Versions of the New Testament

Contents: Introduction *Anglo-Saxon *Arabic *Armenian *Coptic:Sahidic, Bohairic,Other Coptic versions *Ethiopic *Georgian *Gothic *Latin: Old Latin,Vulgate * Old ChurchSlavonic *Syriac: Diatessaron,Old Syriac, Peshitta,Philoxenian, Harklean,Palestinian, "Karkaphensian" *Udi (Alban, Alvan) *Other Early Versions


The New Testament was written in Greek. This was certainly the bestlanguage for it to be written in; it was flexible and widely understood.

But not universally understood. In the west, there were many who spokeonly Latin. In the east, some spoke only the Syriac/Aramaic dialects. InEgypt the native language was Coptic. And beyond the borders of the RomanEmpire there were peoples who spoke even stranger languages -- Armenian,Georgian, Ethiopic, Gothic, Slavonic.

In some areas it was the habit to read the scriptures in Greek whetherpeople understood it or not. But eventually someone had the idea of translatingthe scriptures into local dialects (we now call these translations "versions").This was more of an innovation than we realize today; translations of ancientliterature were rare. The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible wasone of the very first. Despite the lack of translations in antiquity,it is effectively certain that first Latin versions were in existence by thelate second century, and that by the fourth there were also versions inSyriac and several of the Coptic dialects. Versions in Armenian andGeorgian followed, and eventually many other languages.

The role of the versions in textual criticism has been much debated.Since they are not in the original language, some people discount thembecause there are variants they simply cannot convey. But others note,correctly, that these versions convey texts from a very early date. Inmany instances the text-types they represent survive very poorly or not atall in Greek.

It is true that the versions often have suffered corruption of theirown in the centuries since their translation. But such variants usuallyare of a nature peculiar to the version, and so can be gotten around. Whenproperly used, the versions are one of the best and leading tools of textualcriticism.

This essay does not attempt to fully spell out the history and limitationsof the versions. These points will briefly be touched on, but the emphasisis on the textual nature of the versions. Those who wish to learn moreabout the history of the versions are advised to consult a reference suchas Bruce M. Metzger's The Early Versions of the New Testament: TheirOrigin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1977).

In the list which follows, the versions are listed in alphabetical order.

An additional note: Of all the articles in this Encyclopedia, apart fromthose which touch on science and theology. this hasbeen among the most controversial. I don't mean that people disagree withthe results particularly; that happens everywhere. But this one seems tomake people most upset. Please note that I am not setting out to belittleany particular version, and except in textual matters, I am not expert onthese versions. I will stand by the statements on the textual affinitiesof the more important versions (Latin, Syriac, Coptic; to a lesser extent,the Armenian, Georgian, and Gothic) insofar as they are correctly incorporatedinto the critical apparatus. For the history and such, I am dependentupon others. If you disagree with the information here, I will try toincorporate suggestions, but there is only so much I can do to makecompletely contradictory claims fit together....


A name used for several translations, made independently andof very different types, used in Britain mostlybefore the Norman Conquest and of interest moreto historians than textual scholars. But since theyare important for the understanding of early Englishliterature (they give us, among other things,important vocabulary references), it seems worthwhileto at least mention them here, while understandingthat what limited text-critical value they have ismostly for Vulgate criticism.

The Lindisfarne Gospels (Wordsworth's Y -- Latin vulgate text with interlinearglosses in the Northumbrian dialect (shown in red highlight). The Latinis from the seventh century; the interlinear is from the tenth. The decorated pagecontaining John 1:1 is shown.

Although Roman Britain was Christian, the Anglo-Saxon invasions ofthe late fifth century effectively wiped out Roman Christianity. And itwould be centuries before Christianity completely took control of the island,because the German invaders immediately split the island into dozens ofsmall states, of which seven survived to become the "Seven Kingdomsof Britain": Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex, Kent, andEast Anglia. To make matters worse, all these kingdoms had slightly differentdialects.

It was in 563 that Saint Columba founded the religious center on Iona,bringing Celtic Christianity back to northern Britain. In 596 Pope Gregorythe Great sent Augustine to Canterbury to return southern Britain to Christ.The two Christian sects were formally reconciled at the Synod of Whitbyin 664. This did not make Britain Christian (and, ironically, it did notbring Ireland into line with Catholic Christianity; that island, now knownfor its Catholicism, was brought back into line with the Catholic churchby the Anglo-Norman invaders who arrived starting in the twelfth centuryduring the reign of Henry II), but the way was at last clear.

The earliest attempts at Anglo-Saxon versions probably date from thisearly period of conflict with paganism, but they have not survived. Norhas the translation of John madeby the Venerable Bede. Alfred the Greatworked at a translation, but itseems never to have been completed. All that is known to have existed isa portion of the psalms, including a detailed (though often fanciful) commentarysaid to have been by Alfred himself. (In this connection it may be worthnoting that Asser, Alfred's biographer, at several points quotes the Biblein Old Latin rather than Vulgate forms.)

Our earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon versions date from probably the tenth century.Several of these are continuous text versions; the most famous of these is probablythe Hatton Gospels, now in the Bodleian; this beautifully-written manuscript isthought to be from the eleventh century. The most common Old English translation,the so-called West Saxon version, is said to exist in half a dozen copies.Other Old English renderings areinterlinear glosses to Latin manuscripts. The interlinears are in several dialects;see the notes on the Lindisfarne Gospels andRushworth Gospels. The earliest glosses are earlier thanthe surviving versions; we see Anglo-Saxon glosses in an eighth century Britishpsalter. But, in that case, only a subset of the words are glossed.

Interlinears also seem to have been more common than continuous-textversions -- e.g. Andrew C. Kimmens, The Stowe Psalter, lists fourteendifferent copies of the Latin Psalms with Anglo-Saxon interlinear texts (althoughsome are only partially glossed); one of these, the "Vespasian Psalter,"is one of the greatest and most beautiful of interlinear manuscripts. (Interestingly,while a dozen of these are in Britain and one ended up in the Morgan Library, onesomehow found its way to Paris.)

In many ways the Anglo-Saxon was better suited to literal Bible translationthan is modern English, since Anglo-Saxon is an inflected language withgreater freedom of word order than modern English. Since, however, allAnglo-Saxon translations are taken from the Latin (unless Bede made somereference to the Greek), they are not generally cited for New Testament textualcriticism. This is proper -- though they perhaps deserve more attention forVulgate criticism; it should be recalled that the early English copies of theVulgate were of very high value, so the translations could well derive fromvaluable originals.

We should note that the term "Anglo-Saxon" is now frowned uponby linguists, who much prefer the term "Old English." I have yetto see this term applied to the early English translations. The name"Anglo-Saxon" seems to be used in the same sense that"Ethiopic" is used for a version that is in a language not properlycalled "Ethiopic": It's a geographic/historical description.

It should be remembered that Old English as a literary language effectively diedwith the Norman Conquest of 1066; Norman French became the language of commerceand law. Old English works, including Bibles, ceased to be copied.

Three centuries later, English again became the general language of England,and it once again became a literary language. But it had changed utterly, transformedfrom Old English into Middle English, with a vocabulary much influenced by Frenchand a grammar dramatically simplified. Ordinary people of Chaucer's day could nomore understand Old English than they could Greek. When John Wycliff and his followersset out to produce English vernacular Bibles, they seem to have made no reference at allto the Anglo-Saxon versions. They simply went back to the Vulgate and translated it again.(To their credit, they do seem to have tried to compare multiple Vulgate manuscripts.But there is no evidence that the manuscripts they used had any value.)


Arabic translations of the New Testament are numerous. They are alsovery diverse. They are believed to have been made from, among others, Greek,Syriac, and Coptic exemplars. Other sources may be possible.

Folio 1 recto of Sinai Arabic 71 (Xth century), Matthew 23:3-15.
Thanks to Jean Valentin

Although there are hints in the records of Arabic versions made beforethe Islamic conquests, the earliest manuscripts seem to date from the ninthcentury. (It has been argued forcefully that Mohammed did not have access toan Arabic translation of the New Testament, since he seems to have had onlyhints of its content, perhaps tainted by Docetism. This strikes me as likely,but the secondary conclusion that no Arabic translation existed in his timedoes not follow.) The oldest dated manuscript of the version (Sinai arab. 151) comesfrom 867 C.E. The translations probably are not morethan a century or two older.

Several of the translations are reported to be very free. In any case,Arabic is a Semitic language (which, like Hebrew, has a consonantal alphabet,leaving room for interpretation of vowels) and frequently cannot transmit the more subtlenuances of Greek grammar. In addition, written Arabic was largely frozenby the Quran, while the spoken language continued to evolve and developregional differences. This makes the Arabic versions somewhat lessvernacular than other translations. This would probably tend to preservethe original readings, but may result in some rather peculiar variants.

The texts of the Arabic versions have not, to this point, been adequatelystudied. Some seem to be purely or primarily Byzantine, but at least someare reported to contain "Cæsarean" readings. Others are saidto be Alexandrian. Still others, with something of an "Old Syriac"cast, may be "Western."

Several late manuscripts preserve an Arabic Diatessaron. The text existsin two forms, but both seem to have been influenced by the Peshitta. Theyare generally regarded as having little value for Diatessaric studies.

It will be obvious that the Arabic versions are overdue for a carefulstudy and classification.


The Armenian translation of the Bible has been called "The Queenof the Versions."

The title is deserved. The Armenian is unique in that its renderingof the New Testament is clear, accurate, and literal -- and at the sametime stylisticly excellent. It also has an interesting underlying text.

The origin of the Armenian version is mysterious. We have some historicaldocuments, but these may raise more questions than they solve.

The most recent summary on the subject, that of Joseph M. Alexanian, statesthat the initial Armenian translation (Arm 1) was made from the Old Syriacin 406-414 C.E. This was followed by a revised translation(Arm 2) made from the Greek after the Council of Ephesus in 431. He suggeststhat further revisions followed.

In assessing Alexanian's claims, one should keep in mind that there areno Armenian manuscripts of this era, and the patristic citations, whileabundant, have not been properly studied or catalogued.

Armenia is strongly linked with Syrian Christianity. The countryturned officially Christian before Constantine, in an era when theonly Christian states were a few Syriac principalities such asEdessa. One would therefore expect the earliest Armenian versions toshow strong signs of Syriac influence.

The signs of Syriac influence exist (among them, manuscripts with3 Corinthians and without Philemon) -- but so do signs of Greek influence.In addition, the text of the Armenian matches neither the extant Old Syriacnor the Peshitta. It appears to be much more closely linked with the "Cæsarean"text. In fact, the Armenian is arguably the best witness to that text.

The history of the Armenian version is closely tied in with the historyof the written Armenian language. After perhaps an unsuccessful attemptby a cleric named Daniel, the Armenian alphabet is reported to have beencreated by Mesrop, the friend and co-worker of the Armenian church leaderSahak. The year is reported to have been 406, and the impetus for the inventionis said to have been the need for a way to record the Armenian Bible. Saidtranslation was finished in the dozen or so years after Mesrop began hiswork.

Despite Alexanian, the basis of the version remains in dispute. Good scholars haveargued both for Syriac and for Greek. There are passages where the wordingseems to argue for a Syriac original -- but others that argue equally forceablyfor a Greek base.

A portion of one column of the famous Armenian MS. Matenadaran2374 (formerly Etchmiadzin 229), dated 989 C.E. Often called theĒjmiacin Gospels. Mark16:8-9 are shown. The famous reference to the presbyter Arist(i)on is highlightedin red.

 At least three explanations are possible for this. One is that the Armenianwas translated from the Greek, but that the translator was intimately familiarwith a Syriac rendering. An alternate proposal is that the Armenian wastranslated in several stages. The earliest stage was probably a translationfrom one or another Old Syriac versions, or perhaps from the Syriac Diatessaron.This was then revised toward the Greek, perhaps from a "Cæsarean"witness. Further revisions may have increased the number of Byzantine readings.Finally, there may have been two separate translations (Conybeare suggeststhat Mesrop translated from the Greek and Sahak from the Syriac) whichwere eventually combined.

The Armenian "Majority Text" has been credited to Nerses ofLambron, who revised the Apocalypse, and perhaps the entire version, onthe basis of the Greek in the twelfth century. This late text, however,has little value; it is noticeably more Byzantine than the early text. It isnoteworthy that the longer ending of Mark does not become common in Armenianmanuscripts until the thirteenth century.Fortunately, the earliest Armenian manuscripts are much older than this;a number date from the ninth century. The oldest dated manuscript comesfrom 887 C.E. (One manuscript claims a date of 602C.E., but this is believed to be a forgery.)

There are a few places where the Armenian renders the Greek rather freely(usually to bring out the sense more clearly); these have been comparedto the Targums, and might possibly be evidence of Syriac influence.

The link between the Armenian and the "Cæsarean" text wasnoticed early in the history of that type; Streeter commented on it, and even Blake (who thoughtthe Armenian to be predominantly Byzantine) believed that it derived froma "Cæsarean" form. The existence of the "Cæsarean"text is now considered questionable, but there is no doubt that the Armeniantestifies to a text which is far removed from the Byzantine, and that itcontains large numbers of Alexandrian readings as well as quite a numberassociated with the "Western" witnesses. The earliest witnessesgenerally either omit "Mark 16:9-20" or have some sort of indicationthat it is doubtful (the manuscript shown here may credit it to the presbyterArist(i)on, though this remark is possibly from a later hand). "John7:53-8:11" is also absent from most early copies.

In the Acts and Epistles, the Armenian continues to display a text whichis not Byzantine but not purely Alexandrian either. Yet -- in Paul at least-- it is not "Western." Nor does it agree with family 1739, norwith H, both of which have been labelled (probably falsely) "Cæsarean."If the Armenian has any affinity in Paul at all, it is with family 2127-- a late Alexandrian group with some degree of mixture. This is not really surprising,since one of the leading witnesses to the family is 256, a Greek/Armeniandiglot (in fact, the Armenian text of 256 is one of the earliest witnessesto the Armenian Epistles).

Lyonnet felt that the Armenian text of the Catholic Epistles fell closeto Vaticanus. In the Apocalypse, Conybeare saw an affinity to the Latin (infact, he argued that it had been translated from the Latin and then revised-- as many as five times! -- from the Greek. This is probably needlesslycomplex, but the Latin ties are interesting. Jean Valentin offers thespeculation that the Latin influence comes from the Crusades, when theArmenians and the Franks were in frequent contact and alliance.)

The primary edition of the Armenian, that of Zohrab, is based mostlyon relatively recent manuscripts and is not really a critical edition (althoughsome variant readings are found in the margin, their support is not listed).Until a better edition of the version becomes available -- an urgent need,given the quality of the translation -- the text of the version must beused with caution.


The language of Egypt endured for at least 3500 years before the Islamicconquest swept it aside in favour of Arabic. During that time it naturallyunderwent significant evolution.

There was at one time much debate over the origin of the Egyptian language;was it Semitic or not? It seemed to have Semitic influence, but not enough toreally be part of the family. This seems now to have been solved; Joseph H.Greenburg in the 1960s proposed to group most of the languages of northernAfrica and the Middle East in one great "Afroasiatic" superfamily.Egyptian and the Semitiic languages were two of the families within this greatergroup. Thus Egyptian is related to the Semitic languages, but at a rather largedistance.

Coptic is the final stage of the evolution of Egyptian (the words "Copt"and "Coptic" are much-distorted versions of the name "Aigypt[os]").Although there is no clear linguistic divide between Late Egyptian andCoptic, there is something of a literary one: Coptic is Egyptian writtenin an alphabet based on the Greek. It is widely stated that the Coptic alphabet(consisting of the twenty-four Greek letters plus seven letters -- giveor take a few -- adopted from the Demotic) was developed because the oldEgyptian Demotic alphabet was too strongly associated with paganism.This seems not to be true, however; the earliest surviving documents in theCoptic alphabet appear to have been magical texts.CopticLetters

It is at least reasonable to suppose that the Coptic alphabet was adoptedbecause it was an alphabet -- the hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demoticstyles of Egyptian are all syllabic systems with ideographic elements. And bothhieratic and demotic have other problems: Hieratic is difficult to write, anddemotic, while much easier to copy, is difficult to read. And neither representsvowels accurately. Somescribe, wanting a true alphabetic script, took over the Greek alphabet, addinga few demotic symbols to supply additional sounds.

Coptic finally settled down to use the 24 Greek letters plus six orseven demotic symbols. It was some time before this standard was achieved,however; early texts often use more than these few extra signs. This clearlyreveals a period of experimentation.

Coptic is not a unified language; many dialects (Akhmimic, Bohairic,Fayyumic, Middle Egyptian, Sahidic) are known. The fragmentation of Copticis probably the result of the policies of Egypt's rulers: The Romans imposedharsh controls on travel in and out of, and presumably within, Egypt; beforethem, the Ptolemies has rigidly regimented their subjects' lives and travels.After a few hundred years of that, it is hardly surprising that the Egyptianlanguage fragmented into regional forms.

New Testament translations have been found in all five of the dialectslisted; in several instances there seem to have been multiple translations.The two most important, however, are clearly Sahidic (the language of UpperEgypt) and Bohairic (used in the Lower Egyptian Delta). Where the otherversions exist only in a handful of manuscripts, the Sahidic endures indozens and the Bohairic in hundreds. The Bohairic remains the officialversion of the Coptic church to this day, although the language is essentiallyextinct in ordinary life.

The history of the Coptic versions has been separated into four stagesby Wisse (modifying Kasser). For convenience, these stages arelisted below, although I am not sure of their validity.

  1. The Pre-Classical Stage, 250-350 C.E. Firstattempts at translation, which had little influence on the later versions.
  2. The Classical Sahidic and Fayyumic Stage, 350-450 C.E.Preparation of versions for use by those who had no Greek. The Sahidic becomesthe dominant version. Other versions, notably the Fayyumic, circulate but arenot widespread.
  3. The Final Sahidic and Fayyumic Stage, 450-1000 C.E.The Arab conquest reduces the role and power of the Coptic church. The Sahidicbegins to decline.
  4. The Bohairic Stage, after 800 C.E. The Bohairicversion becomes standardized and gradually achieves dominance within theCoptic church.

