Church Father, Scripture scholar, Doctor of the Church; b. Stridon, extreme (modern) northeast Italy, c. 345; d. Bethlehem, Palestine, 419–420.
Life, Literary Career, Character. Jerome was born Sophronius Eusebius, of Christian parents at Stridon "on the confines of Dalmatia and Pannonia" (De vir. ill. 135). At 12 he was sent to Rome with Bonosus to study grammar, rhetoric, and the liberal arts under the famed grammarian Donatus. There he met rufinus of aquileia and the patrician (St.) pammachius, and there he was baptized at 19. He journeyed through Gaul, stopped at Treves (Trier, Germany) where he became acquainted with monasticism, copied hilary of poitiers's De Synodis and De Psalmis, and then joined a choir of ascetics (Jerome, Chron. 329), including Rufinus and chromatius, in Aquileia under Bishop Valerian (c. 370). In 372 he suddenly left on "an uncertain journey through Thrace, Bithynia, Pontus, Galicia, and Cilicia," settling finally in the home of Evagrius of Antioch (Epist. 3:3). He retired for two years to the desert of Chalcis, near Aleppo, where he fell sick and had his famous dream in which he was accused of being a "Ciceronian not a Christian" (Epist. 22:30), and perfected his Greek and studied Hebrew (homo trilinguis: Contra Ruf. 3:6).
Literary Career. Disturbed by the meletian schism in Antioch, Jerome wrote to Pope damasus i concerning the Trinitarian terminology (Epist. 15, 16) and on return to Antioch began his literary career with his legendary life of Paul the Hermit (c. 377). He attended lectures of apollinaris of laodicea on Scripture and was ordained a priest (379) without pastoral obligation, by the
Rome-recognized Paulinus of Antioch. In 380 he journeyed to Constantinople to consult with gregory of nazianzus, gregory of nyssa, and amphilochius of iconium, and to read origen. He translated the World Chronicle of eusebius of caesarea (salamis) as well as some of the homilies of Origen.
In 382 Jerome traveled to Rome with Paulinus of Antioch and epiphanius of salamis and became secretary to Pope Damasus I. He entered the ascetical life of the city, serving as spiritual pedagogue and director to a group of noble women on the Aventine: marcella, her widowed mother, Albina, and sister, Asella; paula and her daughters Blesilla and eustochium; and Marcellina, Felicitas, Furia, Lea, fabiola, and Principia. He made a collation of Origen's Hexapla with Aquila's version of the Old Testament and prepared a correction of the Old Versions (Itala) of the Gospels and Psalms for Damasus. He also wrote the Refutation of Helvidius, to prove the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; his Dialogus contra Luciferianos, concerned with the validity of heretical baptism and priestly and episcopal orders; and he prepared a translation of the tables of concordance of Eusebius of Caesarea.
His strictures on the laxity of the Roman clergy and married Christians and the accusation that his harsh ascetical advice caused the death of St. Blesilla destroyed his hope (Epist. 45:3) of succeeding Damasus (d. December 384), and he departed from Ostia for Palestine with his brother Paulinian and some monks (August 385).
Jerome visited Crete and Antioch, then with St. Paula and a group of Roman women toured the desert of Egypt and Palestine, talking with the hermits and making copious geographical and hagiographical notes. He settled in Bethlehem (386) where Paula built a double mon astery. He then entered cordial relations with a similar establishment under Rufinus and melania the elder in Jerusalem and embarked upon his scriptural exegesis. By way of cenobitical propaganda Jerome wrote his Life of Hilarion, Life of the Monk Malchus, Two Books against Jovinian in defense of virginity, and the De viris illustribus (393–395), a list of 135 authors from Peter to himself, including Philo, Josephus, and the heretics Tatian, Bardesanes, and Novatian for their influence on Christian authors. It was the first literary history, or attempt to dignify Christians as men of letters.
Quarrel over Origen. When Atarbius, an emissary of Epiphanius of Constantia, stirred anti-Origenistic propaganda in Palestine (395), Jerome forsook allegiance to Origen's teaching, while Rufinus remained loyal. There ensued a quarrel in which Bishop john of jerusalem took part with Rufinus and deprived Jerome and his monastery of spiritual assistance. Jerome attacked John in his Contra Johannem Hierosolymitanum. The quarrel was pacified at Easter 397, and Rufinus left for Italy; but it was renewed when Jerome's friends in Rome, particularly SS. Marcella and Eusebius of Cremona, complained that Rufinus had translated Origen's Peri Archon using Jerome's fame as guarantor. Rufinus replied to a warning from Jerome with his Apology against Jerome; Jerome answered him in two books before seeing the full text, rebutting Rufinus's reply with a third book. augustine deplored this quarrel between former friends (Epist. 73:6–10), but Jerome continued the attack until Rufinus's death in Sicily (410), which Jerome announced with "Now that the scorpion lies buried in Tinacria …" (Jerome, Praef. ad Ezech. ).
