Christianizing the Nahua


Catholic Church
Epistolae et Evangelia
Central Mexico, 16th century.

The Catholic Church was deeply disturbed by efforts to translate the Bible into vernacular languages. Saint Jerome’s Latin translation, the Vulgate (406), was the official version of the Bible for Roman Catholics. After the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Church, anxious to maintain the authority of the Vulgate as the only source of the divine word, regarded versions of the Bible in the readers’ languages a dangerous threat.

Missionaries nonetheless needed their audience to understand the message. Along with sermons, Nahuatl Bible translations became a powerful and singular expression of indigenous Christianity. The Epistolae et Evangelia is a compilation of selected passages from the Bible translated into Nahuatl for Sunday readings and special church holidays.

Newberry Library: Vault Ayer MS 1467

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