What Is Vulgate?

The Vulgate is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible that was to become the Catholic Church’s officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible during the 16th century, and is still used fundamentally in the Latin Church to this day. The translation was largely the work of Jerome, who in 382 had been commissioned by Pope Damasus Ito revise the Vetus Latina (“Old Latin”) Gospels then in use by the Roman Church. Jerome, on his own initiative, extended this work of revision and translation to include most of the books of the Bible; and once published, the new version became widely adopted; and over succeeding centuries eventually eclipsed the Vetus Latina, so that by the 13th century it had taken over from the former version the appellation of versio vulgata (the “version commonly used”) or vulgata for short, and in Greek as βουλγάτα (“Voulgata”).

The Catholic Church affirmed the Vulgate as its official Latin Bible at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), though there was no authoritative edition at that time and the printed versions then in circulation differed very extensively from the text found in its earliest witnesses. Nevertheless these late printed editions formed the basis for the Clementine edition of the Vulgate of 1592 which became the standard Bible text of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church; and remained so until 1979 when the Nova Vulgata was promulgated.


The Vulgate has a compound text that is not entirely the work of Jerome. While Jerome revised all the Gospels of the Vetus Latina from the Greek, it is unknown who revised the rest of the New Testament.

Several unrevised books of the Vetus Latina Old Testament also commonly became included in the Vulgate; these are 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah; while 3 Esdras in Vulgate manuscripts witnesses a wholly different (and possibly earlier) translation of the Greek than that found in Vetus Latina manuscripts.

Medieval Vulgate Bibles might further include the Prayer of Manasses, 4 Esdras, the Epistle to the Laodiceans and Psalm 151.

Jerome himself translated all books of the Jewish Bible from Hebrew (having separately translated the book of Psalms from the Greek Hexapla Septuagint); and further translated the books of Tobias and Judith from Aramaic versions, the additions to the book of Esther from the Common Septuagint and the additions to the book of Daniel from the Greek of Theodotion.

The prologue of the gospel of John, Clementine Vulgate, 1922 edition.

The prologue of the gospel of John, Clementine Vulgate, 1922 edition.

The Vulgate’s components include:

  • Independent translation from the Hebrew by Jerome: the books of the Hebrew Bible, including a translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew which is found in early medieval Vulgate manuscripts but is commonly supplanted by Jerome’s Gallican version in later bibles. This was completed in 405.
  • Free translation from a secondary Aramaic version by Jerome: Tobias and Judith.
  • Translation from the Greek of Theodotion by Jerome: The three additions to the Book of Daniel; Song of the Three Children, Story of Susanna, and The Idol Bel and the Dragon. The Song of the Three Children was retained within the narrative of Daniel, Susanna was moved by Jerome from before the beginning of Daniel to the end of the book along with Bel and the Dragon. These additions he marked with an obelus to distinguish them from the canonical text.
  • Translation from the Common Septuagint by Jerome: the Additions to Esther. Jerome gathered all these additions together at the end of the Book of Esther, marking them with an obelus.
  • Translation from the Hexaplar Septuagint by Jerome: his Gallican version of the Book of Psalms. Jerome’s Hexaplaric revisions of other books of Old Testament continued to circulate in Italy for several centuries, but only Job and fragments of other books survive; together with Jerome’s prologues to the Hexaplar versions of Chronicles, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.
  • Revision of the Old Latin by Jerome: the Gospels, corrected with reference to the best Greek manuscripts Jerome considered available.
  • Revision of the Old Latin: the Roman Psalter including Psalm 151, undertaken prior to Jerome but continuing in liturgical use, and included in many medieval Vulgate Old Testaments and liturgical psalters.
  • Revision of the Old Latin by a person or persons unknown, contemporary with Jerome: Acts, Pauline epistles, Catholic epistles and the Apocalypse.
  • Old Latin, wholly unrevised: Epistle to the Laodiceans, Prayer of Manasses, 4 Esdras, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. The Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah were excluded by Jerome as non-canonical, but sporadically re-admitted into the Vulgate tradition from the Additions to the Book of Jeremiah of the Old Latin from the 9th century onwards.
  • Independent translation, distinct from the Old Latin; probably of the 3rd century: 3 Esdras,


Saint Jerome in His Study, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Saint Jerome in His Study, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.

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 Damasus I in 382 to revise the Old Latin text of the four Gospels from the best Greek texts. By the time of Damasus’ death in 384, Jerome had completed this task, together with a more cursory revision from the Greek Common Septuagint of the Old Latin text of the Psalms in the Roman Psalter, a version which he later disowned and is now lost. How much of the rest of the New Testament he then revised is difficult to judge today, but none of his work survived in the Vulgate text of these books. The revised text of the New Testament outside the Gospels is the work of one or more other scholars; Rufinus of Aquileia has been suggested, as have Rufinus the Syrian (an associate of Pelagius) and Pelagius himself, though without specific evidence for any of them. This unknown reviser worked more thoroughly than Jerome had done, consistently using older Greek manuscript sources of Alexandrian text-type, and had published a complete revised New Testament text by 410 at the latest, when Pelagius quoted from it in his commentary on the letters of Paul.

In 385, Jerome was forced out of Rome and eventually settled in Bethlehem. There he was able to use a surviving manuscript of the Hexapla, likely from the nearby Theological Library of Caesarea Maritima, a columnar comparison of the variant versions of the Old Testament undertaken 150 years before by Origen. Jerome then embarked on a second revision of the Psalms, translated from the revised Septuagint Greek column of the Hexapla, which later came to be called the Gallican version. There are no indications that either these revisions from the Hexapla or Jerome’s later revised versions of the Old Testament from the Hebrew were ever officially commissioned.

He also appears to have undertaken further new translations into Latin from the Hexaplar Septuagint column for other books, of which only that for Job survives. From 390 to 405, Jerome translated anew from the Hebrew all the books in the Hebrew Bible, including a further version of the Psalms. This new translation of the Psalms was labelled by him as “iuxta Hebraeos” (i.e., “close to the Hebrews”, “immediately following the Hebrews”) and was the version most commonly found in Vulgate bibles until it was supplanted by his Gallican psalms beginning in the 9th century. Jerome lived 15 years after the completion of his Old Testament text, during which he undertook extensive commentaries on the Prophetic Books. In these commentaries he generally took his own translation from the Hebrew as his subject text, sometimes proposing further improvements, suggestions which would often later be incorporated as interpolations to the Vulgate text of these books.

