Bible translations into Latin
The Bible translations into Latin are the versions used in the Western part of the former Roman Empire until the Reformation and still used, along with translations from Latin into the vernacular, in the Roman Catholic Church and particularly in the Latin Rite.
Pre-Christian Latin translations
The large Jewish diaspora in the Second Temple period made use of vernacular translations of the Hebrew Bible; including the Aramaic Targum and Greek Septuagint. Though there is no certain evidence of a pre-Christian Latin translation of the Hebrew Bible, some scholars have suggested that Jewish congregations in Rome and the Western part of the Roman Empire may have used Latin translations of fragments of the Hebrew Bible.
The Vetus Latina, "Old Latin"
The earliest known translations into Latin consist of a number of piecework translations during the early Church period. Collectively, these versions are known as the Vetus Latina and closely follow the Greek Septuagint. The Septuagint was the usual source for these anonymous translators, and they reproduce its variations from the Hebrew Masoretic Text. They were never rendered independently from the Hebrew or Greek; they vary widely in readability and quality, and contain many solecisms in idiom, some by the translators themselves, others from literally translating Greek language idioms into Latin.
The Biblia Vulgata, "Common Bible"
Earlier translations were made mainly obsolete by St. Jerome's Vulgate version of the Bible. Jerome knew Hebrew, and revised and unified the Latin Bibles of the time to bring them into conformity with the Hebrew as he understood it. The liturgical Psalms, however, are often taken from the older Latin bibles. As discussed in the Vulgate article, there are several different editions of the Vulgate, including the Clementine Vulgate (1592), and two major modern revisions; the Stuttgart Vulgate (1969), and the Nova Vulgata (NT 1971, OT 1979). These represent various attempts to either revise or modernise the Vulgate, or to recover Jerome's original text.
Apart from full Old Testaments, there are more versions of the Psalms only, three of them by Jerome, one from the Greek Vulgate, one from the Hexapla, and one from the Hebrew: These are the Versio Romana "Roman version", Versio Gallicana "Gallican version" (the standard), Versio juxta Hebraicum Jerome's Hebrew-based psalter, respectively. Other versions include the Versio ambrosiana "version of Saint Ambrose," Versio Piana "version of Pius XII," and so on. See the main Vulgate article for a comparison of Psalm 94.
Metrical translations of the Psalms 1500–1620
Metrical Latin Bible translations are primarily Psalm paraphrases, or paraphrases of Song of Songs, Lamentations, in Latin verse which appeared in the 16th Century, then abruptly disappeared.
Modern Latin versions
In 1527, Xanthus Pagninus produced his Veteris et Novi Testamenti nova translatio, notable for its literal rendering of the Hebrew. This version was also the first to introduce verse numbers in the New Testament, although the system used here did not become widely adopted; the system used in Robertus Stephanus's Vulgate would later become the standard for dividing the New Testament.
In the Protestant Reformation, several new Latin translations were produced:
- Theodore Beza produced a new Latin version of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha and the New Testament. However, because demand for a Latin Bible among Protestants declined steadily, Beza's translation never achieved wide circulation. Nevertheless Beza's Latin translation, with its many exegetical margin notes, influenced the translation of the famous Geneva Bible.
- Castellio worked on Latin and French.
- Another version was made by John Immanuel Tremellius, an Italian Jew converted to Christianity.
In 1907 Pope Pius X proposed that the Latin text of Saint Jerome be recovered using the principles of Textual criticism as a basis for a new official translation of the Bible into Latin. This revision ultimately led to the Nova Vulgata issued by Pope John Paul II in 1978. This final revision was intended to be a correction to the Vulgate based on the critical Greek and Hebrew edition, while retaining as much as possible of the Vulgate's language.
Comparison of John 3:16 in different Latin versions
|Vulgate||Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret, ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam.|
|Theodore Beza||Ita enim Deus dilexit mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum illum dederit, ut quisquis credit in eum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam.|
|Neo-Vulgate||Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret, ut omnis, qui credit in eum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam aeternam.|
- Michael E. Stone The Literature of the Jewish People in the Period of the Second Temple and the Talmud: (2006) chapter 9 (“The Latin Translations”) by Benjamin Kedar "Traces of Jewish Traditions - Since all indications point to the fact that the OL is not the product of a single effort, the question arises whether strands of pristine translations, or at least early interpretative traditions can be detected in it. ... A priori one may feel entitled to presume that Jewish Bible translations into Latin existed in relatively early times. It had been the custom of the Jews before the period under review to translate biblical books into their vernacular; such translations, sometimes made orally but frequently also written down, were needed for public reading in the synagogue and for the instruction of the young. Indeed, a number of scholars are inclined to believe that the OL has at its base pre-Christian translations made from the Hebrew. The proofs they adduce are, however, far from conclusive. Isolated linguistic or exegetic points of contact with Jewish idioms or targumic renderings do not necessarily prove a direct connection between the ol, or its early sections, and Jewish traditions."
- Helmut Köster Introduction to the New Testament 2 2000 p34 "An early witness for the African text of the Vetus Latina is Codex Palatinus 1 1 85 (siglum "e") from the 5th century, a gospel codex with readings closely related to the quotations in Cyprian and Augustine."
- Gaertner, JA (1956), "Latin verse translations of the psalms 1500–1620", Harvard Theological Rev 49. Includes list: Latin metrical translations of books of the Bible other than the psalms by author and year of f1rst edition (1494–1621);
- Gaertner, J. A Latin verse translations of the psalms 1500-1620. Harvard Theological Rev 49 1956. "A good example of such a buried and forgotten literary genre is offered by the multitude of metrical Bible translations into Latin that appeared during the :6th century and after a hundred years ceased to exist as abruptly as it had..."
- Grant, WL Neo-Latin verse translations of the Bible. Harvard Theological Rev 52 1959
- Hugues Vaganay, Les Traductions du psautier en vers latins au XVie siecle, Freiburg, 1898
- Ole Peter Grell, Robert W. Scribner Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation 2002 p 149 "This did not, however, keep him from working at his Bible translations into Latin and French. In 1553 he was appointed professor of Greek at the university. His material situation improved somewhat, but his life was not be a quiet one."
- Vulgate, Revision of, Catholic Encyclopedia article.
- Novum Testamentum Latine, 1984, "Praefatio in editionem primam".