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by Samuel Angus
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Present Usage. The term “Vulgate” with us means but one thing—the standard authoritative Bible of the Latin or Roman church, prepared mostly by the labors of Jerome. But this is not the original use of the word and it was never so used by Jerome himself; indeed, it did not at first refer to a Latin version or translation at all. The word “Vulgate” comes from the adjective or participle vulgata which usually accompanied editio, and meant at first current or regularly used text. It was originally used as the equivalent of koine ekdosis = the Septuagint. Jerome and Augustine both use the term in this sense.
2. Earlier Usage. Jerome (Comm. in Isa. 65.20), “Hoc juxta Septuagint interpretes diximus, quorum editio toto orbe vulgata est” (and ib. 30.22), vulgata editio again refers to the Septuagint. Elsewhere Jerome actually gives the Greek words (of the Septuagint) as found in editione vulgata (Comm. in Osee 7.13). Augustine identifies the expression with the Septuagint (De doctr. christ., xvi. 10): “Secundum vulgatam editionem, hoc est interpretum Septuaginta.” The term editio vulgata was next extended to the form in which the Septuagint was at first known to the West—the Old Latin versions, although, as Westcott remarks, there does not appear to be any instance in the age of Jerome of the application of the term to the Latin version of the Old Testament without regard to its derivation from the Septuagint or to that of the New Testament, so that Jerome usually intended the Septuagint though he quoted it in Latin form. Vulgata editio, having acquired the meaning of the current or ordinarily used text of Septuagint, was once again extended to mean a corrupt or uncorrected text as opposed to the standard emended Septuagint version of Origen’s Hexapla, and in this sense is used by Jerome as synonymous with antiqua or vetus editio.
Ep. cvi.2 deserves citing in this connection: “Admoneo aliam esse editionem quam Origenes et Caesariensis Eusebius omnesque Graeciae translatores κοινην, i.e. communem appellant atque vulgatam, et a plerisque Λουκιανος, nunc dicitur: aliam LXX interpretum quae in Εξαπλοις [i.e. of Origen] codicibus reperitur, et a nobis in Latinum sermonem fideliter versa ... κοινη (communis editio) ... vetus corrupta editio est, ea antem quae habetur in Εξαπλοις et quam nos vertimus, ipsa est quae in eruditorum libris incorrupta et immaculata LXX interpretum translatio reservatur.” (“I recall that one is the text which Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea and all the Greek translators call the koine, i.e. the common and current text, and is now called by most persons Lucian’s version; the other is the text of the translators of the Septuagint which is found in the codices [or books] of Origen [or the Hexapla], and has been faithfully translated by us into the Latin language ... the koine [the ordinary text] ... is the old corrupted text, but that which is found in the Hexapla, and which we are translating, is the same one which the version of the translators of the Septuagint has preserved unchanged and immaculate in the books of the scholars.”)
3. Post-Hieronymic. It was only very slowly that Jerome’s version acquired this name, the phrase editio vulgata being applied to the Septuagint or the Old Latin versions of the Septuagint sometimes down to medieval times, while Jerome’s translation was known as editio nostra, codices nostri, translatio emendatior, or translatio quam tenet Romana ecclesia. The Tridentine Fathers were therefore guilty of an anachronism when they referred to Jerome’s translation as vetus et vulgata editio. Roger Bacon was apparently the first, in the 13th century, to apply the term Vulgata in our sense (not exclusively, but also to the Septuagint), and this usage became classic through its acceptance by the Tridentine Council (“vetus et vulgata editio”).
4. Historical Importance of the Vulgate. The interest of the Vulgate will be apparent when we reflect that this translation proved to be to the West what the Septuagint had been to the East, that it was prepared with great care by the greatest scholar whom Latin Christianity produced, that it was for hundreds of years the only Bible in universal use in Europe, that it has given to us much of our modern theological terminology as well as being the sponsor for many Greek words which have enriched our conceptions. It has also proved of primary importance as an early and excellent witness to the sacred text. Add to this that “directly or indirectly it is the real parent of all the vernacular versions of Western Europe” [Westcott] except the Gothic of Ulfilas. For English-speaking students it possesses peculiar interest as the source of the earlier translations made by the Venerable Bede, and portions of the Old Testament were translated in the 10th century from the Vulgate by Ælfric. Its greatest influence was exerted in the English version of Wycliffe—a literal translation from the Vulgate (1383). And Coverdale’s Bible (1535) was “faithfully and truly translated out of Dutch (i.e. German of Luther) and Latin.” The Rheims and Douay version was based on the Vulgate, though “diligently conferred with the Hebrew and Greek.” The Vulgate exercised considerable influence upon Luther’s version and through it upon our Authorized Version.