In Jerome’s Vulgate, the Hebrew Book of Ezra–Nehemiah is translated as the single book of ‘Ezra’. Jerome defends this in his Prologue to Ezra, although he had formerly noted in his Prologue to the Book of Kings that some Greeks and Latins had proposed that this book should be split in two. Jerome argues that the two books of Ezra found in the Septuagint and Vetus Latina, Esdras A and Esdras B, represented ‘variant examples’ of a single Hebrew original. Hence he does not separately translate Esdras A even though it had been up til then universally found in Greek and Old Latin Old Testaments, preceding Esdras B, the combined text of Ezra–Nehemiah.Following the same principle, Jerome’s Vulgate translation presents Samuel, Kings and Chronicles each as a single book; where the in the Septuagint Greek and Old Latin texts, all these had been split as ‘double’ books.

The Vulgate is usually credited as being the first translation of the Old Testament into Latin directly from the Hebrew Tanakh rather than from the Greek Septuagint. Jerome’s extensive use of exegetical material written in Greek, as well as his use of the Aquiline and Theodotiontic columns of the Hexapla, along with the somewhat paraphrastic style in which he translated, makes it difficult to determine exactly how direct the conversion of Hebrew to Latin was. Saint Augustine, a contemporary of Saint Jerome, states in Book XVII ch. 43 of his City of God that “in our own day the priest Jerome, a great scholar and master of all three tongues, has made a translation into Latin, not from Greek but directly from the original Hebrew.” Nevertheless, Augustine still maintained that the Septuagint alongside the Hebrew witnessed the inspired text of Scripture and consequently pressed Jerome for complete copies of his Hexaplar Latin translation of the Old Testament, a request that Jerome ducked with the excuse that the originals had been lost “through someone’s dishonesty”.

As Jerome completed his translations of each book of the Bible, he recorded his observations and comments in covering letters addressed to other scholars. These letters were collected and appended as prologues to the Vulgate text for those books where they survived. In these letters, 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.Jerome’s views did not prevail and all complete manuscripts and editions of the Vulgate include some or all of these books.

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, distinguishing the additional material with an obelus. He refused to translate the additions to Jeremiah and these texts, Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, remained excluded from the Vulgate for 400 years. Other books (Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Maccabees and the Prayer of Manasses) are variously found in Vulgate manuscripts with texts derived from the Old Latin sometimes together with Latin versions of other texts found neither in the Hebrew Bible nor in the Septuagint (4 Esdras and Laodiceans.) Their style is still markedly distinguishable from Jerome’s.

The Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Book of Jeremiah is considerably longer than the counterpart text of Jeremiah in the Septuagint translation, and the chapters are differently arranged. Consequently, since Jerome’s Hebrew source text corresponded to the Masoretic Text, the Book of Jeremiah in the Vulgate version contains a great many passages that had not been found in the previous Old Latin version.

In the 9th century the Old Latin texts of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah were introduced into the Vulgate in versions revised by Theodulf of Orleans and are found in a minority of early medieval Vulgate pandect bibles from that date onwards. After 1300, when the booksellers of Paris began to produce commercial single volume Vulgate bibles in large numbers, these commonly included both Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah as the Book of Baruch. Also beginning in the 9th century, Vulgate manuscripts are found that split Ezra and the Nehemiah into separate books called 1 Ezra and 2 Ezra. Bogaert argues that this practice arose from an intention to conform the Vulgate text to the authoritative canon lists of the 5th/6th century, where ‘two books of Ezra’ were commonly cited. Again this split becomes standard in the Paris Bibles; and as these bibles commonly also included one or both of the two books of Esdras: Greek Esdras and Latin Esdras; these became retitled as 3 Ezra and 4 Ezra respectively.

Critical value

In translating the 38 books of the Hebrew Bible (Ezra-Nehemiah being counted as one book), Jerome was relatively free in rendering their text into Latin, but it is possible to determine that the oldest surviving complete manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, which date from nearly 600 years after Jerome, nevertheless transmit a consonantal Hebrew text very close to that used by Jerome. Jerome translated the books of Judith and Tobit, engaging a Jewish intermediary to render the Aramaic into oral Hebrew for him then to paraphrase into Latin. The Vulgate Old Testament texts that were translated from the Greek, whether by Jerome or preserving revised or unrevised Old Latin versions, are early and important secondary witnesses to the Septuagint.

Given Jerome’s conservative methods and that manuscript evidence from outside Egypt at this early date is very rare, these Vulgate readings have considerable critical interest. Also valuable from a text-critical perspective is the revised Vulgate text of the Apocalypse (whose translator is unknown), a book where there is no clear majority text in the surviving Greek witnesses; as both the Old Latin base text and its revisions show signs of using early Greek texts.


In addition to the biblical text Vulgate editions almost invariably print 17 prologues, 16 of which were written by Jerome. Jerome’s prologues were written not so much as prologues than as cover letters to specific individuals to accompany copies of his translations. Because they were not intended for a general audience, some of his comments in them are quite cryptic. These prologues are to the Pentateuch, to Joshua, and to Kings, which is also called the Prologus Galeatus.

Following these are prologues to Chronicles, Ezra, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Gallican Psalms, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, the minor prophets, the gospels,and the final prologue which is to the Pauline epistles and is better known as Primum quaeritur. Related to these are Jerome’s Notes on the Rest of Esther and his Prologue to the Hebrew Psalms. In addition to Jerome’s prologue to the Gallican version of the Psalms, which is commonly found in Vulgate manuscripts, his prologues also survive for the translations from the Hexaplar Septuagint of the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Chronicles.

A recurring theme of the Old Testament prologues is Jerome’s preference for the Hebraica veritas (i.e., Hebrew truth) over the Septuagint, a preference which he defended from his detractors. He stated that the Hebrew text more clearly prefigures Christ than the Greek. Among the most remarkable of these prologues is the Prologus Galeatus, in which Jerome described an Old Testament canon of 22 books, which he found represented in the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet. Alternatively, he numbered the books as 24, which he identifies with the 24 elders in the Book of Revelation casting their crowns before the Lamb. Consequently Jerome takes this text in the Book of Revelation as authoritatively limiting the Old Testament canon to the 24 books of the Hebrew bible; and in other prologues he sets the ’24 elders’ of the Hebrew Bible against the ‘Seventy interpreters’ of the Septuagint . The 12 minor prophets are counted as one book, 1 and 2 Samuel as one book, 1 and 2 Kings as one book, Ezra and Nehemiah as one book, and 1 and 2 Chronicles as one book, making a total of 24 books. Alternatively, Ruth is counted as part of Judges, and Lamentations as part of Jeremiah, for a total of 22 books.

