Is Jerome’s Latin Vulgate "free from error"? (Pope Pius XII)

Saint Jerome assisted by angels while translating the Scriptures
Is Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate free from error?

The Council of Trent declared that his translation of the Scriptures into Latin is the standard translation for all Catholics:

“Moreover, the same Holy Council . . . ordains and declares that the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which, in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputatious, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and so no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it.” (Fourth Session, April 8, 1546).
Most Catholic biblical scholars are aware of Pope Leo XIII’s monumental encyclical Providentissimus Deus on biblical scholarship, issued in 1893. It condemned the modern higher criticism techniques of the day (e.g. JEPD condemned). And nearly everyone knows the famous follow up encyclical by Pope Pius XII on biblical scholarship entitled Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). Notably, Divino Afflante Spiritu stated that Saint Jerome’s Vulgate is “free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals.”
However, few know of the “middle” document issued in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV entitled Spiritus Paraclitus about Sacred Scripture, celebrating the 1,500 anniversary of the death of Saint Jerome.
In Spiritus Paraclitus, the Vicar of Christ Pope Benedict XV states that Saint Jerome is:
  • “the Greatest Doctor divinely given to the Church for understanding the Bible”
  • “a strenuous Catholic, learned in the Scriptures”
  • “a teacher of Catholics”
  • “a model of virtue”
  • “the world’s teacher”
Pretty high praise for Jerome, eh?
Why not read this great encyclical on Scripture and Saint Jerome. You can find it here:
Also, you can read the old Vulgate (Clementine edition) for free over at NewAdvent.org and compare it to the Greek and to the Douay-Rheims English translation:
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  • zahlerjr

    I wonder that if it is free from all errors in faith and morals, does that mean it is free from all errors what so ever?  Could there still be parts that were mistranslated (errors) but don’t go against doctrine?

  • Louis

    Ask John Calvin or any Southern Baptist

  • Joe

    Nobody can say there are translation errors, because many of the texts he had access to no longer exist. Including the hebrew gospel according to Matthew and the Hexapla.

  • Praying The Mass

    That is an explanation I have commonly heard. As a wild example, if he mistranslated “all peanuts are legumes” as “all apples are fruits”, he would still have avoided error, but he would not have translated the text accurately.

  • Ruth Ann

    Taylor, most of the Catholics I know do not read Latin or Greek or Hebrew, so they, including myself would not know whether or not the translation into English is or isn’t correct.  As for whether or not a publication, including any Scriptural translations are free from error in matters of faith and morals,  I look for the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur at the front of the publication.  That will tell a Catholic that what is written is compatible with Church teaching.

  • Ruth Ann

    Taylor, most of the Catholics I know do not read Latin or Greek or Hebrew, so they, including myself would not know whether or not the translation into English is or isn’t correct.  As for whether or not a publication, including any Scriptural translations are free from error in matters of faith and morals,  I look for the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur at the front of the publication.  That will tell a Catholic that what is written is compatible with Church teaching.

  • Ruth Ann

    Taylor, most of the Catholics I know do not read Latin or Greek or Hebrew, so they, including myself would not know whether or not the translation into English is or isn’t correct.  As for whether or not a publication, including any Scriptural translations are free from error in matters of faith and morals,  I look for the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur at the front of the publication.  That will tell a Catholic that what is written is compatible with Church teaching.

  • Ruth Ann

    Taylor, most of the Catholics I know do not read Latin or Greek or Hebrew, so they, including myself would not know whether or not the translation into English is or isn’t correct.  As for whether or not a publication, including any Scriptural translations are free from error in matters of faith and morals,  I look for the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur at the front of the publication.  That will tell a Catholic that what is written is compatible with Church teaching.

  • Ruth Ann

    Taylor, most of the Catholics I know do not read Latin or Greek or Hebrew, so they, including myself would not know whether or not the translation into English is or isn’t correct.  As for whether or not a publication, including any Scriptural translations are free from error in matters of faith and morals,  I look for the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur at the front of the publication.  That will tell a Catholic that what is written is compatible with Church teaching.

  • Ruth Ann

    Taylor, most of the Catholics I know do not read Latin or Greek or Hebrew, so they, including myself would not know whether or not the translation into English is or isn’t correct.  As for whether or not a publication, including any Scriptural translations are free from error in matters of faith and morals,  I look for the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur at the front of the publication.  That will tell a Catholic that what is written is compatible with Church teaching.

  • Ruth Ann

    Don’t know why my comment was posted six times.  I received a message to retry, and I did, but just once.

  • Ruth Ann

    Don’t know why my comment was posted six times.  I received a message to retry, and I did, but just once.

  • Ruth Ann

    Don’t know why my comment was posted six times.  I received a message to retry, and I did, but just once.

  • stephen

    HOW DO YOU SQUARE YOUR STATEMTS WITH THE FACT THAT THE PIAN TRANSLATION [DONE DURING PONTIFICATE OF PIUS XII] AND THE PRESENT NEO-VULGATE ARE CORRECTIONS OF ST. JEROME’S WORK??????????????????

  • Ismael

    @ Sthephen:
    Chill, you do not need to shout.

    Anyway a traanslation might be slightly incorrect in the literal translation, but still reatain the full meaning of the message.

    Some modern bible translations (eg the newest Dutch Bible Translation, which is mainly a protestant-ecumenical bible, not a Catholic one) take a very liberal stance at translating the text, trying to carry over the meaning of it rather than to focus on perfect literal translation