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- Bible Forum
Eusebius Hieronimus

Saint Jerome

Among the best accounts of St. Jerome are: Saint Jérôme, la Société chrétienne à Rome et l᾿emigration romaine en Terre Sainte, par M. Amédée Thierry (Paris, 1867), and Hieronymus sein Leben und Werken von Dr. Otto Zöckler (Gotha, 1865); the former gives a vivid, artistic, and, on the whole, accurate picture of his life, with large extracts in the original from his writings, the latter a critical and comprehensive view of both. These contain all that is best in previous biographers, such as the Benedictine Martianay (Paris, 1706), Sebastian Dolci (Ancona, 1750), Engelstoft (Copenhagen, 1797); to which may be added notices of Jerome in the Acta Sanctorum, Biblia Sacra, Du Pin's and Ceillier's Histories of Ecclesiastical Writers, the excellent article in the D. of G. and R. Biogr., the Life of Jerome prefixed to Vallarsi's ed. of his works, which has a singular value from its succinct narrative and careful investigation of dates.

He was born c. 346 at Stridon, a town near Aquileia, of Catholic Christian parents (Pref. to Job), who, according to the custom then common, did not have him baptized in infancy. They were not very wealthy, but possessed houses (Ep. lxvi. 4) and slaves (cont. Ruf. i. c. 30), and lived in close intimacy with the richer family of Bonosus, Jerome's foster-brother (Ep. iii. 5). They were living in 373, when Jerome first went to the East (xxii. 30), but, since he never mentions them later, they probably died in the Gothic invasion (377) when Stridon was destroyed. He had a brother Paulinian, some 20 years younger (lxxxii. 8), who from 385 lived constantly with him. He was brought up in comfort, if not in luxury (xxii. 30) and received a good education. He was in a grammar school, probably at Rome, and about 17 years old, when the death of the emperor Julian (363) was announced (Comm. on Habakkuk, i. 10). Certainly it was not much later than this that he was sent with his friend Bonosus to complete his education at Rome, and they probably lived together there. The chief study of those days was rhetoric, to which Jerome applied himself diligently, attending the law courts and hearing the best pleaders (Comm. on Gal. ii. 13). Early in his stay at Rome he lived irregularly and fell into sin (Ep. vi. 4, xiv. 6, xlviii. 20). But he was drawn back, and finally cast in his lot with the Christian church. He describes how on Sundays he used to visit, with other young men of like age and mind, the tombs of the martyrs in the Catacombs (Comm. in. Ezek. c. 40, p. 468); and this indicates a serious bent, which culminated in his baptism at Rome while Liberius was pope, i.e. before 366. While there, he acquired a considerable library (Ep. xxii. 30) which he afterwards carried wherever he went. On the termination of his studies in Rome he determined to go with Bonosus into Gaul, for what purpose is unknown. They probably first returned home and lived together for a time in Aquileia, or some other town in N. Italy. Certainly they at this time made the acquaintance of Rufinus (iii. 3) and that friendship began between him and Jerome which afterwards turned out so disastrously to both (see Augustine to Jerome, Ep. cx.). Hearing that they were going into Gaul, the country of Hilary, Rufinus begged Jerome to copy for him Hilary's commentary on the Psalms and his book upon the Councils (Ep. v. 2); and this may have fostered Jerome's tendency towards ecclesiastical literature, which was henceforward the main pursuit of his life. This vocation declared itself during his stay in Gaul. He went with his friend to several parts of Gaul, staying longest at Trèves, then the seat of government. But his mind was occupied with scriptural studies, and he made his first attempt at a commentary. It was on the prophet Obadiah, which he interpreted mystically (pref. to Comm. on Obadiah).

The friends returned to Italy. Eusebius, bp. of Vercellae, had a few years before returned from banishment in the East, bringing with him Evagrius, a presbyter (afterwards bp.) of Antioch, who during his stay in Italy had played a considerable part in church affairs (Ep. i. 15). He seems to have had a great influence over Jerome at this time; and either with him or about the same time he settled at Aquileia, and from 370 to 373 the chief scene of interest lies there, where a company of young men devoted themselves to sacred studies and the ascetic life. It included the presbyter Chromatius (afterwards bp. of Aquileia), his brother Eusebius, with Jovinus 461the archdeacon; Rufinus, Bonosus, Heliodorus (afterwards bp. of Altinum), the monk Chrysogonus, the subdeacon Niceas, and Hylas the freedman of the wealthy Roman lady Melania; all of whom are met with later in Jerome's history. They were knit together by close friendship and common pursuits; and the presence of Evagrius, who knew the holy places and hermitages of the East, gave a special direction to their ascetic tendencies. For a time all went well. The baptism of Rufinus took place now (Ruf. Apol. i. 4). It was Jerome's fortune to become, wherever he lived, the object of great affection, and also of great animosity. Whatever was the cause (Ep. iii. 3), the society at Aquileia suddenly dispersed.