In addition, many medieval Vulgate manuscripts included Jerome’s epistle number 53, to Paulinus bishop of Nola, as a general prologue to the whole Bible. Notably, this letter was printed at the head of the Gutenberg Bible.Jerome’s letter promotes study of each of the books of the Old and New Testaments listed by name ( and excluding any mention of the deuterocanonical books); and its dissemination had the effect of propagating the belief that the whole Vulgate text was Jerome’s work.

The regular prologue to the Pauline Epistles in the Vulgate Primum quaeritur defends the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, directly contrary to Jerome’s own views – a key argument in demonstrating that Jerome did not write it. The author of the Primum quaeritur is unknown; but it is first quoted by Pelagius in his commentary on the Pauline letters written before 410; and as this work also quotes from the Vulgate revision of these letters, it has been proposed that Pelagius or one of his associates may have been responsible for the revision of the Vulgate New Testament outside the Gospels. At any rate, it is reasonable to identify the author of the preface with the unknown reviser of the New Testament outside the gospels.

In addition to Primum quaeritur, many manuscripts contain brief notes to each of the epistles indicating where they were written, with notes about where the recipients dwelt. Adolf von Harnack, citing De Bruyne, argued that these notes were written by Marcion of Sinope or one of his followers. Where Vulgate books lacked a genuine prologue from Jerome, the apparent lack was commonly supplied over time by pseudonymous compositions, many of which are frequently found in medieval Vulgate manuscripts. Where Vulgate bibles included the Psalter in the Roman version (rather than Jerome’s Hebraic version) this inclusion was occasionally supported by pseudonymous letters between Jerome and Damasus; which subsequently were occasionally attached to Jerome’s Gallican Psalter when that supplanted the Hebraic Psalter in the Vulgate in the 9th century. Many medieval manuscripts also include a pseudonymous prologue from Jerome for the Catholic Epistles, composed to support the interpolated Comma Johanneum at 1 John 5:7.

Relation with the Old Latin Bible

The Latin biblical texts in use before Jerome’s Vulgate are usually referred to collectively as the Vetus Latina, or “Old Latin Bible”; where “Old Latin” means that they are older than the Vulgate and written in Latin, not that they are written in Old Latin. Jerome himself uses the term “Latin Vulgate” for the Vetus Latina text, so intending to denote this version as the common Latin rendering of the Greek Vulgate or Common Septuagint (which Jerome otherwise terms the ‘Seventy interpreters’); and this remained the usual use of the term ‘Latin Vulgate” in the West for centuries. On occasion Jerome applies the term ‘Septuagint’ (Septuaginta) to refer to the Hexaplar Septuagint, where he wishes to distinguish this from the Vulgata, or Common Septuagint. The earliest known use of the term Vulgata to describe the ‘new’ Latin translation was made by Roger Bacon in the 13th century. The translations in the Vetus Latina had accumulated piecemeal over a century or more; they were not translated by a single person or institution, nor uniformly edited. The individual books varied in quality of translation and style, and different manuscripts and quotations witness wide variations in readings. Some books appear to have been translated several times; the book of Psalms in particular having circulated for over a century in an earlier Latin version (the Cyprianic Version), before this was superseded by the Old Latin version in the 4th century. Jerome, in his preface to the Vulgate gospels, commented that there were “as many [translations] as there are manuscripts”; subsequently repeating the witticism in his preface to the Book Of Joshua. The base text for Jerome’s revision of the gospels was an Old Latin text similar to the Codex Veronensis; with the text of the Gospel of John conforming more to that in the Codex Corbiensis.

Damasus had instructed Jerome to be conservative in his revision of the Old Latin Gospels, and it is possible to see Jerome’s obedience to this injunction in the preservation in the Vulgate of variant Latin vocabulary for the same Greek terms. Hence, “high priest” is rendered princeps sacerdotum in Vulgate Matthew; as summus sacerdos in Vulgate Mark; and as pontifex in Vulgate John. The Vetus Latina gospels had been translated from Greek originals of the Western text-type. Comparison of Jerome’s Gospel texts with those in Old Latin witnesses, suggests that his revision was substantially concerned with redacting their expanded ‘Western’ phraseology in accordance with the Greek texts of better early Byzantine and Alexandrian witnesses. One major change introduced by Jerome was to re-order the Latin Gospels. Old Latin gospel books generally followed the “Western Order” – Matthew, John, Luke, Mark; where Jerome adopted the “Greek Order” – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. It appears that he followed this order in his programme of work; as his revisions become progressively less frequent and less consistent in the gospels presumably done later. In places Jerome adopted readings that did not correspond to a straightforward rendering either of the Old Latin or the Greek text, so reflecting a particular doctrinal interpretation; as in his rewording panem nostrum supersubstantialem at Matthew 6:11.

The unknown reviser of the rest of the New Testament shows marked differences from Jerome, both in editorial practice and in his sources. Where Jerome sought to correct the Old Latin text with reference to the best recent Greek manuscripts, with a preference for those conforming to the Byzantine text-type, the Greek text underlying the revision of the rest of the New Testament demonstrates the Alexandrian text-type found in the great majuscule pandects of the mid 4th century, most similar to the Codex Sinaiticus. The reviser’s changes generally conform very closely to this Greek text, even in matters of word order; to the extent that the resulting text may be only barely intelligible as Latin.

After the Gospels, the most widely used and copied part of the Christian Bible is the Book of Psalms; and consequently Damasus also commissioned Jerome to revise the psalter in use in Rome, to agree better with the Greek of the Common Septuagint. This, Jerome said, he had done cursorily when in Rome; but later disowned this version, maintaining that copyists had reintroduced erroneous readings. Until the 20th century, it was commonly assumed that the surviving Roman Psalter represented Jerome’s first attempted revision; but more recent scholarship – following de Bruyne – rejects this identification. The Roman Psalter is indeed one of at least five revised versions of the mid-4th-century Old Latin Psalter; but, compared to the four others the revisions in the Roman Psalter are in clumsy Latin, and signally fail to follow Jerome’s known translational principles, especially in respect of correcting harmonised readings. Nevertheless it is clear from Jerome’s correspondence (especially in his defence of the Gallican Pslater in the long and detailed Epistle 106) that he was familiar with the Roman Psalter text; and consequently it is assumed that this revision represents the Roman text as Jerome had found it.

