Amateur Vulgate Project
(Jerome’s Bible as interpreted by a fox)
Welcome to the Amateur Vulgate Project! This is my attempt at rendering St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible into English. My goal is to refresh the Bible; to recapture the excitement, joy and beauty of the message; or at least that it might strike you differently and provoke thought. Above all, I hope to help those I believe have been hurt by erroneous translations.
I am going to post each book of the Bible as its own topic, with each chapter being a post. The first post will be a brief overview of the book and a table of contents to easily jump to a chapter. In this post I will follow that with a Preface discussing more of my views.
Comments are welcome! but not in the translation threads; they’re going to be super-long already. Disagreements, which I anticipate, should go in Serious Discussion.
Introduction to Genesis
“Genesis” is the Greek word for beginning, origin, birth. The book covers first the genesis of the world, and how it came to be as it is; and secondly the genesis of the Hebrew people in the histories of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I incline to the view, after translating some of it, that the first eleven chapters – the mythic cosmogony – were written later and prepended to the historical account of the Patriarchs.
The first five books of the Bible are the Torah, the Law (or Pentateuch, from the Greek for “five scrolls”). They are traditionally ascribed to Moses, and I do believe much of it was originally written at his direction; but amended by later scribes.
Table of Contents
Posting this last so that people won’t have to read it to get to the good stuff.~
I conceived this project in response to the realization that… pretty much all English translations were badly misleading. Initially it was over homosexuality; I looked up Jerome to see how various contested passages were rendered in fourth-century Latin. I was happily surprised, and decided to commit to redoing the entire Bible on that basis. In the process I’ve made some startling discoveries and resolved a lot of my own doubts and anxieties about the Bible.
Disclaimer, I am not yet a professional scholar and my Latin is very rusty. Also translation is not an easy task – even closely related languages do not correspond exactly to each other, and ancient languages tend to be far more flexible in meaning, which perforce makes a modern translation look more definite than the original texts are. However I do feel fairly confident that, with the tools at my disposal, I have made a decent job.
But that’s why it’s “Amateur”! It’s just a project that I want to pursue for my own edification and that of others, especially those burdened by inaccurate translations, in some cases I fear willfully misrepresented.
Why the Vulgate? Because I do know Latin enough to go on; I know very little Greek and no Hebrew. Also I believe that Jerome may have had access to manuscripts now lost to us, so his translation can provide a view that might not be available if one went only by the older Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
The Bible exists in many forms. The Old Testament, or Tanakh, was written in Hebrew; it was translated into Greek in Alexandria in a version known as the “Septuagint” (Latin septuaginta, as it is said to be the work of seventy scholars). The New Testament was written mostly in Greek, although St. Papias testifies that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in “Hebrew” (which could mean Aramaic). All of this was translated into an “Old Latin” version, which Pope Damasus I found unsatisfactory, so he commissioned Jerome to make a new one; which became the Vulgate.
The canon – the books approved as part of Scripture – varies by tradition; Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox all consider different books to be part of the Bible. For now I am going by what is available in my source, but will note which books are considered “apocryphal” by certain denominations.
And finally, I prefer archaic English, so that is how I cast it. It does have its advantages, apart from my personal taste; one being that it allows me to distinguish second person pronouns – between singular and plural, between subject and object, which can be important. However I am not trying to be formal; much of the Bible has a familiar, colloquial tone, and hopefully at least some of the spice and colour of the original text will come through.
In addition to Wiktionary, my main prop for checking the meanings of words, I have been using the following sites:
Vulgate.Org ~ Text of the Vulgate that I am working from. Also has an instructive bit about St. jerome which outlines how difficult translation is. The English translation given is, i believe, the Douay-Rheims.
Kata Biblon ~ For referencing the Greek. Generally very helpful as it provides word for word analysis of meaning, number, case/ conjugation, etc. Though I don’t necessarily trust all their translations as I fear Biblical Greek is treated in a vacuum without reference to the meanings of words in other sources.
Bible Gateway ~ To compare other English translations. I am especially fond of Wycliffe’s, which is the oldest English version I believe they have available.