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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: June 2014

Chapter 4 - The Text of the Medieval Bible


When Jerome was asked by Pope Damasus in 382 c.e. to produce a reliable version of the Latin Gospels and Psalter, he did not interpret this as a request to produce a new translation from the Greek and Hebrew originals. A Latin translation, or, rather, translations (for there were several versions), which later came to be known as the Vetus Latina (the “Old Latin [Bible]”), already existed. Instead, Jerome set out to create a corrected text of this existing Latin Bible, by comparing it to the Greek. Born in 347 in Stridon, in modern-day Slovenia, Jerome was a student of classical rhetoric in Rome. After his conversion to Christianity, he studied for some time in the east, eventually to return to Rome in 382, where he enjoyed the patronage of Pope Damasus. In 385, after falling out with the Roman clergy and the death of Damasus, he took up residence in the Palestine, where he learned Hebrew and redefined himself as a biblical scholar. It was here that he decided to extend his correction project to the entire biblical text. But by 390, he decided that for some Bible books, he might as well start from scratch and translate directly from the original Hebrew. By the time he had finished the project in 404, he had translated most books of the Bible, and this translation formed the basis of the Latin Bible that would be used for most of the Middle Ages.

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An Introduction to the Medieval Bible
  • Online ISBN: 9780511843051
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Suggestions for Further Reading
Bentley, Jerry H.Humanists and Holy Writ: New Testament Scholarship in the Renaissance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.
Berger, Samuel.Histoire de la Vulgate pendant les premiers siècles du moyen âge. Paris: Hachette, 1893. Reprint Hildesheim and New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1976.
Bogaert, Pierre-Marie. “La Bible latine des origines au moyen âge. Aperçu historique, état des questions.” Revue théologique de Louvain 19 (1988): 137–59, 276–314.
Cimosa, Mario, and Buzzetti, Carlo. Guida allo studio della Bibbia Latina, dalla Vetus Latina, alla Vulgata, alla Nova Vulgata. Sussidi Patristici, 14. Roma: Istituto Patristico “Augustinianum”, 2008.
Fischer, Bonifatius. Lateinische Bibelhandschriften im frühen Mittelalter. Vetus Latina: Die Reste der altlateinischen Bibel. Aus der Geschichte der lateinischen Bibel, 11. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1985.
Forme e modelli della tradizione manoscritta della Bibbia. Edited by Cherubini, Paolo. Littera Antiqua, 13. Città del Vaticano: Scuola vaticana di paleografia, diplomatica e archivistica, 2005.
Glunz, Hans Hermann. History of the Vulgate in England from Alcuin to Roger Bacon, Being an Inquiry into the Text of some English Manuscripts of the Vulgate Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933.
Light, Laura. “French Bibles c. 1200–30: A New Look at the Origins of the Paris Bible.” In The Early Medieval Bible. 155–76.
Light, Laura. “The Bible and the Individual.” In The Practice of the Bible. 228–246.
Light, Laura. “The Thirteenth Century and the Paris Bible.” In The New Cambridge History of the Bible. 380–91.
Marsden, Richard. The Text of the Old Testament in Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Quentin, Henri. Mémoire sur l’établissement du texte de la Vulgate. 1ère partie: Octateuque. Collectanea Biblica Latina, 6. Roma: Desclée & Cie., 1922.
Schulz-Flügel, Eva. “The Latin Old Testament Tradition.” In Hebrew Bible / Old Testament. 642–62.
Stummer, Friedrich. Einführung in die Lateinische Bibel. Ein Handbuch für Vorlesungen und Selbstunterricht. Paderborn, 1928.
Tov, Emanuel. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. 2nd rev. ed. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2001.
Van Liere, Frans A. “The Latin Bible, c. 900 to the Council of Trent, 1546.” In The New Cambridge History of the Bible. 93–109.
Würthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament. 2nd ed. Translated by Rhodes, Erroll F.. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.