Jerome’s earliest efforts in translation, his revision of the four Gospels, was dedicated to Damasus; but following Damasus’s death Jerome’s versions had little or no official recognition. Jerome’s translated texts had to make their way on their own merits. The Old Latin versions continued to be copied and used alongside the Vulgate versions; and Jerome’s earlier translations of selected Old Testament books from the Hexaplar Septuagint also continued in circulation for several centuries. Commentators such as Isidore of Seville and Gregory the Great (Pope from 590 to 604) recognised the superiority of the new version, and promoted it in their works; but the old tended to continue in liturgical use, especially in the Psalter and the biblical Canticles. In the prologue to Moralia in Job, Gregory the Great writes: “I comment on the new translation. But when argumentation is necessary, I use the evidence sometimes of the new translation, sometimes of the old one, since the Apostolic See, over which by God’s grace I preside, uses both”. This distinction of “new translation” and “old translation” is regularly found in commentators until the 8th century; but it remained uncertain for those books that had not been revised by Jerome (the New Testament outside the Gospels, and certain of the deuterocanonical books), which versions of the text belonged to the “new” translation and which to the “old”. The earliest Bible manuscript where all books are included in the versions that would later be recognised as “Vulgate” is the 8th-century Codex Amiatinus; but as late as the 12th century, the Vulgate Codex Gigas retained an Old Latin text for the Apocalypse and the Acts of the Apostles.

Jerome’s changes to familiar phrases and expressions aroused hostility in congregations, especially in North Africa and Spain; while scholars often sought to conform Vulgate texts to Patristic citations from the Old Latin; and consequently many Vulgate texts became contaminated with Old Latin readings, re-introduced by copyists. Spanish biblical traditions, with many Old Latin borrowings, were influential in Ireland, while both Irish and Spanish influences are found in Vulgate texts in northern France. By contrast, in Italy and southern France a much purer Vulgate text predominated; and this is the version of the Bible that became established in England following the mission of Augustine of Canterbury.

Influence on Western culture

A page from the Codex Amiatinus.

A page from the Codex Amiatinus.

For over a thousand years (c. AD 400–1530), the Vulgate was the most commonly used edition of the most influential text in Western European society. Indeed, for most medieval Western Christians, it was the only version of the Bible ever encountered. The Vulgate’s influence on Latin culture throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance into the Early Modern Period is even greater than that of the King James Version in English; for Christians during these times the phraseology and wording of the Vulgate permeated all areas of culture.

Aside from its use in prayer, liturgy, and private study, the Vulgate served as inspiration for ecclesiastical art and architecture, hymns, countless paintings, and popular mystery plays.

The Reformation

While the Genevan Reformed tradition sought to introduce vernacular versions translated from the original languages, it nevertheless retained and extended the use of the Vulgate in theological debate. In both the published Latin sermons of John Calvin, and the Greek New Testament editions of Theodore Beza, the accompanying Latin reference text is the Vulgate; and where Protestant churches took their lead from the Genevan example – as in England and Scotland – the result was a broadening appreciation of Jerome’s translation in its dignified style and flowing prose. The closest equivalent in English, the King James Version or Authorized Version, shows a marked influence from the Vulgate, especially by comparison with the earlier vernacular version of Tyndale, in respect of Jerome’s demonstration of how a technically exact Latinate religious vocabulary may be combined with dignified prose and vigorous poetic rhythms.

The Vulgate continued to be regarded as the standard scholarly Bible throughout most of the 17th century. Walton’s London Polyglot of 1657 disregards the English Language entirely.Walton’s reference text throughout is the Vulgate. The Vulgate Latin is also found as the standard text of scripture in Thomas Hobbes Leviathan of 1651, indeed Hobbes gives Vulgate chapter and verse numbers (e.g., Job 41:24, not Job 41:33) for his head text.

In Chapter 35, “The Signification in Scripture of Kingdom of God”, Hobbes discusses Exodus 19:5, first in his own translation of the “Vulgar Latin”, and then subsequently as found in the versions he terms “the English translation made in the beginning of the reign of King James”, and “The Geneva French” (i.e. Olivetan). Hobbes advances detailed critical arguments why the Vulgate rendering is to be preferred. It remained the assumption of Protestant scholars that, while it had been of vital importance to provide the scriptures in the vernacular for ordinary people, nevertheless for those with sufficient education to do so, biblical study was best undertaken within the international common medium of the Latin Vulgate.

The Council of Trent

The Vulgate was given an official capacity by the Council of Trent (1545–1563) as the touchstone of the biblical canon concerning which parts of books are canonical. When the council listed the books included in the canon, it qualified the books as being “entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition”. The fourth session of the Council specified 72 canonical books in the Bible: 45 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament; Lamentations not being counted as separate from Jeremiah. On June 2, 1927, Pope Pius XI clarified this decree, allowing that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute, and further clarification came with Pope Pius XII’s Divino afflante Spiritu.

The council cited Sacred Tradition in support of the Vulgate’s magisterial authority:

Moreover, this sacred and holy Synod,—considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,—ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.

The qualifier “Latin editions, now in circulation” and the use of authentic (not inerrant) show the limits of this statement.


Before the publication of Pius XII’s Divino afflante Spiritu, the Vulgate was the source text used for many translations of the Bible into vernacular languages. In English, the interlinear translation of the Lindisfarne Gospels as well as other Old English Bible translations, the translation of John Wycliffe, the Douay–Rheims Bible, the Confraternity Bible, and Ronald Knox’s translation were all made from the Vulgate.

Influence upon the English language

The Vulgate had a large influence on the development of the English language, especially in matters of religion. Many Latin words were taken from the Vulgate into English nearly unchanged in meaning or spelling: creatio (e.g. Genesis 1:1, Heb 9:11), salvatio (e.g. Is 37:32, Eph 2:5), justificatio (e.g. Rom 4:25, Heb 9:1), testamentum (e.g. Mt 26:28), sanctificatio (1 Ptr 1:2, 1 Cor 1:30), regeneratio (Mt 19:28), and raptura (from a noun form of the verb rapere in 1 Thes 4:17). The word “publican” comes from the Latin publicanus (e.g., Mt 10:3), and the phrase “far be it” is a translation of the Latin expression absit (e.g., Mt 16:22 in the King James Bible). Other examples include apostolusecclesiaevangeliumPascha, and angelus.


