Tory'sCapitals = Champ Fleury 1529


François Vatable, so much more than a ‘name’.

this is the text of the essay I published in BHR Tome LXXIII – 2011 – no 3, pp. 557-591.

for the text without notes but with some illustrations, click here

François Vatable (appointed in 1530 as royal lecturer of Hebrew in Paris) is mainly, if not exclusively, remembered for his collaboration with Robert Estienne in the production of the famous 1545 Latin Bible in which the old Bible translation (Vulgate) and a new one directly translated from the Hebrew are printed side-by-side. The ensemble is accompanied by annotations which – according to Estienne in his preface – were based on, among others, student notes (reportationes) taken at the public lectures (praelectiones) of François Vatable.[1] These notes (glossa, annotationes) therefore became known as the ‘Vatable notes’ (notes de Vatable) and the Bible edition itself as the ‘Vatable Bible’ (Bible de Vatable). The content of some of these notes led to an escalation of the already existing tensions between the printer, Robert Estienne, and the Paris theologians. When it came to open polemics and censure, the supposed author, François Vatable, had already died (16 March 1547).[2]

An intriguing aspect of these notes is that almost everything about them is uncertain, even their proper identification poses difficulties: ‘which notes are we talking about?’: the notes in the 1545 Paris Bible or the notes in the 1557 Geneva Bible, both printed by Robert Estienne and both often simply referred to as Vatable’s.[3] Nevertheless these notes are not identical: in 1557 they are more extensive (sometimes more technical, sometimes more preachy). Both sets of notes have originated a text-tradition of their own. The 1557 notes were often reprinted in protestant Bible editions, and – in the 17th century – included in Critici Sacri (an immensely popular multi-volume compendium of scholarly biblical knowledge from the past). The 1545 Bible became the object of an inquisitorial tug of war in Spain. It was censored, resulting in a 22 column list of corrections to be implemented. As such it was published by André de Portonariis (1555) and banned again, then reedited by three theologians of Salamanca (a.o. Luys de León) and finally printed by André’s brother, Gaspard de Portonariis, authorized in 1573, published in 1584. On the title page the glosses are advertised as being Vatable’s.[4] In Bible editions and secondary literature based on both text traditions the glosses are generally introduced with phrases like ‘Vatablus vertit’ or ‘ut interpretatur Vatablus’,[5] surprisingly concerning both Old and New Testament notes, although not even Estienne ever claimed that Vatable, professor of Hebrew, was also the editor of the New Testament notes. The custom indiscriminatingly to refer to either the 1545, 1567 and 1584 Bible (and its descendents) as the ‘Vatable Bible’ and to all notes therein as the ‘Vatable notes’ persists until today.

 The aim of this article is to shed some light on this question, but only indirectly. In my opinion too much energy has been spent on a subquestion: whether or not these notes are Vatable’s, and even to a sub-subquestion: whether or not they contain ‘heresy’. This debate dates back to the 16th century (beginning with the censorship of the Paris theologians in 1547/8) and is seriously contaminated by the propaganda from both sides. The main victim in this debate is not Robert Estienne and his Bible (he has defended himself vigorously and his Bible editions were a success) but the person and work of François Vatable who is so much more than a ‘name’ associated with ‘biblical annotations’ in one particular Bible edition. He was one of the most eminent scholars of the early sixteenth century and deserves to be met without a direct reference to the Estienne Bible and the notes that carry his name. Even more: the notes should not serve to establish his theological view (heterodox/orthodox), but should be used – if possible – to shed light on his Hebrew scholarship. Therefore I propose to – temporarily – put the question about the notes to one side and only address it in due course, i.e., when the story of Vatable’s life and work can benefit from their treatment.


Chronology of Vatable’s early life and studies.

 François Vatable was born in Gamaches (Picardy) as François Wattebled,[6] year/date of birth unknown, but probably in the last decade of the 15th Century. He was a son of Jean Wattebled and Péronne Le Fèvre. In his will two sisters (Jeanne and Antoinette) and a number of nieces are mentioned, no brothers.[7] An old and persistent tradition claims that he was a priest in a little town in the Valois, Brumetz, before he enrolled as student at the Faculty of Arts in Paris. This can’t be true because – as we will see below – he was still very young when he arrived in Paris. What is true, however, is that in his later days the curacy of Brumetz was used to provide his income as royal lecturer.[8] The first certified fact about Vatable’s life is an entry in the 1511 Registers of the University of Paris which mentions that he applied for a benefice in Amiens. In the application he is referred to as Master of Arts.[9] To get a Master’s degree five years of preparatory studies were required. This implies that the young François must have arrived in Paris around 1506.[10] From 1511 onwards his name appears in books and other documents, which provides us with the possibility to construct a provisory and tentative chronology about his life as a lector (licentia docendi) at the Faculty of Arts and his early career. An overview:

  1. In 1511 Girard Roussel[11] mentions Vatable in a preface to a publication of works on Aristotelian logic (Logices adminicula). He is introduced as a collaborator and friend who is still an ‘adulescens’. In the same book a second preface, signed ‘Franciscus Vatablus Gamachianus’, is printed on f° 26v.[12] The book in question was meant for students at the Paris Faculty of Arts, where philosophy was an important part of the curriculum: a textbook.
  2. In 1512 we find Vatable among the students of Girolamo Aleandro, the Italian scholar, who taught the French to read and write Greek and was the rector of the University of Paris for a three-month term in 1512 (in his later years he made a career as papal nuncio confronting Luther in Germany). On his behalf, François Vatable completed the edition of the Greek grammar of Chrysoloras, which he was editing for publication when he fell ill. This edition is the first in which the revolutionary new Greek characters, typecast by Gilles de Gourmont, were used.[13]

Not bad for a young man: Vatable was a rising star in academic circles – department philosophy – in Paris in the early 1510s. The production of new Latin translations of Greek philosophical treatises was typical for the humanist movement in those days. Scholarly, pedagogically and spiritually the Faculty of Arts was strongly influenced by Lefèvre d’Etaples, one of its leading professors. Apparently: languages were Vatable’s forte: Greek for the moment, not Hebrew, although Aleandro was well versed in that language too. Graduated in or before 1511, he must still have been quite young, since a reference to his youth is always present when he is referred to. Roussel calls him an ‘adulescens’ (the same term he used to address the students in his preface), and two years later, 1513, Charles Brachet, one of Aleandro’s most brilliant students, refers to his friend Vatable also as a ‘iuvenis’ (preface to his translation from Greek into Latin of three Dialogues of Lucianus[14]). Calling someone a ‘iuvenis’ in 1513, implies that by then Vatable could not be much older than 18. We can not but conclude that François must have been a precocious boy. Calculating backwards we propose – tentatively – the following dates: born ca. 1495 in Gamaches (Picardy), arrival in Paris ca. 1506 (still a boy), graduating as M.A. in or prior to 1511, quite young but not impossible.[15] In the meantime his talent for languages and philosophy was discovered and his academic career is launched. In 1513 he would be still young enough to be called a ‘iuvenis’ (18 years of age) by someone who himself was certainly not much older, but also old enough to supervise the edition of books on behalf of renowned scholars like Roussel and Aleandro. The way he addresses the supposed readers in his preface is telling: he clearly is not one of them anymore.[16] The image that appears is that of a young, dynamic post-graduate member of the Faculty of Arts in Paris, active at the Collège du Cardinal Lemoine, first as a student and now teaching there himself.[17]

This image is confirmed by the next step in his career. After having perfected his knowledge of the Greek tongue under the tutelage of Aleandro, he moves to Avignon to study Hebrew.[18] The time when one could only become a Hebraist as an autodidact was past. Published grammars and dictionaries were not yet flooding the market and the tri-lingual colleges had still to be founded. There were incidental almost personal inititatives to promote the study of Hebrew. In Paris François Tissard had lectured and had published a book containing the basics of Hebrew writing in 1508, and in 1514 the already mentioned Aleandro published a Greek and Hebrew alphabet, but this apparently did not result in systematic teaching in this language.[19] In 1518-1522 Antonio Giustiniani, a famous scholar, both Hebraist and Arabist, gave lectures on Hebrew in Paris at the King’s request.[20] Vatable however did not wait until all these initiatives had been finalized, but left Paris for Avignon to enhance his mastery of the Hebrew language in order to make the ‘litterae Hebraeae’ as useful for Christians as the Latin and Greek already were. He probably chose Avignon, because it was almost the only place in France where Jewish communities were still allowed – be it with strict regulations – to exist and participate in public life.[21] When he returns from Avignon, now well versed in Latin, Greek ànd Hebrew, he once again is found in the company of Lefèvre d’Etaples, who was still staying in the prestigious Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a guest of the abbot there: Guillaume Briçonnet. This time, and on the explicit request of his ‘Master and Maecenas’ Lefèvre d’Etaples,[22] Vatable embarks on the revision and translation (from the Greek) of a number of important philosophical treatises of Aristotle, thus taking up the thread as scholarly editor. He revises the old medieval Latin translations, edits available up-to-date translations (Argyropoulos), and if no modern translation available, he provides one based on available Greek manuscripts and the famous Aldus-edition. This voluminous book (336 folios) contains the old and the new translation side by side (the old though in a larger type), with summarising introductions and marginal notes. It appeared in print in 1518 with Henri Estienne.[23] The texts in question, Physica, De caelo, De anima, De generatione et corruptione, and the so called Parva naturalia are all works from Aristotle, “the Philosopher” as he was then called, dealing with the world we live in; inquiries in physics, human and animal nature, psychology, astronomy, and meteorology.

This book is one of the several substantial contributions of Lefèvre’s scholarly team which was devoted to restoring the works of Aristotle in their original splendour by republishing them from trustworthy sources in an up-to-date Latin translation. Next to Lefèvre himself (mainly paraphrasing commentaries) the main participants were Josse Clichtove, Charles de Bouvelles, and Girard Roussel. The effort was spread over three decades (1490-1522). A similar project concerning the patristic writings was effected parallel to it and in the second half of the 1510s (including publication of mystical writers, like Ruusbroec) a third project began to absorb their energy even more. This was the restoration of biblical texts, Lefèvre’s fivefold Psalter (Quincuplex Psalterium, 1509) being the forerunner. By means of fluent Latin translations (imported from Italy or self-made), commentaries, introductions and paraphrases, these scholars tried to recover and highlight the true value of these ancient works. They were working on a linguistic level – new translation into Latin following the rules of Latin syntax, grammar and idiom, rejecting the medieval way (almost verbally Latinising the Greek), because it was not acceptable anymore to the Latinists of the Renaissance and because it really obstructed the reading and understanding of the texts.[24] Lefèvre d’Etaples, Girard Roussel and Josse Clichtove are often only mentioned in theological contexts (pro or contra Luther/Calvin, or something in between etc.). This not only wrongly neglects their multifaceted personalities, it also obscures the embedment of the theological issues in a much wider cultural debate. At the same time, it simply misrepresents the way these scholars were perceived and appreciated in their own days.[25] Among these works, Vatable’s new translations of De generatione et corruptione, Meteorologica, and the parva naturalia, was the most successful and had the most long-lasting effects. Here, to illustrate what Vatable did – under the aegis of Lefèvre d’Etaples– a list of the works he edited and translated:



(1511)  - Boethius’ translations of Aristotle’s works on Logic, incl. Porphyry’s Introduction to Aristotle’s Categoriae

- Barbarao’s translation of Themistius’s paraphrase of Aristotle’s Analytica posterioria

(1512)  - Ερωτηματα του Χρυσολωρα Grammatica Chrysolorae (on behalf of Aleandro)[26]

(1528) - Totius Philosophiae Naturalis Paraphrases (sc. Lefèvre d’Etaples)[27]


Aristotle: from his works on physical reality

a. Editor of a vetus et nova tralatio (Argyropoulos) of Aristotle

(1518) - Physica (the study of nature: incl. change, motion, void, time)

- De Caelo (structure of heaven, earth, the elements)

- De Anima (the different ‘souls’, degrees of life, faculties, senses, mind)

b. Editor of a vetus tralatio and provider of a nova tralatio from the Greek

(1518) - De Generatione et Corruptione (origin of existence, duration and decay)

- Meteorologica (about comets, weather, natural disasters) [28]

- Parva Naturalia

- De Sensu et Sensilu[29] (senses)

- De Memoria et Reminiscentia (memory, reminiscence)

- De Somno et Vigilia (sleep)

- De Insomniis (dreams)

- De Divinatione per Somnum (prophesy, divinaton)

- De Longitudine et Brevitate Vitae (shortness and length of life)

- De Juventute et Senectute, De Vita et Morte, De Respiratione (Youth, Old Age, Life and Death)[30]


His translations were reprinted many times and separate editions of them (in small booklets for students) were used to teach philosophy, not only in Paris, but also in Lyon, and soon also outside France.[31] All his translations were included in Aristotle’s Opera omnia edition which appeared in Frankfurt in 1593.[32] They were also part of the 1831 Aristoteles Latine.[33] So, we conclude, before he became the Regius Professor of Hebrew, François Vatable was known as an able translator, editor and annotator of philosophical texts, specialist in the Greek tongue and expert in Aristotle’s natural philosophy.