1. Corruption and Confusion of Old Versions. Latin Christianity had not been without a Bible in its own language. Old Latin versions are found in North Africa as early as the middle of the 3rd century and are found in the texts of Cyprian and Tertullian. But these translations were characterized by “simplicity,” “rudeness” and provincialism. There was not one standard authoritative version with any ecclesiastical recognition. Versions were rather due to “individual and successive efforts.” Augustine says that anyone who got hold of a Greek manuscript and thought he knew Greek and Latin would venture on a translation. These versions originated in Africa and not from Rome, else they had been more authoritative. Besides, the first two centuries of the Roman church were rather Greek; the earliest Christian literature of Rome is Greek, its bishops bear Greek names, its earliest liturgy was Greek. When the church of Italy became Latin-speaking—probably at the end of the 3rd century—the provincialisms of the African version rendered it unfit for the more polished Romans, and so recensions were called for. Scholars now recognize a European type of Old Latin text. And Westcott thinks a North Italian recension (at least in the Gospels) was made in the 4th century and known as the Itala, and which he recognizes in the Itala mentioned in Augustine’s De doctr. christ., xv, as “verborum tenacior cum perspicuitate sententiae”; but F.C. Burkitt (The Old Latin and the Itala, 54 ff.) takes the Itala here as referring to Jerome’s version. Amid such confusion and the appearance of national or provincial recensions, the Latin church became conscious of the need of a standard edition. There were almost as many types of texts as there were manuscripts: “Tot enim sunt exemplaria paene quot codices,” says Jerome (Preface to Gospels). Independent and unauthorized or anonymous translations—especially of the New Testament—aided by the gross carelessness of scribes, made confusion worse confounded. Augustine complains of this “Latinorum interpretum infinita varietas.”
2. Heresy. In addition to the inconvenience in preaching and the liturgical variations, a greater demand for an authoritative version arose from the continual watch of the early church against heretics. Confusion of text abetted heresy, and the absence of a standard text made it harder to refute it. Besides, the Jews, with one authoritative text, laughed at the confusion of the Christian Scriptures.
3. Inevitable Separation of East and West. The inevitable separation of East and West, both politically and ecclesiastically, and the split between Greek and Latin Christianity, rendered the existence of a standard Latin text imperative. Christianity was felt to be the religion of a book, and hence that book must be inspired and authoritative in every word—even in its order of words. Pope Damasus determined to remedy this state of affairs, and with all the authority of the papal see commissioned Jerome to produce an authentic and standard authorized version.
4. Request of Pope Damasus. The pope’s choice could not have fallen upon a more competent scholar—a man who had been providentially gifted and prepared for the task. Jerome—his Latin name was Eusebius Hieronymus—was born at Stridon on the borders of Dalmatia about 340 AD, or a little later, of Christian parentage. He had the advantages of the best classical education and became a devoted student of the best Latin writers. In a dream he saw a vision of judgment, and on claiming to be a Christian he was rebuked: “Mentiris, Ciceronianus es, non Christianus.” He began his theological studies in Gaul; but later sought the seclusion of ascetic life in the desert near Antioch. Here he studied Hebrew from a converted rabbi in order to subdue fierce passions by the difficulties of that language. About 375 or 376 began his correspondence with Damasus. In 382 he came to Rome, and became the intimate friend and adviser of Damasus.
These fall into three main groups: (1) revision of the New Testament; (2) Old Testament from the Septuagint; (3) Old Testament from Hebrew.
1. The New Testament. The exact date of the pope’s commission is not given: it was probably in 382—the year of Jerome’s arrival in Rome—or early in 383, in which year the Gospels appeared in revised form. Damasus asked simply for a revision of the Old Latin versions by the help of the Greek rather than a new version Jerome collated Greek manuscripts, and carefully compared them with the “Italian” type of Old Latin texts; where possible the Old Latin was preserved. Thus, Jerome approached the task with a conservative spirit. Still the result was a considerable departure from the Old Latin version, the changes being (1) linguistic, removal of provincialisms and rudeness, (2) in interpretation, e.g. supersubstantialis for επιουσιον, epiousion, in the Lord’s Prayer, (1) (3) the removal of interpolations, (4) the insertion of the Eusebian Canons.
