SMU Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology SMU, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology SMU Bridwell Library Perkins School of Theology

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Bibles of the Middle Ages in Europe

Translation of the Bible began in the third century BCE, when Hellenistic scholars rendered the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, producing the Septuagint version. By the end of the second century CE, the Greek sources had been translated into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. St. Jerome’s late fourth-century Latin translation from the Hebrew and Greek, known as the Vulgate Bible, provided a Bible for use in churches, monasteries, and universities throughout medieval Europe. However, after several centuries of transmission by scribes, the Latin Bible manuscripts of the later Middle Ages no longer preserved a reliable text. During the same period, the development of regional languages and the rise of literacy in Europe encouraged numerous vernacular translations of the Bible. Though dependent on flawed Latin sources, the vernacular Bibles printed during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries brought the scriptures to large groups of non-clerical readers for the first time. This section of the gallery exhibition includes Bridwell Library’s earliest manuscripts of the Latin Bible and the Middle English New Testament, as well as several early printed editions of the scriptures, each of which was based on the Latin Vulgate Bible.

Also exhibited in the galleries:

[Latin Bible]. Manuscript on vellum. [England(?), early 13th century].

[Bible in Italian]. Biblia vulgar historiata. Venice: Guilelmus Anima Mia de Trino, 23 April, 1493.

[Bible in Low German]. De Biblie mit vlitigher achtinghe, recht na deme latine in dudesck auerghesettet. Lübeck: Steffen Arndes, 19 November 1494.

[Bible in Czech]. Biblii Czěská, w Benatkach tisstěná. Venice: Petrus Lichtenstein, 5 December 1506.