Bible scholars rejoice! Today is the memorial celebration of the original Bible scholar St. Jerome.
Reflections from the Saints:
“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.”– St. Jerome
One of the greatest Biblical scholars of Christendom, Saint Jerome was born of Christian parents at Stridon in Dalmatia around the year 345. Educated at the local school, he then studied rhetoric in Rome for eight years, before returning to Aquilea to set up a community of ascetics. When that community broke up after three years Jerome went to the east. He met an old hermit named Malchus, who inspired the saint to live in a bare cell, dressed in sackcloth, studying the Scriptures.
He learned Hebrew from a rabbi. Then he returned to Antioch and was reluctantly ordained priest. With his bishop he visited Constantinople and became friendly with Saints Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa. And then in 382 he went again to Rome, to become the personal secretary of Pope Damasus. Here he met his dearest friends, a wealthy woman called Paula, her daughter Eustochium and another wealthy woman named Marcella.
Here too he began his finest work. Commissioned by the pope, he began to revise the Latin version of the psalms and the New Testament, with immense care and scholarship. Jerome eventually translated the whole of the Bible into the Latin version which is known as the Vulgate. But when Damasus died, his enemies forced the saint to leave Rome.
Accompanied by Paula and Eustochium, Jerome went to Bethlehem. There he lived for thirty-four years till his death in 420, building a monastery over which he presided and a convent headed first by Paula and after her death by Eustochium. The saint set up a hospice for the countless pilgrims to that place. His scholarship, his polemics, his treatises and letters often provoked anger and always stimulated those who read them. ‘Plato located the soul of man in the head,’ he wrote, ‘Christ located it in the heart.’
Excerpted from A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley
Patron: Archeologists; archivists; Bible scholars; librarians; libraries; schoolchildren; students; translators.
Symbols: Cardinal’s hat; lion; aged monk in desert; aged monk with Bible.
Things to Do:
- Jerome had a violent temper and was very strong-willed. He made a lot of enemies because of his temperament. To overcome these faults, he prayed and did penance. His canonization shows us that canonized saints aren’t perfect, but have faults just like us. They just worked on them and cooperated with grace more fully to overcome them. What faults do we have that we need to work more diligently on overcoming?
- St. Jerome was a wonderful spiritual director, especially for women. It is important to have a spiritual director to grow in the spiritual life. Find out what a director can do for you, and make some arrangements for one.
- The Bible was of utmost importance in Jerome’s life and should be in ours. Make a point to read the Bible daily. Jerome was known to say that ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
Many today do not realize that Protestants often point to Saint Jerome in their arguments concerning the proper Canon of Scripture. It their contention that Jerome did not favor the Deuterocanonical books:
- Additions to Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4-16:24)
- Sirach, also called Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus
- Baruch, including the Letter of Jeremiah (Additions to Jeremiah in the Septuagint)
- Additions to Daniel:
- Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24-90)
- Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13, Septuagint prologue)
- Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14, Septuagint epilogue)
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
This is actually a misrepresentation of history on their part. For the historical record shows the he never “categorically acknowledged or rejected the deuterocanonical books as part of the Canon of Scripture, and he repeatedly made use of them” (New Advent).
Saint Jerome is obviously a very important person in the history of the Bible as a written source for the Christian faith. In fact, the Latin Vulgate remains the official Bible of the Church today. It was the Latin translation that was the basis for the Douay-Rheims Bible, which heavily influenced the King James Version (published a few years after the Catholic Douay).