People enjoying the new Russian Bible published in its complete form last May might never imagine that the book they have in their hands is the result of the dream of a man dating back to the late 1940s.
The late Mikhail Kulakov, Sr., who passed away in 2010, established the Bible Translation Institute in 1993, after decades of dreaming of making the Word of God available for all the Russian-speaking people around the world in a modern Russian translation.
The new Russian Bible, which represents a joint effort between Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland, United States, and Zaoksky Adventist Seminary and Institute in Zaoksky, Tula Oblast, Russia, is considered by scholars to be a big step forward in comparison with its predecessors, the Church Slavonic and the Russion Synodal Bibles. This is perhaps due to the fact that from the very beginning, Kulakov, Sr., was aware of the implications of such a complex enterprise.
“As a visionary, my late father very soon apprehended the magnitude of the task ahead,” says Mikhail Kulakov, Jr., the son of Kulakov senior and the Bible Translation Institute director and editor in chief since 2009. “He came to realize that if you wanted to share God’s Word with all the people of Russia, it was essential to get the best scholars involved in the project.”
According to him, Kulakov, Sr., was convinced that the Bible belongs to every God’s child and felt that by making it an interdenominational project by inviting leading Russian biblical scholars, they would also feel an ownership for the text.
“The team invited Orthodox and Protestant scholars, and also hired philologists, literary stylists, and proofreaders,” says Kulakov, who teaches religion and philosophy at Washington Adventist University. “The idea was to also come up with a great work of literature in the Russian language.”
Describing the team’s task as “fearsome and at times agonizing,” Kulakov concedes that the time-consuming project often demanded “prayerful comparisons” and “painstaking analyses” of meanings and dimensions.
“The team strived to reflect biblical expressions into adequate Russian idioms or images,” he says.
The new Russian Bible project, which was printed by an important Russian Orthodox academic publisher and so far is getting rave reviews, was funded thanks to substantial donations by the General Conference, the Euro-Asia Division, and Washington Adventist University. The latter granted Kulakov, Jr., a five-year sabbatical so he could devote his full time to the task.
“Visionary individuals stepped in to support us,” says Kulakov. “And yet, besides my editorial involvement in the project, I also had to spend part of my time raising funds to make this dream come true.”
What is the future of the Bible Translation Institute now that the Bible has been released?
“Well, people are writing to us, asking us for a mobile-friendly version of the Bible,” says Kulakov. “Also, orphanage directors and schoolteachers are enquiring whether we are thinking of a children’s edition with illustrations.”
Kulakov explains that in a project like this, the end product is always a work in progress.
“You are always considering some revisions, corrections, and improvements,” he says.
And a profound sense of the seriousness of the task is an ever-present feature of the persons involved, according to Kulakov.
“When you deal with the Bible, you are completely struck with responsibility,” he says. “After all, you know you are before the most sacred text in the world.”