Primacy of Latin

If God had spoken Latin, western Christians believed, he would have dictated the scriptures in Jerome’s Latin words. The great Complutensian Polyglot Bible, published in Madrid 45 years before Hernando del Castillo collated Justus's Gospel Book, had placed the Greek, Latin and Hebrew texts in three parallel columns.

Its preface stated: Mediam autem inter has latinam beati Hieronymi translationem velut inter Synagogam et Orientalem Ecclesiam posuimus: tanque duos hinc et inde latrones medium autem Iesum hoc est Romanam sive latinam Ecclesiam collocantes (Prolog. II).

Here is a translation following Basil Hall (in Greenslade, E.L. ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible):
We have placed the Latin translation of blessed Jerome as though between the Synagogue and the Eastern Church, siting them like the two thieves, one on each side, and Jesus, that is the Roman or Latin Church, between them.
This sardonic statement appears at the start of the bible, a masterpiece of typography and Catholic scholarship, which was printed between 1514 and 1517 in Alcalá de Henares (Complutum in Latin). The Complutensian Bible is available as a PDF from Archive.org.


Vetus Names

In her publication on the Great Stemma in 1984, Yolanta Zaluska asserted that all the existing recensions contained a mixture of Vetus Latina and Vulgate names:
Lé fond commun de la Vieille Latine est sensible dans tous les témoins consultés, mais à des degrés variés. Il est indiscutable que la Vulgate a été utilisée à plusieurs reprises tantôt pour corriger les lignées, tantôt pour compléter les textes explicatifs.
She characterized these differences as follows:
Recension α: ... texte mixte, en général très corrompu, disposé toujours sur quatorze tables; à partir d'Abraham (table VI), n'a presque pas été retouché sur la Vulgate.
Recension β: ... texte corrigé d'après la Vulgate, néanmoins dans l'ensemble assez corrompu, et fortement interpolé, en grande partie, semble-t-il, à l'aide des Etymologies d'Isidore; peut être commodément désigné comme une recension longue.
Recension σ transmise par le Beatus de Saint-Sever (S), apparaissant pour l'essentiel comme un texte de type α corrigé d'après la Vulgate, mais fournissant quand même des textes qui lui sont propres ...
Recension γ: ... texte ne montrant que des retouches occasionnelles d'après la Vulgate; partie caractéristique à la page des Juges; plusieurs omissions.
Recension δ: ... Le premier texte (Bible de San Millán de la Cogolla, Madrid) est probablement celui qui reflète le plus fidèlement la tradition de la Vieille Latine; le texte de [Bible de Calahorra] en revanche suit généralement la Vulgate, à partir d'Abraham; des interpolations communes dans la première partie du texte.
Zaluska never presented any statistical data or analysis to back up these characterizations, so I have done some sampling of my own. Below is a tabulation containing a rough scoring of 39 Genesis names from the period down to Abraham. I have included a recension, Epsilon, that Zaluska left out of account. I have not included Zaluska's Sigma in this survey.
The assessments are subjective, which is to say I judged the different spellings and rated how closely they resembled the Vetus Latina orthography (which is based on the Septuagint Greek). The scoring system offers a continuum between forms that show no influence from Jerome and forms that could only be corruptions of Jerome's orthography. This is not highly scientific, but it is a start. Here are the numerical values I employed:
  • -2 signifies an obviously LXX/Vetus form, but with extreme scribal deformation;
  • -1 is the pure LXX/Vetus type;
  • 0 means a name containing a consonant or vowel that uncertainly suggests the LXX/Vetus type;
  • +1 a name of Vulgate type;
  • +2 signified variants that are very unlike the Vetus but do resemble the Vulgate type
The columns, from left to right, represent Epsilon, Delta, Gamma, Alpha, Beta; the last three columns comprise Fischer's form of the Vetus name, the Clementine Vulgate form and the Stuttgart Vulgate form.

