Preface of Pentecost
[Common of a Monastic or Professed Religious]
[Common of a Theologian and Teacher]
[Of the Holy Trinity]
[Of the Reign of Christ]
PRAYER (traditional language)
O God, who didst give us the holy Scriptures as a light to shine upon our path: Grant us, after the example of thy servant Jerome, so to learn of thee according to thy Holy Word, that we may find the Light that shines more and more to the perfect day; even Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
O God, who gave us the holy Scriptures as a light to shine upon our path: Grant us, after the example of your servant Jerome, so to learn of you according to your holy Word, that we may find the Light that shines more and more to the perfect day; even Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018 with revised lessons and collects.
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Last updated: 29 July 2023
SCHOLAR, TRANSLATOR, AND THEOLOGIAN (30 SEP
Jerome was the foremost biblical scholar of the ancient Church.
His translation of the Bible, along with his commentaries and homilies
on the biblical books, have made him a major intellectual force in the
Jerome was born in about 347, and was converted and baptized during his
student days in Rome. On a visit to Trier, he found himself attracted
to the monastic life, which he tested in a brief but unhappy experience
as a hermit in the deserts of Syria. At Antioch, he continued his studies
in Hebrew and Greek. In 379, he went to Constantinople where he studied
under Gregory of Nazianzus. From 382 to 384 he was secretary to Pope Damasus
I, and spiritual director of many noble Roman ladies who were becoming
interested in the monastic life. It was Damasus who set him the task of
making a new translation of the Bible into Latin -- into the popular form
of the language, hence the name of the translation: the
Vulgate. After the death of Damasus, Jerome returned to the East,
and established a monastery at Bethlehem, where he lived and worked until
his death on 30 September 420.
Jerome is best known as the translator of the Bible into Latin. A previous
version (now called the Old Latin) existed, but Jerome's version far surpassed
it in scholarship and in literary quality. Jerome was well versed in classical
Latin (as well as Greek and Hebrew), but deliberately translated the Bible
into the style of Latin that was actually spoken and written by the majority
of persons in his own time. This kind of Latin is known as Vulgate Latin
(meaning the Latin of the common people), and accordingly Jerome's translation
is called the Vulgate.
Vulgate Latin is classical Latin in the first stages
of evolving into such modern languages as Spanish, French, and Italian.
It has begun the process of changing from an inflected language (in which
words have various endings, or inflections, which are used to show the
relation of the word to other words in the sentence) to a separate-word
language like English (in which additional words, such as prepositions,
are used, along with word order, to show the function of the word). Thus,
in classical Latin, "He spoke to me," is dix it mihi or mihi
dixit, but in Vulgate Latin it is dixit ad me.
In the second century BC, Jewish scholars in Alexandria,
Egypt, had translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Tradition had it
that this translation was the work of 70 (or 72) scholars, and accordingly
the result was known as the Septuagint (often written as LXX). The LXX
contains six or more books (there is some leeway here) not found in the
standard Hebrew text, known as the Masoretic Text (or MT), and sometimes
reads differently from the MT in particular verses. The New Testament writers,
except for Matthew, when they are quoting the Old Testament, usually quote
from the LXX. The differences in readings between the MT and the LXX were
formerly explained by assuming that the LXX translators were sometimes
not very good translators. However, very ancient Hebrew manuscripts of
the Bible, recently found at Qumran and elsewhere, often agree with the
LXX against the MT. Accordingly, it is now generally supposed that the
LXX is a fairly accurate translation of Hebrew manuscripts available at
the time, and that sometimes the manuscripts that the LXX translators worked
from differed from the manuscripts that became the basis for the standardized
Hebrew text that we know today.
The early Christians, most of whom knew Greek but
not Hebrew, were accustomed to use the LXX as their version of the Old
Testament Scriptures. (So, for that matter, did most Jews living in the
Roman Empire outside of the land of Israel itself.) The Old Latin translation
had been made from the Greek. But Jerome was determined to make his translation
from the Hebrew, partly because he considered it to be more accurate, and
partly because he wanted a text that he could use as a basis for argument
with Jewish opponents, without having them object, "But that is not what
the Hebrew text says."
Intending a translation from the Hebrew, he ran
into a difficulty with the Psalms. They were used regularly in public and
private worship, and many Christians knew them well enough to notice and
resent any radical changes from the wording they had always used. So Jerome
translated the Psalms from the Greek, and salved his scholarly feelings
by publishing a translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew in an Appendix.
The history of the Psalms in English is in some
ways similar. In 1611, the King James Version of the Bible was published,
and generally accepted by English-speakers. However, the Psalms in English
were already an established part of public worship in the Coverdale translation
of 1536 or thereabouts. For roughly 75 years worshippers in England had
been reading, saying, singing, or chanting the Psalms in the Coverdale
translation (also called the Prayer Book Version). Their response to the
Psalms in the King James Version was: "What is this nonsense! Take away
this new-fangled modern translation, and leave me to recite the Psalms
in the good old-fashioned version that I learned at the knee of my dear
old silver-haired mother, the most magnificent version that the pen of
man has ever written, the version that has comforted and sustained me all
the days of my life." So, when you attend an Anglican funeral, and you
hear the choir chanting,
The LORD is my shepherd,
You are hearing the Coverdale Psalter. And for some of us, at least, it
is a great tree, deeply rooted in the soil of English Christianity, and
full of complex associations that make reading it a deeply moving experience.
(I have heard rumors that there are versions of the Psalter used in some
circles, that are even more modern and trendy than the King James. Hmmph!)
therefore can I lack nothing.
He shall feed me in a green pasture,
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
Jerome was intemperate in controversy, and any correspondence with him tended
to degenerate into a flame war. (His friendship with Augustine, conducted
by letter, nearly ended before it began. Fortunately Augustine sized him
up correctly, soothed his feelings, and was extremely tactful thereafter.)
His hot temper, pride of learning, and extravagant promotion of asceticism
involved him in many bitter controversies over questions of theology and
of Bible interpretation. However, he was candid at times in admitting
his failings, and was never ambitious for either worldly or churchly honors.
He was a militant champion of orthodoxy, a tireless worker, and a scholar
of rare gifts.
by James Kiefer