A more detailed study of the various versions follows.

The Sahidic Coptic

The Sahidic is probably the earliest of the translations, and also hasthe greatest textual value. It came into existence no later than the thirdcentury, since a copy of 1 Peter exists in a manuscript from about theend of that century. Unlike the Bohairic version, there is little evidenceof progressive revision. The manuscripts do not always agree, but theydo not show the sort of process seen in the Bohairic Version.

Like all the Coptic versions, the Sahidic has an Egyptian sort of text.In the Gospels it is clearly Alexandrian, although it is sometimes considered tohave "Western" variants, especially in John. (There are, in fact,occasional "Western" readings in the manuscripts, but no patternof Western influence. Most of the so-called "Western" variantsalso have Alexandrian support.) As between B and Aleph, the Sahidic isclearly closer to the former -- and if anything even closer to P75. It isalso close to T (a close ally of P75/B) -- as indeed one would expect,since T is a Greek/Sahidic diglot.

In Acts, the Sahidic is again regarded as basically Alexandrian, thoughwith some minor readings associated with the "Western" text.In the "Apostolic Decree" (Acts 15:19f., etc.) it conflates theAlexandrian and "Western" forms. (One should note, however, theexistence of the codex known as Berlin P. 15926. Although its language issaid to be Sahidic, its text differs very strongly from the common Sahidicversion, and preserves a number of striking "Western" variantsfound also in the Middle Egyptian text G67.)

In Paul the situation is slightly different. Here again at first glancethe Sahidic might seem Alexandrian with a "Western" tinge. Onexamination, however, it proves to be very strongly associated with B,and also somewhat associated with B's ally P46. I have argued elsewherethat P46/B form their own text-type in Paul. The Sahidic clearly goes withthis type, although perhaps with some influence from the "mainstream"Alexandrian text.

In the Catholics, the Sahidic seems to have a rather generic Alexandriantext, being about equidistant from all the other witnesses. It is noteworthythat its more unusual readings are often shared with B.

The Bohairic Coptic

The Bohairic has perhaps the most complicated textual history of anyof the Coptic versions. The oldest known manuscript, Papyrus Bodmer III,contains a text of the Gospel of John copied in the fourth (or perhapsfifth) century. This version is distinctly different from the later Copticversions, however; the underlying text is distinct, the translation isdifferent -- and even the form of the language is not quite the same asin the later Bohairic version. For this reason it has become common torefer to this early Bohairic version as the "proto-Bohairic"(pbo).From the same era comes a fragment of Philippians which maybe a Sahidic text partly conformed to the idiom of Bohairic.

Other than these two minor manuscripts, our Bohairic texts all datefrom the ninth century or later. It is suspected that the common Bohairictranslation was made in the seventh or eighth century.

It is quite possible that this version was revised, however; there area number of places where the Bohairic manuscripts split into two groups.Where this happens, it is fairly common to find the older texts havinga reading typical of the earlier Alexandrian witnesses while the more recentmanuscripts often display a reading characteristic of more recent Alexandriandocuments or of the Byzantine text. One can only suspect that these latereadings were introduced by a systematic revision.

As already hinted, the text of the Bohairic Coptic is Alexandrian. Withinits text-type, however, it tends to go with Aleph rather than B. This ismost notable in Paul (where, of course, Aleph and B are most distinct).Zuntz thought that the Bohairic was a "proto-Alexandrian" witness(i.e. that it belonged with P46 B sa), but in fact it is one of Aleph'sclosest allies here -- despite hints of Sahidic influence, which are foundin the other sections of the New Testament as well. One might theorize thatthe Bohairic was translated from the Greek (based on a manuscript with a late Alexandriantext), but with at least some Sahidic fragments used as cribs.

The Lesser Coptic Versions

The Akhmimic (Achmimic). Possibly the most fragmentary of allthe versions. Fragments preserve portions of Matthew 9, Luke 12-13, 17-18,Gal. 5-6, James 5. All of these seem to be from the fourth or perhaps fifthcenturies. Given their small size, very little is known of the text ofthe Akhmimic. Aland cites it under the symbol ac.

Related to the Akhmimic, and regarded as falling between it and theMiddle Egyptian, is the Sub-Akhmimic. This exists primarily in amanuscript of John, containing portions of John 2:12-20:20 and believedto date from the fourth century. It seems to be Alexandrian, and is citedunder the symbol ac2 or ach2.

The Fayyumic. Spelled Fayumic by some. Many manuscripts exist for the Gospels, and overa dozen for Paul, but almost all are fragmentary. Manuscripts of Acts andthe Catholic Epistles are rare; the Apocalypse seems to be entirely lost(if, indeed, it was ever translated). Manuscripts date from about the fifthto the ninth centuries. There is also a fragment of John, from perhapsthe early fourth century, which Kahle called Middle Egyptian but Husselmancalled Fayyumic. This mixed text is now designated the "MiddleEgyptian Fayyumic (mf)" by Aland. (The Fayyumic is notcited in NA27; the abbreviation fay is used in UBS4.)

Given the fragmentary state of the Fayyumic, its text has not been givenmuch attention. In Acts it is reported to be dependent on the Bohairic,and hence to be Alexandrian. Kahle found that an early manuscript whichcontained both the long and short endings of Mark.

The Middle Egyptian. The Middle Egyptian Coptic is representedprimarily by three manuscripts -- one of Matthew (complete; fourth/fifthcentury), one of Acts (1:1-15:3; fourth century), and one of Paul (54 leavesof about 150 in the original; fifth century). The Acts manuscript, commonlycited as copG67, is perhaps the most notable, as it agrees frequentlywith the "Western" witnesses, including some of the more extravagantvariants of the type. The Middle Egyptian is cited by Aland under the symbolmae; UBS4 uses meg.


Although the origins of many of the versions are obscure, few are asobscure as those of the Ethiopic. The legend that Christianity was carriedto the land south of Egypt by the eunuch of Acts 8:26f. can be easily dismissed.So can accounts that one of the apostles worked there. Even if one or moreof these stories were true, they would not explain the existence of theEthiopic version -- for the good and simple reason that the New Testamenthadn't even been written at thetime of the Ethiopian's conversion in Acts.

Even the name of the version is questionable; the correct name forthe official language of Ethiopia is Amharic, and the manuscriptsof the "Ethiopic" version are sometimes said to bein an old form of this language.(There are actually printed Bibles in Ethiopia which put an "oldEthiopic" text in parallel with a modern Amharic version.)

Supposedly Ethiopic, the language of the Ethiopic New Testament, had ceasedto be spoken by the tenth century C.E. but continued as a written language untilaround 1900 -- rather as Akkadian continued to be used as a diplomatic languagein the Middle East long after it ceased to be used in ordinary life. It is saidto be a Semitic language, perhaps from Arabia. The modern Tigrinya language is saidto be descended from Ethiopic. The confusion may arise because Amharic is also aSemitic language, so it is clearly related to, but perhaps not derived from,Ethiopic. And Amharic is written using the Ethiopic syllabary.

A legend told by Rufinus has it that Christianity reached Ethiopia tostay in the fourth century. Although this is beyond verification, thereare indications that Christianity did indeed reach the country at thattime. Chrysostom, in his Homilies on John, said that "Ethiopia"had a translation of the gospels into their own language, which if accuratewould seem to support that date.

Unlike many of the languages into which the Bible was translated, Ethiopiaalready had developed writing at the time Christianity reached the country(the alphabet resembles the Semitic in that it uses letters for consonantsand lesser symbols for vowels; however, the letter forms diverge widelyfrom the Phoenician, and the language reads from left to right. It has beentheorized that the Ethiopic alphabet is actually derived from the OldHebrew alphabet, abandoned by the Jews themselves in the post-Exilicperiod. The modern "Hebrew" alphabet is actually Aramaic. Ethiopic,however, added vowel symbols at a very early date -- not as extra letters butas tags attached to letters -- in effect, a syllabary. This is furtherevidence of Semitic origin -- and, probably, of the absence of Greek influence).

Because written Ethiopic predates the New Testament, wecannot date the version based on the dates of the earliest written documents.Until recently, all known Ethiopic manuscripts were dated to the eleventhcentury or later, with the vast majority being of the fourteenth century orlater. However, Tom Hennell points out to me that two copies -- theGarima gospels -- have been radiocarbon dated and come from the seventhcentury or earlier (390-570 for Garima 2; so Curt Niccum in his revisionsto the article on Ethiopic in the second edition of Ehrman & Holmes'sThe Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research). Nor arethe two direct copies of each other, so presumably the version must be olderstill. This fits with the common theory that the versiondates from about the fifth century, when Christianity probably becamewidespread in Ethiopia, though some have proposed dates as late as theseventh century.

It is not clear what language formed the translation base for the Ethiopic version,although Greek and Coptic are the leading candidates (the Apocalypse, inparticular, contains a number of transliterations from Greek). Indeed, Kenyon mentions a hypothesis that at least somemanuscripts are a late translation from the Bohairic, though this seems tocommand very little support. Niccum arguesstrongly, on the basis of the Garima manucripts, that it was Greek. (It isof course possible that both Greek and Coptic were used in different books. Syriac andArabic have also been mentioned -- the version bears significant orthographicsimilarities to those languages -- and revisions based on the latter cannotbe ruled out). On the other hand, Ethiopic is not Indo-European, so manyof the noteworthy features of Greek (e.g. noun declensions, word order, and many verbforms) cannot be rendered. Hints of Syriac or Arabic influence on the versionmay simply be because Ethiopic is closer to those languages. The problemis not simplified by the fact that the language is not well-known to scholars and theversion has not been properly edited. In addition, it appears likely thatdifferent translators worked on different books (since the style rangesfrom the free to the stiltedly literal); it is possible that differentbase texts were used. It is worth noting that the Ethiopic Bible includesseveral works not normally considered canonical in both the Old and NewTestaments.

Based on the available information, many have claimed that the Ethiopichas an Alexandrian text -- but an uncontrolled text, with very primitive Alexandrianreadings alternating with primarily Byzantine readings and some variantsthat are simply wild. Zuurmond calls it "Early Byzantine" in theGospels, and also notes an "extreme tendency toward harmonizations."A possible example is Matthew 27:49, where the early Garima2 ms.has the expanded mention of water and blood coming from Jesus's sidein the form found in ℵ B C; Garima1 has the reading but with thewords "blood" and "water" in reverse order.The text has more Alexandrian readings in John than elsewhere -- perhapsa hint of an Alexandrian base text partly revised toward the Byzantine?Hoskier noted that Eth had a number of unusual agreements with P46in Paul, but undertook no detailed study. It may be that the Ethiopicis based on the sort of free text that seems to have prevailed in Egyptin the early years of Christianity: Basically similar to the Alexandriantext, with a number of very primitive readings (the latter often ratherrough), but with some wild readings, others characteristic of the latertext, and a number of readings that resulted simply from scribal inattentiveness.The lack of a detailed study prevents us from saying more.


If any version is most notable for our ignorance about its origin,it is the Georgian. The language is difficult and not widely know (it is neither Indo-European norSemitic; the alphabet, known as Mkhedruli, is used only for this language. Georgianis the only language of the Kartvelian group to have a written form),the country small, and the history of the translation is obscure. Whatever itsorigins, however, the version is of great textual significance.

Please note that plain HTML and pure ASCII, in which this document is written, has nofacilities even for transliterated Georgian; I've done my best with thetechnical terms, but you really need to visit a specialized site to see thecorrect forms of the letters.

Legend has it that the evangelist of the Georgians, a woman named Nino,came to Georgia as a slave during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine.Another legend has it that the Georgian alphabet was invented by Saint Mesropsome time after he had created the written form of Armenian.

Sinai Georgian 31, dated 877, folio 54 verso,Acts 8:24-29.
Thanks to Jean Valentin

Both of these legends may be questioned -- the former on historical grounds,the latter on the basis of its simple improbability. It is by no means certainthat the Georgian alphabet was invented to receive a Biblical translation (if ithad been, why is it so different from other alphabets?); theGeorgian alphabet may well be older than the fifth century.

Given our ignorance of the history of Christianity in Georgia, we can onlyspeculate about the history of the version. The latest possible date would appearto be the sixth century, since our earliest manuscripts (the "han-met'ifragments") are dated linguistically to that era, or perhaps even tothe fifth century. The most likely date for the version is therefore the fifth century.This is supported by an account of the life of St. Shushanik, dated to thefifth century and containing many allusions to the Biblical text.

By its nature it is difficult for Georgian to express many features ofGreek syntax. This makes it difficult to determine the linguistic source of the version.(Nor does it help that the language itself has evolved; the translation startedin Old Georgian, but New Georgian came into existence from the twelfth century,and later manuscripts will have been influenced by the new dialect.)Greek, Armenian, and Syriac have all been proposed -- in some instances even bythe same scholar! It seems clear that the version was at some time in its historyrevised toward the Greek -- but since manuscripts of the unrevised text areat once rather few and divergent, we probably cannot reach a certain conclusionregarding the source at this time. The current opinion seems to be that, except in the Apocalypse(clearly taken from the Greek), the base text -- what we mightcall the "Old Georgian," and now found primarily in geo1and some of the fragments -- was Armenian, and that it was progressively modified by comparisonwith the Greek text.

The earliest Georgian manuscripts are the already alluded to han-met'ifragments of the sixth and seventh centuries, followed by the hae-met'i fragments of thenext century. (The names derive from linguistic features of the Georgian whichwere falling into disuetitude.) These fragments are, unfortunately, so slightthat (with the exception listed below) they are of little use in reconstructingthe text (some 45 manuscriptscontain, between them, fragments of the Gospels, Romans, and Galatians only).Recently a new han-met'i palimpsest was discovered and published,containing large portions of the Gospels, but the details of its text are notyet known; it appears broadly to go with the Adysh manuscript (geo1).

With the ninth century, fortunately, we begin to possess fuller manuscripts,of good textual quality, from which we may attempt to reconstruct the "Old Georgian" text. Many of these manuscripts, happily, are dated.

The earliest substantially complete Georgian text is the Adysh manuscript, a copyof the Gospels dating from 897 C.E. It appears to havethe most primitive of all Georgian translations, and is commonly designatedgeo1.

From the next century come the Opiza Gospels (913), the Dzruc Gospels(936), the Parhal Gospels (973), the Tbet' Gospels (995),the Athos Praxapostolos (between 959 and 969), and the Kranim Apocalypse (978),as well as assorted not-so-well-known texts. Several of these manuscriptscombine to represent a second stage of the Georgian version, designatedgeo2. When cited separately, the Opiza gospels are geoA, the Tbet' gospels are geoB.(The Parhal Gospels are sometimes cited as geoC, butthis is not as common.)

Starting in the tenth century, the Georgian version was revised, mostnotably by Saint Euthymius of Athos (died 1028). Unfortunately, theresulting version, while perhaps improved in form and literary merit,is less interesting textually; the changes are generally in conformity with theByzantine text.

The text of the Georgian version, in the Gospels, is clearly"Cæsarean" (assuming, of course, that text-type exists). Indeed,the Georgian appears to be, along with the Armenian, the purest surviving monument ofthat text-type. Both geo1 and geo2 preservemany readings of the type, though not always the same readings. Blake thoughtthat geo1 affiliated with Θ565 700 and geo2 with families 1 and 13.

In Acts, Birdsall links the Old Georgian to the later forms of the Alexandriantext found in minuscules such as 81 and 1175. In Paul, he notes a connection withP46, although this exists in scattered readings rather than as an overallaffinity. In the Apocalypse, the text is that of the Andreas commentary.


Of all the versions regularly cited in critical apparati, the Gothicis probably the least known. This is not because it is ignored. It is becauseit has almost ceased to exist.

The Gothic New Testament was apparently entirely the work of Ulfilas (Wulfilas),the Apostle to the Goths. Appointed Bishop to the Goths around 341, hespent the next forty years evangelizing and making the gospel availableto his people. In the process he created the Gothic alphabet. The pictureshows that it was based on Greek and Latin models, but also included somesymbols from the Gothic runic alphabets.

The Gothic version includes both Old and New Testaments. The tradition is thatUlfilas translated it all, from the Greek, reportedlyexcepting the book of Kings, because it was too militant for his flock.This seems to be based on legends perpetuated by Auxentius and Socrates, however;Wright declares that the part about Ulfilas not translating "the fourbooks of Kings" (i.e. 1 Samuel-2 Kings) because they are too warlikemakes no sense; Joshua and Judges are even more warlike. Wright's suggestion,following Bradley, isthat Ulfilas translated the books in the order he felt most important, and thatKings was last on his list. In any case, some of the Old Testament books seem tobe translated in a style distinct from the New Testament, so there were likelymultiple translators.

This may not matter much, especially for our purposes, sinceonly fragments of the New Testament survive. (At that, they are the almost onlyliterary remains of Gothic, a language which is long since dead.)

The gospels are preserved primarily in the Codex Argenteus of the sixthcentury. (A curious manuscript in many ways; it has been conjectured, e.g.,that the letters, rather than being written with a pen, were engraved orperhaps painted.) Even this manuscript has lost nearly half its pages (177survive, out of about 330 in the original), but enoughhave survived to tell us that the books are in the "Western"order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark), and that the manuscript included Mark16:9-20 but omitted John 7:53-8:11. The image of the manuscriptat right demonstrates this; the page contains John 7:52, 8:12-17.

Other than the Argenteus,all that has come to light of the gospels are a small portion of Matthew(parts of chapters 25-27) from a palimpsest and a few fragmentary versesof the Luke on a Gothic/Latinleaf destroyed during the Second World War. There is also a scrap of acommentary on John, from which Wright manage to produce a text of most of John 12, all oaf 14-15, and 17. Among the interesting readings in those chapters, Wright credits it with reading "Judas son of Simon Iscariot" in 12:4. He includes 12:8 (omitted by D). It has the longer reading with "you know the way" in 14:4. And it includes 14:4.

