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We have sufficiently discoursed of the causes and movements which led up to Jeromes great translation, which, from its constant and universal use in the Church of God, has been aptly called the VULGATE.

It was in his cell at Bethlehem, about the year 389, that Jerome began his great work. His design was not favored by the clergy of Rome, who accused him of endeavoring to set aside the Septuagint and the Vetus Itala. He declares that such was not his intent, but only to furnish a translation that the Jews could not reject in controversy with the Christians. Jerome never foresaw the great results that were to follow from his labors. He began with the books of Samuel and Kings. In 393 he had completed these, together with the sixteen Prophets, the Psalter and Job. The work was then intermitted for some time. In 395 he translated Ezra and Chronicles. These were followed by a translation of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Canticle of Canticles. The work of translating the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges and Ruth was begun in 398 and terminated in 404. Some time in this period, Jerome translated Tobias and Judith from the Chaldaic text.

Jeromes version of the Psalter was never received into common use by the Church. The probable cause was the danger of scandal to the common people, who committed much of the Psalter to memory. Had Jeromes translation been substituted for the old text, the simple people would have been unable to reconcile the wide divergency of the two texts with their reverence for Holy Scripture.

Jerome was guided in his method of translation by two norms. 1.—The great and principal norm was to reproduce the sense, not binding himself to text, word for word. What ever may be Jeromes declaration concerning his work, an examination of the Vulgate will reveal this general design running all through it. Thus, at times, he changes completely the order and form of the Hebrew sentence; again, he avoids the excessive minuteness of description and frequent repetitions of the same text. The following two examples will illustrate this:

Genesis 39:19–20. (Literal Hebrew.)

              Genesis 39:19–20 (Vulgate.)

And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying: After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Josephs master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the Kings prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

              His master hearing these things, and giving too much credit to his wifes words, was very angry, and cast Joseph into the prison, where the Kings prisoners were kept, and he was there shut up.

Exodus 40:12–15. (Hebrew.)

              Exodus 40:12–13. (Vulgate.)

And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the covenant, and wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priests office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priests office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generation.

              And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of the covenant, and having washed them with water, thou shalt put on them the holy vestments, that they may minister to me, and that the unction of them may prosper to an everlasting priesthood.

Jerome omits two whole verses, and condenses their import in the other two.

This is praised by some as a certain elegance in Latin diction, but I must confess I prefer the quaint simplicity of the old text with no abridgment.

At times Jerome has failed to apprehend the sense of the Hebrew. The following is a notable example:

Gen. 49:22. (Hebrew.)

              Gen. 49:22. (Vulgate.)

Joseph is a fruitful son (bough), a fruitful son (planted) by the fountain whose branches run over the wall.

              Joseph is a growing son, a growing son and comely to behold: the daughters run to and fro upon the wall.

It is evident that the holy text likens Joseph to a vine planted in well irrigated soil; and Josephs prosperity is likened to the healthy growth of this vine which sends forth its shoots over the wall. It is easy to see that this is more congruous to the grave sense of Scripture, than the picture of maidens running about on an eminence to see the beautiful Joseph.

Again when Jerome essays to translate proper names into their supposed signification, he sometimes errs.

The following text will illustrate this assertion:

Joshua 14:15. (Hebrew.)

              Joshua 14:15. (Vulgate.)

And the name of Hebron before was Kiriath-Arba (the city of Arba) who was a great man among the Anakim. And the land had rest from war.

              The name of Hebron before was called Cariath-Arbe; Adam, the greatest among the Enacim was laid there; and the land rested from wars.

The sense is simply that Hebron was called the city of Arba, who had been a great hero of the Anakim. How far Jerome has departed from this sense we leave the reader to judge. Again:

2 Ezra 9:7. (Vulgate.)

              2 Ezra 9:7. (Hebrew.)

Thou, O Lord God, art he who chosest Abram, and broughtest him forth out of the fire of the Chaldeans, and gavest him the name of Abraham.

              Thou art the Lord God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur, of the Chaldeans, and gavest him the name of Abraham.

It is plain that the inspired text wishes to state, that Abram was called by God out of the Chaldean city Ur. Jeromes love for Hebrew led him to accept much from the Rabbis, and here they have deceived him.

Sometimes, in things relating to the substantial sense, he has failed to catch the meaning. An example of this is the following passage:

Exodus 23:13. (Literal Hebrew.)

              Exodus 23:13. (Vulgate.)

And in all things that I have said unto you, be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of your mouth.