The Cercle de Meaux

Vatable’s 1518 edition and (partial) new translation of Aristotle’s parva naturalia and related texts was dedicated to Guillaume Briçonnet, Bishop of Meaux, who – in 1517 – had started a programme of reform in his diocese by visiting the parishes and organizing a synod. He also tried to improve the training of his clergy and monastic discipline. Another element of his reform was the implementation of a new style of preaching.[34] To this end Briçonnet asked Lefèvre d’Etaples to come over and help him. With him came part of his circle of learned men, who were also clergymen, among them Martial Mazurier, Gérard Roussel, Michel d’Arande, Guillaume Farel, Pierre Caroli and François Vatable.[35] Next to ecclesiastic reform (implementing already existing regulations based on the authority exercised by a resident and visiting bishop) the emphasis on the study of the Bible and the teaching of basic doctrine to everyone in the vernacular, was the core and kernel of Briçonnet’s initiative. Vatable, apparently still closely connected with Lefèvre d’Etaples, simply followed his mentor. In 1521 he is appointed priest in the diocese of Meaux, first in Saint-Germain-sous-Couilly, then in Quincy and finally he becomes a canon, a member of the chapter of the Cathedral of Saint-Estienne in Meaux. The bishop grants him a license to preach. Considering that this was an essential part of the reform program it can be assumed that he did it, although no mention of this activity is ever made (in contrast to other preachers). More obvious though, but often overlooked, is another kind of contribution.[36] Parallel with the activity in the field (preaching, visiting), the printing press was put in overdrive, not so much to publish Artistotle,[37] or patristic or mystic literature, but elementary biblical material, both the Bible text (first in parts, eventually resulting in the first entire Bible in French - 1530) and catechetical and homiletical material, practical, immediately useful, like Luther’s Postillen, to facilitate the reformation process. [38] What is more obvious than to assume that Vatable, not only a Graecist but now also a Hebraist, was involved in the translation activities, especially when the Old Testament was concerned? We can go a step further: Lefèvre was a Latinist and a Graecist, but in matters concerning Hebrew he only had a very basic knowledge and relied completely on others to provide him with information.[39] The simple fact that in the scholarly edition of the Latin Psalter of 1524, extensive use is suddenly made of Jewish sources, carefully introduced and explained in the introduction, betrays the hand of a biblical scholar with intimate knowledge of the Hebrew text, the Jewish exegesis (Midrash) and rabbinical commentaries.[40] In this edition the text of the Psalterium Gallicanum (‘Vulgate’) is printed with alternative readings in relevant places. The Hebraicum is not that of Jerome any longer (as it still was in the Quincuplex), but is replaced by a the translation of Felice de Prato (Felix Pratensis) straight from the Hebrew.[41] Occasionally, a reading from a Chaldaicum (= Targum) is provided to help understanding. In Meaux there is only one person who had the required mastery of Hebrew to do this: François Vatable. His name is not mentioned, but this is not much of a surprise: the watching eye of the Theologians in Paris had already forced the circle of Lefèvre to hide their own and collective works behind anonymity. Gradually, the pressure from the conservative party in Paris became unsustainable, esp. since the King himself was in captivity in Madrid and his sister (the sponsor, protector and inspiration of the evangelicals[42]) had also left the country to negotiate the release of her brother. In 1525 the experiment collapsed. Briçonnet was summoned to appear before the Parlement, Lefèvre and Roussel fled to Strasbourg. Vatable seems to have left the group before the final blow was delivered. On 8 July 1524 he exchanged his canonry in Meaux cathedral for the rectory of Suresnes (diocese of Paris), retaining this benefice until his death.[43] The other participants (mainly Arande, Roussel, Mazurier, Caroli) were never able to continue their life and work in France without being watched or attacked by the conservative party of Paris theologians. Without the protection of the Court the end of the ‘Meaux circle’ would have been even more fatal. Vatable’s participation in the experiment of Guillaume Briçonnet apparently did not harm his career. His ‘orthodoxy’ was not doubted and his name never appears in the proceedings of the Faculty of Theology that are edited for the years 1524—1550.[44] So we can assume that he returned to Paris and resumed (or continued?) his activities in the bosom of the faculty of Arts. What is certain is that he fulfilled his promise, made in 1518, to procure a new edition of Lefèvre’s paraphrases on Artistotle’s Physics. It appeared in print in 1528, published by Simon de Colines.[45]


The facts about the remainder of his career are well known. In 1530 François I-er finally decided to provide the funds for lecturers in Greek (Jacques Toussain, Pierre Danès) and Hebrew (Agazio Guidacerio, François Vatable). A few month later a lecturer in Mathematics was also appointed (Oronce Finé) and in 1531 even a third Hebrew lecturer: a converted (or apostate) Jew, Paul Paradis.[46] The Faculty of Theology looked at this project with Argus’ eyes, quite understandable since things associated with the Bible were no neutral issues anymore in 1530. Lectio implies reading, translating and explaining the meaning (sensus). And exactly that has always been the prerogative of the Faculty of Theology. Apparently the leading theologians wanted to set things straight right from the start by condemning two theses concerning the necessity of knowledge of the original tongues to be able to properly interpret the Bible. They made clear that the authority on interpretation of the Bible resided exclusively with the Faculty of Theology, with or without knowledge of the original tongues. So reading the Bible is alright, textual criticism of the Vulgate allowed (although close), but questioning the Truth based on the Vulgate was absolutely forbidden.[47] That would be trespassing into their domain. Within these boundaries there seems to have been much less animosity in everyday college life between royal lecturers and ‘normal’ lecturers, than is (was?) often supposed. Tendentious statements, both contemporaneous and retrospective are not necessarily impartial descriptions of matters of fact. Of course there was animosity, distrust and competition, but that does not imply that this struggle should be sketched as a heroic battle of the enlightened elite (the good guys) against a retarded integrist party (bad guys). Life is too complex to be interpreted along such simple lines.[48]

More interesting to us is that Vatable’s name is mentioned in this context, but that the content of his lessons is never attacked. For everyone his personal integrity and good Christian Faith appeared to have been beyond doubt.[49] For his contemporaries he is the scholar who had written textbooks for the courses in Philosophy used time and again in the official curriculum of the Faculty of Arts. As well as an expert in Aristotle’s physics, he is also an uncontested authority in matters concerning languages: Latin, Greek and Hebrew (both biblical and rabbinical Hebrew). He did not advertise his own thoughts nor publish his own lectures. He did not even publish a Hebrew grammar like many of his colleagues. Nevertheless it is incorrect to say that he did not leave a heritage outside his pupils (and their lecture notes, the reportationes) as is often said.[50] This is an optical illusion. Vatable did publish, but – and here we find a continuum in his life – not thoughts or texts of his own, but texts of others. Just as he had done with Aristotle (editing, emending existing translations by referring to the original texts, and – if necessary – making new translations) he now did with the Bible. From his work on Aristotle he was acquainted with the printing house of Henri Estienne. The interest of his successor, Robert Estienne, in Bible printing is well known. Estienne not only retrospectively claims this as his main occupation in his defense ‘why he left Paris for Geneva’ (Les censures…, 1552), but it is also apparent if one looks at the impressive output of Bibles (partial editions and complete ones) from his printing shop.[51] Robert Estienne was one of last students of Lefèvre d’Etaples. They must even have cooperated while Simon de Colines published Lefèvre’s edition of the Latin Bible (1522-1523): at that time Robert was working in Colines printing shop. When Lefèvre stopped editing and printing (1526, when he became tutor of the King’s children in Blois, before retiring to Nérac in 1531 with Marguerite de Navarre) it is Estienne who continues editing and printing Latin Bibles, thus prolonging the effort of Lefèvre to revive the interest in the Bible as the texte fondateur of Christendom, focusing on providing a trustworthy edition of the original texts.[52] Estienne’s first project was a text critical edition of the Vulgate (1527-8, continued and perfected in 1532, 1534, 1540, 1546), in which he collated ancient manuscripts of the Bible text (i.e. the Latin text of the Vulgate) with a ‘standard’ version, using symbols to indicate different readings in manuscripts he had found in several libraries inside and outside Paris.[53] One of the facts he immediately will have realized is the enormous complexity of this matter. Many issues are intertwined: 1. The Vulgate is not the original text but a translation. 2. The text of the Vulgate is not ‘stable’, i.e. different readings exist. 3. The translation in use is not perfect. And, last but not least, since the Protestants used these elements to attack the foundations of the Roman Catholic Church, it is not at all surprising, that the Faculty of Theology followed his exploits with great attention. The fact that Estienne did not venture into the field of publishing Bible translations into the vernacular, secured him some peace, together with the fact that he was ‘The King’s printer’. And as long as he kept confirming the authority of the Vulgate, only striving to emend that text, he did nothing wrong. A new era began when he was appointed ‘Imprimeur & libraire ès lettres Hebraiques & Latines’ to the King in 1539, even more associating him with the Royal Lecturers.[54] It is no accident that exactly at that time he began a series of Hebrew Bibles in-quarto (Biblia mediocri forma, in his own catalogue of 1546)[55], appearing from 1539-1544, in which almost every book of the Bible has a title page of its own (bilingual: Hebrew and Latin), while the rest of the book is printed entirely in Hebrew characters. The books were meant to be sold separately, perhaps also a commercial move; testing the market before flooding it. The Bible text is the authorative text (massoretic) as published in the second rabbinical Bible (Jacob ben Chaijim). Most conspicuous though is the edition of the 12 Minor Prophets. They are printed separately supplemented by the commentary of David Kimhi (printed in round Hebrew characters, the so called Rashi type), while the massoretic text is printed in square Hebrew type. Only these 12 booklets reveal the identity of the compiler/editor: François Vatable, the rest is anonymous. Together with the name of the King and the printer Vatable’s name appears on the title pages, both in Latin and in Hebrew (Rashi type). The chronology of the publication makes clear that these individual prints of the Minor Prophets were the first that were published. They appeared sequentially between 1539 and 1540.[56] So, from 1539 onwards an intense cooperation between Robert Estienne and François Vatable can not only be assumed, but is a fact, the latter – because of his scholarship in Hebrew – de facto being the editor in charge of this series.[57] This cooperation is further confirmed by the inclusion of a number of illustrations in Estienne’s 1540 Bible in the books of Exodus and 1 Kings (Regum III) concerning the Tabernacle and the Temple. Both general views and details of all kinds of objects are provided and explained. They are no products of an artist’s imagination, but carefully drawn representations based on the indications about measures and material in the Bible self, as is explained systematically below the pictures. The title page and preface proudly announce that they are made on the explicit instruction of François Vatable himself.[58] And this is not all; in 1541 Estienne publishes a separate edition of the Pentateuch: Libri Moysi quinque… Cum annotationibus, & observationibus Hebraicis...[59] His own textual notes are in the margin of the text, and new scholarly annotations are printed below the text in separate notes. In the preface he explains where these notes come from: the royal lecturers. After having suggested that the initiative of King Francis to institute chairs for professors in the Hebrew language was directly inspired by God himself, he explains that he felt it his duty to let as many readers as possible profit from their insights; and this is how he got them:

“All I have done is to ensure that some of the material collected by hearers of the Royal lecturers should by favour of our typographical art reach those of you who by distance or other obstacles are prevented from hearing them. And to these notes I have added the readings different from the current printed editions, which I took from ancient and correct manuscripts.”

We notice that it is not Vatable alone whom Estienne credits for this notes. In this phrase he also implies Guidaceri and Paradis. This is important since these notes, “quasi in extenso”, are the same as the notes on the Pentateuch in the Vatable bible of 1545.[60] Perhaps Vatable is credited with too much. Nevertheless, in tempore non suspecto these notes on the first five books of the Bible are what they are said to be: the fruits of the institution of the Royal readership in Hebrew, now available for everyone who can read Latin. As already mentioned Vatable’s labour on the minor prophets and David Kimhi’s commentary was already published around 1540: Apparently these books met with considerable success in the academic world, since a series of reprints of this Hebrew bible (this time in pocket size – enchiridii forma) appeared from 1543-1546 (13 parts), destined for students to buy and make notes while the professor lectured on these topics. The King must have been pleased with the work done by Vatable, for in 1544 he arranged that Vatable – honoris causa – could remain a bursarius at the collège du Cardinal Lemonier (although according to the statutes he should have left).[61] His testament informs us that he had a house of his own (in the faubourg Saint Victor, rue Neuve, which he left to his mother), but that he really lived in the college with the ‘Maitres et les confreres boursiers’.[62] In 1543 the same King named Vatable commendatory abbot of the Abbey of Bellozane (in the diocese of Rouen), a title and income he kept until his death on 16 March 1547. Jacques Amyot, professor of Greek at Bourges, inherited the benefice of this abbey. When he in his turn was appointed Bishop of Auxerre, the benefice was given to Pierre Ronsard.[63]

