Vulgate Prologues

For convenience, here are links to all my recent posts with translations of Vulgate Prefaces, including the post on St Jerome’s notes to the Additions to Esther.

Jerome’s Prologue to Genesis
Jerome’s Prologue to Joshua
Jerome’s “Helmeted Introduction” to Kings
Jerome’s Prologue to Chronicles
Jerome’s Prologue to Ezra
Jerome’s Prologue to Tobias
Jerome’s Prologue to Judith
Jerome’s Prologue to Esther
Jerome’s Notes to the Additions to Esther
Jerome’s Prologue to Job
Jerome’s Prologue to Psalms (LXX)
Jerome’s Prologue to Psalms (Hebrew)
Jerome’s Prologue to the Books of Solomon
Jerome’s Prologue to Isaiah
Jerome’s Prologue to Jeremiah
Jerome’s Prologue to Ezekiel
Jerome’s Prologue to Daniel
Jerome’s Prologue to the Twelve Prophets
Jerome’s Prologue to the Gospels
Vulgate Prologue to Paul’s Letters

I’ve created a final draft page of all the prologues, including an introduction, notes, and line numbers based on the Latin text to aid in using these translations as reference.


  1. I have now uploaded copies of all these (with links here) to the Additional Fathers, thence to travel out across the internet in the public domain.

    This was a good piece of work, that no-one had ever done in five centuries of men using the Vulgate. No doubt you have done and will do many other things worthy of memory. But if it were not so, and this alone were your life’s work, it would be remembered.

    A translation is forever, so long as the language endures, and longer sometimes when the original is lost. Men will be using these translations of yours for many years to come, long after all of us are dust.

    In short: well done! A terrific achievement. God bless you.

  2. Wow! Thanks, Roger! It was a fun project, too, figuring out what these said. Only later, after I’d pretty much finished, did I think to even look at the Wycliffe Bible’s translations. I was surprised to be the first to do the whole set in so long a time.

    And I do have some things in the pipeline, including something quite daunting that’s never been entirely translated, ever, anciently or modernly, apparently. That might be something that needs publishing, though: St Cyril of Alexandria, On Worship in Spirit and Truth. It’s a dialogue full of allegorical and typological interpretation of the OT, explaining why it’s not been modernly translated. Also, it’s about three times the size of the enormous Apostolic Constitutions (which I still intend to translate, too!), so it’ll be a long-term project. A more modest one will be the Apocalypse Commentary by Andreas of Cappadocia. Or perhaps the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, which I’ve always loved. Right now I’m just reading, to recharge my translation cells!

    Thank you very much for your kind comment. I treasure it.

  3. I heard there is a book by Christopher De Hamel (an ancient manuscript scholar) titled “The Book: A History of the Bible.” In this book, De Hamel claims that Jerome never included the apocryphal/deuterocanonical books in his translation of the Latin Vulgate since he considered them non-canonical. This author said these books “gradually worked their way back in” when the scriptures were copied and recopied. Have you heard of this book, and if you have, what is your opinion of his claim that Jerome never included these books in his Vulgate?

  4. Thanks for writing, Janet. I haven’t read that, but it’s an excusable statement. For centuries people have misinterpreted Jerome’s statements and position on the apocrypha for a number of reasons. Firstly, the order in which he translated, which I give on this page, shows a clear warming toward the apocrypha on the part of Jerome as his translation work progressed. Also, of the apocrypha, he most certainly did translate both Tobit and Judith, the latter with the plain statement that he did so because a bishop requested it, the First Ecumenical Council treated it as Scripture, and therefore Jerome preferred to be on the side of the Church, essentially, rather than against her. He also translated the additions to Esther, though placing them at the end of the book with instructions on where to place them, and he did translate the Song of the Three Holy Children in Daniel, though marking it with asterisks (to indicate it wasn’t in the Hebrew, though modern studies show that it’s original was certainly Hebrew and not Greek or Aramaic). Primarily, Jerome’s translation work was apologetics-based, providing Latins with a translation that was closely approximate to what the Jews had in Hebrew, specifically for the reason of theological discussion. He never disparaged the Septuagint, which he recognized was the Church’s Bible, and made a clear distinction between his own work and it. So, things are a lot more complex in regards to Jerome’s parts of the Vulgate and what is typically, superficially said about it. Yes, other apocryphal books weren’t translated by Jerome and are actually the Old Latin versions of those books. The best description of Jerome’s position is found in his prologue to the Books of Solomon, which I have translated: “Therefore, just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.” This is identical to the position of St Athanasius of Alexandria, as well, that these books are useful, particularly for new Christians, but are not used for establishing doctrine. Note, however, that this statement was written about ten years before his translation of Judith, in the prologue of which he says, “But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request….Receive the widow Judith, an example of chastity, and declare triumphal honor with perpetual praises for her. For this one has the Rewarder of her chastity given as imitable not only for women but also for men, Who granted her such strength, that she conquered the one unconquered by all men, she surpassed the insurpassable.” Couple this with his statements on Tobit, “For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their [i.e. the Jews’] canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops.” St Jerome shows a clear turnaround in his opinion of the value of the apocrypha here, in these, the two last of his translations, accepting the judgment of the Church of their value rather than that of the Jews and their shorter canon. In that respect, it would be better to suggest that while Jerome’s earliest work held the apocrypha in something close to scorn, by the middle of his years of translation work he held them valuable as non-Scriptural reading, but most importantly by the end of his work he had certainly come to value them as Scripture, as the Church did. I hope that helps!

  5. Thanks, Kevin, for your thoughtful response, and it does help. Christopher DeHamel may not be as well versed in Church History as he is in the study of ancient manuscripts. There is much confusion among Christians about the “apocrypha” or deuterocanonical books as well as the Septuagint OT. Many Christians just assume that the deuterocanonical books were never accepted by the early Church and refuse to acknowledge any evidence that proves otherwise.

  6. Right, Janet, I’m sure his slip was just due to unfamiliarity, or at least due to familiarity with the old party line, so to speak. The apocrypha/deuterocanonicals, and particularly issues of their role and status in the early Church, are finally getting the attention they deserve. This is a relatively recent development, though, of only about the last twenty years, give or take a nickel. It would be a good thing if those “many Christians [who] just assume that the deuterocanonical books were never accepted by the early Church and refuse to acknowledge any evidence that proves otherwise” were to realize that even now, they are in a minority among Christians with this perspective. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians both officially assert their complete canonicity through various councils and other sources, and they together account for roughly 1.5 billion of the 2 billion Christians in the world. Protestants who dismiss the apocrypha would do well to remember that they were included in all the 16th century vernacular translations, with Luther and various English specifically mentioning their value in basic moral instruction (the Athanasian/middle-Hieronymian position I mentioned above). One bit of trivia: the coronation of the English sovereign still requires, by law, that the Bible used in it include all of the apocrypha. During either this Queen Elizabeth’s coronation or one earlier, an improper Bible was prepared and produced which only included the typical Protestant short canon, and they had to scramble to a bookstore to find a Bible with all the apocrypha typical of the English Bible, otherwise the coronation would’ve been invalid. How about that!

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