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While the Covenant of God was restricted to the Jewish race, the Hebrew and Septuagint texts sufficed for the world. But when the Message of Christ spread abroad through the nations there arose a need for other versions of Scripture.

Among these old versions, one of the most important is the old Latin version commonly called the VETUS ITALA.

The origin of this version is involved in obscurity, and like many questions of its kind, furnishes a theme for many different learned conjectures. We shall be content to briefly set forth the most probable data.

The language in which the message of Christ was first presented to the Roman world, was Greek. Sufficient evidence warrants the conclusion that the liturgical language of Italy for the first two centuries was Greek. De Rossi believes that it was not till toward the close of the third century that Greek was superseded by Latin in the Western Church. But in Pro-Consular Africa, though the language of the masses was Punic, the liturgical language must have been Latin from the earliest times. This has led many to assign Africa as the place of origin of the Itala. Wiseman, Hug, Maier, Hagen, Lehir, Himpel and Cornely support such opinion. Reithmayr, Gams and Kaulen place the origin of the version in Italy. The supporters of the first opinion allege that the version would originate where it was needed, and it would be assigning too late a date to the version, to place it in the epoch of the decline of the Greek language in the West. They say, moreover, that the diction of the Vetus Itala, is like to that of Tertullian. Against this it may be urged that Greek never was the language of the masses in Italy, and that the low, humble diction of the Vetus Itala shows that it was not the work of savants; and it bears evidence that it was especially intended for the humbler classes, and was most probably made by men of limited literary ability. Its Latinity is exceedingly barbarous, so that Arnobius felt called upon to defend it against the ridicule of the pagans. This very fact proves that it was not made by the principal men in the Church, but by private individuals for private use, while Greek held the post of the authentic Scripture of the Church. Moreover, the barbarisms of the Vetus Itala, are by no means simply Africanisms, but are found in all the low Latin of the first centuries. It seems that if the edition were made in Africa, where Latin was the liturgical language, as they contend, it would be made by the chief men of the Church, who certainly could write better Latin than the text of the Vetus Itala. We believe, therefore, that in this question, which does not admit of a certain answer, the greater weight of probability stands for Italy as the place of origin of the first Latin translation. Regarding the mode of its origin, it seems quite certain that it was the work of many private individuals. St. Augustine, a most competent judge in this matter, declares the manner in which the early translations were made:

For the translations of the Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek can be counted, but the Latin translators are out of all number. For in the early days of the faith, every man who happened to get his hands upon a Greek manuscript, and who thought he had any knowledge, were it never so little, of the two languages, ventured upon the work of translation. (Enchirid. of Christ. Doct. Bk. II. XI.)

It is evident that the numerous translators did not translate the whole Bible, but certain books, so that there were many different translations of the several books made by different authors. Jerome complains bitterly of these numerous translators: With the Latins there are as many different versions as there are codices, and every one arbitrarily adds or takes away what he pleases. (Hier. Praef. in Josue.)

In this multiplicity of versions of the different books it soon resulted that the whole Bible existed in Latin with considerable diversity in the different codices. It must have been also that some of the books were more faithfully translated than others. The next step seems to have been that the churches collected these various translations of the individual books into complete catalogues of Scripture. Here, also, diversity resulted, for the different churches collected different versions, and the works of the librarii dormitantes and the imperiti emendatores, was continued. Such was the condition of the Latin text when Jerome took it up and revised it according to the Greek. Now, among the various complete versions thus brought together, Augustine designates one as the Italian version: Now among the translations themselves the Italian is to be preferred to the others, for it keeps closer to the words, without prejudice to clearness of expression. (op. cit. 15.) It is certain, therefore, that in Augustines time, out of the various translations of the individual books, there had resulted several complete versions, among which, in his judgment, the Vetus Itala was pre-eminent. It is probable that a beginning was made to translate the Scriptures into Latin even in the Apostolic age. As in that age intense activity was manifested in all things that pertained to religion, without doubt several translations of the different books were soon in existence. It is quite probable that one of these complete versions, at a very early age, obtained a place of eminence in the churches of Italy; perhaps it was in a certain sense authorized by the authorities in those churches. Thus it came to be termed the Itala, and, as Jerome called it the old in in contradistinction to his version, it thus became known as the Old Latin Version.

