Vetus Latina and the origins of the Latin Bible

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Thomas Johann Bauer is the Director of the Vetus Latina-Institute Beuron, and he is responsible for the Beuron Vetus Latina, the most complete edition of the remains and witnesses of the oldest Latin translation(s) of the Bible.

Vetus Latina (Versio) or Old Latin (Version) is the collective name for all forms of the Latin text of the Bible that differ from the Vulgate and originated prior to Jerome. After the Vulgate finally had become the common text of the Latin Bible in the 8th century, there was no longer any interest in the Vetus Latina. So only few manuscripts are available that preserve parts of the Vetus Latina (4th to 13th century). Many of the manuscripts are fragments, some palimpsests. The text of the Vetus Latina is also preserved in biblical quotations in the writings of the Latin Fathers and other ancient Christian writers. Further traces of the Vetus Latina can be found in the liturgical traditions of the Latin church.

The rediscovery of the Vetus Latina started in the 16th century. First attempts to collect and publish the remains of the Vetus Latina, however, were insufficient, until Pierre Sabatier, a Benedictine of the French Congregation of St. Maur, published the three volumes of his diligent and thorough edition (1739–1749). The discovery of new manuscripts and further research in the second half of the 19th century showed that a new, more complete edition was needed. Josef Denk, a Roman Catholic priest in Munich, failed to provide a revised and augmented edition in the early 20th century. His materials were transferred to the Benedictine Archabbey of Beuron. There, an institute was established for research on the Vetus Latina in 1945, and Fr. Bonifatius Fischer OSB laid down the principles of an edition that is supposed to contain all the surviving evidence and present the different forms and the development of the text of the Vetus Latina. The Beuron edition currently includes about half of the books of the Bible.

The Vetus Latina in its different forms (not the Vulgate) represents the Bible of the Latin Fathers and ancient Christian writers and is, therefore, an important tool for the study and edition of their writings and for research on the history of Christian theology. Having been the most widely read and studied Latin Bible text until the early middle ages, the Vetus Latina had a significant influence on the cultural history of the Western world, including its vernacular languages.

Thomas Johann Bauer currently prepares in cooperation with Annette Weissenrieder, University Halle-Wittenberg, the Edition of the remains and witnesses of the Vetus Latina of the Gospel according to Luke.

For further current information on the Institute and the edition can be found on vetus-latina.deand also on Twitter