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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 15

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 15.—Among Versions a Preference is Given to the Septuagint and the Itala.

22.  Now among translations themselves the Italian (Itala1791 is to be preferred to the others, for it keeps closer to the words without prejudice to clearness of expression.  And to correct the Latin we must use the Greek versions, among which the authority of the Septuagint is pre-eminent as far as the Old Testament is concerned; for it is reported through all the more learned churches that the seventy translators enjoyed so much of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their work of translation, that among that number of men there was but one voice.  And if, as is reported, and as many not unworthy of confidence assert, 1792 they were separated during the work of translation, each man being in a cell by himself, and yet nothing was found in the manuscript of any one of them that was not found in the same words and in the same order of words in all the rest, who dares put anything in comparison with an authority like this, not to speak of preferring anything to it?  And even if they conferred together with the result that a unanimous agreement sprang out of the common labor and judgment of them all; even so, it would not be right or becoming for any one man, whatever his experience, to aspire to correct the unanimous opinion of many venerable and learned men.  Wherefore, even if anything is found in the original Hebrew in a different form from that in which these men have expressed it, I think we must give way to the dispensation of Providence which used these men to bring it about, that books which the Jewish race were unwilling, either from religious scruple or from jealousy, to make known to other nations, were, with the assistance of the power of King Ptolemy, made known so long beforehand to the nations which in the future were to believe in the Lord.  And thus it is possible that they translated in such a way as the Holy Spirit, who worked in them and had given them all one voice, thought most suitable for the Gentiles.  But nevertheless, as I said above, a comparison of those translators also who have kept most closely to the words, is often not without value as a help to the clearing up of the meaning.  The Latin texts, therefore, of the Old Testament are, as I was about to say, to be corrected if necessary by the authority of the Greeks, and especially by that of those who, p. 543 though they were seventy in number, are said to have translated as with one voice.  As to the books of the New Testament, again, if any perplexity arises from the diversities of the Latin texts, we must of course yield to the Greek, especially those that are found in the churches of greater learning and research.



The translation here referred to is the Vetus Latina, as revised by the Church of Northern Italy in the fourth century, prior to the final recension of Jerome, commonly called the Vulgate.


Among these are Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and Clemens Alexandrinus.  Comp. Augustin, De Civ. Dei, xviii. 43, and Epp. 71 and 75.

Next: Chapter 16

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