Old Latin Versions

Translations of the Bible in Latin, antedating the revisory work of Jerome.* Such translation was undertaken for the church in North Africa, Gaul, and N Italy from the second century onward. In time, the work of Jerome ousted the older versions, with the result that the Old Latin is not widely attested in manuscripts. The latest list enumerates 453, among which the largest group (41) represents MSS containing the gospels. Any other part of Scripture has far less attestation in this form. Quotations in Christian writings fill in the resultant lacunae. For some books we have no evidence.

Two main types of text are distinguished, named “African” and “European”; by this it is meant that the attestation of such-and- such a form is derived from quotations in African or European writings, not that particular forms originated in these regions. The distinction is on the basis of “rendering the same basic Greek by different Latin words.” A gradual process of revision is to be seen by which original errors of translation, regional forms of speech, and textual differences are corrected and brought into line with Greek norms. Especially in the earliest strata many Greek words were, however, retained, producing at length such familiar words as “angel,” “deacon,” and “synagogue” in W European tongues. The antecedents of the translations were as a rule Greek (Septuagint in OT), but there may have been recourse to the Hebrew even in the Old Latin period, and in the NT some links with Aramaic traditions or Syriac texts have been discerned. For our knowledge of the Old Latin, the work of Pierre Sabatier* has long been a standard source. Many further advances have led to the establishment of the Vetus Latina Institut, Beuron, Germany, and to the work in progress there. We now possess definitive collections of the material for Genesis, the Catholic epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.