Continuing to Look at Translations of the Bible–the Vulgate

The next major translation occurred during the Roman Empire. Since Rome was the dominant power, Latin translations came into use all over the empire. They were done informally and arose independently, differing from one another.

These differences set the stage for the translation into Latin called the Vulgate. By the way, this term simply means common or commonly accepted. A man named Jerome, born about the year 345, had studied Latin and Greek. He nearly died with a severe fever and had a dream in which God challenged him for not being a sincere Christian. As a result, he resolved to devote the rest of his life to the study of the Scriptures. For several years he lived among Syrian hermits and began to learn Hebrew. He eventually served under the Bishop at Rome when there was an obvious need to create a single, official Latin translation.

It took many years, but Jerome completed both the Old and New Testaments by 350 A.D. His translation was a huge improvement because the other, older Latin translations have been based on the Septuagint. But Jerome went back to the original Hebrew for his Old Testament translation.

The Vulgate reigned as the Bible of Western Europe for 1000 years. When at the end of the Middle Ages demand for the knowledge of Scripture increased dramatically, it was the Vulgate which was first translated into languages of the people. The first printed Bible (the Gutenberg Bible) was a beautiful Latin Bible.

Many words used in English translations today are due to the Latin Vulgate – congregation, consecration, conversion, exhortation, justification, ministry, sanctification, testament, Calvary. Eventually the Vulgate was made the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, and it remains so today.