Its language was ruder than the ordinary Latin of the period. It coined many new words, adopted many Greek words and idioms, and confounded genders, declinations, and conjugations.

The condition of the Latin text in the beginning of the fourth century was deplorable. Innumerable codices existed widely differing from each other. Translators, correctors, and transcribers had rendered the text in a great measure uncertain.

To remedy this evil Pope Damasus (†384), commissioned St. Jerome to revise the Latin text. Jerome began his labors at Rome in 383, and first revised the Psalter juxta septuaginta interpretes, licet cursim, magna tamen ex parte. This emendation is called the Roman Psalter. It was immediately adopted in liturgical use at Rome, and remained in use in the churches of Italy, till the time of St. Pius V. (†1572). The same year he also corrected the Gospels, Evangelia ad Graecam fidem revocavit. The norm of Jerome in this emendation was to depart as little as possible from the usual reading; therefore, ita calamo temperavit ut, his tantum quæ sensum videbantur mutare correctis, reliqua manere pateretur ut fuerant. (Hier. Praef. in Evang.) We find no prefaces of Jerome, relating to the other books of the New Testament, for which cause, some have doubted whether he extended this emendation beyond the Gospels. As he speaks in several places in his writings of his emendation of the New Testament, and declares that he restored the New Testament to the purity of the Greek, it is highly probable that he revised the whole New Testament.

When Damasus died in 384, Jerome returned to the East, and, happening upon the Hexaplar Text of Origen, at Cæsarea, he made from that text a second emendation of the Psalter, retaining Origens diacritic signs. This emendation was immediately received into liturgical use in the churches of Gaul; hence, it came to be called the Gallican Psalter. It gradually came into use in other churches, and St. Pius V. authorized it for the text of the Roman Breviary. An exception was made in the case of the Psalm called the Invitatorium, 94 of the Vulgate, which was retained from the Roman Psalter. The Vatican Basilica, the Duomo of Milan, and the Chapel of the Doges of Venice, by special privilege, retained in their liturgy the Roman Psalter.

The Roman Psalter is also retained in the Roman Missal. The Psalterium Gallicanum is placed in the Vulgate. St. Jerome next revised Job by the Hexaplar text, which revision was received with much favor by St. Augustine. We are certain from Jeromes prefaces that he emended in the same manner Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles and Chronicles.

It is probable that Jerome also corrected, at this time and in this manner, the remaining books of the Old Testament, though explicit data are wanting to prove it.

Jerome soon after entered upon the greatest work of his life, the translation of the protocanonical books of the Old Testament, from the original Hebrew.

Of this great version we shall treat in a later chapter. Suffice it to say here, that forth from the sixth century, the great translation of Jerome displaced the Vetus Itala, so that the greater part of this old version perished. Certain portions of it are preserved in the Vulgate, and in the writings of the Fathers. The New Testament of the Vetus Itala as emended by Jerome, the second emendation of the Psalter, the books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I. and II., Maccabees, and the deuterocanonical parts of Esther and Daniel, are retained from the Vetus Itala in the Vulgate.

Various collections have been made of the other fragments of the Vetus Itala from codices and works of Fathers. Flaminius Nobilius and Agellius were the first to collect and publish these fragments in 1588. Since that time fragments have been collected and published by Martianay, Thomas Hearne, Sabatier, Blanchini; and in more recent times by Vercellone, Ranke, Haupt, and Muenter.

The Codices of the Old Latin version are designated by minuscule Italic and Greek letters the most important of the New Testament are:

a. CODEX VERCELLENSIS, at Vercelli. A tradition asserts that this was written by Bishop Eusebius of Vercelli, who died in 370. Other scholars place it much later.

b. COD VERONENSIS of the IV. or V. century.

c. COD. COLBERTINUS at Paris (Lat. 254) of the XII. century.

d. COD. BEZÆ of the VI. century, the Latin parallel of Cod. D.

e. COD. PALATINUS of IV. or V. century at Vienna (Pal. 1185).

f. COD. BRIXIANUS of the VI. century at Brescia.

ff. COD. CORBEIENSIS I. of the VIII. or IX. century at St. Petersburg.

ff. COD. CORBEIENSIS II of the VI. century at Paris. Both these formerly belonged to the monastery of Corbey, near Amiens.

