Père et Docteur de l'Église (+ 420)
Priez-vous ? vous parlez au Seigneur. Lisez-vous l'Ecriture sainte ? C'est Lui qui vous parle. - Ignorer les Ecritures, c'est ignorer le Christ. - On ne naît pas chrétien. On le devient. - Ce qui a de la valeur, c'est d'être chrétien et non de le paraître.
Paroles de saint Jérôme
Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950
SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_jerome.html
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071107_fr.html
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20071114_fr.html
- 1. Naissance et famille
- 2. Brillant étudiant à Rome
- 3. Passant distrait en Gaule
- 4. Apprenti ascète à Aquilée
- 5. Anachorète novice en Syrie
- 6. Étudiant ecclésiastique à Constantinople
- 7. Secrétaire du pape Damase
- 8. Il se lie d’amitié avec de saintes femmes
- 9. Il regagne l’Orient
- 10. Il se fixe à Bethléem
- 1. L’œuvre essentielle : les travaux bibliques
- 2. Traductions d’auteurs ecclésiastiques
- 3. Œuvres polémiques
- 4. Œuvres historiques
- 5. Homélies
- 6. Lettres
- Conclusion : L’homme des Écritures et un maître de d’ascèse
• Ignorer les Écritures, c’est ignorer le Christ.
Commentaire sur Isaïe, prologue
• Lis assez souvent et étudie le plus possible. Que le sommeil te surprenne un livre à la main ; qu’en tombant, ton visage rencontre l’accueil d’une page sainte.
Lettre 22 à Eustochium
• Pour ce qui est des Écritures saintes, fixe-toi un certain nombre de versets. Acquitte-toi de cette tâche envers ton Maître et n’accorde pas de repos à tes membres avant d’avoir rempli de ce tissu la corbeille de travail qu’est ton cœur. Après les Écritures saintes, lis les traités des savants, mais de ceux-là seulement dont la foi est notoire. Tu n’as pas besoin de chercher de l’or dans la boue ; au prix de perles nombreuses, achète la perle unique. Comme dit Jérémie (6, 16), tiens-toi au débouché de plusieurs chemins, mais pour arriver à ce chemin qui conduit au Père.
Lettre 54 à la veuve Furia
1. Naissance et famille
Lettre 22 à Eustochium (vers 384)
4. Apprenti ascète à Aquilée
Tu mens, répondit celui qui siégeait. Tu es cicéronien, non pas chrétien. Là où est ton trésor, là est ton cœur (Mt 6, 21).
SOEUR GABRIEL PETERS, Lire les Pères de l’Église. Cours de patrologie, DDB, 1981.
Avec l’aimable autorisation des Éditions Migne.
SOURCE : http://www.patristique.org/Les-Peres-de-l-Eglise-latine-II-Jerome.html#vie
SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/09/30.php
SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/voragine/tome03/147.htm
Jérôme, un géant de la foi qui avait le sang chaud
La rédaction d'Aleteia | 29 septembre 2019
Fêté par l'Église le 30 septembre, saint Jérôme a vécu au Ve siècle après Jésus-Christ. Il laisse l'image d'un intellectuel brillant assaisonné d'un tempérament bouillonnant. Sa façon d'être peut encore nous inspirer aujourd'hui.
Il est connu pour son caractère bien trempé. Père et docteur de l’Église, saint Jérôme est pourvu d’un tempérament explosif. Il passe d’ailleurs dans l’histoire de l’Église pour l’un des plus mauvais caractères de la communion des saints ! On peut dire, en d’autres mots, qu’il était habité par une intransigeance associée à une nature de feu qui ne supportait pas la demi-mesure.
Après avoir demandé le baptême à 19 ans, le jeune Romain fougueux n’a plus qu’une idée en tête : consacrer sa vie à Dieu. Tel un Gulliver des premiers siècles, il fait son balluchon et passe d’abord deux années dans le désert de Chalcis en Syrie. Là-bas, il expérimente la vie d’ermite. Mais Jérôme a besoin d’action : il reprend donc son bardas et part cette fois pour Antioche, où il apprend le grec et l’hébreu et reçoit le sacerdoce.
Être chrétien tel que l’on est
Après un passage à Constantinople, le brillant intellectuel revient à Rome où il devient le secrétaire du pape Damase. Il est particulièrement aimé des laïcs, et notamment d’un petit cercle de dames de la noblesse chrétienne dont il est le père spirituel. À la mort dudit pape, Jérôme doit quitter les lieux. Il faut dire que son sang chaud lui a valu beaucoup d’ennemis. Il se retire alors à Bethléem où il trouve enfin sa vocation : étudier la Bible et la traduire en latin — c’est ce qu’on appelle la « Vulgate ». Il fait de nombreux commentaires des Écritures et s’applique à les vivre quotidiennement. Saint Jérôme peut nous inspirer. Son émotivité exacerbée ne l’a pas empêché d’aimer Dieu de tout son cœur. Il témoigne que l’on peut être chrétien avec la nature qui est la sienne, en s’accueillant humblement tel que l’on est.
Johann Liss (1597-1631). The Vision of Saint Jerome (c. 1625), Ringling Museum of Art
Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius
Man of the Bible
15 June (Eastern calendar)
Born to a rich pagan family, Jerome led a wild and misspent youth. Studied in Rome, Italy, and became a lawyer. He converted and joined the Church in theory, and was baptised in 365, but it was only when he began his study of theology that he had a true conversion and the faith became integral to his life.
He became a monk, then, needing isolation for his study of Scripture, he lived for years as a hermit in the Syrian deserts. There he is reported to have drawn a thorn from a lion‘s paw; the animal stayed loyally at his side for years.
Priest. Student of Saint Gregory of Nazianzen. Secretary to Pope Damasus I who commissioned Jerome to revise the Latin text of the Bible. The result was 30 years of work which we know as the Vulgate translation, the standard Latin version for over a millenia, and which is still in use today.
Friend and teacher of Saint Paula, Saint Marcella, and Saint Eustochium, an association that led to so much gossip that Jerome left Rome to return to desert solitude. He lived his last 34 years in the Holy Land as a semi-recluse, writing and translating works of history, biography, the writings of Origen, and much more. Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloging, translating, which led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.
419 of natural causes
interred in Bethlehem
cardinal‘s hat, often on the ground or behind him, indicating that he turned his back on the pomp of ecclesiastical life
lion, referring to the who befriended him after he pulled a thorn from the creature’s paw
man beating himself in the chest with a stone
aged monk in desert
aged monk with Bible
old man with a lion
A Garner of Saints, by Allen Banks Hinds, M.A.
Saints of the Day, by Katherine Rabenstein
Short Lives of the Saints, by Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly
The Saint with the Lion, by Leonora Blanche Lang
Pope Benedict XVI
Christian Biographies, by James E Keifer
Parish of Oystermouth, Swansea, Wales
Perils of a Bible Translator, by Leslie J Hoppe, OFM
Catholic Book Blogger
Saint Jerome: Remember the Poor, and Trust God to Provide
Saint Jerome: Submit to the Teaching of the Church
Saint Jerome: Find Your Defense Against Temptation in Scripture
Saint Jerome: Reading Scripture is a Foretaste of Heaven
Against Jovinianus, by Saint Jerome (librivox audio book)
Assorted Letters of Saint Jerome (librivox audio book)
Letters and Select Works, translated by W H Fremantle
Life of Saint Jerome, by Father Fray Jose de Siguenza
Saint Jerome, by Edward L Cutts
Saint Jerome, by Father Largent
Select Letters of Saint Jerome, by Frederick Adam Wright
Pilgrimage of the Holy Paula, by Saint Jerome
In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In exile and prison to which for the fear of hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them: in my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion able to live. Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was. – Saint Jerome’s letter to Saint Eustochium
The measure of our advancement in the spiritual life should be taken from the progress we make in the virtue of mortification; for it should be held as certain that the greater violence we shall do ourselves in mortification, the greater advance we shall make in perfection. – Saint Jerome
If I am to indulge in any of the pleasures of the present life, I am resolved to do it in such a way that the solemn realities of the future Judgment may never be banished from my thoughts. – Saint Jerome
You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard…. But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs? – Saint Jerome from Against Vigilantius, 406
I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: “Search the Scriptures,” and “Seek and you shall find.” For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of the prophet Isaiah in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvelous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Savior of all men. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah. -Jerome: from a commentary on
When the Latin Fathers are represented in a group, Saint Jerome is sometimes in a cardinal‘s dress and hat, although cardinals were not known until three centuries later than his time, but as the other Fathers held exalted positions in the Church, and were represented in ecclesiastical costumes, and as Saint Jerome held a dignified office in the court of Pope Dalmasius, it seemed fitting to picture him as a cardinal. The Venetian painters frequently represented him in a full scarlet robe, with a hood thrown over the head. When thus habited, his symbol was a church in his hand, emblematic of his importance to the universal Church. Saint Jerome is also seen as a penitent, or again, with a book and pen, attended by a lion. As a penitent, he is a wretched old man, scantily clothed, with a bald head and neglected beard, a most unattractive figure. When he is represented as translating the Scriptures, he is in a cell or a cave, clothed in a sombre coloured robe, and is writing, or gazing upward for inspiration. In a few instances, an angel is dictating to him. – from , by Clara Irskine Clement
“Saint Jerome“. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 April 2021. Web. 3 May 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-jerome/>
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Characteristics of St. Jerome's work
- Mary bore children to Joseph after the virginal birth of Jesus Christ;
- from a religious viewpoint, the married state is not inferior to celibacy.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Sean Hyland.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
St. Jerom, Priest and Doctor of the Church
From his epistles and other works, and from other fathers and ancient historians. See Tillemont, t. 12. Ceillier, t. 10, and his life compiled in French by Dom. Martianay, in 4to. in 1706, dedicated to the abbess of Lauzun; and that in Latin by Villarsi, in the Verona edition of his works. Consult also Orsi, l. 18, n. 51, t. 8, p. 113, l. 20, n. 31, t. 9, p. 77. Dolci de rebus gestis S. Hieronymi, 4to. Anconæ, 1750. Stilting, t. 8, Sept. p. 418, 699.
ST. JEROM, who is allowed to have been, in many respects, the most learned of all the Latin fathers, was born, not at Strigonium, now called Gran, situated upon the Danube in Lower Hungary, but at Stridonium, now Sdrigni, a small town upon the confines of Pannonia, Dalmatia, and Italy, near Aquileia. 1 He had a brother much younger than himself, whose name was Paulinian. His father, called Eusebius, was descended from a good family, and had a competent estate; but, being persuaded that a good education is the most precious inheritance that a parent can leave to his children, took great care to have his son instructed in piety, and in the first principles of literature at home, 2 and afterwards sent him to Rome. St. Jerom had there, for tutor, the famous pagan grammarian Donatus, (well known for his commentaries on Virgil and Terence,) also Victorinus the rhetorician, who by a decree of the senate was honoured with a statue in Trajan’s square. 3 In this city he became master of the Latin and Greek tongues, read the best writers in both languages with great application, and made such progress in oratory, that he for some time pleaded at the bar: but being left without a guide, under the discipline of a heathen master, in a school where an exterior regard to decency in morals was all that was aimed at, he forgot the sentiments of true piety, which had been instilled into him in his infancy, neglected sufficiently to restrain his passions, and was full only of worldly views. His misfortune confirms the truth of that important maxim, that though the advantages of emulation and mutual communication in studies be exceeding great with regard to learning, these are never to be purchased with danger to virtue; nor is a youth to be trusted in public schools without the utmost precaution: both that he be under the watchful eye and prudent direction of a person who is sincerely pious and experienced; and that he be linked in society with virtuous companions, whose gravity, inclinations, discourse, and whole deportment and spirit, may be to him a constant spur to all virtue, and a support and fence against the torrent of the world, or of the dangerous example of others. Jerom went out of this school free indeed from gross vices, but unhappily a stranger to a Christian spirit, and enslaved to vanity and the more refined passions, as he afterwards confessed and bitterly lamented.
Being arrived at man’s estate, and very desirous of improving his studies, he resolved upon travelling, in order to further this design. Few means contribute more to give a knowledge of men and the world, and to enlarge a person’s insight in all arts and sciences, and in every branch of useful knowledge, than travelling in polite and learned countries. But for this a maturity of age and judgment is requisite: a foundation must have been first laid of a competent stock of knowledge, at least of the principles of all the arts in which a person seeks to improve himself; otherwise things will present to him only their surfaces or shells, he will see and hear without understanding, and his travels will at least be no more than an idle gratification of vain curiosity. The conversation of the wisest and best persons in every place is to be cultivated; the snares of the world, and all bad company must be watchfully guarded against: and whatever can be any improvement in valuable knowledge must be diligently treasured up; in which even those who are best qualified for making proper observations, will still find much pleasure and great advantage by a guide who is ready and able to point out whatever deserves notice, and to improve, and be himself improved by mutual observations. Virtue being the greatest and most noble of all improvements of the human mind, challenges the first attention of the traveller, who will be able every where to meet with lessons of it in the example, maxims, and instructions of the good, and to learn watchfulness even from the snares of vice. Heroic practices and sentiments of piety, how much soever they are concealed, may be learned almost everywhere, if conversation with the most experienced persons in virtue be sought, and the spirit of God inspire an earnest desire of making such discoveries and improvements. Above all things, in travelling, great fervour and assiduity in all religious exercises is necessary, and frequent meditation must cherish and maintain pious sentiments, and serious reflection digest all the improvements of the mind. Personal duties and circumstances allow few the opportunity of travelling; and either by too much time, a wrong season of life, or a neglect of the necessary rules and conditions, it generally becomes a vicious rambling, and a school of sloth, trifling, and often of all the passions. Most travel so as to unhinge the whole frame of their minds, by living in constant dissipation, so as to verify the motto, that few become by it more holy. As for modish modern travellers, whose chief study is the gratification of their passions, they import home little else but the slanders and impiety of foreign cities, and the vices of the most abandoned rakes, into whose company they most easily fall, in the countries through which they passed. Many ancient philosophers travelled for the sake of acquiring useful science: fervent servants of God have sometimes left their cells (though redoubling their ardour in the practice of penance and recollection) to visit holy men for their own edification and instruction.
St. Jerom in his first journeys was conducted by the divine mercy into the paths of virtue and salvation. A vehement thirst after learning put him upon making a tour through Gaul, where the Romans had erected several famous schools, especially at Marseilles, Toulouse, Bourdeaux, Autun, Lyons, and Triers. This latter was esteemed an imperial city, being in that age frequently honoured with the presence of the emperors, when Rome, by the attachment of many powerful senators to idolatry, and their regret for the loss of their ancient liberty and privileges, was not so agreeable a residence to its princes. The Emperor Gratian, a learned man, and a great lover of learning, who appointed, out of his own revenue, fixed salaries for the public masters of rhetoric, and of the Greek and Latin languages in all great cities, 4 distinguished the schools of Gaul with special favours, and above the rest, those of Triers, to whose professors he granted greater salaries than to those of other cities, and whither he drew Ausonius from Bourdeaux. By prudent regulations he forbade the students of this city to frequent public diversions, or shows in the theatre, or to assist at great banquets or entertainments, and gave other strict orders for the regulation of their manners. Ausonius extols the eloquence and learning of the illustrious Harmonius and Ursulus, professors of eloquence at Triers. 5 It had been St. Jerom’s greatest pleasure at Rome to collect a good library, and to read all the best authors: in this, such was his passion, that it made him sometimes forget to eat or drink. Cicero and Plautus were his chief delight. He purchased a great many books, copied several, and procured many to be transcribed by his friends. 6
He arrived at Triers with his friend Bonosus not long before the year 370, and it was in that city that the sentiments of piety which he imbibed in his infancy, were awakened, and his heart was entirely converted to God; so that renouncing the vanity of his former pursuits, and the irregularities of his life, he took a resolution to devote himself wholly to the divine service, in a state of perpetual continence. 7 From this time his ardour for virtue far surpassed that with which he had before applied himself to profane sciences, and he converted the course of his studies into a new channel. Being still intent on enriching his library, he copied at Triers, St. Hilary’s book On Synods, and his Commentaries on the Psalms. 8Having collected whatever he could meet with in Gaul to augment his literary treasure, he repaired to Aquileia, where at that time flourished many eminent and learned men. St. Valerian, the bishop, had entirely cleared that church of Arianism, with which it had been infected under his predecessor, and had drawn thither so many virtuous and learned men, that the clergy of Aquileia were famous over all the western church. With many of these St. Jerom contracted so great an intimacy, that their names appear often in his writings. Among these, St. Chromatius, who was then priest, succeeded St. Valerian in the episcopal dignity, whose death happened in 387, on the 26th of November, as Fontanini demonstrates. 9 To St. Chromatius St. Jerom afterwards dedicated several of his works. This great bishop died on the 2nd of December, about the year 406. 10 Among the other eminent clergymen of Aquileia at that time are reckoned St. Chromatius’s two brothers, Jovinus, the archdeacon, and Eusebius, deacon; Heliodorus (who was ordained bishop of Antino before the death of St. Valerian) and his nephew Nepotian; Nicetas, subdeacon, and Chrysogonus, a monk. It appears from the Chronicle and Letters of St. Jerom, that Heliodorus, Nepotian, Nicetus, and Florentius were also monks. The monastic state had been introduced in Italy by St. Athanasius, during his exile there, as St. Jerom testifies. 11 Cardinal Noris observes, that he made a long stay at Aquileia. 12 By that great saint’s account of the lives of St. Antony, and other monks in Egypt, many were excited to imitate them, and a great monastery was founded in Aquileia, which the learned Fontanini calls the first in Italy, though others think St. Eusebius of Vercelli, upon his return from the East, had built one in his own city before this. Others were soon after erected at Rome, Milan, and other places. When St. Athanasius committed to writing the life of St. Antony, he mentions, that there were then several monasteries in Italy.