The Vulgate exists in many forms. The Codex Amiatinus is the oldest surviving complete manuscript from the 8th century. The Gutenberg Bible is a notable printed edition of the Vulgate by Johann Gutenberg in 1455. The 1598 edition of the Clementine Vulgate is an official standardized edition of the medieval Vulgate. The Stuttgart Vulgate is a 1969 critical edition of Jerome’s original Vulgate. The Nova Vulgata is a new official translation, completed in 1979, from modern critical editions of original language texts of the Bible into Classical Latin.

Manuscripts and early editions

A number of early manuscripts containing or reflecting the Vulgate survive today. Dating from the 8th century, the Codex Amiatinus is the earliest surviving manuscript of the complete Vulgate Bible. The Codex Fuldensis, dating from around 545, contains most of the New Testament in the Vulgate version, but the four gospels are harmonized into a continuous narrative derived from the Diatessaron.

Alcuin of York oversaw efforts to make an improved Vulgate, which he presented to Charlemagne in 801. He concentrated mainly on correcting inconsistencies of grammar and orthography, many of which were in the original text. More scholarly attempts were made by Theodulphus, Bishop of Orléans (787?–821); Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury (1070–1089); Stephen Harding, Abbot of Cîteaux (1109–1134); and Deacon Nicolaus Maniacoria (mid-12th century). The University of Paris, the Dominicans, and the Franciscansfollowing Roger Bacon assembled lists of correctoria; approved readings where variants had been noted. Many of the readings that were recommended were later found to be interpolations, or survivals of the Old Latin text, since medieval correctors commonly sought to adjust the Vulgate text into consistency with Bible quotations found in Early Church Fathers.

Though the advent of printing greatly reduced the potential of human error and increased the consistency and uniformity of the text, the earliest editions of the Vulgate merely reproduced the manuscripts that were readily available to the publishers. Of the hundreds of early editions, the most notable today is Mazarin edition published by Johann Gutenberg and Johann Fust in 1455, famous for its beauty and antiquity. In 1504 the first Vulgate with variant readings was published in Paris. One of the texts of the Complutensian Polyglot was an edition of the Vulgate made from ancient manuscripts and corrected to agree with the Greek.

Erasmus published an edition corrected to agree better with the Greek and Hebrew in 1516. Other corrected editions were published by Xanthus Pagninus in 1518, Cardinal Cajetan, Augustinus Steuchius in 1529, Abbot Isidorus Clarius (Venice, 1542), and others. In 1528, Robertus Stephanus published the first of a series of critical editions, which formed the basis of the later Sistine and Clementine editions. The critical edition of John Hentenius of Louvain followed in 1547.

In 1550, Stephanus fled to Geneva where in 1555 he issued his final critical edition of the Vulgate, which was the first complete Bible with full chapter and verse divisions, and which became the standard biblical reference text for late-16th-century Reformed theology.

Clementine Vulgate

The Vulgata Sixtina.

The Vulgata Sixtina.

The Clementine Vulgate (Biblia Sacra Vulgatæ Editionis Sixti Quinti Pontificis Maximi iussu recognita atque edita) is the edition most familiar to Catholics who have lived prior to the liturgical reforms following Vatican II.

After the Reformation, when the Catholic Church strove to counter the attacks and refute the doctrines of Protestantism, the Vulgate was reaffirmed in the Council of Trent as the sole, authorized Latin text of the Bible. Furthermore, the council expressed the wish that this should be ‘printed in the most correct manner possible’; although this fell short of a full commission to create a standard text of the Vulgate out of the countless editions produced during the Renaissance. Nevertheless, pressure built up for the preparations of an authorized Vulgate text.

A committee was formed by Pope Pius IV in 1561 to undertake the task, but it worked slowly and ineffectively. A second committee was appointed by Pope Pius V in 1569. Pope Sixtus Vappointed a third committee, who took as their base text the Louvain Vulgate edition of 1583 (based on the edition of Hentenius), recording variant readings from authoritative manuscripts in the margin. A recommended text was presented in 1589. Sixtus was dissatisfied with the result, judging that it was too far from the familiar printed editions. He had substantial changes made to the text, using the Vulgate edition of Robertus Stephanus corrected to agree with the Greek; and introducing personal changes, including an entirely new system of verse divisions. This revised version was hurried into print; and suffered from misprints in the Old Testament. In addition, three whole verses were found to have been dropped from the Book of Numbers; Numbers 30:11-13, though it is unclear whether this was an error in printing or a ‘wild’ editorial choice. The Bible appeared in 1590 and is known as Sistine Vulgate. Sixtus immediately issued corrigenda as pasted slips to be inserted into copies. After the Pope’s sudden death, Robert Bellarmine warned that the work was an embarrassment, and a great danger to the church. The College of Cardinals stopped all further sales, and bought and destroyed as many copies as possible.

The Sistine edition was replaced by Clement VIII (1592–1605) who had ordered Franciscus Toletus, Augustinus Valerius, Fredericus Borromaeus, Robertus Bellarmino, Antonius Agellius, and Petrus Morinus to make corrections and a revision. It is called today the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate, or simply the Clementine, although it is Sixtus’ name which appears on the title page. The replacement version reversed many of Sixtus’s changes, adopting the verse divisions of the Stephanus editions but otherwise tending to prefer the Louvain text; but this too was rushed in preparation, omitting all Jerome’s Prologues. The many misprints of the 1592 first edition were remedied in the second (1593) and a third (1598) editions; which also restored the Prologues.

The Clementine differed from the manuscripts on which it was ultimately based in that it grouped the various prefaces of St. Jerome together at the beginning, and it removed 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses from the Old Testament and placed them as Apocrypha into an appendix following the New Testament. As this was intended as a standard text, rather than as a critical text for scholarship, it differed from previous Vulgate editions in not printing marginal variant readings.The Psalter of the Clementine Vulgate, like that of almost all earlier printed editions, is the Gallicanum, omitting Psalm 151. It follows the Greek numbering of the Psalms, which differs from that in versions translated directly from the Hebrew.

The Clementine Vulgate of 1598 became the standard Bible text of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church until 1979, when the Nova Vulgata was promulgated.

Roger Gryson, in the preface to 4th edition of the Stuttgart Vulgate (1994), asserts that the Clementine edition “frequently deviates from the manuscript tradition for literary or doctrinal reasons, and offers only a faint reflection of the original Vulgate, as read in the pandecta of the first millennium.” By the same token however, the great extent to which the Clementine edition preserves contaminated readings from the medieval period can itself be considered to have critical value; Frans Van Liere states: “for the medieval student interested in the text as it was read, for instance, in thirteenth century Paris, the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate might actually be a better representative of the scholastic biblical text that the modern critical editions of the text in its pre-Carolingian form.”