2 1 0 1 1 Gamer Gomer Gomer
1 -1 -1 -1 -1 Iuvan Iavan Javan
-2 -2 1 1 1 Thobel Tubal Thubal
-1 -1 -1 0 0 Cham Ham Ham
-1 -1 -1 1 1 Mestrem Mesraim Mesraim
1 1 -1 -1 1 Evilat Hevila Hevila
-1 1 0 1

Sabacatha Sabatacha Sabatacha
1 1 1 1 1 Iudadan Dadan Dadan
0 1 -1 0 -1 Nebroth Nemrod Nemrod
2 2 0 1 0 Labiim Laabim Laabim
1 1 -2 1 -2 Neptabiim Nepthuim Nephthuim
1 1 1 1 1 Patrosin Phetrusim Phetrusim
1 1 1 1 1 Caslonin Cesluim Chasluim
1 1 1 1 1 Captorim Capthurim

1 1 -1 1 1 Chetteum Ettheum Hethæum
1 1 1 1 2 Euveum Eveum Hevæum
1 1 1 1 1 Aruceum Araceum Aracæum
2 1 -1 1 1 Asenneum Sineum Sinæum
-1 -1 -1 1 1 Samareum Samariten Samaræum
1 1 2 2 1 Aelam Elam Ælam
-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 Arfaxat Arfaxad Arphaxad
2 2 2 2 2 Obs Us Us
0 1 0 0 0 Ul Hul Hul
1 2 2 2 1 Gather Gether Gether
-2 -2 -2 0 0 Mosoch Mes Mes
-2 0 0 0 0 Helmodat Helmodad Elmodad
1 1 1 1 1 Odorrem Aduram Adoram
1 1 -1 1 1 Ezel Uzal Uzal
1 0 -1 1 1 Gebal Ebal Ebal
1 1 -2 1 1 Abimeel Abimahel Abimaël
1 1 1 1 1 Ufir Ophir Ophir
1 1 1 1 1 Evilat Evila Hevila
-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 Falec Faleg Phaleg
-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 Ragau Reu Reu
-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 Seruch Sarug Sarug
1 1 -1 1 1 Nachor Nahor Nahor
-1 -1 -1 -1 1 Thara Thare Thare
1 -1 -1 1 1 Nachor Nahor Nahor
1 -1 -1 -1 -1 Sarra Sarai Sarai
This list has been filtered to only comprise 39 names in Genesis where there seems to be a distinction between the Vetus Latina and Vulgate forms.
Now it is striking that none of the five recensions above consistently follows the Vetus Latina type, which would be indicated by one of the columns consisting mostly of scores of -2 or -1.
When transcribing the manuscripts, my impression was that the concentration of Vetus Latina names was highest in Delta, but in this scoring, Delta has a median value of +0.3. In fact it is Gamma which is closest to the Vetus, with a median score of -0.2 . As for the rest, the medians are Epsilon +0.4, Alpha +0.5 and Beta +0.5.
I have converted the table to a graph below. If anyone can think of a more expressive graph, I would be glad to hear advice on how this could be presented in line with current methods.
It will be clear to the readers from both the table and from the graph that there is no obvious consistency in the way that medieval editors revised the five recensions. The variants swerve wildly to both sides. In this sample of names from Genesis, the data does not seem to support Zaluska's conclusion that Gamma contains "occasional retouchings" drawn from the Vulgate," whereas Delta is the "most faithful" to the Vetus Latina. If anything, Gamma is more faithful.
What can we say about the names from those parts of biblical history subsequent to Genesis?
We cannot expect to find any differences in the names from Christ back to the Exile, because these names only existed in the Greek manuscripts of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and no Hebrew evidence for them exists. Jerome of Stridon did not alter their Latin transcriptions, so these names are invariant between the Vetus Latina and the Vulgate.
As for the names from the Exile back to Saul, we also cannot expect to find much significant variation. We do not yet possess scholarly editions of the Vetus Latina text of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, 1 Kings and 2 Kings (they will take several more decades to arrive). To fill the gap, I have instead collated the Septuagint forms, which were of course the basis for the Vetus Latina. The reader can construe the likely Latin transcriptions, and compare these to the Stuttgart Vulgate forms. The following selection shows that Jerome left the bulk of the pre-existing Latin forms pretty well unchanged.
Αχινααμ Ahinoem 1Sa 25:43, 2 Sa 3:2
Αβιγαιας Abigail 1Sa 25:42, 2Sa 3:3
Μααχα Maacha 2Sa 3:3
Αγγιθ Aggith 1Ch 3:2, 2Sa 3:4
Αβιταλ Abital 2Sa 3:4
Αιγλα Agla 2Sa 3:5
Βηρσαβεε Bethsabee 2Sa 11:3
Αμνων Amnon 2Sa 3:2
Δαλουια Chelaab 2Sa 3:2, 1Ch 3:1
Αβεσσαλωμ Absalom 2Sa 3:3
Ορνια Adonias 2Ch 3:4
Σαφατια Safathia 1Ch 3:3, 2Sa 3:4
Ιεθερααμ Iethraam 2Sa 3:5
Θημαρ Thamar 2Sa 13:1
Ιβααρ Ibaar 1Ch 3:6, 14:5, 2Sa 5:15
Ελισαε Elisama A 1Ch 14:5, 3:6, 2Sa 5:16
Ελιφαλετ Eliphalet / Helifeleth 1Ch 3:6, 14:5, 2Sa 5:16
Ναγε Noge 1Ch 3:7, 14:5
Ναφαγ Napheg / Nepheg 1Ch 3:7, 14:5, 2Sa 5:15
Ιανουε / Ιανουου Iaphie 1Ch 3:7, 14:5, 2Sa 5:15
Ελισαμα / Ελισαμαε Elisama B 1Ch 3:8, 14:5
Ελιαδα Helida / Heliade 1Ch 3:8, 14:5, 2Sa 5:16
Ελιφαλετ Eliphalet / Helisua 1Ch 3:8, 14:5, 2Sa 5:15
Σαμμους Samua 2Sa 5:14
Σωβαβ Sobab 2Sa 5:14
Σαλωμων Salomon Mt 1:6, 2Sa 5:14