The quality of his work was not only appreciated by the King, Robert Estienne and his contemporaries: taken together this is the first Hebrew Bible, printed in France. Modern scholarship has compared this edition with its predecessors, the Rabbinical Bible of Bomberg (Venice), which also aimed at a Jewish public and the Polyglot Bible of Alcala which is clearly Christian in its ambit, and concluded that the Estienne editions have a particularity. The vocalization is independent from Alcala, there are cantilation marks; even the reversed ‘nun’ appears and the distinction between open and closed paragraphs are present, both typical for the massoretic tradition. Concerning the ‘qetib-qere’ they are generally signalled using a special sign (°) while the ‘qetib’ is vocalized according to the ‘qere’, however without the ‘qere’ printed in the margin.[64] Most particular for this Bible, and exclusively Vatable, is the publication of Kimhi’s commentary on the minor prophets. The way these texts are edited betrays the influence of Jewish publications dating back to the time before the rabbinical Bibles appeared. Kimhi’s commentary (in Rashi-Hebrew) is placed below the units of the Bible text to which it refers. The marginal references to the Bible text are very precise. This edition makes clear that the editor himself had found the commentary of Kimhi very useful for studying the Bible. Finally, compared with the impressive polyglot of Plantin (Antwerp, 1569-1572), edited by Arias Montanus, the Estienne Bible, edited by Vatable (and his team) can certainly stand the comparison.[65]


And now, only now, we reach the Vatable bible of 1545. It is not so special anymore, nor exceptional. It is not the only Bible edition in which Vatable was involved and the notes in this edition are not as original as often perceived. As already mentioned: the notes in the inside margin are Estienne’s (from his previous critical edition of the Vulgate), the notes in the Pentateuch are simply copied from the Libri quinque Moysi of 1541, and thus can be linked to Vatable, but not only to him; the notes present in the Zurich Bible, from which the new translation from the Hebrew is copied (without mentioning the source), are also used by Estienne, not in the Pentateuch (no need), but in other books they were integrated in the annotations.[66] The extensive notes on the Psalms incorporate much material from Bucer’s Commentary on the Psalms.[67] The notes are generally succinct, philological, trying to explain the text to the not-informed reader, that he may understand. This philological and didactical exercise, which is carried on through the entire edition, makes the 1545 Estienne Bible indeed monumental and explains why these annotations were so widely appreciated, and that their transmission was not even obstructed by the gap between confessions.[68]


Approaching these notes as if they are Vatable’s is attributing to Vatable too much and too little at the same time: too much because they are not necessarily his, nor all his, and too little, since he did so much more on this field. His participation in the scholarly editions of the Old Testament, in which text-criticism (the establishment or reconstitution of the original text) is so obvious, as is his fascination for the rabbinical exegesis of David Kimhi, is far more relevant than what the notes are or are not telling. Even more: The student notes are much richer than the – necessarily – succinct notes in the Bible. They should not be read only to compare with the notes in the 1545 Bible, but used as a window to look at Vatable in action as the teacher of an entire generation of Hebrew scholars.[69] Next to the printed annotations, nine reportationes from Vatable’s lectures are preserved in the National Library of France (Paris). They originate from three different students: Mathieu Gautier (mss lat 532, 533, 537, 538 et 540), Nicolas Pithou (mss lat 88, 577, 581) and Girolamo della Rovere (ms lat 433, f° 1-52).[70] Parts of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, the books of Samuel/Kings are covered by Gautier; parts of the books of Kings, Ezekiel 31-48 and the first six of the minor prophets by Pithou; the folios of Della Rovere deal with the Psalms 1-16. They can – of course – be used to check the authenticity of the notes de Vatable (with the exception of the student notes on the Psalms, which postdate this publication),[71] but that is only a minor use; first and foremost they can serve to get a clearer picture of how Vatable lectured. To begin, however, with the minor issue (it is a topic, it has to be addressed): a comparison of these reportationes with the notes de Vatable in the 1545 Bible on the same biblical passages. This has been done by several scholars, but not yet systematically. One of them, Dominique Barthélémy discovered a fourth set of student notes: Bertin le Comte’s. He apparently scribbled (or afterwards transcribed) his notes in the margins and interlinear spaces of a 1528 Pagnini Bible, which Barthélémy was able to find and identify in the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire de Genève. Comparison of these notes with the notes from Gautier and Pithou (Book of Kings) confirmed that these notes were also derived from lectures by Vatable, i.e. they only differ as much as three different witnesses who report the same event.[72] The partial results have made clear ‘that the printed and written notes are quite similar, but almost never identical’.[73] This conclusion does corroborate the findings of our historical survey: there is Vatable in it, but there are also things in it that are not Vatable’s. Also of little importance, but more interesting, is the question: did Estienne abuse the scholarly authority of Vatable by slipping in some of his own tendentious thoughts? Barthélémy has tried to answer this question. He selected a number of notes that were condemned by Spanish censors (and thus are suppressed in the Vatable Bible of De Portonariis (1584/5) and compared them with the available student notes.[74] His analysis makes four things clear, all equally important:

  1. Estienne did not invent the notes that rang a bell with the inquisitive minds of conservative theologians, at least not all of them. To prove this one only needs to find one example of a note labelled ‘heretical’, both in a reportatio and in the 1545 Bible. The printed note on Hos. 2:19[75] was censured, because ‘iustita’ was explained: as “…per fidem qua iustificantur homines”. The student notes are at least as explicit. Thus Vatable apparently did not hesitate in commenting on this text to underline the importance of faith in the process of justification.
  2. On occasion Estienne made Vatable sound more protestant than he was by omitting balancing elements in the notes that were condemned (Joel 2:32[76]: Estienne printed: “id est. […] quisquis opem a Domino expectarit, credens in Christum.”; Pithou: “Qui fuerint de ecclesia et crediderint in Christum.”). The necessity of belonging to the Church takes out the heresy, which can be read into the note in which only faith (sola fide) is mentioned.
  3. Estienne made Vatable sound less conservative than he was in not including plenty of comments in which Vatable showed himself to be ‘a good orthodox Christian’, who is not only aware of the importance of faith and grace, but also stresses the essential role played by the Church in the process of salvation.[77] Most of the Protestants also believe this, but will not stress it, because their opponents always did. Where the student notes on Hos. 2,2 repeat over and again that God gathers (Latin: “congregabuntur”) his people “in ecclesia Christiana” [“ac catholica” – Bertin] and that Christ is rightly called the “caput ecclesiae” because the relation between Christ and his Church resembles that of a man and his wife (entirely following the metaphor of Hosea), Estienne sticks to a sober summary avoiding the word ‘ecclesia’, using only the low church term ‘fidelium congregatio’ and even suppresses the entire note in the 1557 edition.
  4. Estienne also silenced Vatable by simply suppressing observations made by Vatable during his lessons, which contradicted protestant viewpoints. E.g., in explaining Ezek. 18,19 where the word ‘iustitia’ is crucial, Vatable informs his students that good deeds are an essential element in the process of justification. The student note (Bertin) on Ezek. 18,19 reads: “Iustitia… significat bona opera quae scilicet ex fide profisciscuntur redduntque hominem iustum.” This note de Vatable, which is theologically very interesting, since it tries to keep together what theologians in those days were separating, is not among the notes de Vatable in Estienne’s 1545 Bible.

Although the third and fourth observation operate with what is not printed and thus are endangered by argumentatio ex nihilo, they are to the point, especially since they are corroborated by a lot of circumstantial evidence: Everyone who reads the reportationes without the mind of an inquisitor (and everyone who reads the marginal notes in the Estienne Bible not concentrating on the few that are theologically charged), will notice that these notes are scholarly notes, written by someone who is first and foremost a philologist, trained in and with a passion for reading texts in their original tongues and as far as possible explaining them from their original context (both linguistic and historical). Barthélemy and Kessler-Mesguich[78] agree in highlighting in these notes a true interest in the text itself: deciphering words, grammar, syntax, idiomatic elements (like the typically Hebrew modi and tempora of the verbs, as observed by Kessler), always trying to resolve problems, explain obscure places in a way that suits the text itself, looking for an text internal ‘rationale’.[79] From my own reading of the reportatio on the Psalms, I can add that the traditional (often christological) exegesis is presupposed and taken for granted.[80] In theological matters Vatable apparently remained a true disciple of Lefèvre d’Etaples, whose idea of combining pietas and scholarship, philology and theology, tradition and modernity, he seems to have interiorized, together with his focus on Christ, as the true – literal – meaning of the entire Bible. As in his work on Aristotle, Vatable wanted to improve the edition of texts, help with understanding them properly, and keen on keeping in touch with tradition that has gone before (tralatio nova et vetus), even when the errors and shortcomings in the old translation are not covered up, building bridges rather than destructing bonds.


Nevertheless, this was only the minor issue concerning the student notes and the notes in the 1545 Bible. More important is that they mirror Vatable’s teaching. Here he appears to have been quite serene and very thorough at the same time: Following his lessons provided the audience with a real introduction in and study of the Hebrew text, trying to understand it ‘from the inside’, e mente auctoris, and – and this I will try to show in the last part of this essay – fully aware that the introduction of a Jewish ‘mentality’ was not without consequence for the understanding of Scripture. My thesis is, that exactly because Vatable was so meticulous in his linguistic approach, he must have felt that in the Hebrew language a different worldview manifests itself. Because he lectured publicly, and many of the students of the Theological Faculty attended his lessons, he influenced the outlook on the Hebrew Bible of an entire generation, not only of the Church in France (both ‘protestant’ and ‘roman catholic’, a term only adequate since the Council of Trent (1564)). This explains the inclusion of ‘his’ notes in both protestant (from anglican to puritan) and roman catholic biblical commentaries and compendia.


When I was trying to decipher the student notes on the Psalms, one of the elements, that I found remarkable, even admirable and advisable, is the way Vatable explained what kind of language Hebrew is, showing time and again how to discern typically idiomatic elements and how to treat them correctly. Although he did not publish a handbook, he showed his students in his lectures ‘how it works’, by – as then was the habit – reading the Bible text in Latin (in his own translation, not the Vulgate, not Leo Jud, not Pagnini), and then verse by verse, sometimes word by word, explaining the nuances, clarifying the difficulties, giving historical and linguistic information if necessary. What is obscured in the printed notes, is overtly visible in the student notes: He cited rabbis, mentioned their names freely (mainly Ibn Ezra, and David Kimhi). As interlocutors they are present. The targum is also called in if linguistic or textual puzzles have to be resolved.[81] This rabbinical element deserves extra attention, especially because it is this element which is obscured by the later reception of the notes de Vatable, not only because the names of the Jewish authorities were suppressed (already in the printed Bible), but also because biblical interpretation became mainly a matter of Christian theologians, and less of literary masters such as Vatable, who – as we have seen – was no theologian: he was a man from the Faculty of Arts. I want to give one example of the genius of Vatable. I shall focus on one verse, a detail in the explanation of an idiomatic Hebrew expression present in Psalm 7,5.[82] This is the concluding part of an oath, invoking in strong words, emphatically, the punishment that may be inflicted on the man who prays (David according to Vatable), if he is guilty. The translation is quite simple, all words are clear, and once the syntax of the oath is discerned the general interpretation is also clear, but the quite strong expressions used by David, remain puzzling. The Hebrew wording is plastic, vivid:

Let the enemy persecute my soul (nẹp̄ẹš/anima) and take it; yea, let him tread down my life (ḥay/vita) upon the earth, and lay mine honour (kāvōd/gloria) in the dust. (Ps. 7,5 – KJV)

 The translations printed in the Estienne Bible do not differ much:


Nova (Zurich)

Vetus (Vulgata)

…persequatur hostis animam meam, et assequatur, et conculcet in terram vitam meam, et deducat gloriam meam in pulverem.

… persequatur inimicus animam meam, et comprehendat, et conculcet in terra vitam meam, et gloriam meam in pulverem deducat.


The short note in the original edition explains: “i.[id est] mori me faciat vel, ita extinguat, ut nulla mei memoria sit apud superstites et posteros. Memoria iustorum non caret gloria apud homines”. The longer note (diffusiores annotationes and Psalterium duplex of 1546) adds to this phrase: “Hic gloria pro memoria sui posuit.”

Obviously the glossator felt an urge to explain the last two expressions

  1. Trampling one’s life into the earth
  2. Laying one’s honour in the dust

He explains this metaphorically in a very elegant way: these expressions are florid ways to say: they may kill me (first expression) and even wipe out my memory with the next generations, the added phrase explaining that ‘gloria’ just stands for ‘memoria’. This is, however, not the way François Vatable tried to elucidate these expressions to his students on a day early in 1546. It is the way Leo Jud (or Bibliander) explained this verse with an addition from Bucer’s Commentary. The first part of the note (as the previous notes in this Psalm) is derived from the Zurich Bible (1543). The phrase is reformulated, the content is the same.[83] The second part (about the most difficult phrase: “to put my honour in the dust”) mirrors the explanation given by Martin Bucer in his famous Commentary on the Psalms: this is about posterity forgetting your name. Your name = your glory = your dignity, will be lost.[84]

Although quite satisfying, this is not – according to François Vatable – what these Hebrew expressions really mean. Although difficult to decipher I propose to hear his lesson, as recorded by Girolamo Della Rovere, freely – and hopefully faithfully – paraphrasing his notes.[85]

May my enemy persecute my soul, or: let him act in this way, that others persecute my soul, my soul, that is: me. My life may be trampled into the earth. He means: “Trampled on the ground my life shall be spoiled, my breath will go out of me, I will die”. Using the expression “trampling my life” the poet uses what we call a ‘pregnant’ way of speaking, in which the word ‘life’ really refers to the ‘body’. So what he really says – not pregnantly but plainly – is: “By treading on my body, I will be deprived of my life”. And he may make my glory… Concerning the use of the term my glory it is important to understand that ‘his glory’ has no other domicile than ‘his body’. Even simpler: It is ‘his soul’ to which he refers when he says ‘my glory’, i.e. that which excels the body. ... to lie in the dust, dust being the same as the earth, this does certainly refer to the grave: “so, when I am thrown to the earth and have died, let him then put me in a grave, bury me.” There are some Hebrews who interpret this as referring to body and soul. They are convinced that the soul of the wicked will perish with his body. [You can also think of what we saw a few weeks ago in Psalm 1, where it was said that ‘the wicked will not rise to judgment’.] This is of course a heretical opinion.


