The Vulgate is the most famous name given to the Latin version of the Holy Bible which is a translation attributed to Jerome who was appointed by Pope Damasus I in 382 AD in order to make a revision of the old Latin translation.
Before Jerome, since the number of Latin speaking Christians grew, the Bible was translated to Latin. This helped the Christians of the time to understand the Bible better and it is believed that the first Latin translation was completed by 200 AD though no manuscripts of this era are traceable.
The first Latin manuscript was created in North Africa presuming that the church in North Africa was Latin speaking from the beginning when compared to the predominantly Greek speaking churches in Europe and Asia.
Towards the 13th century the revision came to be known as `versio vulgate’, which is the `commonly used translation’ and eventually it became the definitive as well as the officially promulgated Latin version of the Holy Bible of the Catholic Church.
Jerome Commissioned by Pope Damasus I
Pope Damasus I had commissioned Jerome to produce one standard Latin text since there were several different Latin versions of the Bible with different forms of text. He wanted the church to have one standard version in order to promote a universal doctrine and Jerome completed the translation by 400 AD.
manuscripts that were available and at the same time he also began revising the Old Testament using Septuagint – a Greek version of the Old Testament.
He also translated the Old Testament to Latin using the Hebrew text which he did without ecclesiastical sanction. The current Vulgate comprises of elements that belong to every period of its development which include:
An unrevised Old Latin text of the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 & 2 Maccabees and Baruch
An old Latin form of the Psalter, which was corrected by Jerome from the Septuagint
Jerome’s free translation of the books of Job and Judith
Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew Old Testament excluding the Psalter
An Old Latin revision of the Gospels from Greek manuscripts
An old Latin New Testament which was revised.
Vulgate – First Translation of the Old Testament
After the death of the Pope, Jerome who was the Pope’s secretary made his base in Bethlehem and produced a new version of the Psalms, which was translated from the Hexaplar revision of the Septuagint though from 390 to 405 AD he translated afresh, all 39 books in the Hebrew Bible with a third version of the Psalms that survived in a few Vulgate manuscript.
This new translation of the Psalms was known as `iuxta Hebraeos’ by him, though it was not used in the Vulgate and the translations of the other 38 books were used. The Vulgate is credited as the first translation of the Old Testament in Latin directly from the Hebrew Tanakh instead of the Greek Septuagint.
As Jerome completed the translation of each book of the Bible, he also recorded his comments and observations with other scholars in an extensive correspondence where they were subsequently collected and appended as prologues to the Vulgate text for the books where they exist.