The Gospels or the Whole New Testament Revised? It is disputed whether Jerome revised the whole New Testament or only the Gospels. Against the revision of the whole New Testament the arguments briefly are: (1) That Augustine, writing 20 years after the appearance of the revised Gospels, speaks only of “Gospel”: “Evangelium ex Graeco interpretatus est” (Epist civ.6); but Augustine may here be speaking generally or applying “Gospel” to the whole New Testament. (2) Jerome in his preface apparently speaks of “only four Gospels” (“quattuor tantum evangelia”). (3) The rest of the New Testament does not show the same signs of revision as the Gospels. (4) The absence of the prefaces usual (“solita praefatione”) to Jerome’s revised versions. On the other hand, to more than counterbalance these, (1) Damasus required a revision of the whole New Testament, not only of the Gospels (Pref. of Damasus). (2) In other statements of Jerome he expressly says he revised the New Testament (not Gospel or Gospels); in Epist cxii.20, he seems to correct Augustine’s evangelium by writing: “Si me, ut dicis, in Novi Testamenti emendatione suspicis,” and in Epist lxxi.5, “I translated the New Testament according to the Greek” (“NT Graecae reddidi auctoritati”); compare also De Vir. Ill., cxxxv. (3) Jerome quotes passages outside the Gospels where his version differed from the Old Latin versions, e.g. Romans 12:11; 1 Timothy 1:15; cf Epist xxvii. (4) Damasus died at the end of 384—perhaps before the rest of Jerome’s revision was published, and so Jerome thought no further prefaces needed.
2. Old Testament from the Septuagint. The more likely conclusion is that Jerome revised the whole New Testament, though not all with equal care. His revision was hasty and soon became more or less confused with the Old Latin versions to which the people clung as they do to all old versions. Having probably completed the New Testament from the Greek, Jerome began immediately on the Old Testament from the Greek of the Septuagint.
(1) Roman Psalter. He commenced with the Psalms, which he simply emended only where imperatively required (see the preface), and cursorily (circa 384). This revision is called the Roman Psalter (Psalterium Romanum), which continued in use in Rome and Italy till it was displaced under the pontificate of Plus V by the Gallican Psalter, though the Roman Psalter is still used in St. Peter’s, Rome, and in St. Mark’s, Milan.
(2) Gallican Psalter. This Psalter soon became so corrupted by the Old Latin version that Jerome (circa 387) undertook a second revision at the request of Paula and Eustochium. This became known as the Gallican Psalter because of its early popularity in Gaul. It was also made from the Septuagint, but with the aid of other Greek versions. Jerome adopted in it the critical signs used by Origen—a passage enclosed between an obelus and two points being absent from the Hebrew but present in the Septuagint, that between an asterisk and two points being absent from the Septuagint but supplied from Theodotion (Preface to Psalms).
(3) Rest of the Old Testament. About the same time Jerome published translations of other Old Testament books from the Septuagint. Job was revised very soon after the Gallican Psalter. The preface to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles and Chronicles is extant to show he had revised these books. Job and Psalms are the only books of this revision from the Septuagint extant.
It is again disputed whether Jerome completed the whole Old Testament in this revision because (1) the usual prefaces are again lacking (except to the books already mentioned), and (2) in his prefaces to the revision from the Hebrew Jerome makes no reference to an earlier revision of his own; (3) the work implied was too great for the brief space possible and must have been done between 387 and 390 (or 391), for by this latter date he was already on the translation from the Hebrew. But Jerome was a phenomenal worker, as we learn that his translation of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles from the Hebrew was made in three days. And his commentary on Ephesians was written at the rate of 1,000 lines a day.
Jerome probably completed the whole, as we infer from his own direct positive statements. He speaks of “mea in libris canonicis interpretatio” (Epist cxii.19; see references in Westcott), and in the preface to the Books of Solomon after the Septuagint he states he did not correct Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, “desiring only to emend the canonical books” (“tantummodo canonicas scripturas vobis emendare desiderans”). Once again, he speaks of having carefully translated the Septuagint into Latin (Con Ruf., ii.24; cf Epist lxxi).
3. Translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. If the postscript to Epist cxxxiv, to Augustine is genuine, Jerome complains he had lost the most of his former labors by fraud (“pleraque enim prioris laboris fraude cuiusdam amisimus”). And Augustine requests (Epist xcvi.34) from Jerome his versions from the Septuagint (“Nobis mittas, obsecro, interpretationem tuam de LXX quam te edidisse nesciebam”). Having in the course of these labors discovered the unsatisfactory condition of the Septuagint text and his friends pleading the need of a translation direct from the Hebrew, Jerome began this huge task about 390 with Samuel and Kings, which he published with the Prologus galeatus (“helmeted prologue”), next the Psalms (circa 392), Job and the Prophets (393), 1 and 2 Esdras (circa 394) (3 and 4 being omitted), Chronicles (396). Then followed a severe illness until 398, when “post longam aegrotationem” he translated Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles. He then started on the Octateuch: “Octateucho quem nunc in manibus habeo” (Epist lxxi.5), the Pentateuch being first translated in 401, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Esther soon after (xl.4: “post sanctae Paulae dormitionem”). Tobit and Judith were translated for him from Chaldee into Hebrew from which he then translated them into Latin (circa 405), and shortly before or after these he added the apocryphal additions to Daniel and Esther. Baruch he passed over. Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus were not revised by him. Whether he revised Maccabees is doubtful. Thus was completed in 15 strenuous years (390-405) a work which has proved a κτημα ες αει, ktema es aei (Thucydides i.22), “a possession for all time.” The translation was largely undertaken at the request of friends and at no papal request. Indeed Jerome did not pretend to be working for publicity; he actually asked one friend not to show his translation.
Reception. But human nature rarely recognizes merit in its own generation, and the spirit of conservatism rose in rebellion against beneficial innovation. Jerome was accused of slighting the Septuagint, which even in the eyes of Augustine was equally inspired with the Hebrew original. Jerome’s fiery temper and his biting tongue were not calculated to conciliate.
1. In the Manuscripts. By degrees the fierce opposition died down, and even by the time of Jerome’s death men were beginning to perceive the merits of his version which Augustine used in the Gospels. Some parts of Jerome’s Vulgate won their way to popularity much sooner than others—the Old Latin versions died hard and not without inflicting many a wound on the Vulgate. His Psalter from the Hebrew never ousted the Gallican which still holds its place in the Vulgate. Some scholars were able to appreciate Jerome’s edition sooner than others. And it was at different dates that the different provinces and countries of the West adopted it. Pelagius used it in his commentary on the Pauline Epistles. As might be expected, the Old Latin versions retained their place longest in the place of their origin—North Africa. Britain proved the next most conservative. The old versions were never authoritatively deposed, and so Jerome’s version was compelled to win its way by its own merits. In the 5th century—especially in Gaul—it continued to grow in popularity among scholars, being adopted by Vincent of Lerins, Eucherius of Lyons, Sedulius, and Claudianus Mamertus, and Prosper of Aquitaine. In the next century its use became almost universal except in Africa, where the Old Latin was retained by Junilius and Facundus. At the close of the 6th century Pope Gregory the Great acknowledges that the new (i.e. the Vulgate) and the old are both equally used by the Apostolic See; and thus the Vulgate was at least on equal footing with the old. In the 7th century the Old Latin retreats, but traces of it survive down into the Middle Ages, affecting and corrupting the Jerome version. Mixed texts and conflated readings arose—the familiarity of the Old Latin in lectionaries and liturgies telling on the Vulgate. The New Testament, being only a revision and not a fresh translation, and being most in use, degenerated most.
(1) As early as the 6th century the need of an emendated Vulgate text was felt, and Cassidorius undertook to revise part of it. This was merely private enterprise and did little to stem the flood of corruption.
(2) About the close of the 8th century, Charlemagne commissioned an Englishman, Alcuin, abbot of Martin, Tours, to produce a revised text on the basis of the best Latin manuscripts, without reference to the Greek text. Alcuin sent to York for his manuscripts and thus produced a text after British manuscripts. On Christmas Day, 801 AD, he presented the emperor with the emended text. The authority by which this text was prepared and its public use together with the class of manuscripts used did much to preserve a pure Vulgate text and stay interpolations: “The best manuscripts of his recension do not differ widely from the pure Hieronymian text” (Westcott).