According to Metzger, nothing has survived of the Acts, Catholic Epistles,and Apocalypse. Of Paul there are several manuscripts, all fragmentary and all palimpsest.The only book for which we can assemble a complete text is 2 Corinthians(though the fragments of Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1 and 2 Timothyare very substantial), and Hebrews is entirely lacking. (It hasbeen speculated that Ulfilas, for theological or other reasons, did not translateHebrews, but Vincent Broman informs me that Gothic Hebrews has been quoted in a commentary.)Broman also tells me that the Old Testament is almost alllost, though there is a fragment of Nehemiah large enough to indicate aLucianic ancestor. We have a few other scraps as well, e.g. of Ezra.These are from a manuscript in the Ambrosian Library at the Vatican.

Ulfilas's version is considered literal (critics have called it "severely"literal, preserving Greek word order whether it fits Gothic or not). Itis very careful in translation, striving to always use the same Gothicword for each Greek word. Even so, Gothic is a Germanic language, and socannot distinguish many variations in the Greek (e.g. of verb tense; someword order variations are also impermissible). It is also possible, thoughby no means certain, that Ulfilas (who was an Arian preaching to Arians)allowed some slight theological bias to creep into his translation.

In the Gospels, the basic run of the text is very strongly Byzantine,although von Soden was not able to determine what subgroup it belongs with.Burkitt found a number of readings which the Gothic shared with the OldLatin f (10), though scholars are not agreed on the significance of this.Some believe that the Old Latin influenced the Gothic; others believe theinfluence went the other way. Our best hint may come from Paul.Here the Gothic is again Byzantine, but less so, and it hasa number of striking agreements with the "Western" witnesses.It has been theorized that Ulfilas worked with a Byzantine Greek text,but also made reference to an Old Latin version. Presumably this versionwas either more "Western" in the Epistles, or (perhaps more likely)Ulfilas made more reference to it there.

It is much to be regretted that the Gothic has not been better preserved.While the Gospels text is not particularly useful, a complete copy of theEpistles might prove most informative. And it is, along with the Peshitta,one of the earliest Byzantine witnesses; it might provide interestinginsights into the Byzantine text.

The handful of survivals are also of keen interest to linguists, as theGothic is the earliest known member of the Germanic family of languages,predating the earliest Old English texts by a couple of centuries; it isalso of significance as the only attested East Germanic language (theGermanic group is thought to have three families: The West Germanic,which includes all languages now called "German," plus English,Dutch, Frisian, and Yiddish; the North Germanic, which gave rise toIcelandic, Faroese, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian, which are still mostlymutually intelligible and amount to hardly more than a single source; andthe East Germanic, which consists solely of Gothic). Thus the Gothic isvery important in reconstructing proto-Germanic -- and, indeed, Indo-European.

Personally, I am surprised there aren't more Gothic scholars among textualcritics. Based on the samples in Joseph Wright's Grammar of the Gothic Language(which contains a complete copy of Mark in Gothic, with a Greek parallel ofseveral chapters, plus 2 Timothy and some other selections), Gothic appears quiteeasy for a modern English speaker to learn, especially one who has some Greek.

The alphabet is a modified Greek alphabet with a runic sort of look; the tablebelow approximates it in unicode:

phoneticabgdeqzhþiklm njuprstwfχƕo

To demonstrate the point about the ease of understanding Gothic, once you canread the text, consider, e.g., the first two verses of Mark in phonetic form:

(1) Anastōdeins aíwaggēljōns Iēsuis Xristáus sunáus guþs. (2) Swē gamēliþs istin Ēsaïsin praúfētáu: sái, ik insandja aggilu mainana faúra þus, saei gamanweiþ wigþeinana faúra þus.


Bonifatius Fischer's Vetus Latina Institute, now more than a half acentury old, has done tremendous work on both the Old Latin and Vulgatetranslations of the Bible. Their publications have made a vast amount ofdata available. But, ironically, they have not produced a good generalintroduction to the Latin versions. What follows cannot substitute for that,especially since I do not have access to all the VLI publications. But itattempts to give a general overview.

Of all the versions, none has as complicated a history as the Latin.There are many reasons for this, the foremost being its widespread use.The Latin Vulgate was, for millennia, the Bible of the western church, andafter the fall of Constantinople it was the preeminent Bible ofChristendom. There are at least eight thousand Latin Bible manuscriptsknown -- or at least two thousand more Latin than Greek manuscripts.

Below: An Old Latin manuscript, Codex Sarzensis (j), onpurple parchment, much damaged by the gold ink used to write it. Shownin exaggerated color The first reference to what appears to be a Latin version dates from180 C.E. In the Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs,one of the men on trial admits to having writings of Paul in his possession.Given the background, it is presumed that these were in a Latin version.
j of the Old Latin

But which Latin version? That is indeed the problem -- for, inthe period before the Vulgate, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds. Jerome,in his preface to the Vulgate gospels, commented that there were "asmany [translations] as there are manuscripts." Augustine complainedthat anyone who had the slightest hint of Greek and Latin might undertakea translation. They seem to have been right; of our dozens of non-VulgateLatin manuscripts, no two seem to represent exactly the same translation.

Modern scholars have christened these pre-Vulgate translations, whichgenerally originated in the second through fourth centuries, the "OldLatin." (These versions are sometimes called the "Itala,"but this term is quite properly going out of use. It arose from a statementof Augustine's that the Itala was the best of the Latin versions -- butwe no longer know what this statement means or which version(s) itrefers to.)

The Old Latin gospels generally, although by no means universally, havethe books in the "Western" order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark)-- an order found also in D and W but otherwise very rare among Greek manuscripts.

The Old Latins translations are traditionallybroken up into three classes, the African, the European, and the Italian.Even these terms can be misleading, however, as there is no clear dividingline between the European and the Italian; the Italian generally refersto European texts of a more polished type -- and in any case these aregroups of translations, not individual translations.

It is widely stated that these are independent translations; certainlythis is what Augustine's comment about multiple translators implies. However,H. A. G. Houghton, The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its Early History,Texts, and Manuscripts, Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 12, declares"If we leave to one side the potentially unreliable comments of laterauthors and turn to the existing textual evidence, the balance of probabilityfavors" the idea that instead there is one single translation continuouslyrevised, starting from the earliest Old Latin type and culminating in the lateVulgate.

The oldest of the types is probably the African; at least, its renderingsare the crudest, and Africa was the part of the Roman Empire which hadthe smallest Greek population and so had the greatest difficulty with aGreek Bible. In the first century, Greek was as common in Rome as was Latin;it was not until several centuries later (as the Empire became more andmore divided and Greek-speaking slaves became rarer) that Italy and thewest felt the need for a Latin version. Eventually the demand became sogreat that Pope Damasus authorized the Vulgate.

Traditionally the Old Latin witnesses were designated by a single Romanletter (e.g. a, b, e, k). As Roman letters ran out, longer names(aur) or superscripts (g1) came into use. TheBeuron Latin Institute has now officially numbered the Old Latin witnesses(of which about ninety are now known), but the old letter designationsare still generally used to prevent confusion with the Greek minuscules.

Note that Beuron numbers are not continuous. Like LXX manuscripts,and unlike manuscripts of the New Testament, blocks of numbers have beenassigned, so the number tells you something about the contents. SoGospels manuscripts have numbers 1-49; Acts/Catholics/Revelation are 50-74;Paul are 75-99. In addition, the numbers 100-299 are allocated for OldTestament volumes not including Psalms; the Psalms are 300 and up. Notethat this can sometimes produce confusion, if a book is Old Latin inmultiple sections.

The tables below show, sectionby section, the Old Latin witnesses available to the modern scholar. Ingeneral only those witnesses found in the NA27 or UBS4editions are listed, although a handful of others (often Old Latin/Vulgatemixes) have been cataloged. Observant users will observe that this listomits some "Old Latin" witnesses cited in UBS4. Examplesinclude ar c dem in Acts. The reason is that theseare actually Vulgate witnesses with occasional Old Latin readings; theywill be discussed under the Vulgate.

For additional background information on these manuscripts, see nowH. A. G. Houghton, The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its EarlyHistory, Texts, and Manuscripts, Oxford University Press, 2016. Thishas the irritating habit of referring to Old Latin witnesses by theirBeuron numbers rather than the traditional letters, and I am not reallyimpressed by its understanding of textual affiliations, but it gives muchmore information about the manuscripts themselves than, say, Metzger'sbook on the versions.

Old Latin Witnesses -- Gospels

a3IVVercellensise#Seems to be an early formof the European Latin. Closest to b ff2,but perhaps with some slightly older readings. Deluxe manuscript (silverand gold ink on purple parchment), reputed to have been written by SaintEusebius, Bishop pf Vercelli (martyred 370/1). It has been sovenerated as a relic that certain passages have been rendered unreadableby worshippers' kisses. Contains Mark 16:9-20, but on interpolated leaves;C.H. Turner believes the original did not contain these verses. Text isregarded as similar to n in the Synoptic Gospels.
a216VCuriensisLk 11#, 13#cf. n, o (both also #16)
aur15VIIAureuse#Primarily Vulgate but with many Old Latin readings, with the highest density of the latter toward the end of Mark and beginnig of Luke.Hopkins-James thinks that the text he calls the "Celtic Gospels" consists of anOld Latin base corrected toward the Vulgate. If so, Aureus probably represents a stepalong the way.
Incidentally, combining references from several sources, it appearsthat this is the oldest surviving parchment manuscript with a separatetitle page (there seem to have been no others until shortly before theinvention of printing).
Textually, this manuscript is only moderately interesting (except, perhaps,for students of the Bible in the British Isles), but it is unfortunatethat there is no modern full-color edition; it must be seen to be believed (for agood photo, see Christopher de Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts,Phaedon, 1997, pp. 26-27; a not-quite-so-good photo is in Michelle P. Brown, Inthe Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000, pp. 186-187). To say that it iswritten in gold is almost an understatement.There are other manuscripts with writing in gold ink, but in Aureus, the letters on thedecorated pages are done with gold leaf. These are enclosed in elaborate scrollsand swirls with obvious Celtic influence. The quality of the paintings is alsohigh. Alternate pages are on purple parchment.It must have been one of the most expensive gospel books ever written.
It certainly had a complicated history! It was probably written in the British Isles -- perhaps even at Canterbury. The date was probaby in the eighth century. In theninth century, it was captured during a raid by the Vikings. A long marginal note inOld English says that it was ransomed by Earl Alfred of Kent and his wife Werburghand presented to Canterbury some time inthe late ninth century. (It begins [doing the best I can to reproduce the script viaunicode] "In nomine dṅi nṙi iḣv xṙi,Ic Aelfred aldormon 7rēburɠ minɠɓfera beɠɓtan ðaſ bɓc"i.e. In nomine Domini nostri Ihesu Christi, [ond] Wērburgh min gefēra thas bēc....)It somehow managed to migrate from there to Spain, where it was bought in 1690 andtaken to Scandinavia by Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeldt; it is now in Stockholm.
The volume is very large -- original size estimated at 400x600 millimeters, or16x24 inches. The first ten pages are on purple parchment, with the rest plain.
Although textually distinct, its appearance makes it part of a group ofmanuscripts called the "Tiberius Group," because most attention has beenpaid to a manuscript of the group called the "Tiberius Bede" (BritishLibrary, MS. Cotton Tiberius C.ii). This group aso includes the "VespasianPsalter" (Cotton Vespasian A.i), the three prayer books known asthe Royal Prayerbook (MS. Royal 2.A.XX), the Book of Nunnaminster (MS. Harley 2965),and the Book of Cerne (Cambridge, University Library Ll.1.10), and others.
b4VVeronensise#Purple codex with silverand some gold ink. Originally contained 418 leaves; 393 remain, some of whichhave decayed to the point of illegibility. Said to have a text quite close tothat found in Novatian, it is widely regarded as one ofthe very best European witnesses; almost all other witnesses of thetype agree with b more than with each other. A few passages have beenconformed to the Vulgate, in writing so like the original that thealterations were not noticed for many centuries.
β26VIICarinthianusLk 1-2#
Colbertinuse(apcr)Late and vulgate influenced, but apparently with some African readings(although European readings dominate; it is much closer to b ff2than to k). The pre-vulgate readings are most common in Markand Luke; there are some, but fewer, in Matthew, John, and Acts. The rest of the NT, which comes from another source, is Vulgatewith scattered Old Latin readings. It has been suggested that the book was written underCathar influence (which fits, time-wise, but I know of no actual heretical readings). It formed the base text of Sabatier's Old Latin edition of the Gospels (published in the 1740s).
Bezaee#a#c#Latin side of Codex Bezae, and almost as controversial as the Greek.It is probably based on an independent Latin version, since D and ddisagree at some few points. However, they agree the vast majority of thetime, even in places where they have no other Latin support. It is effectivelycertain that the two texts have been modified to agree more closely. Thegreat question is, which has been modified, and to what extent?
δ27IXSangallensise#Latin interlinear of Δ, with no real value of its own. For anextensive discussion, see J. Rendel Harris, The Codex Sangallensis: A Studyin the Text of the Old Latin Gospels, 1891 (reprinted 2015). Harris thinksthat it is a genuinely independent text (in contrast to the opinion of his timethat it was basically Vulgate) -- but while I would agree that it isn't Vulgate,what I note about his collations is how often δ agrees with d against a, b, andvg. What this says, to me, is that what makes δ interesting to Harris is notits Old Latin element but the fact that it (like d) shows accommodations to theGreek. Others have claimed a link with the text of the Egerton Gospels (E of theVulgate).
e2VPalatinuse#After k, the most important witness to the African Latin. (Unfortunately,the two overlap only very slightly, so it is hard to compare their texts.)Purple codex.
f10VIBrixianuse#Purple codex, and surprisinglywell-preserved. The writing is said to have been originally done in ink andsilvered over; possibly this helped to keep the silver from tarnishing too badly.The letters B and V are frequently interchanged; we also see some interchangeof O and V (U), and of T and D. The text seems to fall somewhere between the (European)Old Latin and the vulgate, and it has been conjectured that it was thesort of manuscript Jerome made his revision from. However, it has linksto the Gothic (it has been conjectured that it was taken from the Latinside of a Gothic-Latin diglot; the preface compares the Greek, Latin, andGothic languages), which make it less likely that it was Jerome's source.It is distinctly more Byzantine and less "Western" than the averageOld Latin, which probably explains at least part of the link to Jerome's text.It is considered to be an Italian text.
It has an interesting comment, in the preface, that readers should followthe sense of the text and not the exact wording, as if the scribe expected tomake errors.
ff19VIIICorbiensisMtVulgate with some Old Latin readings.
ff28VCorbiensise#European Latin, probably the best text of the type after b.
SangermanensisMt(NT)Old Latin in Matthew; rest is Vulgate (see Vulgate G). The Old Latin text is said to resemble Hilary of Poitiers.
g229XSangermanensis (secundus)eNow in Paris;National Library Latin 13169. Although edited by Sabatier, it is very rarely cited today. The text of John incorporates lectionary incipits into the text. It is written in a Caroline minuscule but seems to have Celtic-type illustrations -- an unusual combination.
h12VClaromontanusMt#(e)Old Latin in Matthew; rest is Vulgate.
i17V/VIVindobonensisMk#Lk#Purple codex.
j22VISarzanensis(Lk#)Jo#Purple codex. Text is described as "peculiar and valuable."
BobiensisMt#Mk#Best codex of the African Latin, unfortunately only about half completeeven for the books it contains (it now consist of portions of Matt. 1:1-15:36 plusMark 8:8-end). Noteworthy for containing only the shortending of Mark (without the long ending); it is the only known manuscriptto have this form. Written in a good hand by a careless scribe -- quitepossibly a non-Christian. The text seems to resemble Cyprian.
l11VIIIRehdigeranuse#"Mixed text."
Lk 16-17#
μ35VIII?MulleAlthough Nestle/Aland uses μ for the Codex Monacensis (see below), the letter is more often used for the Book of Mulling (or Moling), Trinity College (Dublin) A.1.15 (codex 60). This is named after the scribe who copied the Gospel of John (and perhaps the rest of the book), whose name was Mulling. This may well be the saint who founded the monastery where it was copied. The text is vulgate-like but with many Old Latin readings; presumably it is the result of comparison between a Vulgate and Old Latin witness, although it is not clear which was the primary text. The Old Latin readings are perhaps most common in Luke 4-9. It is said to be the only Latin manuscript to agree with P3 ℵ(*) (B) C2 L 1 33 in Luke 10:42. Although written in Latin, there are a few Greek letters scattered in the text. Hopkins-James thinks it similar to Codex Lichfeldensis (L of the vulgate). It is in a small format, for portable use rather than reading in services. The handwriting is Irish, similar to Dublinensis (aPaul, Dvulgate), and it is illustrated in an Irish style. The codex has been mutilated -- there were presumably originally four portraits of the Evangelists, but only three survive, and they have been cut out and grouped together at the end. In addition, the text is much damaged by damp, and large parts are now illegible. Scrivener/Miller, p. 78, says that it is quite similar to the Mac Durnan Gospels When cited for the vulgate, it often goes under the symbol "mull," and is sometimes called Codex Mull. The binding contained a few scraps of another gospel codex, which does not seem to have been particularly interesting.
μ-VMonacensisMt 9-10#The symbol μ is used in Nestle/Aland for this fragment of Matthew, although many other editors use it for the Codex Mull (described above)
n16VSangallensisMt#Mk#Jo#Cf. a2, o (both also #16)
o16VIISangallensisMk#Mark 16:14-20. Cf. a2, n (both also #16).
p20VIIISangallensisJo 11#A double page from a Latin lectionary, with a text said to be similar to r1. The hand is Irish.
Monacensise#Considered to have an Italian text, thoughperhaps with a slightly different textual base. Written in a clumsyhand by a scribe named Valerianus.
r114late VI or VIIUsserianuse#Trinity College, Dublin, MN. A.4.15.Although named after Archbishop Ussher (Usserianus I),it is unlikely he ever owned it. Gospels in the "Western"order Matthew, John, Luke, Mark. The script isIrish (one of the earliest examples of Latin in an Irish hand; it is said to bethe oldest Irish gospel book), but very minimally illustrated;it has been suggested that the Irish style of illustration had not yet developed. In addition tothe lacunae, the remaining leaves are much discoloured and damaged; often all fourmargins have decayed. The first lines of the its numbered chapters were written incolored ink, now much faded. The text is said to be somewhat like that of Hilary ofPoitiers. It is also said to have sections reminiscent of b (first half of John)and h (in Matthew), and to have Irish readings and some readings reminiscent of q;it is either an incredibly mixed text or we know less than we think about Old Latinmanuscript groupings.
Usserianus IIeTrinity College, Dublin MS. 56, the Garland of Howth. Most ofthe Old Latin readings are in the second half of Matthew.It is not cited in NA28.
AmbrosianusJo 13#
AmbrosianusLk 17-21#
BernensiaMk 1-3#
v25VIIVindobonensisJo 19-20#
23VAberdonenseJo 7:27-8, 30-31This may be a Vulgate rather than an Old Latin text. Although it has a Beuron number as if it were an Old Latin manuscript, it is not cited in NA28.
33V/VIParisiensisJo#An extremely small codex, 5.6 cm. x 7.2 cm., perhaps intended as an amulet. Mostly Vulgate with Old Latin readings in chapters1-6. Two scribes were involved, the one who did the larger portion of the work beingmuch better. The inferior scribe did the first four pages and a few after that.Not cited in NA28.
36V/VILu 23:3-6, 24:5-9A Greek/Latin diglot of Luke, with the Gothic on the left. Only two leaves survived to modern times, and they were ruined inWorld War II. Not cited in NA28.
JoAt St. Gall. Said to be Old Latin mostly in the first three chapters of John. Not cited in NA28.
eAt St. Gall. A well-decorated manuscript. The early chapters of Matthew are Old Latin, the rest mostly Vulgate, of a British type. Not cited in NA28.