Of Jerome's correspondence, 117 letters remain; many among them are eulogies on Blesilla, Paula, Eustochium, Fabiola, Marcella, Nepotian, and Nebridius. Others reflect his interests in education; asceticism, history, and doctrine. He exchanged 19 letters with Augustine (Florilegium Patristicum 22) and several with paulinus of nola (Epist. 53) and the virgin demetrias, and he made literal translations of Origen's Peri Archon, the festal letters of theophilus of alexandria, the anti-Origenistic writings of epiphanius, the tract on the Holy Spirit of didymus the blind, and ascetical works of pa chomius, Theodore, and Orsisius. He opened a school for boys at Bethlehem, gave spiritual and scriptural homilies to the monks and nuns, wrote refutations of the antiascetical doctrines of Vigilantius and the Pelagians, and continued the immense work of his Scripture translations and studies. His monastery gave hospitality to the refugees from the sack of Rome and the Vandal invasions (410–412), and was burned by marauders (416). Following his death, his bones were deposited in the grotto at Bethlehem, then reportedly transferred to the crypt of St. Mary Major in Rome.
Probably the most learned man of the age, Jerome had an exceptionally fine classic style, but could adapt himself to the popular Latin of the day. Jerome was sensitive and suspicious of ascetical and theological rivals; his indulgences of his strong likes and dislikes, both literary and personal, betray his complicated character. Irascible in temperament, he used sarcasm, irony, and invective that reflect the hyperbole of the literary tradition of his age, as do his attitude toward women and extremes in asceticism. His personality cannot be readily subjected to modern psychiatric investigation because there is a problem with his literary sources, since much of his learned lore was taken bodily from Suetonius, Josephus, Porphyry, and Theophrastus.
Scripture Scholar. He was an exegete rather than a theologian; his first scriptural composition was an allegorical commentary on the Prophet Abdias, which he later deprecated as juvenile (Pref. in lib. Job ).
Influence of Origen. At Constantinople (380–382) he translated 14 of Origen's homilies on Jeremiah, 14 on Ezekiel, eight on Isaiah, and two on the Song of Songs. He published his own treatise on Isaiah's vision of the Seraphim (Is. 6:1–8:cf. Epist. 18), in which he rejected Origen's explanation of the two Seraphim as signifying God the Son and the Holy Spirit (Epist. 84:3).
During his stay in Rome (382–385), he produced letters dealing with individual Hebrew words untranslated in the Latin version of the Scriptures, e.g., Hosanna (Epist. 20), alleluia, amen, and Maran Atha (Epist. 26) and with the Alphabetic Psalms (Epist. 30) and criticized the commentary of Reticius of Autun on the Song of Songs (Epist. 37). He revised the Old Latin version of the New Testament based on an excellent text of the original Greek Gospels, and made a new version of the Psalter from the Septuagint.
In Bethlehem (386–390) he started a new version of the Old Testament based on Origen's Hexapla, of which only the so-called Gallican Psalter has been preserved. For Paula's nuns he translated 39 homilies of Origen on St. Luke and composed his own commentaries on Philemon, Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus (386–387). His commentary on Ecclesiastes was the first Latin work to take cognizance of the Hebrew text (389), and a short while later he wrote the Liber Hebraicarum quaestionum in Genesim, based partially on current Hebrew exegesis (pref.) and published his book on Hebrew names, drawing heavily on Philo and Origen, and a book on Biblical place names, adapted from Eusebius's Onomasticon but corrected by Jerome's own information.
The Hebrew Bible. He published (391–406) a new translation of all the books of the Hebrew Bible, a commentary on the 12 minor Prophets, a series of notes on St. Matthew's Gospel for Eusebius of Cremona, and the Commentarioli in Psalmos (402). Two essays, one on the study of Scripture for Paulinus of Nola (Epist. 53), and one on translation (Epist. 57), are invaluable for an insight into Jerome's mind in approaching the understanding of the Word of God. He wrote a number of brief explanations of various scriptural problems in letters to friends and petitioners.
During the last 15 years of his life Jerome concentrated on his exegetical masterpieces, the Opus prophetale, as he calls it, with his commentaries on Daniel (407), Isaiah (408–410), Ezekiel (410–415), and Jeremiah (ch. 1–32:415–419) and a few minor tracts, closing with an exposition of Psalm 89 (Epist. 140), in which he dilates on the sorrows of "decrepit old age."
