A Layman's Guide to selecting a Latin Vulgate Bible for reading and study
Disclaimer- I am the least of all authorities on the subject of the Latin language and the Latin Vulgate Bible. I do not have any formal training or schooling in my background. These are my opinions based on my own personal experience and research.
Frequently asked question: Which Latin Vulgate Bible do I buy and where can I buy one?
I will attempt to answer this question in three parts: What are the choices?
Which one do I chose? Where do I buy one?
The first thing that must be done is make the distinction between versions, revisions, and editions. This is a bit hard to explain so bear with me.
A version of the Latin Vulgate Bible is distinguished one from another in the same way different English (or any other language) versions or translations are separated.
A few Catholic versions of the bible in English are as follows: The Douay Rheims, The Confraternity, The Knox, The Jerusalem, The RSV-CE, and many others.
Three main versions of the Latin Vulgate are currently in print- The Clementine, The Stuttgart, and the "New" Vulgate.
We must remember that any Bible in Latin is technically a translation. If you are not reading the Bible in Hebrew or Greek, you are reading a translation. Each version of the Latin Vulgate is a different translation of the Bible.
A revision is modification of an existing version but the changes were not extensive enough to deem it 'a new version'. For example:
An edition references a particular printing by a particular publisher.
To once again use the Douay Rheims Bible as an example: The original Douay Rheims Bible was first printed in 1582 (NT) and 1609-1610 (OT).
This is the first edition of the Douay Rheims version. The first edition was reprinted several times over the centuries and each one of these is an individual edition of that version.
Furthermore, there are two types of editions- re-typeset and facsimile.
Facsimiles are exact photographic or scanned images of the pages.
Re-typeset editions have had their text arranged and prepared by a type-setter or in modern times- by someone using a word processor.
'Sorry to carry on with such detailed explanations, but this information will be important as we move forward.
There are four primary versions of the Holy Bible in the Latin language-
The first and oldest is the "Old Latin" or "Vetus Latina" or "Vetus Itala". A complete biblical text of this particular version is not extant. We only have excerpts from Church Fathers, Saints, and other early Christian writers. If you attend a Latin Mass, you have already been exposed to this version. The beginning of the organic development of the Missale Romanum and the scriptural readings therein pre-dates any complete version of the Latin Vulgate Bible.
Next comes what is best known as the "Clementine Vulgate" or "Sixto-Clementine Vulgate" promulgated by Pope Clement VIII. This version is by far the most popular and widely used edition by Roman Catholics for at least three reasons: 1) Papal Approval. It is one of only two versions that have Papal approval (The other being the "Nova Vulgata" or "Neo-Vulgate" which I cover further down) 2) Longevity. From the birth and infancy of the Clementine text from 1592-1598, the next official version prepared and approved by the Church did not come until 1979 under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. 3) Abundant distribution. Deeply connected to longevity- This version of the Vulgate was reprinted probably hundreds of times with tens of thousands of copies in existence. The current accepted Clementine text is actually a revision of the "Sixtine Vulgate" of Pope Sixtus V.
There is a lengthy, detailed story of why the Vulgate of Pope Sixtus V never made to the mainstream- I suggest further research and study if you are interested in such things.
If we are keeping to chronological order, the "Stuttgart Vulgate" comes next.
This version sits in a category all it's own. It is an attempt by modern scholars to compile the ancient text of the Vulgate and print it as such. The work was given to the Benedictine monks of......There is no punctuation and the spelling is archaic. It seems to be more useful for study than devotional reading. It also includes a critical apparatus.
Lastly and most recently we have the "Nova Vulgata" or "New Vulgate".
Is it a version or a revision? The preface states that it is a revision of the Clementine text. I have read opinions of folks who say it departs from the Clementine text in so many places, it bears very little resemblance to it. For our purposes here, I'm going to separate it as a version for two reasons: 1) The length of time between the promulgation of the Clementine and the Nova is so vast, and biblical scholarship has went through so many changes during that time. 2) I have come to learn over the years- newer is not always better. I'm not trying to be facetious, but any text titled with the word "Nova" in front of it activates my Sensus Catholicus. I can think of at least one Catholic English translation of the bible with the word "New" in it that I do not trust.
If you would like to dive deeper into this subject, I highly recommend a series of lectures by Paul Needham
As a side note:
There are several versions of the Psalms that differ one from another as well. Here is an oversimplified list of the primary ones (there are more)-
The Gallican Psalter
The Vulgate Psalter
The Pian Psalter (named after Pope Pius XII)
The New Psalter
I'm not going to cover the differences between each of them.
So which version is best for you?
This is the only part of this equation that you have to answer for yourself. It depends on your purposes, opinions, and bias. More oversimplifications: If you are an adherent to Traditionalism or just want the most 'time honored' text - Get the Clementine. If you are someone who places your trust in the 'latest and greatest' scholarship- Get the Stuttgart. If you just want the newest version- get the Nova Vulgata. If you want to analyze any of these texts thankfully they are all free online.
The Clementine Vulgate is available in two electronic formats.
First, there are countless scanned older editions available on Google Books and Archive.org.
Here are a few links.
The Clementine text also has been put into electronic form. It has been use to create several printed editions, covered below. Michael Tweedale is responsible for the work and the text is available through his website.
Scanned pages of the Stuttgart Vulgate are available on Archive.org.
The Nova Vulgata is available on the Vatican's website.
A pdf version of the Vatican website's text has been posted on Archive.org as well.
Now to the crux of the matter- What is available and where do I buy one?
Let's start with the Clementine Vulgate since it is the most popular and it's the Vulgate of version of my choice.
BIBLIA VULGATA iuxta VULGATAM CLEMENTINAM
- Editors: Fr. Alberto Colunga, O.P. and Fr. Laurentio Turrado
Published by B.A.C. (Biblioteca De Autores Crisitianos) in Spain
First edition: 1946
14th printing: 2018