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The Vulgate
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    Vulgate is the Latin version of the Bible prepared mainly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century A.D. and used as the official version of the Roman catholic Church.


    The Vulgate is partly revised and partly translated by Jerome on the orders of Pope Damasus I in 382. It takes its name from the phrase versio vulgata, i.e., "the translation made public", and was written in a common 4th century style of literary Latin in conscious distinction to the more elegant Ciceronian Latin. The Vulgate improved upon several translations then in use, and became the definitive and officially promulgated Bible version of the Roman Catholic Church. Its Old Testament is the first Latin version translated directly from the Hebrew Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) rather than from the Greek Septuagint. In 405 A.D., Jerome completed the protocanonical books of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) from the Hebrew, and the deuterocanonical books (what Protestants call apocrypha) of Tobias and Judith from the Aramaic. The other books and the Psalter (Book of Psalms) were translated from the Greek. There are 76 books in the Clementine edition of the Vulgate Bible (issued by Pope Clement VIII in 1592, became the authoritative biblical text of the Roman Catholic Church.), 46 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and 3 in the Apocrypha.

    In Jerome's day, the word Vulgata was applied to the Greek Septuagint. The Latin collective Bible texts used before St Jerome's are usually referred to as the Vetus Latina, or "Old Latin Bible", or occasionally the "Old Latin Vulgate". Those texts were not translated by a single person or institution, nor even uniformly edited. The individual books varied in quality of translation and style and the Old Testament books were translated from the Greek Septuagint, not from the Hebrew. Therefore, in 382, Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome, the leading biblical scholar of his day, to produce an acceptable Latin version of the Bible from the various translations then being used.

    At the beginning, Jerome did not embark on the work with the intention of creating a new version of the whole Bible. 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. But from 390 to 405, sitting in Bethlehem (in the Holy Land) Jerome switched to translating directly from the Hebrew - and retranslated anew all thirty-nine (or 24 according to the Jewish division of the same books) books in the Hebrew Bible.

    Of the Old Testament texts outside the Hebrew canon (apocrypha), Jerome translated Tobit and Judith anew from the Aramaic; but from the Greek, only the additions to Esther from the Septuagint, and the additions to Daniel from Theodotion (a Hebrew Bible translation from Greek). The others; Baruch, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Maccabees, 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses retain in Vulgate manuscripts their Old Latin renderings. Their style can still be markedly distinguished from Jerome's.

    Along the centuries, from the days of Jerome, many manuscripts and editions of the Vulgate were created. Maybe the most famous is the Gutenberg Bible published by Johann Gutenberg in 1455, famous for its beauty and antiquity and it is the earliest printed book from a movable type.

    The title "Vulgate" is currently applied to three distinct texts, all of which are widely disseminated on the internet. A reader can quickly determine which text is used by examining Genesis 3:20 and observing the spelling of Eve's name.

    • The Clementine Vulgate, issued by Pope Clement VIII in 1592, was the official Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church from 1592 to 1979. Although current editions aim to reproduce the Bible published in 1592, the text will usually have been extensively modified in respect of spelling and punctuation; and in the incorporation of verse divisions from the Geneva Vulgate of 1555. In Genesis 3:20 the name "Eve" is rendered as "Heva".

    • Modern critical editions of the Vulgate (Stuttgart, Wordsworth and White). These editions seek to recover a text as close as possible to that produced by Jerome, especially in respect of the removal of many interpolated readings that found their way into the Clementine Vulgate. Where variant readings from the Vulgate are cited in the standard apparatus of Biblical textual study - usually by the symbol "vg" - it is one of these texts that is referred to. In Genesis 3:20 the name "Eve" is rendered as "Hava".

    • The Nova Vulgata; the official Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church since 1979. Amended and modified compared to the Clementine Vulgate in respect of many readings, it is in some passages more a new version rather than a revision. In Genesis 3:20 the name "Eve" is rendered as "Eva".


    Vulgate - Columbia Encyclopedia
    Revision of Vulgate - Catholic Encyclopedia
    The Clementine Vulgate, searchable
    Latin Vulgate Bible with Douay-Rheims and King James Version Side-by-Side
    Stuttgart Vulgate with Apocrypha

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    Last updated: June 2013
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