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Jerome [1]

(fully Latinized Sophronius Eusebius Hieroynyus), generally known as Saint Jerome one of the most learned and able among the fathers of the Western Church, was born at Stridon, a town on the confines of Dalmatia and Pannonia (but whose site is now unknown, as the place was destroyed by the Goths in A.D. 377), at some period between 331 and 345 according to Schaff, it probably occurred near 345. His parents were both Christians. His early education was superintended by his father, after which he studied Greek and Latin rhetoric and philosophy under Æ lius Donatus at Rome. While a resident in this Christian city he was admitted to the rite of baptism and decided to devote his life, in rigid abstinence, to the service of his Master. It seems uncertain whether a visit which he made to Gaul was undertaken before or after this important event. At any rate, about 370 we find him at Treves and at Aquileia, busy in transcribing the commentaries of Hilarius on the Psalms and a work on the synods by the same author; and in composing his first theological essay, De muliere septies percussa, the letter to Innocentius. In 373 he set out on a journey to the East, in company with his friends Innocentius, Evagrius, and Heliodorus, and finally settled for a time at Antioch. During his residence at this place he was seized with a severe fever and in a dream which he had in this sickness he fancied himself called before the judgment bar of God and as a heathen Ciceronian (he had hitherto given much of his time to the study of the classical writers) so severely reprimanded and scourged that even the angels interceded for him from sympathy with his youth and he himself was led to take the solemn vow hereafter to forsake the study and reading of worldly books, a pledge which, however, he did not adhere to in after life. A marked religious fervor thenceforth animated Jerome; a devotion to monastic habits became the ruling principle, we might say the ruling passion of his life he retired to the desert of Chalcis in 374, and there spent four years in penitential exercises and in study, paying particular attention to the acquirement of the Hebrew tongue. But his active and restless spirit soon brought him again upon the public stage, and involved him in all the doctrinal and ecclesiastical controversies of those controversial times. (See Meletius).

In 379 he was ordained a presbyter by bishop Paulinus in Antioch, without receiving charge of a congregation, as he preferred the itinerant life of a monk and student to a fixed office. About 380 he journeyed to Constantinople, where, although past a student's age, he was not ashamed to take his seat at the feet of the celebrated Gregory Nazianzen and to listen to the anti-Arian sermons of this learned father of the Church. Indeed, the pupil and instructor soon became great friends; and there resulted from his study of the Greek language and literature, to which much of his time and attention was here devoted, several translations from the writings of the early Greek fathers among which the most important are the Chronicle of Eusebius, and the homilies of Origen on Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It cost Jerome no small sacrifice to tear himself away from his friend and instructor to return in 382 to Rome as mediator in the Meletian schism, which greatly, agitated the Church of Antioch at this time. In a council which was convened at Rome Jerome took a prominent part and afterwards acted as secretary to the Roman pontiff. By his adherence to Damasus, a close friendship sprang up between these two great men, which was broken only by the death of the pontiff. Some writers have criticized the conduct of Jerome against the Eastern churches and believe that Damasus purchased the influence of Jerome for his party; but for this opinion, as well as for that of others, that the domineering manner of Damasus made Jerome pliant and servile, there are no good grounds; indeed, Jerome was too independent and determined in character ever to be swayed in his opinion by the will of others. It is more likely that the flattery which Damasus bestowed on Jerome by recognizing his abilities as superior, and urging him to undertake those vast exegetical labors which finally resulted in presenting the Church with a revised Latin version of the Bible (see below on the Vulgate), was what drew Jerome to Damasus, and made him one of the bishop's most faithful adherents.

Jerome's fame as a man of eloquence, learning, and sanctity was at this period in its zenith, and he improved his advantages to further the interests of monasticism. Everywhere he extolled the merit of that mode of life, though it had hitherto found few advocates at Rome and the clergy had even violently opposed it. He commended monastic seclusion even against the will of parents, interpreting the word of the Lord about forsaking father and mother as if monasticism and Christianity were the same. "Though thy mother, with flowing hair and rent garments, should show thee the breasts which have nourished thee though thy father should lie upon the threshold; yet depart thou, treading over thy father, and fly with dry eyes to the standard of the cross... The love of God and the fear of hell easily rend the bonds of the household asunder. The holy Scripture indeed enjoins obedience to parents, but he who loves them more than Christ loses his soul. O desert, where the flowers of Christ are blooming! O solitude, where the stones for the new Jerusalem are prepared! O retreat, which rejoices in the friendship of God! What doest thou in the world, my brother, with thy soul greater than the world? How long wilt thou remain. in the shadow of roofs, and in the smoky dungeon of cities? Believe me, I see here more of the light" (Ep. 14). Many pious persons placed themselves under his spiritual direction; "even the senator Pammachius, son-in-law to Paula (one of Jerome's most celebrated female converts), and heir to a fortune, gave his goods to the poor, exchanged the purple for the cowl, exposed himself to the mockery of his colleagues, and became, in the flattering language of Jerome, the general-in-chief of Roman monks, the first of monks in the first of cities" (Schaff, 2, 211).

