in the choice of poem, i.e. verse, as a fundamentally hymnographic textual unit. It appears that we are at the core of a poetic of a kind – devoted to Christian transcendence.

Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek represent a Christian God in a Godly-human image: Christ is thus adequately portrayed in the full spectrum of light, while the required Godly-human duality is drawn from the Gospel texts (the beginning of the Gospel of John). The vital relationship to Christ’s Word opens up the question of the writers’ experience of reality, which is evident in their texts.

Their search for the appropriate theological terminology in Slavic language is also inevitably connected to commonly accepted Latin (and Greek) Church/religious expressions, therefore the relationship of both writers to Latin or Western European tradition is examined once again. When studying the reliance of both writers on Early Roman immaculateness of Christian religion (they both have in common the ideality of Early Christian moral primacy), we come across a reflection on the fundamental modifications in liturgy as they were apparently perceived, recognised, and experienced by both Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar. Their perceptions of the intolerable blending (the most significant example would be the mixing of the ‘living’ and the ‘dead’), which they observed in Christian liturgy, touches upon the foundations of common human morality and therefore left a significant mark on the mentality of the 16th century.

Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar see the misuse of basic liturgical patterns within Christian liturgy as a distortion of human consciousness. The ability of sensible judgement thus presents the key notion of their so-called theology of language (Greek’s “Razum”; Trubar’s “sastopnost”); it enables us to define the concepts of two later forms of European rationalism in their attitude to reality (Greek’s derivative, i.e. inductive, and Trubar’s argumentative, i.e. deductive view). Their notion of Reason, which is in fact contrary to ‘rationality’ and closer although not identical to ‘common sense’, combined reasonable acceptance of both divine reality as well as (human) mortality. The abstractions of Maximus the Greek as the only way of revealing the observed moral failures of not only Russian but human society and Trubar’s explanatory concretization were a matter of principle but not origin, since they occur only in the process of the verbalization of thought.

The observed diversity of the whole of their textual work, which evades all secondary (genre) classifications, is the result of the writers’ ability to write both in prose and verse forms within which the following text types can be distinguished: linguistic essay, treatise, narrative, tale, anecdote, legend, report, polemic programmatic essay (characteristics of engaged journalism?), apologetic speech, the so-called district epistle, formal and personal letter (epistolarity), epigrams, poems, but mainly common and personal prayers and hymnologic liturgical penitential hymns. Such diversity and variety of their literary work confirms the presumption that a wide array of knowledge and representation techniques of a Renaissance artist were applied in the field of literary activity or writing. Their texts gave full meaning to some of the finest achievements in the history of human thought. They thus laid the foundations of Russian (theological/philosophical foundation) and Slovenian (theological/artistic foundation) mentality and enabled further intellectual and spiritual development of human culture.

Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar reached for the Godly also through  a notional reality of revived relations among words denoting original  interpersonal and cognate relations. The fundamental comprehension of Christian ‘liveliness’, common to Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar, is taken from liturgical ceremony (Church light in the image of gold as a reflection of the silent dim of Church light). Their most common metaphors (‘golden’, ‘healing’, ‘golden light and angelic attributes’) originate in liturgical experience which represents the space of an orthodox transformation of elementary notions of humanness (family as the basic unit in Christian community) and thusly transformed represent a possibility for the revival of Christian piety, as well as a space for the achievement of the Christian ideal of the Word (realization of the principle of adequacy between form and content). These are also the reasons for the drive to establish a language which would be elevated and thus suitable for the worship of God (praise in song), and at the same time understandable to people, i.e. based on living spoken foundations (an unattainable, yet constantly present ideal of the word of Gospel). In liturgy, where an active identification of the believer with his act (primarily liturgical) takes place, the personal capacity for obedience and penitence is established. The combining and connecting of various spiritual spheres in the texts of Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek cannot be explained fully by modelling  or defence (of a certain ‘school, approach, method, or ideology’); it is, in our opinion, characteristic of the singularity of a personality. With a seemingly methodological idea of syncretism, Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar synthetically connected the elements of sciences useful to humanity into a theology favourable to God, a theology which proved to have a distinctly personal note (which is why the differences between them, for example in the relationship to the holiness of the Mother of God, are understood as denominational, i.e. corresponding to Protestant and Orthodox faith, and also as personal/theological differences). This also explains the unintentional establishment of a most direct relationship to God (close proximity or participation), expressed in proportional, i.e. notionally incomplete words denoting a superfluous characteristic (for instance: ‘ultimate’, ‘all/everyone’, ‘perfect/perfected’, ‘pure’, ‘untouchable’, ‘ineffable’), which we defined as the so-called glossary of the absolute or a dictionary of totality.

