Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 22

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues.


There are numerous nationalistic myths concerning the various Balkan Slavic languages, notably Serbian. Milan Elesin, a Serbian writer, apparently believes that the Lord’s Prayer was mistranslated into Serbian and other modern Slavic languages, preferring his own reading of the version in Old Church Slavonic (OCS) – the classical language of Eastern European Orthodox Christianity – supposedly written by St Cyril. Elesin seems reluctant to acknowledge the status of the New Testament Greek text as the original formulation of the prayer. For instance, he regards the Serbian equivalent of the word daily in the prayer – and, it seems, the English word itself and equivalent words in other languages – as a confusing mistranslation. Elesin does not seem to be denying that the Greek sentence in question has the meaning ‘Give us today our daily bread’, or claiming that the English, Serbian etc. are mistranslations of the Greek. Instead, he ascribes higher status to the OCS wording, which he repeatedly translates quite differently from the Greek (differing in this respect from mainstream OCS scholars, though without overt acknowledgment of this divergence). In the case of the key word epiousion (‘daily’) as cited here, he treats the OCS as importing ideas from an Egyptian hymn beseeching divine relief from a drought. His view seems to be that Cyril had access – directly or indirectly – to these pre-first-century formulations, and that the OCS thus preserves these better than does the Greek. But these versions are not themselves known; and – like all scholars between post-dynastic times and the nineteenth-century decipherment – Cyril himself was surely unable to read Egyptian.

In other places Elison’s own interpretations are truly bizarre; for example, he translates one section of the OCS as referring to the gas ozone. And his ‘understanding’ of the ideas and covert motivations of contemporary linguists and biblical scholars is also bizarre.

It may be possible to purchase Milan Elesin’s e-book on this subject by writing to him at It should be borne in mind that his English is often very strange and difficult to understand (some of it is machine-translated)

I found one source where Elesin’s surname was transliterated Elisin; maybe this spelling should be included in web-searches.

More next time!


For my book Strange Linguistics, see:

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.

3 Responses to Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 22

  1. Milan Elesin says:

    Mialn Elesin: About the linguistic difference between the “daily” and “today”,
    or, in fact, about the ideological difference between non-existing artifacts and existing facts.

    In true scientific research there can not be personal vanity. I truly appreciate care by Mark Newbrook about my bizarreness, because it’s my opportunity to explain the oversights in his article: Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 22 at . So:
    – We do not have the original manuscripts, but only skimpy transcribed fragments in different versions.
    – This means that there are not historical artifacts, but there are linguistic facts.
    – I have been talking about linguistic facts in the translation by Constantine the Philosopher (Cyril), who was the famous Byzantine polyglot, at a time when personal opinion could not be expressed openly in public, and when he could not interfere on the number, order of words, or punctuation.
    – This is my last literal translation of his translation with the dots that mark the breaks between the fragments, and with text in parentheses, which was omitted because it was implying at the time of these events :
    bread our, atdroughtly rain to us today,
    and leave (for later) our debts (toward Thee),
    as we leave (for later) toward our debtors;
    and lead us not into allurement (for new debit because of a payment of old debts),
    but rescue us from a crafty (lender).
    – However in this moment for you it does not matter whether my words (in brackets) are valid, but that:
    1) debts are not equal to sins (* linguistic fact!)
    2) adjective crafty is not equal to noun evil (* linguistic fact!)
    3) today is not equal to daily (* linguistic fact!)
    – By the way, all Slavs, each dictionary, and whole world, can translate the word “nasušnij” as they want, but the linguistics must do it etymologically, in only one way, because:
    4) The word “nasušnij” is an adjective constructed from:
    a) na = on/during
    b) suša = drought
    The word “nasušnij” is an adjective constructed from:
    a) na = on/during
    b) suša = drought
    In Slavic languages it is:
    na suša/suše/suš(h)o/susze/sušo/sušata; or: pri zasuhe/posuhi.
    You can see it in earlier analysis:
    Thanks for your attention!
    Milan Elesin

  2. marknewbrook says:

    I feel called upon to respond to Milan’s comments.

