Monday, August 25, 2008


Vulgate, Catalogue of editions of the 1500’sThe Vulgate is an early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin which is largely the result of the labors of Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations. Its Old Testament is the first Latin version translated directly from the Hebrew Tanakh rather than from the Greek Septuagint. It became the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church and ultimately took the name versio vulgata, which means simply "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 3 in the Apocrypha.

The Vulgate is a composite work, only some parts of which are due to Jerome.
  • Old Latin, wholly unrevised: Prayer of Manasses, 3 and 4 Esdras, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Machabees.
  • Old Latin, more or less revised by a person or persons unknown, perhaps by Jerome: Acts, Epistles, and the Apocalypse.
  • Free translation by Jerome from a secondary Aramaic version: Tobias and Judith.
  • Translation from the Septuagint by Jerome: the Psalter, the Rest of Esther.
  • Translation from the Greek of Theodotion by Jerome: Song of the Three Children, Story of Susanna, and The Idol Bel and the Dragon
  • Revision by Jerome of the Old Latin, corrected with reference to the oldest Greek manuscripts available: the Gospels.
  • Jerome's independent translation from the Hebrew: the protocanonical books of the Old Testament, with the exception of the Psalter. This was completed in 405.

In Jerome's day, the word Vulgata was applied to the Greek Septuagint. The Latin Bible used before the Vulgate is usually referred to as the Vetus Latina, or "Old Latin Bible", or occasionally the "Old Latin Vulgate". (It is, however, written in Classical Latin, not Old Latin.)

The Old Latin was not translated by a single person or institution, nor uniformly edited. The individual books varied in quality of translation and style. Its Old Testament books were translated from the Greek Septuagint, not from the Hebrew.

The Old Latin version remained in use in some circles even after Jerome's Vulgate became the accepted standard throughout the Western Church. Some in Gaul continued to prefer the Old Latin version for centuries.


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