The research thus necessitated the introduction of a new conditional term which explains the particularities of the entirety of the textual work of Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar: the comprehensive classification of their work, the peculiarity of genre, the narrowness of worldview and Christian comprehensiveness can be explained and denoted only with the suggested term from Christian liturgy (thus the emergence of the Image of the Word). Accordingly, all works of Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek (turned in the writer’s thought – already an authorial decision? – to God) are in fact liturgical texts. To this we should add a poetic ability, observed but not fully realized in the work of both writers, again understood as one of the forms of the praise of God, in which the fundamental elements of personal theology can be synthetically expressed. By reviving the most basic methaphorics of ordination ceremony in the light of the Christian aesthetics of liturgy, which represented their theological/literary way of employing the Holy Tradition, Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar created a personal poetics of service to God.

The tendency to revive not necessarily classical knowledge but rather the Early Christian ideological conception was most profoundly expressed in Slovene writing in  the work of Primož Trubar who, among Slovene Protestant writers writing in their mother tongue, articulated the greatest number of archaic or old Slovene/Slavic linguistic curiosities (the language of the Freising Monuments, the Codex Suprasliensis rather than the Stična Manuscript) and was thus (unintentionally) reviving the period of formation and establishment of Slavic literacy (9th century). In his texts Maximus the Greek consciously ascribed meaning to the artistic/scientific highlights of Byzantine culture (which was named the Macedonian Renaissance because of its Hellenistic ‘taste’ in the encouragement of the Christian inspired, enlightening cultural activities) which coincide with the period of the establishment of Slavic literacy. Their opus, written also in Greek, Latin and German language, is the most extensive (quantitatively) and thematically the most significant (qualitatively) among those written in Slavic languages at the time. By writing it, they carried out the work that was based on ideas of apostolic mission and at the same time represented a contemporary form of the call to revive the spirit of all humanity. By deciding to adopt Slavic self-expression, the writers sent out a message that their purpose entirely depended on their relationship to the addressee –man (the other) and God (the Other); people should learn the language (not brought closer to the people, i.e. lowered) in which they could sing praise to God. The principle of comprehension was superseding the basic guidelines of literacy and the explication of Christian teaching (preaching). The awareness of the untranslatability of certain theological expressions, which allowed even Latin analogues as signs of particularly human Christian doctrine, required  Maximus the Greek and Trubar to introduce not necessarily new expressions but those already accepted or traditional, albeit transformed into elevated Slavic expressions used for the naming of God’s reality/presence/eternity.

The Slavic culture, with its firm foundation in Slavic language, emerged from the European historical background of the time. The verbal expression in Slavic language in the works of Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar offered the possibility of a thought/worldview continuity in the expression of awareness and thought. This was possible because Slavic language, with its ‘revivalist’ ability to return to the period of the establishment of literacy or the so-called Slavic antiquity and simultaneously exerting a respectable difference from the Holy See and an anti-Catholic orientation, presented an opportunity and  privilege of   independence (and aloneness). Only the developed written expression in Slavic language, relying not only on the Early Christian apostolic mission but also on the difficult formation of the written form of the Slavic word, connected the experience of the Western European Church  with the religious tradition of the Christian East and thus truly revived the common human core of the Christian ideal – in its core the same as the Renaissance ideal.

Their verbal creativity, which did not resort to naive analogizing but rather built unique analogies itself, was based on a tragic experience of the present. As Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar transcended the national narrow-mindedness with linguistic diversity, they also inscribed themselves as authors of the lonely novelty – emerging from the background of its period – with a unique language in a unified expression with a Slavic verbal core. The instances of coincidence in the juxtaposed textual work of Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar are neither characteristic nor typical and even less typological indicators of the culture of the 16th century (their reflection of reality reveals merely the authors’ personal non-equanimity) – only when understood as exceptions, do they represent a possibility of insight into the individuality of a phenomenon. From this point of view (i.e. a view corresponding to the Renaissance one), the extent of the intercultural and inter-linguistic connections and influences widens (the precondition of that being the absence of a firm national framework in the past) and makes possible the thinking of cultural history.

Following the highlights of their work (P. Trubar: Ena dolga predguvor k Novemu Testamentu; interpretation of John’s Revelation; preface to the Psalter; M. of Greek: preface to the Psalter; Against the Latins, Terrifying Story, Story of the Unfortunate Present Age, Against the Blasphemers of the Mother of God), we used them to illuminate not only the general characteristics of the 16th century, but also those which so far remained hidden to historians. Although unintentionally, both writers went against the grain of ‘their’ time with their anti-Catholic orientation and through this ostensible anti-Renaissance orientation paradoxically achieved what appeared to be increasingly impossible to their contemporaries: i.e. the ideal of a Renaissance man.