    Firstly: in my view, claims regarding references to e.g. ozone in ancient texts MUST be deemed bizarre, unless very good evidence is produced. Milan has NOT produced such evidence, for this or for his other claims (see below). Other bizarre (and often obscure) notions appear in Milan’s as cited by him here.

    More relevantly: as far as I can see, there are NO important oversights in my original post. Milan’s supposed ‘linguistic facts’ involve misconceptions and a perspective limited by his apparently limited knowledge of languages other than those with which he is centrally concerned; thus, they cannot be used to demonstrate anything. On the basis of his own personal knowledge of languages, Milan assumes too much about the possible meanings of words in different languages. His ‘linguistic facts’ are valid (if at all) only in some languages, and, in general linguistic terms, they are therefore NOT facts.

    Milan’s first ‘fact’, to take an example, is NOT valid in Greek; the two concepts involved (‘sin’ and ‘debt’) are treated as closely related and this is reflected in the range of translations into English and other languages. This and similar situations involving languages in which Milan is not proficient may surprise him, but that is an issue for him, not for the argument.

    Some of Milan’s ‘facts’ involve confusion between word-classes. But these do not impugn the Greek text. For instance, the Greek words translated as ‘daily’ and ‘today’ are separate words in separate word-classes, and the Greek (like the modern translations) makes sense. In fact, I do not even know what Milan is trying to argue here.

    Although a) we naturally do not have the original MSS of the New Testament, and b) there are, of course, some controversies over some individual points, the Greek of the New Testament is very familiar and is correctly translated in the well-known English (and other modern) versions. Contrary to what Milan suggests, we have well-established versions of these Greek texts. Anyone who proposes seriously different versions must provide evidence supporting their proposals; but no such evidence exists. It has been argued that Matthew’s Gospel, in particular, was originally composed in Aramaic, but that view has lost support and of course no Aramaic version is actually known. Still less is there any actual evidence of more ‘exotic’ older versions such as are involved in Milan’s theory.

    I would like to see some evidence of the constraints on what Cyril could say or write which Milan proposes. But in any case I do not see any reason to suppose that Cyril had access to alternative versions preceding the Greek text. And, even if he had, how would he have read them, especially if they were in Egyptian?

    By way of a conceptual error, Milan seems to equate etymology and meaning (and wrongly believes that linguists do the same). The etymology of a word does NOT determine its meaning at any given time or in any given text or context. The English word nice has a Latin etymology involving the meaning ‘not sharp’, but it does not now mean ‘not sharp’ and in some contexts it actually means ‘sharp’! The issue at hand is that of what key words meant at the times when the New Testament was being composed or translated, not the etymologies of these words. The etymology of the Slavic word cited by Milan, even if universally agreed, is thus irrelevant here.

    Even if it can be shown that the meaning of this Slavic word at the relevant time (etc) WAS that suggested by its etymology, it has not been shown that it is an accurate translation of the relevant New Testament word. If Milan’s rendering of the word is correct, it is certainly NOT a good translation of the Greek; and Milan has so far failed to show that the Greek is not the original as is very generally accepted. Milan’s Slavic version may simply involve an erroneous or deliberately ‘slanted’ translation into a language which (unless otherwise demonstrated) has NO special status in context but is merely one of many languages into which the New Testament has been translated over the centuries. (It is true that the word epiousios, conventionally translated into English as ‘daily’, is very rare indeed in Greek, and its sense has been disputed; but as far as I know no scholar has proposed anything close to Milan’s translation.)

    Maybe, if Milan could obtain some help with academic English or commission translations from his Serbian, he could make out a clearer case for his ideas. But, on the basis of what I can currently understand in what he says, I stand by my earlier comments.


  3. Russian Skeptic says:

    O my God, where did ‘rain’ in his translation come from? As a native Slavonic speaker, I can guess that Elesin confused ‘dajd’ (‘give’) and ‘dojd’ (‘rain’). There is absolutely no rain in either Old Slavonic version or any modern one!!!
    What is the fact, however, that the Old Slavonic version says ‘necessary bread’ or ‘vital bread’ where most other versions say ‘daily bread’. This is the only major difference, as far as I know (I do not know Greek).

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