Monthly Archives: August 2006

Loue al therfore, pray for al

I’ve just finished a first draft of an updating of the Preface to the original publication of the Douay-Rheims Old Testament of 1609. It’s much shorter than the Preface for the New Testament which I posted yesterday, but it’s still interesting.

Eventually, I plan to get the page numbers in and notes showing which of the original words I’ve replaced with others. It’s a work in progress.

I think this Preface is quite a bit more moving in some parts than the other. The faith of the authors is much clearer, and is much more to the forefront than in the New Testament Preface which focused so much more on academic matters of textual criticism and so on. Lest we forget, at the time this Preface was being written, people were dying for their faith. More specifically, they were being killed for their faith. Christians were warring with Christians, specifically as Christians, and Europe was a wreck. Many people are familiar with the perspective of the Reformers. This Preface and the New Testament Preface show us the other side of the coin.

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For it is truth that vve seeke for, and Gods honour

In response to the flurry of English translations and New Testament textual criticism in a recently Protestantized late sixteenth century Europe, a certain group of very well-educated English-speaking Roman Catholics, sadly in exile from their home country for the sake of their religion, produced a translation into English of the Latin Vulgate, relatively recently proclaimed at the Council of Trent as the authoritative Latin Bible, essentially the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. The New Testament was published at Rheims in 1582, and the Old Testament at Douai in 1610, “By Lavrence Kellam, at the signe of the holie Lambe.”

Most people are familiar with this Bible in the form it took under the capable hand of Bishop Challoner in the late eighteenth century, or even the last revision of it as the Confraternity Bible of the mid-twentieth century. Typically, however, reprints of these versions do not include the original prefaces of the translators, just as they don’t include the extensive and numerous notes. The sixteenth century English orthography, wild spelling, peculiar punctuation, and rambling syntax all combine to make the original almost entirely unreadable these days, removing this extremely important piece of English Catholic history from accessibility.

I’ve just edited the preface to make it more easily readable. It’s now roughly at the level of late eighteenth century English, which people are familiar enough with through standard editions of Shakespeare and the King James Bible (the editions of both of which with which most are familiar were established in that time period). So, basically, there are some thees and thous and, yea, some odd sentence that passeth, but it’s now a good site better than the original, let me tell you.

Lo, a link to said Preface, if you’re interested. I intend to reformat the page later, but the text is done. Reading it, I think you’ll be surprised, as I was, at the depth of knowledge on the side of these Catholics regarding textual criticism and the value of the Vulgate for such. Their interaction with the Protestants (“The Adversaries”) is fascinating. It’s really a remarkable document, and should be more widely known. So here it is, and hopefully it will be. Enjoy!

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Words of Hope in God

Let him who reads the Bible know that the letter is the body that contains the spirit. Without the letter, which is the body, the spirit cannot be understood. But if, while reading the letter you cannot attain to its spirit, then pray, saying: “Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread.” Pray until you understand, and when you do, go to the Fathers and ancients to see whether it is the Spirit of God or no, and do not preach it until you have so proved it. Remember how deserving of awe is the Divine Word you receive in Holy Communion. If a particle falls from the priest’s hands, all present are thunderstruck, and give place that the Divine particle may be searched for and restored to the paten, for the Eucharist is the Body of Christ. “Eucharist” signifies grace, and the Gospel is also called grace. Thus, though you understand the Gospel, you may have let fall some particle, and you must ask God to show it to you.

Saint Speraindeo, Abbot and Martyr from among the Mozarabic Christians, teacher to St Eulogius. Justo Perez de Urbel, A Saint Under Moslem Rule, translated from the Spanish by a Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester England (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1937), pp 51-52.

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Halfway Between Awe and Love

Moses, who instructs all men
      with his celestial writings,
He, the master of the Hebrews,
      has instructed us in his teaching—
the Law, which constitutes
      a very treasure house of revelations,
wherein is revealed
      the tale of the Garden—
described by things visible,
      but glorious for what lies hidden,
spoken of in few words,
      yet wondrous with its many plants.

      Praise to Your righteousness
      which exalts those who prove victorious

I took my stand halfway
      between awe and love;
a yearning for Paradise
      invited me to explore it,
but awe at its majesty
      restrained me from my search.
With wisdom, however,
      I have reconciled the two;
I revered what lay hidden
      and meditated on what was revealed.
The aim of my search was to gain profit
      the aim of my silence was to find succor.

Joyfully did I embark
      on the tale of Paradise—
a tale that is short to read
      but rich to explore.
My tongue read the story’s outward narrative,
while my intellect took wing
      and soared upward in awe
as it perceived the splendor of Paradise—
      not indeed as it really is,
but insofar as humanity
      is granted to comprehend it.