Tyranius Rufinus, famous first for his friendship, and afterwards for his controversies with St. Jerom, entered himself a monk at Aquileia, in 370, as is clear both from his own and St. Jerom’s works. 13 He was a native of Concordia, not the city of that name near Mirandola, but a small town in the territory of Aquileia, where during the residence of St. Jerom in that city, he was baptized in the great church by St. Valerian; St. Chromatius, Jovinus, and Eusebius assisting, whom, on this account, Rufinus afterwards calls his three fathers or sponsors; 14 one being sponsor at catechism, another at baptism, and a third at confirmation. This testimony confutes the mistake of Dom Martenne, 15 and Gerard Maestricht, who imagine that anciently no more than one sponsor was ever admitted for the same person. 16 St. Jerom shut himself up in this monastery at Aquileia for some time, that he might with greater leisure and freedom pursue his studies, in the course of which he was closely linked in friendship with Rufinus, and with great grief saw himself, by some unknown accident, torn from his company. 17 From what quarter this storm arose is uncertain; though it seems to have come from his own family; for he mentions, that paying his friends a visit, he found his sister had been drawn aside from the path of virtue. He brought her to a deep sense of her duty, and engaged her to make a vow of perpetual continency; in which affair he probably met with those difficulties which obliged him, for the sake of his own peace, to leave that country: his aunt Castorina, about the same time, vowed her continency to God.
St. Jerom returned to Rome, resolving to betake himself wholly to his studies and retirement. In his letters to Pope Damasus he testifies that he received at Rome the sacrament of regeneration: Tillemont thinks this happened after his return from Aquileia, because the saint tells us that his merciful conversion to God happened when he resided near the Rhine. 18 But Martianay and Fontanini more probably maintain that he was baptized before he left Rome to go into Gaul, though it was only at Triers that he engaged himself by vow to serve God in a state of perpetual continency. Experience soon convinced him that neither his own country nor Rome were fit places for a life of perfect solitude, at which he aimed, wherefore he resolved to withdraw into some distant country. Bonosus, his countryman and relation, who had been the companion of all his studies and travels from his infancy, did not enter into his views on this occasion, but retired into a desert island on the coast of Dalmatia, and there led a monastic life. Evagrius, the celebrated priest of Antioch, who was come into the West upon the affairs of that church, offered himself to our saint to be his guide into the East; and Innocent, Heliodorus, and Hylas (who had been a servant of Melania) would needs bear him company. They crossed Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Cilicia. Wherever he came he visited the anchorets and other persons of eminent sanctity, whose conversation might afford him instruction and edification. At that time many such flourished in the East, especially in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Rufinus names among those whose blessing he received in Egypt the two Macariuses, Isidore in Sceté, Pambo in the Cells, Pœmen and Joseph in Pisphir or the Mountain of Antony. St. Jerom reckons among them Amos, Macarius the disciple of Antony, &c. Amongst other holy rules which they observed, he takes notice in his letter to Rusticus, that the monasteries of Egypt were wont to admit none who did not follow some manual labour, not so much for the necessity of their subsistence as for the sanctification of their souls.
Being arrived at Antioch, St. Jerom made some stay in that city to attend the lectures of Apollinaris, who had not yet openly broached his heresy, and then read comments upon the scriptures with great reputation. St. Jerom had carried nothing with him but his library, and a sum of money to bear the charges of his journey. But Evagrius, who was rich, supplied him with all necessaries, and maintained several amanuenses to write for him and assist him in his studies. The saint having spent some time at Antioch, went into a hideous desert, lying between Syria and Arabia, in the country of the Saracens, where the holy abbot Theodosius received him with great joy. This wilderness took its name from Chalcis, a town in Syria, and was situated in the diocess of Antioch. Innocent and Hylas soon died in this desert, and Heliodorus left it to return into the West; but Jerom spent there four years in studies, and the fervent exercises of piety. In this lonely habitation he had many fits of sickness, but suffered a much more severe affliction from violent temptations of impurity, which he describes as follows: 19 “In the remotest part of a wild and sharp desert, which being burnt up with the heats of the scorching sun, strikes with horror and terror even the monks who inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and assemblies of Rome. I loved solitude, that in the bitterness of my soul, I might more freely bewail my miseries, and call upon my Saviour. My hideous emaciated limbs were covered with sackcloth; my skin was parched dry and black, and my flesh was almost wasted away. The days I passed in tears and groans, and when sleep overpowered me against my will, I cast my wearied bones, which hardly hung together, upon the bare ground, not so properly to give them rest, as to torture myself. I say nothing of my eating and drinking: for the monks in that desert, when they are sick, know no other drink but cold water, and look upon it as sensuality ever to eat any thing dressed by fire. In this exile and prison, to which, for the fear of hell, I had voluntarily condemned myself, having no other company but scorpions and wild beasts, I many times found my imagination filled with lively representations of dances in the company of Roman ladies, as if I had been in the midst of them. My face was pale with fasting; yet my will felt violent assaults of irregular desires: In my cold body, and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, concupiscence was able to live; and though I vigorously repressed all its sallies, it strove always to rise again, and to cast forth more violent and dangerous flames. Finding myself abandoned, as it were, to the power of this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was. I often joined whole nights to the days, crying, sighing, and beating my breast till the desired calm returned. I feared the very cell in which I lived, because it was witness to the foul suggestions of my enemy: and being angry and armed with severity against myself, I went alone into the most secret parts of the wilderness, and if I discovered any where a deep valley or a craggy rock, that was the place of my prayer, there I threw this miserable sack of my body. The same Lord is my witness, that after so many sobs and tears, after having in much sorrow looked long up to heaven, I felt most delightful comforts and interior sweetness; and these so great, that, transported and absorpt, I seemed to myself to be amidst the choirs of angels; and glad and joyful I sung to God: After thee, O Lord, we will run in the fragrancy of thy celestial ointments.” 20
In this manner does God, who often suffers the fidelity of his servants to be severely tried, strengthen them, by his triumphant grace, and abundantly recompense their constancy. St. Jerom, among the arms with which he fortified himself against this dangerous enemy, added to his corporal austerities a new study, which he hoped would fix his rambling imagination, and, by curbing his will, give him the victory over himself. This was, after having dealt only in polite and agreeable studies, to learn of a converted Jew the Hebrew alphabet, and form his mouth to the uncouth aspirations and difficult pronunciation of that language. “When my soul was on fire with bad thoughts,” says he, 21 writing to the monk Rusticus in 411, “that I might subdue my flesh, I became a scholar to a monk who had been a Jew, to learn of him the Hebrew alphabet: and after I had most diligently studied the judicious rules of Quintilian, the copious flowing eloquence of Cicero, the grave style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny, I inured myself to hissing and broken-winded words. What labour it cost me, what difficulties I went through, how often I despaired and left off, and how I began again to learn, both I myself who felt the burden, can witness, and they also who lived with me. And I thank our Lord, that I now gather sweet fruit from the bitter seed of those studies.” However, he still continued to read the classics with an eagerness and pleasure which degenerated into a passion, and gave him just remorse, it being an impediment to the perfect disengagement of his affections, and the entire reign of God in his heart. Of this disorder he was cured by the merciful hand of God. The saint, in his long epistle to Eustochium, exhorting that virgin, who had embraced a religious state, to read only the holy scriptures and other books of piety and devotion, relates, that being seized with a grievous sickness in the desert, in the heat of a burning fever, he fell into a trance or dream, in which he seemed to himself arraigned before the dreadful tribunal of Christ. Being asked his profession, he answered, that he was a Christian. “Thou liest,” said the judge, “thou art a Ciceronian: for the works of that author possess thy heart.” 22 The judge thereupon condemned him to be severely scourged by angels; the remembrance of which chastisement left a strong impression upon his imagination after his recovery, and gave him a deep sense of his fault. He promised the judge never more to read those profane authors. “And from that time,” says he, “I gave myself to the reading of divine things with greater diligence and attention than I had ever read other authors.” He indeed declares this to have been a dream: 23 nevertheless be looked upon it as a divine admonition, by which he was put in mind of a fault incompatible with the perfection to which every Christian, especially a monk, ought to aspire. From that time he corrected this immoderate passion for reading the classics. 24 Besides interior trials and temptations, St. Jerom met with many persecutions from the world, of which he writes as follows: “Would to God that all the infidels would rise up together against me, for having defended the glory and the name of the Lord! I wish that the whole world would conspire in blaming my conduct, that I may, by this means, obtain the approbation of Jesus Christ. You are deceived if you think that a Christian can live without persecution. He suffers the greatest who lives under none. Nothing is more to be feared than too long a peace. A storm puts a man upon his guard, and obliges him to exert his utmost efforts to escape shipwreck.”
A great schism at that time divided the church of Antioch, some acknowledging Meletius, and others Paulinus, patriarch. The breach was considerably widened when the Apollinarist heretics chose Vitalis, a man of their sect, bishop of that great city. The monks in the desert of Chalcis warmly took part in this unhappy division, and were for compelling St. Jerom to declare to which of these candidates he adhered. Another controversy among them was, whether one or three hypostases were to be acknowledged in Christ. The Greek word hypostasis was then ambiguous, being by some used for nature, by others for person or subsistence; though it is now taken only for the latter. The Arians on one side, and the Sabellians on the other, sought to ensnare the faithful under the ambiguity of this word. Our saint therefore stood upon his guard against their captious artifices, and answered with caution that if Nature was understood by this word, there was but one in God; but if Person, that there were three. Teased, however, by these importunities, and afflicted with a bad state of health, he left his wilderness, after having passed in it four years, and went to Antioch to his friend Evagrius. A little before he left his desert, he wrote two letters to consult St. Damasus, who had been raised to the papal throne at Rome in 366, what course he ought to steer. In the first he says: 25 “I am joined in communion with your holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter; upon that rock I know the church is built. Whoever eats the lamb out of that house is a profane person. Whoever is not in the ark shall perish in the flood. I do not know Vitalis; I do not communicate with Meletius; Paulinus is a stranger to me. Whoever gathers not with you, scatters; that is, he who is not Christ’s, belongs to Antichrist. We ask what this word hypostasis signifies? They say, A subsisting person. We answer, that if that be the meaning of the word, we agree to it. Order me, if you please, what I should do.” This letter was written toward the end of the year 376, or in the beginning of 377. The saint, not receiving a speedy answer, sent soon after another letter to Damasus on the same subject, in which he conjures his holiness to answer his difficulties, and not despise a soul for which Jesus Christ died. “On one side,” said he, “the Arian fury rages, supported by the secular power: on the other side, the church (at Antioch) being divided into three parts, each would needs draw me to itself. All the time I cease not to cry out: ‘Whoever is united to the chair of Peter he is mine.’” 26 The answer of Damasus is not extant: but it is certain that he and all the West acknowledged Paulinus patriarch of Antioch, and St. Jerom received from his hands at Antioch the holy order of priesthood before the end of the year 377; to which promotion he only consented on this condition, that he should not be obliged to serve that or any other church in the functions of his ministry. Soon after his ordination he went into Palestine, and visited the principal holy places situated in different parts of that country, but made Bethlehem his most usual residence. He had recourse to the ablest Jewish doctors to inform himself of all particulars relating to all the remarkable places mentioned in the sacred history, 27 and he neglected no means to perfect himself in the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue. For this he addressed himself to the most skilful among the Jews: one of his masters, by whose instructions he exceedingly improved himself, spoke Hebrew with such gracefulness, true accent, and propriety of expression, that he passed among the Jewish doctors for a true Chaldean. 28
About the year 380, our saint went to Constantinople, there to study the holy scriptures under St. Gregory Nazianzen, who was then bishop of that city. In several parts of his works he mentions this with singular satisfaction, and gratitude for the honour and happiness of having had so great a master in expounding the divine oracles, as that most eloquent and learned doctor. Upon St. Gregory’s leaving Constantinople, in 381, he returned into Palestine. Not long after, he was called to Rome, as he testifies. 29 He went thither in the same year, 381, with St. Paulinus of Antioch and St. Epiphanius, who undertook that journey to attend a council which Damasus held about the schism of Antioch. The two bishops staid the winter in Rome, and then returned into the East; but Pope Damasus detained St. Jerom with him, and employed him as his secretary in writing his letters, in answering the consultations of bishops, and in other important affairs of the church. 30
Our holy doctor soon gained at Rome a universal love and esteem, on account of his religious life, his humility, eloquence, and learning. Many among the chief nobility, clergy, and monks sought to be instructed by him in the holy scriptures, and in the rules of Christian perfection. He was charged likewise with the conduct of many devout ladies, as St. Marcella, her sister Asella, and their mother Albina; Melania the elder, (who is not less famous by the praises of St. Jerom 31 than by those of Rufinus,) Marcellina, Felicitas, Lea, Fabiola, Læta, Paula, and her daughters, with many others. The holy widow, St. Marcella, having lost her husband in the seventh month after her marriage, refused to marry Cerealis, who had been consul, retired to a country-house near Rome, and made choice of a monastic life forty years before this, in 341, under Pope Julius I., when St. Athanasius came to Rome, from whom she received an account of the life of St. Antony, who was then living. She was instructed by St. Jerom in the critical learning of the holy scripture, in which she made great progress, and learned in a short time many things which had cost him abundance of labour. St. Jerom, in one letter, explains to her the ten Hebrew names of God, and the Hebrew words which are adopted in the church office. 32 In another he explains the Ephod and Teraphim, 33 and so in others. St. Marcella died in 412, and St. Jerom wrote her funeral elegy to her spiritual daughter Principia. 34 Lea was at the head of a monastery of virgins whom she instructed more by example than by words. She used to spend whole nights in prayer; her clothes and food were very mean, but free from all affectation or ostentation. She was so humble that she appeared to be the servant of all her sisters, though she had formerly been mistress of a great number of slaves. The church honours her memory on the 22nd of March. St. Jerom wrote her funeral elegy after her death, in 384. 35
Asella was consecrated to God at the age of ten years, and at twelve retired into a cell, where she lay on the ground, and lived upon bread and water, fasting all the year, and being often two or three days without eating, especially in Lent; yet her austerities did not impair her health. She used to work with her hands, and never went abroad, unless it was to visit the churches of the martyrs, and that she did without being seen. Nothing was more cheerful and pleasing than her severity, nor more grave than her sweetness. Her very speech proclaimed her love of recollection and silence, and her silence spoke aloud to the heart. She never spoke to any man unless upon her spiritual necessities; even her sister Marcella could hardly ever see her. Her conduct was simple and regular, and in the midst of Rome she led a life of solitude. She was fifty years old in 384. 36 Fabiola was of the illustrious Fabian family, and, being obliged to be separated from her husband on account of his disorderly conduct, made use of the liberty allowed her by the civil laws, and took a second husband. After his death, finding this was against the laws of the gospel, she did public penance in the most austere and exemplary manner. After this she sold all her estate, and erected an hospital for the sick in Rome, where she served them with her own hands. She gave immense alms to several monasteries, which were built upon the coasts of Tuscany, and to the poor in Italy and Palestine. 37 She died at Rome about the year 400. 38 The most illustrious of the Roman ladies whom St. Jerom instructed, was St. Paula, 39 who engaged him to accept of a lodging in her house during his abode in Rome, that she and her family might more easily have recourse to him for their spiritual direction. He tells us that Marcella, Paula, Blesilla, and Eustochium spoke, wrote, and recited the Psalter in Hebrew as perfectly as in the Greek and Latin tongues. The instruction of these and many other devout persons did not so engross our saint’s time and attention, but he was always ready to acquit himself of all that Pope Damasus recommended to his care, and, by other labours, to render important services to the Catholic church. Pope Damasus died in December 384, and was succeeded by Siricius. The freedom which St. Jerom took in reproving the reigning vices of avarice, vanity, and effeminacy (which invectives several among the clergy took to themselves) raised him many powerful enemies. The authority of Pope Damasus kept them in awe so long as he lived; but after his death, envy and calumny were let loose upon our saint. His reputation was attacked in the most outrageous manner; even his simplicity, his manner of walking, his smiling, and the air of his countenance were found fault with. Neither did the severe and eminent virtue of the ladies who were under his direction, nor the reservedness of his own behaviour screen him from censures. 40 St. Jerom, partly to yield to this persecution of envy, and partly to follow his own strong inclination to solitude, after having staid about three years at Rome, resolved to return into the East, there to seek a quiet retreat. He embarked at Porto in the month of August, in 385, with his young brother Paulinian, a priest called Vincent, and some others, having been attended from Rome to the ship by many pious persons of distinction. Landing at Cyprus, he was received with great joy by St. Epiphanius. At Antioch he visited the bishop Paulinus, who, when he departed, attended him a considerable part of the way to Palestine. He arrived at Jerusalem in the middle of winter, near the close of the year 385, and in the following spring went into Egypt, to improve himself in sacred learning, and in the most perfect practices of the monastic institute. At Alexandria, he, for a month, received the lessons of the famous Didymus, and profited very much by his conversation in 386. 41 He visited the chief monasteries of Egypt; after which he returned into Palestine, and retired to Bethlehem. St. Paula, who had followed him thither, built for him a monastery, and put under his direction also the monastery of nuns, which she founded and governed. St. Jerom was soon obliged to enlarge his own monastery, and for that purpose sent his brother Paulinian into Dalmatia, to sell an estate which he still had there. For, as Sanchez and Suarez remark from this example, anciently private religious men could retain the dominion, or a property in estates, though by their vows they renounced the administration, unless they exercised it by the commission of the abbot. St. Jerom also erected an hospital, in which he entertained pilgrims. It was thought that he could not be further instructed in the knowledge of the Hebrew language; but this was not his own judgment of the matter; and he applied again to a famous Jewish master, called Bar-Ananias, who for a sum of money, came to teach him in the night-time, lest the Jews should know it. 42 Church history, which is called one of the eyes of theology, became a favourite study of our holy doctor. 43 All the heresies which were broached in the church in his time, found him a warm and indefatigable adversary.
