St. Finian of Magh Bile (Moville), County Down
Born about 495; died 589. Though not so celebrated as his namesake of
Clonard, he was the founder of a famous school about the year 540. He
studied under St. Colman of Dromore and St. Mochae of Noendrum (Mahee
Island), and subsequently at Candida Casa (Whithern), whence he
proceeded to Rome, returning to Ireland in 540 AD with an integral copy
of St. Jerome's Vulgate, a work of translation which Jerome had
completed in 404 AD **.
St. Finnian's most distinguished pupil at Moville (County Down) was St.
Columba, whose surreptitious copying of the Psaltery led to a very
remarkable sequel. What remains of the copy, together with the casket
that contains it, is now in the National Museum, Dublin. It is known as
the Cathach or Battler, and was wont to be carried by the O'Donnells in
battle. The inner case was made by Cathbar O'Donnell in 1084, but the
outer is fourteenth-century work. So prized was it that family of
MacGroarty were hereditary custodians of this Cathach, and it finally
passed, in 1802, to Sir Neal O'Donnell, County Mayo.
St. Finnian of Moville wrote a rule for his monks, also a penitential
code, the canons of which were published by Wasserschleben in 1851. His
festival is observed on 10 September.
Troparion of St Finian Tone 8
Having been nourished in the faith at Candida Casa, O holy Finian,/ thou
didst return to thy native Ireland as the sower of seed which bore fruit
an hundred-fold./ In thy love and wisdom intercede with our merciful
Creator/ that He will so nourish us with true faith and piety, devoting
ourselves only to Him,/ that we may receive the reward of the righteous.
** It is interesting to look at the contents of the Vulgate which Finnian
brought to Ireland.
The Vulgate of Saint Jerome
While revising the text of the Old Latin Version, St. Jerome became
convinced of the need in the Western Church of a new translation
directly from the Hebrew. His Latin scholarship, his acquaintance with
Biblical places and customs obtained by residence in Palestine, and his
remarkable knowledge of Hebrew and of Jewish exegetical traditions,
especially fitted him for a work of this kind. He set himself to the
task A.D. 390 and in A.D. 405 completed the protocanonical books of the
Old Testament from the Hebrew, and the deuterocanonical Books of Tobias
and Judith from the Aramaic. To these were added his revision of the Old
Latin, or Gallican, Psalter, the New Testament, revised from the Old
Latin with the aid of the original Greek, and the remaining
deuterocanonical books, and portions of Esther, and Daniel, just as they
existed in the Itala.
Thus was formed that version of the Bible which has had no less
influence in the Western Church than the Septuagint has had in the
Eastern, which has enriched the thought and language of Europe and has
been the source of nearly all modern translations of the Scriptures. The
Hebrew text used by St. Jerome was comparatively late, being practically
that of the Massoretes. For this reason his version, for textual
criticism, has less value than the Peschitto and the Septuagint. As a
translation it holds a place between these two. It is elegant in style,
clear in expression, and on the whole, notwithstanding some freedoms in
the way of restricted or amplified readings, it is faithful to the sense
of the original.
At first it met with little favour. It was looked upon by some as a
perversion suggested and encouraged by the Jews. Others held it to be
inferior to the Septuagint, and those who recognized its merits feared
it would cause dissensions. But it gradually supplanted the Old Latin
Version. Adopted by several writers in the fifth century, it came into
more general use in the sixth. At least the Spanish churches employed it
in the seventh century, and in the ninth it was found in practically the
whole Roman Church. Its title "Vulgate", indicating its common use, and
belonging to the Old Latin until the seventh century, was firmly
established in the thirteenth.
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Page last updated: 5 October 2008
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