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Latin Versions of the Holy Scriptures.

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The extensive use of the Latin as a learned language, and the great influence which the translations in it have had upon all subsequent versions, render them highly important. The various recensions or editions, however, need to be carefully distinguished and critically examined in order to show their real value and bearing.

I. Ante-Hieronymian Versions. The early and extensive diffusion of Christianity among the Latin-speaking people renders it probable that means would be used to supply the Christians who used that language with versions of the Scriptures in their own tongue, especially those resident in countries where the Greek language was less generally known. That from an early period such means were used cannot be doubted; but the information which has reached us is so scanty, that we are not in circumstances to arrive at certainty on many points of interest connected with the subject. It is even matter of debate whether there were several translations, or one translation variously corrupted or emended.

1. The first writer by whom reference is supposed to be made to a Latin version is Tertullian, in the words "Sciamus plane non sic esse in Graeco authentico, quomodo in usum exiit per duarum syllabarum aut callidam aut simplicem eversionem," etc. (De Monoganmia, 100:11). It is possible that Tertullian has in view here a version in use among the African Christians; but it is by no means certain that such is his meaning, for he may refer merely to the manner in which the passage in question had come to be usually cited, without intending to intimate that it was so written in any formal version. The probability that such is really his meaning is greatly heightened when we compare his language here with similar expressions in other parts of his writings. Thus, speaking of the Logos, he says, "Hanc Graeci Λόγον dicunt, quo vocabulo etiam sermonen appellamus. Ideoque in usu est nostrorum per simplicitatem interpretationis, Sermonem, dicere, in primordio apud Deum esse" (Adv. Prax. c. 5), where he seems to have in view simply the colloquial usage of his Christian compatriots (comp. also Adv. Marc. c. 4 and c. 9). The testimony of Augustine is more precise. He says (De Doct. Christ. 2:11): "Qui Scripturas in Hebraea lingua in Graecam verterunt numerari possunt, Latini autem interpretes nullo modo. Ut enim cuiquam primis fidei temporibus in manus venit codex Graecus et aliquantulum facultatis sibi utriusque linguas Latine videbatur, ausus est interpretari."

A few sentences before he speaks of the "Latinorum interpretum infinita varietas;" and he proceeds to give instances how one of these versions elucidates another, and to speak of the defects attaching to all of them. This testimony not only clearly establishes the fact of the existence of Latin versions in the beginning of the 4th century, but goes to prove that these were numerous; for that Augustine has in view a number of interpreters, and not merely a variety of recensions, is evident from his statement in this same connection, "In ipsis interpretationibus Itala caeteris praeferatur, nam est verborum tenacior cum perspicuitate sententiae;" and from his speaking elsewhere (Cont. Faustuem, 2:2) of "codices aliarum regionum." On the other hand, the testimony of Hilary is in favor of only one Latin version: "Latina translatio dum virtutem dicti ignorat magnam intulit obscuritatem, non discernens ambigui sermonis proprietatem" (in Psalm 158). On the same side is the declaration of Jerome: "Si Latinis exemplaribus fides est adhibenda respondebunt Quibus? tot sunt enim exemplaria pene quot codices." That by "exemplaria" here Jerome refers to what would now be called editions or recensions, is evident from the nature of his statement, for it cannot be supposed that he intends to say that almost every codex presented a distinct translationn; and this is rendered still more so by what follows: "Si autem veritas est qutarenda de pluribus, cur non ad Graecam originem revertentes ea quae vel a vitiosis interpretibus male reddita, vel a prasumptoribus imperitis emendata perversius, vel a librariis dormitantibus addita sunt aut mutata corrigamus" (Prief. in Evang. Ad. Danmas.). Elsewhere (Praef. in Josuam) he says also: "Apud Latinos tot exemplaria quot codices et unusquisque pro suo arbitrio vel addidit vel subtraxit quod ei visum est;" where there can be no doubt as to his meaning. Jerome frequently uses the expression communis or vulgata editio, but by this he intends the Sept., or the old Latin translation of the Sept. In reference to the Latin N.T. he uses the expressions Latinus interpres, Lutini codices, or simply in Latino.

