[b-hebrew] Is the Massoretic text distant from the Latin Vulgate

James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Mon Jul 20 19:51:19 EDT 2009


Hi,

like I say. I haven't had time to look into this too much. But my  
first instincts would say that it is not the major differences which  
would decide the matter as, if Jerome was as tradition says influenced  
by a Hebrew Christian who claimed superiority of the hebrew text, he  
would have been familiar with the major differences and have made a  
point of translating these.

I think we should perhaps turn our attention to the less well known  
and minor differences to see if Jerome really did make as much use of  
the Hebrew text as he claims.

And on the count of his claim to have put more effort into translating  
the sense of the text rather than preserving word order let's look at  
Exodus 3:14.

dixit Deus ad Mosen ego sum qui sum ait sic dices filiis Israhel qui  
est misit me ad vos

Does 'I am who am' represent a good translation that reflects an near  
native understanding of the meaning of the hebrew text? Or does it  
look more like a literal translation that attempts to preserve word  
order and literal word for word meaning?

James Christian

Quoting schmuel at nyc.rr.com:

> Hi Folks,
>
>> I forgot to mention this source: http://www.jstor.org/pss/1584340
>> which calls into question whether Jerome actually even ever knew Hebrew.
>> James Christian
>
> Stefan Rebenich plays a few ends of the questions of Jerome, a bit
> strangely. Without JSTOR you can get a bunch of stuff out of his book,
> part available in Google or more in a Questia trial or subscription.
> And Rebenich clearly acknowledges that Jerome studies Hebrew with
> Jewish scholars for his translation work. He really only questions his
> verbal fluency, which is not uncommon even today for translators
> (Likely the last age where translation scholars were uniformly truly
> highly-skilled in the source languages were the Reformation scholars,
> including the Christian Hebraist movement, especially from about 1550
> to 1650.  Today we are in the new age of tepid and deficient computer
> lexicon scholarship and publish-or-perish and everyone is too busy and
> diffuse to truly have strong daily and scholarship comraderie and
> learning in the classic and semitic languages on a daily fluency
> basis).
>
> Rebenich is only trying to make the case that Jerome played up his
> trilingual skills, which is more nuance than substance, since Jerome
> clearly translated carefully the full Hebrew OT text and studied the
> Hebrew OT with Jewish scholars and was the leading Christian Hebraist
> of his day.  (One interesting point in Rebenich that I would like to
> pursue further is a notation about Jerome having earlier Syriac
> background.  I had been under the impression that his Syriac was
> considered weaker than his Hebrew, yet if he did have some actual
> life-background in the language that may change a few perspectives.)
>
> http://books.google.com/books?id=x_Z0BP6pqqkC
> Jerome - Stefan Rebenich
>
> There are many direct quotes where Jerome's Hebrew scholarship is
> clear in his writing, so I find this whole question rather a bit odd.
>
> In addition Augustine was the leader of the Greek church folks who
> were upset with Jerome for being so Hebrew-oriented, and it was rather
> a well-known and difficult feud.
>
> Correspondence of Augustine and Jerome concerning the Latin
> Translation of the Bible
> http://www.bible-researcher.com/vulgate2.html
> "in the later version, translating from the Hebrew itself, I have
> expressed what I understood it to mean, being careful to preserve
> rather the exact sense than the order of the words." - Jerome
>
> The Vulgate and Jerome's history is actually a powerful testament to
> the antiquity of the Masoretic Text (along with corollary evidences
> such as the Great Isaiah Scroll proving that the Masoretes were
> faithful copyists and would not tamper with the text for doctrinal
> reasons).  And although Jerome is often attacked some for his NT work
> and its rcc heritage and his not using the better Lucian (Byzantine
> NT) texts, his Tanach work was quite straightforward, solid and
> substantial, done one to two decades later, living in Israel, using
> the library in Caesarea and studying with the Jews. In fact, Jerome
> virtually single-handedly rescued the church as a whole from the
> confusions and deficiencies in the wild and woolly Greek OT texts. My
> thanks to Jerome.
>
> Why scholars go through hoops to miss the obvious is the puzzle.  As
> for sections where the Vulgate and the Hebrew Masoretic Text agree,
> you could take essentially every single major discrepancy between the
> Masoretic Text and the Greek text, such as the huge differences in
> Jeremiah and Esther, or the tamperings in the Greek text where NT
> verses were introduced in Psalm 14.  Or issues like the Genesis
> numbers. And you will find the Masoretic Text and the Latin Vulgate of
> Jerome from Hebrew agree, the various competing Greek texts being out
> in the cold.  Only by reading scholars, who often have their own
> agendas and confusions, and not actually looking at the texts and
> reading Jerome's own writings (such as very direct condemnations of
> the Greek OT text in specific verses where he explains the Hebrew
> superiority, which would be a nice addendum to this post but you will
> have to settle for the Jonah discussion for now in the Augustine
> contretemps) can this be missed.  Or where Jerome writes specific
> books such as one with the Hebrew questions on Genesis.
>
> It is true that solid writings on these issues in scholarship are hard
> to find, with facts often muddled by the author's opinion.  I was able
> to quickly find (at work, time limited, Jones Beach free outdoor
> believers concert tonight next) an example on one book of the OT.
>
> The witness of the Vulgate, Peshitta and Septuagint to the text of
> Zephaniah (1909)
> Sidney Zandstra
> http://www.archive.org/details/witnessofvulgate00zanduoft
>
> "Jerome's faithfulness to the Hebrew "
>
> "Pertinent illustrations might be multiplied almost indefinitely, but
> enough have been given to indicate Jerome's general habit of
> translation and to show how wide are the limits within which the
> equation, Vulgate equals Massoretic Text, may with entire safety be
> allowed
> to obtain."
>
> And I contend that in general, book by book, you will find the
> equation "Vulgate equals Masoretic Text" to be rather accurate.  With
> a few nuances, such as acknowledging that Jerome did translate some
> Apocrypha from Greek and he had translated the Greek Psalter before he
> translated from the Hebrew.
>
> Shalom,
> Steven Avery
> Queens, NY
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