Thus, having tentatively reconstructed part of a lesson of Vatable, it is easy to see that in this case there is no strong link between this interpretation and the annotation in the Vatable Bible. Even more: the keywords of that interpretation: ‘memoria’, ‘praeterites’ ‘posteros’ are absent; ‘gloria’ is not equated with ‘memoria’. More important though is that we witnessed a true Hebrew exegesis in a lecture by a Christian professor. All elements in this exegesis prove that Vatable really knew that Hebrew was not only a different language with some odd idiomatic expressions, which could be transferred into Latin, and then loose their alterity. In his interpretation the basic anthropological difference between Christians and Jews comes to light; The Jewish view has found a powerful expression in the Hebrew language, in the idiomatic elements of it, mainly the meaning and use of words like ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ and ‘kāvōd’, two almost untranslatable words. They are both related to a basic difference between a Christian (Greek, Hellenist) worldview and a Jewish (Hebrew) worldview. The Christian outlook is basically dualistic: man as a temporary conglomerate of an eternal spiritual essence: his soul, which is captured as long as he lives on this earth in a material mortal body. In Vatable’s days this was still an almost un-reflected presupposition of Christendom. Nevertheless this anthropology (wider: this worldview) is not present in the Hebrew Bible.[86] The meaning of the Hebrew word ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ (which is generally translated with anima/soul) has quite different connotations, and certainly does not refer to an ontological entity that exists independently from the body.[87] Seen in this light, the explanation of Vatable is remarkable. He sees a close connection between ‘soul’ (anima/nẹp̄ẹš), ‘life’ (vita/ chay), and ‘honour’ (gloria/kāvōd). They are all linked explicitly to man’s bodily existence. The effect of his exegesis is that the three statements (certainly the last two) almost become tautological. Also remarkable is Vatable’s straightforward equation of ‘anima mea’ with ‘me’. He stresses the fact that human existence is one, and that words like soul (anima/nẹp̄ẹš) and honour (gloria/kāvōd) are not interesting phenomena an sich, but are only relevant as long as they are connected to the body, and thus to man as he exists, lives, acts in this life. This is also 100% Jewish. Another proof of Vatable’s profound knowledge of the Hebrew world is that he refuses to give the word ‘kāvōd’ any ethereal meaning, as is done by Bucer who equates it with ‘memoria’. Just like the nẹp̄ẹš, the kāvōd can not be disconnected from the body. It has no being in itself. Honour or glory, but now we better replace it with the Hebrew word: ‘kāvōd’, says Vatable, is very much like the nẹp̄ẹš, but in particular it is that which gives human life and activity some ‘weight’, some ‘gravity’ (which is the primitive meaning of the Hebrew word ‘kāvōd’) seen in the light of eternity, or better: coram Deo, in God’s eyes. Vatable goes so far as to practically equate ‘kāvōd’ and ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ (‘anima’ and ‘gloria’), which indeed is possible in Hebrew, but remains very odd in Latin.[88] Vatable’s final remark about some Hebrew exegetes who suggest that – at least for the wicked – there is no eternal life at all, but that they simply perish when they die (i.e. their souls perish with their bodies) is of course rejected as heretical, but was– and still is – an opinion which in the Jewish anthropology is quite defensible. Actually, if one follows Vatable’s exposé this opinion does not come as a surprise, but as a logical consequence. His reference to Psalm 1, added in the margin (was there a discussion?) suggests that he understood how and why these Hebrews came to adopt these opinions and how perfectly exegetically logical they were. In 1546 it was however unthinkable to publicly advocate these positions. However, the fact that Vatable was able to expound them so coherently, suggests that he was fully aware of their consistency. And, to make the circle complete: did not Aristotle – now already more than 30 years his companion in philosophia – say something similar concerning the essence of the soul in his De anima?

We should not underestimate François Vatable. He probably had his opinions, but –unlike many of his contemporaries – knew that there are times to speak out and times to remain silent.



copyright, Dick Wursten (Antwerpen)


[1] Biblia. Quid in hac editione praestitum sit, vide in ea quam operi praeposuimus epistola (Robert Estienne, Paris, 1545) For analysis, see the corresponding section in this article. Concerning the annotations on the OT Estienne claims that the notes originated from Vatable’s lessons, but not exclusively. At the end of the preface he reveals that, when the notes refer to Hebrew scholarship, David Kimhi is meant; and that more learned opinions originate from François Vatable’s lectures and from other Christian scholars: “Tantum hoc addemus: cum in annotationibus doctum inter Hebræos nominamus, Rabbi David Kimhi nos intelligere: cum vero doctiores, eum ipsum, cuius praelectionum beneficio hæc habemus, & Christianos doctores, significare.” In the list of books printed in his shop (Libri in officina Stephani... excusi) of 1546, Estienne refers to the 1545 Bible as Biblia, parvo volumine…ad cuius margines annotantur variae lectiones & expositiones ex doctissimis Hebraeorum commentariis, quibus explicantur obscuriores loci.” This might well be the most correct way to refer to the concept behind these notes.

[2] For Robert Estienne, see E. Armstrong, Robert Estienne, royal printer (Cambridge, 1954, 2nd ed. 1986); for this aspect: book IV, ‘The King’s printer and the censors’. Estienne himself was never put to trial but in 1547, commanded by the King, a list of condemnable phrases from the 1545 Bible was drawn up and selling a Bible that was under critique of the Paris Theologians (and here they summed up almost his complete production) was banned, first on a provisionary basis, but from 1549 officially (Paris index), one of the events that provoked Estienne’s emigration to Geneva. For this, see “Censures par la Faculté de Théologie des Bibles de Robert Estienne,” Appendix 7 (p. 467–476) in Farge (ed.), Registre des conclusions de la Faculté de Théologie de l’Université de Paris, du 26 novembre 1533 au 1er mars 1550 (Paris, 1994). Appendix 6 (p. 465–466) makes clear that this list was drawn up in October 1546 on the orders of the King, who had learned that the theologians at Louvain had censured Estienne’s 1545 Bible.

[3] Biblia utriusque Testamenti. De quorum nova interpretatione et copiosissimis in eam annotationibus lege quam in limine operis habes epistolam (Robert Estienne, Geneva, OT 1557, NT 1556). GLN-2021. Not only are the notes different, the new Latin translation from the Hebrew is now the version of the Dominican scholar Xanctes Pagnini, rejected in 1545 as too crude because too literal, now praised for the same. Vatable is mentioned in the preface both as an emender of the translation and as the originator of the notes (the student whose dictata are used is even identified: Bertin Le Comte; see below note 72). In later Bible editions (by Estienne’s successors and other printers) the notes are copied and simply attributed to Vatable. By then, using the name of Vatable had become commercially clever, a kind of quality label. A similar story can be told with regard to Estienne’s separate issue of a Psalterium duplex which as a satellite accompanies the Bibles (1546, Liber Psalmorum Davidis; 1556: Liber Psalmorum Davidis Tralatio duplex - GLN-1961). The first edition has as subtitle: Annotationes in eosdem ex Hebraeorum commentaries; in the preface Vatable’s name is not mentioned (there is only a reference to the preceding Bible edition); in the second edition Vatable’s name is mentioned twice, first as having emended the Latin translation of Pagnini and secondly as the one who edited the annotations from Hebrew commentaries (“…ex Commentariis Hebraeorum ab ipso Vatablo diligenter excussis”). In 1546 it is a separate post-print of the Bible (with full notes in readable type size; see below note  67 ), in 1556 it is a separate pre-print of the Old Testament, that appeared a little later.

[4] Biblia sacra cum duplici translatione, et scholiis Francisci Vatabli…(Salamanca, Gaspard de Portonariis). This amazing story was of course common knowledge in the 16th Century. It is told by Barthélémy 1986, pp 35-44 (excursus), and in Barthélémy 1990, pp 385-390. See also José Luis González Novalin, ‘Inquicisión y censura de Biblias en el Siglo de Oro. La Biblia de Vatablo y el proceso de fray Luis de León’, in: Victor Garcia de la Concha, Javier San José Lera (eds.), Fray Luis de León, historia, humanismo y letras (Salamanca, 1996), p. 125-144. Interestingly Plantin in Antwerp had acquired a copy of the 1557 bible (OT) and had it corrected in order to publish an edition as well. See M. Rooses, J. Denucé (eds.), Correspondance de Christophe Plantin (letters n° 132, n° 461, n° 664). Gaspard De Portonariis corresponded about his edition with Plantin in 1569 (n° 179).

[5] Critici sacri – Pearson, 1660 onwards (9 vols. in-folio). This compendium (often the source for other compendia and commentaries) contains the complete series of notes from Estienne’s second ‘Vatable Bible’ (Geneva, 1557), both OT and NT. The same notes are incorporated in the revised edition (continuous commentary) of Matthew Poole’s Synopsis criticorum (1669 onwards (8 vols. in-folio). In roman catholic biblical scholarship the situation is similar, mainly because of the scholia of Giovanni Menochio (Menochius; 1575-1655), who in his Brevis Explicatio Sensus Literalis Sacræ Scripturæ optimus quibusque Auctoribus per Epitomen Collecta (3 vols), simply assumes that all notes in the Vatable Bible (Salamanca version, purged notes from 1545) are Vatable’s. This work was reprinted far into the 19th Century. Also important: the scholia of Menochio are integrated into the Bibla Magna and the Bibla Maxima of Jean de La Haye and last but not least they were included in the 28 volume course Scripturae Sacrae by J.P. Migne, and the immensely popular Sainte Bible of Louis de Carrières.

[6] The patronym ‘Wattebled’ is still very common in the Vimeu (part of the Department of the Somme (thanks to Gilles Maillard, genealogist). Vatable’s mother outlived her son. In the archives communales of Gamaches in the 16th Century a Claude, Antoine, Jacolin, Catellan, Bertin and Firmin Wattebled appear, and between 1587-1599 48 Wattebled’s were baptized (see M. Darsy, ‘Gamaches et ses Seigneurs’, in Mémoires de la société des antiquaries de Picardie, t. XIV (Amiens/Paris, 1856), p. 437-438. Different spellings of his name occur: Guastebled, Wateblé, Watable, Ouastebled. In Latin Watablus appears next to Vatablus.

[7] Large extracts from Vatable’s last will in E. Coyecque, Recueil d’actes notariés relatifs à l’histoire de Paris et de ses environs au XVIe siècle, t. II. (Paris, 1923), n° 4388, p. 167-169. Love for his ‘dear mother’, an almost paternal care for the children of his sisters (his nieces; he provides a dowry for one of them), gratefulness for friendship experienced (‘ses bons amys’) Nicole Beaupigné, Jean de la Verdure (canon at Thérouanne) and his support for Mathieu Berouart (see below) characterise his testament. His mother died a few months later (ibid. n° 4409, p. 173). Apprarently his mother and sister Jeanne lived in Paris. Jeanne married Bernard Plet. Their daughter Marion (or Marie) married Mathieu Beroald (Bérouart), who inherited Vatable’s library (later put at the disposal of Jean Mercier, professor of Hebrew in Geneva). In Vatable’s will he was strongly encouraged to graduate as a doctor in medicine. He apparently chose otherwise, for he is known to have taught Hebrew in Orleans and ended up in Geneva as professor of philosophy at the Academy. Their son François Beroald de Verville needs no further introduction.

[8] As ‘curé de Brumetz’ Vatable is mentioned in the proces verbal of the implementation of the new customary law in the Duche de Valloys which took place in the last part of 1539, as “maistre François Vatable, prestre, curé de Brumetz” (see Charles Du Moulin, Le grand coustumier general, t. I (Paris, 1567), f°. cci v°). In his Testament Vatable is called “prêtre, lecteur ordinaire du Roi…, abbé comendataire de Bellozane” and as curacies are mentioned “Suresnes (and Puteaulx), Brumetz (and Cocherel)”. That the curacy of Brumetz was used to provide an income can be inferred from another notary act, uncovered by E. Coyecque, ‘Ce qu’on trouve sans le chercher dans les vieilles archives notariales’, Revue Historique, t. 185/2 (1939), p. 324. Among many other things his eye was caught by an entry, dated 1540: “Vatable (François), lecteur ordinaire du Roi en langue hébraïque: bail de sa cure de Brumetz; procuration à Jacques Touzart et Jean Stradelle, lecteurs ordinaires du Roi en l’Université, pour toucher les deux cents écus d’or soleil à lui dus par le Roi pour ses gages de 1539”. In literature and encyclopaedias the name of the village differs: Bruuret, Brumetz, Bramet, Braisnes, according to the source one consults. Brumetz is used by C. Carlier, Histoire du duché de Valois (Paris, 1764), t. II, livre VII, p. 569; also in Melleville, Dictionnaire de l’histoire du département de l’Aisne t. 1, p. 111 (1857). Bruuret appears only in Laurent Bouchel, Les Coustumes générales des baillages de Senlis (Paris, 1631), p. 29 (printing error?). Bramet we find in the influential Nouvelle Biographie Universelle vol. 47 (1827 - unchanged in later editions (‘Michaud’): sub VATABLE ou VATEBLÉ (François): «… célèbre hébraïsant, né à Gamache, village du diocèse d’Amiens, fut d’abord curé de Bramet, dans le Valois. » Then also in A. Renaudet, Préréforme et humanisme à Paris pendant les premières guerres d’Italie (1494-1517) (Paris, 1916), p. 613, n. 3 : “… il avait été d’abord cure de Bramet (depart. actuel de l’Oise). Puis il était venu à Paris pour étudier le grec et l’hébreu.” Michel Veissière, L’évèque Guillaume Briçonnet (Provins, 1986), p. 202, quotes Renaudet but changes the toponym without further reference in Braisnes (because Bramet does not exist?). Idem in Lyse Schwarzfuchs, Le livre hébreu à Paris au XVIe siècle: inventaire chronologique (Paris, 2004), p. 28.