The statement of Augustine, that of these interpretations the Itala was preferred, has been supposed to indicate decidedly the existence of several national Latin versions known to him. For this title can only indicate a translation prepared in Italy, or used by the Italian churches, and presupposes the existence of other versions, which might be known as the Africana, the Hispanica, etc. On the other hand, however, if there was a version known by this name, it seems strange that it should never be mentioned again by Augustine or by any one else; and further, it is remarkable, that to designate an Italian version he should use the word "Itala" and not "Italica." This has led to the suspicion that this word is an error, and different conjectural emendations have been proposed. Bentley suggested that for itala . . . . nam there should be read illa . . . . quae, a singularly infelicitous emendation, as Hug has shown (Introd. E.T. page 267). As Augustine elsewhere speaks of "codicibus ecclesiasticis interpretationis usitatae" (De consensu Evang. 2:66), it has been suggested by Potter that for Itala should be read usitata, the received reading having probably arisen from the omission, in the first instance, of the recurrent syllablus between interpretationibus and usitata (thus INTEREPRETATIONIBUSITATA), and then the change of the unmeaning itata into itala. Of this emendation many have approved, and if it be adopted, the testimony of Augustine in this passage, as for a plurality of Latin versions, will be greatly enfeebled, for by the versio usitata he would doubtless intend the version in common use as opposed to the unauthorized interpretation of private individuals. As tending to confirm this view of his meaning, it has been observed that it is extremely improbable that if there was an acknowledged versio Africana, the Christians in Africa would be found preferring to that a version made for the use of the Italians. A new suggestion relating to this passage has been offered by Reuss (Gesch. d. Schr. d. N.T. page 436), "Is it not possible," he asks, "that Aulgustine may refer, in this passage (written about the year 397), to a work of Jerome, viz., his version of Origen's Hexapla, which Augustine, in one of his letters (Ep. 28, tom. 2, page 61) to Jerome prefers to his making a new translation from the original? At any rate," he adds, "it is remarkable that Isidore of Spain (Etymnol. 6:5) characterizes the translation of Jerome (the last) as verborumn tenaciorem et perspicuitate sententiae clariorem. May one venture to suggest that he has taken this phrase from Augustine, regarding him as using it of Jerome." To this, however, it may be replied, that whilst it is not improbable that Isidore took the passage from Augustine, he may have done so without regarding Augustine's words as referring to any work of Jerome. That they do so refer seems to us very improbable.

An effort has been made to obtain a decision for this question from a collation of the extant remains of the ancient Latin texts, but without success. Eichhorn (Esinleit. ins. N.T. 4:337 sq.) has compared several passages found in the writings of the early Latin fathers with certain extant codices of the early Latin text, and, from the resemblance which these bear to each other, he argues that they have all been taken from one common translation. In this conclusion many scholars have concurred both before and since the time of Eichhorn (Wetstein, Hody, Semler, Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf), but others have, on the other side, pointed to serious differences of rendering, which, in their judgment, indicate the existence of distinct translations (Michaelis, Hug, De Wette, Bleek, etc.).

As the evidence stands, it seems impossible either to hold to the existence of only one accredited Latin version before the time of Jerome, the corruption of which from various causes, is sufficient to account for all the discrepancies to be found in the extant remains, or to maintain with certainty that there were several independent versions, the work of persons in different parts of the Latin Church. There is, however, a third supposition which may be advanced: There may at an early period, and probably in Africa, have been made a translation of the Bible from the Greek into Latin, and this may have formed the groundwork of other translations, intended to be amended versions of the original. In this case a certain fundamental similarity would mark all these translations along with considerable variety; but this variety would be traceable, not to undesigned corruption, but to purposed attempts, more or less skillfully directed, to produce a more adequate version. This supposition meets all the facts of the case, and so far has high probability in its favor. Proceeding upon it, we may further suppose that these different revised or amended translations might have their origin in different parts of the western world; and in this case the meaning of Augustine's statement in the passage (Conf. Faustunz, 2:2) where he speaks of "codices aliarum regionum" becomes manifest. In this case, also, if the reading Italoa be retained (and most critics incline to retain it) in the famous passage above cited, it will indicate the revision prepared in Italy and used by the Italian churches, of which it is natural to suppose that it would be both more exact and more polished than the others, and with which Augustine would become familiar during his residence in Rome and Milan. (See ITALIC VERSION).

