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Monday, April 16, 2007

Santis Pagnini translation

This might be called an "aha" moment, or a "duh" moment. It all depends.

But, .... I thought, I really thought that the Wycliffe Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate, as we know it, and the Tyndale, Coverdale, et al. from the Hebrew/Greek texts. Now, maybe overall there is some truth to that. I won't deny that, as a generality, it might be okay to think that.

However, I have been commenting on a post by Rick and it has really gotten me thinking. What text did the Wycliffite translators have anyway?

Here is a little background on the Vulgate. It was the official Latin text of the Bible. But it was not standardized until the late 16th century.
    Commissioned by Pope Damasus I and prepared c. A.D. 383-405, Jerome's Vulgate rapidly became the standard version of the Bible in the West and remained so for centuries. The Clementine Vulgate is the official edition of the Latin Vulgate, corrected and standardized following the Council of Trent and promulgated in 1592 by Pope Clement VIII.
Now, I am going to admit to a bias. That's all it is, but it does influence me. If you learn a language, even a dead language, a language you only use for reading, when you are young, you may complain, it may be a great nuisance, but the language is, in some respects, more or less there, until Alzheimer's sets in and then, ...

So, I got to thinking .... I learned Latin when I was young, but I didn't study Hebrew until later - 20 actually, really old! uh-oh. Now, let's go back to Wycliffe et al. and Luther/ Coverdale et al. Latin was a nobrainer for these guys, right, but Hebrew?

Okay, let's look at Psalm 23:4 in several different Latin versions.

    sed et si ambulavero in valle mortis non timebo malum Jerome's Vulgate

    Nam etsi ambulavero in medio umbræ mortis, non timebo mala, Clementine Vulgate

    Nam etsi ambulem in medio umbre mortis, non timebo mala, Paris Psalter

    Þeah ic nu gange on midde þa sceade deaðes, ne ondræde ic me nan yfel, (Old English) also in the Paris Psalter

    For whi thouy Y schal go in the myddis of schadewe of deeth; Y schal not drede yuels, Wycliffe 1395

    Und ob ich schon wanderte im finstern Tal, fürchte ich kein Unglück. Luther 1545

    etiamse ambulavero per vallem umbrae mortis, non timebo malum, Santis Pagnini

    Though I shulde walke now in the valley of the shadowe of death, yet I feare no euell, Coverdale 1534
After reading Psalm 23 in the Pagnini translation, I have no doubt that it was one of the underlying texts of the Coverdale version and influenced the King James version.

So, I have a few questions, I don't have this book and I don't know it it mentions the Santis Pagnini Latin translation. That will take a trip to the library. I also don't know if there is a Pagnini reprint available.

Now for why this a "duh" moment for me. I just realized that the 1666 Hebrew-Latin Psalter sitting on my bookshelf is a Pagnini. I really just thought it was the Vulgate. But recently, reading a few posts on Rick's blog here and here, I got to thinking that I could read this Psalter and when I did, I realized it wasn't the Vulgate. And it has been sitting there for how long?

So now, when someone asks me about my favourite Bible translations, I will mutter hopefully - the Pagnini version. More about this later.


At Tue Apr 17, 01:36:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

Coverdale wrote in his Dedication in some of his editions that Pagnini was one of five sources he used. Coverdale didn't use any Greek or Hebrew sources. See Greenslade, Cambridge History of the Bible, p 148 (you can read the page on Amazon, if you don't already own it.)

At Tue Apr 17, 03:11:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I don't think it is fair to suggest that translations which have "shadow of death" in Psalm 23:4 are based on the Latin. I was surprised to see that even the well known Hebrew lexicographers BDB states that Hebrew tsalmawet is "probably" a compound of tsal "shadow" and mawet "death". This corresponds to the LXX skia thanatou and the Latin which you have quoted - and the English translations you quote. But BDB note that most moderns (from their 1906 perspective) understand the word as not a compound but a variant of tsalmut from a root known in Arabic, Akkadian and Ethiopic. Now Luther seems to have taken the latter interpretation. But translators who take the former are not necessarily dependent on the Latin, or Greek, but only on a genuinely possible understanding of the Hebrew word.

At Tue Apr 17, 03:54:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

Hardly. Luther depended heavily on Rashi, already knew it meant darkness (see Rashi to Ps23:4); as indeed is clear from its uses in Job or Jeremiah.

Later linguistic work found other Semitic roots, but even without this knowledge, Rashi understood the correct meaning

In contrast, the King James translators relied heavily on Radak, and this verse is no exception. See Manfred R. Lehmann, "A New Interpretation of the Term שדמות", Vetus Testamentum 3:4 (Oct. 1953) pp. 361-371.

At Tue Apr 17, 03:59:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

I hasten to add that Coverdale himself confessed to not using Greek or Hebrew.

At Tue Apr 17, 07:39:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I don't already own that book but I see that Pagnini is mentioned throughout. Thanks for mentioning it.

I had read this from a description of the Coverdale version.

One of Tyndale’s former assistants, Miles Coverdale, quickly prepared a new translation of the Bible into English based on the Vulgate, Tyndale’s work, the Latin translation of Santi Pagnini (1470–1541), the Zurich Bible, and the German translation of Martin Luther, rather than the original scriptural languages.


I don't have BDB so that is interesting.

On the LXX, it has εν μεσω σκιας θανατου, which translates "in the midst of the shadow of death".

Luther, as you note, went with "darkeness", but Elberfelder and R-B, the "valley of the shadow of death".

Pagnini's translation was suppposedly highly regarded by Jewish scholars.

This 1528 Bible is the first printing of Pagninus' translation; a version esteemed for its closeness to the original tongues. Pagnini was criticized by reformationist Martin Luther for excessive literalism and "Jewish scholarship." This closeness to the Hebrew was well received by Jewish scholars, who judged Pagnini's translation as the only adequate Christian Latinate version of the Bible.

I would like to hear more about the Rashi vs Radak interpretation of tsalmavet. Which one is used in the New JPS, for example?


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