Jerome brought to his exegesis an enormous erudition beginning with his knowledge of the classics and amplified with a close attention to Hebrew tradition and an on-site appreciation of the milieu in which the Scriptures were composed. He had an original mind and excellent human intuition. He employed a well-defined hermeneutical method, borrowing what was good from all three traditions of exegesis, the Alexandrian, Antiochene, and Rabbinical, and while his earlier works abound in allegorical interpretation, his later demonstrate a well-balanced utilization of the best thought then available for "giving my Latin readers the hidden treasures of Hebrew erudition" in keeping with the true meaning of the Scriptures.
Vir Ecclesiasticus. Proud of his orthodoxy as a vir ecclesiasticus, he was gentle and kind with his close associates in the ascetical life, though unmerciful toward his enemies. His scriptural exegesis and historical information in his adaptation of Eusebius's Chronicle made him a founder of the Middle Ages, where he is frequently depicted with a lion for a companion in study. A favorite of Renaissance scholars for the elegance of his Latin style, his strong invective, and breadth of knowledge, he is frequently depicted in an act of supine penance, or with a cardinal's hat (Germany). Various nations including Spain have claimed him as a native.
He has been considered a Father of the Church since the eighth century. The Council of trent spoke of Jerome as the Doctor maximus in sacris scripturis explanandis, and modern exegesis—from the Spiritus Paraclitus of Benedict XV (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 12:385–420) and the Divino afflante Spiritu (Sept. 30, 1943) of pius xii to more recent exegetical progress—has found him an indispensable witness to the mind of the Church in dealing with the Word of God.
Feast: Sept. 30.
Bibliography: Opera Omnia, 9 v. Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 271 v., indexes 4 v. (Paris 1878–90) 22–30; Opera, ed. j. hilberg and s. reiter, 4 v. (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 54–56, 59; Vienna 1910–13); ed. p. lagarde et al., 2 v. (Corpus Christianorum. Series latina 72, 78; Turnhout, Belg. 1958–59); Sur Jonas, ed. and tr. p. antin (Sources Chrétiennes, ed. h. de lubac et al. 43; Paris 1956). The Correspondence (394–419), between Jerome and Augustine of Hippo, tr. c. white (Lewiston, N.Y. 1990); Curiosissimus excerptor: gli "Additamenta" di Girolamo ai "Chronica" di Eusebio, ed. g. brugnoli (Pisa 1995); Epistula di misser sanctu Iheronimu ad Eustochiu, ed. f. salmeri (Palermo 1999). Literature. p. t. camelot, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 5:326—329. h. lietzmann, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. 8.2 (1913) 1565–81. j. forget, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951– ) 8.1:894–983. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951– ), Tables générales, 2:2498–2505. b. altaner, Patrology, tr. h. graef from 5th German ed. (New York 1960) 462–476. f. cavallera, Saint Jérôme, 2 v. (Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense 1, 2; Louvain 1922); Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirto et al. (Paris 1928– ) 4:889–897. a. penna, S. Gerolamo (Turin 1949); Principi e carattere dell' esegesi di S. Gerolamo (Rome 1950). i. d'ivray [ j. fahmy-bey], Saint Jérôme et les dames de l'Aventin (Paris 1938). p. antin, Essai sur saint Jérôme (Paris 1951); "Les Idées morales de S. Jérôme," Mélanges de science religieuse 14 (1957) 135–150. f. x. murphy, ed., A Monument to Saint Jerome (New York 1952). h. hagendahl, Latin Fathers and the Classics (Göteborg 1958). r. and m. pernoud, Saint Jerome, tr. r. sheed (New York 1962); Saint Jérôme: père de la Bible (Monaco 1996). j. n. d. kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (London 1975). h. friedmann, A Bestiary for Saint Jerome (Washington 1980). v. larbaud, An Homage to Jerome: Patron Saint of Translators, tr. j.-p. de chezet (Marlboro, Vt. 1984). b. ridderbos, Saint and Symbol: Images of Saint Jerome in Early Italian Art, tr. p. de waard-dekking (Groningen 1984). m. hodges, St. Jerome and the Lion (New York 1991). d. erasmus, Patristic Scholarship, ed. and tr. j. f. brady and j. c. olin (Toronto 1992), v. 61; Vita di San Girolamo, ed. and tr. a. morisi guerra (L'Aquila 1988). d. brown, Vir Trilinguis: A Study in the Biblical Exegesis of Saint Jerome (Kampen, the Netherlands 1992). c. krumeich, Hieronymus und die christlichen feminae clarissimae (Bonn 1993). p. lardet, L'apologie de Jérôme contre Rufin (Leiden 1993). a. kamesar, Jerome, Greek Scholarship, and the Hebrew Bible (Oxford 1993). l. mirri, La dolcezza nella lotta: donne e ascesi secondo Girolamo (Magnano 1996). h. locher, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Hieronymus im Gehäuser (Frankfurt am Main 1999). p. p. vergerio, Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder and Saint Jerome, tr. j. m. mcmanamon (Tempe, Ariz. 1999). m. luther, Annotierungen zu den Werken des Hieronymus, ed. m. brecht and c. peters (Cologne 2000). d. f. heimann, "Christian Humanism in the Fourth Century: Saint Jerome," in The Endless Fountain, ed. m. morford (Columbus, Ohio 1972), 58–126.