[9] This application was issued from the University of Paris: “Watable, Franciscus - (1511) clericus Ambianensis, M.A. ad presentationem collationem et omnimodam dispositionem episcopi decani et capituli ecclesie cathedralis Sancte Marie Ambianensis tam conjunctim quam divisim.” 1511 (University of Paris, Sorbonne, Archives MS Reg 61, f° 29v). Information kindly supplied by J.K. Farge, who added that this does not imply that he was successful in receiving the benefice. His name (this time spelled ‘Wateble’) also appears on a 1513 list of graduates who ask for a certificate of their degree. The list in question is “registre 89”, containing a list of certificates asked for between 23 July 1512 and Easter 1513. See Farge, Students and Teachers at the University of Paris. The Generation of 1500 (Leiden, 2007), p. 25.

[10] The course to get a licence generally took 5 years (3½ years study of the arts (followed by 1½ year regency, often in grammar). Minimum age to start this course is not established: In principal a child who could read and write, might begin the arts course. Average age: 15, but many examples of younger students are known. This means that reasoning with these data can never lead to conclusive statements concerning age and birth dates. For this, see Farge, Orthodoxy and Reform in Early Reformation France (Leiden, 1985), p. 12.

[11] Girard Roussel (ca. 1480-1555), born near Amiens, collaborator of Lefèvre d’Etaples since 1501, apparently specialised in the quadrivium. Famous for his commentary on Boethius Arithmetica (1521) and his translation of Aristotle’s Magna moralia (1522). Participated in the Meaux experiment, collaborated with the translation of the NT of Lefèvre, preached in the Louvre in the 1533, for which he was criticised by the Paris Theologians but protected by Marguerite de Navarre. He stayed in France, was rewarded with two abbeys and a bishopric, and finally assassinated in the pulpit by a catholic fanatic. See Rice, The prefatory epistles of Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples and related texts (New York, 1972), p. 246-247 [henceforth quoted as ‘Rice’]. Ch. Schmidt, Gérard Roussel, prédicateur de la reine Marguerite de Navarre (Strasbourg, 1845). For his ‘secular’ accomplishments: M. Masi, ‘The Liberal Arts and Gerardus Ruffus’ Commentary on the Boethian De Arithmetica’, Sixteenth Century Journal 10/2 (1979), 23-41.

[12] Logices Adminicula, Paris, Henri Estienne, 28 Oct. 1511. This voluminous book contains a free Latin translation of a Greek work from a 6th century Neo-Platonist (Ammonius of Alexandria) who commented on Porphyrius’ introduction on logic, to which are added translations of Boethius (commentary on Aristotle’s logical works) and a recent translation of Themistius’ paraphrase of Aristotle’s Analytica posteriora. Such a hybrid text was not abnormal. The selection of Greek commentators is a typically ‘modern’ trait of this publication. Succinct marginal notes are added to make the work more accessible to the students. Because the editor in charge, Girard Roussel, had too much to do to complete the job, he was helped by a very diligent young man (“puriorum litterarum studiosissimus adulescens”) also a scholarly soul mate (“mihi quidem scholari consuetudine et sodalitia arctissime coniunctus”), sc. François Vatable, who by the way did the bulk of the job (245 of 271 folios). Vatable edited the texts of Boethius and Themistius. In the margin of the text one finds notes and didactical illustrations. At f° 26v one finds the preface of Vatable. Rice, n° 82 (Roussel’s Preface) and Rice, n° 83 (Vatable’s preface).

[13] Ἐρώτηματα τοῦ Χρυσολωρά, Grammatica Chrysolorae, Paris, Gilles de Gourmont, 13 July 1512. Preface by Vatable (a,i,v° - a, ii,r°), Rice, n° 89, in which Aleandro’s illness is mentioned; reprint in 1517. See, H. Omont, ‘Essai sur les débuts de la typographie grecque à Paris’, Mémoires de la Société de l’Histoire de Paris et de L’Ile-de-France XVIII (1891), p. 6-11, bibliographical references n° XI, XXV. (p. 27, 38). Vatable’s appreciation of Aleandro is worth quoting: “…Hieronymus Aleander, vir quidem omnibus doctrinae numeris et morum integritate cumulatissimus et praeceptor mihi semper observandus, quem nemo satis unquam laudaverit…” (Rice, n° 89, p. 272). On Aleandro see, J-F. Maillard, J-M. Flamand (eds.), La France des humanistes. hellénistes II (Turnhout, 2010), p. 275-367; this edition on p. 316-318. In 1507 Gourmont had already once printed this grammar (edited by François Tissard). It was the quality of this Greek type which was criticized by Aleandro c.s. This resulted in Gourmont typecasting a new Greek font, which he used for the first time in 1512 for this Greek grammar.

[14] He thanks Vatable for his help: “Qua in re nec defraudandus est suo honore Franciscus Watablus, juvenis et moribus et literis candidissimus, qui in castigando libro alternos mecum labores sustinuit.” For quotation and references, see Rice, p. 249. The full preface of Brachet is published by Omont (1891) , n° XVIII. Aleandro mourns the departure of Brachet in his personal notes (see H. Omont (ed.), Journal autobiographique du Cardinal Jérôme Aléandre (1480-1530) (Paris, 1895), p. 20-21.). Charles Brachet came from a wealthy family, was a pupil of Nicolas Bérault. They were both students of Aleandro in Paris. Brachet then opted to complete his studies in Law in Orléans and – finally – became counselor to the King (member of the Grand Conseil) in 1528 (see J.-F. Maillard, e.a., L’Europe des humanistes. XIVe-XVIIe siècles (Turnhout, 1995), p. 81); about Brachet and Bérault: Marie-Françoise André, ‘La nouvelle image humaniste des aristocrates français au début du XVIe siècle: Nicolas Bérauld et les trois frères Coligny’, Rice, p. 249-250, quotes a casual remark made by Thomas Grey in 1516 in a letter to Erasmus (Allen II, 287-288) in which he qualifies Vatable as a ‘discipulum’ of Lefèvre, who assisted the master who was very ill during this interview, but whose answers Grey did not find fully satisfactory, even immature.

[15] This is two years younger than Rice suggests; he proposes ca. 1493 as year of birth. Rice signals the ‘juvenis’ in the text of Brachet in 1513, but does not take into account that according to his conjecture Vatable would be 20 in 1513, hardly a ‘iuvenis’, especially since in 1513 Brachet himself was probably still a teenager. Both were precocious boys.

[16] The same students at the University of Paris to whom Roussel referred as ‘studiosi adulescenti’, Vatable refers to as ‘studiosi tyroni philosophiae’ (diligent novices, beginning students in philosophy). Using these terms creates a distance, but also doing it so pregnantly suggests proximity of age.

[17] This college was one of about twenty active colleges in Paris, some of which were founded to house students from a certain region or “Nation.” The collège du Cardinal Lemoine was founded for students from Picardy. Vatable, Lefèvre and Roussel were all Picardians. He was ‘at home’ there and in his will he declares that he wants to be buried there.

[18] He informs us of this move in the preface to his (partly revised, partly new) Latin translation from the original Greek of Aristotle’s parva naturalia (for this see below): “Redeunti mihi Avenione…, quo me ante pauculos annos ad cultum ingenii capessendum receperam, ratus litteras Hebraeas nostris, id est Christianis seu Latinis seu Graecis, non parum lucis et ornamenti adferre posse…” (Rice, n° 125, p. 406). Since in 1516 he is signalled as being in Paris, his years in Avignon should best be placed between 1512 and 1516. His presence in Paris, living in Saint-Germain-des-Prés with Lefèvre, is attested in a letter by Thomas Grey (dated 5 aug 1516, quoted in Rice, p. 249) and implied in a letter from Theobaldus Pigenatus to Aléandro in Liège (quoted in Paquier, Les lettres familières de Jérôme Aléandre, p. 28).

[19] 1504 Pellican, De modo legendi et intelligendi Hebræum, Strasburg; 1506 Reuchlin, Rudimenta linguæ Hebraicæ una cum lexico, Pforzheim; 1508 Tissard, Grammatica Hebraica, Paris (with very interesting prefatory epistles by Tissard, see La France des Humanistes. Les Hellénistes II, p. 250-272). In Rome the situation was slightly better: Agazio Guidacerio taught Hebrew from 1514 onwards under the auspices of the new pope Leo X. The year 1517 appears to have been a pivotal year. In Alcala the Complutensian Polyglot was completed and its sponsor, Cardinal Cisneros, died; In Rome Pope Leo X, son of Lorenzo il Magnifico, encouraged by Cardinal Da Viterbo (a friend of rabbi Elijah Levita) commanded that Hebrew should be taught at the university of La Sapienza; In Venice the first complete Rabbi’s bible was available printed at the Bombergen press: a Biblia Hebraica with the targum and commentaries by Rashi, Kimhi and Nachmanides (printed in three volumes between 1515-1517). Finally, in 1517 Jerome of Busleyden died and destined a substantial legacy for the foundation of a trilingual college in Louvain. An interesting overview of the influence of this discovery of the Hebrew language and exegesis can be found in Daniel Tollet (ed.), Les églises et le Talmud, ce que les Chrétiens savaient du judaïsme (xvie – xix siècle), (Paris, PUPS 2006). In particular: Max Engammare, “Les premiers hébraïsants français de la Renaissance et leur usage de la littérature juive médiévale” (p. 43-55).

[20] Giustiniani is famous for his eightfold Psalter containing the text of the Psalms in five languages (Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Aramaic (= Targum), Chaldee) and three Latin translations: his own, the Vulgate and a translation of the Targum. It appeared in 1516 in Genoa and was dedicated to Leo X. On Giustiniani, see J-F. Maillard e.a., La France des humanistes. hellénistes I (Turnhout, 1999), p. 163-183. During his stay in Paris he published works by Moses Kimhi and Maimonides. That Vatable was one of Giustiniani’s students is often taken for granted, but remains hypothetical.

[21] In the Middle Ages Jews were regularly expelled from France and then little later readmitted again until in 1394 a ban was enforced (which was officially not abrogated until the French Revolution). Jewish communities remained in France, but their survival was always precarious. During these years the papal territory in S.E. France, the Comtat Venaissin, and in particular Avignon (the pope’s residence from 1305 to 1378/1417) became a haven for Jews who were expelled from the neighbouring French territories, and around 1492 idem for those expelled from Spain. Major Jewish communities were present in Avignon, Carpentras, Cavaillon, and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Intellectual life in these communities flourished. In the early 16th century the pressure to expel the Jews from Avignon and surroundings grew, but was only hesitatingly enforced, esp. since it remained under papal jurisdiction, which in this period was favourable towards Jewish life and scholarship. See Encyclopaedia Judaica, sub ‘Comtat Venaissin’ and ‘Avignon’. In 1522 large crowds gathered in Avignon from all over France to attend the lessons by Xanctes Pagnini (the eminent lecturer of Hebrew in Rome), who had left Rome after the death of his protector and sponsor Leo X, and taken up a teaching position at Avignon, finally settling his career in Lyon. His new translation into Latin of the entire Old Testament (published in 1528) was a milestone.

[22] “... doctissimus ille Faber tuus, Maecenas et praeceptor meus…”, in the prefatory epistle to Briçonnet (Rice, n° 125, p. 407).

