The Latin Vulgate Bible

Just another slice of history for those who think the “Bible” is truly and most certainly God’s Genuine Word …

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8 thoughts on “The Latin Vulgate Bible

  1. Shouldn’t that title be “The Vulgate (Latin) Bible?’ A sit is it is a bit redundant. And I find the objection of the Greek churchmen objecting to going back to the Hebrew for OT texts a bit interesting. Half of the NT was originally drafted in Greek (the rest probably in Aramaic) but we do not now have any of the originals. It would be a fascinating thing to see, if someone found a cache of original texts (albeit we couldn’t identify them as original, just earlier than the bits and pieces we have previously found). Oh, the hair pulling and teeth gnashing we would hear when they found out that Mary was not a “virgin” but a “maid,” etc.

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  2. While Siriusbizness has done an admirable job, I’d like to supplement his post, if I may, with a bit of additional information regarding the interval between Jerome’s work and the KJV:

    On the Scottish Island of Iona, in 563 CE, a man named Columba started a Bible College. For the next 700 years, this was the source of much of the non-Catholic, evangelical Bible teaching through those centuries of the Dark and Middle Ages. The students of this college were called “Culdees”, which means “certain stranger,” possibly taken from Genesis, 37:15, where Joe was searching for his brothers and, “a certain man” found him and gave him directions.. The Culdees were a secret society, and the remnant of the true Christian faith was kept alive by these men during the many centuries that led up to the Protestant Reformation. Remember this, it will be important later —

    By 382 CE, the early church father, Jerome. had translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. As also mentioned, his translation became known as the “Latin Vulgate”, (“Vulgate” meaning “vulgar” or “common”). He put a note next to the Apocrypha Books, stating that he did not know whether or not they were inspired scripture, or just Jewish historical writings which accompanied the Old Testament.

    By 500 AD the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages. Just one century later, by 600 AD, it has been restricted to only one language: the Latin Vulgate. The only organized and recognized church at that time in history was the Catholic Church of Rome, and they refused to allow the scripture to be available in any language other than Latin. Those in possession of non-Latin scriptures would be executed!

    This was because only the priests were educated to understand Latin, which gave the church ultimate power, a power to rule without question, a power to deceive,a power to extort money from the masses. Nobody could question their “Biblical” teachings, because few people of the time could read at all, and still fewer, other than priests, could read Latin. The church capitalized on this forced-ignorance through the 1,000 year period from 400 AD to 1,400 AD knows as the “Dark Ages,” during which time, Europe stagnated.

    During this same period, at least from 800 CE onward, the Islamic nations encouraged the sciences and the arts, and their civilization thrived and went on, not only to occupy much of the Levant, including Jerusalem, but a significant portion os Europe, as well, for hundreds of years.
    Despite Papal edicts, over the next 700 years there were numerous limited translations, of which Caedmon’s rendering of Bible stories into Anglo Saxon in 680 CE, and King Alfred had parts of the Bible translated into the vernacular in 995 CE are worthy of mention.

    In the late 1300’s, the secret society of Culdees chose John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teachings of the organized Church which he believed to be contrary to the Bible, to lead the world out of the Dark Ages. Wycliffe has been called the “Morning Star of the Reformation”. That Protestant Reformation was about one thing: getting the Word of God back into the hands of the masses in their own native language, so that the corrupt church would be exposed and, for them, the message of salvation in Christ alone, by scripture alone, through faith alone, would be proclaimed again.

    The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s CE by Wycliffe. With the help of his followers, called the Lollards, and his assistant Purvey, and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe’s death, he ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

    One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire. The last words of John Hus were that, “in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.

    Almost exactly 100 years later, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous “95 Theses of Contention” (a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of the Roman Catholic Church) into the church door at Wittenberg. The prophecy of Hus had come true! Martin Luther went on to be the first person to translate and publish the Bible in the commonly-spoken dialect of the German people; a translation more appealing than previous German Biblical translations.

    Foxe’s Book of Martyrs records that in that same year, 1517, seven people were burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for the crime of teaching their children to say the Lord’s Prayer in English rather than Latin.

    Though there can be no doubt that Luther exhibited great courage in opposing the full force and extended reach of the Vatican, one must be a little conservative in the lavishment of praise of his work. Luther also helped spread anti-Jewish sentiments with his preaching and books such as his “The Jews and their lies,” all supported through his interpretation of the Bible. One should not forget that Hitler (a Christian and great admirer of Luther, also German) and his holocaust probably could not have occurred without Luther’s influence and the support of Bible believing German Christians.

    Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450’s, and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg’s Bibles were surprisingly beautiful, as each leaf Gutenberg printed was later colorfully hand-illuminated. Born as “Johann Gensfleisch” (John Gooseflesh), he preferred to be known as “Johann Gutenberg” (John Beautiful Mountain). Ironically, though he had created what many believe to be the most important invention in history, Gutenberg was a victim of unscrupulous business associates who took control of his business and left him in poverty. Nevertheless, the invention of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This was essential to the success of the Reformation.

    Due to the original Greek having hundreds of custom symbols, even with the advent of printing around 1450 CE, it took until 1516 CE for the Greek to be widely available, in a special reduced Greek character set.

    In 1514 CE, Printer John Froben, of Basle, engaged Desiderius Erasmus as translator, who produced a dual Greek/Latin version and the Greek New Testament was printed for the first time by 1516, based on only five Greek manuscripts, the oldest of which dated only as far back as the twelfth century. With minor revisions, Erasmus’ Greek New Testament came to be known as the Textus Receptus or the “received texts.” It was hardly that, however, as the edition was full of errors, and not traceable to particular Greek originals. It was an instant success, reprinted with corrections several times, and led to nearly 200 successors, all suffering from errors to a certain degree between 1516 and 1550. The damage was done, the world was flooded with erroneous Greek text.

    By 1522 CE, the Polyglot Bible was published. The Old Testament was in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin and the New Testament in Latin and Greek. Erasmus used the Polyglot to revise later editions of his New Testament.

    In 1525-35, William Tyndale produced his English New Testament, the first printed English Bible, based mainly on the Greek. It did not have the shortcomings of Wycliffe, and was a landmark in method and style. Tyndale made use of the Polyglot in his translation on the Old Testament into English which became the Myles Coverdale’s Bible, the first complete printed Bible, published in 1535. Tyndale spent his last days in imprisonment and exile. He was hunted by the establishment, but his enemies finally caught him and burned him at the stake in 1537, but because of his celebrity, they generously strangled him first.

    Now, within a very short time, because of the political circumstances in England, and the reformation on the continent, a move was made by the Vatican towards acceptance, though not in time to save William Tyndale. 1537 saw the Thomas Matthew, a revision of Tyndale by John Rogers (80 Books), and 1539 saw the Taverners, a revision of the Matthew. But 1539 was a landmark, as it saw the publishing of the Great Bible, or First Authorized Version. With all 80 books it is often called the Cranmer after that archbishop’s preface to the 2nd edition.

    1550 CE saw the publication of Robert Stephanus’s Textus Recepticus, whose third edition became the standard text, as it started to introduce rigor sadly lacking in previous work. He is credited with devising the chapter and verse delineations used to this day. 1633 CE saw further refinement by Elzevir, and the “final” major edition is the 1873 Oxford edition.

    Work now gathered pace, as did the heat generated by the reformation. The Geneva Bible (1560) was a revision of The Great. It was the first Study Bible, with less than flattering comments about the Catholic Church. It was written by reformers in exile in Geneva, and was supported by Calvin & Knox. It was a full 80 Book Bible, based on the Tyndale Bible, and remained popular for 100 years after the King James Version, especially with Puritans in the United States. It was also notable as the first Bible to have printed verse numbers.

    In 1568 the Bishop’s Bible became the 2nd Authorised Bible, intended to supersede the Great and Geneva. 80 Books, translated by scholarly bishops.

    In 1582 Rome surrendered  its “Latin only” edict, and the preamble to the greatest Bible of them all draws to a close. In 1609-10 the Douay/Rheimes Bible was published, the first Catholic English translation (80 Books), translated from the Vulgate, it became the seed bible for nearly all Catholic Bibles.

    Which brings us to the KJV and presumably, Siriusbizness’ next post —

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    • Arch, thanks for that detailed analysis. Whilst the story of Wycliffe is shocking, I do find it mildly amusing how the Church exhumed his body from the grave and burnt his ashes because he had died too soon to be burnt at the stake.

      What a terrible sin it must be to give the people the Bible in their own language.

      If ever you want a bit of laugh have a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia and the strained efforts they go through to justify the persecution of people who are now generally seen as heroes of the Christian faith.

      In studying Christian history I noted that as a rule the experience of the OT applied to the Christian Church. The officials of the Church would persecute the prophets of their generation whilst lauding the prophets of the previous generations that their predecessors had persecuted. All while claiming they would never do the same thing. Whilst I still had faith, it would puzzle me how God would let things like this happen. Once one looks at it from a purely human level it makes perfect sense.

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      • The officials of the Church would persecute the prophets of their generation whilst lauding the prophets of the previous generations that their predecessors had persecuted.” – I found it interesting, that as I read this, the image leaped to mind of people of my generation condemning today’s music, while venerating the music of my own time.

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      • What a terrible sin it must be to give the people the Bible in their own language.

        “‘Scrutumini scripturas’
        (‘Let us examine the scriptures’)
        These two words have undone the world.”
        — John Selden —
        (1584-1658)

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