Medieval translations of the Bible



The medieval translations of the French prose Bible, that is to say, Bibles written like the ones we read today and which resembled the Latin versions to the point of being taken for them, are few. Often, we preferred to adapt in verse because it offered a great freedom of improvisation or comment. The first “true” integral translations date from the end of. The translations of the Psalter into Germanic and Romance languages ​​are among the oldest known translations ().

Between the publication of the Vulgate and the French, the Bible is essentially read in Latin. The Reform of the Vulgate in the Frankish Empire is the work of Charlemagne and the papacy had only a minor influence. The century of Charlemagne is that of the confrontation and dispersion of two types of manuscripts, those emanating from England and those circulating from Spain. Two men will embody this antagonism, Alcuin and Theodulfe. The first brought in his native city, York, in 796, the library which his master, himself a disciple of Bede the Venerable, bequeathed him with the best manuscripts of the Vulgate he knew. The latter is the heir to the already ancient work on the Bible undertaken previously in England, where the first vernacular translations of the Latin text are being developed early in Europe. The Carolingian period is, with Alcuin and Theodulfe, the great pivotal period of rediscovery of the text before the great Franciscan reform of Latin texts. It is even important to remember that before the Carolingian reform, the text was known only as second-hand. Finally, let us remember that the eradication of pagan practices in the Breton provinces, for example, dates from. Between, we tell the Bible in French. The verse novels are versified adaptations that expose the facts of biblical heroes. These long verse poems recount these adventures in a subjective way. They are addressed to a secular audience, concerned with entertainment as much as instruction, while the prose translations target clerics and nuns “illiterate” (who do not read Latin). The stories are sometimes elliptical or romanticized to make it easier to remember: it is actually a catechesis.

At the same time, we also “tell” stories of the Bible in Latin, that is to say all that we say (the glosses) on a particular verse: this is the case of the text of Peter the Eater named Historia Scholastica. It is a kind of holy history written for itinerant monks in the context of the disputes they might have had to support with the heretics. These are small pamphlets that deal with the biblical matter by dividing it into clearly distinguished chapters. For each character, mention is made of a quotation from the Glossa ordinaria or from an erudition. The Latin text of Historia Scholastica, vade-mecum of itinerant monks, the first book of history (completed before 1173) by the hand of Petrus Comestor, the, has become the reference incontestable and unique encyclopedia at hand both students and preaching monks or women, that we can, in the light of the beautiful stories told by The Eater, qualify as romantic. The influence of Pierre Comestor on the perception of the text is fundamental. His educational ambition will find its culmination in two books that will revolutionize Western thought, the General History of Alfonso X and the historical Bible of Guyart des Moulins. The latter will serve as the basis for more than one modern translation, beginning with the one recognized by Jean de Rély in 1487, the latter simply being content to put the division into verses. Whereas, until the Bible was only a collection of translated books arranged in a variable order (Samuel Berger listed two hundred different provisions), the completed historical Bible is divided into chapters with, at the head, rubrics or summaries that summarize the contents, according to the Greek usage. The fact that one needs so much “to tell” is enough to prove that many clerics had only a summary knowledge of the original texts of the Bible and that they needed translations and comments in French to allow them to work on their references in the context of preaching. It was even more useful to people who did not have access to Latin (nuns in particular). Moreover, the reading of the Bible without interpretative lighting (without gloss) having been condemned to by Pope Alexander II, for the medieval mentality, the Biblical texts and their comments are indissociable.

The Middle Ages does not confuse transmission narrative and translation, and the first to be interested in the text in French (around) have naturally started by telling the text. IThey did it in verse. The etymological approach is much later and starts at. There is therefore a dual method of transmitting the story (or stories) of the Bible

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