[23] For bibliographical information, see F.E. Cranz, A bibliography of Aristotle editions 1501-1600; with addenda and revisions by Charles B. Schmitt (Baden-Baden, 1984), henceforth referred to as ‘Cranz/Schmitt’. The work in question: Ex physiologia Aristotelis libri duodetriginta... Francisco Vatablo interprete. Quibus omnibus, antiqua tralatio tricenos libros continens, ad Græcum per eundem Vatablum recognita: columnatim respondet. Henri Estienne: Paris, 1518. Cranz/Schmitt 107.850. Vatable makes clear that the credit for the new translation of the first three sections has to go to Ioannes Argyropoulis (A translation of the books of Aristotle’s Physica, De caelo, and De anima). He ‘only’ translated the other 9 sections, which next to the books De generatione et corruptione also include the Parva naturalia. That was not always easy, he admits, because these texts only existed in imperfect medieval translations (Willem van Moerbeke) and were not yet translated anew by the Italians. He expresses his gratitude to his great predecessors Ioannes Argyropoulis, Theodoris Gazis and Ermolao Barbaro, and at the same time proudly announces that he thinks he succeeded very well. For the solution of difficult passages he got the invaluable help from Lefèvre himself (‘meum Fabrum’), whom he typifies as ‘Apollo’. This new edition and translation established Vatable’s fame as humanist translator. Already in 1520 J.N. Bieus collected Vatables translations of the Parva naturalia and published them in Leipzig: Parvorum naturalium libri, Francisco Vatablo interprete et doctissimo et fidelissimo… Jac. Thanner: Leipzig, 1520. Cranz/Schmitt 107.865. In the preface Vatable is introduced to the reader as a most learned man (“vir et graece et latine perdoctus”) who has restored the splendor of Aristotle through correctly and fluently transferring into Latin the original text of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. The editor uses standard humanist expressions like “…e tenebris in lucem revocat” to characterize Vatable’s accomplishments.

[24] For this see the introduction in Rice, mainly p. xii-xxi. Lefèvre’s first publication is an Introduction to Aristotle’s Physics (1492) soon followed by similar publications on Aristotle’s mathematical, ethical and metaphysical writings. Lefèvre was professor of Philosophy and the Artes Liberales at the collège du Cardinal Lemoine. Girard Roussel’s new translation of Aristotle’s Magna moralia (1522) is one of the last contributions. Lefèvre and his collaborators (the sodalitium Roussel was referring to) did for France what the Italian humanists had done 50 years earlier for Italy. They started by publishing the available new Italian translations, adding their own if necessary. The opposition of a scholastic Aristotelian Middle Ages and a Neo-Platonic Renaissance is a simplification (see L. Bianchi, ‘Continuity and change in the Aristotelian tradition’, in J. Hankins (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, CUP, 2007). Lefèvre, though mystical by nature and deeply influenced by Neo-platonism (Pseudo Dionysius), was no fan of Plato. On the contrary, he was convinced that once freed from ‘sophistry’ and ‘barbary’ (oblique Renaissance terms, also abounding in Vatable’s prefaces, to disqualify the late medieval predilection for disputations and dialectics, working with florilegia of glosses commenting on Aristotle’s texts) Aristotle would turn out to be a perfect instructor, even a suitable pedagogue to Christ, introducing the students to natural philosophy, logic (analytics), and proper moral and metaphysical thinking. Lefèvre propagated a new pedagogy beginning with the original texts, philological criticism of the transmitted material, translating the texts in up-to-date Latin, explaining them and explaining the places that are hard to understand. The fact that Vatable published the ancient and the modern translation side-by-side, even procuring a numbering which makes it possible to find the corresponding places in Lefèvre’s 20-year old paraphrases on the same material, makes clear that continuity was as important to him as renewal. For the Renaissance views on translation: F.E. Cranz, ‘The Renaissance reading of the De Anima’ in J-C. Margolin, Gandillac (eds), Platon et Aristote à la Renaissance (Paris, 1976), p. 359-376.

[25] E.g., Josse Clichtove (who had become praeceptor of the Bishop of Chartres, Louis Guillard) wrote against Luther in the 1520s while Girard Roussel, preaching in the diocese of Meaux, was accused of Lutheranism. However, in 1522 Aristotle’s Magna moralia was published in Paris in a new translation from the Greek by Roussel, with commentary and introduction by Clichtove (Rice, n° 135, 136).

[26] It was reprinted in 1517.

[27] Vatable announced this reprint of this opus magnum of Lefèvre d’Etaples in his edition/translation of the parva naturalia of 1518, in which he also has secured a concordance with Lefèvre’s paraphrases (1492), which of course were based on the vetus tralatio. Other reprints appeared in Paris 1531, 1533, 1539, and in Lyon 1536 (list not complete). Lefèvre’s work was also republished during the same period by Josse Clichtove (who added glosses and introductions).

[28] On occasion Vatable’s translation was also used to accompany Thomas Aquinas’ commentary together with the medieval translation: in Venice in 1532 (ed. Thomas Philaretus) Habes, solertissime lector, in hoc codice Aristotelis Stagirite libros Meteororum, cum duplici interpretatione antiqua et Francisci Vatabli, expositore divo Thoma Aquinate… Venice: Luca-Antonio Giunta, 1532 (Cranz/Schmitt 107.934). Similar edition also in Paris in 1537 (ed. Antoine de Mouchy): Divi Thomae Aquinatis Commentarii in duos Aristotelis libros De generatione et corruptione, cum duplici textus interpretatione, una quidem Francisci Vatabli, altera vero antiqua… Paris: Kerver, 1537 (not in Cranz/Schmitt).

[29] More common name: De sensu et sensibilibus. This is an example of avoiding ‘graecisms’. More impressive still is Vatable’s replacement in the translation of the “De generatione et corruptione” which as a title he leaves, but in the text translates with “De ortu autem, ac interitu eorum…”, or in English: “On coming-to-be and passing-away...” The original Greek reads: Περὶ γενέσεως καὶ φθορᾶς. 

[30] The last chapter of De vita et Morte is sometimes printed apart: De motu cordis. The suggestion the Vatable also translated ‘De animalium motu’ (Cranz/Schmitt, p. 168) might well be erroneous, based on the announcement of this treatise on the title page of the 1520 edition of Bieus (107.865); in reality this text is not present.

[31] It was habitual to have the texts printed on which one lectured. Especially the small-size partial prints were meant to be used as a textbook. Sometimes margins were printed extra large allowing for student notes. A series of these textbooks was printed in 1531 (Prigent Calvarin, Moreau IV, 23,24,28, not in Cranz/Schmitt), the same again in 1535 (Moreau IV, 1188,1190,1191; Cranz/Schmitt 107.946B-E), and again in 1538 (107.970E-F, Moreau V, 708,709,712) and 1539 (107.989F), 1540 (107.989F; Moreau V, 1564,1569) and 1542 (by Loys/ Roigny: 108.043A-F, repeated in 1548). For a similar textbook edition in Lyon: Seb. Gryphius 1546 (Cranz/Schmitt 108.114-108.117). In 1532 an edition of Vatable’s translation of De meteora appeared in Venice and Wittenberg (Cranz/Schmitt 107.934 and 107.935); For the complete German edition of all translations in already in 1520, see above note 23. A Louvain edition of the entire work appeared in 1548 (108.140A). In southern Europe Vatable had to cede the market to the translations of Niccolo Leonico Tomeo and Agostino Nifo (Venice 1523).

[32] Opera quotquot extant, Latina edition, ex optimorum quorumque interpreteum versione concinnata... Tomus Phusicus, Frankfurt, 1593, Wechel (heirs); Marne/Aubry. Cranz/Schmitt 108.722. VD16 A 3286.

[33] The German Opera Omnia of Aristotle included a volume (vol. 3) with Latin translations of Artistotle’s Works: Aristoteles Latine: Interpretibus Variis edidit Academia Regia Borusica (Berlin, 1831). This edition was reprinted in 1995 (Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich), with an introduction by Eckhard Kessler [Humanistische Bibliothek, Texte und Abhandlungen, Bd. 30].

[34] On Briçonnet and the ‘experiment of Meaux’, see Michel Veissière, L’évêque Guillaume Briçonnet (Provins, 1986). All data can be found in this book. For a general picture: G.Bedouelle, The Reform of Catholicism (1480-1620) - translated from the French by J.K. Farge (Toronto, 2008), p. 59-61. Guillaume Briçonnet was a descendant of an influential aristocratic family, Bishop of Lodève in 1489, abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in 1507 (where he invited Lefèvre d’Etaples to stay and where Vatable also resided). He was the King’s ambassador to Pope Leo X when the Concordat of Bologna was negotiated. In 1515 the King gave him the bishopric of Meaux (NE of Paris), to which he returned after Bologna in 1517.

[35] Veissière (1986) discerns several stages in this ecclesiasticl experiment: 1521-1523 (revocation of the licence to preach of some participants, a.o. Farel), 1523-1524 (Pierre Caroli, Jacques Pauvan, Mathieu Saunier, newcomers in 1523, censored in 1524-5 by the Faculty of Theology), 1525 the annus horribilis with the trial of Briçonnet and the dispersal of the members, among others Lefèvre himself to Strasbourg.

[36] Suggested but not carried through by Veissière (1986). On p. 202 he mentions it “Mais n’a-t-il pas surtout fait usage de sa connaissance de l’hébreu et du grec pour aider Lefèvre…”, on p. 289 where a Latin publication of the Psalterium David with new translations from the Hebrew and even occasionally with reference to the Targum is mentioned, he does not return to his own suggestion.

[37] However, Roussel’s main contributions were published in these years: 1521 Commentary on Boethius’ Arithmetica and in 1522 the new translation of Aristotle’s Magna moralia. See above note 11.

[38] The main publications in this period: Commentarii initiatorii in quatuor Evangelia (1522-Meaux, 1523-Basel): French translation of the Gospels (1523-Paris, 1524-Paris-Antwerp, 1525-Paris-Basel); The Acts, Epistles and Apocalypse (1523-Paris; 1524/5-Antwerp-Paris-Basel); French translation of the Psalms (1523/4-Paris; 1525-Antwerp); Latin edition of the Psalter (1524-Paris); liturgical commentary on the Catholic Epistles (Paris-1524/5).

[39] in 1509 he published the Psalterium Quincuplex, including a Psalterium Hebraicum, but this Psalterium was not his own translation, but Jerome’s final version of the Psalter, based on the Hebrew, which was not incorporated in most Latin Bibles (the ‘Vulgate’). References to Hebrew words and Jewish exegesis can always be traced back either to Jerome’s commentary, or to remarks of Nicholas of Lyra (Postillae) or Paul of Burgos (Annotationes) .

[40] Psalterium David, argumentis fronti cuiuslibet Psalmi adiecti, Hebraica & Chaldaica multis in locis tralatione illustratum (Paris, Simon de Colines, 1524). This book is dedicated to Jean de Selve, president of the Paris Parlement (Rice, n° 140, p. 470-477). In a long dedicatory epistle Lefèvre takes his time to show that the additional explanations of the Psalm text from the Jewish and Hebrew sources only corroborate the christological interpretation of the Psalms. Translating according to the ‘Hebrew Truth’ will reveal the ‘Christian Truth’: It is possible to ‘hébraïser sans judaïser’. For this, see: B. Roussel, G. Hobbs, ‘Strasbourg et «l’école rhénane» d’exégèse (1525–1540),’ Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français 135 (1989), 36–53, and Dick Wursten, Clément Marot and Religion, A Reassessment in the Light of his Psalm Paraphrases (Leiden, 2010), ch. 4, “According to the ‘Hebrew Truth’”.

[41] Venice, Bomberg, 1515. Pratensis was a converted/apostate Jew. His Psalter was an instant hit, reprinted many times. Simply writing ‘Felix vertit’ was enough to refer to this translation.

[42] J. Reid, King’s sister – Queen of Dissent. Marguerite of Navarre (1492-1549) and her Evangelical Network, 2 vols. (Leiden, 2009), sketches the evangelical network around Marguerite in a very lucid way, convincing in idea and onset, perhaps a little overstretching the ambit in the elaboration. Some participants were tried, convicted and burnt as heretics: others were never able to restore a balance (Pierre Caroli). Lefèvre resided the last years of his life with Marguerite, and Roussel was appointed her personal almoner and Bishop of Oloron [which title figures on a reissue of his translation of Magna Moralia in 1547 and 1555 (Cranz/Schmitt, resp. 108.130B and 108.298I)].

[43] Not known to Veissière, though signalled by Rice, p. 250. The Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Briçonnet-Lefèvre) had the privilege to provide the priests for this parish. After Vatable’s death the curacy is assigned to another royal lecturer, Pierre Danès. Lebeuf, Histoire de Paris et de tout le diocèse de Paris, t. III (Paris, 1883), p. 49.

[44] Information supplied by J.K. Farge.

[45] In hoc opere continentur totius philosophiae naturalis paraphrases a Francisco Vatablo recognitae (Paris, September 1528, Simon de Colines).

[46] In 1534 a chair for Latin is founded (Barthélémy Latomus), in 1538 for Arab and oriental languages (Guillaume Postel) and in 1542 for Medecine (Guido Guidi). General history of the institution of the royal lecturers (one should not use the term Collège de France at this early stage): A. Tuilier, Histoire de l’Université de Paris et de la Sorbonne, vol. 1 (Paris, 1994) [p. 295-333 on this period]. When on p. 314 he suggests that Vatable only got his Master’s degree in 1534 he quotes the information provided by C.E. Du Boulay, Historia Universitatis Parisiensis (Paris, 1665-1673), vol. 6, p. 934, who is mistaken (see above note 9). M. Fumaroli, Les origines du Collège de France. Actes du Colloque international (Paris, décembre 1995) (Paris, 1998); A. Tuilier (ed.), Histoire du Collège de France (Paris, 2006).

[47] Translating the Bible into the vernacular was forbidden in France, ever since 1526, when the Parlement adopted the prohibition issued by Faculty of Theology in 1525: indeed, in the aftermath of the experiment in Meaux. The lecturers did not translate the Bible into the vernacular, but into Latin.