Whilst he was an inhabitant of the desert of Chalcis, he drew his pen against the Luciferian schismatics. After the unhappy council of Rimini, in which many orthodox bishops had been betrayed, contrary to their meaning, into a subscription favourable to the Arians, St. Athanasius, in his council at Alexandria, in 362, and other Catholic prelates, came to a resolution to admit those prelates to communion, upon their repentance. This indulgence displeased Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari, a person famous for his zeal and writings against the Arians, in the reign of Constantius. He likewise took offence at the Oriental Catholic bishops refusing to hold communion with Paulinus, whom with his own hands he had consecrated bishop of Antioch, in the place of St. Eustathius. He carried matters so far as to separate himself from the communion of all those who admitted the bishops who had subscribed to the council of Rimini, even after they had made a reasonable satisfaction. This gave rise to his schism, in which he had some few followers at Antioch, in Sardinia, and in Spain. He is not accused of any error in faith. Leaving Antioch, where he had sown the first seeds of his schism, he returned into Sardinia, and died at Cagliari, nine years after, in 371. 44 St. Jerom composed a Dialogue against the Luciferians, in which he plainly demonstrates, by the acts of the council of Rimini, that in it the bishops were imposed upon. In the same work he confutes the private heresy of Hilary, a Luciferian deacon at Rome, that the Arians, and all other heretics and schismatics, were to be rebaptized; on which account St. Jerom calls him the Deucalion of the world. 45
Our holy doctor, whilst he resided at Rome, in the time of Pope Damasus, in 384, composed his book against Helvidius, On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 46 That heretic was an Avian priest, a disciple of the impious Auxentius of Milan, and had wrote a book, in which he broached this error, that Mary did not always remain a virgin, but had other children by St. Joseph, after the birth of Christ. This heresy was also adopted by Jovinian, who having spent his youth at Milan in fasting, manual labour, and other austerities of a monastic state, left his monastery, went to Rome, and there began to spread his errors, which may be chiefly reduced to these four: That they who have been regenerated by baptism with perfect faith, cannot be again vanquished by the devil. That all who shall have preserved the grace of baptism, will have an equal reward in heaven: That virgins have no greater merit before God than married women, if they are equal in other virtues; and, that the Mother of God was not always a virgin: lastly, That abstinence from certain meats is unprofitable. 47 Jovinian lived at Rome in a manner suitable to his sensual principles. Though he still called himself a monk, and observed celibacy, he threw off his black habit, wore fine white stuffs, linen, and silks, curled his hair, frequented the baths and houses of entertainment, and was fond of sumptuous feasts and delicate wines. St. Pammachius and certain other noble laymen, were scandalized at his new doctrine, and having met with a writing of Jovinian, in which these errors were contained, carried it to Pope Siricius, who, assembling his clergy in 390, condemned the same, and cut off Jovinian, and eight others (who are named together as authors of this new heresy) from the communion of the church. Upon this, Jovinian, and the rest who were condemned, withdrew to Milan, and Siricius sent thither the sentence of condemnation he had published against them, with a brief confutation of their errors, so that they were rejected there by every body with horror, and driven out of the city. St. Ambrose also held a council of seven bishops who happened then to be at Milan, in which these errors were again condemned. 48 Two years after this, St. Jerom wrote two books Against Jovinian. 49 In the first, he shows the merit and excellency of holy virginity embraced for the sake of virtue; which he demonstrates from St. Paul, and other parts of the New Testament, from the tradition and sense of the church, from the celibacy of its ministers, and from the advantages of this state for piety, especially for the exercises of prayer, though he grants marriage to be holy in the general state of the world. Jovinian himself confessed the obligation of bishops to live continent, and that a violation of a vow of virginity is a spiritual incest. 50 Our saint, in his second book, confutes the other errors of that heresiarch. Certain expressions in this work seemed to some persons in Rome, harsh, and derogatory from the honour due to matrimony: and St. Pammachius informed St. Jerom of the offence which some took at them. The holy doctor wrote his Apology to Pammachius, sometimes called his third book against Jovinian, 51 in which he shows, from his own book, which had raised this clamour, that he commended marriage as honourable and holy, and protests that he condemns not even second and third marriages. He repeated the same thing in a letter which he wrote to Domnio, about the same time, and upon the same subject. 52
In the year 404, Riparius, a priest in Spain, wrote to St. Jerom, to acquaint him that Vigilantius, a native of Convenæ, now called Comminges, in Gaul, but a priest of Barcelona, depreciated the merit of holy virginity, and condemned the veneration of relics, calling those who paid it idolaters and Cinerarians, or worshippers of ashes. St. Jerom, in his answer, exclaimed loudly against those novelties, and said: “We do not adore the relics of the martyrs; but we honour them that we may adore him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants, that the respect which is paid to them may be reflected back on the Lord.” He prayed Riparius to send him Vigilantius’s book, which he no sooner received, than he set himself to confute it in a very sharp style. 53 He shows, first, the excellency of virginity, and the celibacy of the clergy, from the discipline observed in the three patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. He vindicates the honour paid to martyrs from idolatry, because no Christian ever adored them as gods. Vigilantius complained, that their relics were covered with precious silks. St. Jerom asked him, if Constantius was guilty of sacrilege, when he translated to Constantinople, in rich shrines, the relics of SS. Andrew, Luke, and Timothy, in the presence of which the evil spirits roar? or, Arcadius, when he caused the bones of Samuel to be carried out of Palestine to Thrace, where they were deposited with the greatest honour and solemnity, in a church built in honour of that prophet near the Hebdomon? In order to show that the saints pray for us, St. Jerom saith: “If the apostles and martyrs, being still living upon earth, can pray for other men, how much more may they do it after their victories? Have they less power now they are with Jesus Christ?” He insists much on the miracles wrought at their tombs. Vigilantius said they were for the sake of the infidels. The holy doctor answers, they would still be no less a proof of the power of the martyrs, and, testifying his respect for these relics and holy places, he says of himself: “When I have been molested with anger, evil thoughts, or nocturnal illusions, I have not dared to enter the churches of the martyrs.” He mentions, that the bishops of Rome offered up sacrifices to God over the venerable bones of the apostles Peter and Paul, and made altars of their tombs. He accuseth Eunomius of being the author of this heresy, and says, that if his new doctrine were true, all the bishops in the world would be in an error. He defends the institution of vigils and the monastic state; and says, that a monk seeks his own security by flying occasions and dangers, because he mistrusteth his own weakness, and is sensible that there is no safety if a man sleep near a serpent. St. Jerom often speaks of the saints in heaven praying for us. Thus he entreated Heliodorus to pray for him when he should be in glory, 54 and told St. Paula, upon the death of her daughter Blesille: 55 “She now prayeth the Lord for you, and obtaineth for me the pardon of my sins.”
Our saint was also engaged in a long war against Origenism. Few ever made more use of Origen’s works, and no one seemed a greater admirer of his erudition than St. Jerom declared himself for a considerable time: 56 but finding in the East that several monks and others had been seduced into grievous errors by the authority of his name, and some of his writings, our saint joined St. Epiphanius in warmly opposing the spreading evil. This produced a violent quarrel between him and his old friend Rufinus, after an intimacy of twenty-five years; 57 the latter every where extolling the authority of Origen, and having translated into Latin the most erroneous of all his works, though it afterwards appeared by his conduct that he had no design to favour the pestilential heresies of the Origenists, who denied the eternity of the torments of hell, held the pre-existence of souls, the plurality of worlds succeeding one another to eternity, and other errors. St. Jerom could suffer no heresy to pass without his censure. Being informed by one Ctesiphon, that the errors of Pelagius made great progress in the East, and that many were seduced by them, he wrote him a short confutation thereof in 414. He again handled the same questions in his Dialogue against the Pelagians, which he published in 416. In these dialogues he writes: “I will answer them that I never spared heretics, and have done my utmost endeavours that the enemies of the church should be also my enemies.” 58 He was deeply concerned to hear of the plundering of Rome by Alaric in 410, and of the cruel famine which succeeded that calamity. Many Romans fled as far as Bethlehem, and it was the charitable employment of our saint to entertain them, and give them all possible succour and comfort. He was shocked at the sight of such a number of noble fugitives of both sexes, reduced at once to beggary; after possessing immense riches, now seeking food and shelter, naked, wounded; and still as they wandered about, exposed to the insults of barbarians, who thought them loaded with gold: all these miseries forced tears from the saint’s eyes, whilst he was endeavouring to find means to assist them. When Demetrias, daughter of the consul Olibrius, took the religious veil at Carthage, her mother Juliana, and her grandmother Proba, wrote to St. Jerom, praying him to give her some instructions for her conduct. In order to comply with their request, he wrote her a long letter, in which he directed her how she was to serve God, recommending to her pious reading, the exercise of penance, constant but moderate fasting, obedience, humility, modesty, almsdeeds, prayers at all hours of the day, and working daily with her hands. He would have her rather choose to dwell in a nunnery with other virgins, than to live alone, as at that time some did.
Nothing has rendered the name of St. Jerom so famous as his critical labours on the holy scriptures. For this the church acknowledges him to have been raised by God through a special providence, and particularly assisted from above, and she styles him the greatest of all her doctors in expounding the divine oracles. Pope Clement VIII. scruples not to call him a man, in translating the holy scriptures, divinely assisted and inspired. He was furnished with the greatest helps for such an undertaking, living many years upon the spot, whilst the remains of ancient places, names, customs, which were still recent, and other circumstances, set before his eyes a clearer representation of many things recorded in holy writ than it is possible to have at a great distance of place and time: as the multitude of lizards, and many other circumstances, which still occur in the country where Virgil wrote his Bucolics, paint a lively image of his beautiful similes and allusions, so that the eye seems almost to behold the objects, and the other senses are in like manner struck with them, almost as if they were present. The Greek and Chaldaic were then living languages, and the Hebrew, though it had ceased to be such from the time of the captivity, was not less perfectly understood and spoken among the doctors of the law in its full extent, and with the true pronunciation. It was carefully cultivated in the Jewish academy, or great school of Tiberias, out of which St. Jerom had a master. It is long since become very imperfect, reduced to a small number of radical words, and only to be learned from the Hebrew Bible, the only ancient book in the world extant in that language. Most of the Rabbinical writers are more likely to mislead us in the study of the Hebrew sacred text, than to direct us in it; so that we have now no means to come at many succours which St. Jerom had for this task. 59 Among others, the Hexapla of Origen, which he possessed pure and entire, were not the least; and, by comparing his version with the present remains of those of Aquila, Theodotio, and Symmachus, we find he had often recourse to them, especially to that of Symmachus. 60 Above other conditions, it is necessary that an interpreter of the holy scriptures be a man of prayer and sincere piety. This alone can obtain light and succour from heaven, give to the mind a turn and temper which are necessary for being admitted into the sanctuary of the divine oracles, and present the key. Our holy doctor was prepared by a great purity of heart, and a life spent in penance and holy contemplation, before he was called by God to this important undertaking.
A Latin translation of the Bible was made from the Greek in the time of the apostles, and probably approved or recommended by some of them, especially, according to Rufinus, 61 by St. Peter, who, as he says, sat twenty-five years at Rome. That it was the work of several hands is proved by Mr. Milles, who, during the space of thirty years, examined all the editions and versions of the sacred text with indefatigable application, 62 by Calmet 63 and Blanchini. 64 In the fourth century great variations had crept into the copies, as St. Jerom mentions, so that almost every one differed. 65 For many that understood Greek, undertook to translate anew some part or to make some alterations from the original. 66 However, as Blanchini observes, these alterations seem to have been all grafted upon, or inserted in the first translation: for they seem all to have gone under the name of the Latin Vulgate, or Common Translation. Amongst them one obtained the name of the Italic, perhaps because it was chiefly used in Italy and Rome; and this was far preferable to all the other Latin editions, as St. Austin testifies. To remedy the inconvenience of this variety of editions, and to correct the faults of bold or careless copiers, Pope Damasus commissioned St. Jerom to revise and correct the Latin version of the gospels by the original Greek: which this holy doctor executed to the great satisfaction of the whole church. 67 He afterwards did the same with the rest of the New Testament. 68 This work of St. Jerom’s differs very much in the words from the ancient Italic. It insensibly took place in all the Western churches, and is the Latin Vulgate of the New Testament, which is now everywhere in use. 69 The edition of the Greek Septuagint which was inserted in Origen’s Hexapla, being the most exact extant, St. Jerom corrected by it the ancient Italic of many books of the Old Testament, and twice the Psalter: first by order of Pope Damasus at Rome, about the year 382; and a second time at Bethlehem, about the year 389.
His new translation of the books of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew, made from the original text, was a more noble and a more difficult undertaking. 70 Many motives concurred to engage him in this work; as, the earnest entreaties of many devout and illustrious friends, the preference of the original to any version how venerable soever, and the necessity of answering the Jews, who in all disputations would allow no other. He did not translate the books in order, but began by the books of Kings, and took the rest in hand at different times. This translation of St. Jerom’s was received in many churches in the time of St. Gregory the Great, who gave it the preference. 71 And in a short time after, St. Isidore of Seville wrote that all churches made use of it. 72 They retained the ancient Italic version of the psalter, which they were accustomed to sing in the divine office; but admitted by degrees, in some places the first, in others the second correction of St. Jerom upon the Seventy; and this is printed in the Vulgate Bible, not his translation. The old Italic without his correction is still sung in the church of the Vatican, and in St. Mark’s at Venice. The books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, the two books of the Machabees; the prophecy of Baruch, the epistle of Jeremy, the additions at the end of Esther, and the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Daniel, and the Canticle of the Three Children, are in the ancient Vulgate, because they were not translated by St. Jerom, not being extant in Hebrew or Chaldaic. The rest of the Old Testament in the present Vulgate is taken from the translation of St. Jerom, except certain passages retained from the old Vulgate or Italic. 73
St. Jerom’s translation of the Bible was correctly published by Dom Martianay, under the title of his Sacred Library: this composes the first volume of his works in the Benedictin edition. This saint ascertained the geographical description of ancient Palestine, by translating, correcting, and enlarging Eusebius’s book, On the Holy Places, and by his letters to Dardanus and Fabiola. In several little treatises and epistles he has cleared a great number of critical difficulties relating to the Hebrew text of the Holy Bible. In his Commentaries on the Prophets, he inquires after the sense of the Hebrew text or Truth, as he calls it, to which he scrupulously adheres, though he compares it with all the ancient Greek translations. He adds short allegorical explications, and professes that he sometimes inserts certain opinions and interpretations of Origen and others, without adopting or approving them. His Commentary on St. Matthew he calls only an essay which he wrote in the compass of a few days, to satisfy the importunity of a friend, with an intention to enlarge and improve it when he should have leisure for such an undertaking, which he never found. 74
St. Jerom, towards the end of his life, was obliged to interrupt his studies by an incursion of barbarians, who penetrated through Egypt into Palestine, 75 and, some time after, by the violences and persecutions of the Pelagians, who, after the council of Diospolis, in 416, relying on the protection of John of Jerusalem, sent the year following a troop of seditious banditti to Bethlehem, to assault the holy monks and nuns who lived there under the direction of St. Jerom. 76 Some were beaten, and a deacon was killed by them. The heretics set fire to all the monasteries, and reduced them to ashes. St. Jerom with great difficulty escaped their fury by a timely flight, retiring to a strong castle. The two virgins, St. Eustochium and her niece, the younger Paula, were exposed still to greater dangers, and saw their habitation consumed with fire, and those who belonged to them most barbarously beaten before their faces. After this storm St. Jerom continued his exercises and labours, hated by all enemies of the church, but beloved and reverenced by all good men, as St. Sulpicius Severus, and St. Austin 77 testify. Having triumphed over all vices, subdued the infernal monsters of heresies, and made his life a martyrdom of penance and labours, at length by a fever, in a good old age, he was released from the prison of his body, in the year 420, on the 30th of September. His festival is mentioned in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, and in the Martyrologies of Bede, Usuard, &c. He was buried in a vault at the ruins of his monastery at Bethlehem; but his remains lie at present in the church of St. Mary Major at Rome. St. Jerom made the meditation on death and divine judgments the great employment of his solitude. The following saying is by some ascribed to him: “Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, the dreadful trumpet of the last day seems always sounding in my ears! Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!”
It was equally in a spirit of penance, and of zeal to advance the divine honour, that this holy doctor applied himself with such unwearied diligence to those sacred studies, by which he rendered most eminent services to the church. The commentaries of the ancient fathers on the divine oracles are not all equally useful. Allegorical interpretations, unless pointed out by some inspired writer, serve chiefly to convey that moral instruction which they contain, and to introduce which they have been sometimes employed by great men in familiar discourses to the people. Of all commentaries those are most useful which expound the mysteries of faith, or dwell on and enforce Christian virtues by motives, founded in the literal genuine sense of the sacred writings, in which inspired words the perfect spirit, and, as it were, the marrow of all virtues is contained. It is only by assiduous humble meditation on the sacred text that its unexhausted riches in this respect, concealed in every tittle, can be understood. The admirable comments of St. Chrysostom will be an excellent guide and key; by making some parts of them familiar to us we shall inure ourselves to this method in our application to these sacred studies. We must bring with us that spirit of prayer, and that humble docility by which so many holy doctors have been rendered faithful interpreters of the word of God. The tradition of the church must be our direction. Without an humble submission to this light we are sure to be led astray, and the most learned men who do not stick close to this rule (as experience and the most sacred authority conspire to teach us) tread in the steps of all those whose study of the scriptures has hurt the church instead of serving her, as Dr. Hare, the learned bishop of Chichester, observes. 78 For, says he, “the orthodox faith does not depend upon the scriptures considered in themselves, but as explained by Catholic tradition.” As the solid interpretation of the sacred books is founded in the genuine and literal sense, to give this its fullest extent and force in every particle, the aid of sober criticism is to be called in; in which, among the Latin fathers, no one equals St. Jerom. But then his moderation must be imitated. What can be more absurd than that, in explaining the oracles of God, their end should be forgotten, and kept out of sight; that interpreters should stop at the shell, and spend all their time in grammatical and critical niceties, and make the divine truth an object of idle amusement and curiosity, or a gratification of foolish sinful vanity in displaying an empty show of philosophical learning, and insignificant criticism? This is the case of many huge volumes of modern commentators, in which Christ and virtue are scarcely named in the pretended expositions of those divine oracles which point out nothing but them. This made Mr. Reeves, an ingenious Protestant divine, say: the example of St. Jerom shows that criticism was not neglected by the fathers in interpreting and vindicating the holy scriptures: but they were chiefly solicitous in beautifully applying the types, figures, and prophecies, in setting forth Christ, and in bringing men to him. Whereas the learned Grotius and many other moderns are so jejune and empty, and so strangely sparing upon our Lord’s divinity, &c. that, upon comparison, there seems to me, says this author, as much difference between the ancients and some moderns, as between a man himself and his clothes stuffed with straw.
