What is the Latin Vulgate?

What is the Latin Vulgate? June 4, 2010

Jerome: Saint AND major brainiac

(To understand the “Okay, Fine:” part of this post’s title, read yesterday’s “What Am I Going To Do With You People?“)

By the early fourth century A.D. there was circulating throughout the young Christian church in Europe and North Africa countless versions of the Bible translated into Latin, by then widely spoken throughout the Roman Empire. Jerome (known to us today as Saint Jerome), the man assigned by Pope Damasus to come up with one definitive Latin Bible, wrote,

There are almost as many forms of the text of the Bible as there are copies of it.

So the (major linguistic genius) Jerome got busy endeavoring to, as he put it, to

… correct the mistakes by inaccurate translators and the blundering alterations of confident but ignorant critics, and further, all that has been inserted or changed by copyists more asleep than awake.

“Copyists more asleep than awake”! Don’t you love it? Jerome was my kind of mega-intense linguistic genius, for sure.

The result of Jerome’s truly Herculean task, finished about 400 A.D., was the masterpiece known as the Latin Vulgate (as in “vulgar,” as in the talk them common folk talked). The Vulgate was, to say the least, smashingly successful: it proved to be for the West/Rome what the Septuagint had been for the East/Alexandria. For hundreds of years, the Vulgate was the only Bible universally used throughout European Christendom, and it served as the authoritative base for every Western European vernacular translation of the Bible that came after it.


Ah, you knew I couldn’t stay mad at you for long.

But don’t make me do a whole series on Notable Figures from the Old Testament.

Cuz I’ll do it. I’ll come back there.


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