Posts Tagged ‘Jerome; translations’

“To be a Christian is a great thing, not merely to seem one. And somehow or other those please the world most…please Christ least…. Christians are made, not born.”-St. Jerome

Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea, in Dalmatia around the year A.D. 345. He was raised a Christian and at the age of 18, he studied in Rome for 8 years, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert, beginning in the year 374.  There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, from a rabbi.  Jerome was ordained in Antioch but he did not exercise his pastoral ministry as he thought it was incompatible with his own vocation.  He went to Constantinople and learned from St. Gregory Nazianzus, one of the 4 great theologians in the eastern Church. From 382-385, he acted as Pope Damasus’ secretary in Rome.  The Bishop Damasus of  Rome (the pope) directed Jerome to revise the Latin version of the New Testament.  Jerome was attracted to a rigorist, ascetic and studious life.  He gathered women in Rome to live such a life in common.  He was not well-liked by the Roman clergy because of his irascibility and unbending nature.

 After the death of Damasus, Jerome settled in Bethlehem and some of the women students followed him to Palestine.  One of them, wealthy woman, Paula, paid for the provision of buildings where men and women could respectively live an ordered and studious life.  They opened a hospice for travelers and a free school in which Jerome taught Greek and Latin to the local children.

Controversies disturbed Jerome’s quiet and ordered life many times:  conflicts about celibacy, Pelagianism, and the teachings of Origen.  Over Pelagianism, Jerome had a bitter dispute with his boyhood friend, Rufinus.  During the acrimonious fights, it was in Bethlehem, he finished translating the entire Bible into Latin around 404. Paula died that same year. After completing the translation, Jerome and company found out that Rome had been sacked by the Alaric.  His ministries were attacked. During the difficult times when Romans were fleeing to Bethlehem and Jerome was doing his best to assist them, he wrote:

“I cannot help them all, but I grieve and weep with them. And, completely given up to the duties which charity imposes on me, I have put aside my commentary on Ezekiel and almost all study. For today, we must translate the words of Scripture into deeds, and instead of speaking saintly words we must act them.”

Little is known about his last days in Bethlehem. Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem but his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

Jerome was kind to his friends, considerate of the weak but considered vigorous and even intemperate in debate.  Pope Sixtus V (died 1529), when showed a picture of Jerome beating himself with a stone is said to have commented: “You do well thus to use that stone:  without  it you would never have been numbered among the saints.” Yet, from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, Jerome used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church world for over 1,000 years.

Writing by St. Jerome

Introduction: In Daily Lectionary, today’s (9/30) appointed New Testament Reading is St. Matthew 6: 1—15  in which the Lord teaches us about giving to the poor:

 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Keep these verses in mind as you read the following by Jerome:

 Today you may see women cramming their wardrobes with dresses, changing their gowns from day to day, and for all that unable to vanquish the moths. Now and then one more scrupulous wears out a single dress; yet, while she appears in rags, her boxes are full. Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying. When they hold out a hand to the needy, they sound a trumpet; when they invite to a love-feast, they engage a crier. I lately saw the noblest lady in Rome—I suppress her name, for I am no satirist—with a band of eunuchs before her in the basilica of the blessed Peter. She was giving money to the poor, a coin apiece; and this with her own hand, that she might be accounted more religious. Hereupon a by no means uncommon incident occurred. An old woman, “full of years and rags,” ran forward to get a second coin, but when her turn came she received not a penny but a blow hard enough to draw blood from her guilty veins.

 “The love of money is (a) root of all evil,” and the apostle speaks of covetousness as being idolatry. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Lord will never allow a righteous soul to perish of hunger.

(Sources:  The Penguin Dictionary of SaintsSaints of the Roman Calendar; The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Today we proclaim You wise and wonderful because You have revealed Your loving design by making Your Word known. Through Your grace St. Jerome penetrated Your divine revelation so profoundly that from this treasure he could dispense the old and the new wisdom, thus prompting us by his example to seek constantly in the sacred pages Christ, Your living Word.


Thou art coming to a King,

Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and pow’r are such

None can ever ask too much.

—Come, My Soul, with Every Care (LSB 779:2)

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture. May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.




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