Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Latin Vulgate and its English Translations

One thing that I've been thinking about a lot lately is the Latin Vulgate edition of the Holy Bible. What's puzzling to me is why more Catholics don't use a translation of it as their main Bible, the one that they read from regularly; and it's also puzzling why it has seemingly lost so much of its popularity and power within the Catholic Church. The Latin Vulgate is still the official Holy Bible of the Church, and the Council of Trent declared this regarding it:

"Moreover, the same Holy Council ... ordains and declares that the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which, in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputatious, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and so no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it."  (Fourth Session, April 8, 1546).

Yet that is exactly what we see happening all around us in the Church; scholars and laymen alike are either ignoring it, or outright rejecting it. Venerable Pope Pius XII had this to say about the Latin Vulgate in His encyclical on Sacred Scripture, Divino Afflante Spiritu:

"[The Vulgate is shown] to be free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals; so that, as the Church herself testifies and affirms, it may be quoted safely and without fear of error in disputations, in lectures and in preaching..."

So the question is this: The Latin Vulgate is the official Sacred Scripture of the Church, it is absolutely infallible with regard to faith and morals, it cannot under any pretext be rejected, it is absolutely ancient (AD 400), and has been venerated in the Church for over 1500 years... if you are a Catholic of any Rite, particularly a Catholic of the Latin Rite, how could you possibly *not* want to read from this Holy Bible and make it your own for daily use? Sacred Tradition is one of the three legs upon which Holy Mother Church stands, without adhering to it, you cannot legitimately say you are Catholic. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Second Council of Nicaea in AD 787, had this to say about Sacred Tradition:

"If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema."

Likewise, the Second Vatican Council complemented this and expounded upon it in this way:

"Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence."- Dei Verbum, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation

It's clear that the Latin Vulgate is certainly 1500 years of Sacred Tradition, so coupled with the declarations of Trent and Pope Pius XII, the only conceivable reason that I can think of why any faithful Catholic would not make it their Bible and venerate it and be faithful to it, is if they are of a Byzantine Catholic Rite and have as part of their complementary Sacred Tradition the veneration of the Greek Septuagint and the Byzantine Greek New Testament, or some other such case in another Rite with another ancient version of Sacred Scripture. 

I know of two english translations of the Latin Vulgate available for Catholic use: the Douay-Rheims Bible, which can be found online here, and the Confraternity New Testament. Both the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Confraternity New Testament can be purchased as physical Books as well; here, and here respectively.

We have to be careful not to allow any strain of modernism to affect our Faith, our identity, and our beliefs, and so remain faithful to the one Catholic and Universal Church in all ages. Modernism is one reason why so many heterodox or heretical Catholics ignore or reject the Latin Vulgate, and instead advocate or use a Bible based on the Hebrew and Greek texts (originally a Protestant movement, by the way), and also particularly why many esteem new Greek texts for the New Testament that unorthodox scholars have pieced together contrary to the Church's steadfast teaching. I invite you to recall to mind what a wonderful Saint, St. Vincent of Lerins, said regarding what it means to be truly Catholic:

"...he is the true and genuine Catholic who loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ, who esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above the authority, above the regard, above the genius, above the eloquence, above the philosophy, of every man whatsoever; who set light by all of these, and continuing steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that he will believe that, and that only, which he is sure the Catholic Church has held universally and from ancient time; but that whatsoever new and unheard-of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by some one or another, besides that of all, or contrary to that of all the saints, this, he will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted as a trial, being instructed especially by the words of the blessed Apostle Paul, who writes thus in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, 'There must needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you:' as though he should say, This is the reason why the authors of Heresies are not forthwith rooted up by God, namely, that they who are approved may be made manifest; that is, that it maybe apparent of each individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of the Catholic faith."- St. Vincent of Lerins, AD 434

I would also recommend that every faithful Catholic read over this document by Pope Saint Pius X called The Oath Against Modernism. It's so important to realize who you are as a Catholic, and to realize the battle you're involved in, in today's society. May God bless you all!


  1. I think you made a valiant effort in putting forth the old and Vulgate edition of the scriptures as a source of revelation. However, modernism is not the reason for the disembarking of numerous people from the Catholic Church. The reason is that these people want to build a false justification of their sins, and they therefore cling to heresies such as modernism or liberalism. Also, I would like to remind you that all unauthorized vernacular translations of the scriptures are prohibited by the Index Librorum you should make sure that those which you recommend have been authorized. :) I hope to see more along this vein from you! Keep it up!

    1. Thanks for your comment :) I really appreciate your thoughts, especially about sin. That is so very true, sadly...

  2. Very interesting article. The link to the Douay-Rhiems that you gave was to the Challoner Edition which unfortunately is in reality a whole new translation in itself. The 1610 A.D. Douay-Rheims 1635 Print can be read here for free .

    The Challoner/Haydock edition is a very good edition also, though if you compare the two, there are some pretty noticeable differences.

    As for the Latin Vulgate (Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam Clementinam |, what worries me the most is the Nova Vulgata. It seems to be influenced by the Protestant Stuttgart edition. I could understand minor corrections, however, the degree of alteration with the Nova Vulgata is extreme. The part which worries me is the fact that Latin scriptural tradition, which was approved by the Council of Trent, was abandoned. (Further Reading && )

    Again, thanks for the good read.

    Oremus pro invicem,