The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Evidence
, edited by H.A.G. Houghton, C.M. Kreinecker, R.M. MacLachlan, and C.J. Smith.
The Old Latin Tradition of the Pauline Epistles
The evidence for the early Latin text of the Pauline Epistles is relatively sparse. Its history is similar to that of the rest of the Latin New Testament.1
An initial translation was probably made around the beginning of the third century, as witnessed by the consistent form of text in the biblical quotations of Cyprian. This was then revised in various ways in various places, sometimes with reference to a Greek text, sometimes based on internal criteria of Latin style.
Although this may have resulted in a number of different traditions, over the course of the fourth century a single form of text associated with North Italy gradually achieved an ascendancy. A revision of this version at the beginning of the fifth century produced the form of text later accepted as standard in the Latin Vulgate.2
It is therefore misleading to divide the Latin tradition of the New Testament into two separate forms, Old Latin and Vulgate. The Vulgate was a revision of an existing Latin text according to a Greek form: the Gospels were the work of Jerome in 382–384, but the reviser of the rest of the New Testament is unknown.
There may have been multiple early Latin translations, but the conclusion of editors of both Old and New Testament books in the Vetus Latina
editions is that the surviving evidence appears to derive from a single initial version. Although the Latin tradition is best conceived of as a continuum, it is nevertheless a useful shorthand to use Old Latin (or Vetus Latina
) as a catch-all designation for non-Vulgate readings, particularly those which are attested in Christian writings before the fifth century.
The reconstruction of the “text-types” of the different stages of the Old Latin tradition, based on scriptural codices and quotations in Christian authors from the first eight centuries, is the goal of the Vetus Latina
edition. This is a difficult task. A combination of age and the hegemony of the Vulgate means that few manuscripts survive of the early versions; copies of biblical books made from the fifth century onwards may well be mixed texts combining Old Latin and Vulgate forms. The later form of text may also have affected the transmission of early Christian writings. It is only through the exhaustive collection and analysis of all surviving evidence that the fullest possible picture can be presented. As noted above in the Preface, the material in the present volume was assembled to give an overview of readings in the Latin tradition of the principal Pauline Epistles for the purpose of analysing the biblical text of early commentaries.
It is presented here to facilitate further study of the textual history of these writings and to provide a reliable account of the most extensive early Latin evidence, replacing the entries for the selected witnesses in the Vetus Latina Database
. In this way, it is hoped that it may also eventually serve as the basis for the full Vetus Latina
edition of these four letters, as well as an interim point of reference for Latin sources in editions of the Greek New Testament.
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1. For a fuller treatment of the whole corpus as well as specific observations on the Pauline
Epistles, see H.A.G. Houghton, The Latin New Testament. A Guide to its Early History, Texts,
(Oxford: OUP, 2016).
2. A summary of scholarship on the origin of the Vulgate version of the Pauline Epistles is given
in the contribution of Anna Persig to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Latin Bible