Vulgate

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The Vulgate is an early Fifth Century version of the Bible in Latin, and largely the result of the labours of Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of old Latin translations. It became the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. In the 13th century it came to be called versio vulgata, which means “the published translation”. There are 76 books in the Clementine edition of the Vulgate Bible: 46 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and three in the Apocrypha.

Contents

Composition

The Vulgate is a compound work, only some parts of which are due to Jerome.

Jerome's Translation

Jerome did not embark on the work with the intention of creating a new version of the whole Bible, but the changing nature of his program can be tracked in his voluminous correspondence. He had been commissioned by Pope Damasus in 382 to revise the Old Latin text of the four Gospels from the best Greek texts, and by the time of Damasus’ death in 384 he had thoroughly completed this task, together with a more cursory revision from the Greek Septuagint of the Old Latin text of the Psalms. How much the rest of the New Testament he then revised is difficult to judge today, but little of his work survived in the Vulgate text.

In 385 Jerome was forced out of Rome, and eventually settled in Bethlehem, where he produced a new version of the Psalms, translated from the Hexaplar revision of the Septuagint. He also appears to have undertaken further new translations of other Septuagint books into Latin; but these are not found in the Vulgate text. But from 390 to 405, Jerome translated anew all 39 books in the Hebrew Bible, including a further, third, version of the Psalms, which survives in a very few Vulgate manuscripts. This new translation of the Psalms was labelled by him as “iuxta Hebraeos” (i. e. “close to the Hebrews”, “immediately following the Hebrews”), but it was not ultimately used in the Vulgate. The translations of the other 38 were used, however, and so the Vulgate is usually credited to have been the first translation of the Old Testament into Latin directly from the Hebrew Tanakh, rather than the Greek Septuagint. Jerome's extensive use of exegetical material written in Greek, on the other hand, as well as his use of the Aquiline and Theodotiontic texts of the Hexapla, along with the somewhat paraphrastic style in which he translates makes it difficult to determine exactly how direct the conversion of Hebrew to Latin was.

In his prologues, Jerome described those books or portions of books in the Septuagint that were not found in the Hebrew as being non-canonical: he called them apocrypha, but they are found in all complete manuscripts and editions of the Vulgate. Of the Old Testament texts not found in the Hebrew, Jerome translated Tobit and Judith anew from the Aramaic; and from the Greek, the additions to Esther from the Septuagint, and the additions to Daniel from Theodotion. The others, Baruch, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Maccabees, 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses, retain in Vulgate manuscripts their Old Latin renderings. Their style is still markedly distinguishable from Jerome’s. In the Vulgate text, Jerome’s translations from the Greek of the additions to Esther and Daniel are recombined with his separate translations of these books from the Hebrew.

See Also

Other Catholic Versions

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