              Keep all things that I have said to you. And by the name of strange gods thou shalt not swear, neither shall it be heard out of your mouth.

The precept is against idolatry, not against profanity.

A similar serious defect occurs in the well-known passage of Isaiah 11:10, wherein Jerome translates the close of the verse: —and his peace will be glorious, by —and his sepulchre will be glorious. The Prophet predicted the glorious reign of Christ, which succeeded to his period of suffering, and not, as the Vulgate leads some to believe, the honor that is paid to the Holy Sepulchre.

Although these and certain other such defects occur in the Vulgate of Jerome, it remains, in the main, the best of all the versions of Scripture. This is even admitted by rationalists and protestants.

A translator is not an inspired agent, and these few defects simply show that the translation was a human work. The world has been studying languages, studying the Scriptures, thinking, and writing for a decade and a half of centuries since Jerome lived, and it is not strange that in a few cases some slight betterment could be now wrought in his translation, but considering the time and circumstances in which it was done, the translation of Jerome must ever remain one of the great works of man.

The labors of Jerome met with much opposition, both during his life and after his death. Jeromes character was one to antagonize a certain element of mankind. He was a man of power, high-minded, noble, intolerant of baseness and pettiness. By his talents he had outstripped his fellows, and then had to look down upon the envy of those of a lower plane. His prefaces to the several books, and his letters to friends, show that he was not of a temper of mind to conciliate his opponents by bland words.

These opponents decried Jerome and his work on the plea that he was attacking the Septuagint, which had been practically adopted by the Church. But there was another element in the opposition, composed of good men, who, actuated by zeal for the Church, feared that the people would be scandalized by this new presentation of the truths of Scripture, with which, in the old form, they were now familiar. St. Augustine was of this number, but towards the end of his life, he was more favorably disposed to Jeromes translation, which he commended and used.

There was no sudden transition from the old to the new version. It was a gradual movement, sustained by the intrinsic excellence of the Vulgate.

The earliest and most universal endorsement of Jeromes translation came from Gaul. Cassian (†432), during Jeromes life, called it the more correct edition. Soon after his death, Eucherius of Lyon (†454), Vincent of Lerins (†450), Prosper (†450), Sedulius (†450), Avitus (†532), and Cæsarius of Arles (†542) adopted it as the received text of Scripture.

At Rome, during the fifth and sixth centuries, the drift was decidedly in favor of the Vetus Itala. against the Vulgate. St. Leo the Great (440–461) and Pope Hilary (461–468) made some use of the Vulgate. With John III. (560–578) the tide set in strongly towards the Vulgate, and St. Gregory the Great (590–604), who considered the Vulgate the truer translation, is witness that only small use was made in his day of the Vetus Itala. From that time forth the Vetus Itala was neglected, and Jeromes translation became, in very deed, the Vulgate. St. Isidore of Seville (†636) declares that Jeromes translation is universally used, for the reason that it is truer in its sense, and clearer in its diction. (De Off. I. 12). Ven. Bede, (†735) made almost exclusive use of the Vulgate. Rhabanus Maurus and Walafrid Strabo declare, that in the principal books the whole Church of Rome uses the translation of Jerome. (Instit. Cler. II. 54). The ascendancy of the Vulgate was accomplished, not by any official decree, but by the steady growth of the recognition of its excellence.

The mode of diffusion of written data of those days made them greatly liable to corruption. When a book is printed, it is fixed and unchangeable. But in the old days, when the publishing of a book was by means of manuscripts written by men who were ever prone, either by ignorance or negligence, to permit errors, or by active, arbitrary design to insert certain judgments of their own into the text, the more a book was copied the more it was corrupted; for it was made to reflect something of every one through whose hands it had passed. This was augmented, in the case of the Vulgate, by the contemporaneous existence for centuries of the two Latin versions. Passages were copied from one into the other. There was much revision, and re-revision, remodeling, and sciolism, till the two texts were well mixed and corrupted. Hugh of St. Victor, testifies of this state as follows: It has come about by a perverse usage, since different ones follow different translations, that both are now so mixed that no man knows what is proper to each text. (Pat. Lat. Migne, 175, 17.)

Learned men arose in the Church and strove to remedy this evil. CASSIODORUS emended the text for his monks. Alcuin, at the bidding of Charlemagne, revised the entire Latin version, and presented the corrected copy to Charlemagne in 801. From this text were made the Bibles of Alcuin, or of Charlemagne, as they are sometimes called. They were much in use up to the thirteenth century. Many of the codices of the Vulgate are of this recension.

