The Vulgate

As the Christian Church formed an organization in the early centuries of the Christian era, the question of an agreed-upon canon and text for the Bible became paramount. This task fell to Saint Jerome, in the late 4th century CE. He was well versed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and produced a version of both Old and New Testaments in Latin, that being the lingua franca of the Church in that day. This became known as The Vulgate, meaning the vulgar, or common, tongue version and it remained the basic Bible for the Church for many centuries. It was the Bible read and used in the churches, except that a variant translation of the Psalms was incorporated into the Roman Psalter for liturgical purposes.

The Vulgate was the form in which the first printing of the Bible was done in 1453-56 by Johann Gutenberg. Previous to that time all copies of the Bible had been written by hand, usually in the Gothic-style heavy-down-stroke hand-writing, and the scribes had used frequent abbreviations to save costly parchment. These aspects of writing were at first copied by printers, which makes for difficult reading quite apart from knowing the Latin language, but obviously it was assumed that the reader already knew much of the Bible by heart, and was using the text as a reminder rather than totally as a source.

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Brown book cover 
Biblia Sacra Vulgatae Editionis Vulgate Latin Bible, Rome, 1922  #1502
Old page with text 
Biblia Sacra Vulgatae Editionis Vulgate Latin Bible, Rome, 1922  #1502

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