(3) Another recension of about the same date—but a scholar’s private enterprise—was produced by a Visigoth, Theodulf, bishop of Orleans. He made the Spanish family of manuscripts together with those of Southern France the basis of his text. His inscribing variant readings in the margin really helped the process of corruption. His text—though prepared at enormous labor—was far inferior to that of Alcuin and exerted little influence in face of the authoritative version of Alcuin. Manuscripts were rapidly multiplied in the 9th century on the Alcuinian model by the school of Tours, but with carelessness and haste which helped to a speedy degeneration of the text. Again the confusion called for remedy.
(4) In the 11th century Lanfranc, bishop of Canterbury (1069-89), attempted correction—apparently with little success. About the middle of the 12th century, Stephen Harding of Citeaux produced a revision—extant in manuscript in Dijon public library (number 9), as did also Cardinal Nicolaus. The increased demand for Bibles in the 13th century gave opportunity for further corruption of the text—publishers and copyists being indifferent as to the character of manuscript chosen as a basis.
(5) In consequence of the fame of the University of Paris in the 13th century and the enormous activity in producing Bible manuscripts, there resulted a type of text called by Roger Bacon Exemplar Parisiense, for which he has nothing good to say.
(6) In the same century steps were taken toward a standard text and to stay corruption by the drawing up of correctoria, i.e. books in which the readings of Greek and Latin manuscripts were weighed to decide a text, the authority of Fathers cited, etc. Some of the principal correctoria are: Correctorium Parisiense known also as Senonense—one of the worst, following the Parisian type of text; Correctorium Vaticanum, the best; Correctorium Sorbonicum, in the Sorbonne; Correctorium Dominicanum.
2. Printed Vulgate.
(1) Early Editions. Little more was done till the invention of printing, and the first products of the press were Latin Bibles. Unfortunately at first the current text was accepted without any critical labors, and so the earliest printed Vulgates only perpetuated an inferior text. Only a few from among some hundreds of early editions can be noted: (a) the Mazarin Bible—one of the most beautiful and valuable books in the world—printed at Mainz about the middle of the 15th century (1455, Westcott) by Gutenberg, Schöffer or Fust; (b) the first Bible published at Rome in 1471 by Sweynheym and Pannartz and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1475; (c) 1504 a Paris edition with variant readings; (d) an edition in Complutensian Polyglot (1514) from ancient manuscripts and from the Greek; (e) practically the first critical edition, by Robertus Stephanus (lst edition 1528, 2nd 1532, reprinted later), of interest as being practically the basis of the standard Roman Vulgate; (f) Hentenian critical edition (Louvain, 1547). Attempts to produce a corrected text by aid of the original were made by Erasmus in 1516, Pagninus in 1518, Cardinal Cajetan, Steuchius in 1529, Clarius in 1542, etc. Even new translations were made by both Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars. This bewildering number of versions and the controversies of the 16th century called for a standard edition. The Council of Trent (1546) took up the matter and decreed that the “ipsa vetus et vulgata editio quae Iongo tot saeculorum usu in ipsa ecclesia probata” (“the same old and ordinarily used text which has been approved in the church itself by the long usage of so many centuries”) should be regarded as authentic (authentica). By this they apparently meant the Jerome version, but did not state in which manuscript or printed edition it was to be found.
(2) Sixtine Edition (1590). No further steps were taken for the present to secure a standard official Bible for the church—the private edition of John Hentenius of Louvain serving in the meanwhile until the pontificate of Sixtus V. This pope entrusted the work to a committee under Cardinal Caraffa, but he himself strenuously cooperated. Manuscripts and printed editions were examined, but the original Greek or Hebrew was to be regarded as decisive in difficulties. The result was published as the Sixtine edition of the Vulgate by the Vatican press in 1590 (see title on 1st and 2nd pages). The text resembles the Stephanus edition of 1540. A new puzzling method of verse enumeration was introduced. As one would expect, there was prefixed to the edition a Bull Aeternus ille, etc., in which the divines gave themselves credit for their painstaking labors, and the result was declared the authorized Vulgate of the Tridentine Council, “pro vera, legitima, authentica et indubitata, in omnibus publicis privatisque disputationibus ....” (“by virtue of truth, usage, authenticity and certainty, in all public and private disputes”). Errors of printing were corrected by the pen or by pasting a slip of paper with the correction over the error. This edition was not to be reprinted for 10 years except at the Vatican, and after that any edition must be compared with the Vatican edition, so that “not even the smallest particle should be altered, added or removed” under pain of the “greater excommunication.” Sixtus died the same year, and the Jesuit Bellarmine persuaded Clement VIII to recall the Sixtine edition and prepare another standard Vulgate in 1592.