Other corrections were made by St. Peter Damian (†1072), St. Lanfranc of Canterbury (†1089), and the Cistercian St. Stephen (†1134).

As the corruption was universal in character, these private efforts were inadequate to remedy the evil. Hence, in the thirteenth century, theologians formulated a design for an APPARATUS CRITICUS, which should serve as a norm to correct all texts. The data of the Apparatus Criticus were taken from the old codices, from the writings of the Fathers, from the commentaries of Jerome, from the Glossary of Strabo, and the interlinear Glossary of Stephen Langton. Some collation was also made of the original texts. The results of these labors were, in 1226, embodied in the Correctorium of Paris.

This work afterwards received the approbation of the Archbishop of Sens, Primate of Gaul, for which cause it is sometimes called the Correctorium Senonense. This work of the University of Paris in nowise benefitted the text. It was simply the multiplication of a poor text, with some additional corruption, so that Roger Bacon said of it: Textus pro majori parte horribiliter corruptus est … et ubi non habet corruptionem, habet tantam dubitationem quæ merito cadit in omnem Sapientem. (Apud Hody, De Text. Orig.)

The method employed by those who wrought the Correctoria of the thirteenth century was to note down on the margin of a manuscript copy of the text the judgments concerning individual passages. Hence, we find in the margin: est de textu, non est de textu, vera est litera, falsa est litera, etc. Sometimes, also, the margins contain different readings from other manuscripts. The critical worth of these Correctoria is to us considerable.

The Dominican Chapter of France in 1256, condemned the Correctorium of Sens, and proscribed its use in the Order.

Some efforts had been made by the Dominicans to have a corrected and uniform text, and the first work worthy of note was executed by Hugh de St. Cher, general of the Order. As Hugh knew Hebrew, he essayed to remove all glosses from the Vulgate, and restore it to its pristine state. He made no use of old MSS, but corrected it according to the Hebrew and Greek. It is more a second translation than a critical recension of the Vulgate.

There were some other minor Correctoria executed by the Dominicans, of which but little is known. Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas, and other theologians employed the texts of Scripture as found in the Correctorium of the Dominicans. Although great erudition and labor was expended on this work, it failed through a defective critique. They had, in a measure, substituted their work for the work of Jerome, and Jeromes work was the better. They had also placed in the margin many readings judged to be erroneous, underlining them in red, or affixing to them some other sign, that readers might be warned against them. In time the indications were unobserved, and the readings crept into the text. Roger Bacon, said of this text: Eorum correctio est pessima corruptio, et destruitur textus Dei; et longe minus malum est uti exemplari Parisiensi non correcto quam eorum correctione. (Apud Hody, l. c.)

The Correctorium of the Franciscans has been erroneously termed the Correctorium of the Sorbonne, from the fact that it became known from a manuscript of the Sorbonne, which is at present in the National Library in Paris (Latin 15554). Its method was similar to that of the Dominicans, but of its value little is known. The Correctorium of the Vatican, so called from its MS in the Vatican, was executed about the beginning of the fourteenth century by William de Mara, a Franciscan of Oxford. The man was a disciple of Bacon, and his work shows much erudition and critique. He made use of Hebrew and Greek, not to supplant the version of Jerome, but to perfect it. His Correctorium is the best of all. He fails sometimes, especially in Greek, of which he knew less than of Hebrew.

Many other Correctoria existed which merit no mention here.

We insert here some mention of a few of the principal manuscripts of the Vulgate.

Chief among these is the CODEX AMIATINUS.

This manuscript, the most celebrated, if not the oldest of the Vulgate of Jerome, belongs to the Laurentian Library at Florence. It is registered Amiatinus I., because it is one of the manuscripts, which were brought from the Abbey of Mount Amiato, near Sienna, to the aforesaid monastery, at the time of the Abbeys suppression in 1786. The script is the uncial lettering of Italian caligraphy. The parchment is divided in cahiers of sixteen pages each. Every page has two columns of text, and each column forty-four lines. The whole width of the initial letters of the verses or stichs is displayed on the margin of the MS. There is no punctuation. The text is divided into stichs. It has no adorned initials, such as the beautiful ones we see in the manuscripts of the Carlovingian epoch. Its height is fifty centimeters, its width thirty-four. The manuscript forms only one volume of one thousand and twenty-nine leaves. It contains the whole text of the Vulgate, every book prefaced by an introduction or prologue by St. Jerome.

