Vulgate Prologue to the Canonical Epistles
Many Vulgate manuscripts, including the Codex Fuldensis, the earliest extant Vulgate manuscript, contain the Prologue to the Canonical Epistles. The Prologue reads as a first-person account from Jerome written to Eustochium, to whom Jerome dedicated his commentary on the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. The internal evidence of the authorship is contested, with claims since the 17th century, after the heavenly witnesses verse debate began, that a forger pretended to be Jerome.
This translation is by Thomas Caldwell of Marquette University, as explained on the blog of Kent Brandenburg. Also available online is the Codex Fuldensis Latin.
Prologue to the Canonical Epistles The order of the seven Epistles which are called canonical is not the same among the Greeks who follow the correct faith and the one found in the Latin codices, where Peter, being the first among the apostles, also has his two epistles first. But just as we have corrected the evangelists into their proper order, so with God’s help have we done with these. The first is one of James, then two of Peter, three of John and one of Jude. Just as these are properly understood and so translated faithfully by interpreters into Latin without leaving ambiguity for the readers nor [allowing] the variety of genres to conflict, especially in that text where we read the unity of the trinity is placed in the first letter of John, where much error has occurred at the hands of unfaithful translators contrary to the truth of faith, who have kept just the three words water, blood and spirit in this edition omitting mention of Father, Word and Spirit in which especially the catholic faith is strengthened and the unity of substance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is attested. In the other epistles to what extent our edition varies from others I leave to the prudence of the reader. But you, virgin of Christ, Eustocium, when you ask me urgently about the truth of scripture you expose my old age to being gnawed at by the teeth of envious ones who accuse me of being a falsifier and corruptor of the scriptures. But in such work I neither fear the envy of my critics nor deny the truth of scripture to those who seek it.
This Prologue, its historical accuracy and textual significance, has been a major point in the Comma debate since its start at the times of Erasmus. [n 48] And its authenticity and authorship became an issue in the late 17th century, when a new theory came forth that the Prologue was spurious. This theory claimed that the Prologue was not created until hundreds of years after Jerome, by an unknown writer pretending to be Jerome "the preface has been commonly rejected by critics, and looked upon as an impudent forgery of the ninth century."[n 49] Westcott is among those who have contended that the actual purpose of the theorized forgery was specifically to bring the verse into the Latin Vulgate text line; it "seems to have been written with this express purpose". And Raymond Brown implies verse acceptance as the motive for the Vulgate Prologue: "Jerome's authority was such that this statement, spuriously attributed to him, helped to win acceptance for the Comma.". Metzger makes no reference of the Prologue, even while referencing the absence of the verse in the Johannine epistle of Fuldensis in order to assert that Jerome's original edition did not have the verse. "The passage ... is not found ...in the Vulgate as issued by Jerome (codex Fuldensis [copied a.d. 541-46] and codex Amiatinus [copied before a.d. 716])".
Major figures in the early dialogue from about 1650-1725 were John Selden, Christopher Sandius, John Fell, Richard Simon, Isaac Newton, Jean Leclerc, Jean Martianay and Augustin Calmet. The discovery in the Bible scholarship community in the latter 19th century that the Prologue was in the well-respected Codex Fuldensis (while the Codex lacked the Comma in the text, an unusual discordance) contradicted many earlier forgery chronology scenarios. [n 50]