[48] Criticism of the “Sorbonne” in Humanist (and Reformation) circles was oblique, both scholarly (Budé, Calvin) and popular (Marot, Rabelais). This should be taken with a grain of salt. If elementary historical context (both factual and mental history) is added, nuances will appear. Historiographical value judgments from the past (incl. Abel Lefranc) should also not be accepted uncritically, esp. since the Collège de France cherishes its own foundation myth. On this topic see J.K. Farge, who has spent a lot of energy in correcting the image of the Theologians in Paris. They were not the perfidious and intellectually retarded theologians that their humanist critics made them out to be, but rather a well organized conservative party with considerable back-up in the circles of the Parlement of Paris. He makes clear that the royal lecturers were much more embedded in the University of Paris than is often assumed, and for outsiders were sometimes hardly distinguishable from other lecturers. In Tuilier (2006), Farge explicitly deals with the relation between the royal lecturers and the University (p. 209-232). The initiative of the Faculty of Theology to condemn two propositions in which knowledge of the biblical tongues was proclaimed to be a necessary condition both for a correct understanding of Scripture and for preaching the Gospel, Farge tries to disconnect from the royal lecturers themselves. The temporal coincidence with the beginning of the lectures, however, is too obvious in order not to interpret this action as a serious warning shot about who is in charge in this area. Farge tries to downplay the crisis of 1534 (an official complaint against the royal lecturers – Danès, Vatable, Paradis, Guidacerio – filed by Beda) to the level of a protest concerning ‘titre et jurisdiction’ alone (p. 219), no personal attack, no questioning of the orthodoxy of the lecturers, no depreciation of the study of languages intended. Publicly announcing lessons on biblical topics was simply a bridge too far: the lecturers had trespassed the frontiers and intruded into an area where only the Faculty of Theology was allowed to take official initiatives. See J.K. Farge, Orthodoxy and reform in early Reformation France : the Faculty of Theology of Paris, 1500-1543 (Leiden, 1985). And. Id, Le parti conservateur au XVIe siècle : Université et Parlement de Paris à l’époque de la Renaissance et de la Réforme (Paris, 1992). The documents about the 1534 crisis (incl. the text of the posters) can be found in A. Lefranc, Histoire du Collège de France (Paris, 1893), pièce justificative XX, p. 404-405. The reader may judge for himself whether he finds Farge’s reasoning convincing.

[49] In this respect, the almost casual remark by Robert Estienne about Vatable (in his defense against les censures des théologiens de Paris (1552), is telling. He mentions that initially the Paris theologians (“les plus scavans de la Synagogue”, Estienne snarls) did not find any fault in his 1545 Bible after investigation: “Ils me le renvoyent, et me mandent que tout est bien, entant, qu’ils ne croyoyent pas que facilement peust sortir quelque chose de mauvais des lecons publiques de Vatable. » (8v° -9r°).

[50] E.g. with a denunciative subtext, Jacques-Auguste De Thou, Histoire universelle (t. I, Livre III, 1547 ; French translation of Historiae sui temporis (1604): “On trouve encore plusieurs écrits… qui portent son nom, entr’autres des remarques sur l’ancien Testament, que ses auditeurs ont eu soin de mettre par écrit, lorsqu’il en faisoit des explications publiques : car soit qu’il se laissât dominer par une espece de paresse & d’indolence, qu’on lui a reprochée, soit que la mort ait prévenu ses desseins, il n’a laissé aucun écrit de sa main…” (quoted from an edition printed in London, 1734, p. 210).

[51] A.A. Renouard, Annales de l’imprimerie des Estienne ou histoire de la famille des Estienne et de ses éditions (Paris, 18432) The list of Robert Estienne’s publications : pp 25-96 – some corrections and additions needed. For the prefaces, see Max Engammare, ‘Introduire une édition humaniste de la Bible. Les prologues des Bibles de Robert Estienne (1528-1560), in Dubois/Roussel (eds.), Entrer en matière. les prologues (Paris, 1998), p. 393-425. See also his ‘Les premiers hébraïsants français de la Renaissance et leur usage de la littérature juive médiévale’, in D. Tollet (ed), Les églises et le Talmud; ce que les Chrétiens savaient du judaïsme (XVI-XIX siècle) (Paris, 2006), p. 43-55 (51-53 about the collaboration between Estienne and Vatable).

[52] Strangely enough part of Robert Estienne’s preface to his Latin Bible of 1532 (Vulgate) is also present in the preface of the second folio edition of Lefèvre’s Franch translation of the Bible by Martin de Keyser (Lempereur) in Antwerp (1534). The famous summary of the Christian Faith is a slightly expanded translation of that in Estienne’s bible (“Haec docent sacra Bibliorum scripta”). Idem, but abbreviated: the table of contents, the exhortation to the reader, the index, and the list of scriptural names. It even seems plausible that the 1534 edition of Lefèvre’s French Bible is a revision of the 1530 edition based on Estienne’s critical edition of the Vulgate. For this, see Rice, p. 531 and the epistles n° 147, 150, 152.

[53] Technically speaking no ‘standard’ Latin Bible exists before the Council of Trent decided to edit and publish the ‘authorized version’, now known as the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate. Estienne found some old manuscripts, some of them even dating back to the 9th Century. The 1540 edition is a landmark in text criticism. He had collected even more old manuscripts from cloister libraries, the royal Library, and even from libaries outside Paris, and collated them into a beautiful one-volume folio edition. The 1546 edition is practically a reprint. Not all 13 manuscripts he used are identified.

[54] That he also was the King’s printer for Greek is certain, but the official date and papers, in which this is stated, have never been found. See Armstrong (1954), p. 124-130.

[55] De facto Estienne published 28 fascicles, with 24 title pages (See Mc Leod, 1999, p. 88). According to the same catalogue of 1546 they were sold separately, but could also be bought together for exactly 100 sous.

[56] The 24 books (Hebrew count) of the Bible were bound together in 4 volumes: vol. 1 Hamishah humshei Torah: Quinque libri legis (1543); vol. 2 Nevi’im rishonim: Prophetae priores (1544); vol. 3. Divre Ha-Yamim: Liber Paralipomenon (1543), Esdras (1541), Isaiah (1539), Ieremiae (1540) Ezekiel (1542), Daniel (1540) – each book with separate title page; vol. 4. Sefer Tere Asar: Duodecim Prophetae (1539/1540) – each with a separate title page, to which are added: Psalterium (1540), Proverbia (1540) Canticum Canticorum (1541), Iob (1541), also with separate title pages. There are some décalages between the Latin and Hebrew dates (see Mc Leod). The full Latin title of vol. 4 is printed on the title page of the first book, the prophet Hosea: Duodecim Prophetae cum commentariis R. David Kimhi, Hebraei doctissimi, a Francisco Vatablo Hebraicarum literarum professore Regio, accuratiss[ime] emendatis, et locorum Scripturae passim citatae adnotatione illustratis, nunc primum Lutetiae Parisiorum in lucem editi, favore et auspiciis Christianiss[imi] Galliarum Regis, Francisci primi, qui in Linguarum etstudiosae iuventutis gratiam, amplis stipendiis Professorum operas redimit et labores compensat. The text in Hebrew characters reads: “The book of the Twelve, with commentary (perush) by R. David Kimchi, meticulously edited by Franciscus Vatablus, a Christian (ish notsri) who, on the orders of the great King Franciscus, teaches the holy language to his countrymen. Printed in the house of Robertus Stephanus in the year 25 of the said king, which is the year 299, abbreviated era, here in Paris, the great city and mother of France.” A. van der Heide, Hebraica Veritas. Christopher Plantin and the Christian Hebraists (Antwerp, 2008) p. 137-138. See also, Lyse Schwarzfuchs, Le livre hébreu à Paris au XVIe siècle, nrs. 87-92, 99-105. Mc Leod compared all available prints and reprints and was able to drew up chronological list, which began in the month Tammuz of 5299 (June/July 1539) with Sophonias and ended in the month Nisan 5300 (March/April 1540) with Malachias. (Mc Leod, p. 128).

[57] Estienne mastered the Hebrew language as well, but this is by far not the same as being able to edit the massoretic text, including rabbinical comments. He admits his own limitations in the preface of the 1540 bible (see next note) and has always remained dependent on scholars like Vatable for this part of his printing activity (Engammare, 2006, p. 54).

[58] On the title page we read “His accesserunt schemata Tabernaculi Mosaici, et Templi Salomonis, quae praeunte Francisco Vatablo Hebraicarum literarum Regio professore doctissimo, summa arte et fide expressa sunt.” (both 1540 and 1546). In Estienne’s preface there is a lengthy passus in which he praises himself happy that he got the assistance of Vatable, because he assisted him in clarifying obscure places and provided the illustrations. Not only his linguistic talents are praised, but also his ‘architectonical’ skill: As “Franciscus Vatablus Hebraearum literarum professor Regius doctissimus, et in archtectonice non vulgariter exercitatus”, he is introduced and a little later God is invoked “ut per longam et incolumen vitam, liceat Vatablo nostro aliquid memoriae prodere, quod libros Veteris testamenti quam obscurissimo, clariores, et intellectum faciliores reddat.” Next to Vatable, Guillaume Fabrice (a canon from Poitiers), also well versed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, is mentioned as having assisted Estienne in editing the text.

[59] “verum Deo illi nostro optimo maximo, cuius voluntate et impulse factum est ut hinc Lutetiae Parisiorum linguae Hebraeae professores suis stipendis alat et tueatur Christianissimus Rex noster Franciscus, huius nominis primus. Hoc sane tantum praestitimus, ut nonnulla ex iis quae professorum Regiorum auditores exceperant, ad vos, quibus per locorum intervalla atque alia impedimenta illos audire non licet, typographicae nostrae artis beneficio fidelissime permanarent.” The English translation is taken from Armstrong, 1954, p. 77.

[60] Engammare 2006, p. 53. This is of consequence since this implies that one has to be extra careful in extracting information about ‘Vatable’ based on these notes. They can be his, but not necessarily. The analysis of S. Kessler-Mesguich of the notes in the Vatable bible on Ex. 3,14 (the revelation of the Name of God) can be representative of Vatable’s method, but not necessarily. She does not transcribe the student notes on this subject, but only claims that in essentia everything is also present in the notes taken by Mathieu Gautier (BnF, ms lat 533). S. Kessler-Mesguich, ‘L’enseignement de l’hébreu et de l’araméen à Paris (1530-1560) d’après les oeuvres grammaticales des lecteurs royaux’, in Fumaroli 1998 (Les origines du collège de France…, p. 357-374 [Vatable: 362-366]., id., ‘L’enseignement de l’hébreu et de l’araméen par les premiers lecteurs royaux (1530-1560)’, in Tuilier, Histoire du collège de France, p. 262-265.

[61] For this see, Abel Lefranc, Histoire, p. 177, referring to Félibien, Histoire de Paris, t. IV, p. 116: Ordonnance of François I-er of 16 January 1544 concerning Vatable : “entretenu et gardé en son estât, maintenu en sa chaîne, pour le bien public, utilité de l’Université, décoration et honneur du college”.

[62] See above note 7. His protégé Mathieu Berouart was also a bursarius there. In his will he donated the costly new ‘corps d’hostel’ (which he apparently had ordered but was not finished yet) to the same college.

[63] Gallia Christiana, t. XI, Ecclesia Rotomagensis, col. 335. Vatable succeeded Louis Héraut de Servissas, Chapel master of Queen Eleonore, colleague of Claudin de Sermisy.

[64] Four of the five ‘scrolls’ have the qeri’in printed in the margin. Daniel, Esdras and Nehemias, even have a florilegium of massora parva in the margin. This bonus has probably to be attributed to Jean Mercier, one of Vatable’s students and later successors. For this see Mc Leod, p. 86, in particular note 5. He makes this suggestion based on a comparison with later reprints, in which the name of Mercier is mentioned and where the massora parva are also mentioned in the title (“cum scholiis massorae ad marginem” – Geneva, 1563).

[65] This evaluation is based on the very instructive essay of B.E. Schwarzbach, ‘Les editions de la Bible hébraïque au XVIe siècle et la creation du texte massorétique’, in B.E. Schwarzbach (ed.), La Bible imprimée dans l’Europe moderne, (Paris, 1999), p. 16-67, there p. 57-58.

[66] Engammare 2006, p. 53. “.. pour les autres livres, lui (sc. Vatable) ou Robert Estienne intègrent des notes des pasteurs zurichois. » in a note Engammare refers to his dissertation on Canticum Canticorum, where he has established this for this book. For the other books of the Bible this remains an open question.

[67] The notes on the Psalms are different from the rest, as they are already partly retracted during the printing process itself: For at the end of the 1545 Bible Estienne returns to the Psalms and adds new spacious notes for Psalm 1-72: Diffusiores in priores psalmos annotationes... In the separate print of the Psalterium duplex in 1546 these notes replace the text from the 1545 Bible. From Psalm 73-150 they remain untouched. The expanded notes are not Vatable’s, but extracted from Bucer’s 1529/1532 Commentary. For an example, see below note 84.