The friends went (probably early in 373) in different directions. Bonosus retired to an island in the Adriatic and lived as a hermit (vii. 3). Rufinus went to the East in the train of Melania. Jerome, with Heliodorus, Innocentius, and Hylas, accompanied Evagrius to Palestine. Leaving his parents, sister, relations and home comforts (xxii. 30), but taking his library, he travelled through Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, Galatia, Cappadocia and Cilicia, to Antioch. The journey was exhausting, and Jerome had a long period of ill-health, culminating in a fever. Innocentius and Hylas died from the same fever. Heliodorus went to Jerusalem. During his illness (ib.) Jerome had his bent towards scriptural studies and asceticism confirmed. While his friends stood by his bed expecting his death, he felt himself, in a trance, carried before the throne of God, and condemned as being no Christian but a Ciceronian, who preferred worldly literature to Christ. From this time, though he continued to quote the classics profusely, his literary interest was wholly with the Bible and church writings. It seems likely that, as soon as his health was restored, he determined to embrace the solitary life. He wrote to Theodosius (ii.), who was apparently a kind of chief of the hermits in the desert of Chalcis, asking to be received among them, and thither he proceeded about the autumn of 374.

He was now about 28 years old. The desert of Chalcis, where he lived for 4 or 5 years (374–379), was in the country of the Saracens, in the E. of Syria (v.). It was peopled by hermits, who lived mainly in solitude, but had frequent intercourse among themselves and a little with the world. They lived under some kind of discipline, with a ruling presbyter named Marcus (xvii.). Jerome lived in a cell, and gained his own living (xvii. 3); probably, according to the recommendation he gives later to Rusticus (cxxv.), cultivating a garden, and making baskets of rushes, or, more congenially, copying books. He describes his life in writing to Eustochium (xxii. 7), 9 or 10 years later, as one of spiritual struggles. "I sat alone; I was filled with bitterness: my limbs were uncomely and rough with sackcloth, and my squalid skin became as black as an Ethiopian's. Every day I was in tears and groans; and if ever the sleep which hung upon my eyelids overcame my resistance, I knocked against the ground my bare bones, which scarce clung together. I say nothing of my meat and drink, since the monks even when sick use cold water, and it is thought a luxury if they ever partake of cooked food. Through fear of hell, I had condemned myself to prison; I had scorpions and wild beasts for my only companions." His literary talent was by no means idle during this period. He wrote letters to his friends in Italy, to Florentius at Jerusalem (v.–xvii.), and to Heliodorus (xiv.) on the Praises of the Desert, chiding him for not having embraced the perfect life of solitude. A Jew who had become a Christian was his instructor in Hebrew (xviii. 10), and Jerome obtained from one of the sect of the Nazarenes at Beroea the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which he copied, and afterwards translated into Greek and Latin (de Vir. Ill. 2, 3). He was frequently visited by Evagrius (Ep. vii. 1), who also acted as the intermediary of his communication with his friends in Aquileia, and later with Damasus at Rome (xv. 5). But again, owing chiefly to his vehement feelings and expressions, he made enemies. He was driven away by the ill-will of his brother-monks. At first, as we see from his letter to Heliodorus, he was satisfied with his condition; but his last years in the desert were embittered by theological strife, relating to the conflicts in the church at Antioch, from which he was glad to escape. The see of Antioch was claimed by three bishops, Vitalis the Arian, Meletius, acknowledged by Basil and the orthodox bishops of the East (Basil, Ep. 156, to Evagrius), and Paulinus, supported by pope Damasus and the stronger anti-Arian party of Rome. Between Meletius and Paulinus the dispute was mainly verbal, but none the less bitter. Jerome complains that the Meletians, not content with his holding the truth, treated him as a heretic if he did not do so in their words (Ep. xv. 3). He appealed to Damasus, strongly protesting his submission to Rome (xv. xvi.). Finding his position more and more difficult, he wrote to Marcus, the chief presbyter of the monks of Chalcis (xvii.), in the winter of 378, professing his soundness in the faith, declaring that he was ready, but for illness, to depart, and begging the hospitality of the desert till the winter was past. Proceeding in the spring of 379 to Antioch, he stayed there till 380, uniting himself to the party of Paulinus, and and by him was ordained presbyter against his will. He never celebrated the Eucharist or officiated as presbyter, as appears from many passages in his works. There are extant no letters and only one work of this period, the dialogue of an orthodox man with a Luciferian. Lucifer of Cagliari having taken part in the appointment of Paulinus, a corrective was needed for the more extreme among the Western party at Antioch; and this was given in Jerome's dialogue, which is clear, moderate, and free from the violence of his later controversial works. It exhibits a considerable knowledge of church history, and contains the account of the council of Ariminum, with the famous words (c. 19): "Ingemuit totus orbis et Arianum se esse miratus est." In 380 Jerome went to Constantinople until the end of 381. He sought the instruction of Gregory Nazianzen, who had taken charge of the orthodox church there 462in 379, and frequent allusions in his works witness to his profiting greatly from his master's mode of interpreting Scripture. He calls him "praeceptor meus" (de Vir. Ill. 117) and appeals to his authority in his commentaries and letters (Comm. on Ephes. v. 3; Epp. l. 1, lii. 8, etc.). He was also acquainted with Gregory of Nyssa (de Vir. Ill. 128). He was attacked, while at Constantinople, with a complaint in the eyes, arising from overwork, which caused him to dictate the works he now wrote. This practice afterwards became habitual to him (pref. to Comm. on Gal. iii.), though he did not wholly give up writing with his own hand; and he contrasts the imperfections of the works which he dictated with the greater elaboration he could give those he himself wrote. He wrote no letters here; but his literary activity was great. He translated the Chronicle of Eusebius, a large work, which embraces the chronology from the creation to a.d. 330, Jerome adding the events of the next 50 years. He translated the Homilies of Origen on Jer. and Ezk., possibly also on Isa., and wrote a short treatise for Damasus on the interpretations of the Seraphim in Isa. vi., which is improperly placed among the letters (Ep. xviii.). These works mark the epoch when he began to feel the importance of Origen as a church-writer, though daring even then to differ from him in doctrine, and also to realize the imperfections of the existing versions of the Scriptures. In the treatise on the Seraphim, and again in the preface to the Chronicle, we find him contrast the various Gk. versions of O.T., studies which eventually forced on him the necessity of a translation direct from the Hebrew. What were his relations to the council of Constantinople in 381 we do not know. It is certain, however, that pope Damasus desired his presence in Rome at the council of 382, which reviewed the Acts of that council, and that he went in the train of bps. Paulinus of Antioch and Epiphanius of Constantia (Salamis) in Cyprus (cxxiii. 10; cxxvii. 7).

