11 Philology and the Bible

Art, Drama, Religion

The Nativity Scene (Presepio, Presepe)

1223: Francis of Assisi, Greccio

Bologna: 13th c Nativity Scene: Adoration of the Magi

Arnofo di Cambio, Presesepe (1280s), Rome, SMM

Benozzo Gozzoli, Adoration of the Magi, Palazzo Medici, Florence

Gothic cribs for Christmas re-enactments

Tableau Vivant

Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters






Cesare da Sesto, San Rocco (1523). Milan: Pinacoteca, Castello Sforzesco

Philology and the Bible


Some humanist contributions to studies of texts and language

handwriting and print fonts

editing, translation, publishing

A current ex: review of some modern Dante translations

historical studies of languages

forgeries of ancient texts and the discovery of forgeries by others

efforts to study critically the text of the bible itself

Today’s focus:  critical study of texts

Leonardo Bruni, Tomb. Artist: Bernardo Rossellino, 1409-1464

Leonardo Bruni (c. 1370-1444) and translations of Aristotle

chancellor of Florence (from 1427)

translations:   Plato: Phaedo, Crito, Apology, Phaedrus, Gorgias

Aristotle: Economics, Politics, Ethics (1416-17)

Alonso de Cartagena


Lorenzo Valla (ca 1407-57)

grew up in Rome; worked in Pavia, Milan, Naples, Rome

Translation  of Thucydides

Translation  of Herodotus

most famous book in his lifetime: Elegances (Elegantiae  linguae latinae)

“Best” Latin: style used from Cicero to Quintilian

philosophical writings: language

Annotations on NewTestament (ca. 1450); On the Donation  of Constantine (1440)

Donation (Declamatio): Vatican manuscript

anachronism: Constantinople

word usage in the 4th century:          tiara (phrygium)

writing style: turns of phrase  apparently from Vulgate Bible (Jerome born c. 345)

Carolingian forgery

Annotations on NT—ca 1450

published by Erasmus: 1505

focus on the divine word (not theology)

study of   Vulgate in the light of the Greek

levels of annotations:

  • grammatical
  • stylistic
  • philosophical


Giannozzo Manetti          (1396-1459)

worked for Medici, then as secretary for Nicholas V

new translation of the Greek New Testament based on Greek sources

Study of Hebrew


Desiderius Erasmus 1469-1536

Erasmus, portrait, Hans Holbein the younger, 1497-1543


Jerome and Erasmus

ad fontes

Jerome and Basil (Basil translated by Bruni)


Brothers of Common Life


university at Paris; taught Latin: Adages, Colloquies

First trip to England 1499; Thomas More

“primitive theology”

England again 1509-14. Praise of Folly

Jerome Opera omnia 1516; contributed to editions of Augustine, Ambrose, Basil, other Church Church Fathers

Edition of Greek New Testament (1516; 2nd ed 1519); Complaint of Peace 1517

Other editions, translations


Annotations on New Testament

  • 1504 discovered Valla’s manuscript,   published 1505
  • 1516 Greek NT  with an emended Vulgate; annotations


Contexts for these tasks

  • commercial: printing, book market
  • editions of ancient writers, pagan and Christian
  • renewed interest in Church fathers, in Bible
  • new approaches to reading old sources: better historical understanding