The Old Latin Bible

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire in the first centuries after Christ, it became necessary to produce Latin versions of the Bible for those not able to understand the Greek of the New Testament or Septuagint.

The first translations were made by individual Christians for use within their own community. These are known as the Old Latin or Vetus Latina.

Towards the end of the fourth century, Pope Damasus asked the scholar Hieronymus (St. Jerome) to produce a revised version of the Gospels. Along with Jerome's translation of the Old Testament, an anonymous revision of the rest of the New Testament, and a handful of books from other sources, these later became the standard version, the Vulgate.

 The Vulgate took many years to become established as the principal Latin Bible. In the meanwhile, the Old Latin versions continued to be used. Some of these translations are preserved in Bible manuscripts, in the writings of the Church Fathers and in early Christian liturgies.

These texts are of great significance for the history of the early Church and the transmission of the Bible. Most of the Old Latin translations were made from Greek manuscripts which no longer exist. Although the Latin texts have undergone their own process of transmission, the original layer preserves a witness to the Bible, especially the New Testament, which would otherwise be lost to us. The language and history of these documents also provides information on the social background of early Christian communities and the spread of the Church.

This website, online since 2003, provides resources on the Vetus Latina for scholars and students engaged in the study of the early Church and the history of the Bible. A number of these are related to the scholarly edition produced by the Vetus Latina Institute and its collaborators. It also hosts additional material for a monograph on The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its History, Texts, and Manuscripts published by Oxford University Press in 2016 (further information here).


This website is maintained by Hugh Houghton
Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing, University of Birmingham