Old Latin Witnesses -- Acts

Bezaee#a#c#Latin side of Bezae (D). See comments in the section on the Gospels.
e50VILaudianusa#Latin side of Laudianus (E). The base text isconsidered to be European, but there is also assimilation to the parallel Greek.It formed the base text of Sabatier's Old Latin edition of the Gospels (published in the 1740s).
gSymbol used in some editions for gig.
gig51XIIIGigas(e)a(pc)rAn immense codex containing the Latin Bible (with the Old and New Testaments separated by other writings) and a number of other works -- Josephus's Antiquities and Jewish War translated into Latin, Isidore of Seville's Etymologies, medical works, Cosmas of Prague's Chronicle of Bohemia, and the Rule of St. Benedict, although that portion is now lost. The pages were originally about 1 meter tall by half a meter wide, and it is said that it took two people to carry it. (For other large bibles, see theentry on Atlantic Bibles.)Originally from Prague, it was taken to Stockholm in 1648.Its text in Acts is reminiscent of that of Lucifer of Cagliari, but expertscannot agree whether it belongs with the African or European Latin.
h55VFloriacensisa#c#r#Fleury palimpsest. The translation is loose and the copy careless,but the text is very close to that used by Cyprian (African), except in the CatholicEpistles, which are said to be more Vulgate-like. Only eighteen pages are stillextant, and even those are of course palimpsest.
l67VIILegionensisa#c#The León Palimpsest;text is vulgate with some sections of Old Latin readings(Acts 8:27-11:13, 15:6-12, 26-38 and perhaps some parts of the Catholic Epistles).Said to be close to the Liber Comicus (t).It is said to be the oldest Latin Pandect of which we have any surviving portion.
(m)-IV?(Speculum)eapcrSee Speculum under Fathers
p54XIIPerpinianusaOld Latin in 1:1-13:6, 28:16-end. The textis said to be similar to the fourth century writer Gregory of Elvira, and isthought to have been written in northern Spain or southern France. It has been suggestedthat the book was written under Cathar influence; this is perhaps possible based on the date, but I know of no direct evidence.
ph63XIIaActs with "other material."
ro62XRodensis(e)a(pcr)Vulgate text with Old Latin readings in both text and margin in Acts.
sa60XIIIBoverianusa#Contains Acts 1:15-26.
tVII+Liber Comicusa#p#c#r#Lectionary
Wernigerodensis(e)a(p)c(r)Vulgate with Old Latin readings in Acts & Catholics. Copied in Bohemia, probably in the second half of the fourteenth century. The text has glosses in Czech. The text, other than the handful of Old Latin readings, seems to resemble the text of the Paris Bibles of the thirteenth century.

Old Latin Witnesses -- Paul

Note: Scholars generally do not distinguish between African, European,and Italian texts in Paul (although I have seen r called both African and Italian).The reason seems to be that we have no unequivocally African texts.

(Book of Armagh)
(ea)p#(c)rDublin, Trinity College MS. 52. Perhaps the most important(although not the most famous) manuscript in that library.General run of the text is vulgate text with many OldLatin readings, but Paul (vac. 1 Cor. 14:36-39) and the Apocalypse are Old Latin with someVulgate influence. It includes the Epistleto the Laodiceans. The text seems to be similar to one used in the Balliol copy ofPelagius's commentary.See D of the Vulgate for full information on thehistory and style of this noteworthy manuscript.
pClose to d, and possibly the best Latin witness available in Paul.Most other "Western" witnesses are closer to b d thanto each other. Properly speaking, this is a (continuous) commentary rather than amanuscript, with the commentary having been compiled in 397 or 405, but because thetext is extensive, it is treated as a Biblical MS. It has been suggested that thecommentary is anti-Pelagian; the text is said to be similar to Lucifer of Cagliari's.
d75VIClaromontanusp#Latin side of D. Unlike most bilinguals,the Latin and the Greek do not appear to have been conformed to each other; dseems to fall closest to b. It formed the base text of Sabatier's Old Latin edition of the Gospels (published in the 1740s).
f78IXAugiensisp#Latin side of F. Mixed Vulgate and Old Latin (Hebrews is purely Vulgate),possibly with some assimilation to the Greek text.
g77IXBoernianusp#Latin interlinear of G. Rarely departs from the Greek text except whereit offers alternate renderings.
gue79VIGuelferbytanusRom#Palimpsest, from the samemanuscript as Pe Q. Contains Rom. 11:33-12:5, 12:17-13:1, 14:9-20. Merk's w.Latin/Gothic diglot, of which only four leaves survive; the Gothic is on the left.
(m)-IV?(Speculum)eapcrSee Speculum under Fathers.Not to be confused with m/mon (below)
m86Xp#The appendix of NA27 lists this as mon (the lattersymbol is used in UBS), but cites it in the text as m; the inconsistency wascorrected in NA28, where the catalog lists it as m. Not to beconfused with the Codex Speculum, often cited as m. It is said to have beenoriginally part of a two-volume (presumably) complete Bible, but all thatsurvives is Paul and some parts of the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal Old Testamentbooks. The text issaid to be similar to that of Ambrose; it is noteworthy for placing thedoxology of Romans after chapter 14 (so also gue; neither ms. existsfor Romans 16). The table of contests says it included 3 Corinthians,although the text is lost.
monSymbol used for m in UBS4.
μ82IXMonacensisHeb 7, 10#Contains Heb. 7:8-26, 10:23-39
oXV(Pelagius)pNot properly a manuscript; this symbol is usedin the recent editions of UBS for the text of the Pauline lemmata in manuscript B ofPelagius's commentary.
p80VIIHeidelbergensiaRom 5-6#
Frisingensiap#Assorted small fragments (a total of 28 pages),sometimes denoted r1, r2,r3. They do not come from the same manuscript, but seemto have similar texts. They have a much more Alexandrian cast than theother Old Latins, and are said to agree with Augustine. It has been suggestedthat portions were corrected against a Greek text. Same as q/rof the Catholics.
s87VIIIp#Lectionary fragments.
tVII+Liber Comicusa#p#c#r#Lectionary
VeronensisHeb#The first three chapters of Hebrews, apparently taken from Pelagius's Commentary on Paul, which had an Old Latin text.
wSymbol used in some editions for gue.
z65VIIIHarleianus(Heb#)Vulgate Bible (same codex as Z/harl); only Heb. 10:1-end isOld Latin. See also z in the list of witnesses to the Catholics.

Old Latin Witnesses -- Catholics

Bezaee#a#c#Latin side of D (Bezae). Greek does not exist for the Catholics, andof the Latin we have only 3 John 11-15.
ff66IXCorbeiensisJamesSouter describes it having"some readings unique (almost freakish) in their character...." Overall,it seems to have a mixed text, not affiliated with anything in particular. Thescribe responsible for it may have had unusual opinions, since it contains severaldubious works -- one by Novatian and a Latin translation of the Epistle ofBarnabas. Its text is said to be similar to that of some late fourth centuryauthors. It formed the base text of Sabatier's Old Latin edition of the Gospels (published in the 1740s).
h55VFloriacensisa#c#r#Fleury palimpsest. Contains 1 Pet. 4:17-2 Pet 2:7, 1 John 1:8-3:20 (for the entire Bible, only eighteen pages remain).The translation is loose and the copy careless, but most of the text is very closeto that used by Cyprian (African). In the Catholic Epistles, however, it is thoughtto be closer to the Vulgate.
l67VIILegionensisa#c#Palimpsest; small sections exist of all books of the Catholics exceptJude. Said to be close to the Liber Comicus (t)
(m)-IV?(Speculum)eapcrSee Speculum under Fathers
qSymbol used for r in UBS4.
Monacensisc#Same as r of Paul. Denoted q in UBS4.
s53VIBobiensisc#Palimpsest. Old Latin in 1 Pet. 1:1-18, 2:4-10
tVII+Liber Comicusa#p#c#r#Lectionary
w32VIGuelferbitanusc#Palimpsest lectionary, Vulgate with sections in Old Latin.
z65VIIIHarleianus(c#)Vulgate Bible (same codex as Z/harl); only 1 Pet. 2:9-4:15,1 John 1:1-3:15 are Old Latin. The end of Hebrews is also Old Latin; see z of Paul.

Old Latin Witnesses -- Revelation

(Book of Armagh)
(ea)p#(c)rVulgate text with many Old Latin readings; Paul and the Apocalypseare Old Latin with some Vulgate influence. The text is said to be similar to thatquoted in two Durham copies of Bede's commentary on the Apocalypse.See D of the Vulgate for more information about thisnoteworthy manuscript.
gSymbol used in some editions for gig.
gig51XIIIGigas(e)a(pc)rAn immense codex containing the Bible and a number of other works.Its text in the Apocalypse is Old Latin but seems to be a late form ofthe European type, approaching the Vulgate. For more about it, see the entry on Gigas in the Acts list of Old Latin witnesses.
h55VFloriacensisa#c#r#Fleury palimpsest. The translation is loose and the copy careless, and only eighteen pages remain of the entire Bible,but the text is very close to that used by Cyprian (African).
sin74Xa#r#Contains Rev. 20:11-21:7.
tVII+Liber Comicusa#p#c#r#Lectionary

When discussing the Old Latin, of course, the great question regardsthe so-called "Western" text. The standard witnesses to thistype are the great bilingual uncials (D/05 D/06 F/010 G/012; E/07 is bilingualbut is not particularly "Western" and 629 has some "Western"readings but its Latin side is Vulgate). That there is kinship betweenthe Latins and the "Western" witnesses is undeniable -- but itis also noteworthy that many of the most extravagant readings of CodexBezae (e.g. its use of Matthew's genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23f.; itsinsertion of Mark 1:45f. after Luke 5:14) have no Latin support exceptd. Even the "Western Non-interpolations" at the end of Lukerarely command more than a bare majority of the Old Latins (usually ab e r1; occasionally ff2; rarely aurc f q).

It is the author's opinion that the Old Latins, not Codex Bezae, shouldbe treated as the basis of the "Western" text, as they are morenumerous and show fewer signs of editorial action. But this discussionproperly belongs in the article on text-types.

Some Latin witnesses

Three Latin versions. Left: The final page of k (Codex Bobiensis),showing the "shorter ending" of Mark. Middle: Portion of onecolumn of Codex Amiatinus (A or am). Shown are Luke 5:1-3. Right: The famousand fabulously decorated Book of Kells (Wordsworth's Q). The lower portion of the pageis shown, with the beginning of Luke's genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-26).

The Vulgate

As the tables above show, the number of Old Latin translations was verylarge. And the quality was very low. What is more, they were a diverselot not just in terms of translation style but also of implied Greek textand meaning; it must have been hard to preach when one didn't even know what theweek's scripture said!

It was in 382 that Pope Damasus (366-384) called uponJerome (SophroniusEusebius Hieronymus) to remedy the situation. Jerome was the greatest scholarof his generation, and the Pope asked him to make an official Latin version-- both to remedy the poor quality of the existing translations and togive one standard reference for future copies. Damasus also called uponJerome to use the best possible Greek texts -- even while giving him thecontradictory command to stay as close to the existing versions as possible.

Jerome agreed to take on the project, somewhat reluctantly, but henever truly finished his work. By about 384, he had prepared a revisionof the Gospels, which simultaneously improved their Latin and reduced thenumber of "Western" readings. But if he ever worked on the restof the New Testament, his revisions were very hasty. The Vulgate of theActs and Epistles is not far from the Old Latin. Jerome had become fascinatedwith Hebrew, and spent the rest of his translational life working on theLatin Old Testament.

Even so, the Vulgate eventually became the official Bible ofthe Catholic Church -- and, despite numerous errors in the process of transmission,it remained recognizably Jerome's work. Although many greeted the new versionwith horror, its clear superiority eventually swept the Old Latins fromthe field.

Vulgate criticism is a field in itself, and -- considering that it wasfor long the official version of the Catholic church -- a very largeone. Sadly, the official promulgation of the Sixtine Vulgate in 1590 (soonreplaced by the Clementine Vulgate of 1592) meant that attempts to reconstructthe original form of the version were hampered; there is still a greatdeal which must be done to use the version to full advantage. Even the recentNeo Vulgate, officially adopted by the Catholic Church in 1979 and revisedin 1986, cannot reallybe considered progress in this regard. It is not a critical edition ofJerome's original. Rather, it bears much the same relation to Jerome'stranslation that the New Revised Standard bears to the King James Bible:It is based on Jerome's language, but stylistically improved and broughtcloser to the United Bible Societies Greek text. For a textual critic,it has no value at all. (At least in the New Testament. In the Old, ofcourse, there is no standard Hebrew or Greek text to work from, so it couldbe argued that the Neo Vulgate implies a reconstruction of the Hebrew text. True --but reconstructing the Hebrew or Greek would be much more useful than aLatin translation!) It is understandable why the Catholic Church producedthe thing -- an ultra-hierarchical church needs a standard Bible, and given theirhistory, it had to be in Latin -- but to call it a "vulgate" issimply deceptive.

Scholars cannot even agree on the text-type of the original Vulgate.In the gospels, some have called it Alexandrian and some Byzantine. Infact it has readings of both types, as well as a number of "Western"readings which are probably holdovers from the Old Latin. The strongestsingle strand, however, seems to be Byzantine; in 870 test passages, Ifound it to agree with the Byzantine manuscripts 60-70% of the time andwith Alephand B only about 45% of the time.

The situation is somewhat clearer in the Epistles; the Byzantine elementis reduced and the "Western" is increased. Still, it should benoted that the Vulgate Epistles are much more Alexandrian than most of the OldLatin versions of the same books.

In the Apocalypse the Vulgate preserves a very good text, closer toA and C than to any of the other groups.

These comments apply, of course, to the old forms of the Vulgate,as found, e.g., in the Wordsworth-White edition. The later forms, suchas the Clementine Vulgate, were somewhat more Byzantine, and have morereadings which do not occur in any Greek manuscripts.

It is claimed, on the basis of the Vetus Latina Institute's Vulgatesample collations, that the early manuscripts of the Vulgate have an extremelyhigh rate of agreement; H. A. G. Houghton, The Latin New Testament, p. 125,reports "there is a remarkable stability in the Vulgate text of the gospels up tothe year 1000, with 294 of the 462 witnesses agreeing 95% or more with the StuttgartVulgate, and a further 99 in the bracket of 90-95 percent." This statistic, ofcourse, means nothing; until we know what fraction of the variants in the manuscriptsare (e.g.) singular variants caused by scribal inattention, we can't know what theexpected rate of agreement would be. And comparison against the Stuttgart Vulgatehas exactly the same defect as comparison against the Textus Receptus had for theGreek manuscripts: It doesn't tell you which manuscripts go together, just which onesagree with a standard. Still, it does seem that the Vulgate manuscripts cohere morethan the Greek manuscripts do -- which is not in the slightest degree surprising,since the Vulgate is three centuries newer than the Greek text and copies of theVulgate were not as subject to destruction during persecutions of the Church. Butthe fact that the Vulgate manuscript agree more than the Greek does not mean thatthey agree entirely!

With that firmly in mind, let us turn to the various types of Vulgatetext which evolved over the centuries. As with the Greek manuscripts, thevarious parts of Christendom developed their own "local" text.

The best "local" text is considered to be the Italian type,as represented e.g. by am and ful. This text also enduredfor a long time in England (indeed, Wordsworth and White call this group"Northumbrian"). It has formed the basis for most recent Vulgaterevisions.