II. Of this ancient Latin version in its various amended forms, all of which it has become customary to include under the general designation Itala, we have remains partly in the citations of the Latin fathers, partly in the Graeco-Latin codices, and partly in special MSS. A copious collection from the first of these sources (which yet admits of being augmented) has been supplied by Sabatier, Bibliorume SS. Latinae Vers. antiguae seu Vetus Itacla, etc., quaecunque reperiri potuerunt (Remis, 1743, 3 volumes fol., ed. 2,1749). For the Apocalypse we depend entirely on this source, namely, the quotations made by Primasius. The Graeco-Latin codices are the Cantcabricdgian or Codex Beza, the Laudian, the Claromonztane, and the Boernerian. (See MANUSCRIPTS). Of the known special codices containing portions of the N.T., the following have been printed or collated:

1. Cod. Vercellensis, written apparently by Eusebius the Martyr in the 4th century: it embraces the four Gospels, though with frequent lacunac. It is mentioned by Montfaticon in his Diariumn Italicumn, page 445; and it has been edited by Bianchinus (Bianchini), in Evangeliarium quadruplex Latince vers. antiq. seu Vet. Italice, etc. (Romans 1749, 4 volumes, fol.); previously, and still more carefully, by J.A. Irici, SS. Evangeliorum Cod. S. Eusebii smanu exaratus, ex autoegrapho ad unguemn exhibitus, etc. (Meclil. 1748, 2 parts, 4to). In this codex the Gospels are arranged in the order Matthew, John, Luke [Lucanus], Mark. As a specimen of the style of this codex, and the imperfect state in which some parts of it are, we give the following passage (John 4:48-52) from the edition of Irici:

AIT ERGO AD ILLV

ET IBAT JAM

HIS NISI SIG

IPSO DESCEN

NA ET PRODIG

DENTE SERVI

- VIDERITIS

OCCVRER

NON - -

ILLI ET NVNT

TIS DICIT ILLI

VERVNT EI

REG S DME

CENTES QVO

L - - - - - E

NIAM FILIVIS

- - - -

TVVS VIVIT

- - - - -

INTER GA

- - -

BAT H

AIT HIS- ADE

- -

FILIVS TVVS

MELIVS HABVIT

VIVIT ET CRE

ET DIXERVNT

DIDIT HOMO

HERI HORA SEP

VERBO QVOD

TIMA LIQVID

DIXIT ILLI IHS

ILLVM FEBRIS

 

2. Cod. Veronensis, a MS. of the 4th or 5th century, in the library at Verona, containing the Gospels, but with many lacunae; printed by Bianchini.

3. Cod. Brixionus, of about the 6th century, at Brixen, in the Tyrol, containing the Gospels, with the exception of some parts of Mark; printed by Bianchini.

4. Cod. Corbeijensis, a very ancient MS., from which Ma,tianay edited Matthew's Gospel, the Epistle of James, etc. (Par. 1695). The gospel appears also in Bianchini's work, and in the appendix to Calmet's commentary on the Apocalypse. There is another MS. of the old Latin text at, Corbey, from which various readings have been collected on Matthew, Mark, and Luke by Bianchini, and on the four Gospels (partially) by Sabatier.

5. Cod. Colbertinus, of the 11th century, in the Parisian library; edited entire by Sabatier.

6. Cod. Palatinus, of the 5th century, in the library at Vienna, containing about the whole of Luke and John, and the greater part of Matthew and Mark; edited by Tischendorf (Leipz. 1847, 4to).

7. Cod. Bobbiensis, of the 5th century, now at Turiln, formerly in the monastery of Bobbio, containing portions of Matthew and Mark; fragments of Acts 23:27-28; and of the Epistle of James, James 1:1-5; James 3:13-18; James 4:1-2; James 5:19-20; 1 Peter 1:1-12; edited by Fleck, in Anecdota Sacra (Lips. 1537), and more fully by Tischendorf, in the Wiener Jahrbucher, 1847.

8. Cod. Clarmontanus, of the 4th or 5th century, now in the Vatican library, containing the four Gospels, Matthew in an ante-hieronymian version (wanting 1:1-3, 15; 14:33-18:12), the other three according to the Vulgate; collated by Sabatier, edited by Mai, Scriptorr. Vett. Nova Collectio a Vatican. codd. edita, 3:257 sq.

