The Vulgate

Together with his secretary Jerome, Damasus initiated the series of translations from the Greek and Hebrew texts that would turn Latin into the liturgical language of the west. He commissioned Jerome to correct and translate the Old Latin version of the gospels by reading it against the Septuagint, or Greek, version and then reconciling the translations. Ultimately, Jerome used not only the Septuagint but also the Hebrew originals to produce his translation, which was called the Vulgate. The term "vulgate" is from the Latin vulgus, which means "common" or "of the people." When the term is used of the Bible, however, it means an agreed upon "common" translation rather than a "simple" or "popular" style. In fact, Jerome's translation reveals that he took great pains to reflect classical literary and stylistic conventions rather than a low or common style.

The Vulgate is, perhaps, the single most important text in western Christendom. Although it was not completed during Damasus' papacy, his plan to codify a canon of scripture in Latin that would be widely accessible to an educated Roman aristocracy is a prime example of his obdurate intention to increase the spiritual and political authority of the see of Rome. In some form or another, Damasus' intent to establish the primacy of the see of Rome was at the center of all his efforts to strengthen the papacy. And at the center of his intent to establish Rome's primacy were the apostles Peter and Paul.

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