His converts for the monastic life were, however, mainly of the female sex, and mostly daughters and widows of the most wealthy and honorable classes of Rome. These patrician converts "he gathered as a select circle around him; he expounded to them the holy Scriptures, in which some of those Roman ladies were very well read; he answered their questions of conscience; he incited them to celibate life, lavish beneficence, and enthusiastic asceticism; and flattered their spiritual vanity by extravagant praises. He was the oracle, biographer, admirer, and eulogist of these holy women, who constituted the spiritual nobility of Catholic Rome"... But "his intimacy with these distinguished women, whom he admired more, perhaps, than they admired him, together with his unsparing attacks upon the immoralities of the Roman clergy and of the higher classes, drew upon him much unjust censure and groundless calumny, which he met rather with indignant scorn and satire than with quiet dignity and Christian meekness;" and when his patron Damasus died, in A.D. 384, he found it necessary, or, at least, thought it the more prudent course, to quit Rome, and to seek a home in the East. As "the solitudes of Europe were not yet sufficiently sanctified to satisfy a passion for holy seclusion," by which Jerome was now wholly controlled, and "as the celebrity attending on ascetic privations was still chiefly confined to the Eastern world, Jerome bade adieu to his native hills, to his hereditary property, to pontifical Rome herself," and, after touching at Rhegium and Cyprus, where he enjoyed a visit with Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, and a short stay at Antioch, he continued his journey to the Holy Land and finally settled in 386 at Bethlehem. "In a retreat so well qualified to nourish religious emotion even in the most torpid heart, the zeal of Jerome did not slumber, but rather seemed to catch fresh fire from the objects and the recollections which surrounded him ... In that peaceful, pure, and pious solitude, where it was natural enough that he should exaggerate the merits of mortification, and fasting, and celibacy, and pilgrimage, and disparage the substantial virtues, which he could rarely witness and which he could never practice," he gave himself up wholly to the further study of the sacred language, and here completed the great literary labor of his life, the translation of the Scriptures.

He was followed to this place by several of his lady friends, one of whom, Paula (q.v.), founded here four convents three for nuns, one for monks the last of which she placed under the care of Jerome. But his life, even in this retreat, was by no means a quiet or peaceful one wild and awful as the abode was, it did not deter him from sending forth from these solitudes fiery and vehement invectives not only against the opponents of Church orthodoxy, like Helvidius (against whom he had appeared before in 384), Jovinian (q.v.),Vigilantius (q.v.), and the Pelagians (q.v.), but he engaged in controversies even with his former friend Rufinus (q.v.) (See Origenistic Controversy) ), and in a moderate form even with St. Augustine (see Mohler, Vermischte Schriften , 1, 1 sq.; Hieron. Opera , ed. Vall. 1, 632 sq.) By his controversy with the Pelagians he had endangered his life, and he was obliged to flee from Bethlehem, and to live in concealment for over two years. In 418 he returned again to his monastery at Bethlehem, worn out in body and mind by unceasing toil, privations, and anxieties, and, seized by sickness, his feeble frame soon gave way, and he died in 419 or 420 (some say Sept. 30, 420).

