The Bible as Book: The Latin Bible

This annual Bible conference was held May 26-29 at Hampton Court Herefordshire, the spectacular English headquarters of the Van Kampen Foundation and The Scriptorium Center for Christian Antiquities of Grand Haven, Michigan, USA. This conference was twinned with last year’s The Transmission of the Greek Text.

In 1999, more than half the speakers were Irish or from Irish universities, which gave a delightful unity to the conference, echoed in the soft ‘Irish mist’ which kept the sward outside the windows wonderfully green, although the only disappointment was that the garden tour had to be cancelled due to rain.

For Tyndalians, the most intriguing paper was given by Dr. Orlaith O’Sullivan, currently working as Cataloguer of Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at the Scriptorium, although formerly of Trinity College, Dublin, where the subject of her graduate studies was George Joye. Dr O’Sullivan’s paper The Vulgate in the Reformation. convincingly argued that the Vulgate was the cradle Bible of anyone born early in the century of the Reformation, and so even Luther and Tyndale would have quoted from it (in translation) when writing from memory. She suggested that the full effect of the Vulgate’s influence on Tyndale is yet to be examined. This provoked a lively question session.

Another exceptional paper was Alia Editio: New Light on the Vulgate and Old Latin Versions of the Latin Bible from 7th century Canterbury by J.D. Pheifer, Fellow Emeritus of Trinity, Dublin. This took us into the unique period when Canterbury was known for Greek scholarship and was the flagship of Christian learning revered throughout Europe - though ‘What The Vikings left, the Reformers got. We have to go to the Germans for Continental copies of MSS that were made in England at that time!’ protested Professor Pheifer to a laughing audience.

The eclectic style of the conference - covering one millennium at least - continued with papers discussing such a variety of esoteric subjects as: the Irish origins of the oldest existing Vulgate MS, the S. Galen (Fr. Martin McNamara of the Milltown Inst., Dublin); the extraordinary longevity of the 3rd century Canons of Eusebius, revived by Nestle In the 19th (Dr Thomas O’Loughlin, Univ. of Wales); the meaning of the quest for the holy grail (Dr Anne Made D’Arcy, Trinity, Dublin); Roger Bacon and the Paris Bible (Dr Laura Light, Houghton Library. Harvard).

Finally Dr Tjitze Baarda of Vrije Univ, Holland playfully demonstrated how a Bible scholar might turn art sleuth by interpreting the details of a recently discovered 16th century Dutch painting by Joos van Cleve, Jerome in his Study. He left us with the observation that Erasmus, who saw himself as a new Jerome, was shown not with a skull but with flowers. signifying the hope of the new learning.

Mary Clow

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