Believed to be as old as the Italian, but less reputable, is the Spanishtext-type, represented by cav and tol. Jerome himself issaid to have supervised the work of the first Spanish scribes to copy theVulgate (398), but by the time of our earliest manuscripts the type haddeveloped many peculiarities (some of them perhaps under the influenceof the Priscillians, who for instance produced the "three heavenlywitnesses" text of 1 John 5:7-8).

The Irish text is marked by beautiful manuscripts (the Book of Kellsand the Lichfield Gospels, both beautiful illuminated manuscripts, areof this type, and even unilliminated manuscripts such as the Rushworth Gospelsand the Book of Armagh are beautiful examples of calligraphy). Sadly, thesemanuscripts are often marred by conflations and inversions of word order.Some of the manuscripts are thought to have been corrected from the Greek-- though the number of Greek scholars in the Celtic church must have beenfew indeed. Lemuel J. Hopkins-James, editor of The Celtic Gospels(essentially a critical edition of codex Lichfeldensis) offers anothertheory: that this sort of text (which he calls "Celtic" ratherthan Irish) is descended not from a pure Vulgate manuscript but from anOld Latin source corrected against a Vulgate. (It should be noted, however,that Hopkins-James tries to use statistical comparisons to support this result,and the best word I can think of for his method is "ludicrous.")

The "French" text has been described as a mixture of Spanishand Irish readings. The text of Gaul (France) has been called "unquestionably"the worst of the local texts. Still, the "Paris" version of the Frenchtext was historic in several ways: Stephen Langton's division into chapters, whichstill largely endures, was based on the Paris text, and the very first printed book,the Gutenberg Bible (for which see the article onBooks and Bookmaking), has a Paris text.

The wide variety of Vulgate readings in Charlemagne's time caused thatmonarch to order Alcuin to attempt to create a uniform version (the exactdate is unknown, but he was working on it in 800). Unfortunately, Alcuinhad no critical sense, and the result was not a particularly good text.It has been argued that what he produced was less a text than a format;Alcuin worked on the punctuation and (to a lesser extent) the Latinityand created a standard format -- usually a Pandect written in two columns.Still, his revision was issued in the form of many beautiful codices.According to Margaret T. Gibson, TheBible in the Latin West, being volume 1 of "The Medieval Book,"University of Notre Dame Press, 1993, p. 34, the Beuron Institute counts23 Alcuin Bibles and 15 more Alcuinic gospel books. H. A. G. Houghton,The Latin New Testament, p. 82, says there are 46 complete Vulgatesand 18 gospel books written at Alcuin's base in Tours in the early ninthcentury, although these are not all true Alcuin books. Alcuin manuscriptslisted below are B/ΦB, ΦC, E, K/ΦGT, and V/ΦV.

Another scholar who tried to improve the Vulgate was Theodulf, who alsoundertook his task near the beginning of the ninth century. Some haveaccused Theodulf of contaminating the French Vulgate with Spanish readings,but it appears that Theodulf really was a better scholar than Alcuin,and produced a better edition than Alcuin's whichalso included information about the sources of variant readings(e.g. ȧ is a reading from Alcuin and a reading from Spanishsources). Unfortunately,such a revision is hard to copy, and it seems to have degraded and disappearedquickly (though manuscripts such as theo, which are effectively contemporarywith the edition, preserve it fairly well).Gibson, p. 32, there are six surviving copiesof Theodulfite Bibles, and all have distinct texts although it is clear theywere compiled by similar methods.And Theodulf's work "illustratesvery well the strengths and limitations of textual criticism in his day. He hadgood Latin, a gut instinct for detecting error and an interest in variantreadings, but without Hebrew and Greek he had no linguistic security, nor hadhe any theory of emendation that we can discern" (Gibson p. 6).

It does not appear to be associated with any particular name, but thereseems to have been a serious attempt, around the beginning of the thirteenthcentury, to prepare a true Vulgate edition for use in France. Thisinvolved putting the books in a single volume, in a standardized order, andattaching Jerome's prologues to his translations. Textually, the work doesn'tseem to have had any value, but it shaped later editions (indeed,Christopher de Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, Phaedon, 1997,p. 120, says that so many good Bibles were produced in the thirteenth centurythat few more were made in the fourtheenth and fifteenth).

Other revisions were undertaken over the years, but theyreally accomplished little; even if someone took notice of the revisors' efforts,the results were not particularly good. When it finally came time to producean official Vulgate (which the Council of Trent declared an urgent need),the number of texts in circulation was high, but few were of any quality.The result was that the "official" Vulgate editions (the Sixtineof 1590, and its replacement the Clementine of 1592) were very bad. Althoughgood manuscripts such as Amiatinus were consulted, they made little impressionon the editors. The Clementine edition shows an amazing ability to combineall the faults of the earlier texts. Unfortunately, it was to be nearlythree centuries before John Wordsworth undertook a truly critical editionof the Vulgate, and another century after that before the Catholic Churchfinally accepted the need for revised texts.

Despite all that has been said, the Vulgate remains an important versionfor criticism, and both its "true" text and the variants canhelp us understand the history of the text. We need merely keep in mindthe personalities of our witnesses. The table below is intended to helpwith that task as much as possible.

Note that there is no official list -- let alone set of symbols -- forVulgate manuscripts. Single letters are used by Merk, Weber, and Wordsworth/White;the symbols such as am and ful are typical of editions ofthe Greek text such as Tischendorf. If a manuscript is cited by one of theseeditions but not others, I have used a superscript to indicate the edition --e.g. DWe means that the symbol D is used by Weber for durmachensis,but not by Wordsworth/White. The quoted comments are primarily fromScrivener; the textual descriptions from Metzger, Hopkins-James, and others.

The superscript symbols are as follows:
HJ = Lemuel Hopkins-James, The Celtic Gospels (Gospels only)
Me = Merk
We = Weber
WW = Wordsworth/White
If no superscript is shown, then all sources use this abbreviation (e.g. A refersto Amiatinus in all of the four editions).