Francisco Ribalta, Saint Jérôme, vers 1625, Musée des Beaux Arts de Valence
Note 1. St. Jerom tells us, that it was not in Illyricum or Dalmatia; some Italians have pretended that it was in Italy; but it seems certainly to have stood in Pannonia. St. Prosper tells us, in his Chronicle, that this great doctor died in 420, lived ninety-one years, and consequently was born in 329; which is adopted by Dr. Cave and Fleury. Martianay places his birth in 331. Tillemont, with Baronius and Dolci, gathers from what the saint hath written of himself, and from the circumstances of his life, that he was more probably born in 342, and lived only seventy-eight years. [back]
Note 2. Dolci proves from several passages of St. Jerom that his native language was the Illyrican, not the Latin. Whence he says, l. 2, adv. Rufin. that he was worn out almost from his cradle with the labour of learning the Latin tongue. [back]
Note 3. St. Jerom tells us that after he had gone through the study of rhetoric, he prepared himself by Porphyry’s Introduction for the Study of Logic, and that he studied the logical books of Aristotle. He mentions, that whilst he was a young student at Rome, he used on Sundays to visit, with his school-fellows, the cemeteries of the martyrs, or catacombs, which he describes, l. 12, in c. 40. Ezech. p. 979, 980: “When a boy I studied the liberal arts at Rome, I was wont to make a round to visit the tombs of the apostles and martyrs, with others of the same age and inclinations, and often to descend into the caves which are dug deep into the earth, and have for walls on each side the bodies of those that are interred there.” [back]
Note 10. St. Chromatius, in eighteen homilies upon St. Matthew’s gospel, still extant, expounds the Lord’s Prayer, and recommends alms-deeds, fasting, and other virtues. His words are well chosen, his notions just, and his reflections useful. These eighteen homilies are in most editions corruptly printed in one, or as three treatises. See Ceillier, t. 10, p. 86. Fontanini, Hist. Liter. Aquil. l. 3, c. 4, p. 133. Sollier the Bollandist, ad diem 17, Aug. Henricus Palladius, l. 9, Annal. Forojul. [back]
Note 16. Du Pin, (Bib. t. 3,) Ceillier, (t. 10, p. 2,) and some others, by mistake, say, Rufinus was baptized in a chapel of the monastery. But it is certain that he received that sacrament in the cathedral, as Fontanini demonstrates, (l. 4, c. 1, p. 157,) nor was baptism ever solemnly administered but in cathedrals and parochial churches. Bertoli (Antichita d’Aquileia, p. 360,) describes in the chapel of St. Jerom, in the cathedral of Aquileia, a very old monument erected in memory of Rufinus being baptized in that place, though the name of St. Jerom has been substituted by some modern hand in the place of that of Rufinus. St. Jerom expressly says in two letters to Pope Damasus, that he put on the garment of Christ at Rome, which always means baptism. See Baronius ad ann. 57, and Jos. Vicecomes de ant. baptismi ritibus, l. 3, c. 6. [back]
Note 24. The fault consisted not in the eloquence of style, which St. Jerom proposed to himself, but in an excessive or passionate fondness for that profane study. When Kufin objected that he had broken his oath in still reading the profane classical authors, he answers that he could not blot out of his memory what he had before read, but had not opened any such books; though the oath was only a dream. In his comments on the Epistle to the Galatians, (l. 3,) he tells Paula and Eustochium that they well knew that he had not then opened Tully, Ovid, or any other pagan author of polite literature for fifteen years past, and that when anything of them occurred to his mind, in discourse, he remembered it as a dream which was passed. [back]
Note 38. Several letters of this holy doctor to those ladies or other devout persons, contain excellent advice and instructions for various states and conditions. Heliodorus, having left him in the desert of Chalcis in Syria to return home to Rome, St. Jerom wrote him a most eloquent letter to conjure him to come back to his retirement. He uses tender reproaches. “Nice soldier,” says he, “what are you doing in your father’s house? Remember that day wherein you listed yourself a soldier of Christ; then you took an oath of fidelity to him. Though your little nephew should hang about your neck—though your mother should tear her hair—though your father should lie down on the threshold of the door to stop you, step over your father, and follow the standard of the cross with dry eyes. It is great mercy to be cruel on such occasions. You are mistaken, brother, if you suppose that a Christian can be without persecution; he is then most violently assaulted when he thinks himself most secure.—You will say, clergymen live in cities. God forbid that I should speak evil of those who succeed the apostles, who consecrate the body of Jesus Christ with their holy mouths, who make us Christians, and who, holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven in their hands, judge, if I may so say, before the day of judgment.” He shows the difference between the states of a priest and of a monk, and deters him from consenting to be assumed into the clergy, because, though a worthy priest acquires a greater degree of perfection, “it is not the ecclesiastical dignity that makes good Christians. It is not easy for all men to have St. Paul’s graces, or St. Peter’s sanctity.” He eloquently extols the happiness of holy penance and solitude, in which heaven is open to us. Heliodorus determined to return to the desert; but, being ordained priest, was obliged to serve the church at Rome. His nephew, Nepotian, being a young ecclesiastic, St. Jerom wrote to him excellent rules for the conduct of a clergyman; as, 1. That Christ alone be his portion, so that in his heart he possess nothing but the Lord; and that though he live by the altar, he ought to be content with food and raiment, esteeming all the rest the portion of pilgrims and the poor. 2. That he never let women come near his house, or at least but seldom; have no familiarity with virgins consecrated to God; and either be acquainted with none, or love all equally, and never dwell in the same house with any. “Trust not your past chastity,” says he, “you are neither holier than David, nor stronger than Samson, nor wiser than Solomon. Visit not women alone; speak not with them face to face.” He forbids making feasts for laymen; recommends charity, prudence, discretion, modesty, and sobriety; but would have no excess in fasts. He strictly charges the clergyman not to have an itching tongue or ears, and that he never desire to be invited to dinner; and that, when he is invited, he seldom go, &c. Nepotian dying soon after this, St. Jerom wrote his panegyric to his uncle Heliodorus, then bishop of Altino, in which he draws an elegant portraiture of the shortness and uncertainty of life, commends the diligence and devotion of the deceased in adorning the chapels and altars of martyrs with flowers, &c. and comforts Heliodorus with the assurance that his nephew was then with Christ, in the company of the saints, (p. 283.
Rusticus, a native of Marseilles, and a monk, but living at Rome, having begged his advice, the saint gave him directions how to serve God in the monastic state. He recommends watchfulness and constant fervour, assiduity in manual labour, reading, meditation upon the scriptures, prayer, obedience, chastity, and fasting. He prefers the cenobitical life to that of hermits, as more secure, and would have persons live first in some religious community before they commence hermits. He says that it was a rule in the monasteries in Egypt to admit no one who could not or would not ply manual labour, not so much to gain a subsistence as to prevent bad thoughts, and avoid idleness. In singing the divine office the voice is not so much considered as the affection of the heart. “No art,” says he, “is learned without a master, much less that of salvation. Serve your brethren, wash the feet of strangers, be silent when you suffer wrong,” &c. He lays down humility and patience as a great means to overcome temptations, which he confirms by the following example: A young Greek who lived in a monastery in Egypt, was troubled with violent temptations of the flesh, and neither assiduous labour nor the most severe abstinence, strengthened by fervent prayer, delivered him from the annoyance of this dreadful enemy. His superior, to whom he disclosed his danger, gave privately orders to a certain grave companion to haunt him every where with the most reviling taunts and reproaches, and then to come and complain to the abbot against him, as if he had done the injury. When a year had passed in this manner, the young man was asked whether his former temptations still gave him any trouble? To this he answered: “Father, I have much ado to live, much less can any thoughts of pleasure infest my mind.” Rusticus was then returning to Gaul. Wherefore St. Jerom bids him govern himself by the admonitions of two holy bishops, that he might never decline on either side, or forsake the king’s highway. These were Proculus, the most religious and learned bishop of Marseilles, and Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse. Of the latter he says: “This holy prelate imitates the widow of Sarepta: he feeds others, and fasts himself; nothing but the hunger and wants of other men trouble him. He has given all his estate to the poor, yet no one is richer than he. He carries the body of our Lord Jesus Christ in an osier basket, and his precious blood in a glass vessel.—Follow the steps of this good bishop and other saints, whom the pastoral dignity has made poorer and more humble. If you would embrace a state more perfect, get out of your own country, as Abraham did; leave your kingdom; if you have any goods, sell them, and distribute the price to the poor. Strip yourself of all things to follow only Jesus Christ. ‘Nudum Christum nudus sequere.’ It is hard, I confess, it is great and difficult; but the recompence is infinite.” On the rules which this saint prescribed to holy virgins, see the life of St. Eustochium. His letters to widows usually contain strong exhortations to a retired penitential devout life, to which their condition particularly invites them. He speaks with great warmth against second marriages; though he grants them to be lawful, and without sin.
Among this father’s letters of spiritual advice, there is not perhaps a more useful one than that which he wrote to Læta, wife of Toxotius, St. Paula’s son. It contains rules for the education of her little daughter, St. Paula the Younger, whom her grandmother designed for a religious life with her at Bethlehem. Her grandfather was a priest of Jupiter; but the rest of their family were Christians. St. Jerom exhorts them to convert him by their regularity, modesty, and virtuous deportment; a motive too strong for malice itself to resist. “I am persuaded,” says he, “that Jupiter himself might have believed in Jesus Christ, had he had such an alliance and family as yours.” St. Jerom puts Læta in mind that she had obtained her daughter of God at the tombs of the martyrs, only that she might be brought up to serve him. As to her education, he lays down the following rules: “Let her be brought up as Samuel was, in the temple; and the Baptist, in the desert, in utter ignorance of vanity and vice. Let her never hear, learn, or discourse of anything but what may conduce to the fear of God. Let her never hear bad words, nor learn profane songs; but, as soon as she can speak, let her learn some parts of the psalms. No rude boys must come near her; nor even girls or maids, but such as are strangers to the maxims and conversation of the world. Let her have an alphabet of little letters made of box or ivory, the names of all which she must know, that she may play with them, and that learning be made a diversion. When a little older, let her form each letter in wax with her finger, guided by another’s hand; then let her be invited, by prizes and presents suited to her age, to join syllables together, and to write the names of the patriarchs down from Adam. Let her have companions to learn with her, that she may be spurred on by emulation, and by hearing their praises. She is not to be scolded or browbeaten, if slower, but to be encouraged, that she may rejoice to surpass, and be sorry to see herself outstripped and behind others, not envying their progress, but rejoicing at it, and admiring it, whilst she reproaches her own backwardness. Great care is to be taken that she conceive no aversion to studies, lest their bitterness remain in riper years. Let the words which she learns be chosen and holy, such as the names of the prophets and apostles. Let her run down the genealogies from Adam, that even in this a foundation be prepared for her memory hereafter. A master must be found for her, who is a man both of virtue and learning: nor will a great scholar think it beneath him to teach her the first elements of letters, as Aristotle did Alexander the Great. That is not to be contemned without which nothing great can be acquired. The very sound of letters and the first documents are very different in a learned and in an unskilful mouth. Care must be taken that she be not accustomed by fond nurses to pronounce half words, or to play in gold and purple: the first would prejudice her speech, the second her virtue. Great care is necessary that she never learn what she will have afterwards to unlearn. The eloquence of the Gracchi derived its perfection from the mother’s elegance and purity of language; and that of Hortensius was framed from his father’s breast. What young minds imbibe is scarcely ever to be rooted out, and they are disposed sooner to imitate defects and vices than virtues and good qualities. Alexander, the conqueror of the world, could never correct the faults in his gait and manners, which he had learned in his childhood from his master Leonides. She must have no nurse or maid of light carriage, or who is talkative, or a tippler. When she sees her heathen grandfather, let her leap on his breast, hang about his neck, and sing in his ears Alleluia. Let her be amiable to all, but she must be apprized early that she is to be the spouse of Christ. No paint must ever touch her face or hair, to forebode the flames of hell.”
Prætextata, wife of Hymetius, the uncle of Eustochium, by his orders, changed her dress and face, to endeavour to overcome her resolution of living a virgin; but an angel that same night said to her in her sleep, “Thou hast preferred the commands of thy husband to those of Christ, and presumed to touch the head of God’s virgin with thy sacrilegious hand, which shall this moment wither, and, after five months, thou shalt die, and unless thou repentest, be dragged to hell. If thou perseverest in thy crime, thou shalt also lose thy husband and children.” The event showed repentance came too late to avert the threat as to this world. Heli offended God by his children. (1 Reg. 1 et 4.) He cannot be made a bishop who has vicious children, (1 Tim. iii.) and a woman is to be saved by her virtuous children. (ib.) “If the faults of grown up age be imputed to parents, much more are those of an age which knows not the right hand from the left. If you are solicitous your daughter should not be bit by a viper, how much more that she be not hurt by the poison of all the earth; let her not drink of the golden cup of Babylon, nor go abroad with Dina to see the daughters of the world. Let her never play with her feet, nor learn any levity or vanity. Poisons are only given disguised in honey, and vices never deceive but when presented under the appearance of virtues.”
He adds advice, when she should be grown up, that she never stir out but with her parents, and tremble at the sight of a man, as the Blessed Virgin did at that of an angel in the appearance of a man; that she be usually to be found in the church or her chamber; never join with other girls in noisy plays, and never go to great banquets, for it is securer for temperance never to know what the palate might crave. He will have her drink no wine, unless a little mixed with water, and that only in her tender years. He prescribes that she be utterly ignorant of the very use of musical instruments; that she learn, first Greek, then Latin, her native language, which he would have cultivated from her infancy with the greatest correctness; for barbarism and faults then learnt are scarcely ever to be corrected. He lays down, as capital rules, that she never see anything in her father or mother which it would be a fault for her to imitate; and that she never go out, but with her mother, to the church or tombs of the martyrs. He adds, that she must read, pray, and work by turns the whole day, rise at night to prayer, recite the psalms, and be exact to the hours of the divine office, matins, tierce, sext, none, and vespers. She should learn to spin, weave, and make clothes, but only such as are modest, never fine ones, or such wherewith bodies clothed are made the more naked. Her food must be chiefly roots and herbs, sometimes a little fish: but she should eat so as always to be hungry, and to be able to read or sing psalms immediately after meals. He says, “The immoderate long fasts of many displease me. I have learned, by experience, that the ass too much fatigued in the road seeks rest at any rate. In a long journey strength must be supported, lest, by running the first stage too fast, we should fall in the middle. In Lent full scope is to be given to severe fasting, but more in seculars, who, like shell-fish, have their juice laid up to live on, than in those whose life is a perpetual fast. All baths displease me in a grown up virgin; though she be alone, she ought to blush at herself, and not bear to see any part of her own body naked.” He allows bathing sometimes in children. He advises that a person first learn the psalter, and sing it; that then by reading the Proverbs she study the precepts of virtue; next, by Ecclesiastes, she learn to despise the world; and learn by Job patience and piety; that after this she pass to the Gospels; (which are to be always in her hands;) next, to the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles; then get by heart the Prophets and the historical books; and, last of all, venture to take in her hands the book of Canticles, which she will be then prepared to understand in a spiritual sense. He adds, she may be conversant in the works of St. Cyprian, and may run over, without danger of error, the epistles of St. Athanasius, and the writings of St. Hilary. He desires Læta, if it were difficult to practise these lessons at Rome, to send the girl to her grandmother Paula, and her aunt Eustochium at Bethlehem, where her piety and education would be more secure; and he promises to be himself her master and tutor; adding, he should be more honoured by teaching a spouse of Christ, who is one day to be raised to heaven, than the philosopher was in being preceptor to the Macedonian king, who was soon to perish by Babylonian poison. Læta followed his advice. St. Paula the Younger being sent to Bethlehem, consecrated herself to Christ in her grandmother’s monastery, and seems, by the life of St. Martinian, to have been afterwards the foundress and abbess of a new nunnery there. Læta imitated at Rome the excessive charity to the poor, and other extraordinary virtues of her mother-in-law; and some time after this, embraced a state of perpetual continency; as St. Jerom testifies in his epitaph of Paula. Toxotius, who was then living, must have taken upon him a like engagement. [back]
Note 41. Didymus, as St. Jerom, Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, Palladius, Theodoret, and others assure us, lost his sight by a humour which fell upon both his eyes in his infancy, when he just began to learn the alphabet. Nevertheless, he afterwards got the letters of the alphabet cut in wood, and learned to distinguish them by the touch. With the assistance of hired readers and copiers, he became acquainted with almost all authors sacred and profane, and acquired a thorough knowledge of grammer, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and chiefly a knowledge of the holy scriptures, so that he was esteemed a kind of prodigy. He added prayer to study, and St. Athanasius, and other great men, so highly approved his learning and piety, that the great school at Alexandria was committed to his care. He was born about the year 308, and lived fourscore and five years. He composed commentaries on the scriptures, and several other works, which are lost. His book on the Holy Ghost against the Macedonians is extant in St. Jerom’s Latin translation. We have also his treatise against the Manichees, published in Greek and Latin by Combefis in Auctar. in Latin only in the libraries of the Fathers, t. 4, in Canisius, t. 5, &c. His short Enarrations on the Canonical Epistles are extant, Bibl. Patrum. See Fabricius, Bibl. Græc. t. 8.