St Ephrem the Syrian, beginning of Hymn 1 of the Hymns On Paradise, translated by Sebastian Brock

St Ephrem provides exactly what I need right now, and quite regularly need: a refresher in the wonderment of Scripture. In so often traversing the great and terrible Deserta Academica, I experience a distinctly dessicating effect in that particular respect, all its wells being full of dust, it seems, all its paths leading in every direction, arriving everywhere and thus nowhere. Now is the time for a refreshing stay by an ever-flowing spring, in an oasis full of every fruit of the Spirit, in a garden about a Garden. Perfect.

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Truth…limps along upon the arm of time

Look beneath. For ordinarily things are far other than they seem; and the dullness which does not seek to pass beyond the rind, is due to be increasingly disillusioned if it gets deeper into the interior. The false is forever the lead in everything, continually dragging along the fools: the truth brings up the rear, is late, and limps along upon the arm of time, wherefore the man of insight will save for it at least the half of that faculty, which our great mother has wisely given us twice. Deceit is superficial, wherefore the superficial are taken in at once. The man of substance lives safely within himself, to be better treasured of his colleagues, and of those who know.

Gracian’s Manual, § 146

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Vulgate Prologues

For convenience, here are links to all my recent posts with translations of Vulgate Prefaces, including the post on St Jerome’s notes to the Additions to Esther.

Jerome’s Prologue to Genesis
Jerome’s Prologue to Joshua
Jerome’s “Helmeted Introduction” to Kings
Jerome’s Prologue to Chronicles
Jerome’s Prologue to Ezra
Jerome’s Prologue to Tobias
Jerome’s Prologue to Judith
Jerome’s Prologue to Esther
Jerome’s Notes to the Additions to Esther
Jerome’s Prologue to Job
Jerome’s Prologue to Psalms (LXX)
Jerome’s Prologue to Psalms (Hebrew)
Jerome’s Prologue to the Books of Solomon
Jerome’s Prologue to Isaiah
Jerome’s Prologue to Jeremiah
Jerome’s Prologue to Ezekiel
Jerome’s Prologue to Daniel
Jerome’s Prologue to the Twelve Prophets
Jerome’s Prologue to the Gospels
Vulgate Prologue to Paul’s Letters

I’ve created a final draft page of all the prologues, including an introduction, notes, and line numbers based on the Latin text to aid in using these translations as reference.

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Vulgate Prologue to Paul’s Letters

I have a few articles to look up regarding the authorship of this letter, so I’ll end up posting more on that at a later date. Essentially, there are three contenders: St Jerome, the British heretic Pelagius, and some unknown author. Since patristic scholarship in the early part of the twentieth century had an unfortunate tendency to pin the names of heretics to many various works not otherwise demonstrably theirs or even heretical, I don’t, at this point, consider Pelagius a likely candidate, but rather a faddish suggestion given rather too much attention. These days some idiot would likely suggest St Mary Magdalene. Also, having just worked through seventeen authentic prologues of St Jerome, it is definite that this prologue to Paul’s letters are from someone else, judging by the style and even the vocabulary. It’s not as rambling as St Jerome’s own letters, which are constructed in a much more oral manner (likely because he was actually simply dictating to a scribe most of the time), and certain words of the vocabulary require meanings that are later than the more classical, antiquarian usage of St Jerome. So I opt for an unknown author. Nevertheless, it is a very interesting preface, especially his description of why the letters of Paul are arranged as they are: they are addressed to progressively more accomplished Christians, and apparently in reverse chronological order. How interesting!

I hope everyone has enjoyed my translation of these Vulgate prefaces. I certainly enjoyed the discovery involved in learning what they say, having not read most of them before, and the definite education in Latin they provide. I hope they’re found to be useful. This is the last preface included in Weber’s Biblia Sacra Vulgata, Fourth Edition, which means this first stage of my translation of the Vulgate Prefaces is done with this. Now that I have them all finished in a first draft, I’ll be editing them for consistency, style, etc, and post them all on a single web page. So if anyone wants to use them in a convenient form, with notes and such things, just wait about a week or so. In the meantime, I’ll post links to the blog posts with all the prefaces, which I’m rather surprised to have finished in only three weeks, even with some breaks. Enjoy!

[See also the final draft version of this translation, on this page]



First is asked, for what reason after the Gospels, which are a supplement of the Law and in which are collected for us examples and precepts of living abundantly, the Apostle wanted to send these letters to individual churches. And it was seen to have been for this reason, that, as is known, he strengthened the firstborn of the Church from new arising heresies, so that he cut off present and arising errors and also afterward excluded future questions by the example of the Prophets, who after the publishing of the Law of Moses, in which were collected all the commandments of God, nevertheless still by its revived teaching the people always restrained (their) sins, and because of the example in the books they indeed also left a memorial for us.

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