[f. x. murphy]
St. Jerome (ca. 345-420) was an early Christian biblical scholar. The official Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vulgate, is largely the product of his labors of translation and revision.
Born in territory now in northwest Yugoslavia, Jerome studied rhetoric as a youth at Rome in preparation for a career in law, which he did not pursue. The 2 decades from his early 20s were a period of much travel and temporary settlement. After a journey to the German city of Trier, he stopped for a time at Aquileia, in Italy, and there became a member of circle of young Christian intellectuals sharing a common commitment to the ascetic life. He had already formed his two consuming interests: scriptural studies and the pursuit of Christian asceticism. In Syria from about 374, for 4 or 5 years he lived as a recluse in the desert, beginning there his study of Hebrew. Finding that life not entirely compatible, he journeyed in 379 to Constantinople, where he was a student of Gregory of Nazianzus; and there also he undertook the translation from Greek into Latin of homilies by Origen, that eminent biblical scholar much admired by Jerome.
For 3 years from 382 Jerome was at Rome, serving as secretary to Pope Damasus. At the Pope's suggestion, he undertook a complete revision of the Latin Gospels of the New Testament, the aim of which was to replace older, varying, and inaccurate versions with a uniform one based on the best available Greek manuscripts. At Rome also he took every opportunity to commend the life of ascetic renunciation, particularly among wealthy and aristocratic ladies, among whom he had a notable following. The death of Damasus in 384 led to Jerome's departure from Rome, and in the company of a group of ascetic enthusiasts he made a pilgrimage to the monastic centers of Palestine and Egypt.
From 386 to the end of his life Jerome was settled in Bethlehem. There he presided over a monastery endowed by the wealthy Paula, who herself presided nearby over a sister foundation for women. Jerome's most significant accomplishment in his 34 years at Bethlehem was his translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew into Latin. It was an act of scholarly courage, arousing in his lifetime the criticism of many (including Augustine) who were wedded to the traditional Greek Old Testament as the basis for Latin translations. Of much less credit to Jerome in these years was his role in a number of vitriolic controversies; in the most unfortunate of these he aligned himself with implacable foes of that teacher, then dead a century and a half, from whom Jerome had learned so much—Origen.
A variety of opinions on Jerome are in F. X. Murphy, ed., A Monument to Saint Jerome (1952), a symposium of essays by a number of scholars on various aspects of Jerome's life and significance. David S. Wiesen, St. Jerome as a Satirist: A Study in Christian Latin Thought and Letters (1949), deals with Jerome's writings. See also Jean Steinmann, Saint Jerome and His Times (1959).
Kelly, J. N. D. (John Norman Davidson), Jerome: his life, writings, and controversies, New York: Harper & Row, 1975.
Warmington, William, A moderate defence of the oath of allegiance, 1612, Ilkley etc.: Scolar Press, 1975. □
St. Jerome, an early Christian scholar who lived around a.d. 400, is considered one of the early Latin Fathers and Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church. He became well known for his translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. Called the Vulgate, his work remained in use until 1979.
According to legend, a lion limped into St. Jerome's monastery in Bethlehem one day. The other monks ran away in fear, but Jerome calmly looked at the lion's paw and removed a large thorn. Thereafter the lion became his companion. The other monks felt that the lion should work for his food as they did, so Jerome told the lion to guard the monastery's donkey. However, one day the lion neglected his duty, and thieves stole the donkey. Noticing that the donkey was missing, the monks accused the lion of eating it and forced the lion to do the donkey's work. Although innocent, the lion obeyed the order without complaint. Some time later, the lion saw the donkey in a caravan passing by the monastery and brought it back to the monks to prove his innocence.
Paintings of St. Jerome usually show him accompanied by a lion. His feast day is September 30.
In art Jerome is often shown in cardinal's dress, or with the lion from whose paw (according to legend) he removed a thorn; he may also have a stone in his hand as a sign of penance. His feast day is 30 September.