Protestant Bible: A Journey Through Centuries - THE LATIN BIBLE

The British Library tells us: “Codex Amiatinus is the earliest complete Latin Bible. It is one of three giant, single-volume Bibles, made at Wearmouth-Jarrow in the early years of the 8th century. Two of these Bibles were made for the church at Wearmouth and for the church at Jarrow: fragments of one of them survive.”

Monks, carrying one of these three Bibles, were dispatched to Italy (in 716) to present it as a gift to the Shrine of St. Peter the Apostle in Rome. Codex Amiatinus has remained in Italy ever since. Today it is maintained in Florence, at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana.

This image depicts the Frontispiece of Codex Amiatinus, featuring "Ezra the Scribe." Of Ezra, the Codex says (in English translation):  "When the sacred books had been consumed in the fires of war, Ezra repaired the damage." Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


In the 4th Century A.D., the Bishop of Rome wanted to have both the Old and the New Testament translated. Most people in the Roman Empire didn't speak Greek and Hebrew. They spoke Latin.

Knowing he needed a scholar who understood Hebrew and Greek, as well as Latin, the Bishop of Rome (Pope Damasus) gave translating responsibility to his secretary Jerome. (Follow this link to a brief biography of this important church figure.)

Jerome moved to Palestine and worked there as he translated both testaments. Often pictured with a lion (this link takes you to a 1514 engraving by Albrecht Durer), Jerome tamed the animal when (according to legend) he pulled a splinter from its paw.

Before Jerome began to translate the Bible, scholars disagreed over which books to include. Because he had worked so closely with Jewish rabbis, Jerome wanted to follow the canon of the Hebrew Old Testament (also followed, since the Reformation, by protestant Bibles). On the other hand, Jerome's contemporary—Augustine of Hippo—thought the new Latin version should also include the deuterocanonical books (sometimes referred to as the Apocrypha).

Augustine (who wrote the still-popular City of God) won the argument. The decision to include the deuterocanonical books was made by Pope Damasus I and confirmed by the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. Jerome completed his translation in 404; his work was published for the first time in 405 A.D. (Follow this link to a searchable, online edition of the Vulgate.)

Jerome was made a saint by the Catholic Church. (The link takes you to a beautiful painting of St. Jerome by El Greco. Note his hands resting on the Latin Bible.)

Within a century after St. Jerome's translation, there were hundreds of vernacular translations of the Bible. Venerable Bede, England's first historian, reportedly translated a part of the Gospel of John (into Anglo-Saxon). No copies of that survive.

It wasn't long before the Catholic Church ruled that the Vulgate was the only authorized translation. Stunning copies of the Vulgate remain today. The links will take you to a rare bound copy of the Latin Bible used at St. Servaas in Maastricht (the Netherlands) and to one of the few surviving Gutenberg Bibles (the first book ever printed on the famous press).

By the 14th century, scholars wanted to translate the Bible into their own languages so the average person could understand it better. A thousand years had passed since Jerome's translation. Rome no longer ruled the world. People did not speak Latin. But the Catholic church strongly opposed such thinking.

Scholars, and the church, were about to enter an era of intense debate and persecution.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
2 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Jul 12, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"THE LATIN BIBLE" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2002. Feb 23, 2020.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips