Although the Greek Bible and Jerome’s Latin Bible According to the Hebrews, commonly referred to as the Septuagint and Vulgate respectively, represent the two major biblical translations of the Classical world, they have not received the same scholarly attention. There are two major critical editions of the LXX, including the incomparable Göttingen edition, and, since 1968, a society (The International Organization of the Septuagint and Cognate Studies) and periodical (Bulletin of the IOSCS) devoted to Septuagint studies. There are countless articles, monographs, introductions, handbooks, and aides for the study of the Greek translation of the Bible. Vulgate Studies still rely on a grammar and handbook over 100 years old, an eighteenth century English translation, and a dissertation as the most recent “standard” introductory monograph on the work. This can be explained by the fact that the Greek Bible is more important to the textual history of the Hebrew Bible and it served as the Bible of the early Christians. Moreover, its legendary origins and its numerous recensions including Origen’s Hexapla have piqued scholarly consideration and required expert analysis. In recent years, interest has shifted from textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible to the Greek Bible as a text by itself and a literary artifact of Greco-Roman Judaism. As a result, there has been a greater focus on individual books, translation style and a proliferation of translations and commentaries on the Greek Bible into modern languages. While appreciating the LXX as a specifically Greek text of the Hellenistic period should be applauded, basic information such as the identity of the translators and later editors, the date of individual translations, and the principles of translation remain largely speculative. The situation for almost all of the Vulgate is the opposite. The identity of the translator and the date of the translation is well-established. Since Jerome wrote numerous letters, prefaces, biblical commentaries, and even a theoretical treatise on translation, we have abundant information that enables us to understand his translation as Late Antique Latin literature. Thus, we have a paucity of modern resources to address the shifting paradigm for ancient biblical translation, despite extensive evidence available to answer these new questions.
Enter the Vulgata Verein, that recalls the institutional collaborative structure of the IOSCS that stimulated LXX studies over 50 years ago. It is not the same entity, however, as it has emerged in a different context. Established in Chur, Switzerland in 2011, the Vulgata Verein has the primary purpose to advance the study of the Vulgate version of the Bible through a translation of the entire work into German. Outgrowths of this effort included the establishment of the online annual Vulgata in Dialog in 2016 and the creation of the complementary Vulgate Institute in 2019 in order to promote Vulgate Studies. The first volume of Vulgata in Dialog appeared in 2017, preceding the publication of the monumental five-volume German translation of the Vulgate, an undertaking of more than 6000 pages and marshalling the efforts of over 50 scholars. The Latin text of the Weber manual edition appears on one side with the German translation facing the other side. The cross-references to biblical verses at the bottom of the page are identical to the biblical references on the margins of Weber’s manual edition. Each volume includes the same, five-page introduction and a useful appendix of measurements, weights, and coinage. The appendix provides the Latin term, whether transliterated or translated from the Hebrew, its German translation, modern numerical equivalent or metal, and biblical reference. Each biblical book was assigned to an individual translator whose names are indicated at the end of the book with some books having multiple translators. A complete list is available at Projekt Vulgata. In addition to the translation itself, the most innovative part of the work are the scattered annotations made by the editors of individual books which shed light on various issues of the Hebrew, Latin and Greek texts, biblical and historical contexts, and the German translation. Such a massive undertaking was ably overseen by the general editors of all five volumes, Andreas Beriger, Widu-Wolfgang Ehlers, and Michael Fieger.
In addition to translating the entire Vulgate, including the books not translated or revised by Jerome, all of Jerome’s prologues and prefaces have been rendered into German. Since these introductions are crucial to understanding Jerome’s methods and context, these translations made and edited by experts in Vulgate studies will be of general benefit to a German reading audience. Since it has become typical to provide the Latin, Hebrew, and/or Greek, and the vernacular for lemmata in publications related to the Vulgate, the German translation will be useful tool for scholars. Nonetheless, the German translation of the Latin translation of the biblical text does not substitute for direct comparison of the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek versions. A major challenge to Vulgate studies is explaining whether the Latin departs from the Hebrew because it has a different Hebrew Vorlage, incorporates the various Greek versions, or follows internal Latin considerations such as appropriate idioms—and in some cases incorporates exegetical traditions. The German translation by itself cannot do this, hence the need for annotations.
The Purpose and Character of the German Translation
An identical “Einleitung” preceding each volume demonstrates awareness of these challenges. It describes the translation technique of the editors, the purpose of translating the Vulgate into German, and the intended style of the German translation. The primary technique of the translation is “to compile a philologically accurate and documented translation which renders the late Latin into the contemporary target language of German as well as possible” (p.9). “Documented” means adhering as much as possible to the syntax, grammatical construction, definition of terms, consideration of semantic fields, tenses, and contexts of the Latin so that all these are reflected in the target language. This technique correlates with a primary purpose of the work—to introduce a modern German readership to an understanding not of the Bible per se, but a Late Antique fifth-century reading of the Bible. This will facilitate the exegesis of ancient biblical Vorlagen that differ from each other and include the Vulgate in the robust conversations among exegetes of the Greek text (p.10) as well as enhancing similar conversations centered around the Latin Bible. The editors also want to make accessible a pre-Reformation text as it might have been read from Late Antiquity to the Reformation. Those familiar with Latin can benefit as well from the German translation because of the difficult and unclassical Latin of Jerome. This applies to the prefaces and prologues as well, even though English and German versions are available both in print and online. As far as the translation of the Latin biblical text is concerned, the editors sought consistency through consultation with the various individual translators. Rather than provide an interlinear translation, which creates more interpretive work for the reader, the German is located on the page facing the Latin. This reader-friendly approach is designed to generate a readership of Jerome’s translation among those for whom the work has been inaccessible. The translation avoids a “pastoral…Lutheran tone” in favor of a style closer to the one Jerome intended for his target audience (p.11). Thus, the translation has a three-fold purpose: provide a German translation that captures the style of the Vulgate, give readers a sense of the Vulgate as a late Antique work, and ensure that the translation reads smoothly by itself. These purposes assume a readership interested in biblical studies, but unfamiliar with Latin and the Latin Bible. The degree to which the translation achieves its purposes is mixed.
Given the large number of people involved in the project, it is to be expected that the German translations variously succeed in revealing the translation technique of the Vulgate. Sometimes, the German translation is closer to the Hebrew than the Vulgate. For example, on Genesis 22:3, the Latin has numerous participles that the German renders more paratactically like the Hebrew. This is not always the case. In Deuteronomy 6:7, the German renders the participles with subordinate clauses, although this happens also to correlate with the Hebrew, which has prepositions with the infinitive construct. Rendering Deuteronomy 6:5 with “you shall love the Lord Your God out of your whole heart” with Du wirst den Herrn, deinen Gott, aus deinem ganzen Herzen…lieben nicely captures the future tense and awkward prepositional phrase of the Latin in contrast to the Hebrew, which could be read as an imperative and has a different prepositional phrase. The rendition of Ecclesiastes 3 does a good job realizing the poetry of the Latin, which repeats tempus and gerunds, by repeating Zeit and verbs ending in -ens, while like the Vulgate, the German does not render the song of Deborah in Judges 5 poetically. At other times, the Latin and Hebrew are closer to each other than the German. For example, the German for Proverbs 31:10 renders the Latin as a simile when the Vulgate has a metaphor. Sometimes the German could be more precise. For Exodus 4:13 mitte quem missurus es, instead of sende, wen du senden willst! , sende, wen du senden wirst would be more accurate. Particularly useful, however, are the German translations of Psalms because one can compare the differences between Psalms according to the LXX and Psalms according to the Hebrew (Jerome originally began revising the Latin translation of the Greek before deciding to translate directly from the Hebrew). For example, ILXX has nam et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis non timebo mala while IH has sed et si ambulavero in valle mortis non timebo malum (Ps. 22:4). The German differs accordingly Denn/Aber for nam/sed, Schatten/Tal for umbra/vallis and die Übel/das Übel for mala/malum. Nevertheless, while the German itself is quite reasonable and readable, sometimes this happens at the expense of introducing readers to the unique characteristics of the Vulgate. BMCR readers should use the German translation by itself carefully.
The editors are well aware of the limitations of relying on the translation alone and offer guidance through the annotations to how best to utilize the German. Since Jerome’s technique involves consideration of the Hebrew, Greek versions, and his Late Antique context, the annotations are particularly crucial. To be sure, the biblical prologues lay out Jerome’s translational program and his responses to critiques of his program, but even the prologues coupled with the German translation of the Vulgate itself are insufficient because the key to appreciating the Vulgate is through his engagement with his Vorlagen and the Latin context of his rendition. This would not be available to an assumed readership unfamiliar with Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Hence, the annotations are crucial for bringing Jerome to life. The annotations vary in quality. Moreover, since considerations of space restrict the number of notes, a reader could encounter large sections without any comments. These annotations represent the most promising and disappointing contribution of the work. Since the biblical prefaces and the Latin biblical translation represent vastly different genres, I will consider the corresponding annotations separately.
Annotations: Prefaces and Prologues
Much has been written in English and German about the biblical prefaces and prologues including the monograph of Fürst which includes a German translation and commentary on these introductions. The editors are well aware of Fürst’s work, to which they refer in the introduction and on which they clearly draw in the annotations. For example, the explanation of Latin wordplay in the Prologue to the Pentateuch’s dedicatee, an allusion to Daniel 9:23, and a critique of the Apocrypha as a sideswipe against Priscilla of Aquila all depend upon Fürst (Vol I, p.15; Fürst, pp.343–345). These notes are fairly typical of the type of issues of interest to the editors: Latin features, contemporary issues, historical, biblical, and classical references and clarification of terms unfamiliar to most readers. It also typically ignores references to rabbinic traditions such as the legend of Ptolemy II and the Septuagint that Jerome mentions in the prologue to the Pentateuch. The notes also provide useful explanations of realia, (hyacinth and myrrh,Vol. II, p.257), Greek terms (asteriscus and obelus, Vol. II, p.17; Hagiographa, Vol. II p.253; also Vol. III, pp.17-21, Vol. V, p.19), unusual Latin terms (prologus galeatus,Vol. II, p.255 and ad Hebraeos,Vol. II, p.793), and Hebrew transliterations of biblical books (Sephar thallim, Masloth, Coeleth, sirassirim,Vol III, pp. 17, 21). Some notes are problematic, such as the explanation of eschematismenos in the Prologue to Job (Vol. III, p.1335) as meaning “affectatious, crooked, fraudulent.” According to rhetorical tradition, it means “figurative” which not only aptly describes the book of Job, but Jerome explicitly introduces the Greek as a rhetorical term “which the rhetoricians call eschatismenos in Greek”. Despite these minor concerns, an easily available and reader friendly translation of Jerome’s several prefaces to his biblical translations is quite useful.
Annotations: the Biblical Translation
Annotations on the translations themselves when taken as a whole offer a glimpse into Jerome’s translation technique. The annotations focus on a variety of topics that vary from translator to translator. For example, virtually all the notes of Andreas Beriger on Joshua refer to place names, while Manfred Niehoff’s and Michael Margoni-Kögler’s translation of Isaiah 1–11 and 12–22 respectively incorporate references to Jerome’s commentary on Isaiah. Readers can get a general sense that Jerome may transliterate a Hebrew place name or translate part or all of the name or that his translation may reflect issues addressed in his commentaries. However, the impression of Jerome can be skewed by the interest of the translator, so the reading of one biblical book does not replace an examination of the annotations in all five volumes for a more complete impression of Jerome’s style and technique. They address source and target languages, meaning of unclear texts, and miscellanies associated with the biblical and Late Antique contexts, textual issues, and occasionally refer to relevant material in the rest of Jerome’s writings. Remarks on Latinity can highlight Hebrew paronomasia rendered into Latin (virago/vir Heldjungfrau/Mann Gen. 2:23), unique connotations in the Latin that differ from the Hebrew (titulus for idolatrous pillar on Lev. 26:1), clear additions in the Latin absent in Hebrew, such as a gloss (id est oppida Iair Judges 10:4) and references to Classical tradition (Cocytus in Job 21:33). There are often notes clarifying pronominal antecedents (e.g., Ecc. 8:1and Matt. 3:12). Notes on Lev. 27:27 and Rev. 10:11, 11:15, and 12:10 acknowledge ambiguous antecedents (aus dem Text geht nicht hervor, auf welche Person sich…bezieht).
For the most part, however, the notes clarifying the pronouns are quite helpful especially when the context has multiple antecedents (e.g., Num. 32:42). Also to be commended are notes that explicitly explain Jerome’s translation technique. One such note, H transkribiert das hebräische Wort mamzer und fügt eine Erklärung ein marks the use of a gloss (on Deut. 23:2). Other notes usefully explain the Latin (descendit could be past or present tense, Rev. 12:12) or the Late Antique context. For example, Jerome renders ‘as a small stone in a heap of stones’ with the clearly anachronistic sic qui mittit lapidem in acervum Mercurii (Prov. 26:8). The note explains how the Latin translation references a Late Antique custom of pious travelers piling stones on streets. Especially beneficial are explanation of the Vulgate in relation to Jerome’s other writings. The reference to Ep. 18.15 indicates that he understood the odd ‘uncircumcised in lips’ incircumcisus labiis (Exod. 6:12) as a metaphor for unworthy. The translation of Isaiah in particular has a few such annotations referring to corresponding passages in his Commentary on Isaiah (e.g., Isa. 6:2 and 7:14).
The vast majority of notes, over 100, relate to names of places and people. These are essential for understanding how a name might semantically relate to its Hebrew root. Although they do not highlight every example, the notes give a sense of Jerome’s approach to proper nouns. He may transliterate, translate, or employ a combination of the two. I Chron. 4:20-31 vol. II, p.811 is a good example of how the notes illuminate Jerome’s translation technique. The notes indicate that Jerome partially translates the Hebrew with ‘son of Anan’, and completely translates the Hebrew place names as ‘house of the oath’, ‘plants’, ‘fences’ and personal names as Lies, Careless, and Igniter. The discerning reader might also observe that the place names in 4:28–31 are transliterated and would get the sense that Jerome varies his approach to proper names. Additional notes on proper names address possible misreadings of the Hebrew (Gen. 10:4), explaining transliterated Hebrew (Peleg ‘division’, Gen. 10:25), ambiguous meanings (Beersheba ‘seven wells’, Vg has another possibility, puteum Iuramenti; Palestini refers to Philistines or Palestinians, Ezek. 45:1), and nominal variants (EljakimJudith 4:5 is Jojakim in Judith 15:9). There seems to be particular interest in the various renderings of Iemini, whether it refers to the tribe or land of Benjamin (2 Sam. 9:1, 9:4, 20:1, 1 Chron. 27:12, Ps. 7:8). The notes also highlight renditions into Late Antique names (Heb.Tarshish= Carthaginienses and Heb. Yavan=Graecia Ezek, 27:9-13).
A major part of understanding the translation technique of the Vulgate involves grasping its relationship to the Hebrew. The notes point out cases where the Latin has Hebraisms such as turpitudo for sex organs (Lev. 18:6) and ‘gathered to their fathers’ for “died” (Judges 2:10). Rarely, a phrase will be specifically labelled a Hebraism, as on 1 Sam. 14:38 where ‘corners’ refers to leaders. Identifying a Hebraism is not always needed. When the note points out that benedixit is a euphemism for curse (1 Kings 21:10), the presence of a Hebraism is clear. In this case, the Latin might astonish the reader, while sometimes the notes clarify unremarkable Latin renditions. Such notes explain the Hebrew Bible more than its Latin version. For example, standing by the blood of your neighbor (Lev.19:16) means, according to the note, “that is, as false witnesses accusing neighbors of a capital offense with which he would undergo the death penalty”. It is also not uncommon for a note to draw on Hebrew biblical scholarship to explain terms and idioms that might have been unfamiliar to the Latin reader such as Musach sabbati (2 Kings 16:18), a covered Sabbath aisle, or Israelite geography (Isa. 11:28-32). Similarly, Rahab, the personification of the chaos monster defeated by God, represents Egypt (Psalms 86:6; also in Isaiah 30:7, 51:9; cf. Ps 88,11; Job 26:12). It is curious that the note explains the Near Eastern background of the term, but does not explain why Jerome’s Hebrew version of Psalms has the term superbiae rather than the transliteration Rahab, and has superbum in both Ps. ILXX and IH on Ps. 88:11. In addition to specific terms, some annotations highlight broader features of the Hebrew Bible that would be discernible in any translation. For example, the editor comments on the structure of the book of Deuteronomy: verses 1:6-4:40 constitute the first great speech of Moses which is interrupted by remarks in the narrative voice (2:10-12, 20-23, 3:11, 13f.).
The translation particularly shines when the notes correspond to the German rendition. For example, the German accurately renders the feminine anima with the feminine Seele (Lev. 2:1) and explains that Hebrew nefesh is a feminine substantive with multiple meanings. The German addition of als Sühnopfer (Lev. 27:29) is explained by the lengthy note clarifying the Late Antique sense of consecratio. Likewise, the German expansion of Isaiah 5:4 follows Jerome’s commentary on Isaiah.
Since the annotations are as crucial as the German translation, issues with the notes have an impact on the stated purposes of the entire translation project. The annotations are occasionally deficient in three respects: incorrect information, lack of clarity, and missed opportunities to comment on significant elements. Given the limitations of this massive undertaking and the impossibility to acknowledge every significant rendition, it would be unfair to be overly critical of missing annotations. Rather, I would hope that the translation will spur more detailed annotated editions and commentary that address these lacunae. For example, there is no notice that the theologically significant rendition of Genesis 3:15 as ipsa conteret caput tuum, the so-called protevangelium, makes the woman the one who crushes the head of the snake, not her seed as in both the Hebrew and LXX. Numerous ways in which the Latin addresses Hebrew grammar also receive no mention such as the adjectival rendition of the Hebrew construct form (Gen. 23:9), the impact of the Hebrew article on literally translating a place name (e.g., Josh. 5:3 Givat ha’aralot ‘the hill of the foreskins’), and the avoidance of parataxis. The notes often ignore instances when the Latin has gloss terminology added to the Hebrew, which can be misleading. Noting that Jerome translates literally Neelescol (Numbers 13:25) without remarking that it is introduced by id est gives the impression that this is the same technique as simply translating a proper noun. I was surprised that there were no references to Sebastian Weigert’s study on Vulgate Deuteronomy, otherwise the lengthy note on seeking to explain Deuteronomy 29:19 would clarify that the rather strange translation “the wet sweeps the dry” is based on the Hexapla. Also surprising are the absence of references to Jerome’s onomastic writings despite the numerous annotations related to place names. Also missing are any references to rabbinic literature. For instance, the note on Genesis 14:1 claims that Jerome identifies Ellasar as the Black Sea by rendering the Hebrew as Arioch rex Ponti, but Targum Jonathan identifies Arioch with Nimrod, king of Pontus (malcha d’puntos). Hopefully future publications can use the German translation as a foundation to address these kinds of lacunae.
There are also mistakes in the notes and instances where the note and translation together lack clarity. On Leviticus 16:29, for example, the translation and note correctly renders animam adfligere as die Seele erniedrigen, then goes on to incorrectly gloss it as das Herz niederdrücken and further claim that this is a circumlocution for fasting. While it is true that later rabbinic tradition interprets the phrase to refer to one of five afflictions which include fasting, there is no Latin evidence that this is a circumlocution. Hebrew has a term for fasting and there is no reason why it would be avoided. In fact, a comparison with Ps. 35:13 ‘I afflicted my soul with fasting’ indicates that the phrase has a general sense that can specifically refer to fasting. Another note mistakenly claims that Jerome’s rendition of Deuteronomy 11:30 depends on his geographical knowledge, not his Vorlagen. Weigert (pp.113-117) demonstrates the contrary.
While not necessarily problematic per se, the purpose of a few notes is unclear. In general, many of the notes (e.g., Prov. 31:6), include Hebrew in the lemma without any explanation such as Vulgate principles of transliteration or the presence of an article or the semantics of the Hebrew root. The relevance then depends upon the reader’s familiarity with Hebrew. For example, it is unclear why “from Mesopotamia of Syria” (Gen. 33:18) requires clarification or how it helps to note that pactum salis ‘Vertrag des Salzes’ is a kind of Vertragsschließung (Num. 18:19) since this is clear from the context and translation. Not only is it unclear why it is important to note that the family of Zarai refers to the family of the Serachites (Josh 7:17), it is also not obvious how Baziotha can mean “its [Beersheba’s] daughter cities” and among whom the name is “debatable”. Equally mystifying is the observation that Heb. Ruma (Josh. 15:52) is Duma when the Vulgate has Roma and the German reads Ruma. The explanation that the transliterated Behomot (Job 40:10) is a water monster might confuse the reader since “it eats grass like an ox” (ibid.).
Despite these qualifications, Biblia Sacra vulgata: Lateinisch-deutsch is a valuable contribution to Vulgate Studies at this particular moment. The editors, in framing the purpose of their translation as an effort to generate an appreciation of the Vulgate as a Late Antique literary artifact and make it accessible to a German audience, intuitively distinguish between a Latin translator and a German translation. On the one hand, creating a readable German focuses on the German translation as a whole. On the other hand, understanding the unique stylistic and semantic features of the Latin attends to the characteristics and translation technique of Jerome. This correlates nicely with developments in translation studies. In reaction to a long tradition of translation theory that includes Jerome, evaluating the quality of a translation has yielded to balancing consideration of the translation itself and the linguistic, social, historical, cultural, and intellectual contexts of translators and their readers. The Vulgata Verein has produced a fine German translation that enables readers to encounter a 4th/5th CE century translator. Despite its limitations, the work demonstrates the need for this kind of close reading of the Latin Bible and will hopefully spawn more monographs and commentaries. This new German translation along with its various annotations advances the study of the Vulgate and Jerome as products and producers of Late Antique society.
“Einleitung” p. 10. Although the editors remark that they indicate in the notes where they differ in punctuation from the critical edition of the Latin text, I could not find any such notes.
Vol. I, p. 879 note a. should read see 33,8 not 32,51.
Vol. IV Isaiah. The annotations are numbered not lettered, unlike the rest of the work.
 William E. Plater and H. J. White. A Grammar of the Vulgate. Oxford: Clarendon, 1926; Friedrich Stummer, Einführung in die lateinische Bibel. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1928; Benjamin Kedar-Kopfstein, “The Vulgate as a Translation” (Hebrew University, PhD diss., 1968); The Douay-Rheims Bible revised by Richard Challoner in the 1700s and recently published as a 6 volume set Swift Edgar and Angela M. Kinney, edd., 2010, The Vulgate Bible: Douay-Rheims translation. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
 Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, ed. R. Weber, et al., fifth edition, (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2007)
 Acts, Epistles, Revelations, Epistle to the Laodiceans, Prayer of Manasses, 3 and 4 Esdras, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Ben Sira, 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Book of Baruch and Letter of Jeremiah are either the unrevised Old Latin or the Old Latin revised by someone other than Jerome, or simply a different translator.
 On the various rabbinic versions of this legend, see Emanuel Tov, (1984), “The Rabbinic Tradition Concerning the “Alterations” inserted into the Greek Pentateuch and Their Relation to the Original Text of the LXX,” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, 15, 65-89.
 See Demetrius, De Elocutione, 287-298
 Sebastian Weigert, Übersetzungsprinzipien und Quellen der Deuteronomiumübersetzung des Hieronymus (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2016), p.154.
 Liber interpretationis hebraicorum nominum and De locis et nominibus locorum Hebraicorum (translated and expanded from a Greek work by Eusebius)
 Some emend the Hebrew to “its daughters” based on Nehemiah 11:27. While the emendation of the Hebrew is reasonable, clearly Jerome’s Vorlage read Baziotha for the passage here. His Vorlage for Nehemiah 11:27 also has “its daughters”.
 For example, The Translation Studies Reader, Lawrence Venuti, ed., first edition, New York and London, Routledge (2000), and Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, Second Edition. London, Routledge, 2008.