The Biblia Sacra Vulgata and its history

Today’s definitive scholarly text of the Vulgate is the “Biblia Sacra Vulgata. Editio quinta.” edited by Robert Weber and Roger Gryson. This edition comprises the elaborately reconstructed Latin text of the Bible, with an extensive apparatus of variants. It thus not only provides a reliable textual basis for study of the Bible in Latin, but also permits insights into the history of the transmission of the Vulgate.

The first edition of the Biblia Sacra Vulgata was published in 1969 by Württembergische Bibelanstalt. This Bible supplemented the other scholarly concise editions that had already appeared from the same publishing house: the Biblia Hebraica of Kittel, the Septuagint of Rahlfs, and in a smaller format the New Testament of Nestle-Aland. The objective was to compile an edition that renders the original text as accurately as possible, also in terms of overall structure, while at the same time taking into account the most significant variants in an extensive apparatus.

The Biblia Sacra Vulgata is thus also a scholarly recension based on the manuscripts, with reference to the major critical editions – the version compiled by the Benedictines of San Girolamo in Rome for the Old Testament, and the Oxford edition of J. Wordsworth and H. J. White for the New Testament. The text of these editions was adopted as far as it was available, after being rigorously examined and where necessary improved. Similarly, the edition of H. de Sainte-Marie was used for the Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos. On the other hand, the text for the Prophets, the Books of the Maccabees, Oratio Manasse, III–IV Esra and the Epistle to the Laodiceans was newly compiled on the basis of photocopies of the manuscripts, collations, and other preparatory work made available by the Abbey of San Girolamo in Rome and the Vetus Latina Institute in Beuron. Use was also made of the edition of the Books of the Maccabees by D. De Bruyne, in the case of IV Esra the edition of R. L. Bensly and B. Violet, and for the Epistle to the Laodiceans that of J. B. Lightfoot and A. Harnack.

Forty years after its first publication, this critical concise version of the Vulgate is now in its fifth edition and has become established as the definitive scholarly edition of the Vulgate. The principal editor today is Roger Gryson. The fifth edition, published in 2007, includes a revised version of the critical apparatus to the Books of Ruth, Isiah and the Revelation.