Ιεροβοαμ / Ναβατ Hieroboam 1Kgs 11:26
Ναδαβ Nadab 1Kgs 15:25
Βαασα / Αχια Baasa filius Ahia 1Kgs 15:33
Ηλα Hela filius Baasa 1Kgs 16:8-16
Ζαμβρι Zamri 1Kgs 16:9
Θαμνι / Γωναθ Thebni filium Gineth 1Kgs 16:21
Αχααβ / Αμβρι· Ahab filius Amri 1Kgs 16:29
Ιεζαβελ Hiezabel 1Kgs 16:31
Οχοζιας Ohozias 1Kgs 22:40
Ιωραμ / Αχααβ Ioram filius Ahab 2Kgs 3:1, 1Kgs 22:50
Ιου / Ναμεσσι Hieu filius Namsi 1Kgs 19:16, 2Chr 22:7
Ιωαχας Ioachaz 2Kgs 10:35
Ιωας Ioas filius Ioachaz 2Kgs 13:10
Ιεροβοαμ Hieroboam 2Kgs 13:13
Ζαχαριας Zaccharias filius Hieroboam 2Kgs 15:8
Σελλουμ / Ιαβις Sellum filius Iabes 2Kgs 15:13
Μαναημ / Γαδδι Manahem filius Gaddi 2Kgs 15:14
Φακεϊας Phaceia filius Manahem 2Kgs 15:23
Φακεε / Ρομελιου Phacee filius Romeliae 2Kgs 15:25
Ωσηε / Ηλα Osee filius Hela 2Kgs 17:1
As luck would have it, where differences do occur in the above list, it is not always easy to see a pattern in the Great Stemma's uptake of the forms. First of all we find certain odd distortions. The first Elisama, for example, appears not as Elisae, but as Elisbe. Secondly, some of the variations completely contradict Zaluska's generalizations: Zambri with a B appears in three recensions (Epsilon, Alpha, Beta), but has been "corrected" to Jerome's Zamri without a B in Delta and Gamma, which are normally the most conservative texts.
Zaluska's assertion that the balance in Alpha swung, after Abraham, to almost pure Vetus Latina forms is therefore interesting and provocative, but needs to be treated with a certain amount of caution. My guess is that her generalization was in fact largely argued from her very perceptive analysis of the Horrite names in Genesis 36. I wrote a survey of these in 2010 where I tabulated the names and provided the proof that is missing from her article, though implied. The differences among the Horrite names between Alpha and Beta are especially striking and this section of the collation is crucial in proving that the Great Stemma is indeed drawn from a Vetus Latina tradition.
I have not yet studied the Vetus/Vulgate distribution of the names making up the Twelve Tribes of Israel: it would be interesting to follow this up at a later time.
In conclusion, I would say this. The Great Stemma and the Liber Genealogus were clearly originally written in a time and place where Jerome's Vulgate was not available and were then haphazardly modified by medieval editors. But the process of modification was not as simple or as linear as Zaluska suggests, and her conclusions are too sweeping. The Great Stemma manuscripts are anything but unambiguous evidence for the onomastics of the Vetus Latina. Bonifatius Fischer was correct to collate the Great Stemma from four Spanish bibles as a somewhat compromised source, while treating it with the greatest of caution.

Footnote: there is a further discussion of this issue a couple of years later: http://macrotypography.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-old-latin.html



I glimpsed an ARD television news report four weeks ago on the Berlin round of the Visualizing Marathon but cannot find the news clip any more. There is some coverage of the event on Vizworld.