Friday, December 10, 2021

Manetti and the Greek New Testament


         Giannozzo Manetti (1396-1459) is not mentioned in either Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament or in Aland & Aland’s The Text of the New Testament.  But all students of the field of New Testament textual criticism should learn his name.  It was Manetti, a generation before Erasmus, who completed the first Latin translation of the New Testament (since the time of Jerome) that was based primarily on Greek manuscripts. 

         Born into a wealthy family in the city of Florence, Italy, Manetti was taught by the famous historian (and Chancellor of Florence) Leonardo Bruni, and was trained in classical Latin and Greek.  Manetti was committed to the principle of ad fontes before it was cool:   he learned Hebrew in order to produce a Latin translation of the Psalms, and defended his renderings against anticipated objections from fans of the traditional Vulgate in a detailed five-volume work titled Apologeticus.   He also wrote On Human Worth and Excellence, in which he maintained that human beings are creatures of dignity and quality.

          Shortly after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Manetti began his work on a Latin translation of the New Testament. Because much of Manetti’s library was donated to the Vatican (he had been friends with Pope Nicholas V in his youth), we can identify exactly which Greek manuscripts he used as his sources.  They reside to this day in the Vatican Library: 

          Pal.Gr. 171 (GA 171), which is a full Greek New Testament (including Revelation), Pal. Gr. 189, (GA 156) a Greek Gospels-MS (with illustrated headpieces before each Gospel; the text on the last page of John is cruciform and is followed by generous liturgical appendices), and Pal. Gr. 229 (a diglot, Greek-Latin, manuscript of the Gospels.  A supplemental Latin manuscript also used by Manetti was Pal. Lat.18, containing a Vulgate text of the Old Testament and New Testament.

           Two copies of Manetti’s Latin translation of the New Testament are also at the Vatican Library:  First is Pal. Lat. 45, which presents a straightforward Latin text.  The attribution to Manetti can be seen before each Gospel:  Matthew on fol. 1rMark on fol. 21r  (where it can be seen that Manetti rendered his Greek text in Mark 1:2 as “est in prophetis,” unlike the Vulgate’s “est in Esaia propheta.”), Luke on fol. 33v, and John on fol. 55v.

Annet den Haan
          Second is Urb. Lat. 6, a more ornate copy, produced after Manetti’s death. 

           Two modern-day researchers, Annet den Haan and David Marsh, have made major contributions to a revival of interest in Manetti’s translation-work.  Marsh has written a detailed biography of Manetti, available from Harvard University Press.  Annet den Haan of Utrecht University has become a one-woman encyclopedia of all things related to Giannozzo Manetti, and has made many of her articles and essays available at for free.  Additional information about Manetti, his writings, and his manuscripts can be found at this link


Luigi Vendittelli said...

This is very interesting information. Thank you for sharing it and allowing me to participate.

Steven Avery said...

Thanks, James.

Some overlapping information here:

Giannozzo Manetti (1396-1459) - Latin NT

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY USA