(3) Clementine Edition (1592). In the same year appeared the Clementine edition with a preface by Bellarmine asserting that Sixtus had himself determined to recall his edition on account of printers’ errors (from which it was remarkably free). The pains and penalties of the Sixtine Bull were evaded by printing the book as a Sixtine edition, actually printing the name of Sixtus instead of Clement on the title-page: Biblia Sacra Vulgatae Editionis Sixti Quinti Pont. Max. iussu recognita atque edita. The awkward system of verse enumeration of the Sixtine was dropped. The text itself was rather of the Hentenian type. No future edition was to be printed except on the exact pattern, “even to the smallest particle” of the Vatican edition. Thanks largely to the papal Bull this Clementine edition of 1592 still remains the official version of the Roman Catholic church. A second edition appeared in 1593, and a third in 1598. Roman Catholic scholars were discouraged from undertaking a new version, and Protestant scholars were, until recently, too occupied with the original texts.
Bentley’s projected edition of the New Testament never appeared. Under cover of the works of Jerome a corrected text was published by Vallarsi, 1734—really the completion and revision of the edition of Martianay of 1706. Little more was done in the way of critical editions till the latter half of the 19th century.
(4) Modern Critical Editions. In 1861 Vercellone reprinted the Clementine Vulgate (with an excellent preface), the names of Sixtus and Clement both appearing on the title-page. In 1906 an edition—Bib Sac Vulgatae ed by Hetzenauer—was published at Oeniponte. (The majority of recent editions have been confined to the New Testament or part of it: Tischendorf, Nov. Test. Lat.: textum Hieronymi ... restituit, Leipzig, 1864; Hetzenauer, Nov. Test. Vulg. ed.: ex Vat. edd. earumque correctorio critice edidit P.M.H., Oeniponte, 1899.) The Oxford Vulgate, prepared by Bishop J. Wordsworth and H.J. White, of which the first part was issued in 1889, is a comprehensive work of great value. P. Corssen published the first installment of a Vulgate New Testament (Ep. ad Gal, Berlin, 1885). This is exclusive of the printed editions of several important manuscripts. Pope Plus X entrusted the preparation of a revised edition of the Vulgate to the Benedictine order—but as yet nothing has appeared.
To give a satisfactory list would be impossible within our space limits. The number is legion—estimated at about 8,000. As yet the same order has not been called out of the chaos of Vulgate and Old Latin manuscripts in the manner in which Westcott and Hort have reduced the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament to a system. The student may conveniently approach the subject in White’s list in the 4th edition of Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, II 67 ff., or the longer one by Gregory in Tischendorf’s N. T. Gr., 8th edition, III, 983 ff., also in Westcott’s article in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible or White’s in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible; Vercellone, Variae Lectiones, 1860; Berger, Histoire de la Vulgate, 374 ff.
Space permits only a few general remarks. The Latin of the old versions was simple, rude and vernacular, abounding in literalisms and provincialisms. In many ways, in vocabulary, diction and construction, it offended scholars. As was natural Jerome smoothed the roughness of the old versions and removed the most glaring solecisms and offensive provincialisms. His work is a masterpiece—like our the King James Version—in the harmonious blend of simple, popular, forceful language and a scholarly graceful translation. “As a monument of ancient linguistic power the translation of the Old Testament stands unrivaled and unique” (Westcott). The Vulgate has enriched our language by introducing many Greek words, “apostle,” “evangel,” “synagogue,” “baptism,” etc. It has also given us much of our theological vocabulary, “edification,” “justification,” “propitiation,” “regeneration,” “Scripture,” etc. It still retains many marks of its birth in (1) Old Latin words elevated from the vernacular, (2) Africanisms: clarifico, etc., saeculum for mundus, long compound verbs like obtenebrare, etc., (3) Graecisms, like the use of the pronoun for the article, as hic mundus = ο κοσμος, ho kosmos, (4) Hebraisms, like adposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum (Acts 12:3; see special works mentioned in “Literature”).