[68] Richard Simon’s (17th C) observations about these notes are so to the point and lucid that they are still worth quoting: “Ces notes sont fort literales et critiques, et l’Auteur s’attache principalement à expliquer les difficultés qui peuvent embarrasser le Texte. Il suit d’ordinaire l’interpretation des Rabbins, et principalement de R. D. Kimhi. On peut appeler ses Remarques des Notes perpetuelles sur tout le Texte, parce qu’il y a peu d’endroits qu’il n’explique avec beaucoup de netteté et sans digressions. Il s’arrête même souvent à des choses qui ne souffrent gueres de difficulté, afin d’être utile à tous ses Lecteurs. En un mot, on estime ce Recueil de Notes sur l’Ecriture, que Robert Estienne a fait imprimer sous le nom de Vatable, soit qu’elles soient en effet de Vatable, ou qu’elles ayent été recueillies de differens Auteurs ; ce qui est plus vrai-semblable. » (Richard Simon: Histoire critique du vieux Testament – nouvelle edition, liv. III, chap. XV (Rotterdam, 1685), p. 442-443). Also quite balanced is the view of Louis-Ellies Du Pin (18th C) in his Nouvelle bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques: « Ces Notes sont tres utiles pour l’intelligence du Texte, parce qu’il y a peu d’endroits difficiles, qu’elles n’expliquent en peu de mots selon le sens le plus naturel. » Louis-Ellies Du Pin, Nouvelle bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques, contenant l’histoire de leur vie, le catalogue, la critique et la chronologie de leurs ouvrages, t. XIV, (Utrecht, 1731), p. 176.

[69] E.g., three of his successors: Bertin Lecomte, Jean Mercier, Jean Cinqarbres.

[70] Mathieu Gautier (?-1552), abbot of Marmoutier (1512-1537) and Bishop of Nègrepont (1537-1552); Pierre Pithou sr. (1496-1554), sieur de Chamgobert, lawyer at Troyes, bibliophile; Girolamo Della Rovere (Turin, 1530-1592), an extremely precocious boy: he published a collection of Latin poems at the age of 10, while studying at the University of Pavia. His iuvenilia were widely admired. He studied in Paris (tutor Jean Morel) and befriended Florimond de Robertet and Joachim Du Bellay (Della Rovere is ‘Vineus’, see R. Cooper, ‘Deux personnages des Regrets en Italie avec les Du Bellay: Girolamo Della Rovere et Jean de Morel’, in Litterae in tempore belli (Genève, 1997), p. 117-145). He became Bishop of Toulon and in 1559 (death of Henry II) he was asked by Catharina de Medici to pronounce the funeral oration. In 1564 he became Archbishop of Turin, in 1586 cardinal.

[71] D. Barthélémy ( 2002) an international authority on the transmission of the text of the Hebrew Bible, twice dedicated an article to the 1545 Estienne Bible. First in an excursus in Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament [Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 50/2 ; Isaië. Jérémie, Lamentations], (Fribourg, 1986), p. *29-*42 : The excursus is entitled : “La Bible de Vatable aux prises avec l’Inquisition espagnole”. It is part of an overview of Estienne’s contribution to biblical scholarship. A few years later he provided sample soundings in the notes trying to establish their character: D. Barthélémy, ‘Origine et rayonnement de la «Bible de Vatable »‘ in Backus/Higman (eds.), Théorie et pratique de l’exégèse : actes du troisième colloque international sur l’exégèse biblique au XVIe siècle (Genève, 1990), p. 385-401. The notes on the Psalms were taken during a course in the beginning of 1546, perhaps the last course Vatable ever gave. The notes on Numbers 1537, Kings 1538-1539, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonah and Micha in 1544-1545.

[72] “D’ailleurs leur comparaison avec les notes de Pithou et celles de Gautier pour les deux livres des Rois (dont tous trois ont noté l’enseignement donné par Vatable) montre bien que les divergences n’excèdent pas ce que trois auditeurs peuvent retenir en noter au cours d’une même leçon.” (Barthélémy 1990, p. 396). That these notes are Bertin le Comte’s he inferred from the fact that Estienne explicitly refers to him as the provider of the dicatata from the lectures of Vatable (preface to the 1557 Geneva edition of the Vatable Bible). Ibid. p. 395. “…ex praelectionibus, quas Bertinus […] ex eius ore fideliter exceperat, et exceptas cum illo ipso communicaverat.” Estienne also claims that the Pagnini text that he publishes was revised partly by Pagnini himself, and partly by Vatable. The same remark is printed on the title page of the Psalterium duplex of 1556: “partim ab ipso Pagnino recognita, partim ex Francisci Vatabli […] praelectionibus emendata & expolita.” Was this commercial propaganda or did he have access to a version of Pagnini’s translation not yet discovered? Or does he perhaps refer to the Pagnini version, revised and annotated by M. Servet and published in Lyon by Hugues de la Porte in 1542, something he of course could not mention in Geneva?

[73] Barthélémy 1990, p. 394.

[74] A hot issue was the justification by faith. The theologians of Salamanca had found several instances of this heretical opinion in the Estienne Bible (i.e. in what were considered to be ‘Vatable’s notes’), e.g. in notes on Gen. 15,6 and Hos. 2,19. To be sure, suggesting that faith is necessary for justification as such is not considered ‘protestant’; suggesting that nothing else is needed, is heretical (the ‘else’ can refer to ‘good works’, invocation of the Saints’, ‘participating in the Church and the Sacraments’ etc.).

[75] Hos 2:19 (Barthélémy: selon l’hébreu : 2:21), the Latin reads: “Despondebo inquam te mihi in iustitia” (KJV: “I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness”).

[76] Joel 2,32 (Barthélémy: selon l’hébreu : 3,5): “Quicumque invocaverit nomen Domini liberabitur » ( KJV: ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved’).

[77] “Il arrive assez souvent à Vatable dans ses leçons de mentionner l’Eglise catholique. La plupart de ces mentions semblent avoir été omises par Estienne.” Barthélémy 1990, p. 396.

[78] Kessler-Mesguich 1998, p. 364-365 (repeated in Kessler Mesguich, 2006, p. 264-265). Although both translations printed agree in using a praesens: “Sum qui sum”, the note explains that a futurum is to be preferred. The way this is explained and defended is quite original and reveals intimate knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, especially with regard to the use of modi and tempora. This futurum is also present in the student notes.

[79] « souci particulier du sens littéral » «.une interprétation rationelle » Kessler Mesguich, 2006, p. 263.

[80] Vatable generally prefers reading as literal and historical as possible, but he never questions the fact that the Christological application is (also) correct. In the case of Psalm 2 he clearly is more cautious than Bucer (who suggests an original application to David, and typologically to Christ), when he mentions this view, but rejects it: “…sed nos cum Apostolis de Christo scriptum intelligemus.” The psalmist is a vatis, a visionary prophet. The fact that the verb used is a ‘perfectum’ and not a ‘futurum’ underlines the certainty of the prophecy, “quasi id quod vaticinator jam instet, ac de propinquo immineat.” Della Rovere concludes: “Sic ergo ait”. This example also shows the problem of attributing the notes in the printed Bible to straightforwardly to Vatable. They agree in the Christological scope (not surprisingly: it will be there in 99.9 % of the available commentaries). The printed notes however (sc. the diffusiores) comment differently: “praeterita sunt apud Hebraeos, quae per futurum vertenda sunt,” an explanation omitting the intrinsic value of the perfectum propheticum, advocated by Vatable. (Ms lat 433, p. 9 – intro to the lectio of Psalm 2).

[81] Also observed by Kessler, 1998 « … et s’appuie sur les commentateurs juifs, notamment David Qimhi et Abraham Ibn Ezra, ainsi sur le Targum, souvent cité. La philologie est donc constamment présente dans les notes de Vatable.. un commentaire de type historique, dans lequel le sens littéral est systématiquement privilégié aux dépens de l’interprétation allégorique. » (p. 365/6).

[82] Ms. Lat. 433, p. 42-49. Psalm 7 poses many problems to a translator, who has to show his cards on more than one occasion, mainly in assigning subjects to the verbs. A very interesting discrepancy between the 1545 Estienne Bible (incl. the notes) and Vatable occurs in the sequence of vv. 12-15, where Vatable (following Kimhi), assigns all verbs in these verses to the ‘wicked’ man, while in the Estienne Bible the verbs in 12b-13 are assigned to God, as in the KJV (mark the capitals): “12 If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. 13 He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.”

[83] “Gloriam in pulverem deducere aut collocare, est nomen apud posteros obscurare, et inglorium facere”

[84] Bucer is worth quoting for the precision with which he explains this verse (I italicized the quotes from the Psalm for better comprehension): “Animae nomine seipsum, vel corpus suum intelligit, id quod in scriptures haud raro sit. Vitae in terram conculcatio, vitae est extinctio, ita gloriae in pulverem collocatio est, nominis et memoriae, qua sibi ipsis boni superstites sunt, in memoria enim aeterna vivit iustus, abolitio.” One easily recognizes the equating of ‘gloria’ and ‘memoria’, which also does the trick in the notes in the Estienne Bible. (Martin Bucer, Psalmorum libri quique (ed. 1532), f° 42r°). In his own translation ad sensum Bucer had substituted ‘dignitatem sepeliat’ for the ad verbum ‘gloriam in pulverem collocet’’. Notice that this is the same explanation as in the Zurich notes, but more expanded and including a ‘moral’. It is not unthinkable that the Zurich notes are also derived from Bucer’s Commentary, which was wide-spread and generally considered to be almost unsurpassable. Influence on Vatable might also be possible.

[85] Transcription of the notes of Della Rovere [errors possible; if I was not sure I inserted a question mark (?) behind my guess]: “Persequatur inimicus animam meam, vel, Faciat, ut alii persequatur animam meam, id est me. Et conculcet in terra vitam meam. Id est, conculcatum humi vita spoliet, vel exanimet. Conculcet vitam. Locutio est, praegnans, id est, conculcando corpus meum, vita mihi adimat. Et gloriam meam: domicilium gloriae meae, corpus meum scilicet. Animam sua vocat gloriam suam, quod sit praestantior corpore. Habitare faciat in pulvere, id est in terra, nempè in sepulchro, proijcit (?) me humi exanimem, mittat me in sepulchro. Hebrai quidam hunc locum de corpore et anima simul intelligunt, persuasum habentes animas impiorum in(?) cum corporibus interire: quorum opinio est heretica. [in margine: Huc referunt et illud quod in 1° psl. habetur, Non resurgent impii in iudicio].

[86] That the Hebrew Bible has a different anthropology does not necessarily imply that all Jewish believers do perceive life concordantly. They are also influenced by the world they live in. Generally accepted though is that in the OT afterlife does not play an important role. In the book of Psalms this is even quite conspicuous: how often don’t we read prayers in which God is beseeched to let live, and not die, since ‘in the sheol [šə’ōl, in Latin: infernum] there is no remembrance of God’. One of the ‘notes’ censured by the Faculty of Theology of Paris precisely dealt with this topic. With regard to Gen 37, where Jacob – after hearing that Joseph had died – cries out: “I will go down to the ‘sheol’ and weep there with my son”, there is a annotatio which says: “Enfer ne signifie pas yci le lieu ou les meschans sont punis comme aussi es autres passages.” (Estienne, Les censures, p. 27v°).

[87] The ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ is believed to be given by God to a human being at his first breath, as mentioned in the book of Genesis, “And the Lord … breathed ([nāp̄ah] into his nostrils the [nəšāmāh] and man became a living soul [nẹp̄ẹš].” (Gen. 2,7). In Jewish thought the ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ remains fleeting and depends on the proximity of man to the giver of the ‘nẹp̄ẹš’, the ‘inspirator’ so to speak (In Latin ‘Spiritus’ has a much closer similarity to ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ than ‘anima’, but is generally used to translate another difficult Hebrew word: ‘rūaḥ’). Dying is simply that man returns to the dust from which he was taken, because the ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ returns to its giver, God. Jewish theology does not agree on the nature of an afterlife. To confess particular beliefs on this point is not even required to be a proper Jewish believer. When the word ‘nẹp̄ẹš’ (anima) appears it can often be translated by ‘me’, as Vatable suggested (and Bucer, see note 84).

[88] ‘kāvōd’ in Hebrew does not in the first place refer to glory, honour or dignity. The root of the verb refers to ‘heaviness’, ‘weight’. When the word is used to refer to the ‘weight’ of God (how God weighs on things) it is generally translated as ‘glory’. If associated with human activity, then ‘kāvōd’ is “das was ihn ansehnlich macht” (Gerhard von Rad, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, Bd. II, p. 240ff), what makes him ‘weigh on things’, or what gives counterweight to all these fleeting things in human life that are too light to weigh through when life is balanced: gravity so to speak (courtesy to Bryan Reuben who corrected my English and suggested this translation to me). This weightiness, gravity, can also be used in positive connotation with earthly goods. Abraham is described as very ‘kāvōd’, referring to his material wealth and importance (Gen 13,2). Also impressive acts, which weigh on the circumstances can be described as ‘kāvōd’: ‘heroic’ and ‘glorious’ is then a common translation. kāvōd can also have a moral connotation: a man’s ‘kāvōd’ grows when he keeps the ‘mitzvoth’ (the commandments). Finallly ‘kāvōd’ can refer to the liver and by extension to the ‘inner man’ and then come close in meaning to ‘soul’, as Vatable also suggested. Worthy of note: once again Vatable entirely follows suggestions given by David Kimhi in his commentary (perush) on this Psalm.


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