Bible Work.

His stay in Rome, from the spring of 382 to Aug. 385, was a very eventful and decisive period in his life. He made many friends and many enemies; his knowledge and reputation as a scholar greatly increased, and his experience of Rome determined him to give himself irrevocably and exclusively to his two great interests, scriptural study and the promotion of asceticism. He undertook, at the request of Damasus, a revision of the version of the Psalms (vol. x. col. 121). He translated from the LXX; and his new version was used in the Roman church till the pontificate of Pius V. He, also at the request of Damasus, revised the N.T., of which the old Versio Itala was very defective. The preface addressed to Damasus (ib. col. 557) is a good critical document, pointing out that the old version had been varied by transcribers, and asking, "If anyone has the right version, which is it?" It was intended as a preface to the Gospels only; but from the record of his works in the list of ecclesiastical writers (de Vir. Ill. 135), which states that he had restored the N.T. according to the original Greek, as well as from other passages (e.g. Ep. xxvii. 3), we infer that the whole version was completed (see Vallarsi's pref. to vol. x.; also Murray's Illus. B. D. (1908), art. VULGATE). He also, at the request of Damasus and others, wrote many short exegetical treatises, included among his letters (on Hosanna, xix. xx.; Prodigal Son, xxi.; O.T. Names of God, xxv.; Halleluia and Amen, xxvi.; Sela and Diapsalma, xxviii.; Ephod and Seraphim, xxix.; Alphabetical Psalms, xxx.; "The Bread of Carefulness," xxxiv.). He began also his studies on the original of O.T. by collating the Gk. versions of Aquila and the LXX with the Heb. (xxxii., xxxvi. 12), and was thus further confirmed in the convictions which led to the Vulgate version. He translated for Damasus the Commentary of Origen on the Song of Songs (vol. x. p. 500), and began his translation of the work of Didymus, the blind Origenistic teacher of Alexandria, on the Holy Spirit, which he did not complete till after his settlement at Bethlehem, probably because of the increasing suspicions and enmity of clergy and people, whom he speaks of as the senate of the Pharisees, against all that had any connexion with Origen (pref. to Didymus on the Holy Spirit, vol. ii. 105), which cause also prevented him continuing the translation of Origen's Commentaries, begun at Constantinople. Jerome was Origen's vehement champion and the contemptuous opponent of his impugners. "The city of Rome," he says, "consents to his condemnation . . . not because of the novelty of his doctrines, not because of heresy, as the dogs who are mad against him now pretend; but because they could not bear the glory of his eloquence and his knowledge, and because, when he spoke, they were all thought to be dumb" (Ep. xxxiii. 4).