Later printings

After Clement’s 1598 printing of the Vulgate, the Vatican issued no other official printings, leaving the task to other printers. Although the other printers of the Clementine Vulgate faithfully reproduced the words of the official edition, they were often quite free in matters of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and paragraph boundaries. In 1906, Capuchin friar Fr. Michael Hetzenauer produced an edition restoring the original Clementine text while taking into account variations in Clement’s three printings as well as correctoria officially issued by the Vatican. The current standard reference edition is that of Alberto Colunga & Laurentio Turrado, published in Madrid in 1946.

In 1959, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos issued a printing of the Colunga-Turrado Clementine Vulgate omitting the Apocrypha, but containing excerpts from various magisterial documents and the Piana version of the psalms in addition to the vulgate version.

Modern critical editions

The official status of the Clementine Vulgate and the mass of manuscript material discouraged the creation of a critical edition of the Vulgate. In 1734 Vallarsi published a corrected edition of the Vulgate. Most other later editions were limited to the New Testament and did not present a full critical apparatus, most notably Karl Lachmann’s editions of 1842 and 1850 based primarily on the Codex Amiatinus and Codex Fuldensis, Fleck’s edition of 1840, and Constantin von Tischendorf’s edition of 1864. In 1906 Eberhard Nestle published Novum Testamentum Latine, which presented the Clementine Vulgate text with a critical apparatus comparing it to the editions of Sixtus V (1590), Lachman (1842), Tischendorf (1854), and Wordsworth and White (1889), as well as the Codex Amiatinus and Codex Fuldensis.

To make a text available representative of the earliest copies of the Vulgate and summarize the most common variants between the various manuscripts, Anglican scholars at the University of Oxford began to edit the New Testament in 1878 (completed in 1954), while the Benedictines of Rome began an edition of the Old Testament in 1907 (completed in 1995). Their findings were condensed into an edition of both the Old and New Testaments first published at Stuttgart in 1969, created with the participation of members from both projects. These books are the standard editions of the Vulgate used by scholars. From the original Oxford Vulgate, the editors of these critical editions adopted two major critical principles; firstly to present the text in sense lines per cola et commata, with no other indications of punctuation; and secondly, to reconstruct the earliest text solely on the authority of primary manuscript witnesses dating from before the 11th century (a few later Bibles are selectively cited in the apparatus, but not used for the texts). Consequently, for the most part, the later medieval development of the Vulgate text is apparent in these critical editions only in citations of variants printed from the Sistine and Sixto-Clementine editions; albeit that these can only provide two snap-shots of the wide range of variant readings found in medieval texts. Neither in the Old or New Testaments, do the critical editions print conjectural readings (even in instances of manifest error or contamination, such as pietatis for timoris Domini at Isaiah 11:2);”  every reading is taken from one or another of the primary witnesses for that book.

Wordsworth and White (Oxford) New Testament

As a result of the inaccuracy of existing editions of the Vulgate, the delegates of Oxford University Press accepted in 1878 a proposal from classicist John Wordsworth to produce a critical edition of the New Testament.This was eventually published as Nouum Testamentum Domini nostri Iesu Christi Latine, secundum editionem sancti Hieronymi in three volumes between 1889 and 1954. Along with Wordsworth and Henry Julian White, the completed work lists on its title pages Alexander Ramsbotham, Hedley Frederick Davis Sparks, Claude Jenkins, and Arthur White Adams.

As preliminary work to the full edition, Wordsworth published the text of certain important manuscripts in the series Old-Latin Biblical Texts, with the help of William Sanday, White (professor of New Testament studies at King’s College, London), and other scholars. Wordsworth was consecrated Bishop of Salisbury in 1885, and White (who became Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford in 1920) assumed co-editorship of the edition, which began to be published in fascicles with the Gospel of Matthew in 1889; the first volume, with an extensive epilogue discussing the history of the manuscripts and the text, was completed in 1898. In the gospel volumes, the Oxford editors printed an interlinear text from the Codex Brixianus, believing this to represent the most likely representative of Jerome’s Old Latin source text; but subsequent studies linking the Codex Brixianus to the Gothic version of the New Testament make this supposition unlikely.

Acts, forming the beginning of the third volume, was published in 1905. In 1911, Wordsworth and White produced a smaller editio minor with the complete text of the New Testament and a limited apparatus, but using modern punctuation. In the subsequent publication of main editions of the Epistles to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians the text of the editio minor was revised slightly; but for the rest of the New Testament the 1911 editio minor text is retained unchanged, publication consisting in the presentation of a full critical apparatus.

Wordsworth died in 1911. Even with the death of some of those involved in the project during the First World War, the second volume (containing the Pauline epistles) had been published as far as the Second Epistle to the Corinthians by 1926. In 1933, White enlisted Sparks to assist him in the work, who after White’s death in 1934 assumed primary responsibility for the edition. After its completion, he served on the editorial board for the Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate, beginning in 1959.

The edition, commonly known as Oxford Vulgate, relies primarily on the texts of the Codex Amiatinus, Codex Fuldensis (Codex Harleianus in the Gospels), Codex Sangermanensis and Codex Mediolanensis; but also consistently cites readings in the so-called DELQR group of manuscripts, named after the sigla it uses for them: Book of Armagh (D), Egerton Gospels (E), Lichfield Gospels (L), Book of Kells (Q), and Rushworth Gospels (R).The only major early Vulgate New Testament manuscripts not cited are the St Gall Gospels, Codex Sangallensis 1395 (which was not published until 1931); and the Book of Durrow. For several of these cited manuscripts however, the Oxford editors had relied on collations subsequently found to be unreliable; and consequently many Oxford citations are corrected in the apparatus of the Stuttgart Vulgate New Testament.