Consequently we do not speak about Slavic Renaissance as a lonely and marginalized exception, but from the point of view of the history of humanity. On the whole, we support the argument that the Renaissance worldview in Muscovite Russia and in Slovene lands at the time cannot be traced in such phenomena which would justify this ambiguous and at the same time generally accepted label. Since as early as the 14th century, according to Gelian Mihajlovič Prohorov, the ‘Great Russia’ took over the task of ‘European Orthodox revival’ (i.e. Slavia Orthodoxa, embodying the Byzantine Hesychastic ideas also in the political field) – an idea corresponding to the later Western European Renaissance attempt to revive classical tradition by elevating the individual – and because we were unable to find any contemporary counterparts to the personalities and work of Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar or apply any kind of previously set standards of evaluation, we believe that the positioning of their totality at the very top of European Renaissance seems feasible.

Their motif/thematic indebtedness to the highlights of visual/verbal art was resolved in an entirely individual language which represents a typologically incomparable individual achievement in the field of religious culture. Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar were, comparable to scholars of the 16th century of the highest intellectual merit, the first writers of Renaissance Europe who created an entire opus in Slavic language, which proved to be decisive for the later development of that cultural consciousness within which they inscribed themselves. We are looking at a phenomenon contemporary to Renaissance and at the same running against it, which transcends national determinacy with its linguistic diversity (richness) and consequently represents quality (value) in the cultural history of the whole humanity.

However, as their intention was not to oppose, their emergence (and our exposition) confirms the  previous theses on Slavic as well as European Renaissance: the writers of the 16th century dealt with here, with their Slavic linguistic expression, represent a revival of the period of the formation of Slavic literacy (9th century) and also the influence of a somewhat lonely and ossified emergence of the so-called Slavic Renaissance (which also strived to return to the initial period) in Russian, Bulgarian and Czech lands in the 16th century. With a thematic re-signification of the contemporary  problems of the century, they show Central European space as a centre of Renaissance artistic and educational flurry; they reformulate the drive of the Renaissance return to Antiquity as a revival of the feeling of primary Christian unity (the ideal of the immaculateness of liturgical ceremony) – in Slavic language. By doing so they firmly place the Slavic Renaissance into the European framework: not only did the Slavic Renaissance foretell the focal activity of the Western Renaissance (deriving from the Byzantine mediator of classical knowledge) but also renounced it through its anti-Western orientation; the prophecy of the end of European Renaissance, based in the specific reading of the Bible, came forth in Slavic language.

Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek envisaged human dignity as originating in the  relationship to God (not as a relationship of a subject with a subject). Thus it seems that they achieved a credibility of a point of view (‘pure’ objectivity, truthful ‘realism’, criticism) which was not characteristic of many philosophers, thinkers, and theologians of the 16th century. They did not place themselves against the people; they merely obeyed the Higher order that was reflected in their texts, neither as an idealization (the classical Aristotelian exhortation to ‘portray people as they should be’) nor as autobiographicality (being defined with a concrete limitation), but as a direct ‘self-declarative expression’ which aspired to the highest imagined surplus of a being’s individuality. With the totality of their personal language and spiritual and intellectual view, placed in the service of liturgical expression,  Primož Trubar and Maximus the Greek avoided contemporary representational predicaments: contrary to  non-Christian writers they were able to distance themselves from any personal involvement (with a call to self-examination) and create more than an individual transformation (or continuation) of the Christian myth: they subjected the characteristics and representational possibilities of the Image entirely to the Word.

The typical Renaissance interest in philological science and the intensive work on the definition of a firmer bond between word form and meaning (terminologization, lexicalization, codicologization) was deepened with an original dimension based on liturgical, ‘living’ linguistic/Church material. In this way Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar offer the ‘cultural historian’ new possibilities for thinking through the particularities of the Renaissance period, also as a specific orientation to the Word (for example: ‘the grammar of liturgy’, ‘the poetics of service to God, ‘the aesthetics of the image of God’). Because they furthermore transformed the foundations of the given possibilities of thinking in Slovenian and Russian language up until then, they also contributed original ideas for the description of Renaissance – corresponding to basic Christian thought. What we mean here is the distancing from contemporary ‘humanism’ through the emphasis on humanity or human mercy of God the Father to believers and a radical rejection of the anthropocentric view through a return to fundamental Christian theocentrism. Both writers imagined Renaissance as a revival of primary Christian unity and pure liturgy and as the predominance of the principle of ‘reciprocity’: within a wider community as well as within the relationship between an individual and God (living feeling of longing for God).

With the presented religious worldview they were able to achieve the Christian ideal of service to God (the coincidence of personality and life). By introducing divine generosity into ‘here and now’, they achieved an identity between their personality and work, which was founded in the firmness of their faith. Maximus the Greek and Primož Trubar were the last representatives of Renaissance Europe who, during time of their lives, revealed the realisation of a gradual dispersal of religious feeling in the human soul (i.e. the real love of God).


Prev. Iva Jevtič


1 Cf. N. Zajc, Krogozor slovanske besede, Ljubljana 2011: »ZRC SAZU«; N. Zajc, Slovanska podoba besede, Ljubljana 2012: »ZRC SAZU«.