The influence which Jerome exerted on his contemporaries, the prominence which they assigned him, and the regard which the Christian Church has ever since bestowed upon him, may be justified in view of the customs of the period in which he lived. It is by considering both the sunny and shadowy side, not only of his own life, but also of the Christian Church in the 4th century, that we can accord to him a place among the great teachers and holy men of the early Church, and can afford to overlook the glaring inconsistencies and violent passions which disfigure him so greatly and which have inclined Protestant writers not unfrequently to call him "a Church father of doubtful character." We think Dr. Vilmar (Jahrb Ü cher deutscher Theol. 10, 746) has best delineated Jerome's character when he says, "Jerome yielded to the spirit which animated the Church in his day and willingly intrusted his spiritual development to her care in so far as he lacked independent judgment. And it is in this that his greatness consists, in his ability well to discern the true wants and opinions of his day from the vacillating views of the masses and the capricious inclinations of the men of momentary power. No opposition could move him from the defense of anything when once discerned by him as a truth ... Where he judged himself to be in the right, he manifested the energy worthy of a Roman, even though the world was against him."

Thus he hesitated not to encounter the opposition of all Rome when once he believed it to be his duty to come, forward as a promoter of monasticism "in a country where it was as yet but little loved, in the great capital, where the rigidly ascetic tendency came into collision. with the propensities and interests of many," and where "he could not fail, even on this score, to incur the hatred of numbers, both of the clergy and laity" (Nearder, 2, 683). Still, to his praise be it said, that however greatly we regret this attitude of Jerome in behalf of monachism, which, at this early period of the life of the Christian Church, may be pardoned on the ground that such great personal sacrifices and privations were the only proofs which the young convert could bring to evince his earnestness and zeal for the cause of his Master, yet "no one has denounced, no one has branded more energetically than he the false monks, the false penitents,. the false widows and virgins. He points out with a bold hand all the faults and dangers of the institution," so far, of course, as an advocate of monasticism could have ventured to do it at all (compare Montalembert, Monks of the West, 1, 406 sq.; Lea, Celibacty, p. 72 sq.). Jerome, in short, was in the service of the popular opinion and yet never yielded to the opinion of the day. In the opinion of Neander, Jerome's "better qualities were obscured by the great defects of his character, by his mean passions, his easily offended vanity, his love of controversy and of rule, his pride, so often concealed, under the garb of humility." Much milder is the judgment of Dr. Schaff, who pronounces Jerome "indeed an accomplished and most serviceable scholar, and a zealous enthusiast for all which his age counted holy ... and that he reflected with the virtues the failings also of his age and of the monastic system," adding in a footnote that "among later Protestant historians' opinion has become somewhat more favorable," though he again modifies this statement by saying that this has reference "rather to his learning than to his moral character."

The Vulgate. Jerome gave also great offence to his contemporaries by his attempt to correct the Latin version of the Bible, then "become greatly distorted by the blending together of different translations, the mixing up. with each other of the different Gospels, and the ignorance of transcribers." This he successfully completed, and it is regarded by all Biblical scholars as "by far the most important and valuable" work of Jerome, in itself constituting "an immortal service" to the Christian Church. "Above all his contemporaries, and even all his successors down to the 16th century, Jerome, by his linguistic knowledge, his Oriental travel, and his entire culture, was best fitted, and, in fact, the only man to undertake and successfully execute so gigantic a task, a task which just then, with the approaching separation of East and West, and the decay of the knowledge of the original languages of the Bible in Latin Christendom, was of the highest necessity. Here, as so often in history, we plainly discern the hand of divine Providence" (Schaff).

He had been urged to undertake this work by bishop Damasus, and it was commenced, as already noted, while Jerome was yet a resident at Rome and had there amended the translation of the Gospels and the Psalms. In his retreat at Bethlehem he extended this work to the whole Bible, supported in his task, it is generally believed, by the Hexapla of Origen, which he is supposed to have obtained from the library at Caesarea. "Even this was a bold undertaking, by which he must expose himself to being loaded with reproaches on the part of those who, in their ignorance, which they identified with a pious simplicity, were wont to condemn every deviation from the traditional text, however necessary or salutary it might be. They were very ready to see, in any change of the only text which was known to them, a falsification, without inquiring any further into the reason of the alteration. Yet here he had in his favor the authority of a Roman bishop, as well as the fact that in this case it was impossible to oppose to him a translation established and transmitted by ecclesiastical authority, or a divine inspiration of the text hitherto received ... But he must have given far greater offence by another useful undertaking, viz. a new version of the Old Testament, not according to the Alexandrian translation, which before this had alone been accepted, but according to the Hebrew. This appeared to many, even of those who did not belong to the class of ignorant persons, a great piece of impiety to pretend to understand the Old Testament better than the seventy inspired interpreters better than the apostles who had followed this translation and who would have given another translation if they had considered it to be necessary to allow one's self to be so misled by Jews as for their accommodation to falsify the writings of the Old Testament!" (Neander, Church History, 2:684 sq.)