Catalog of Vulgate Manuscripts

AamAmiatinusc. 700OT+NTFirenze, LaurentianLibrary, Amiatino I. 1029 leaves (so Scrivener/Miller, p. 71, and Metzer, p. 336;I read elsewhere a source that claimed it had 1209 leaves) of a large folio. Consideredto be the best Vulgate manuscript in existence. Written in cola et commata, withtwo columns per page, in a beautiful calligraphic hand. Believed to bethe oldest surviving complete Bible in Latin (or, perhaps, any language).Its history appears to be very interesting. The manuscript is currently in the LaurentianLibrary in Florence, but that is not where it originated, nor is that where it was intendedto end up. The dedicatory page claims it is from "Petrus Langobardorum" -- butPeter's name was clearly written over an erasure. The original text claims it was sentby Ceolfrith the Angle -- that is, Ceolfrith of what is now England. Although almostcertainly derived from an Italian original (in fact, it contains a drawing showing a scribewith nine volumes; it has been speculated that this is a copy of artwork showing thenine volume Bible of Cassiodorus which was used to produce the exemplar of Amiatinus),it was written in England, one of a set of several high-quality Bibles produced at thetime. It is believed one was for the monastery of Wearmouth, another for the nearbyJarrow monastery, and one for the Pope. The volume for the Pope was Amiatinus, whichwas suppoed to be carried to Rome by Ceolfrid, who left Englandin 716. But he died on the road, and the Bible never arrived.
Over the years, several leaves have turned up which appear, from their date, text,and style, to be from the sister volumes. They are, however, mere fragments, and don'tseem to get much attention (and aren't of immediate interest to us, as they both are Old Testament copies: British Library MSS. Add 37777 and 45025, from one of the two copies, contains 11 folios of 3-4 Kings; the "Bankes Leaf," British Library MS. Loan 81, a single leaf of Sirach. However, the Wearmouth-Jarrow exemplar, or its closerelatives seems to have been the source for several other manuscripts in addition toAmiatinus. The two other survivors of this type are the Lindisfarne Gospels(Y/lind/Lindisfarnensis) and the Stonyhurst Gospels(St. Cuthbert's Codex, S/ston/Stoneyhurstensis).
--andSt. Andrew?eFormerly at St. Andrew's monastery at Avignon, but lost by Scrivener's time.
arsee under D
e#"Probably written in France, but both the text and the calligraphy show traces of Irish influence" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 80).
bamBambergensisIX(e)apc Bamberg, MS. Bibl. 1 (A.I.5). "One of the finest examples of the Alcuinian recension, and a typical specimen of the second period of Caroline writing and ornamentation" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 70). It is said to have been written in Tours. Wordworth-White and Weber cite it only for Acts, Paul, and the Catholic Epistles -- where it is said to have an admixture of Old Latin readings (a curious trait for an Alcuin Bible).
eSaid to have been written at Beneventum, but now in the British Library, Additional MS. 5463. "[W]ritten in a fine revived uncial hand" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 77) in cola et commata. Berger describes the text as having the sort of mix of Spanish and Irish readings which underlie the French text.
bodlsee under O
CcavCavensisIXOT+NTDella Badis archive (Cava), MS. 1(14).Along with tol, the leading representative of the Spanish text. It has beensuggested that it is based on the edition compiled by John, Bishop of Saragossa,in 619.Among the earliest witnesses for the three witnesses in 1 John 5:7-8, which it possessesin modified form. The scribe, named Danila, wrote it with a Visigothic hand. It is thoughtto come from Castile or Leon.
Apart from the value of its text, it is an extraordinarily beautiful book. The ordinaryrun of the text is in a very compact hand, mostly in brown but with a significant amountof vermillion. Books begin and end with calligraphic illustrations and illuminated lettersin four or more colors. There are three purple and two blue pages -- one of the latter beingJerome's prologue to the New Testament, which is written in a cruciform format with whiteand red inks mixed, in an uncial hand. (Danila was able to write in at least three stylesof script.) It is an extraordinary product; most Spanish manuscripts of the period haveilluminations which I can only call ugly.
cMecolbColbertinusXII(e)apcrSame as the Old Latin c of the Gospels. Often cited as Old Latinelsewhere, but the text is vulgate. The two sections are separately boundand in different hands (with the gospels sometimes thought to be slightly earlier).The Vulgate portion of the text is considered tonbe French.
cantabsee under X
CoronensisXI???eBritish Library, Cotton MS Tiberius A II. The so-called "Coronation Gospels": or "Athelstan" gospels, although it is most unlikely that it was ever associated with that pre-conquest King. It suffered minor damage in the Cotton Library fire of 1731. Textually it is not of great note, but it is beautiful enough to be worth examining. Now available at the British Museum manuscripts site,
DWW,HJ,Mear or
(Book of Armagh)
ea(p)c(r)Dublin, Trinity College MS. 52.Paul and Revelation are Old Latin (#61, cited as a or ar).Famous Irish codex -- the only (nearly) complete New Testament regarded as beingfrom an Irish source. Also unusual in that we know a good deal about the scribe:It was written by one Ferdomnach. The dating is somewhat uncertain. We know fromthe Annals of Ulster that Ferdomnach died in 845/6, after a long career.The book is not itself dated, but there are hints (somewhat confusing) in thecolophon. Ferdomnach is said to have worked under the direction of abbott Torbachof Armagh, who held that post from 807-808 -- but we also see a reference toFerdomnach as "the heir of Patrick," i.e. Abbot or Bishop of Armagh),which post he held from 812-813. Thus various scholars have dated the work to807 or to 812. If we must choose between the two dates, I would incline to 807,since the higher title might have been inserted later. But it is at least possible that thebook took four or so years to complete; it is a major production, consisting notjust of the New Testament but an introductory section, in Latin and Gaelic,of documents regarding Saint Patrick, followed by the New Testament, and thena life of Saint Martin of Tours. Brian Boru, the most famous early King of Ireland (died 1014),would later add his name to it.
The hand is a small cursive and has been described as "beautiful," thoughto me it looks rather crabbed. Like most Irish manuscripts, it is handsomelyillustrated with figures of animals and the like incorporated into theinitial letters, though the only separate drawings are of the four creatures whichrepresent the evangelists. As it currently stands, it consists of 442 pages,mostly in two columns.
The Vulgate portions (understandably) are said to have an Irish text. The Gospels aresaid to show signs of correction from Family 13. It includes the Epistleto the Laodiceans. Lacks Matthew chapters 14-19 (as well as a portion of 1 Corinthiansin the Old Latin section).
A curiosity about this manuscript is its use of Greek letters. At times the Latintext is transliterated into Greek (e.g. ΑΜΗΝ for Latin AMEN). The whole of the Lord'sPrayer in Matthew is written this way, and there are other instances. Actual Greekis not found, except in oddities like the Gospel titles, which read ΚΑΤΑ (whoever)rather than SECUNDUM (whoever).
DWedurmach or durDurmachensisVI/VIIeBook of Durrow. From the Monastery at Durrow, but now at Trinity College, Dublin (MS. A.4.5(57)).Illuminated manuscript, although the illuminations use onlya limited gamut of colors (basically green, yellow, and red -- verdegris, orpiment, and red lead, a fairly toxic mix; there is a little ox-gall, which would have been originally yellow but now is mostly brown; the ink is iron-gall brown rather than a lampblack-basedtrue black). It also seems to have moreholes in the parchment than I would have expected from such an elaborate manuscript; theparchment is quite variable in texture and color, and the gatherings very irregular --almost as if those who prepared it didn't really know how to make up a book.The writing is called semi-uncial. It has been speculated that it was made in the early daysof Celtic illumination, before the style was fully developed. (Although some of it maybe just the lack of ability of the illuminator; the symbols of the four evangelists havesome resemblance to Pictish artwork but almost none to human, eagle, etc.)Colophon asks for prayers for the scribe Columba, and seems to say the volume was writtenin twelve days -- although this may refer only to a single book, or the whole thing may bemis-read; the colophon has been overwritten and fiddled with and is hard to readclearly. Some havethought that it refers to Saint Columba, who founded Durrow among other places, butof course the scribe might be another Columba, or (more likely) the colophon was copiedfrom the exemplar. The actual saint would be more likely to use his actual name, ColumCille, not Columba. Nonetheless the manuscript came to be esteemed as a relic ofSt. Columba/Colum Cille; according to Bernard Meehan, The Book of Durrow,the first clear reference to the book comes from the reign ofKing Flann Mac Mael Sechniall (877-916), when that king had a shrine built to hold thebook -- because it was regarded as a relic of the saint.(This proved to be a less than wise decision; the shrine did not fit, and the bookwas somewhat damaged as it bounced around in its case.)The damage it suffered in its shrine, and as a result of rebindings, has caused the pagesto separate; although most can be put in their proper order based on their contents, some,such as certain carpet page, have been displaced and their proper location forgotten. Aproper rebinding was done in 1954.
The text is reportedly close to Amiatinus, although there is dispute about wherethe manuscript originated; some argue for Ireland based on the fact that it is therenow; some for Northumbria based on the text; some argue for Iona or somewhere else inScotland based on the reference to Columba in the colophon. One hypothesis has it thatit was copied at Iona and taken to Durrow in 807 when the community at Iona moved toKells. The date is also disputed;the sixth century date is based on the reference to Columba, but those who have simplylooked at the book itself usually give a seventh or eighth century date.Hopkins-James, p. xlv,makes the curious comment that "It reads like a MS. which was Vulgate from thebeginning" even though he says that it has a significant number of Old Latin readings.
The pictures in this book are an odd mix; the image of Matthew is said to haveAnglo-Saxon and Syriac elements, the Markan lion is Germannic and Pictish; the calf symbolizingLuke is again Pictish. The images are not very clear, though they are surrounded by thebeautiful swirls and figures of Celtic art.According to Christopher de Hamel,A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, Phaedon, 1997, p. 40, because it was a relic, as late as theseventeenth century, it was dipped in water (or, perhaps, had water poured over it)so that the water could be used to treatsick cattle. It was apparently because it was believed that water could not damage arelic. The belief was patently wrong; the early leaves inparticular have been damaged by damp.
This is one of the few major Vulgate manuscripts not regularly cited in the Wordsworth-White Vulgate (odd for a British manuscript! -- but of course it's in Ireland, not Great Britain).
ΔWWdunelm DunelmensisVII/
e#Durham, Cathedral Library A.ii.16. The "Durham Gospels." Said, probably falsely, to have been written by Bede; it may have come from the Jarrow monastery. According to Scrivener/Miller, p. 78, the text is related to Amiatinus -- but Wordsworth, oddly, cited it only for John. The same scribe probably wrote the Echternach Gospels (Epternacensis); this writer is sometimes known as the "Durham-Echternach Calligrapher."
e#The Book of Deer. Now at Cambridge (University Library I.i.6.32), but thought to have come from the monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire, making it probably the oldest Scottish Bible. Some would date it to the eighth century. Said to contain many "old and peculiar" readings. The first three gospels are much damaged (or, according to Houghton, abridged, who says that this is characteristic of Celtic gospel books); according to Scrivener/Miller, all that remains is Matthew 1:1-7:23, Mark 1:1-5.36, Luke 1:1-12; John is complete. Images of this volume have been made available at the Cambridge University Library; see
--dem or
OT+NTLost; our knowledge is based on Matthei's collation (which included only the Acts, Epistles, and Revelation) -- and even this had the orthography regularized, which might have hidden some significant variants. It appears to have been Vulgate with many Old Latin readings in the Acts and Epistles (although Houghton says that the Old Latin readings are few). It is said to have been copied in a very large format -- so large that the entire New Testament required only sixty pages. Scrivener/Miller, p. 74, suggest it was copied from a much earlier exemplar.
e#British Library, Egerton 609. Despite having been discovered in France (in Marmontier, near Tours), the text is considered Irish. Hopkins-James includes it in his Celtic Gospels group, although even by his figures it is a rather weak member. Many mutilations, especially in Mark.
--emSt. Emmeram's870e Munich, Bavarian state libaray, Cim. 14000 (55). "[W]ritten in golden uncials on fine white vellum, a good deal of purple being employed in the earlier pages; there are splendid illuminations before each gospel" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 82). Sometimes called the Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram because of the gold writing. Said to have belonged to Charles the Bald. There is another Munich manuscript which was copied from this at the order of the Emperor Henry II.
ept EpternacensisVIII/
e When it was first cataloged, it was in Echternach (Luxembourg), but now in Paris (National Library MS lat. 9389). A colophon associates it with Saint Willibrord (or, perhaps, with a manuscript he owned). The basic run of the text is said by some to be Irish, but with corrections reported to be of another type (perhaps of the Amiatinus type). The hand, however, is clearly British or Irish (it is generally believed that this manuscript comes from somewhere in the British Isles), and it has illustrations in the Celtic style (though not very elaborate compared to, say, the Lindisfarne Gospels. There is a curious stylization to the artwork -- e.g. the portrait of Matthew is assembled from a series of ovoids). The same scribe probably wrote the Durham Gospels (Dunelmensis); this writer is sometimes known as the "Durham-Echternach Calligrapher." The illustrations are thought to be related to those in the Book of Durrow. Further investigation is probably warranted. The colophon claims a date of 558 C.E., but all agree that it must be at least two centuries later. (Willibord, we should note, went to Frisia in 690 and founded Echternach around 698; he died in 739. It is of note that he came from Northumbria, and likely brought manuscripts of the Northumbrian type with him.
Ffu, ful
Fuldensis546eapcrFulda, MS. Bonifatianus I. Considered, after Amiatinus, the best Vulgate manuscript. Copied forand corrected by Victor of Capua. Italian text. The Gospels are in theform of a harmony (probably based on an Old Latin original -- although that originalmay have been a list of readings rather than a continuous text -- and with scatteredOld Latin readings, but the text was clearly copied from a Vulgate original.Outside the Gospels, it is a "straight" Vulgate, although an earlyand very good copy). Includes the Epistle to the Laodiceans following Colossians.The format is unusual -- a very tall, narrow page, with only one column per pageand a very wide outer margin. There are said to be four copies of its gospelharmony, one a Latin/Old High German bilingual.
forsee under J
--fossSt. Maur des FossésIXeParis, MS. Lat 11,959.
ΦSymbol used collectively by Weber for Alcuin's recension. For individual manuscripts such as ΦB see the end of this list.
(sanger) Sangermanensis
(San Germanensis)
IXOT#+NTParis, National Library MS. Latin 11553. Originally in two volumes, with the first volume (containing much of the Old Testament) now lost. Old Latin in Matthew (where it is usually designated g1), elsewhere the text is probably French text but with some Old Latin elements in the other gospels. Order of sections is eacrp. Houghton calls this "the best witness to the Vulgate" in the Acts and Epistles, which is most unlikely; perhaps he means of the French witnesses. It has a number of unusual items in the margins -- glosses from Bede and other writers, plus a set of divination tools (hermeneiai) in John.
--gatVII-IXeParise, Nouvelles acquisitions lat. 1587. Said to come from Saint Gatian of Tours. Said to resemble Egertonensis (E) in text, and to have many Old Latin readings. There are many variant readings in the text, usually vulgate and old Latin, written between the lines.
--gigGigas HolmiensisXIIIe(a)pc(r)Same as gig of theOld Latin. Rarely cited as a Vulgate witness, as the Vulgate text is late. For more about it, see the entry on Gigas in the Acts list of Old Latin witnesses.
gue lectsee gue among the Old Latin witnesses in Paul
OT+NT#British Library, Additional MS. 24142. Originally from the Monastery of St. Hubert in the Low Countries. Original text may have been Italian (close to Amiatinus); it has been corrected (often by erasure) toward Theodulf's revision. It has been suggested that some later corrections are the result of Theodulf's later work. Three columns per page. The text breaks off at 1 Pet. 4:3. The hand is said to "strongly resembl[e]" that of Θ -- Scrivener/Miller goes so far as to say that H has been "throughout assimilated to" Θ. Although quite elaborate, the volume is rather severe -- the only illustrations are in the Eusebian canon tables. These show hints of Islamic influence.
Illuminated manuscript, although now so worn by age that it is very difficultto read -- recently, an artist was commissioned to make a duplicate of theartwork. It has been suggested that the manuscript was written in Wales or theWelsh Marches of England. Hopkins-James considers the text Celtic, and usesit to fill out his Celtic text where Lichfeldensis fails.This in his view makes it an Old Latin text heavily corrected toward the Vulgate. Merk -- the only edition to claim to cite it -- cites it only for Luke.
harlsee under Z
IWW,MeingIngolstadiensisVII? VIII?e#From Ingolstadt; later at in the Royal Library at Munich. Badly mutilated, especially in Matthew (only 22:39-24:19, 25:14-end remain of that book). Written in gold ink. Sometimes called of the so-called "Ada Group" of manuscripts from Charlemagne's era, although this can hardly be true if the seventh century date listed in Merk is correct!
IWeVIII/IXacrRome, Villicelliana B.25II. Probably of Italian origin.
e#Matthew, Luke, and John are from Cividale; Mark is divided between Veniceand Prague. Italian text. A legend, obviously false, has it that the portion ofthis manuscript at Prague was part of the original the Gospel of Mark!Distributed across several libraries. The Markan portion is often illegible, and the finalchapters of John are fragmentary. Portions of Mark (at Prague) cited by Tischendorf as prag.
(JP) hamilton(ensis)VIIIeGold letters on purple parchment. The symbol derives from the fact that it was in the J. P. Morgan library. It is said (almost certainly falsely) to have been written by Wilfrid of York (died 709)).
IXOT+NT British Library, Additional MS. 10546. Property of the Library since 1836. Alcuin's revision. Called "Charlemagne's Bible." Probably written in Tours in the early ninth century. The British Library has now digitized this entire manuscript and made the photographs available online; go to and search for "10546" or the "Moutier-Grandval Bible" or go to
KWe----IXpKarlsruhe, Aug. CLXXXV
Lichfield, in the Chapter Library.Formerly designated Landavensis because it was kept by the altar of St. Teilo in Llandaff,Wales. Illuminated manuscript withan Irish text. (The writing is describes as "Irish half-uncial.") Contains Matt.1:1-Luke 3:9. Legend attributes it to St. Chad, but this is extremely unlikely since hedied in 672. Based on the photos I've seen, it is nolonger especially legible, the larger uncials being filled with garish redpaint while the rest has (I think) faded. In its original state, however, it must havebeen comparable to the Lindisfarne Gospels in beauty; there is much similarity inthe style of the illustrations. It has been suggested that the creators of this manuscriptmust have seen the Lindisfarne manuscript and attempted to imitate it.I have seen estimates dating it to the earlyor late eighth century. Possibly it was written in Wales; it was certainly there bythe late ninth century. Sometimes calledSt. Teilo's gospels because a marginal note says that one Gellu son of Arihtuid hadexchanged it for his best horse and then offered it to Teilo's altar in Wales.It apparently was taken to Litchfield in the tenth century, resulting in the link toSt. Chad, the patron of the town. The manuscript, as far as extant, is the basis forthe Latin text published by Lemuel J. Hopkins-James in The Celtic Gospels: TheirStory and Their Text, but this book is depressingly difficult to use and is ratherabsurd methodologically.
LMeVIIIpWritten in a Lombard hand.
LMeLemovicensisIXc"Mixed" text, containing a part of 1 John 5:7.
LWeVII/VIIIcParis, National Library Latin 9427. Lectionary.
ΛWe960(e)apcrCodex Legionensis, in the San Isidro library in Leon. Also contains portions of the OT. Sections are in the order epcar. Weber does not cite the gospels. Sometimes called "Codex Gothicus."
--lamXe# The Mac Durnan Gospels, so-called because they were the property of, and perhaps written by or for, Maelbrigid Mac Durnan, the Bishop of Armagh, who died in 927. The text and ornamentation are Irish. It is now in the Lambeth Palace library. The writing is very small and full of contractions, making it difficult to read. There seems to be some confusion about its history, since Hopkins-James, p. xlix, says that it was given by the English King Athelstan to the city of Canterbury. Athelstan, however, reigned 924-940, and had little contact with Ireland; there is hardly time for the MS. to pass from Armagh to Athelstan to Canterbury, and in any case, the story of Athelstan's gift is also told of a gospel book in Caroline minuscules (British Library Reg. I.A.xviii). I wonder if the Athelstan mentioned in the Mac Durnan Gospels might not be a bishop of that name. It is noteworthy that Scrivener/Miller, p. 78, doesn't even mention this claim. It may be just the quality of the photographs, or perhaps shrinkage of the parchment, but the artwork in the Mac Durnan book seems to have been rather improperly ruled. It frankly looks rather sloppy.
--luxLuxeuilIX(e)Paris, Nouvelles acquisitions lat. 2196. Not a continuous-text manuscript but a lectionariy.
MmedMediolanensisVIe#Milan, Ambrosian library C.39.Italian text, considered by Wordsworth & White to rank with Amiatinusand Fuldensis. Assorted lacunae (Matt. 1:1-6, 1:25-3:12, 23:25-25:41; Mark 6:10-8:12)and a few small supplements (Mark 14:35-48; John 19:12-23). Has "interesting lectionarynotes in the margins," according to Scrivener/Miller, p. 84. They also note thecuriosity that the section numbers are marked in Greek uncials!
MMeMonacensisIXacr"Good text, but rather mixed, especially in theActs, where there are strange conjunctions of good and bad readings." Written in "largerough Caroline minuscules."
mac-regolsee under R
martsee under MT (MT)
mmsee under E
mt or
eTours, Public Library 22. Formerly at Saint Martin. "[G]old letters, interesting text" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 81).
(μ)mullBook of MullingVII/
eBook of Mulling. See under μ of the Old Latin gospels.
NWeVe#Palimpsest, believed to have been written in Italy. Now distributed among multiple libraries. Text is regarded as very valuable.
OHJ,Mebodl or
Bodleianus or
VII e#Oxford, Bodleian MS. 857 (Auct. D.2.14). Called the "Gospels of St. Augustine," because legend has it that this was given by Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury. (It was in St. Augustine's library at Canterbury, but this proves very little.) "British" (i.e. Italian?) text. Written in a firm hand, two columns per page, with paragraphs but no breaks between words; a later scribe (?) seems to have added slashes between words, perhaps to indicate a division into sense lines. The red ink used in the Eusebian tables and such is often very faded. It has lost Matthew 1:1-4:13 and John 21:16-end. Neumes were added to Luke's genealogy of Jesus, probably in the eleventh century.
a# Described as "most valuable." Lacks Acts 14:26-15:32. Written in a beautiful hand, with spaces between words and sentences, and hanging paragraphs; it appears that there must have been an earlier edition which already possessed these features. The book itself is less attractive; the parchment is often quite poor. Two scribes were involved in writing the book, and it appears they wrote simultaneously rather than sequentially, because the first scribe left a blank page at the end of his half; this was later filled by two prayers. The book was at Canterbury from the twelfth century until at least the time of Henry VIII. John Seldon bequeathed it to the Bodleian upon his death in 1654. There is an odd scratching, EADB, written by the text of Acts 11:5-6; it has been speculated that this is a reference to St. Eadburh of Thanet (died 751), and that the book therefore comes from Thanet, but the evidence is not sufficient to prove or disprove this.
OWW?BodleianusIXp#"Irish hand." Colossians follows Thessalonians. Hebrews breaks off at 11:34. Has been heavily corrected by three different hands. The text of the first hand may have been Old Latin (designated x).
PWW,HJ,Mepe or
PerusinusVILuke# In Perugia. Luke 1:1-12:7, mutilated. Purple manuscript.
eSplit, Croatia. No catalog number. Text is probably Italian.
--petrocIX/XeGospels of St. Petroc, or Bodmin Gospels. Now in the British Library (Add. MS. 9381). The text seems to be of a French type (perhaps with readings derived from Alcuin), although it has been in the British Isles since the early tenth century (it was then in the monastery of Petrockstowe/Bodmin). Textually it seems to have no great interest (except in showing French influence in the Cornwall Peninsula even before the Norman Conquest). Of interest is the fact that it contains records of the manumission of slaves. The large majority of the slaves have Cornish names, which makes these marginalia the first clear records of what would become the Cornish language. They are not, of course, sufficient to compile a Cornish grammar, but they are important for the history of that extinct-but-revived language. Scans available from the British Library,
pragsee under J
eBook of Kells (Dubling, Trinity College MS. a.1.6 (58)).Generally considered to be most beautifulilluminated manuscript in existence; there is at least some colour on all but twoof its surviving 680 pages (out of an original 700). It has been speculated that itwas started at Iona and taken to Kells in 807 for completion and/or safekeeping fromthe Vikings. There is a likely reference to it in the Annals of Ulster for 1007, whichrefers to it (or some volume) being stolen and recovered after being stripped of gold.Irish text, said by Metzger to have "a peculiar fondness forconflate readings." (An extreme example comes in Matt. 21:31, where, when asked whichof the sons did the will of the father, some vulgate texts say "the first,"others, "the last"; Kells reads "the first and the last"!)
e#Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auct. C.2.19 (S.C.3946). Rushworth Gospels (so called for the seventeenth century owner who donated it to the Bodleian Library), or the Gospels of Mac Regol, written by a scribe named Mac Regol. Mac Regol also claimed to have illustrated the book, which is rather unusual -- scribes usually just copied the books.
There is much confusion about the Mac Regol. A man named Macriagoil nepos Magleni was bishop of Birr, and died in 800 (according to Hopkins/James, p. xlvii) or 821 (so most other sources). It is widely believed that this MacRegol was the scribe, although it cannot be proved -- and Hopkins-James doubts it; it sounds as if he thinks Mac Regol the bishop was the grandson of Mac Regol the Scribe (or vice versa). If the two Mac Regols are the same, then this is one of the last of the great Irish codices.
The manuscript an interlinear Anglo-Saxon gloss (Matthew in Mercian, Mark-John in Northumbrian; they are listed as the work of scribes named Farman of Harewood and Owun). The Cambridge History of English Literature declares that Farman and Owun worked in the second half of the tenth century and suggests that Farman may have been in charge of the task, with Owun his assistant. The two translations have significantly different styles in addition to being in different dialects; Farman's is more of a translation, being independently understandable, while Owun's is a word-for-word gloss that cannot really stand on its own. It is not clear whether the glosses are derived from an extant external translation or were made up by the scribes.
Skeat declared the main text to be close to the Lindisfarne Gospels, but Hopkins-James disagrees strongly and says it has a Celtic (Irish) text (agreeing in part with Bentley, who thought it might be from the same scribe as Lichfeldensis). The illustrations certainly appear to be Irish, but that doesn't mean much unless we accept that scribe and illustrator are the same. And it is unusually large for an Irish book. Plus, if it's Irish, how did it end up in England and glossed in Anglo-Saxon? If it had originated in Ireland and been carried over by the Anglo-Norman conquerors, the glosses would presumably have been in Middle English, not Old English. So it seems more likely that it is in fact Northumbrian. Reported to show many alterations in word order. It lacks Luke 4:29-8:38, 10:19-39, 15:16-16:26. The text of Matt. 21:29-31 matches that of Codex Vaticanus.
RMede RosasXNTAt Paris. Cited by Merk only for Acts, although it contains the whole New Testament.
RReginensis or
Reginae Sueciae
pVatican, Apostolic library, Regin. lat. 9. Italian text -- one of the best in Paul. Possibly from the Ravenna area.
RWeVII/VIIIc Verona, Capitolare Library X(8)
--regVIII?e#Paris, MS. Lat 11,955. 54 leaves of Matthew and Mark, containing less than half of the latter and about three fourths of the former (it lacks Matthew 1:1-6:2, 26:42-27:49), Mark 1:1-9:47, 11:13-12:23). Gold uncials, purple parchment. Many old readings.
SWW or StMestonStonyhurstensisVIIJohnSupposedly found in the coffin of Saint Cuthbert. "A minute but exquisitely written uncial MS. with a text closely resembling A[miatinus]" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 79). For more details, see the notes on the Lindisfarne Gospels. It still has its original binding, which is listed as the oldest extant decorated bookbinding (consisting of the sorts of loops and swirls often found in the illustrations of Celtic codices).
sanSangallensisVe#Mostly at St. Gall (MS. 1395), with scattered leaves elsewhere. Oldest surviving manuscript of the Vulgate Gospels; only about half the leaves have been recovered from manuscript bindings. Italian text, of "remarkable" value, although it is said to have been copied rather casually. A few marginal notations have been suspected of deriving from Jerome's own Vulgate copies. Interestingly, the text not only has the Eusebian numbers but also notations in the text to point to the parallel readings in other gospels, making the canon tables unnecessary. This is probably the most important manuscript not regularly cited in the Wordsworth-White Vulgate.
SSangallensisVIIIarSt. Gall, Stifstbibl. 2. According to Scrivener/Miller, it is Vulgate but with Old Latin readings. Written by a monk named Winithar. Contains extra-biblical matters as well as the Bible text; Scrivener/Miller consider it merely a collection of extracts. Cited by WW and Merk only for Acts; Weber cites it in the Apocalypse also.
pSt. Gall, MS. 70.
--sanVIe#Matt. 6:21-John 17-18, sometimes fragmentary. The scribe claims to have compiled it from two Latin manuscripts with occasional reference to the Greek.
--sanVIp#Palimpsest (lower text Latin martyrology). Contains Eph. 6:2-1 Tim. 2:5
TWW,HJ,MetolToletanusVIIIOT+NTAlong with cav, the leading representative of the Spanish text. Again like cav, it is among the earliest witnesses for "1 John 5:7-8," which it possesses in modified form. Written in a Visigothic hand, it was not new when it was given to the see of Seville in 988.
theodTheodulfianusIXOT+NT Paris, MS, Latin 8380. SOmetimes called the "Mesmes Bible." Theodulf's revision, possibly prepared under the supervision of Theodulf himself. The Gospels and Psalms are on purple parchment.
--taurTaurinensisVII?eAt Turin
--theo or
TheotiscaVIIIe#Matthew 8:33-end, mutilated. Old German text on facing pages.
(U)UltrarajectinaVIMt#Jo#Matt. 1:1-3:4 and John 1:1-21, bound witha Psalter and written in an "Anglian hand" resembling Amiatinus.
UWWVII/VIIIe#Wordsworth's U consistsof a handful of leaves from the Utrecht Psalter, containing Matthew 1:1-3:4, John 1:1-21.Scrivener/Miller, p. 83, dates them VII/VIII.
UMeClaromontanusVIe#Merk usually uses Wordsworthysigla, but for U he lists this manuscript which is not the same.
UWW,MeUlmensisIXapcr"Caroline minuscule" hand. Includes Laodiceans. Now in the British Museum. Generally cited only for the Acts and Epistles.
VWW,HJ,Meor ΦV WevalVallicellanusIXOT+NTVallicellian Library, Rome, MS. Alcuin's revision, written in Caroline minuscules. Considered the best example of this type.
C](viv)IXOT+NTVivian's Elephant Paris, National Library MS. Latin 1 (previously 35612). Sometimes called the Vivian Bible. A very famous manuscript, although not often cited. The text is of Alcuin's recension, and it is neither the earliest nor the best of that type, so it has little critical value. It was given to Emperor Charles the Bald (grandson of Charlemagne) by Vivian, Abbot of St. Martin (Tours), and was kept in Metz for many centuries before being taken to Paris. It is elaborately illustrated, showing e.g. Jerome distributing copies of the Vulgate. Some of the illustrations are quite fanciful -- e.g. the odd creature shown at right is its rendering of an elephant!
WWW,HJ,MeWillelmi1254OT+NTBritish Library Reg. I.B.xii. Called William of Hales's Bible. Written by William of Hales for Thomas de la Wile. Cited by Wordsworth as typical of the late mediaeval text. The 1254 date is from Scrivener; Hopkins-James says 1294; Merk says 1245. It has been suggested that Wordsworth picked this particular late manuscript as a sample because it was associated with his bishopric.
XWW,HJ,MecantabCantabrigiensisVIIeCambridge, Corpus Christi College MS. 286. Said to have been corrected toward a text such as Amiatinus (Scrivener/Miller, p. 78). Like O, with which it "offers striking parallels in script-style, layout, and textual readings" ([Michelle P. Brown, editor], In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000,, p. 290), legend has it that Gregory the Great sent it to Augustine of Canterbury. In the case of this particular manuscript, this makes some sense (although the seventh century date cited by most scholars is rather late). The manuscript has illustrations (not very good ones) -- but they are all collected together on certain pages, almost like a comic. It appears that the book is designed to allow a preacher to point to the scenes one at a time and explain the context of each one -- something far more typical of an evangelist than of a parish priest preaching to his flock, let alone a monk studying the Biblical text.
To this day, Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury take their oaths of office on this book.
YWW,HJ,MelindLindisfarnensisVIIIeIlluminated manuscript with interlinear Anglo-Saxongloss (old Northumbrian dialect). Second only to the Book of Kells in thequality of its illuminations (some would esteem it higher, since it uses less garish colors).Italian text, very close to Amiatinus (A, am). Some have even suggested that thetwo are sisters copied from the same exemplar -- Fischer found that the two agreed in98.5% of sample passages, which is too high a rate of divergence for me to accept themas sisters but which certainly makes them exceptionally similar.It is likely that the exemplar was borrowed from thegreat monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow, the probable site of Amiatinus as well, and the place wherethe Venerable Bede spent most of his life. Lindisfarne is only about 40 miles/65 km. fromWearmouth-Jarrow, and contacts between the two centers seem to have been frequent. TheStonyhurst Gospels (St. Cuthbert's Codex, S/ston/Stoneyhurstensis) is the third knownmember of this family.
Written primarily with two columns per page, though the initial pagesof each gospel, which are highly decorated, are singles columns with enlarged letters.The portions of the parchment which can be identified appear to be calfskin. There are 258 leaves(516 pages), in gatherings of eight. There are no lacunae.
Moderns used to interlinears in which the English text is printed below the Greek or Latinmay be interested to learn that, in this case, the gloss was written above the Latintext. This seems the standard at the time; the Vespasian Psalter, another Latin Bible withOld English gloss, also had the English above the Latin.
For such an early manuscript, we have an unusual amount of information about it, thoughsome of this is based on tradition and may not be entirely reliable. The interlinear glosseswere supplied by a monk named Aldred, who tells us that it was written by Eadfrith, bishopof Lindisfarne (fl. 698-721 C.E.) in honour of St. Cuthbert (died 687).Another Bishop of Lindisfarne, Ethelwald, apparentlybound it, and the cover was ornamented in silver by the anchorite Billfrith.
Aldred himself contributed notes to at least two other surviving manuscripts, neitherBiblical; one is Bede's commentary on Psalms (Bodleian Library Bodley 819),the other a liturgical miscellany known as the Durham Ritual (Durham, Cathedral Library,A>IV.19).
The date of the manuscript depends significantly on whether Eadfrith actually wrote it,or merely directed its writing. If the latter, then it probably dates from the period whenhe was bishop, i.e. after 698. But Janet Backhouse, The Lindisfarne Gospels (Phaidon,1981), thinks it was written before Cuthbert's tomb was opened in 698 at the order of BishopEadbert (died May 698), which would make Eadfrith, not yet bishop, the actual scribe -- thisbased apparently on the statement of the twelfth century writer Symeon of Durham. As possiblesupport for this statement, we observe that the entire book seems to have been executed (andeven the art drawn) by the same scribe, which would be unlikely if it were a major projectplanned by a bishop.
In either case, since Paulinus, the apostle to Northumbria, first came to thenorth in 625, this means it was copiedless than a century after Christianity arrived in the area. Northumbria had notofficially accepted Roman (as opposed to Celtic) Christianity until the Synod ofWhitby in 664, so the manuscript was written in living memory of the adoption ofCatholicism in the area.
The manuscript certainly seems to have had an adventurous career. The Danish invasions ofEngland caused Lindisfarne to be evacuated in the late ninth century; the manuscript (andthe remains of Cuthbert) were taken away. At one point, supposedly, the manuscript fell intothe sea -- but was recovered almost unharmed. (This is just barely possible, since manuscriptsof this period were often enclosed in very strong cases, but I still find it hard to believe.That some manuscript fell into the sea and was recovered seems likely, but the storythat it was this manuscript did not arise until a couple of centuries later.)
It was while the manuscript was at Chester-le-Street in Durham that Aldred added theAnglo-Saxon gloss. This probably was copied from an earlier manuscript, not his own work, sinceparts appear to be in Northumbrian dialect and parts in Mercian.
Although the manuscript was unquestionably made in Britian (both the decorations andthe link with St. Cuthbert prove that), it is almost certain that the exemplar, or oneof its very recent ancestors, came from Italy, as there is a list of Festivals in the volumewhich appears to be associated with the church of Naples (Backhouse, p. 17). Also, theillustrations of the Evangelists have classic Italian features but with modifications --e.g. their feet display the thongs of sandals, but no soles; clearly the illustrator wasnot used to sandals. The Eusebian tables also show the typically Italian device of arches,but with Celtic illuminations (Backhouse, p. 44). It is claimed that the illustrationpreceding the Gospel of Matthew is based on the same model as an illustration of Ezrain the Amiatinus (Backhouse, p. 47).
One curious note about the manuscript is that several of the illustrations appearunfinished -- some part not fully painted in, e.g. Since this happened more than once,it appears that it is deliberate. No one knows why; it has been hypothesized that theartist, in a show of humility, did not wish to produce a perfect work (Backhouse, p. 55).
The manuscript is important for more than its Latin text. As an interlinear, it ishelpful for the study of the Old English language. The earliest Anglo-Saxon dictionary,made by Nowell in 1567, made regular reference to it.
Although not formally venerated as a relic, few manuscripts have had so much influenceon churches. The church at Chester-le-Street has a series of stained glass windowscommemmorating its making, and the church at Holy Island has a carpet based on patternsin the manuscript; eighteen women were involved in sewing that carpet.
Full scans of the manuscript are now available from the British Library, at
eBritish Museum, Harley 1775. Italian text, "in [a] small but very beautiful uncial hand, and with an extremely valuable text" (Scrivener/Miller, p. 76). It is written in sense lines, often quite short, so that there is relatively little text on each page. It has a rather checkered history. It is thought to have been written in Italy. It is believed to have been in France by the ninth century, and once belonging to Cardinal Mazarin. It was stolen from Paris by Jean Aymon and then ended up in the Harleian library. The text has a handful of Old Latin readings. It has been suggested that its text is a deliberate recension based on comparing an Old Latin manuscript with a very early copy of the Vulgate and then cleaning up some of the stylistic imperfections.
ZWW,MeharlHarleianusVIIIpcr#"Written in a French hand,but showing traces of Irish influence in its initials and ornamentation; the text is muchmixed with Old Latin readings; it has been corrected throughout, and the first hand socarefully erased in places as to be quite illegible." The base text is late Vulgate,but there are many early readings. The Old Latin portions (part of Hebrews and theCatholic Epistles) are designated z.Rev. 14:16-end have been lost. It has beautiful colored initials with an interlacepattern. One of the scribes was named Iuseus, and he wrote a note in runes.
Θ(see after T above)
Λ(see after L above)
Σ(see after S above)
ΦBsee under B
p#Paris, National Library 8847. Alcuin's text. Probably written in Tours. Contains only Philippians-2 Timothy.
ΦGsee under K
ΦVsee under V
eapcrSt. Gall, MS. 78. Alcuin's text. Probably written in Tours.