In the Old Testament the Vulgate is not of much importance for the criticism of the Hebrew text, because of the freedom which Jerome permitted himself in translation, and because our present Massoretic Hebrew text had by that time taken on its present form. But on the Septuagint it often throws a very useful light. In the New Testament Jerome’s version ranks practically in importance with our oldest and best Greek manuscripts in establishing (in conjunction with the Old Latin versions) the received Greek text of the 4th century, both by way of supplementing and correcting our Greek authorities. It is in the Gospels that Jerome’s work is most thorough and useful. His version also supplies many a hint for the interpretation of our Greek text.
Apart from differences of rendering and minor points, the Vulgate text differs from the English in the order of the books, in the amount contained in some of them, in the occasional divergence of chapter and verse enumeration. The New Testament is practically the same in the Clementine text, though the order of books varies in many manuscripts—the Catholic Epistles being placed sometimes after Acts. In some manuscripts the Epistle to the Laodiceans is found. Most variety obtains in the Old Testament. The sequence of canonical books is the same, but the apocryphal books are interspersed among them and not placed at the end. Tobit and Judith are inserted between Nehemiah (2 Esdras) and Esther, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus between Canticles and Isaiah. Baruch follows Lamentaions, chapter 5 of which is called the “Prayer of Jeremiah the Prophet”; 1 and 2 Maccabees are placed after Malachi; 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses appear as an appendix after the New Testament. In Psalms the divergence is considerable, the Vulgate—like the Hebrew—counting the title as the first verse. Psalms 9 and 10 of our version correspond to Psalm 9 in Vulgate, so that the Vulgate is one Psalm behind the English till Psalm 114, then Psalms 114 and 115 again form one Psalm, being in the Vulgate no. 113. The Vulgate is now two behind. Matters are equalized by Psalm 116 being divided into two in the Vulgate (our 114 and 115), and 147 again corresponds to two Vulgate Psalms together: 146 and 147. Thus, only Psalms 1-8 and 148-150 run the same. Against Jerome’s advice the apocryphal parts of Daniel and Esther were accepted as integral parts of those books, the Song of the Three Children being inserted at Daniel 3:23, the Story of Susanna forming chapter 13, and Bel and the Dragon being chapter 14. The additions to Esther are linked on to the end of Esther. In conclusion, the present Vulgate, as Westcott remarks, is a composite of elements belonging to every period and form of the Latin version, including (1) the unrevised Old Latin (Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Maccabees and Baruch); (2) the Old Latin corrected from the Septuagint (Psalter); (3) Jerome’s free translation from the original (Job and Judith); (4) Jerome’s translation from the original (the Old Testament except the Psalter); (5) the Old Latin revised from Greek manuscripts (the Gospels); and (6) the Old Latin cursorily revised (the rest of the New Testament).
This is too vast to cite, but in some of the following works sufficient bibliographies will be found: Berger, Hist de la Vulg pendant les premiers siecles du moyen age, 1893; H. Hody, De bib. textibus originalibus, 1705; F. Kaulen, Gesch. der Vulg, 1868; Van Ess, Pragmatisch-krit. Gesch. der Vulg, 1824; E. Nestle, Urtext u. Ubersetzungen der Bibel, 1897, and Ein Jubiläum d. lat. Bib., 1892. Two splendid articles—each by an authority—in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (Westcott) and in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible (White). A very readable account is in Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient manuscripts, 165, and in his Handbook to the Text Crit. of the New Testament, 168. For the language: Ronsch, Itala u. Vulgata, 2nd edition, 1875; A. Hartl, Sprachliche Eigentümlichkeiten d. Vulg, 1864.
1 Jerome’s supersubstantialis (“more than enough”?) in Matthew 6:11 lent itself to the interpretation that the petition for bread in the Lord’s Prayer referred to the bread of the Lord’s Supper, which in the Roman Church was thought to confer superabundant and supernatural grace. But Jerome left the Old Latin quotidianum (“daily”) to remain in the Lucan parallel. The Old Latin version had quotidianum in both Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3. --M.D.M
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