There never seems to have been a more wonderful example of a learned blind man than Didymus. He who reads in Homer the most lively and beautiful images of all the objects of nature and art, must be himself blind in his understanding, if he believes the author could have been blind from his cradle. We have the English poems of Thomas Blacklock, the blind Scotsman, who was born at Annan, in 1721, and entirely lost his eyesight by the smallpox, when but six months old. In these we may agreeably trace the ideas which a blind man is capable of forming of all visible objects. A late extraordinary instance of a sagacious blind man, was Dr. Saunderson, who was born in 1682, and died at Cambridge in 1739. When twelve months old, he was deprived not only of his sight, but also of his eyes, by an abscess formed in both of them by the smallpox. He succeeded Mr. Cotes in the Plumian professorship of astronomy and mathematics at Cambridge, and his treatise of Algebra, in two vols. 4to. and other works, are monuments of his learning. But this lay in abstract sciences, and he knew corporeal objects only by the feeling. The late Dr. Richard Lucas composed, in a state of darkness, his famous Inquiry after Happiness; but only lost his sight in the middle age of life. Yet complains that the eyes or sense of others, by which he was obliged to learn, were instruments or organs as ill fitted, and as awkwardly managed by him, as wooden legs and hands by the maimed. Walkup, and the truly pious and eminent F. Le Jeune, called Père Jean l’Aveugle, are instances of the same kind; but not to be compared with the great Didymus. [back]
Note 43. St. Jerom compiled, in 392, his most useful Catalogue of illustrious men, or Ecclesiastical writers, in one hundred and thirty-five chapters. Before this, whilst he was at Constantinople, in 380, he translated into Latin the great chronicle of Eusebius, with some additions and corrections, and continued it down to that year. This work is the more valuable treasure, as the greater part of Eusebius’s Greek original is lost. Joseph Scaliger pretended to restore it; but imposed upon the world, under this title, scraps purloined from Cedrenus, George Syncellus, and other Greek chronologists, without any marks of distinction. That morose critic, who never gave himself time to digest by reflection what he devoured by reading all authors he could come at in every science, fell short in judgment of his father Julius, who had read much less, but thought more. His peevish censoriousness, a mark of intolerable pride, is a dishonour to learning, and to human nature.
To return to St. Jerom; he wrote the life of St. Paul the first hermit whilst he lived in the desert of Chalcis, about the year 380: that of St. Hilarion before the year 392; and that of Malchus about the year 390. St. Malchus was born in the eastern part of Syria, thirty miles from Antioch, and led an anchoretical life in the desert of Chalcis, till going home to sell an estate that was fallen to him, in order to dispose of the price in alms, he was carried away captive by a troop of Ismaelites or Saracens, and fell to the lot of one who employed him in keeping sheep. This condition delighted him exceedingly, and he prayed and sung psalms continually. He was compelled to take to wife a Christian woman, who was a fellow-slave; but both agreed privately to live in perpetual continence, and kept a greater reservedness towards each other than even a brother and sister would have done. They at length made their escape through grievous dangers; and she ended her life in a house of holy virgins. Malchus served God according to the rules of his monastic state, near Maronia, which was the place of his birth. St. Jerom, who knew him in this place, in his decrepit old age, extols his extraordinary assiduity and fervour in prayer, and proposes as a model his constancy in preserving chastity in the midst of swords, deserts, and wild beasts, he being ready rather to die than to violate his vow, showing by his example, that a person consecrated to Christ may be killed, but cannot be conquered. [back]
Note 57. Tyrannius Rufinus coming from Aquileia to Rome, in 370, with an intent to go into the East, found there Melania, bent upon the same journey, she having lost her husband (who was of the most illustrious family of the Valerii) and two sons within the space of one year, in the twenty-second year of her age. She left behind her a little son called Publicola, who was the person of that name that afterwards corresponded with St. Austin, according to Tillemont and Fontanini. She went to Egypt with Rufinus in 372, as Fontanini shows, (not after Rufinus, as Rosweide, &c. imagine,) and having spent there six months in visiting the monasteries and anchorets, travelled to Jerusalem, and there led a religious life. Rufinus leaving her at Jerusalem returned to Egypt; and staid there six years; after which he joined Melania again at Jerusalem. (S. Jer. ep. 21, alias 15, ad Marcellam.) St. Paulinus and others exceedingly extol the virtues of this lady. St. Jerom from Chalcis most affectionately congratulated Rufinus upon his arrival in Egypt. (ep. 1, alias 41, ad Rufinum.) At Jerusalem, Rufinus, and several other monks who put themselves under his direction, lived in separate cells which he erected upon Mount Olivet: Melania squared her life by his direction, in a nunnery which she founded at Jerusalem; and, for twenty-seven years, entertained charitably all pilgrims and the poor, as Palladius testifies. Rufinus was ordained priest by John, bishop of Jerusalem, soon after the year 387.
St. Jerom coming to settle at Bethlehem in 388, spent first a considerable time with Rufinus on Mount Olivet, and cultivated his friendship till the dispute about Origen’s doctrine produced, first a coldness, and, soon after, a violent disagreement between them. The first seeds of this quarrel were sown when one Aterbius having accused St. Jerom and Rufinus of Origenism, the former cleared himself by condemning the doctrine of Origen, but the latter refused to do it. (S. Hier. Apol. l. 3.) Soon after St. Epiphanius arrived at Jerusalem from Cyprus in 394, and lodging for some time with the bishop John, was scandalized at his great attachment to Origen, and could not extort from him a clear condemnation of the heresy of the Origenists; which he therefore began to lay to his charge. Leaving him he went to St. Jerom at Bethlehem, inflamed his zeal against all favourers of Origenism, and ordained his brother Paulinian first deacon, and then priest, in the twenty-eighth year of his age. Rufinus in this dispute adhered to his bishop John. This schism or quarrel continued about three years, but was extinguished by the endeavours of Melania in 397; and Rufinus and St. Jerom publicly joined hands after mass in the holy church of the Resurrection. (Anastasi, not Anastasii, as the new edition has it. St. Jerom Apol. l. 3, p. 466.) St. Jerom was also reconciled with his bishop John, and by his appointment governed the parish of Bethlehem. (S. Sulp. Sever. Dial. 1, c. 4.) His brother Paulinian whom St. Epiphanius took with him after his ordination, was suffered by John to reside and perform priestly functions in the monastery of Bethlehem. Rufinus and John gave satisfaction as to the purity of their faith, but retracted no errors, because they had maintained none. (See Fontanini, p. 190.) Rufinus and Melania made the most eminent saints in Egypt a second visit, in 395, and were present at the death of St. Pambo. Publicola, the son of Melania, prætor of Rome, took to wife Albina, by whom he had St. Melania the Younger, who was married very young to Pinian, whose father had been governor of Italy and Africa. She soon after her marriage obtained the consent of her husband to devote herself to the divine service in a state of continency. To assist her in this resolution Melania the Elder, embarking at Cæsarea with Rufinus, landed in twenty days at Naples, in 397, being then forty-seven years old, not sixty, as Fontanini demonstrates against Fleury. They were received with great joy and distinction by St. Paulinus at Nola.
Rufinus left Melania at Rome, and retired to the monastery of Pinetum, situated on the sea-coast near Terracini, in the Campagna di Roma, as Fontanini shows against Noris and Mabillon. Here, at the earnest request of a nobleman, (who was a monk at Rome, and named Macarius,) he translated into Latin the first book out of the six, of St. Pamphilus’s Apology for Origen, adding a preface in which he endeavoured to show that all the erroneous passages found in any of the writings of that great man, were the interpolations of heretics. Abstracts of the rest of this Apology are found in Photius.
Rufinus soon after, translated Origen’s four books On Principles, the chief source of the errors of the Origenists, though the translator says he corrected several passages. This book raised a great clamour at Rome as if Rufinus attempted to propagate the gross errors contained in it, though propounded only problematically. Rufinus, however, obtained communicatory letters of Pope Siricius, and with them went to Aquileia. Siricius dying on the 26th of November, 398, his successor, Anastasius, sent Rufinus a summons to come to Rome and justify himself; but he excused himself upon weak pretences, and only sent an apology for himself to Anastasius in 400, in which his profession of faith is orthodox, and very explicit, as to the Trinity, the Incarnation, the origin of Spirits, the Eternity of Hell, and other points. St. Jerom, at the entreaty of St. Pammachius and other friends in Rome, wrote both to Rufinus and Pammachius against this translation. Rufinus defended himself by his apology against St. Jerom, divided into two parts, called by modern copiers, his Invectives. In the first part, he chiefly labours to remove all sinister suspicion as to his faith or doctrine; in the second, he objects many things to St. Jerom, chiefly as to his writings. St. Jerom answered him by his Apology, divided also into two books. Rufinus replied by a private letter to St. Jerom, which is lost. St. Jerom answered him by the third book of his Apology, called his Second Apology, which contains little more than a repetition of his former objections. He closes it with these words: “Let us have but one faith; and we shall forthwith be at peace.” The saint’s most material objection is, that Rufinus had not condemned Origen’s Platonic notion of the pre-existence of souls. (Apol. l. 2.) St. Chromatius of Aquileia wrote to St. Jerom exhorting him to peace. Nothing can be more suitable for all persons that are engaged in any contest, than the tender letter which St. Austin sent to St. Jerom on this occasion. (S. Aug. ep. 73.) Nor did St. Jerom any more revive this dispute, to which a zeal for the purity of the faith gave occasion, he being awaked by learned pious friends, and by the indiscreet conduct of Rufinus favourable to errors which had taken deep root in several monasteries.
Baronius, (an. 400,) Noris, (De Hæres. Pelag. l. 1,) Perron, (Rep. au Roy de la Gr. Bret. c. 33,) Pagi, (an. 401, § 16,) Tillemont, (t. 12, p. 242,) and Natalis Alexander, (sæc. 4, c. 6, art. 32,) say Rufinus was excommunicated by Pope Anastasius; but their mistake is clearly confuted by Ceillier, Coutant, and Fontanini. (l. 5, c. 19, p. 420.) It is certain that St. Chromatius of Aquileia, St. Venerius of Milan, St. Petronius of Bologna, St. Gaudentius of Brescia, St. Paulinus of Nola, St. Austin, and others, always treated him with esteem, and as one in the communion of the church. In the letter of Pope Anastasius to John of Jerusalem, the mention of Rufinus’s excommunication, in some editions, is an evident interpolation, omitted by Coutant in his edition of the Decretals, and inconsistent with the rest of the epistle, in which the pope says, he leaves the translator’s intention to God, though he condemns the work, and expresses that he is much dissatisfied with the author. Rome, by a like mistake, have charged Rufinus of Aquileia with Pelagianism; but it is manifest by several circumstances that the Rufinus, who, coming from Palestine to Rome, was the first that instilled that heresy into Celestius, was another person of the same name, who is called by Marius Mercator and Palladius, a Syrian, and survived our author. (See Ceillier and Fontanini.) Tyrannius Rufinus translated several homilies of Origin, and the history of Eusebius with alterations and additions. Of the three books Of the Lives of the Fathers ascribed to Rufinus, in Rosweide, the first was certainly written by him: the second was compiled by him (not by Evagrius of Pontus) from the relation of St. Petronius of Bologna; the third is the work of a later writer; for the death of St. Arsenius, which is mentioned in it, happened thirty years after that of Rufinus. No book of this author has done him so much honour, or the church so much service, as his valuable Exposition of the Symbol or Creed, which he says tradition assures us was composed by the apostles. Rufinus took too great liberty in his translations, nor is he careful or exact in his historical works. After the death of St. Chromatius in 407, he returned to Rome. In 408, when Alaric threatened Rome, he passed with the two Melanias into Sicily, intending to go with the elder back to Jerusalem, but being overtaken by sickness, in a decrepit old age, he died in Sicily, towards the latter end of the year 410. Cardinal Noris and Dr. Cave set Rufinus’s life and writings in the most unfavourable light; Ceillier (t. 10, p. 1,) and the learned Justus Fontanini, archbishop of Ancyra, Hist. Literaria Aquileinsis, l. 5,) &c., draw a fairer portraiture of this famous man. [back]
Note 59. A certain analogy between the Oriental languages anciently spoken in the countries near Chaldæa, makes their general study of some use for understanding the Hebrew: but even this, unless the student stands upon his guard, will be apt to bring in a foreign mixture of those languages, and lead into mistakes in the signification of several words which appear similar, yet have a different meaning or extent, as usually happens in different dialects and ages. The writings of the Rabins are of little service, and most of them of none at all. Their language, though sometimes called Hebrew, is entirely different from the ancient, being a very barbarous Chaldaic, though more pure in the paraphrase of Onkelos on the Pentateuch, which is rather a version than a paraphrase, and its style is so correct as to have some affinity with the Chaldaic in Daniel and Esdras. As to the paraphrase of Jonathan on the first prophets, as they are called by the Jews, (that is, on Josue, Judges, and Kings,) though more diffusive, is in style something a-kin to it. But the six other Targums or paraphrases that are extant, are full of childish fables, and the Chaldaic language, in their writings, is intermixed with Persian, Arabic, Greek, and Latin words: it is purest in the Targum of Jerusalem, so called because written, though in the ages of its degeneracy, in that dialect of the Chaldaic which was spoken by the Jews at Jerusalem after their return from the captivity. On the Targumim or Targums, see Morin. l. 2; Exercit. 8, and Helvicus l. de Paraphras. Chaldaic.
The two Thalmuds, or collections of traditions, seem as old as the sixth century; are first mentioned in the law by which Justinian condemned them. St. Jerom mentions the absurd traditions or [Greek] of the Pharisees. (ep. ad Alg. and in c. 8, Isai.) These traditions containing monstrous fictions and pretended miracles about Moses, &c., were committed to writing by R. Jehuda, surnamed by the Jews, Hakkadosh or the Holy, about the sixth century, and called Mishna or Misna, that is, the second Law
This is the text. The Ghemara or Supplement, is a commentary upon it, and was added soon after. Both together are called the Thalmud, that is, the Doctrine. The Thalmud of Jerusalem is the older; but that of Babylon, compiled by the Rabbins Ase and Jese, in Persia, after the year 700, is most used, and in the greatest esteem among the Jews, the former being obscure and unintelligible. Both abound with blasphemies against Christ, and monstrous fables. For a specimen, see Sixtus Senensis, Bibl. Sanctæ, l. 2, Tit. Thalmud. p. 134. Or, in our own language, Mr. Stephelin’s Rabbinical Literature, printed at Oxford, in 1725. Nevertheless, certain rites, proverbs, and maxims in the Misna, illustrate some old Jewish customs and scriptural allusions. See Mr. Wotton’s Miscellaneous Discourses relating to the traditions and usages of the Scribes and Pharisees, London, 1718. The Caraïtes, so called from Caraï, which signifies a learned man, are a small sect of Jews in the East, mortally hated by the rest. These reject the Thalmud or traditions of the second Law. See Supart’s history of the Caraïtes, at Jena, 1701. Scaliger and the Buxtorfs pretend they are the descendants of the Sadducees; but are certainly mistaken. For the Caraïtes speak well of Spirits, &c. See Rich. Simon, (Crit. du V. Test. l. 1, c. 29,) Lamy, &c. The Thalmudists are posterior to St. Jerom; but he condemned those fictions upon which they grafted their system, and of which the famous R. Akiba, who adhered to Barchochebas in his rebellion under Adrian, (for which he suffered death,) is said to have been the chief author. See Brucker, (Hist. Critica Philos. t. 2, p. 820.)
The Masorete doctors, who flourished at Tiberias after St. Jerom’s death, invented critical rules to preserve the Hebrew text entire; and are said to have specified the number of the verses and words contained in each book. The older Masora was composed before the invention of vowel points, and consists of marginal marks called Keri and Kerib, invented to show how certain words are to be read. The later Masora was made after the invention of the vowel points. Its rules seem entirely useless; those of the former Masora might have been of some service if the Jews had understood or given attention to them. Of the ancient Rabbinical learning nothing is extant but the Masora and the idle dreams of the Thalmud. From the sixth age no learning flourished among the Jews, till studies in the eleventh were revived by an emulation of the Saracen Mussulmans and the Christians, as Morinus, Fleury, and Brucher observe. R. Juda, surnamed Chiug, compiled the first Hebrew dictionary (which he wrote in Arabic characters) about the year 1030. R. Jona composed near the same time a good Hebrew grammar; but neither of these has been printed. A shoal of Rabbinical writers succeeded, whose works are full of idle subtilties, impious fictions and cabalistical or ridiculous mystical interpretations.