g. COD. SANGERMANENSIS I. of the IX. century now at Paris (Lat. 11, 553).

g. COD. Sangermanensis II. of the X. century at Paris. (Lat., 13, 169).

h. COD. CLAROMONTANUS of the IV. or V. century now in the Vatican (Lat. 7, 223).

i. COD. VINDOBONENSIS of the VII. century at Vienna (Lat. 1, 235).

j. COD. SARETIANUS of the V. century. discovered in 1872 in the church of Sarezzano near Tortona. It is being collated at Rome.

k. COD. BOBBIENSIS of the V. or VI. century in the National Library at Turin.

THE CODEX BOBBIENSIS is more ancient than any of these. It belongs to the National Library of Turin; it is designated in the Latin Apparatus Criticus by the minuscule letter k.

The Codex forms a quarto volume of 96 leaves of fine parchment. The leaves measure 185 millimeters by 105. The pages contain one column of 14 lines. The script is uncial, without ornament. Its date is placed in the fifth century; and it must thus be considered as one of the most ancient of the New Testament. Traces of two correctors are recognizable in the text. One of these was contemporary with the original scribe; the other more modern, is believed from the Irish characters used to be S. Columban.

The Codex in its present state only contains the following fragments of Matthew and Mark; Math. 1:1 to 3:10; 4:2 to 14:17; 15:26–30; Mark 8:8–11, 14–16, and from 8:19 to 16:9.

It is estimated that the MS. originally consisted of 415 leaves. The first 256 leaves are lost. The fragment that remains is believed to be a portion of the 33d cahier; the following 20 are lost. It originally contained only the Gospels, written in the following order: John, Luke, Mark, Matthew. This order also obtains in the Codex Monacensis X of the Gospels.

A modern note that Tischendorf read on the Codex, but which has since disappeared, made known that the Codex, according to tradition was one that St. Columban used to carry in his wallet. St. Columban was born about the year 543, in Leinster. In 613 he passed the Alps, and founded at a short distance from Piacenza, the monastery of Bobbio, where he died in 615. The Irish pilgrims were wont to carry the Scriptures in leathern wallets, sacculi pellicei, and the celebrated Irish Bible known as the Book of Armagh is enclosed in its leathern case. The identification of the Codex Bobbiensis with St. Columban is a possible hypothesis but not an established fact. After the Renaissance, the MSS of Bobbio were distributed in the great libraries of Europe, and this Codex found its resting place at Turin. It was edited by Fleck in 1837; by Tischendorf in 1847; and by Wordsworth and Sanday in 1886.

The Latin versions before the time of Jerome can be reduced to three groups: 1.—The African, conformable to the citations of Scripture of St. Cyprian; 2.—The European, which circulated in Western Europe during the fourth century; 3.—The Italian, whose use is represented by St. Augustine. The Codex of Bobbio is a faithful exemplar of the African text. See Codex Bobbiensis in Vigouroux, Dictionnaire de la Bible.

l. COD. Rhedigeranus of the VII. century in the Rhedigeran Library at Breslau.

m. This letter indicates fragments extracted by Carinal Mai from the Liber de divinis scripturis ascribed to St. Augustine.

n. FRAGMENTA SANGALLENSIA of the V. or VI. century in the Stiftsbibliothek at St. Gall.

o. Another fragment at St. Gall, perhaps of the VII. century.

p. A fragment at St. Gall perhaps of the VIII. century.

q. COD. MONACENSIS of the VII. century, at Munich (Lat. 6, 224).

r. COD. USSERIANUS I. of the VII. century. formerly belonging to Ussher, now at Trinity College, Dublin.

r. COD. USSERIANUS II. of the IX. or X. cent. also at Trinity College, Dublin.

s. FRAGMENTA AMBROSIANA of the VI. century, in the Ambrosian Library at Milan.

t. FRAGMENTA BERNENSIA of the V. century, palimpsest, at Berne.

v. FRAG. VIND. of the VII. century at Vienna.

aur. COD. AUREUS of the VII. or VIII. century now at Stockholm.

z. COD. SANGALLENSIS the interlinear Latin of COD. D.

Besides these there are many fragments of the several books of the New Testament.

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