9. Fragments of Mark and Luke, contained in a MS. of about the 5th century, belonging to the imperial library at Vienna, have been printed bly Alter, in Paulus, Repertor. fü r Bibl. und Morgen und Litter. 3:115-170, and in Paulus, Memorabilien, 7:58-96.

10. A MS. of the 7th century, now at Breslau, containing the synoptic Gospels, waith lacunae and part of John's Gospel; described by Dr. D. Schulz, De Cod. 4 Evangg. Biblioth. Rhedigerianae (Bresl. 1814).

11. A fragment of Luke (17-21) from a palimpsest of the 6th century, in Ceriani, Monumenta Sac. et Prof. praesertim Bibl. Amabrosianme (Mil. 1861), I, 1:1-8.

12. Cardinal Mai has given, in his Spicilegium Romanum, 9:61-86, various readings from a very ancient codex of the Speculumi Aulyustini, and he has since edited the Speculumn entire in his PP. Nov. Bibl.; comp. Tregelles, page 239.

13, 14, 15. In the monastery of St. Gall are three codices, the first of the 4th or 5th century, containing fragments of Matthew; the second a Gallic MS. of the 7th century, containing Mark 16:14-20; the third an Irish MS. of the 7th or Sth century, containing John 11:14-44.

16. Cod. Monacensis, of the 6th century, containing the four Gospels, with lacunce; transcribed by Tischendorf.

17. A fragment containing Matthew 13:13-25, on purple vellum, of the 5th century, in the library at Dublin, printed in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 3:374, by Dr. Todd.

18. Cod. Guelferbytanus, of the 6th century, containing some fragments of Romans 11:15, published by Knittel (q.v.) in 1762, and more correctly by Tischendorf, Anecdot. Sac. et Prof. page 153.

19. Fragments of the Pauline epistles discovered by Schmeller at Munich, and transcribed by Tischendorf, who has described them in the Deutsche Zeitschriftfiir Christ. Wissenschaft for 1857, No. 8.

Besides these, there are several MSS. known to exist chiefly in the British libraries. Some of these are noticed in Bentley's Critica Sacra, edited by Ellis, 1862, and in Westwood's Palcesographia Sacra Pictoria. See also Betham, Antiquarian Researches; Petrie, On the Ecclesiastical Antiq. of Ireland; O'Connor, Rerum Hibern. Scripto res.

These codices palmographists and critics profess to be able to allot to different recensions or revisions. Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, and 17 they pronounce to be African; 3, 6, 12, 16, Italian; and 14, 15, Irish; though Tischendorf expresses doubt as to the African character of No. 9, and the Italian of No. 6.

Of the O.T. only a few fragments have been discovered in special codices. These have been printed by Sabatier (lib. cit.), by Vercellone (Variae Lectiones Vulg. Lat. Bibliorum, 2 volumes, Romans 1860-62), by Munter (Miscell. Hafn. 1821), by Mone (Libri Paslimpsesti, Carlsruhe, 1855), by Ranke (Fragmenta Hosea Amt. Mich. Vien. 1856, 1858), by Fritzsche (Liber Judicuen, Turici. 1867), and anonymously (Biblioth. Ashburnham, Loud. 1868). The MSS. of the Vulgate preserve the old Latin version of those books of the Apocrypha which were not retranslated by Jerome, and the Psalter. Our principal source of information, however, is in the citations made by the Latin fathers from the version in their hands.

From these various sources we possess, in the old Latin version of the O.T., the Psalter, Esther, and some of the apocryphal books entire, the rest only in fragments; whilst of the N.T. we possess nearly the whole. a. The value of these remains in regard to the criticism of the sacred text is very considerable. They afford important aid in determining the condition of the Greek text in the early centuries. This, which Bentley was the first to perceive, or at least to announce, has been fully recognized by Lachmann, Tregelles, and Tischendorf, though they have not all followed it out with equal discretion (see Tischendorf's strictures, Proleg. in ed. Sept. et N.T. page 103, 242).

