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Latin Vulgate Compared to Textus Receptus

Question: There are a number of specific questions contained within this response that Dr. Larry Spargimino gave to a listener via email about the Latin Vulgate as compared to the Textus Receptus. The letter, with the exception of the identity of the writer, has been provided in its entirety.

Answer: Thank you for your email! You state: “I love the KJV—but let me tell you about one even better than the King James—the Douay Rheims.” I have in front of me “The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The title page states: “Translated from the Latin Vulgate—A revision of the Challoner-Rheims Version edited by Catholic Scholars under the Patronage of the Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.” It is published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company, New York. In the Preface we read:

Like both the Rheims and the Challoner versions, the revised text rests upon the Latin Vulgate. This has been made necessary by a desire to have the version available for liturgical use. The excellence of the Vulgate as an ancient interpretation of the New Testament is an added advantage. The Clementine edition of the Vulgate is the main source of this revision.

I have major textual and theological problems with the Vulgate. For example, the Latin of Luke 1:28 reads: “et ingressus angelus at eam dixit: ave gratia plena Dominus tecum benedicta tu in mulieribus. . . .” In the Middle Ages grace was conceived of as a substance, like water, which can be said to fill a glass. The Latin, predictably, says that Mary is “full of grace” (ave gratia plena) and reflects this view of grace. Erasmus, though a Roman Catholic, was honest with the Greek text, which states that Mary “has found favor with God.”

Another example, the Latin of Matthew 4:17 states: “Exinde coepit Iesus praedicare et dicere paenitentiam agite adpropinquavit enim regnum caelorum.” A literal English translation would be “. . . do penance . . .” (paenitentiam agite), which assumes the existence of the Roman Catholic penitential system. However, the Greek text has the verb “to repent.” The original-language text implies a change that has nothing to do with any ecclesiastical organization.

I will admit that every translation bears some connection to the culture out of which it arose, and that is true of the KJV (after all, it is in English! and has idiosyncrasies unique to the 17th century). But those marks of the culture do not alter or change basic Christian doctrine as articulated in the KJV. Such is not true for the Vulgate, or for the Rheims-Douay, nor is it true of the manuscripts upon which they are based.

You also refer to the front plate from the 1611 Bible and state that it does not refer to “Apocrypha,” “but simply to the Old and New Testaments.” The reason is that the 1611 translators never considered the Apocrypha “Scripture.” Some of the Reformers, such as Luther, quoted from the Apocrypha but not because they thought it was Scripture, but because they considered the Apocrypha to be ancient writings with historical validity, not because they thought the Apocrypha had doctrinal credibility, a point that they made repeatedly.

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