250th Anniversary of Stevan Küzmic’s Translation of the New Testament
The Nouvi Zákon or New Testament is the most important religious book of the Slovenes living “between the Mura and the Raba”. It was published in Halle (Germany) in the second half of 1771. A letter from Mihály Bakos dated 4 July 1771 mentions that funds are still being raised to cover the costs of printing. The work is the first translation of the Bible from ancient Greek into “Old Slovene”. The expression “Slovene” to refer to the Slovene language and nation was actually in use in the Prekmurje region before it began to be used in Carniola.
With his Nouvi Zákon, Küzmic effectively codified the literary variant of the Slovene language spoken in Prekmurje, which he referred to as “Old Slovene” in order to distinguish it from the Kajkavian tongue also known as “Slovene” and the “Carniolan” language of central Slovenia. In the Prologue to the work, he refers to translating “Slovene books” into the “mother tongue” of Prekmurje Slovenes (whom he calls Hungarian Slovenes). Although he saw the latter as forming part of the same nation as Carniolans and Lower Styrians, he nevertheless considered the regional languages of the three groups to be sufficiently different to warrant a translation of the Bible into the literary variant of the language spoken in Prekmurje (“Ár tej nasi vogrszki szlovenov jezik od vszej drügi doszta tühoga i szebi lasztivnoga mà” – “This language of our Hungarian Slovenes has much that is alien to others and peculiar to itself”), in the absence of a standard Slovene literary language (not created until the mid-nineteenth century).
Reprintings of the Nouvi Zákon without the Prologue, the first general introduction and biblical commentary in Slovene, appeared in 1817 (Bratislava), 1848 (Kőszeg; Sándor Terplán added translations of the Psalms), 1883 (Vienna) and 1928 (Belgrade).
University of Maribor, Faculty of Arts