The general character of the Itala is close, literal adherence to the original, so as often to transgress the genius of the Latin language; its phraseology being marked by solecisms and improprieties which may be due to its having been originally produced either in a region remote from the center of classical culture, or among the more illiterate of the community. Thus Σωτήρ is rendered by salutaris, διαφόρειν by supesponere (e.g. "quanto ergo superponit homo ab ove," Matthew 12:12), προελπίζειν by prcesperare, κοσμοκράτορες by zmunditenentes, etc.; and we have such constructions as "stellam quam viderant in orientem" (Matthew 2:9); "ut ego veniens adorem ei" (Matthew 2:8); "qui autem audientes" (Matthew 2:9); "pressuris quibus sustiletis" (2 Thessalonians 1:4); "habitavit in Capharnaum maritimam" (Matthew 4:13); "terra Naphthalim viam maris" (Matthew 4:15); "verbum audit et continuo cum gautdio accipit eum" (Matthew 13:20); "dominantur eorum, principantur eorum" (Matthew 20:25), etc. It must be borne in mind, however, that the current text was exposed to innumerable corruptions, and that we can hardly, from the specimens that have come down to us, form any very accurate judgment of the state in which it was at first. One can hardly suppose that by any Latin-speaking people, the following version, which is that presented by the Colbertine MS. of Colossians 2:18-19, could have been accepted as idiomatic, or even intelligible: "emo vos convincat volens in humilitate et religione angelorum, quae vidit ambulans, sine causa inflatus sensu carnis sute, et non tenens caput Christum, ex quo omne corpus connexum et conductione subministratum et provectum crescit in incrementum Dei." If this be (to borrow the remark of Eichhorn, from whose Einleitunlg ins N.T. 4:354, we have taken these specimens) "verborum tenax," where is the "perspicuitas sententi.e" of which Augustine speaks?

II. Hieronoymians or Vulgate Version. (See VULGATE). III. Laster Latin Versiolns. Both before and since the invention of printing attempts have been made to present, through the medium of Latin, a more correct version of the original text than that found in the ancient Latin versions. Of these we have space only for a bare catalogue. (See notices of the authors under their names in this work.)

1. Adam Eston, a monk of Norwich, and cardinal (died 1397), seems to have been the first who thought of a new version; he translated the O.T., with the exception of the Psalter, from the Hebrew; his work is lost (Hody, page 440; Le Long-Masch 2:3, page 432).

2. Giannozzo Manetti, who died in 1459, began a translation of the Bible, of which he finished only the Psalms and the N.T.; this is lost (Tiraboschi, Storia della Lett. Ital. 6:2, page 109 sq.).

3. Erasmus translated the N. Test., and published the translation along with the Greek text (Basil. 1516, fol.).

4. Th. Beza issued his translation of the N.T. in 1556; it appeared along with the Vulgate version. Four other editions followed during the author's lifetime, and these present the Greek text as well as the Vulgate and Beza's own translation; many other editions have since followed. Beza aimed at presenting a just rendering of the original, without departing more than necessary from the, Vulgate. His renderings are sometimes affected by his theological views.

5. Sanctes Pagninus, a learned Dominican from Lucca, produced a translation of the whole Bible (Lugdun. 1528, 4to, and Colon. 1541, fol.). Later editions of this work, with considerable alterations, appeared: one, edited by the famous Mich. Servetus, under the name of Villanovanus (Lugd. 1542); another, revised and edited by R. Stephen (Paris, 1557, 2 volumes, folio; with a new title, 1577). This latter has been often reprinted. The version of Arias Montanus, printed in the Antwerp, Paris, and London polyglots, is a revision of this version.

6. Cardinal Cajetan employed two Hebrew scholars, a Jew and a Christian, to supply him with a literal version of the Old Test. This they accomplished, and the work appeared in parts (Lugd. 1639, 5 volumes, folio). The N.T., translated on the same principle of strict literality, appeared earlier (Ven. 1530, 1531, 2 volumes, folio).

7. Sebastian Mü nster added to his edition of the Hebrew Scriptures a Latin translation (Basle, 1534-35, and 1546, 2 volumes, folio). This translation is faithful without being slavishly literal, and is executed in clear and correct Latin. Portions of it have been published separately.