The following tables facilitate conversion between Wordsworth-White andTischendorf symbols.

Tischendorf to WW

WW to Tischendorf
BF-- L3--Ttol
Δ-- MTmtU2--
EP-- O2--W--

In their edition, Wordsworth-White established tentative groupings:

(Note that the Wordsworth-White Vulgate also prints a text of f of the Old Latin (from a print edition rather than fresh collations), because it was thought that f was similar to the Old Latin base that Jerome revised.)

Old Church Slavonic

Some versions of the New Testament are all but lost. (The Gothic is an example.) Others,such as the Armenian, have survived very well. But few other than the Latin Vulgatehave achieved canonical status in their own right. The Old Church Slavonic is anexception.

In the case of the Vulgate, the canonization is perhaps understandable; it is fairlyold as versions go, and it was prepared by the greatest scholar of its generation.

A late text of the Slavonic version:
The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, Tsar of Bulgaria 1331-1371
British Library Add. 39627, comissioned 1355.
A copy of the Bulgarian recension.
Shown is folio 88, the beginning of the Gospel of Mark
Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander

The case of the Slavonic version is somewhat different from the Latin. It is much newer than the Vulgate,and its translators, while venerated, were not the tremendous scholars that Jerome was. Thishas meant that the Old Church Slavonic, although it is the Bible to most SlavicOrthodox churches, has received little critical attention -- though rather more attentionfrom linguists, since Old Church Slavonic (or Common Slavonic)is the earliest Slavic language with anyliterary remains.

The history of Christianity among the Slavs is uncertain. One report claims that theByzantine Emperor Heraclius made an attempt to evangelize the Slavs around the beginningof the seventh century. This account, however, is so littered with contradictions that itcannot be treated as history.

More solid are the accounts of a ninth century mission led by the brothers Methodiusand Constantine. Around 860 the two were sent among the Slavs. (There are reports thatthey found Christians there, and that they were possessed of a partial Bible translation,but we are simply unable to determine the truth, or the details, of this.) In 863 the two went toMoravia and began teaching the locals. From there on the story becomes complicated (ifit wasn't before), with local and church politics playing a large role. Leaving asidethese details, we are told that Constantine (who eventually took the name Cyril)devised a Slavic alphabet and prepared the Slavic translation.

Here again we run into trouble, because there are two Old Slavonic alphabets,the Glagolitic and the Cyrillic. The Glagolitic is a geometric alphabet, made up ofcircles and squares and other simple shapes and not evidently related to any otherform of writing. The Cyrillic is clearly derived from Greek letter forms.

Despite its name, most experts feel that the Cyrillic alphabet is not the workof Cyril/Constantine (some have credited it to Kliment, a pupil of Constantine andMethodius who worked in Bulgaria). Had the Cyrillic been older, it is hard to seehow the Glagolitic could have arisen. The oldest manuscripts of the Old Church Slavonic,which appear to date from the tenth century, are usually Glagolitic, butthe Cyrillic appears not long afterward. Even these early manuscripts show signsof dialectial variations (many of which later became separate languages), sothey are probably somewhat removed from the original translation. These also developedminor textual differences, so that we might speak of Bohemian, Bulgarian, Croatian,Russian, and Serbian "recensions" of the Slavonic.

The Old Church Slavonic was translated primarily for liturgical use, so it shouldnot be surprising that lectionary manuscripts are common, and that manuscripts of theApocalypse (which is not used in the lectionary) are rare.

Research on the Slavonic text has been limited, both because of the difficulty ofthe language (Old Church Slavonic is, of course, Indo-European, but of the Slavicbranch of the family, which is not well known to Western scholars) and because ofthe lateness of the translation. Slavonic generally renders Greek well (except inmatters of verb tense and specific vocabulary), but the text seems to be late. ItsByzantine cast is clear, although there do appear to be some early readings . Vajsconsiders the basic text in the Gospels to belong with Family Π,but with significant "Western" influence.

In Paul, the text is again largely Byzantine, though with some interesting andunusual readings. These do not appear to align with any known text-type.

One can only hope that the future will bring more information to light aboutthis widely revered but little-studied version.

Incidentally, I am told that the OCS versions you can buy in many eastern countriesare not really the same as the original translation, although the change is linguisticrather than textual. Stephen Reynolds, who works with the version regularly, gave me adiscussion of its linguistic history which I am transcribing into HTML as best I can:

Even educated Orthodox Slavs often think that the Slavonic in use today is the same as that of Cyril and Methodius and their earlier epigones, but it ain't.

Probably the most obvious difference is that the two iers, or as the Old Believers say ier’ and ior, functioned as syllable-forming vowels in Common Slavic and hence in Old Slavonic. Associated with the transition from Common Slavic to the several different Slavic languages, the fall of the iers had major consequences everywhere. To take the best-known example, in Russian the iers of stressed syllables were assimilated to _e_ and _o_ respectively, while in unstressed syllables they lost their function as vowels entirely, serving as the "hard sign" and "soft sign" only -- that is, they indicated whether the preceding consonant was palatalized or not. The syllable count of a large percentage of words was reduced, and in Russian the result was the emergence of a symmetrical phonological system based on that distinction.

The fall of the iers affected Slavonic as well as the vernaculars, with the complication of khomoniia, a phenomenon that linguists have needlessly complicated because they are unfamiliar with the neumation of many liturgical manuscripts. Since these manuscripts had neumes over syllables the vowels of which were iers, they had to be sung as syllables. The only way to do this, once the original iers had vanished from the phonological system, was to treat them all as stressed, that is, to read all front iers as _e_ and all back iers as _o_. It took some time to revise the chant to fit the new, reduced syllable count, and khomoniia was the only way to deal with it until the revision was complete.

Other changes in the vernacular also were reflected in Slavonic, although of course not all (or Slavonic would have ceased to exist as a distinct language). Patriarch Euthymius of Bulgaria (ca 1325-1402) established standard rules for Church Slavonic after the fall of the iers, but on the Euthymian basis national recensions developed, so the Serbian, Bulgarian, Russian, and Ruthenian CS differed somewhat from one another. An updated standard was devised by Meletius Smotryts'kyi (c. 1577-1633), and this was adopted for the Nikonian revision of the liturgical books in Russia. These books were printed in large numbers. The south Slavs had an early printery at Cetinje in Montenegro, but it was too small to supply the volume of books necessary for the entire region, which was mostly still dependent on manuscripts. Consequently when the printed books from Russia became easily and fairly cheaply available, they were adopted and the former national recensions were replaced by the Nikonian text.

The cumulative effect is that the Slavonic currently in use differs quite a bit from that of the early sources for the Slavonic Bible.


Most versions of the New Testament exist in several recensions. Sometimes theserecensions can be very different textually. But usually each successive recensionis a revision of those which have gone before -- generally intended to bring theversion into closer conformity with the Greek original and the Byzantine Text.

Not so with the Syriac version. Here there was at least one "fresh start,"and possibly as many as three. (This is not to say that the newer versions were notinfluenced by the older; merely that they were not actual revisions of the older.)

The Diatessaron

The history of the Syriac versions probably begins with the Diatessaron, thegospel harmony which Tatian compiled (in Greekor Syriac) in the second half of the second century.

Although the Diatessaron was compiled by an editor who had been in Rome (Tatianwas expelled from that city in 172), and although it existed more or less from thestart in both Greek and Syriac, it was only in the Syriac church that it is believedto have been regarded as "official." Perhaps it was that Tatian's hereticalattitudes fit better with the mood of the church there.

The problems of the Diatessaron are deep and complex; they cannot be dealt withhere. No Syriac manuscripts of the version survive, and we have no more than a small fragmentof the Greek (in the Dura parchment 0212, a gospelharmony thought by some to be Diatessaric, though the most recent editors think otherwise). Butthe mass of quotations in Ephraem and others, as well as the number of Diatessaricharmonies in other languages, show its depth of influence.

Eventually, however, the Syriac church felt compelled to set the Diatessaron aside.We have reports of bishops ordering churches to replace their copies of Tatian'sdocument with copies of the Four Gospels. The effectiveness of their efforts is shownby the absence of Diatessaric manuscripts in Syriac. The change was not immediate(writers continued to use the Diatessaron for some centuries), but was eventuallycomplete.