But with the opposition there came also friends, and among his supporters he counted even Augustine, until gradually it was introduced in all the churches of the West. Of this great work, as a whole, Dr. Schaff thus speaks (Ch. History, 3, 975 sq.): "The Vulgate takes the first place among the Bible versions of the ancient Church. It exerted the same influence upon Latin Christendom as the Septuagint upon Greek, and it is directly or indirectly the mother of most of the earlier versions in the European vernaculars. It is made immediately from the original languages, though with the use of all accessible helps, and is as much superior to the Itala as Luther's Bible is to the older German versions. From the present stage of Biblical philology and exegesis the Vulgate can be charged, indeed, with innumerable faults, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and arbitrary dealing in particulars; but, notwithstanding these, it deserves, as a whole, the highest praise for the boldness with which it went back from the half-deified Septuagint directly to the original Hebrew; for its union of fidelity and freedom; and for the dignity, clearness, and gracefulness of its style. Accordingly, after the extinction of the knowledge of Greek, it very naturally became the clerical Bible of Western Christendom, and so continued to be till the genius of the Reformation in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and England, returning to the original text, and still further penetrating the spirit of the Scriptures, though with the continual help of the Vulgate, produced a number of popular Bibles, which were the same to the evangelical laity that the Vulgate had been for many centuries to the Catholic clergy. This high place the Vulgate holds even to this day in the Roman Church, where it is unwarrantably and perniciously placed on an equality with the original." (See Vulgate).

Jerome's other Writings. As the result of his critical labors on the Holy Scriptures, we have also commentaries on Genesis, the major and minor prophets, Ecclesiastes, Job, on some of the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, and the epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Titus, and Philemon, besides translations of different parts of the Old and New Testaments. All these productions Dr. Schaff pronounces "the most instructive we have from the Latin Church of that day, not excepting even those of Augustine, which otherwise greatly surpass them in theological depth and spiritual unction." Alban Butler thus speaks of Jerome's exegetical labors: "Nothing has rendered St. Jerome so famous as his critical labors 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." To works of an exegetical character in a wider sense belong also his Liber de interpretatione nominum Hebraicorum, or De nominibus Hebr. (Opera, 3, 1-120), the book On the Interpretation on the Hebrew Names, an etymological lexicon of the proper Names of the Old and New Testaments, useful for its time, but in many respects defective and now worthless; and Liber de situ et nominibus locorum Hebraicorum, usually cited under the title Eusebii Onomasticon (urbium et locorum S. Scripturae) (Opera, 3. 121-290), a free translation of the Onomasticon of Eusebius, a sort of Biblical topology in alphabetical order, still considered valuable to antiquarian scholarship.

Yet, the busy life which Jerome led, and the controversies which he waged in behalf of rigid orthodoxy in Christian belief, prove that, so far from confining himself to the production of exegetical works, he was employed on almost every subject: biography, history, and the vast field of theology, and in all he wielded the pen of a scholar, in a (Latin) style acknowledged by all to be both pure and terse. "The phraseology of Jerome," says Prof. W. Ramsay (Smith, Diet. of Greek and Roman Biog. s.v.), "is exceedingly pure, bearing ample testimony to the diligence with which he must have studied the choicest models. No one can read the Vulgate without being struck by the contrast which it presents in the classic simplicity of its language to the degenerate affectation of Apuleius, and the barbarous obscurity of Ammianus, to say nothing of the ecclesiastical writers." We lack the space to go into further details on his varied productions and are obliged to refer for a more detailed statement to Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. (Lond. 1859, roy. 8vo), 2, 461 sq., and Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. G É n É rale, 26, 681 sq. In short, "Jerome excelled" (says Dr. Eadie, in Appleton's Cyclop. Biogr.) all his contemporaries in erudition. He wanted the glowing fancy of Chrysostom, and the serene temper and symmetrical intellect of Augustine, but he was beyond them both in critical skill and taste. His faults lie upon the surface a hot and hasty disposition, which so resented every opposition, and magnified trifles, that, in his towering passion, he heaped upon opponents opprobrious epithets and coarse invective. Haste, eagerness, and acerbity appear also in his letters and expositions.

