The Bible is a highly venerated book not only in the Armenian Church but also in Armenian families. The late Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin I, on one occasion said “the Bible is not a simple source of knowledge but rather it is a source of inspiration. You can’t read the Bible like any other book. It must be accepted as an image, in which our image corresponds with the image of Jesus.” These two sentences depict the importance of the Bible in the life of the Armenian people. The Armenians have been reading it in their mother tongue since the 5th century, when the Armenian alphabet was created in 405, and subsequently the Holy Scriptures were translated into Armenian (ancient Armenian-Grabar), the first version from Syriac Peshitta (406-432) and Greek Septuagint and Origen’s Hexapla, known also as the ‘Queen of Translations’ from 432-439. Because of foreign invasions, the Armenians had to flee their home country and establish centres in Europe and even in the Far East. Thus, the first Armenian bibles were printed in Europe.
The Psalter was printed in Rome in 1565 and the Bible by Vardapet Oskan of Erivan in Amsterdam in 1666. Later on a new edition was published in Constantinople in 1705 and in Venice in 1733. Friar Hovhannes Zohrabian, member of Armenian Mkhitarist brotherhood in Venice, published the Bible in 1805. His version is known as Zohrabian Bible. Arsen Bagratuni published the first critical edition of the Armenian Bible in 1860.
There are two great literary dialects of modern Armenian, in which it was necessary to publish the Bible, since the ancient Armenian (called Grapar, or “written”) was no longer generally understood. Ararat-Armenian: The first version of the New Testament into Ararat Armenian, by Dittrich, was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in Moscow in 1835; the Psalter in 1844; the rest of the Old Testament much later. There was an excellent edition published in Constantinople in 1896.
Constantinopolitan-Armenian: A version of the New Testament into Constantinopolitan Armenian, by Dr. Zohrabian, was published in Paris in 1825 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. This version was made from the Ancient Armenian. A revised edition, by Adger, appeared in Smyrna in 1842. With the authorization of the Armenian Apostolic Church new translations of the Bible were made in Eastern and Western Armenian in recent periods. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in cooperation with the Armenian Bible Society translated and republished the version of the Arsen Bagratuni (Venice 1860) in 1994. The Bible has been republished in 1999 and 2001.
The Bible is read during the Divine Liturgy and the Liturgy of Hours as well as during the Sacraments. The sermons of the clergy are mostly based on the Biblical passages of the day and the faithful follow the interpretation of the Bible and receive the message during the liturgy and other sacraments.
Apart from the liturgical practices, the Diocesan Office of the Armenian Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland has launched a project to teach the Bible to the laity. Men and women of different ages attend these studies. The rich commentaries of the Armenian Church fathers are being utilized to ascertain specific topics related to faith and morality. During the interactive sessions the participants are welcome to express their opinions and ideas on the topics under discussion.
Teaching Christian traditions as received and lived by the Armenian people is a key aspect of the ministry of the Armenian Church worldwide. It prepares and offers lectures about various aspects of our faith including the Creed, Church history, as well as organises lectures on contemporary church and society issues and a weekly Bible Study. Several workshops will be offered covering many topics, including examining the role of Christians in a secular society. In addition to the existing publications new ones are planned relevant to the spiritual needs of our people, such as publications on the Divine Liturgy, Liturgy of Hours of the Armenian Church and simple explanations of the Sacraments. Bible Studies are an important part of the church’s ministry as they provide opportunities for the faithful and those who are interested and curious to have a deeper understanding of Christianity and to ask questions about their faith, beliefs and concerns. During Bible studies we make observations (what do passages in the Bible say?), provide interpretation (what do they mean?) and ask how applicable these passages are to our lives today. Open to everyone.
Bible Studies are currently held every Thursday at 7pm in the Gulbenkian Hall, next to St. Sarkis Church.
If you would like to join us, please download the form here , complete and return to the Primate’s Office.