On the back of the first page of the manuscript is read the following inscription in verse:

Cœnobium ad eximii merito venerabile Salvatoris,

Quem caput Ecclesiæ dedicat alta fides,

Petrus Langobardorum extremis de finib. abbas

Devoti affectus pignora mitto mei,

Meque meos optans tanti inter gaudia patris

In coelis memorem semper habere locum.

The Abbot Peter is unknown. The expression, head of the Church, applied to the monastery of Mt. Amiato is very strange. Moreover, the words Cœnobium, Salvatoris, and Petrus Langobardorum are words written by a second hand upon an erasure. Evidently the dedication of the manuscript was defaced at the time of the change of ownership. The question has engaged many to ascertain for whom the manuscript was originally intended. Bandini of the last century, in drawing up a catalogue of the Laurentian manuscripts, proposed to correct the first verse as follows: Culmen ad eximii merito venerabile Petri. The hexameter is restored at the same time, and the first verse is made to agree with the second: Quem caput Ecclesiæ dedicat alta fides.

Thus it would result that the manuscript were one offered to the Roman Church, Caput Ecclesiæ. For the Petrus Langobardorum, Bandini proposed to substitute Servandus Latii. In fact, at the beginning of Leviticus, we read the name of such copyist, who labored at the production of the manuscript. We know of an Abbot Servandus of the sixth century, a friend of St. Benedict of the neighborhood of Alatri, on the boundaries of Latium. The Codex Amiatinus was thus considered a manuscript of the sixth century, of Italian origin: it has been accepted as such by Tischendorf.

The finding of the authentic original, and the age of the Codex Amiatinus, is one of the most brilliant discoveries of M. de Rossi. In a memoir on the sources of the library of the Holy See, published in 1886, which memoir is used as a preface to the catalogues of the Vatican library, he relates how in the seventh or eighth century, the bishops and the abbots outside of Italy desired much to receive manuscripts from the Popes, so that Pope Martin (649–653) could write: Codices jam exinaniti sunt a nostra bibliotheca, unde ei (the carrier of the letter) dare nullatenus habuimus; transcribere autem non potuit, quoniam festinanter de hac civitate egredi properavit.

Bendict Biscop, the founder of the Abbeys of Wear-mouth and Yarrow, was one of those prelates of the seventh century, devout to the things and books of Rome. Five times (in 653, 658, 671, 678 and in 684), he made pilgrimages to Rome, bringing back every time, according to Bedes testimony, innumerabilem librorum omnis generis copiam. At his death he left to his two Abbeys bibliothecam quam de Roma nobilissimam copiosissimamque advexerat.

His successor was Ceolfrid, who was the master of Bede, of whom Bede tells us, that he took a great care of Benedict Biscops library, and had three manuscripts of the Holy Scripture executed according to a copy brought from Rome, and that he gave a copy to each of his two Abbeys, Wear-mouth and Yarrow, and then, when he started for Rome, he took the third copy, in order to offer it to the Holy See. Ceolfrid died on the way, at Langres, Sept. 25, 716. But the monks, who accompanied him, proceeded towards the Eternal City, and it is to be supposed that they accomplished their Abbots intentions, thus expressed by Bede: Inter alia donaria quæ afferre disposuerat misit Ecclesiæ sancti Petri pandectem a Beato Hieronymo in Latinum ex Hebræo vel Græco fonte translatum.

M. de Rossi based a conjecture upon those facts, that we should read in the dedicatory of the Codex Amiatinus, neither Petrus Langobardorum nor Servandus Latii, but Ceolfridus Britonum. The two words proposed by M. de Rossi fitted exactly the place of the erasure. The poetical quantity only was still defective. M. Samuel Berger proposed Ceolfridus Anglorum. While the English reviewers were theorizing for and against this conjecture, which brought down to the eighth century the most important manuscript of Jeromes Vulgate, and made of it an Anglo-Saxon work. M. Hort pointed out in an anonymous Life of Ceolfrid, very likely Bedes work, published for the first time in 1841, a passage in which it is related, in the same terms as above, how Ceolfrid had made three copies of the Roman Bible in his possession; that he intended to offer one of those three copies to the Church of St. Peter at Rome; that he died during his pilgrimage; and that the Bible destined for St. Peters bore the following verses:

Corpus ad eximii merito venerabile Petri

Dedicat Ecclesiæ quem caput alta fides,

Ceolfridus, Anglorum extimis de finibus abbas,

Devoti affectus pignora mitto mei, etc.

We could not wish for a conjecture a more perfect verification. The Codex Amiatinus, therefore, was executed between 690, date of Benedict Biscops death, and 716, and rather about 690 than towards 716, in Northumberland, either at Yarrow, or at Wearmouth, and it is the copy of a manuscript of Jeromes Vulgate brought from Rome.