His mode of life must have greatly aggravated this touchiness and irascibility, as it deprived him of the mollifying influence of society and friendship. His heart was estranged from human sympathies; and, save when lighted up by the ardors of his indignant passion, it was, like his own cell, cold, gloomy, and uninviting. The works of Jerome will always maintain for him the esteem of Christendom. There is in them a great deal that is baseless, fanciful, and one-sided, but very much that is useful and instructive in exegesis and theology. A still greater, and to us nearer authority, Dr. Schaff (Ch. History, 3, 987 sq.), thus sums up the position and work of Jerome in the Christian Church: "Orthodox in theology and Christology, semi-Pelagian in anthropology, Romanizing in the doctrine of the Church and tradition, anti-chiliastic in eschatology, legalistic and ascetic in ethics, a violent fighter of all heresies, a fanatical apologist of all monkish extravagances, Jerome was revered throughout the Catholic middle age as the patron saint of Christian and ecclesiastical learning, and, next to Augustine, as maximus doctor ecclesioe; but by his enthusiastic love for the holy Scriptures, his recourse to the original languages, his classic translation of the Bible, and his manifold exegetical merits, he also played materially into the hands of the Reformation, and as a scholar and an author still takes the first rank, and as an influential theologian the second (after Augustine), among the Latin fathers."

Of the various editions of Jerome's works a detailed account is given by Sch Ö nemann (Bibliotheca Patrums Latinorum, 1, c. 4, § 3). Parts of them were early published, but the first critical edition of his writings collectively was given to the public in 1516. It was superintended by Erasmus, with the assistance of Œ colampadius (Basle, 9 vols. fol.; reprinted in 1526 and 1537, the last edition being the best; and also at Lyons, 1530, in 8 vols. fol.). Another critical edition as prepared by Minarianus Victorinus (Rome, 1566-72, 9 vols. fol.; reprinted at Paris, 1578, 1608, 4 vols. and in 1643, 9 vols.). The Protestant Adam Tribbechovius prepared an edition which was published at Frankfort-on-the-Main and at Leipsic, 1684, 12 vols. fol.; then appeared the Benedictine edition prepared by John Martianay and Anton Pouget (Paris, 1693-1706, 5 vols. fol.), which was, however, far inferior to, and was wholly superseded by, the last and best of all, prepared by Dominicus Vallarsi and Scipio Maffei (Verona, 1734-42, 11 Vols. fol.; reprinted, with improvements, Ven. 1766-72). The edition of Migne, Paris (Petit-Montrouge), 1845-46, also in 11 vols. (tom. 22-30 of the Patrologia Lat.), "notwithstanding the boastful title, is only an uncritical reprint of the edition of Vallarsi, with unessential changes in the order of arrangement; the Vita Hieronymi and the Testimonia de Hieronymo being transferred from the eleventh to the first volume, which is more convenient" (Dr. Schaff). The so called Comes of Hieronymus (Liber Comitis Lectionarius), a work of great value for the history of liturgies, is falsely attributed to Jerome, and belongs to a later period; likewise his Martyrologium, and some of the epistles.

See Du Pin, Nouvelle Biblioth. des auteurs Eccles. 3, 100-140; Tillemont, M É m. Eccles. 12, 1-356; Martianay, La Vie de St. Jer Ô me (Paris, 1706); Joh. Stilting, in the Acta Sanctorum, Sept. 8, 418-688 (Antw. 1762); Butler, Lives of the Saints (sub. Sept. 30); Vallarsi (in Op. Hieron. 11, 1- 240); Schr Ö ckh, Kirchengesch. 8, 359 sq. and especially 11, 3-254; Neander, Ch. Hist. 2, 682 sq.; Schaff, Ch. History, 2, § 41; 3, § 177: Sebastian Dolci, Maximus Hieronymus Vitoe suoe Scriptor. (Ancon. 1750, 4to); Engelstoft, Hieron. Stridonensis, interpres, criticus, exegeta, apologeta, historicus, doctor, monachus (Havn. 1798); Ersch und Gruber's Encycl. sect. 2, vol. 8; Collombet, Histoire de St. Jer Ô me (Lyons, 1844); O. Z Ö ckler, Hieronymus, sein Leben und Wirken. (Gotha, 1865, 8vo); Revue des Deux Mondes (1865, July 1). (J.H.V.)