Benedictine (Rome) Old Testament

In 1907 Pope Pius X commissioned the Benedictine monks to prepare a critical edition of Jerome’s Vulgate, entitled Biblia Sacra iuxta latinam vulgatam versionem. This text was originally planned as the basis of a revised complete official Bible for the Catholic church to replace the Clementine edition, in the spirit of the ressourcement of the early twentieth century. The first volume, the Pentateuch completed in 1926, lists as primary editor Henri Quentin, whose editorial methods, described in his book Mémoire sur l’établissement du texte de la Vulgate, proved to be somewhat controversial. Quentin maintained that, by the 10th century, three distinct textual traditions had become established for the Vulgate Pentateuch; the Alcuinan, the Spanish, and the Theodulfian; and that early precursors could be identified respectively for each tradition in the Codex Amiatinus, the Codex Turonensis (the Ashburnham Pentateuch), and the Ottobonianus Octateuch. He took these three manuscript witnesses as primary sources, and claimed to have decided the text by the règle de fer of always adopting the reading supported two-to-one in his three primary sources. The resulting text was highly regarded, but neither Quentin’s method nor his underlying theory, carried scholarly conviction; all of his three primary sources being more generally considered to witness an early Italian text.

After Henri Quentin’s death in 1935, the Roman Vulgate’s editors, for the Old Testament books from I Samuel onwards, modified their underlying textual theory and methods towards those of the Oxford editors; explicitly looking to establish for each book the best two or three primary sources from the Italian Vulgate tradition, and then deciding readings between them using secondary sources. For much of rest of the Old Testament the chosen primary sources were the Codex Amiatinus and Codex Cavensis; although for the Book of Baruch, their only source was from the bibles of Theodulf of Orleans. As neither Amiatinus nor Cavensis presented the Gallican psalter, the selected primary sources for the Book of Psalms were three of a series of 8th-10th-century psalters which presented both Jerome’s Gallican and Hebraic translations in parallel columns.

Following the Codex Amiatinus and the Vulgate texts of Alcuin and Theodulf the Roman Vulgate reunited the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah into a single book; reversing the decisions of the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate.

In 1933, Pope Pius XI established the Pontifical Abbey of St Jerome-in-the-City to complete the work. By the 1970s, as a result of liturgical changes that had spurred the Vatican to produce a new translation of the Latin Bible, the Nova Vulgata, the Benedictine edition was no longer required for official purposes, and the abbey was suppressed in 1984. Five monks were nonetheless allowed to complete the final two volumes of the Old Testament, which were published under the abbey’s name in 1987 and 1995. The Oxford editors having already published a full critical text of the Vulgate New Testament, no attempt was made to duplicate their work.

Weber-Gryson (Stuttgart) edition

Based on the editions of Oxford and Rome, but with independent examination of manuscript evidence, the Württembergische Bibelanstalt, later the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), based in Stuttgart, first published a critical edition of the complete Vulgate in 1969. The work has since continued to be updated, with a fifth edition appearing in 2007. The project was originally directed by Robert Weber, OSB (a monk of the same Benedictine abbey responsible for the Rome edition), with collaborators Bonifatius Fischer, Jean Gribomont, Hedley Frederick Davis Sparks (also responsible for the completion of the Oxford edition), and Walter Thiele. Roger Gryson has been responsible for the most recent editions. It is thus marketed by its publisher as the “Weber-Gryson” edition, but is also frequently referred to as the Stuttgart edition.

Concordance to the Vulgate Bible

Concordance to the Vulgate Bible

This edition, alternatively titled Biblia Sacra Vulgata or Biblia Sacra iuxta vulgatam versionem, is a “manual edition” in that it reduces much of the information in the large multivolume critical editions of Oxford and Rome into a handheld format, identifying the primary manuscript witnesses used by those editors to establish their texts (with some adjustments); and providing variant readings from the more significant early Vulgate manuscripts and printed editions. The first editions were published as two volumes, but the fourth (1994) and fifth (2007) editions were published as a single volume with smaller pages. The text reproduces and updates those of the Rome edition and the Oxford Edition for the Old Testament, Gospels, Acts and the earlier Pauline epistles; with changes mainly limited to standardisation of orthography. In the later New Testament books (those where the Oxford editors had retained the text of the 1911 editio minor unchanged), the Stuttgart editors felt justified in making a greater number of critical changes, especially as H.F.D. Sparks himself was included among their number. The text has not been modified substantially since the third edition of 1983, but the apparatushas been rewritten for many books in more recent editions, based for example on new findings concerning the Vetus Latina from the work of the Vetus Latina Institute, Beuron. Like the editions of Oxford and Rome, it attempts, through critical comparison of the most significant historical manuscripts of the Vulgate, to recreate an early text, cleansed of the scribal errors and scholarly contaminations of a millennium. Thus it does not always represent what might have been read in the later Middle Ages.

An important feature of the Weber-Gryson edition for those studying the Vulgate is its inclusion of Jerome’s prologues, typically included in medieval copies of the Vulgate. It also includes the Eusebian Canons. It does not, however, provide any of the other prefatory material often found in medieval Bible manuscripts, such as chapter headings, some of which are included in the large editions of Oxford and Rome.

In its spelling, it retains medieval Latin orthography, sometimes using oe rather than ae, and having more proper nouns beginning with H (e.g., Helimelech instead of Elimelech). Unlike the edition of Rome, it standardizes the spelling of proper names rather than attempting to reproduce the idiosyncrasies of each passage. It also follows the medieval manuscripts in using line breaks, rather than the modern system of punctuation marks, to indicate the structure of each verse, following the practice of the Oxford and Rome editions, though it initially presents an unfamiliar appearance to readers accustomed to the Clementine text.

It contains two Psalters, both the traditional Gallicanum and the juxta Hebraicum, which are printed on facing pages to allow easy comparison and contrast between the two versions. It has an expanded Apocrypha, containing Psalm 151 and the Epistle to the Laodiceans in addition to 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses. In addition, its modern prefaces (in Latin, German, French, and English) are a source of valuable information about the history of the Vulgate.

This edition’s early popularity can in part be attributed to a concordance based on the second edition of the book by Bonifatius Fischer, which was a key reference tool before the availability of personal computers. More recently, it has become the text of the Vulgate most commonly disseminated on the Internet. This electronic version, however, is commonly mutilated, lacking all formatting, notes, prefaces and apparatus, and often lacking the Gallican Psalter and Apocrypha. Moreover, the protocanonical part of Daniel following chapter 3 is commonly missing. Because all line breaks have been removed from most online editions, this effectively removes all punctuation. Corrected digital versions of the text that additionally include the text’s apparatus are available for purchase.

A translation of the text into German is currently in preparation, with a planned publication date of 2018.

Nova Vulgata

The Nova Vulgata (Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio), also called the Neo-Vulgate, is the official Latin edition of the Bible published by the Holy See for use in the contemporary Roman rite. It is not a critical edition of the historical Vulgate, but a revision of the text intended to accord with modern critical Hebrew and Greek texts and produce a style closer to Classical Latin. Consequently, it introduces many readings that are not supported in any ancient Vulgate manuscript; but which provide a more accurate translation from the original languages texts into Latin.