Among all the Rabbins very few have written so as to deserve the least notice. These are chiefly Aben-Ezra (who died in 1168) and R. Moses Ben Maimon, called Maimonides, who both flourished at Cordova, but the latter (who made a famous abstract of the Thalmud) died at Grand Cairo in 1205. R. Kimchi (who lived also in the twelfth century) published a very good Hebrew grammar: and R. Elias Levita, a German, who taught Hebrew at Venice and Rome, shows himself in his works generally a good critic. R. Kimchi, and the authors of the Thalmud show at large that the Rabbins learned the signification of many words from the Arabic and other languages by very precarious and uncertain rules. See Morin (Exercit. Bibl. 6, c. 5,) and F. Honore. (Crit. t. 1, Diss. 5, p. 124.) John Forster, a learned German Protestant, says the Jewish Hebrew books and comments have brought more obscurity and error than light and truth in the study of the Hebrew text. (in Diction. Hebraic.) See Calmet’s Diss. sur les Ecoles des Hebreux, p. 22. [back]
Note 69. Lucas Brugensis testifies that he saw in the abbey of Malmedia MS. copy of all St. Paul’s epistles in the ancient Italic version. (Annot. t. 4, par. 2, p. 32.) D. Martianay has published that version of St. Matthew’s gospel, and the epistle of St. James, besides the books of Job and Judith. Four MS. copies of all the gospels in the old Italic version have been found, one at Corbie, a second at Vercelli, (in the handwriting of St. Eusebius, bishop of that city, and martyr,) a third at Brescia, and a fourth at Verona; and have been all accurately printed together by Blanchini at Rome, in 1748, in folio. And we may hope to see the ancient Vulgate or Italic entirely restored. [back]
Note 70. It is certain that no vowel points were known in Hebrew writings in the time of St. Jerom. They were probably invented at Tiberias, about fifty years after his death, by the Jewish doctors, who fixed them as they had learned to read the bible by tradition. The Jews in their synagogues still use bibles without points. The Samaritans have none. Simon (l. 1, c. 2,) thinks the Jews learned them from the Arabs who invented such points for vowels under the caliph Omar I. to ascertain the reading of the Alcoran. The use of these vowels being so modern, they are rejected or changed by critics at discretion; and many now expunge them. See Calmet’s and Vence’s Diss. on the Vowel Points, prefixed to the French comment on Esdras. But by what rules did St. Jerom and the ancient Jews read that language? If they read the scripture by tradition, how did they read unknown writings? How did Joab understand David’s order by letter to contrive the death of Urias? Some think these six consonants supplied the place of vowels, Aleph short a, He short e, Vau u, Jod i, Cheth long e, Ain long a. Mr. Benj. Kennicot (Diss. 1,) says that the Jews, after the invention of vowel points, omitted some of those consonants in their copies of the Bible, and substituted points as equivalent to them, in order to write with more facility. And F. Giraudeau in his Praxis Linguæ Sanctæ (containing a Hebrew Lexicon like the Greek Lexicon of Schrevelius and a grammar,) printed at Rochelle 1757, adds, that where none of these vowel letters occur, o is to be understood. Thus [Hebrew] (Jer. ix. 22,) is read by St. Jerom, dabber, that is, speak, by some dabar, that is, a speech, by others deber, that is, death or pestilence; but, according to this author, is to be pronounced dobor. But, to overturn the whole system of the pronunciation of a language, and to found a new one upon mere conjecture, is as wild a project as the late mathematician’s scheme to change all the received terms in algebra and geometry. To free the Hebrew grammar from so great an encumbrance would indeed be a happy discovery, provided it could be done without a greater inconvenience. Otherwise it is better to be content to understand one another in this dead language, without aiming at a perfection which is now impossible. Who can hope now-a-days to speak Latin or Greek so correctly that his accent and language would not have seemed barbarous, and sometimes unintelligible, to Cicero or Demosthenes?
Our ignorance of the Hebrew pronunciation appears most sensibly in the scripture poesy. Josephus, Philo, Eusebius, and St. Jerom assure us, that the versification in the Psalms, and other poetical parts, is most perfect, both in measure or feet, and in rhyme. Yet neither can be discovered by us, insomuch that Calmet with many others have fancied it consisted merely in a poetical turn of the phrases, and elevation of sentiment. See his and Fleury’s Dissertations on the Hebrew poesy, and Floridi, Diss. 17, p. 502. But the most ingenious Mr. Rob. Lowth in his Prælectiones de sacra Poesi Hebræorum, clearly shows that the Psalms and other poetical parts of the Hebrew Bible are composed in beautiful metre; which appears from the measured number of syllables, the licenses, never allowed but on such occasions, as the elision or addition of letters, and other like circumstances. To proceed from the two first historical chapters of Job to his discourse which is in verse, is no less a change than from Livy to fall into Virgil. (p. 29, 127, 169, &c.) That the study of sacred poesy was a profession among the Jews, is clear from Eccles. xliv. 5, 3 Reg. iv. 31, &c. See Mr. Lowth’s elegant work displaying at large the beauties of this most sublime and inimitable poesy, enriched with remarks entirely new, and with noble essays of some Latin translations, as that of the Ode of Isaias on the destruction of Babylon, ch. xiv. 4, p. 277, &c. A work which may be justly esteemed the richest augmentation which this branch of literature has lately received. We read also with pleasure observations on the Hebraic versification in the treatise of Robertson, On the True and Ancient method of reading the Hebrew. [back]
Note 73. This was declared by the council of Trent in 1546, an authentic version; by which decree is not meant any preference to the Original Texts. See Pallavicini, (Hist. Conc. Trid.) Walton, (Proleg. 10, in Polyglot.) Bellarmin, (De Verbo Dei, l. 2, c. 11,) and Literis ad Lucam Brugens Capuæ datis 1603, and Diss. de editione Latinâ Vulgatâ, printed at Wirtzburgh in 1749, and in the new French Bible with notes and dissertations, at Paris, 1750, t. 14, p. 1. A correct edition of the Vulgate was published at Rome by order of Sixtus V. in the year 1590, the last of his pontificate: and another more correct in 1592, by order of Clement VIII.; and again with some few amendments in 1593. On the commendation of the Latin Vulgate, see the ablest Protestant critics, Lewis De Dieu, Drusius, Milles, Walton, Proleg. in Polyglot, &c. Cappell has adopted many readings of our Vulgate in places where the modern MSS. of the Hebrew were corrupt. Crit. sacra, p. 351, 371.
How difficult an undertaking such a translation from the Hebrew is at present, appears from the miscarriages of many moderns. How faulty are Beza’s and Erasmus’s Latin versions of the New Testament! Or those of the Old by Pagninus, Arias Montanus, Luther, (whose shameful ignorance of the Hebrew language rendered him contemptible to his warmest friends,) Munster, (whose translation sticks close to the Jewish paraphrase and Rabbins,) Leo of Juda, author of the translation called Vatable’s Bible, Seb. Castalio, (whom Beza, &c. severely censured,) Luke, and his son Andrew Osiander, (who only corrected some parts of the Vulgate by the Hebrew:) lastly, that of Junius and Tremeilius, (the latter of whom was born a Jew.) This last translation is preferred by the English Protestants; but even the second edition, corrected by the authors, is not less essentially defective than the first, as Drusius, a learned Protestant critic, has invincibly demonstrated. The Latin style is vicious and affected: pronouns are often added which are not in the original, and frequently other words; and the authors often wander from the sense.
It cannot be denied that the Hebrew text is now defective through the fault of copiers, as the ablest Rabbins acknowledge, and as appears manifest from the genealogies in Paralipomenon and several other places. The truth of this assertion is demonstrated by Mr. Kennicot in his work entitled: The present printed Hebrew Text considered, Oxf. 1759, Diss. 2, p. 222, &c. See also his Dissertation on the same subject, which appeared in 1753. He gives the history of the Hebrew text which he affirms was preserved entire until the return from the captivity, and even later, a copy of the Pentateuch having been, by the order of Moses, enclosed in a chest and kept close to the ark.
Morin allows but five hundred years of antiquity to the famous MS. of Hillel, kept at Hamburg. Houbigant says he knew no Hebrew MSS. above six or seven hundred years old; few that exceed two or three hundred years. The oldest in France is that of the Oratorians de la rue S. Honore in Paris, to which Houbigant allows seven hundred years. According to Abbé Salier there is not any in the king’s library at Paris older than four hundred years. The Dominicans of Bologna in Italy have a copy of the Pentateuch (described by Montfaucon Diar. Ital. p. 399,) which was looked upon to have been ancient in 1308, when those religious purchased it from a Jew who pretended it was written by Esdras; this copy is supposed to be about nine hundred years old. England also possesses two valuable MSS. one of the Pentateuch, the other of the remainder of the Old Testament, of about seven hundred years old; they are in the Bodleian library. (Kennicot, Diss. 1, p. 315.) The most famous MS. of the Samaritan Pentateuch kept at Naplouse (the ancient Sichem near Mount Gerizim) is not above five hundred years old. (Kenn. Diss. 2, p. 541.) That which is seen in the Ambrosian library at Milan may be more ancient. (Montfauc. Diar. p. 11.) The Hebrew MS. of the Vatican is said to have been written in 973
The late Latin translation by Houbigant, the French Oratorian, of the Old Testament, from the Hebrew original, and of the Deutero-canonici, or sacred books which are not in the Hebrew canon from the Greek, is a work which does honour to our age. The beautiful elegance, energy, and perspicuity of the style cannot be sufficiently commended; a paraphrase upon it seems useless. The annotations are so concise, judicious, and useful, that a separate edition of them would be very serviceable to private students. But the author seems sometimes too bold in correcting the Hebrew text without the warrant of MSS. a liberty which is, however, tolerable in notes, with modesty and reserve, where the necessity appears evident. Some would have thought this work more valuable, is the criticism, in some points, had been more moderate; and if in some places a greater deference had been paid to the ancient authentic version.
Grotius, Wells, and other Protestant critics have shown their judgment by their frequent recourse to the Vulgate to determine or correct the sense of the original, even in the New Testament, which is much more frequently of use in the Old: though the most authentic versions, as the Seventy for the books of the Old Testament, and the Latin Vulgate, receive great helps from the comparing of the original texts, which, notwithstanding this distance of time, remain originals, and often add great force, perspicuity, and light to the sense of the best versions. Whence the church has often strenuously recommended the study of the sacred languages. Her general councils have ordered professors of these languages to be appointed for that purpose in all universities, &c. In this St. Jerom is our model and guide. [back]
Note 74. St. Jerom’s style in his Commentaries on the Scriptures is very different from that of his other works. In them he banishes all the flowers of rhetoric; on which account his discourse in these is somewhat dry, though it is pure, and joins great clearness with simplicity. This he thought best to suit the dignity and simplicity of the divine oracles. In his other writings he strove to give his style the highest polish. In them his thoughts and expressions are noble: he is always lively and clear, and adorns his discourse with a wonderful variety of surprising turns, and dexterously employs sometimes beautiful figures and sometimes logical subtilties; he often introduces some of the finest strokes of the best philosophers and classics, and curious things from some of the arts and sciences. All these parts are so exactly adapted, that they seem to be everywhere in their natural place, so that his discourse may be compared to an inlaid work, where the pieces are so artificially put together that they seem to be made for one another. But this way of writing appears somewhat too much affected, and overcharged. Neither is his style regular, says the judicious Fenelon; who, nevertheless, adds, that though it has some faults, he is a far more eloquent writer than most whose names stand foremost in the list of orators.
Dom Martianay, a Maurist monk, well skilled in the Hebrew tongue, published the works of this father in five volumes, folio; the first volume in 1693, the last in 1704. The book, On Hebrew Names, and other critical works of St. Jerom, were extremely incorrect in all former editions, even in those of Erasmus and Marianus Victorius. This of the Benedictin monk has deserved the highest commendations of Dr. Cave and others. Yet it is not complete; and the editor, though in this work he has shown more judgment and erudition than in some smaller tracts, has not attained to the reputation of the Coutants and Mabillons. The text is still left in some places incorrect; the notes are sometimes defective. The order of the epistles is so confused that many of them can neither be readily found nor easily quoted. St. Jerom’s Chronicle is omitted; as is also the Martyrology, which is to be found in D’Achery, (Spicil. t. 4,) and which bears the name of St. Jerom in some ancient MSS. though this father was only the Latin interpreter, as Bede (Retr. in Act.) and Walfridus Strabo (de rebus Eccl. c. 28,) assure us. De Martianay compiled the Life of St. Jerom, which he inserted in the fifth tome of his works; but published it more at large in French, in 1706, in which work he has vindicated the honour of this father against the harsh expressions of Baillet, &c. See the slanders of Barbeyrac against St. Jerom and his doctrine, confuted by Ceillier, Apologie des Pères, p. 308, 311, &c.
Villarsi, an Italian Oratorian, with the assistance of the learned Marquis Scipio Maffei, and others, gave a new edition of St. Jerom’s works, in ten volumes folio, at Verona, in 1738, with the life of this father, and many useful notes. But the liberty which, in imitation of Erasmus and some other critics, he has taken in correcting the text upon his own conjectures, without the authority of MS. copies, has much discredited his undertaking.
Four religious Orders take the name of Hieronymites, honour St. Jerom as principal patron, and in their first institution followed austere rules, which they collected out of his epistles: but these they have since changed to adopt the complete rules of some other Order. The Hieronymites in Spain are originally a filiation of the third Order of St. Francis: they were hermits till, in 1374, they were formed into regular communities; at which time they put themselves under the rule of St. Austin. The same is followed by the hermits of St. Jerom, who compose the Congregation of Lombardy. These are possessed of the church of St. Alexis in Rome; but their general resides in their great convent of St. Peter of Ospitaletto, in the diocess of Lodi. The Congregation of the Hieronymites of Fiesoli in Tuscany profess the rule of St. Austin, with certain particular constitutions taken out of St. Jerom’s ascetical epistles. Those of St. Peter of Pisa are mendicants. See his Life, June 1. [back]
St. Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus), c.347-420, was a Father of the Church and Doctor of the Church, whose great work was the translation of the Bible into Latin, the edition known as the Vulgate. He was born at Stridon on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia (roughly modern Slovenia & Croatia) of a well-to-do Catholic family. His parents sent him to Rome to further his intellectual interests, and there he acquired a knowledge of classical literature and was baptized at the age of 19. Shortly thereafter he journeyed to Trier in Gaul and to Aquileia in Italy, where he began to cultivate his theological interests in company with others who, like himself, were ascetically inclined.
In about 373, Jerome set out on a pilgrimage to the East. In Antioch, where he was warmly received, he continued to pursue his humanist and monastic studies. He also had a profound spiritual experience, dreaming that he was accused by Christ of being “a Ciceronian, not a Christian.” Accordingly, he determined to devote himself exclusively to the Bible and theology, although the translator Rufinus (345-410), Jerome’s close friend, suggested later that the vow was not strictly kept. Jerome moved to the desert of Chalcis, and while practicing more rigorous austerities, pursued his studies, including the learning of Hebrew. On his return to Antioch in 378 he heard Apollinaris the Younger (c.310-c.390) lecture and was admitted to the priesthood (379) by Paulinus, bishop of Antioch. In Constantinople, where he spent three years around 380, he was influenced by Gregory of Nazianzus.
When Jerome returned to Rome Pope Damasus I appointed him confidential secretary and librarian and commissioned him to begin his work of rendering the Bible into Latin. After the death (384) of Damasus, however, Jerome fell out of favor, and for a second time he decided to go to the East. He made brief visits to Antioch, Egypt, and Palestine. In 386, Jerome settled at Bethlehem in a monastery established for him by Paula, one of a group of wealthy Roman women whose spiritual advisor he had been and who remained his lifelong friend. There he began his most productive literary period, and there he remained for 34 years, until his death. From this period come his major biblical commentaries and the bulk of his work on the Latin Bible.
The writings of Jerome express a scholarship unsurpassed in the early church and helped to create the cultural tradition of the Middle Ages. He developed the use of philological and geographical material in his exegesis and recognized the scientific importance of archaeology. In his interpretation of the Bible he used both the allegorical method of the Alexandrian and the realism of the Antiochene schools. An often difficult, empassioned and hot-tempered man, Jerome made many enemies, but his correspondence with friends and enemies alike is of great interest, particularly that with Saint Augustine.
His greatest gifts were in scholarship, and he is a true founder of scientific biblical exegesis in the West. Jerome’s greatest single accomplishment was the Vulgate. The chaos of the older Latin translation was notorious. Working from the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT, Jerome, after twenty-three years of labor, gave Latin Christianity its Bible anew. Its supremacy was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in 1546, and it remains to this day the classical Latin Bible. He is the patron Saint of Librarians, Libraries, Archeologists, Archivists, Bible Scholars, Schoolchildren, Students Translators, and the city of Quebec, Canada.
SOURCE : http://ucatholic.com/saints/jerome/
No biography available. In the meantime, this is a story about the saint:
St. Jerome and the Lion: In Vita Divi Hieronymi (Migne. P.L., XXII, c. 209ff.) as translated by Helen Waddell in Beasts and Saints (NY: Henry Holt and Co., 1934), you will find the reason St. Jerome is generally pictured with a lion. One evening at dusk St. Jerome sat with his fellow monk in his monastery in Jerusalem listening to the lesson of the day, when a mighty lion came in limping on three paws, holding the fourth caught up. Imagine the chaos that followed as the monks tripped over one another trying to get away. But Jerome went out to meet him as one greets an incoming guest.
Of course, the lion couldn't speak, since it's not in their nature, but offered the good father his wounded paw. Jerome examined it and called his brethren to bathe it. When it was clean Jerome noticed that the paw had been pierced by thorns. After he applied a salve, the wound quickly healed.
The gentle ministrations had tamed the lion, who now went in and out of the cloister as peaceably as any domestic animal. Of this Jerome said, "Bring your minds to bear upon this, my brethren: what, I ask you, can we find for this lion to do in the way of useful and suitable work, that will not be burdensome to him, and that he can efficiently accomplish? For I believe of a surety that it was not so much for the healing of his paw that God sent him hither, since He could have cured him without us, as to show us that He is anxious to provide marvellous well for our necessity."
The brothers thought that the lion should be tasked with accompanying and protecting the donkey that carried the firewood for the monastery. And so that was the lion's charge. And thus it was for a long time; the lion would guard the donkey as he went to and fro. One day, however, the lion grew tired and fell asleep as the donkey grazed and some Egyptian oil merchants espied the untended donkey and led him away.
The lion eventually awoke and went in search of the donkey. With increasing anxiety he hunted for the donkey all day. At even fall, hopeless, he returned and stood at the monastery gate. Conscious of guilt, he no longer walked in pride as he did usually with the donkey. When Jerome and the monks saw him, they concluded his guilt grew from having allowed his savage nature to overtake his gentleness; that he had killed hte donkey. So, they refused to feed him and sent him away to finish eating his kill.
And yet there was some doubt as to whether he had committed the crime, so the monks went in search of the donkey's carcass and couldn't find it anywhere, nor any sign of violence. The monks reported to Jerome, who said, "I entreat you, brethren, that although you have suffered the loss of the ass, do not nevertheless nag at him or make him wretched. Treat him as before, and offer him his food: and let him take the donkey's place, and make a light harness for him so that he can drag home the branches that have fallen in the wood." And so it happened.
