Editor’s note: We’re extremely pleased to present another article by Nicholas Chapman, who continues to excavate the very earliest origins of Orthodoxy in America. To read more about Nicholas and his exciting research, check out the upcoming edition of the journal Road to Emmaus, which features a lengthy interview with Nicholas. Also, if you’re coming to our SOCHA symposium at Princeton later this month, you’ll have an opportunity to hear Nicholas present a 20-minute lecture on his work.
In my first article on Orthodoxy in Colonial Virginia published on this web site nearly two years ago, I mentioned in passing that the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Russia had retrospectively approved of Colonel Philip Ludwell III’s translation of the Orthodox Confession of Peter Moghila, Metropolitan of Kiev. At that time I was not aware that this translation was in fact published and distributed.
I cannot presently be certain at what exact time Ludwell made this translation, but it must have been some time between his conversion to Orthodoxy at the end of 1738 and his move to London in the summer of 1760. In any event the first edition was published in London, England in 1762 and during a visit to the British Library this past spring I was able to handle and read a copy of the original edition. Aside from the translation of the catechism itself it contains a preface by the translator (Ludwell) as well as a few other inserted details, all of which have much to tell us about the mind and intention of the man who may be America’s first convert to the Orthodox Faith.
The book is slim brown leather bound volume of some 209 pages, printed in black ink. It has on the spine Greek Church Orthodox Confession and London 1762. The front cover is marked only with a beautiful gold embossed crown. The title page contains the following (I was unable to make a digital copy so what follows is my copy typing of the original, leaving the mid eighteenth century English unchanged. If you remember to change that the letter f can be read, as s the meaning should be clear.) :
The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church; Faithfully Translated from the Originals
Meditate upon thefe Things, give thyself wholly to them; ———-
Take heed unto thyfelf, and unto thy Doctrine; continue in them: For in fo doing thou fhalt fave thyfelf.——
1 Tim. Iv. 15. & 16.
Printed in A.D. MDCC LXII
As Moghila’s work seems to have originally been published in both Latin and Greek, the title page information seems to suggest that Ludwell had access to both texts in making his translation. The biblical quotations chosen by Ludwell seem to indicate that the purpose of the catechism is the salvation of the individual reader. The translator’s preface that follows on the next page reveals more fully Ludwell’s purpose and mission:
Devout Chriftian Reader.
Be pleafed to accept this Labour of Love, of thine unworthy Fellow-Servant; who mindful of the Command, “When thou art converted, ftrenghten “thy Brethren,” prefenteth, with all Humility, thefe his Endeavours, for thine Attainment of the Truth, and everlafting Salvation: And, in return, affift him with thy Prayers, to the Throne of Grace and Mercy; that, whilft he offereth Inftruction to others, he may fo take Heed unto himfelf, that he become not a Caft-away.
Thus faith the Lord, Stand ye in the Ways, and fee, and afk for the old Paths, where is the good Way, and walk therein, and ye fhall find Reft for your Souls.
Jerem. Vi. 16.
Unto you that fear my Name, fhall the Sun of Righteoufnefs arife with healing in his Wings. Mal. Iv. 2.
These words and quotations, although brief, clearly indicate an apostolic intention on the part of Ludwell, to reveal the fullness of the Orthodox Faith to his fellow British and British American countryman. At the same time he does not see them as being radically “other” but as fellow believers whose present understanding of the Faith needs to be strengthen by a return to the “old paths” which he understood to be found in the Orthodox Faith. As such he stands within the best tradition of Orthodox mission that seeks to recognize all that is good and of God in a culture and then to show how it may be completed within the Orthodox tradition.
I have not been able to ascertain how many copies of this original edition were published and how widely they were circulated. Clearly it did circulate. There is a fascinating article in the Scottish Review published in Paisley, Scotland in January 1892. The article is entitled Translated Greek Office Books. The author of this extensive article turns out to be no less than the Rev. Fr. Stephen Hatherly the late nineteenth century English convert to Orthodoxy who briefly attempted to start an Orthodox mission in New York in the 1880’s. (Click here for more information.) Hatherly writes as follows of Ludwell’s (aka Lodvel’s) work:
Another English writer on the subject of the Greek Church who preceded Dr. King is Col. Lodvel. The work attributed to him is one of the most important in the ample oriental ecclesiastical library. Dr. King alludes to the original of the work, and to three translation, though it publication had a ten years’ start of his book.
Here Hatherly is saying that Dr. King did not know of Ludwell/Lodvel’s translation. Dr. King was Dr. John Glen King D.D. who in 1764 had been appointed Chaplain of the English Factory in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1772, he published in London his opus magnum The Rites and Ceremonies of the Greek Church in Russia; containing an account of its Doctrine,Worship and Discipline. Hatherly says of this work that it is now a scarce book and is likely to become scarcer, being bought up on every opportunity at American account. (Emphasis mine.)
Having pointed out that King did not seem to know of Ludwell/Lodvel’s translation, Hatherly then reveals that he has in front of him a personally inscribed copy. He writes:
After the word ‘originals’ in the title page, there is, in a clear old fashioned handwriting, the addition, ‘of Nectarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem; Parthenius, Patriarch of Constantinople; and the catechism of Petr Mogilaw, Archbishop of Kiow. And afterwards, with a coarser pen, and inferior ink, ‘By Col. Lodvel, father to Mrs. Paradise.’
Did Hatherly make use of Ludwell’s work during his abortive Orthodox mission in the USA and how many copies had already crossed the Atlantic in the 120+ years preceding it? A quick search suggests that no original physical copies are held in any US library, but given the sturdy, handsomely bound volume I held in my hands this past April, I find it difficult to believe that more copies have not survived.
Copyright – Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, NY, September 11, 2011