We note incidentally that the Diatessaron, and its suppression, has much to tell usabout what can happen to a text. Certain scholars, especially Byzantineprioritists, make a great deal of noise about "normal" transmission --transmission without interference by external factors. Which is all well and good,but there is no reason to believe that transmission is "normal." If itwere, we would have many manuscripts of the Diatessaron, because it would havecontinued to be copied. Instead, we have no substantial copies of theDiatessaron. Its transmission was not "normal" -- and, given thegreat range of historical accidents that can happen, the onus is on those whowhich to claim that transmission is "normal."

The Old Syriac

Competing against the Diatessaron was the Old Syriac. This version (or more correctly,this series of versions) is of uncertain date (some have placed it as earlyas the second century, others as late as the fourth), and may even be earlier thanthe Diatessaron, but it was initially far less successful.

The Old Syriac survives in only two manuscripts: The Sinaitic Syriac palimpsestof the late fourth century and the Curetonian Syriac of the late fifthcentury.

The Sinaitic Syriac (sin or sys), which first came to lightin the 1890s, is in many ways themore interesting of the two. Despite the difficulty of reading the text (which wasoverwritten in the eight century), it is the more complete of the two manuscripts(142 of 166 leaves survive; including Matt. 1:1-6:10,7:3-12:4, 12:6-25,12:29-16:15, 18:11-20:24,21:20-25:15, 25:17-20,25:25-26, 25:32-28:7,Mark 1:12-44, 2:21-4:17,5:1-26, 6:5-16:8 (withouteither the long or the short ending), Luke 1:36-5:28,6:12-24:52, John 1:25-47,2:16-4:37, 5:6-25,5:46-18:31, 19:40-end).Its text is often regarded as more primitive thanthe Curetonian, with rougher renderings. The text is usuallyconsidered "Western," although it is considerably less wild thanthe text of D.

The Curetonian Syriac (cur or syc)shows most of the peculiarities of the Sinaitic, butperhaps to a lesser degree. Recovered in 1842 and published over the nextseveral decades, it contains about half the Gospels (in the order Matthew, Mark,John, Luke). Specifically, it contains Matt. 1:1-8:22,10:32-23:25; Mark 16:17-20;John 1:1-42, 3:6-7:37,14:10-29 (mutilated); Luke 2:48-3:16,7:33-15:21, 17:24-24:44.

It has been supposed that the Curetonian version is a revision of the Sinaitictranslation, probably in the direction of the developing Byzantine text. TheSinaitic, for instance, omits Mark 16:9-20, while the Curetonian contains theverses (16:17-20 being the only parts of Mark to survive in the Curetonian).This should not be considered absolutely certain, however (just as we shouldnot be entirely sure of the relative dates or relationships of the translations).The Sinaitic seemsto have stronger affinities to the Alexandrian text, and could conceivably be arevision of the Curetonian text (presumably more Antiochene in the geographicalsense, and perhaps with more "Tatianisms") toward the text of Egypt.

The Old Syriac is often regarded as "Western." Certainly the text isquite distinct from the Alexandrian text, and it has many of the hallmarks of the"Western" text -- e.g. paraphrases (in Matt. 1:16, for instance,the Sinaitic has the rather amazing reading "...Jacob fathered Joseph;Joseph, to whom Mary the virgin was engaged, fathered Jesus who is called theChrist") and free insertions and deletions. Certain of these are shared withD and the Old Latins, but many are not -- for instance, of the seven"Western Non-interpolations" in Luke 24,the Old Syriac agrees with D it in 24:40, 52 (cur is defective for 52).However, the manuscripts disagree with D etc. in 24:3, 6, 12, 36, 51(cur is defective for 51) and have a peculiar omission of their own in 24:32.

And we cannot avoid the fact that the two manuscripts --especially sin -- have a number ofclear agreements with the Alexandrian text. Notable among these isthe omission, already alluded to, of Mark 16:9-20 in sin. Bothsin and cur join AlephB X f13 in omitting Matt. 16:2-3. Both joinAleph* BΘ 33 579 892* inomitting Matt. 17:21. Sin omits Matt. 18:21along with Aleph B L*Θ f1 f13 33 892*.

Finally, we might note several agreements with the so-called "Cæsarean"witnesses. An obvious example is Matt. 27:16-17, where sin (hiat cur) reads"Jesus Barabbas" with Θf1 700* arm geo2.

The Old Syriac also has a large store of unique readings, some of whichmay come from local tradition. Thus in Matt. 10:3 sin (hiat cur) listsneither Thaddeus nor Lebbaeus as the apostle, but "Judas of James."

These examples could easily be multiplied. While a handful of examplescannot prove the text-type of the Old Syriac, it is clear that it is notidentical to that of D. Some have suggested that the Old Syriac deserves itown text-type (perhaps reasonable, but it would be nice to see a Greekexample first...). Streeter's geographical theory place it between the"Cæsarean" and "Western" texts. Others still viewthe type as "Western," though most would place it in a differentsubgroup from D.

There are no manuscripts of the Old Syriac outside the gospels. Theversion certainly existed, but it can only be reconstructed from quotationsand commentaries. Based on the materials available, the Old Syriac epistles(which may well be older than the Gospels, since the Diatessaron served as"the gospel" for so long) have a textual complexion similar tothe gospels.

The Peshitta

The Peshitta is the oldest Syriac version to survive in its entirety.On that there is general agreement. That is about all that can be statedwith certainty. Even the name is sometimes spelled "Peshitto";this is based on the Jacobite pronunciation (eastern and western Syriachad different pronunciations of the vowels, and this is reflected in thenames).

The date of the Peshitta is perhaps somewhat open to doubt. This question,as we shall see, is of some significance for the history of the text.

The Peshitta contains Old and New Testaments, with the Old Testamentgenerally regarded as older, although there is much dispute about justhow old. The New Testament (which will be what we discuss henceforth)can absolutely be dated to the fourth century or earlier.This is implied by the oldest manuscripts (since several are believed todate from the fifth century). Burkitt also points out that it isused by all branches of the Syriac church (which were well and truly sundered bythe fifth century -- eventually they even came to develop different versionsof the script, so that one can tell by the writing style which Syriac churchused a particular manuscript). This implies (though it does not quite prove) that theversion was in use before the date of the schism.

It is widely stated that the Peshitta was sponsored (perhaps even translated)by Rabbula, who became Bishop of Edessa in 411 and heldthe post until 435. This idea is most associated with F. C. Burkitt, and is basedon a statement in an early biography of Rabbula. But this hypothesis has beenlargely demolished by the work of Vööbus, and is now rarely met with.All indications are that the version is earlier than this.

Folio 154 verso of Sinai Syriac 2
(Peshittatranslation, V/VI century), John 17:7-17.
Thanks to Jean Valentin

But if the latest possible date for the version is the late fourth century, what isthe earliest? A very early date was once assumed; in the nineteenthcentury, many scholars would have dated it to the second century. Inthe twentieth century, this view has largely been abandoned -- not becauseof any specific evidence, but simply because the earliest Syriac authors(Ephraem in particular) do not quote the Peshitta. We note in addition thatthe translation includes James, which was not strongly canonical in the secondcentury. In addition, it isgenerally thought that the Peshitta is dependent on the Old Syriac, whichobviously makes it later than the earliest Syriac versions -- though, sincethe dates of those are disputed, it again fails to prove much.All in all, it's a combination of guesswork and an argument from silence(i.e. it's flatly not proof), but in the absence of anything better, thefourth century date seems to have swept the field.

Whatever its date, the Peshitta is well preserved. Manuscriptsfrom the sixth century are common, meaning that we have substantialearly witnesses. Moreover, the manuscripts are considered to agree very closely;with the exception of Vööbus, most scholars believe that we have theversion in very nearly the exact form in which it left the translators' hands.(It should be noted, however, that many Peshitta manuscripts, including someof the very oldest, have not been properly examined.)

The style of the Peshitta differs noticeably from the Old Syriac. Itis more fluent and more natural than the other Syriac versions. Most scholarstherefore believe that it was a substantially new translation rather thana revision. There are readings which remind us of the older Syriac versions,but these may be simple reminiscences rather than actual cases of dependency.

The text of the Peshitta is somewhat mixed. Various studies, mostly inthe gospels, have attempted to tie it to all three text-types, but onthe whole the Gospels text appears distinctly Byzantine (which is whythe date of the Peshitta is so important. Whatever its date, it isthe earliest Byzantine witness -- but if it is of the second century,that witness is of much greater significance than if it is of thefourth). This is not to say that the Peshitta is purely Byzantine,or shows the peculiarities of the Textus Receptus. It does not. Itomits John 7:53-8:11, for instance. But it includesMatt. 16:2-3, Mark 16:9-20, Luke 22:43-44,23:34, etc.(most of which are omitted by the Old Syriac). Such non-Byzantine readingsas it includes are probably survivals of an older Greek exemplar which has beenheavily corrected toward the Byzantine standard.

In the rest of the New Testament the situation is rather different.While the Byzantine text remains the strongest single element, in Actsand Paul the Peshitta includes significant elements of other types. Inmy estimation, these constitute about 30-40% of the whole. These readingsdo not, however, seem to belong to any particular text-type; they areneither overwhelmingly "Western" nor Alexandrian. I would guessthat the text of the Peshitta here retains hints of the same sort of textwe find in the Old Syriac, with some Byzantine overlay. It does not agreewith the later (Harklean) Syriac version.

The Peshitta does not contain the Apocalypse, and among the CatholicEpistles it has only James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. Little has been done onits text in the Catholics, except to establish that it is not purelyByzantine. Here again, kinship with the Harklean is slight.

The Philoxenian

The Philoxenian is perhaps the most mysterious of the Syriac versions,because what survives of it is so slight. The only thing we can positivelyidentify as the Philoxenian are certain translations of the books not foundin the Peshitta: 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and the Apocalypse. Suchshort fragments are not enough to tell us much textually.

Historically, the data are equally confusing, because it is difficulton the face of it to tell the Philoxenian from the Harklean. ThePhilosenian, we are told, was made in 507-508 C.E. at the instigationof Philoxenus of Mabbûg. It was probably prepared byPolycarp, chorepiscopos of Mabbûg, and was designed as a revisionof the Peshitta and intended to render the Greek more precisely as wellas supplying the missing five books (and, perhaps, John 7:53-8:11).

Given the uncertainty about this version, there is very little elseto be said about it. In the Epistles and the Apocalypse, it is clearlynot purely Byzantine -- but the work done on identifying its text beyondthat is so out-of-date that it is best ignored.

There is one other perhaps-significant footnote: Philoxenus of Mabbug(bishop from 485 to 519) was an active Monophysite who took a significantpart in the Christological controversies of his age, being associated withSeverus of Antioch. Whether his heretical views affected the nature of thePhiloxenian translation is unknown (at least to me), but students shoulddoubtless be aware of the possibility.

The Harklean

Of the history of the Harklean version we know little except that itwas intended to be a scholarly revision of the Philoxenian. It was undertakenby the Syriac scholar Thomas of Harkel (later Bishop of Mabbûg), andcompleted in 616.

Given the poor state of preservation of the Philoxenian version, it is hardto be sure to what extent the Harklean is a revision and to what extent it isa new translation. On the basis of the books preserved in both, however, itwould appear that the Harklean is substantially new. Whereas the Philoxenianstrives for good Syriac style, the Harklean is possibly the most literaltranslation ever attempted in any language. Even prepositions and particlesare translated with wooden consistency, and word order precisely (oftenslavishly) retained, whether the result is good Syriac or not. The Harkleanis completely unsuitable for public use. On the other hand, it is eminentlysuitable for text-critical work.

Perhaps even more interesting than the Harklean's very literal textis the fact that it is a critical edition. Throughout the New Testament,Thomas used several manuscripts (at least two and perhaps three in allareas), and regularly noted their differences. In the text we find manyreadings enclosed in obeli, and in the margin we find variant readings inboth Greek and Syriac.

This immensely complicated apparatus is one of the chief problems ofthe Harklean. It is difficult for scribes to copy, and so copies are oftenimperfect. Before we can reconstruct Thomas's exemplars, we must reconstructhis text, and even that is a major task. Fortunately we have a fair numberof manuscripts from the eighth century, and a handful from earlier, soat least we have good materials for reconstructing the version (thoughcritical editions are only now starting to appear).

Even so, we can reach some clear conclusions by studying the Harkleantext. In the Gospels, it would seem that all the manuscripts consultedwere Byzantine. At least, it has almost all of the longer Byzantine readings(Matt. 16:2-3, Mark 9:44, 46,Luke 22:43-44, 23:34, as well as the full form of theLord's Prayer in chapter 11, and it has all of the "Western Non-Interpolations"in Luke 24). We do find the shorter ending of Mark inthe margin (the long ending in the text); John 5:4 is in asterisks, and the best manuscripts omit John 7:53-8:11.

In the Acts and Epistles, the Harklean is much more interesting; here themanuscripts consulted in preparing the version came from several different families.

In Acts, the Harklean margin was long considered an ally of the"Western" text. It now appears more likely that the Harkleanwas derived from a Byzantine manuscript and a manuscript of family 2138.Some of the wilder marginal readings may come from a true "Western"source, but most of them are probably of the 2138-type.

This affiliation with family 2138 continues in Paul and the Catholics.In Paul, the Harklean is clearly affiliated with 1505 1611 2495; in theCatholics it goes with the large family 614 630 1505 1611 1799 2138 24122495 etc. Of course, it is dependent on a Byzantine source also.

With this information, we are at last in a position to begin reconstructingthe translation method of the Thomas of Harkel. Based on the data in the CatholicEpistles, it appears to me that Thomas wanted to preserve the full text of bothhis exemplars. So, wherever they were variants, he noted them. If the variantwas an addition/omission, he put the longer reading in the text but enclosed itin obeli. Where the variants involved substitution, one went in the text andone in the margin. There appears to be no pattern as to which one went in thetext; Byzantine and family 2138 readings are found in both text and margin.Presumably there was a critical principle involved, but it was not evidentto me.

Little research seems to have been done, to date, on the Harklean versionof the Apocalypse.

With the Harklean version, the history of the Bible in Edessene Syriac/Aramaiccomes to a close. The Arab Conquest seriously weakened the Christian church,and the demand for new translations probably declined. It also led to an evolutionof the Aramaic language. With the call for new renderings so muted, thePeshitta and the Harklean were able to hold the field until modern times.Other Syriac versions exist, but they are in different dialects and completelyunrelated. The one verified version in the alternate Palestinian dialect isknown, logically enough, as

The Palestinian Version

If the other Syriac versions are like a tree growing out of each other,the Palestinian Syriac (also known as the Jerusalem Syriac or theChristian-Palestinian-Aramaic) may be regarded as from anotherforest entirely. Dialect, text, and history are all entirely different --and generally less well-known.

The other Syriac versions are written in the dialect of Edessa, whichis properly called Syriac. The Palestinian Syriac is written in a similarscript, but the language is that of Palestine (it would be better if it weresimply called Aramaic rather than Syriac).

The history of the Palestinian Syriac is largely unknown. No account ofits origin has survived. All that can be said with certainty is that theearliest manuscripts appear to date from the sixth century. Most scholarswould assign it a date in the fifth or sixth centuries.

The Palestinian Syriac survives primarily in lectionaries. The mostimportant manuscripts of the version are three substantial lectionaries --one in the Vatican and dated to 1030 C.E. and two atSinai and dated to 1104 and 1118 C.E. (Ironically, bythis time Palestinian Aramaic was evolving into more modern forms, and the copyistshad some difficulty with the language.) In addition, thereare fragments of the Gospels, Acts, James, 2 Peter, and most of Paulin continuous text manuscripts.

The Palestinian Syriac was clearly made from the Greek. The basis ofthe version has been the subject of debate. It is clearly not Byzantine,but neither does it appear purely Alexandrian nor "Western."Many have seen it as "Cæsarean," and this seems reasonable onthe face of it. More we can hardly say at this time.

The "Karkaphensian" Version

This version will occasionally be referred to in the older manuals. Itis not, however, an actual version. Its name was given before the versionwas properly known, based on a comment of Gregory Bar-Hebraeus, wholisted a "Karkaphensian" Syriac version.

The version that passes by this name is not, however, a continuoustranslation. Rather, it is a collection of passages calling for somesort of scholarly annotation. Sometimes it explains odd words; sometimesit demonstrates the correct orthography of an unusual word. It hastherefore been compared to a Syriac "Massorah" such asaccompanies the Massoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament.

This apparatus seems to exist in two forms -- one Nestorian,one Jacobite. Almost all of the handful of copies are Jacobite,and date from the ninth to the twelfth centuries.Since it is based on the other Syriac versions (especially the Peshitta),it has no proper place in a critical apparatus.

Udi (Alban, Alvan)

This language is of no real interest to the textual critic,since the Udi version no longer exists, but it has some historicalsignificance.

Udi (commonly known as Alban, or more correctly Alvan) is anEast Caucasian language, sometimes (rather confusingly) called CaucasianAlbanian. It is not Indo-European, but is considered part of theNakh-Caucasian family, which also includes such tongues as Avar, Chechen,Lezgian, Tabassaran, Lak, and Dargwa. There are onlya few thousand speakers left today, most of whom speak at least oneother language; it has no literature except perhaps some oralpoetry, and that likely to fade soon. Most of the remainingspeakers live in Azerbaijan. But Azerbaijan, in the first milleniumof the Christian Era, was known as the Kingdom of Alba/Albania. This nationis reported to have been Christianized. Indeed, it is reported thatMesrop, who worked on the Armenian Version, also created an Albanalphabet and an Alban translation.

No traces of this version survive; indeed, no ancient Albanliterature is known. We have a few isolated samples of thealphabet on ostraca, just enough to show what it looks like. It cannot evenbe proved that modern Udi is descended from ancient Alban. But ifan Alban New Testament should emerge, it would be among theearliest versions still surviving.

Other Early Versions

Although the list above includes every version considered to be of valuefor textual critics (and some, like the Slavonic, which are really prettyworthless), there were other translations created before the era of printing.The list below very briefly describes a few of them.