The lion regularly did his appointed task. Yet the lion still sought some understanding of the fate of his former companion. One day he climbed a hill and looked down upon the highway, where he saw men coming with laden camels, and in front of them walked a donkey. He stepped out to meet them. He saw it was his friend and began to roar, charging at the merchants without doing them harm. Frightened, they ran away as fast as they could, leaving the donkey and their packed camels behind them.
The lion led the animals back to the monastery. When the monks saw this odd sight--a donkey leading a parade with the lion in the vanguard and the camels in between--they ran to get Jerome. The saint had the gates opened then said, "Take their loads off these our guests, the camels, I mean, and the donkey, and bathe their feet and give them fodder, and wait to see what God is minded to show His servants."
When he instructions were carried out, the lion began to roam once again through the cloister as he used to do, flattening myself against the feet of each group of brothers and wagging his tail, as though to ask forgiveness for the crime that he had never committed. The brothers, full of remorse for their calumny would say to one another, "Behold our trusty shepherd whom so short a while ago we were upbraiding for a greedy ruffian, and God has deigned to send him to us with such a resounding miracle, to clear his character!"
Meanwhile, Jerome, aware of things to come, said, "Be prepared, my brethren, in all things that are requisite for refreshment: so that those who are about to be our guests may be received, as is fitting, without embarassment."
So the brothers prepared for the arrival of other guests, just as the merchants arrived a the gate. They were welcomed; however, they entered blushing, and protrated themselves at Jerome's feet, entreating forgiveness for their fault. 'Gently raising them up, he admonished them to enjoy their own with thanksgiving, but not to encroach on others' goods: and in short to live cautiously, as ever in the presence of God.' Then he offered them refreshment before they left with their camels.
The merchants offered the monks half the oil carried by their camels to fill the lamps in the church and for the needs of the monks, "because we know and are sure that it was rather to be of service to you than for our own profit that we went down into Egypt to bargain there."
Jerome responded, "This that you ask is indeed not right, for it would seem a great hardship that we who ought to have compassionon others and relieve their necessities by our own giving, should bear so heavy on you, taking your property away from you when we are not in need of it."
To which they answered, "Neither this food, nor any of our own property do we touch, unless you first command that what we ask shall be done. And so, as we have siad, do you now accept half of the oil that the camels have brought: and we pledge ourselves and our heirs to give to you and those that come after you the measure of oil which is called a hin in each succeeding year."
And so Jerome accepted. The merchants for their part accepted the refreshments and a blessing, and returned rejoicing to the own people.
Note: Waddell says that the manuscript that records this story dates no earlier than the 10th or 11th century, and may well result from a confusion between the irasible St. Jerome (Hieronymus) and the more genial St. Gerasimus, who lived a little further up the Jordan River. St. Gerasimus's lion and donkey are less sophisticated than those in this later story. Though St. Jerome is generally remembered as a curmudgeon, he did have those who loved him and saw a gentler side.
SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0930.shtml
PREFACE TO THE GOSPELS 1
English, modern or otherwise.
Valette, Kon-Katidral ta’ San Ġwann
Girolamo nacque a Stridone verso il 347 da una famiglia cristiana, che gli assicurò un’accurata formazione, inviandolo anche a Roma a perfezionare i suoi studi. Da giovane sentì l'attrattiva della vita mondana (cfr Ep. 22,7), ma prevalse in lui il desiderio e l'interesse per la religione cristiana. Ricevuto il battesimo verso il 366, si orientò alla vita ascetica e, recatosi ad Aquileia, si inserì in un gruppo di ferventi cristiani, da lui definito quasi «un coro di beati» (Chron. Ad ann. 374) riunito attorno al Vescovo Valeriano. Partì poi per l'Oriente e visse da eremita nel deserto di Calcide, a sud di Aleppo (cfr Ep. 14,10), dedicandosi seriamente agli studi. Perfezionò la sua conoscenza del greco, iniziò lo studio dell'ebraico (cfr Ep. 125,12), trascrisse codici e opere patristiche (cfr Ep. 5,2). La meditazione, la solitudine, il contatto con la Parola di Dio fecero maturare la sua sensibilità cristiana. Sentì più pungente il peso dei trascorsi giovanili (cfr Ep. 22,7), e avvertì vivamente il contrasto tra mentalità pagana e vita cristiana: un contrasto reso celebre dalla drammatica e vivace "visione", della quale egli ci ha lasciato il racconto. In essa gli sembrò di essere flagellato al cospetto di Dio, perché «ciceroniano e non cristiano» (cfr Ep. 22,30).
Nel 382 si trasferì a Roma: qui il Papa Damaso, conoscendo la sua fama di asceta e la sua competenza di studioso, lo assunse come segretario e consigliere; lo incoraggiò a intraprendere una nuova traduzione latina dei testi biblici per motivi pastorali e culturali. Alcune persone dell’aristocrazia romana, soprattutto nobildonne come Paola, Marcella, Asella, Lea ed altre, desiderose di impegnarsi sulla via della perfezione cristiana e di approfondire la loro conoscenza della Parola di Dio, lo scelsero come loro guida spirituale e maestro nell’approccio metodico ai testi sacri. Queste nobildonne impararono anche il greco e l’ebraico.
Dopo la morte di Papa Damaso, Girolamo lasciò Roma nel 385 e intraprese un pellegrinaggio, dapprima in Terra Santa, silenziosa testimone della vita terrena di Cristo, poi in Egitto, terra di elezione di molti monaci (cfr Contra Rufinum 3,22; Ep. 108,6-14). Nel 386 si fermò a Betlemme, dove, per la generosità della nobildonna Paola, furono costruiti un monastero maschile, uno femminile e un ospizio per i pellegrini che si recavano in Terra Santa, «pensando che Maria e Giuseppe non avevano trovato dove sostare» (Ep. 108,14). A Betlemme restò fino alla morte, continuando a svolgere un'intensa attività: commentò la Parola di Dio; difese la fede, opponendosi vigorosamente a varie eresie; esortò i monaci alla perfezione; insegnò la cultura classica e cristiana a giovani allievi; accolse con animo pastorale i pellegrini che visitavano la Terra Santa. Si spense nella sua cella, vicino alla grotta della Natività, il 30 settembre 419/420.
La preparazione letteraria e la vasta erudizione consentirono a Girolamo la revisione e la traduzione di molti testi biblici: un prezioso lavoro per la Chiesa latina e per la cultura occidentale. Sulla base dei testi originali in greco e in ebraico e grazie al confronto con precedenti versioni, egli attuò la revisione dei quattro Vangeli in lingua latina, poi del Salterio e di gran parte dell'Antico Testamento. Tenendo conto dell'originale ebraico e greco, dei Settanta, la classica versione greca dell’Antico Testamento risalente al tempo precristiano, e delle precedenti versioni latine, Girolamo, affiancato poi da altri collaboratori, poté offrire una traduzione migliore: essa costituisce la cosiddetta "Vulgata", il testo "ufficiale" della Chiesa latina, che è stato riconosciuto come tale dal Concilio di Trento e che, dopo la recente revisione, rimane il testo "ufficiale" della Chiesa di lingua latina. E’ interessante rilevare i criteri a cui il grande biblista si attenne nella sua opera di traduttore. Li rivela egli stesso quando afferma di rispettare perfino l’ordine delle parole delle Sacre Scritture, perché in esse, dice, "anche l’ordine delle parole è un mistero" (Ep. 57,5), cioè una rivelazione. Ribadisce inoltre la necessità di ricorrere ai testi originali: «Qualora sorgesse una discussione tra i Latini sul Nuovo Testamento, per le lezioni discordanti dei manoscritti, ricorriamo all'originale, cioè al testo greco, in cui è stato scritto il Nuovo Patto. Allo stesso modo per l'Antico Testamento, se vi sono divergenze tra i testi greci e latini, ci appelliamo al testo originale, l'ebraico; così tutto quello che scaturisce dalla sorgente, lo possiamo ritrovare nei ruscelli» (Ep. 106,2). Girolamo, inoltre, commentò anche parecchi testi biblici. Per lui i commentari devono offrire molteplici opinioni, «in modo che il lettore avveduto, dopo aver letto le diverse spiegazioni e dopo aver conosciuto molteplici pareri – da accettare o da respingere –, giudichi quale sia il più attendibile e, come un esperto cambiavalute, rifiuti la moneta falsa» (Contra Rufinum 1,16).
Confutò con energia e vivacità gli eretici che contestavano la tradizione e la fede della Chiesa. Dimostrò anche l'importanza e la validità della letteratura cristiana, divenuta una vera cultura ormai degna di essere messa confronto con quella classica: lo fece componendo il De viris illustribus, un'opera in cui Girolamo presenta le biografie di oltre un centinaio di autori cristiani. Scrisse pure biografie di monaci, illustrando accanto ad altri itinerari spirituali anche l'ideale monastico; inoltre tradusse varie opere di autori greci. Infine nell'importante Epistolario, un capolavoro della letteratura latina, Girolamo emerge con le sue caratteristiche di uomo colto, di asceta e di guida delle anime.
Che cosa possiamo imparare noi da San Girolamo? Mi sembra soprattutto questo: amare la Parola di Dio nella Sacra Scrittura. Dice San Girolamo: "Ignorare le Scritture è ignorare Cristo". Perciò è importante che ogni cristiano viva in contatto e in dialogo personale con la Parola di Dio, donataci nella Sacra Scrittura. Questo nostro dialogo con essa deve sempre avere due dimensioni: da una parte, dev'essere un dialogo realmente personale, perché Dio parla con ognuno di noi tramite la Sacra Scrittura e ha un messaggio ciascuno. Dobbiamo leggere la Sacra Scrittura non come parola del passato, ma come Parola di Dio che si rivolge anche a noi e cercare di capire che cosa il Signore voglia dire a noi. Ma per non cadere nell'individualismo dobbiamo tener presente che la Parola di Dio ci è data proprio per costruire comunione, per unirci nella verità nel nostro cammino verso Dio. Quindi essa, pur essendo sempre una Parola personale, è anche una Parola che costruisce comunità, che costruisce la Chiesa. Perciò dobbiamo leggerla in comunione con la Chiesa viva. Il luogo privilegiato della lettura e dell'ascolto della Parola di Dio è la liturgia, nella quale, celebrando la Parola e rendendo presente nel Sacramento il Corpo di Cristo, attualizziamo la Parola nella nostra vita e la rendiamo presente tra noi. Non dobbiamo mai dimenticare che la Parola di Dio trascende i tempi. Le opinioni umane vengono e vanno. Quanto è oggi modernissimo, domani sarà vecchissimo. La Parola di Dio, invece, è Parola di vita eterna, porta in sé l'eternità, ciò che vale per sempre. Portando in noi la Parola di Dio, portiamo dunque in noi l'eterno, la vita eterna.
E così concludo con una parola di San Girolamo a San Paolino di Nola. In essa il grande Esegeta esprime proprio questa realtà, che cioè nella Parola di Dio riceviamo l'eternità, la vita eterna. Dice San Girolamo: «Cerchiamo di imparare sulla terra quelle verità la cui consistenza persisterà anche nel cielo» (Ep. 53,10).
Autore: Papa Benedetto XVI (Udienza generale 14 Novembre 2007)
Socha sv. Jeronýma, Betlém, dvůr baziliky Narození Páně
Statue of St. Hieronymus, Bethlehem, court of the Basilica of Nativity Jesus Christ
Alla morte di Damaso I (384), va in Palestina con la famiglia della nobile Paola. Vive in un monastero a Betlemme, scrivendo testi storici, dottrinali, educativi e corrispondendo con gli amici di Roma con immutata veemenza. Perché così è fatto. E poi perché, francamente, troppi ipocriti e furbi inquinano ora la Chiesa, dopo che l’imperatore Teodosio (ca. 346-395) ha fatto del cristianesimo la religione di Stato, penalizzando gli altri culti.
Intanto prosegue il lavoro sulla Bibbia secondo l’incarico di Damaso I. Ma, strada facendo, lo trasforma in un’impresa mai tentata. Sente che per avvicinare l’uomo alla Parola di Dio bisogna andare alla fonte. E così, per la prima volta, traduce direttamente in latino dall’originale ebraico i testi protocanonici dell’Antico Testamento. Lavora sulla pagina e anche sul terreno, come dirà: "Mi sono studiato di percorrere questa provincia (la Giudea) in compagnia di dotti ebrei". Rivede poi il testo dei Vangeli sui manoscritti greci più antichi e altri libri del Nuovo Testamento. Gli ci vorrebbe più tempo per rifinire e perfezionare l’enorme lavoro. Ma, così come egli lo consegna ai cristiani, esso sarà accolto e usato da tutta la Chiesa: nella Bibbia di tutti, Vulgata, di cui le sue versioni e revisioni sono parte preponderante, la fede è presentata come nessuno aveva fatto prima dell’impetuoso Gerolamo.
E impetuoso rimane, continuando nelle polemiche dottrinali con l’irruenza di sempre, perfino con sant’Agostino, che invece gli risponde con grande amabilità. I suoi difetti restano, e la grandezza della sua opera pure. Gli ultimi suoi anni sono rattristati dalla morte di molti amici, e dal sacco di Roma compiuto da Alarico nel 410: un evento che angoscia la sua vecchiaia.
Autore: Domenico Agasso
di Angelo FICARRA - Anna Maria CIARANFI - - Enciclopedia Italiana (1933)
GIROLAMO, santo. - È una delle figure più rappresentative e complesse nella storia della Chiesa e dell'antica letteratura cristiana.
È ricordato sempre col solo nome di "Girolamo" in tutte le opere sue e dei contemporanei; l'aggiunta di "Eusebio", che apparisce nel Chronicon, deriva o dal nome paterno o piuttosto da Eusebio di Cesarea da cui traduce; mentre "Sofronio", che si trova in alcuni manoscritti, pare gli sia venuto dal monaco greco, suo amico, che tradusse in greco alcune delle sue opere e forse anche il De viris illustribus.
G. nacque circa il 347 a Stridone, piccolo villaggio, oggi distrutto, d'incerta ubicazione, probabilmente situato presso Aquileia. Apparteneva a una di quelle famiglie agiate e influenti, che nelle città romane dell'impero formavano una specie di aristocrazia provinciale; quindi i suoi genitori s'interessarono ben presto di metterlo alla scuola di un litterator, il maestro elementare di quei tempi. A somiglianza di Orazio, Giovenale, S. Agostino e altri, egli conservò un ricordo poco gradito del suo primo maestro, che insegnava il verbo a suon di nerbo. All'età di circa 12 anni, insieme con Bonoso, suo amico e compagno indivisibile, fu mandato a Roma per proseguire gli studî. E a Roma il grammaticus Elio Donato gl'ispirò viva passione per i grandi scrittori latini e gli diede una formazione letteraria non comune. Dopo gli studî di grammatica, G. passò alle scuole di retorica: taluno ha pensato che G. sia stato discepolo del celebre retore Vittorino, ma ciò non pare a tutti probabile. All'età di circa 20 anni, G. ricevette il battesimo dalle mani di papa Liberio e si accinse a partire per la Gallia insieme con l'amico Bonoso. Voleva egli con ciò sottrarsi alla seduzione della società romana, dal momento che confessa di essere caduto nel lubrico sentiero dell'adolescenza? Oppure voleva allargare gli orizzonti della sua cultura? Ovvero Treviri lo attirava con gli splendori della sua corte e le promesse di una carriera brillante? Probabilmente, nella sua decisione, ciascuna di queste ragioni ebbe la sua parte. Durante il suo soggiorno nella Gallia, G. attese a copiare le opere di Ilario di Poitiers e altri scrittori ecclesiastici, e maturò il proposito di dedicarsi interamente all'ascetismo. Tornato in patria, si fermò ad Aquileia (373) in un cenacolo di amici, che condividevano le sue aspirazioni e si riunivano in casa del presbitero Cromazio. Ma quel periodo durò poco, e "un improvviso uragano - come egli dice - un empio laceramento" disperse il gruppo degli amici di Aquileia. Forse gli ariani, favoriti alla corte imperiale, entrarono per qualche cosa in questa dispersione.
Verso il 374 G. partì per l'Oriente, sperando trovare una dimora a sé adatta nel deserto di Siria. Rimasto per un certo tempo ospite del suo amico Evagrio ad Antiochia e udite le lezioni di Apollinare di Laodicea, egli s'internò nell'eremo della Calcide, col proposito di dedicarsi ad austerità e penitenza. Ma anche là, lungi da Roma e dalle seduzioni della capitale, non mancarono turbamenti interni ed esterni.
Appartiene a questo periodo della sua vita la famosa visione anticiceroniana, che egli stesso descrive nell'epistola XXII, 30, alla vergine Eustochio. Mentre perseverava nello studio dei classici, si vide tratto in spirito dinnanzi al tribunale di Cristo e interrogato sulla sua condizione, rispose di essere cristiano. "Tu mentisci" osservò Cristo "giacché tu sei ciceroniano, non cristiano". Allora egli implorò misericordia, tanto più che Cristo aveva ordinato di batterlo, e giurò solennemente: "Signore, se mai avrò dei codici profani, se li leggerò, ti avrò rinnegato".
Altri turbamenti agitavano il suo spirito: nonostante i digiuni e le penitenze egli spesso si sentiva come trasportato in mezzo alle delizie di Roma e ai cori delle fanciulle; inoltre nel deserto di Siria non trovava quella beata solitudine che il suo spirito inquieto aveva sognato. Moltissimi anacoreti popolavano l'eremo; ma non contenti di pratiche ascetiche, venivano a contesa tra loro per il concetto di ousia e di ipostasi e in occasione dello scisma di Antiochia (v.), mentre gli eremiti del vicinato si sforzavano di trarre G. dalla loro parte: cosicché egli finì con lo stancarsi del deserto e rientrò ad Antiochia (380). Ivi, poco dopo, fu ordinato sacerdote dal vescovo Paolino. Dopo tanti anni di studî G. era nella piena maturità del suo spirito; in Siria aveva appreso anche l'ebraico sotto la guida di un ebreo convertito, e in quel tempo si recò a Costantinopoli ad approfondirsi presso Gregorio Nazianzeno nell'esegesi biblica e nelle scienze teologiche. Perciò, quando nel 382 s'imbarcò con Epifanio e Paolino per recarsi al concilio indetto in Roma da papa Damaso per lo scisma antiocheno, egli vi era preceduto da fama di gran santità e dottrina; e nella capitale si conciliò ben presto la stima del papa e fece risplendere le proprie doti.