Electronic versions

The title “Vulgate” is currently applied to three distinct online texts which can be found from various sources on the Internet. Which text is being used can be ascertained from the spelling of Eve’s name in Genesis 3:20.

  • Heva: the Clementine Vulgate
  • Hava: the Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate; this text is the one most widely distributed on the internet
  • Eva: the Nova Vulgata


By the end of the 4th century the New Testament had been established in both Greek and Latin Bibles as containing the 27 books familiar to this day; and these are the books found in all Vulgate New Testaments. Over 100 late antique and medieval Vulgate texts also include the concocted Epistle to the Laodiceans (accepted as a genuine letter of Paul by many Latin commentators), although often with a note to the effect that it was not counted as canonical.

The Vulgate Old Testament from the first comprised the 38 books of the Hebrew Bible (as counted in Christian tradition before Nehemiah became split from Ezra in the medieval period), but always also including books from the Septuagint tradition, which by this date had ceased to be used by Jews, but which was copied in Greek Bibles as their Old Testament. Modern critical editions of the Septuagint take their texts from the Old Testament found in the great 4th/5th-century pandect bibles: Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Alexandrinus; but no two of these present exactly the same canon of Old Testament books. Similarly, Vulgate Old Testaments continued to vary in their content throughout the Middle Ages, and this was not considered problematic until Protestant Reformers questioned the canonical status of books outside the Hebrew canon.

Although Jerome preferred the books of the Hebrew Bible, he deferred to church authority in accepting as scripture not only the Greek additions to Esther and Daniel (albeit distinguished as apocryphal with the obelus), but also an extra six ‘apocryphal’ books in Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus and the two books of Maccabees, which in his listing of the Old Testament in the prologus galeatus he placed after the Hebrew canon. But, as Jerome explained in the prologue to Jeremiah, he continued to exclude altogether the Book of Baruch (and with it the letter of Jeremiah); and indeed these two books are not found in the Vulgate before the 9th century, and only in a minority of manuscripts before the 13th century. The 71 biblical books as listed by Jerome, although not in his order, formed the standard text of the Vulgate as it became established in Italy in the 5th and 6th centuries. No early Italian manuscript of the whole Vulgate Bible survives, and such pandect Bibles were always rare in this period; but the Codex Amiatinus written in Northumbria from Italian exemplars around 700 and intended to be presented to the Pope, represents the complete Bible according to the Italian Vulgate tradition. It contains the standard 71 books, with the Psalms according to Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew, except for the addition of Psalm 151 in a version corresponding closely to that later attached to the Gallican psalter.

The early Vulgate text in Spain tended to vary much further from Jerome’s original, specifically in the retention of many Old Latin readings, in the expansion of the text of the Book of Proverbs, and in the incorporation into the first epistle of John of the Comma Johanneum. Spanish Bibles, on occasion, also included additional apocryphal texts, including the Book of Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras. Spanish, Italian and Irish Vulgate traditions were all reflected in Bibles created in northern France, which by the end of the 8th century featured a wide variety of highly variable texts. Under prompting from the emperor Charlemagne, several scholars attempted in the 9th century to reform the French Vulgate. The English scholar Alcuin produced a text substantially based on Italian exemplars (although also including the Comma Johanneum), but with the major change of substituting Jerome’s Gallican version of the psalms (with Psalm 151 added from the Old Latin) for Jerome’s third version from the Hebrew that had previously predominated in Bible texts. In the 50 years after Alcuin’s death, the abbey of Tours reproduced his text in standardised pandect Bibles, of which over 40 survive. Alcuin’s contemporary Theodulf of Orleans produced a second independent reformed recension of the Vulgate, also based largely on Italian exemplars, but with variant readings, from Spanish texts and patristic citations, indicated in the margin. Theodulf kept Jerome’s Hebraic version of the Psalms, and also incorporated the Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah within the book of Jeremiah. However, otherwise Theodulf adopted Jerome’s proposed order of the Old Testament, with the six books from the Septuagint at the end. Theodulf’s text was widely influential. A Vulgate revision was also undertaken in the early 9th century by scholars in the Abbey of Corbie, and Bibles from this abbey are the first in France to include the books of 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras, though this practice remained rare.

Although a large number of Bible manuscripts resulted from all this work, no standard Vulgate text was established for another three centuries. Marsden points out, in discussing how the Gallican version of the Psalter came to become established as the text of the psalms in the Vulgate Bible: “Its dominant position was in fact not assured before the early 13th century, and even then was not universal”. However, the explosive growth of medieval universities, especially the University of Paris during the 12th century, created a demand for a new sort of Vulgate. University scholars needed the entire Bible in a single, portable and comprehensive volume; which they could rely on to include all biblical texts which they might encounter in patristic references. The result was the Paris Bible, which reached its final form around 1230. Its text owed most to Alcuin’s revision, and always presented the psalms in the Gallican version; but readings throughout were in many places adjusted to be more consistent with patristic citations (which would very frequently have been based on Old Latin or Greek texts). The book of Baruch and Letter of Jeremiah were now always included, as too were 3 Esdras, and usually (appended to the book of Chronicles) the Prayer of Manasses. Less commonly included was 4 Esdras.

The early printings of the Latin Bible took examples of the Paris Bible as their base text, culminating in the successive critical Vulgate editions of Robert Estienne (Stephanus). Estienne’s Geneva Vulgate of 1555, the first Bible to be subdivided throughout into chapters and verses, remained the standard Latin Bible for Reformed Protestantism; and established the content of the Vulgate as 76 books: 27 New Testament, 39 Hebrew Bible (with Ezra and Nehemiah now separated), plus Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch (including the Letter of Jeremiah), 1 and 2 Maccabees, 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses. At the Council of Trent it was agreed that seven of these books (all except 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses) should be considered inspired scripture; and the term “deuterocanonical”, first applied by Sixtus of Siena, was adopted to categorise them. The Council also requested that the Pope should undertake the production of definitive editions of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew scriptures conforming to their definition of the biblical canon; and this resulted, after several false starts, in the publication of the Clementine Vulgate of 1592. This incorporates the books of Trent’s Deuterocanon in the main Bible text; but also introduces, following the New Testament, a section of Apocrypha, containing the Prayer of Manasses, 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras, of which only the first two are found in the Septuagint.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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