The Codex Amiatinus is at present held to represent the most ancient condition of Jeromes Vulgate, that is to say, it approaches closest to the text executed by Jerome. It played a considerable part in the history of the Vulgate in the middle age.

It is from Northumberland that the good texts of the Vulgate have been spread, not only in Italy, to whom England paid thus its debt, but moreover, in France, for Alcuin came from York and was selected by Charles the Great (Charlemagne), for correcting the text of the Bible.—Samuel Berger, De l Histoire de la Vulgate en France, Paris, 1887, p. 4.

Tischendorf published the text of the New Testament of the Codex Amiatinus, C. Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum ex Codice Amiatino, Leipzig, 1890–1894. See Bandini, Bibliotheca Leopoldina Laurentiana, Florence, 1891. t. I., p. 701–732; Wordsworth, Novum Testamentum Latine, p. XI., Oxford, 1889; De Rossi, La Biblia offerta da Ceolfrido abbate al sepulcro di S. Pietro, Rome, 1888; J. White, The Codex Amiatinus and its birthplace in the Studia Biblica, Oxford, 1870, t. II, p. 273–308. (P. Batiffol in Dictionnaire de la Bible.)

The next great Codex of the Vulgate is the CODEX FULDENSIS. It contains only the entire New Testament, and can not be made equal to Codex Amiatinus. Its colophon declares that it was made under the supervision of Victor, Bishop of Capua. Victor ascended the episcopal throne in 541. From the Roman dates affixed to the instrument, chronographers establish that it was finished in 546.

St. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, is believed to have carried the Codex into Germany, and it is not improbable that he had the Codex with him when he was martyred in Frisia in 755.

The Codex bears certain explanatory notes from the hand of Boniface.

It is preserved at Fulda. It has been published and accurately described by E. Reinke, Marbourg, 1868.

THE CODEX TOLETANUS contains all the books of both Testaments, except Baruch. It is written in Gothic capital characters, hence it is sometimes called the Gothic Codex. It was used in the Sixtine and Clementine correction of the Vulgate. Its date is placed in the eighth century. It is the present property of the Metropolitan Church of Toledo.

THE CODEX CAVENSIS is a MS of Jeromes Vulgate, the property of the Abbey of La Cava, near Salerno. It consists of 303 leaves, in three columns of 54 and 55 lines. The titles and prologues are in uncial characters; the body of the text is in minuscule Roman characters. M. Berger advances the theory that the Codex is a production of the Visigoths of Spain, in the ninth century, if not of the end of the eighth. It contains all the books of both Testaments.

THE CODEX FOROIULIENSIS of the sixth century, formerly contained the four Gospels, but now is mutilated in Mark.

THE CODEX OTTOBONIANUS contains the Octateuch complete.

THE CODEX PAULINUS or CAROLINUS, and THE CODEX STATIANUS or VALLICELLIANUS of the ninth century, contain all the books of both Testaments of the recension of Alcuin. They were much prized by Sirleti and others in the emendation of the Vulgate.

After the invention of printing in the fifteenth century, the first book ever printed was the Vulgate printed at Mainz, in 1450. From that time up to the close of the century, great activity was exercised in the printing of the Latin Vulgate, and more than a hundred different editions were printed in that period.

But little critical care was bestowed on these early editions, and the best MSS were not employed, so that they are of no critical worth.

The Dominican Castellanus issued an edition at Venice in 1506, in which he printed some marginal readings, collected principally from other printed editions. The first real critical edition of the Vulgate text was the Complutensian, whose text was excellent for that time.

After the rise of protestantism, the protestants threw off all reverence for the Vulgate. They changed its readings at will, and made for themselves new editions from the original texts.

The Dominican Sanctes Pagninus (†1541) and Cajetan made new Latin versions. Augustine Steuchus, and Isidore Clarius, revised the text of the Vulgate in conformity with the original texts. Hittorp endeavored, in his edition of Cologne in 1530, to restore the text of Jerome to its original purity.

Robert Etienne collected at Paris a considerable number of codices and spent upwards of twenty years, from 1528 to 1548 and beyond, in emending the text of the Vulgate. His labors were profitable to the study of the text, but he unwisely inserted certain of Calvins annotations in some of his editions, and drew upon his work the censure of the University of Paris. The best of Etiennes editions is that of 1540, and the faculty were unwise in extending their censure to this excellent text, wherein was naught of Calvinism or other error.








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