Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Old Latin VSS. As Latin came to be adopted as the language of the West, the need for a Latin Bible arose. It appears that the first attempts to render the Bible into Latin were made in the Roman province of Africa. During the third century, several Old Latin vss circulated not only in North Africa but also in Europe. No codex of the entire Bible is extant, but a goodly number of mss of the Gospels and Acts are available. The rest of the nt is not represented that well. Representing the African family, there is Codex Palatinus, a fifth-century ms of the Gospels, now at Trent. More important is Codex Bobiensis, now at Turin, containing about half of Matthew and Mark, representing a text that goes back to the second century.

Of the European family, the most outstanding is the fourth-century Codex Vercellensis, now at Vercelli in northern Italy. It is the most important ms of the Gospels in Old Latin next to Bobiensis. Codex Veronensis, stored at Verona, Italy, is a fifth-century codex, written in silver and occasionally gold letters on purple parchment. Codex Colbertinus comes from the twelfth century but has the Gospels in Old Latin. One of the largest mss in the world is appropriately called ‘Gigas’ (giant). Its pages are 20 × 36 inches. It was in Prague until it was moved to Stockholm in 1648. It contains the whole Bible in Latin, but only Acts and the book of Revelation are in Old Latin; the other books are from the Vulgate.

The Old Latin Bible was printed in several volumes at Oxford, beginning in 1883, and another series was begun in Rome in 1912. At the moment, an ambitious project is under way at the Monastery of Beuron in Württemberg, Germany, to publish the most trustworthy Old Latin Bible to date.

The Latin Vulgate. Several forms of the Old Latin vs were in circulation in the fourth century. In a.d. 382, Pope Damasus asked the scholar Jerome to bring some order out of the chaos. Jerome began his work in Rome but later moved to Bethlehem. His revised Latin vs was not immediately accepted and for some time Old Latin and Vulgate vss circulated side by side. Eventually, however, Jerome’s version won out and got the name ‘Vulgate’ (in the sense of ‘common’ or ‘popular’). More than eight thousand mss of the Vulgate are extant today.

It was inevitable, in the course of time, that Jerome’s original Vulgate should be corrupted by errors in transmission. Several attempts were made, therefore, to purify the Vulgate text. About a.d. 800, Charlemagne engaged the famous British monk Alcuin to carry out a revision. In the thirteenth century, scholars at the University of Paris revised it, and this became the basis for the first printed Bible, produced by Gutenberg in 1456. When the Council of Trent decreed (1546) that the Latin Vulgate was to be regarded as the authoritative version, it was quickly recognized that the Vulgate had no one standard form and required a thorough revision once again. Out of such efforts emerged the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate in 1592, which became a kind of ‘authorized version’ of the Roman Catholic church. A critical edition of the nt was published at Oxford beginning in 1890. Since 1907, Benedictine scholars have been working on a revision of the Latin Vulgate.

Among the most trustworthy mss of the Vulgate are Codex Amiatinus (Florence), Codex Cavensis (Salerno), Codex Dublinensis (Book of Armagh, at Dublin), Codex Fuldensis (Fulda), the Lindisfarne Gospels (British Museum), Codex Sangallensis (St. Gall), and others.


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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