Neofit Rilski (Bulgarian: Неофит Рилски) or Neophyte of Rila (Bansko, 1793 - January 4, 1881), born Nikola Poppetrov Benin (Bulgarian: Никола Поппетров Бенин) was a 19th-century Bulgarian monk, teacher and artist, and an important figure of the Bulgarian National Revival.
Born in the southwestern town of Bansko (or possibly in the village of Guliyna Banya) of Pirin Macedonia, Benin was educated to become a teacher, initially by his father Petar, and later at the Rila Monastery, where he studied iconography and had access to Greek and Church Slavonic books. He went to Melnik in 1822, where he spent four years as a student of the noted teacher Adam, and perfected his Greek and Greek literature knowledge.
Initially working as a teacher in the Rila Monastery, he also spent time working in Samokov (1827–1831), then back in the monastery, then went to Gabrovo and Koprivshtitsa (1835–1839) and returned to the monastery as a teacher to join the theological school on the island of Halki, where he spent four and a half years only to return to the Rila Monastery in 1852. He spent the remaining part of his life in Rila, and since 1860 was the monastery's hegumen. He stayed in the monastery despite being offered higher positions in the Orthodox hierarchy, such as becoming a bishop or the rector of the projected Tarnovo seminary.
In 1835, Rilski issued his Bolgarska gramatika, the first grammar book of the modern Bulgarian language. His other books include Tablitsi vzaimouchitelni, and the 1852 Greek-Slavic dictionary Slovar greko-slavyanskiy.
Neofit Rilski made the first popular translation of the Bible entirely in the modern Bulgarian language (not a mixture between Church Slavonic and vernacular elements), commissioned, edited and distributed by the American missionary Elias Riggs.
Neofit Rilski died in the Rila Monastery on 4 January 1881.
- Georgi Genov. American Elias Riggs and his contribution to the Bulgarian National Revival. Historical Archives. Sofia, Issue 9-10, November 2000 - May 2001. (in Bulgarian)
- Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945) Page 248 By Balazs Trencsenyi, Michal Kopecek ISBN 963-7326-52-9
Olesch, R. (ed.): Neofit Rilski, Bolgarska grammatika. Kragujevac 1835. Tablici Bukarest 1848. Unveränderter Nachdruck mit einer Einleitung herausgegeben von Reinhold Olesch (Slavistische Forschungen, Bd. 41). Köln-Wien: Böhlau 1989. (sample pages)