8. The Zurich version, begun by Leo Judae, and completed by Bibliander and others (1543, folio, and in 4to and 8vo in 1544). This version is much esteemed for its ease and fluency; it is correct, but somewhat paraphrastic. It has frequently been reprinted, there is one edition by R. Stephen (Paris, 1545).

9. Sebastian Castellio produced, in what he intended to be purely classical Latin, a translation of the O. and N.T. (Basil. 1551, again 1573, and at Leipzic, 1738).

10. The version of Junius and Tremellius appeared at Frankfort in parts between 1575 and 1579, and in a collected form in 1579, 2 volumes, folio. Tremellius took the principal part in this work, his son-in-law Junius rather assisting him than sharing the work with him. Tremellius translated the N. Test. from the Syriac, and this, along with Beza's translation, appeared in an edition of Tremellius's Bible, published at London in 1585. The translation of Piscator is only an amended edition of that of Tremellius.

11. Thomas Malvenda, a Spanish Dominican, engaged in a "nova ex Hebraos translatio," which he did not live to finish. What he accomplished was published along with his commentaries (Lugdun. 1650, 5 volumes, folio); but the extreme barbarism of his style has caused his labors to pass into oblivion.

12. Cocceius has given a new translation of most of the Biblical books in his commentaries, Opera Omniea (tom. 1-6, Amsterdam, 1701).

13. Sebastian Schmid executed a translation of the O. and N. Test., which appeared after his death (Argentor. 1696, 4to); it has been repeatedly reprinted, and is esteemed for its scholarly exactness, though in some cases its adherence to the original is over close.

14. The version of Jean le Clerc (Clericus) is found along with his commentaries; it appeared in portions from 1693 to 1731.

15. Charles Fr. Houbigant issued a translation of the O.T. and the Apocrypha along with his edition of the Hebrew text (Paris, 1753, 4 volumes, folio).

16. A new translation of the O.T. was undertaken by J.A. Dathe; it appeared between 1773 and 1789. At one time much admired, this version has of late ceased perhaps to receive the attention to which it is entitled.

17-19. Versions of the Gospels by Ch. Wilh. Thalemann (Berl. 1781); of the Epistles by Godf. Sigismund Jaspis (Lipsise, 1793-97. 2 volumes); and of the whole N.T. by H. Godf. Reichard (Lips, 1799), belong to the school of Castellio.

20. H.A. Schott and F. Winzer commenced a translation of the Bible, of which only the first volume has appeared, containing the Pentateuch (Alton. et Lipsit, 1816). Schott has also issued a translation of the N.T., appended to his edition of the Greek text (Lips. 1805). This has passed into four editions, of which the last (1839) was superintended by Baumgarten- Crusius.

21. Rosenmuller (in his Scholia in V.T. Lips. 1788 sq.). Translations of the N.T. have also been issued by F.A. Ad. Naebe (Lips. 1831) and Ad. Goeschen (Lips. 1832).

See Carpzov, Crit. Sacr. page 707 sq.; Fritzsche, art. Vulgata, in Herzog's Encyk.; Bible of every Land, page 210, etc.

IV. Literature. Simon, Hist. Crit. des Versions du N. Test. (1690); Hody, De Bibliorum textibus originalibus, versionibus Graecis et Latina Vulgata, Libri 4 (Oxford, 1705, folio); Martianav, Hieronymni Opp. (Paris, 1693); Bianchinus, Vindiciae Canonis SS. Vulg. Lat. ed. (Rome, 1740); Riegler, Krit. Gesch. der Vulgata (Sulzb. 1820); L. van EIss, Pragmatisch-Krit. Gesch. der Vulgata (Tib. 1824); Wiseman, Two Letters on 1 John 5:7, reprinted in his Essays, volume 1; Diestel, Gesch. d. Alten Test. (Jena, 1869); Rorsch, in the Zeitschrtfur d. hist. Theol. 1867, 1869, 1870. See also the Introductions of Eichhorn, Michaelis, Hug, De Wette, Havernick, Bleek, etc.; Davidson, Biblical Criticism; Reuss, Gesch. der Heil. Schr. N.T. sec. 448-457; Darling, Cyclopaedia, page 80. (See VERSIONS).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Latin Versions of the Holy Scriptures.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/l/latin-versions-of-the-holy-scriptures.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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