“And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, commanding them to keep the precepts of the apostles and the ancients.” (Douay-Rheims)
“And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Just about every other edition at biblehub.com)
What is the reason for such a large difference in translations? Even my Ignatius Press Bible is unlike Douay-Rheims. I understand that one could infer the Douay-Rheims additions from the context of the passage, but it seems like there should be a good reason for such a large difference in translations.
So why does the Latin Vulgate translate it thus? I am ignorant of translation issues, but it seems odd that the words “commanding them to keep the precepts of the apostles and the ancients” can simply disappear (or appear) from one translation to the next.
It’s probably due to textual copyist glosses. The same type of thing has happened all over the place in Biblical writings. Copyists would put study notes around the texts, and further copyists would think that these study notes were actually part of the text itself.
To avoid this problem (as well as the problem of having translations of translations), newer translations have tried to go to the original sources (or as close as we have to original sources, as all that’s left of the originals are bits and pieces of scrolls). But, the DR was translated from the Latin Vulgate (as were all early vernacular translations). The OT of the Vulgate was translated from the Greek Septuagint (and the NT from the original Greek). And most of the Septuagint was translated from the Hebrew.
My Douai Confraternity says about that passage “not in the Greek, or in many codices of the Vulgate.” It sounds like some unknown person just inserted that on their own, just like the Johannine Comma of 1 John 5: 7-8.
I have access to 3 different versions of the Latin Vulgate. The one with this variation is from the “Biblia Vulgata Clementina 1598 with Glossa Ordinaria Minge edition (1880)”. The other 2 versions (the “Latin Vulagte” and the “Nova Vulgata”) reads the same as the Greek text already mentioned. The difference could easily be attributed to a later copyist gloss (as previously mentioned by powerofk).
As far as how the Latin was translated, it’s my understanding that Jerome originally translated the OT from Hebrew, and only used the Septuagint when Hebrew writings couldn’t be found. The NT was translated from the Greek.
The reason is: there are actually two versions of Acts. One is a shorter version (the ‘Alexandrian’ version) found in many manuscripts - including older ones - and the other is a longer version found in so-called ‘Western’ manuscripts. The ‘Western Acts’ is quite famous for being about 10% longer than the ‘standard’ shorter version and being more polished in style. Scholars still debate which of these two versions came first: whether the shorter Alexandrian text was an abridged version of the longer one, or whether the Western text was an expanded version of the shorter one.
In the case of the Vulgate, earlier manuscripts apparently contained the shorter version. But along the way, readings from the longer Western version crept into the text. This is because the Latin translations which were made before St. Jerome’s translations - the so-called Vetus Latina - belong to the long ‘Western’ family: it was pretty common in those days for manuscripts of the Vulgate to have Vetus Latina readings inserted in. (The older Latin translations were not abandoned at once; they were only phased out gradually. In fact, Vetus Latina translations of single books can be found in manuscripts as late as the 13th century.)
In this case, the phrase “commanding them to keep the precepts of (the apostles and) the elders” is one of these Western ‘expansions’. It isn’t found in older manuscripts of the Vulgate - for example, our oldest complete manuscript of the translation, Codex Amiatinus (8th century), doesn’t have it - but it is found in the Gutenberg Bible and the Clementine Vulgate (1592, as praecipiens custodire praecepta apostolorum et seniorum). Something similar can be found in ‘Western’ manuscripts, for example the 5th century Codex Bezae: παραδιδους τας εντολας των πρεσβυτερων / tradens autem mandatum presbyteroru(m) ‘delivering to them the commandment of the elders/presbyters’, and the Vetus Latina Acts in the 13th century Codex Gigas (aka the Devil’s Bible, after an illustration of the Devil in one of the pages), which contains the same reading as the Clementine Vulgate.