A richiesta di Damaso, C. fece una revisione accurata della traduzione latina della Bibbia allora in uso (v. bibbia, VI, p. 896 segg.) confrontandola con i più antichi manoscritti greci. Tale correzione, necessaria a causa delle molteplici inesattezze introdotte nei testi, fu fatta con certezza per i Vangeli e i Salmi, e forse anche per tutto il Nuovo Testamento. Questa edizione latina dei Salmi è nota col nome di Psalterium romanum.
Ma oltre che studioso G. era anche un'anima di asceta, e così divenne ben presto la guida spirituale di parecchie matrone romane, inclinate a vita devota. Esse si riunivano nella casa di Marcella sull'Aventino, e fra tutte spiccavano Paola e la sua figlia Eustochio. A quest'ultima fu indirizzato il celebre Libellus de custodia virginitatis, che insieme col Liber adversus Helvidium in difesa della perpetua verginità di Maria, suscitò tanti malumori contro G., che fustigava a sangue i vizî del mondo romano in tali scritti. Quando morì la vedova Blesilla, figlia di Paola, si accusò G. come fanatico quasiché l'avesse ridotta a morte coi suoi consigli ascetici. La marea d'invidia e rancore saliva contro di lui, anche in quello che egli chiamò il "senato dei farisei", e, sopraggiunta la morte del suo protettore Damaso (dicembre 384), egli credette necessario dopo qualche mese lasciare Roma; questa volta per sempre.
Sul punto di salpare dal porto di Ostia, egli scrisse una lettera alla vergine Asella, in cui mira a giustificare il suo tenore di vita romana contro il livore dei suoi nemici, e la incarica specialmente di salutare Paola ed Eustochio. Queste, dopo qualche mese, lasciavano Roma per raggiungerlo ad Antiochia, fare insieme con lui con intenti di pietà e di cultura il pellegrinaggio dei luoghi santi, e quindi fissare a Betlemme la sede definitiva. Queste donne, che alla nobiltà dei natali univano altrettanta elevatezza di sentimenti formate alla scuola spirituale di G., abbandonarono mondo e ricchezze per seguire il loro maestro, e passarono alla storia insieme con la memoria di lui. Prima di stabilirsi accanto alla grotta della Natività in Betlemme, G. con le sue pie pellegrine visitò l'Egitto e i monasteri della Nitria, ebbe ad Alessandria occasione di ascoltare Didimo il Cieco, si fermò a Cesarea per trascrivere forse tutto l'Antico Testamento secondo il testo esaplare di Origene, perlustrò tutti i luoghi della Palestina, e verso la fine del 386 si fissò a Betlemme. Ivi, a poco a poco, si formò un monastero di uomini diretto da G., e un altro di donne sotto la guida di Paola e di Eustochio. Così passarono circa 35 anni della vita di G., e furono gli anni più laboriosi e fecondi del suo genio multiforme, tutti consacrati al servizio della fede e della scienza. Questo è il tempo in cui egli pubblicò i suoi lavori biblici, le traduzioni dall'ebraico e i commentarî su molte parti dell'Antico e del Nuovo Testamento.
Ma anche a Betlemme non gli mancarono dolori, specie nell'aspra e lunga polemica con l'amico Rufino. Questi, che un tempo era stato per lui il dimidium animae, in una sua traduzione del De principiis di Origene aveva cercato di presentarlo come un seguace delle dottrine origeniste. G. si difese con tutti gli argomenti della sua dialettica e del suo spirito irruente, e il dissidio acuto e insanabile è uno degli episodî più dolorosi nella storia del monachismo. Anche nella polemica contro Gioviniano, che mostrava disprezzo verso la verginità e la mortificazione cristiana, i libri di G. toccano il culmine dell'aggressione e della virulenza: egli ricorre con acre voluttà alle sue squisite attitudini di colorista per dipingere il suo avversario nella maniera più umiliante, e presenta dei quadri di un umorismo e di una vivacità veramente singolari.
Grandi dolori provò egli anche per la morte di Paola e di Marcella, e per la notizia dell'eccidio di Roma saccheggiata da Alarico nel 410; una profonda commozione pervade l'anima sua che non ha più pace al sentire che l'impero romano va in rovina. Per parecchi mesi non è in grado di continuare il suo commento ad Ezechiele; quando poi riprende la penna per terminarlo, nuove cure vengono a distornarlo. Dapprima entra in lotta contro i pelagiani, che arrivano persino ad invadere e saccheggiare il suo monastero; poi deve anche piangere la morte di Eustochio. Finalmente il 30 settembre 420 il solitario austero chiude la sua vita. Accanto al letto del moribondo, la leggenda (v. appresso) ha messo un leone, ma la storia ci addita la giovane Paola, nipote di Paola e di Eustochio, che fu l'assistente dei suoi ultimi giorni. Le sue reliquie, inumate dapprima presso la grotta della Natività di Betlemme, furono poi trasportate a Roma, ove si conservano nella basilica di S. Maria Maggiore.
Opere. - Epistolario. - Comprende 154 lettere, di cui 122 sono dello stesso G., e le altre dei suoi corrispondenti: Damaso, Agostino, Epifanio, e altri. Esso, divulgatissimo nel Medioevo e nel Rinascimento, è una vasta galleria in cui sono dipinti uomini e cose, situazioni storiche e psicologiche, che abbraccia un cinquantennio di storia politica e religiosa, e in cui soprattutto si rispecchia l'anima dell'autore. In queste lettere specialmente appaiono la sua educazione retorica e il lungo studio dei classici che gli hanno valso il titolo di Cicerone cristiano e maestro della prosa cristiana per i secoli posteriori; in esse appaiono anche i suoi ideali ascetici, difesi strenuamente contro tutti gli avversarî.
Opere esegetiche. - Comprendono: a) Le correzioni del testo della Bibbia latina per i vangeli e forse per tutto il Nuovo Testamento (v. sopra); per il libro di Giobbe (revisione fatta a Betlemme verso il 389), e per i Salmi, dei quali (oltre al già ricordato Psalterium romanum) fece a Betlemme nel 388 una seconda revisione chiamata Psalterium gallicanum perché usata da principio nelle Gallie. b) Di una nuova correzione sul testo esaplare dei Settanta, G. ci dice soltanto che andò perduta fraude cuiusdam. c) La traduzione dall'originale ebraico dei libri protocanonici dell'Antico Testamento e delle addizioni deuterocanoniche di Daniele, Geremia e Ester. Questa traduzione, compiuta a Betlemme tra gli anni 390-405 circa, è il lavoro più arduo e glorioso di G., e se da principio non mancò di suscitare diffidenze anche in Agostino, superò col tempo ogni ostacolo e si affermò vittoriosa in tutto l'Occidente (v. bibbia, VI, p. 898 segg.). "Per mezzo di essa entra nella civiltà romana tutto il fiotto, per così dire, del genio orientale, non tanto per il piccolo numero di parole ebraiche intraducibili che G. ha conservato, quanto per le costruzioni ardite che la lingua latina viene ad appropriarsi, per le inattese combinazioni di parole, per la prodigiosa abbondanza delle immagini, per il simbolismo che è proprio delle Scritture" (F. Ozanam). d) I Commentarî alle lettere ai Galati, Efesini, Tito, Filemone, a tutti i profeti minori e maggiori (quello di Geremia rimase incompleto), all'Ecclesiaste, Matteo e Apocalisse. Qui ricordiamo pure le Quaestiones hebraicae in Genesim e il libro sulla toponomastica ebraica. e) A questi si aggiungano il Tractatus de Seraphim scoperto da A. Amelli e i Commentarioli, omelie e trattati scoperti e pubblicati da G. Morin negli Anecdota Maredsolana, III.
Scritti storici. - Le tre vite di Paolo, di Malco e di Ilarione (che non hanno valore storico); il De viris illustribus, eccellente fonte d'informazioni, e la traduzione del Chronicon di Eusebio di Cesarea (v.), con aggiunte relative alla storia romana e contemporanea. Per mezzo di questi scritti, G. è stato un precursore molto seguito in tre rami distinti di storiografia: le leggende agiografiche, la letteratura cristiana e la cronaca universale.
Scritti polemici. - Contro Elvidio, i luciferiani, Gioviniano, Giovanni di Gerusalemme, Rufino, Vigilanzio, e i pelagiani. In questi libelli G. è il violento polemista nel cui spirito Lucilio, Orazio e Giovenale evidentemente non passarono mai all'ultimo posto.
Traduzioni. - Parecchie omelie di Origene, il libro di Didimo sullo Spirito Santo, la Regola di S. Pacomio e altri scritti dei cenobiti copti.
Percorrendo le opere di G., si vede chiaramente che la speculazione filosofica e l'indagine teoretica non erano i suoi campi speciali; furono tali invece gli studî critici e filologici, le ricerche storiche e l'analisi testuale. Le risorse del suo carattere e del suo ingegno, della vasta cultura assimilata nelle sue permanenze e relazioni con i principali centri della cultura contemporanea, e del suo dominio su molti spiriti contemporanei, furono messe a servizio della doppia causa che formò l'ideale sovrano di tutta la sua vita: nel campo biblico la diffusione e il trionfo dei testi originali da lui chiamati la graeca fides per il Nuovo Testamento e l'hebraica veritas per l'Antico, e sul terreno pratico la diffusione dell'ascetismo. Parve a molti un novatore, mentre era in lui la nostalgia delle origini nel pensiero e nella vita. Nelle più aspre lotte per i suoi lavori biblici e per il suo ideale ascetico sentì spesso il bisogno di appellarsi al giudizio dei posteri. Né si può dire che il suo appello sia caduto invano: come egli fu un maestro di ascetica fra i più accreditati per tutto il Medioevo, così la sua autorità in materie bibliche gli ha valso dalla Chiesa il titolo di doctor maximus nell'interpretazione della Scrittura, e presso i dotti di qualunque confessione un peso eccezionale attribuito alle sue testimonianze.
Iconografia. - Il santo dovette essere presto rappresentato dagli artisti: non restano tuttavia esempî di raffigurazioni anteriori al sec. IX quando appare nella Bibbia di Carlo il Calvo (Biblioteca Nazionale di Parigi) o in quella di Carlo il Grosso (Roma, S. Paolo), derivate, sembra, da un rotulo sul quale venivano in zone successive riprodotte storie della vita di lui. Il santo v'è rappresentato imberbe, giovane, tonsurato, in veste e pallio, e specialmente glorificato come maestro e come traduttore e commentatore dei testi sacri. Poi a poco per volta all'aspetto giovanile gli artisti sostituirono quello di un vecchio maestoso e barbuto, ora in cattedra come Padre della Chiesa (e spesso associato all'evangelista Matteo o al simbolo di lui) ora quale penitente nel deserto, ora fra i libri nel suo studio. Il santo è contrassegnato quasi sempre dal cappello cardinalizio (talvolta è in veste di cardinale) per un'errata tradizione risalente al secolo IX, la quale gli attribuiva tale dignità, non esistente ai suoi tempi. Gli è spesso vicino il leone, ricordo di una leggenda che narrava come la fiera, liberata d'una spina dal santo, gli fosse divenuta amica (l'episodio in realtà si riferiva a S. Gerasimo, eremita in Palestina). Talvolta G. è rappresentato con la Chiesa in mano, perché sostenitore e aiuto di questa. Più spesso, appena coperto di stracci, si flagella con una pietra il petto. Ora gli son vicini o una candela o gli occhiali o libri o la penna a indicarne la vita infaticabilmente studiosa. Talora medita dinnanzi a un teschio nella spelonca in solitudini rocciose o nel ben fornito scrittoio, oppure un angelo col suono della tromba celeste lo scuote a ricordargli il giudizio finale. O appare, infine, morente, quando gli vien somministrata la comunione: o, morto, quando se ne fanno le esequie.
L'arte italiana lo raffigurò in tutte queste forme, talora accettando particolari da quella oltramontana (p. es., le minute descrizioni del suo scrittoio). Massimo favore ebbe la rappresentazione del santo quale eremita e penitente (Piero della Francesca all'Accademia di Venezia; Cosmè Tura alla Galleria Nazionale di Londra; Lorenzo Lotto al Louvre e al Prado; Leonardo alla Vaticana; Tiziano a Brera, ecc.). Spesso si riprodussero alcuni episodî della sua vita: la serie più bella è offerta dalle pitture del Carpaccio in S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni a Venezia, dove, come da molti altri artisti (Antonello da Messina a Londra; Domenico Ghirlandaio in Ognissanti a Firenze; Colantonio a Napoli), San G. è dipinto anche nello studio, al lavoro. Così fu spesso effigiato in aspetto di cardinale con gli attributi sopra elencati (Sandro Botticelli nell'incoronazione agli Uffizî; Carlo Crivelli all'Accademia di Venezia; Raffaello nella Disputa, ecc.). (V. tavv. LXXXV e LXXXVI).
Edizioni. - L' editio princeps di tutte le opere è quella di Erasmo, Basilea 1516-1520. Seguono l'edizione di Mariano Vittorio, Roma 1565-1572; quella dei Maurini Giovanni Martianay e Antonio Pouget, Parigi 1693-1706; e quella superiore a tutte di Domenico Vallarsi, Verona 1734-1742, ristampata a Venezia nel 1766 e riprodotta nel Migne, Patrologia Latina, voll. XXII-XXX. Il Corpus Script. Eccles. Lat. ha dato finora solo le Epistole ed. da I. Hilberg (Vienna 1910-18) e il Commentario a Geremia, a cura di S. Reiter (Vienna 1913). Tra le edizioni parziali la più celebre è quella curata da P. Canisio (Augsburg 1565).
Bibl.: Acta Sanctorum, 30 settembre; Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique, XII, Venezia 1732 segg.; R. Ceillier, Histoire générale des auteurs ecclésiastiques, X, Parigi 1729-1763; Engelstoft, Hieronymus Stridonensis, Copenaghen 1797; F. Z. Collombet, Histoire de Saint Jérôme, père de l'église au IVe siècle, Parigi e Lione 1844; O. Zöckler, Hieronymus, Sein Leben und Wirken aus seinen Schriften dargestellt, Gotha 1865; C. Martin, Life of St. Jerome, Londra 1888; G. Grützmacher, Hieronymus. Eine biographische Studie zur alten Kirchengeschichte, voll. 3, Lipsia e Berlino 1901-1908; E. Bernard, Les voyages de Saint Jérôme, Parigi 1864; A. Thierry, Saint Jérôme. La société chrétienne à Rome et l'émigration romaine en Terre Sainte, Parigi 1867; A. Ebert, Histoire générale de la litterature du Moyen Âge en Occident, Parigi 1883; J. Brochet, Saint Jérôme et ses ennemis, Parigi 1905; A. Luebeck, Hieronymus quos noverit scriptores et ex quibus hauserit, Lipsia 1872; H. Rönsch, Itala und Vulgata, Marburgo 1875; C. Paucker, De latinitate B. Hieronymi observationes, ecc., Berlino 1880; S. Berger, Histoire de la Vulgate, Parigi 1893; H. Goelzer, Étude lexicographique et grammaticale de la latinité de Saint Jérôme, Parigi 1884; M. Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur, IV, i, Monaco 1914; G. Harendza, De oratorio genere dicendi quo Hieronymus in epistulis usus sit, Breslavia 1905; L. Sanders, Étude sur S. Jérôme, Parigi 1903.
Sulle opere uscite nel decennio 1910-1920 vedi l'accurato Bollettino Geronimiano di A. Vaccari, in Biblica, I (1920). Per l'ultimo decennio ricordiamo: Miscellanea geronimiana. Scritti varî, Roma 1920; Conference geronimiane dei cardinali P. Maffi, D. Mercier e A. Gasquet, Roma 1921; Biblica, I (1920), fasc. 4; Dem hl. Hieronymus Festschrift, Beuron 1920; E. Buonaiuti, S. Girolamo, Roma 1919; U. Moricca, S. Girolamo, voll. 2, Milano s. a.; N. Turchi, Lettere di S. G. voll. 2, Roma 1920; A. Vaccari, S. Girolamo, Studi e schizzi, Roma 1921; F. Cavallera, Saint Jérôme, sa vie et son oeuvre, I, i e ii, Lovanio 1922; A. Ficarra, La posizione di S. Girolamo nella storia della cultura, voll. 2, Agrigento 1916 e 1930; P. Monceaux, Saint Jérôme au désert de Syrie, in Revue des Deux Mondes, luglio 1930. Sulla dibattuta questione dell'ubicazione di Stridone, v. F. Bulic, Wo lag Stridon, die Heimat des hl. Hieronymus, Vienna 1898; id., Stridone luogo natale di S. Girolamo, in Miscellanea geronimiana, citata, p. 253 segg. - Per l'iconografia v.: P. C. Cahier, Caracteristiques des Saints, Parigi 1867; M. Liefmann, Kunst und Heilige, Jena 1912, p. 152; N. e W. Drake, Saints and their Emblems, Londra 1916, p. 66; A. Venturi, L'arte a S. Girolamo, Milano ; K. Künstle, Ikonographie d. Heiligen, Friburgo in B. 1926; A. Strümpel, Hieronymus im Gehäus, in Marburger Jb. f. Kw., II (1925-26), p. 173 segg.; F. Doyé, Heilige und Selige der röm. kath. Kirche, Lipsia 1928-30, I, p. 511 segg.; C. Ricci, Mille santi nell'arte, Milano 1931.SOURCE : https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/santo-girolamo_(Enciclopedia-Italiana)/
Saint Jerome. De viris illustribus : http://www.istrianet.org/istria/illustri/jerome/works/viris-illustribus.htm