The other chief object of his life increased this enmity, although it also made great advances during his stay at Rome. Nearly fifty years before, Athanasius and the monk Peter (334) had sown the seeds of asceticism at Rome by their accounts of the monasteries of Nitria and the Thebaid. The declining state of the empire had meanwhile predisposed men either to selfish luxury or monasticism. Epiphanius, with whom Jerome now came to Rome, had been trained by the hermits Hilarion and Hesychas; he was, with Paulinus, the guest of the wealthy and noble Paula (cviii. 5), the heiress of the Aemilian race; and thus Jerome was introduced to one who became his life-long friend and his chief support in his labours She had three daughters: Blessila, whose death, after a short and austere widowhood, was so eventful to Jerome himself; Julia Eustochium, who first among the Roman nobility took the virgin's vow; and Paulina, who married Jerome's friend Pammachius. These formed part of a circle of ladies who gradually gathered round the ascetic teacher of scriptural lore. Among them were Marcella, whose house on the Aventine was their meeting-place; her young friend Principia (cxxvii.); her sister the recluse Asella, the confidant of Jerome's complaints on leaving Rome (xlv.); Lea, already the head of a kind of convent, whose sudden death was announced whilst the friends were reading the Psalms (xxiii.); Furia, the descendant of Camillus, sister-in-law to Blesilla, and her 463mother Titiana; Marcellina and Felicitas, to whom Jerome's last adieus were sent on leaving Rome (xlv.); perhaps also, though she is not named till later, the enthusiastic Fabiola, less steady, but more eager than the rest (lxxvii.). These ladies, all of the highest patrician families, were already disposed to the ascetic life. Contact with the Eastern bishops added a special interest in Palestine; and the presence of Jerome confirmed both these tendencies. He became the centre of a band of friends who, withdrawn from a political and social life which they regarded as hopelessly corrupt, gave themselves to the study of Scripture and to works of charity. They knew Greek; learned Hebrew that they might sing the Psalms in the original; learned by heart the writings of their teacher (lxxvii. 9); held daily meetings whereat he expounded the Scriptures (xxiii. 1), and for them he wrote many of his exegetical treatises. The principles he instilled into their minds may be seen in many of his letters of this period, which were at once copied and eagerly seized both by friends and enemies. The treatise which especially illustrates his teaching at this time is addressed to Eustochium on the Preservation of Virginity (xxii.). Jerome's own experience in the desert, his anti-Ciceronian dream at Antioch, his knowledge of the desert monks, of whom he gives a valuable description, were here used in favour of the virgin and ascetic life; the extreme fear of impurity contrasts strangely with the gross suggestions in every page; it contains such a depreciation of the married state, the vexations of which ("uteri tumentes, infantium vagitus") are only relieved by vulgar and selfish luxury, that almost the only advantage allowed it is that by it virgins are brought into the world; and the vivid descriptions of Roman life—the pretended virgins, the avaricious and self-indulgent matrons, the dainty, luxurious, and rapacious clergy—forcible as they are, lose some of their value by their appearance of caricature. Another treatise written during this period, against the layman Helvidius, the pupil of Auxentius of Milan, on the perpetual virginity of Mary, though its main points are well argued, exhibits the same fanatical aversion to marriage, combined with a supercilious disregard of his opponent which was habitual to Jerome.

A crisis in Jerome's fortunes came with the end of 384. Damasus, who had been pope for nearly 20 years, was dying, and amongst his possible successors Jerome could not escape mention. He had, as he tells us, on first coming to Rome, been pointed out as the future pope (xlv. 3). But he was entirely unfitted by character and habit of mind for an office which has always required the talents of the statesman and man of the world, rather than those of the student, and he had offended every part of the community. The general lay feeling was strongly opposed to asceticism (xxvii. 2). At the funeral of Blesilla (xxxix. 4) the rumour was spread that she had been killed by the excessive austerities enjoined upon her; the violent grief of her mother was taken as a reproach to the ascetic system, and the cry was heard, "The monks to the Tiber!" Jerome, though cautioned by his friends to moderate his language (xxvii. 2), continued to use the most insulting expressions towards all who opposed him. It is not surprising that the Roman church should have deemed him unfitted to be its head, and that Jerome himself should, in his calmer reflections, have felt that Rome was ill-suited to him, and that in attempting, with his temper and habits, to carry out his conception of Christianity in Rome he had been vainly trying "to sing the Lord's song in a strange land" (xlv.6). Siricius, the successor of Damasus, had no sympathy with Jerome either then or in the subsequent Origenistic controversy. The party of friends on the Aventine was broken up. Jerome counsels Marcella (xliv.) to leave Rome and seek religious seclusion in the country. Paula and Eustochium preferred to go with him to Palestine. In Aug. 385 Jerome embarked, with all that was dearest to him, at Portus, and in his touching and instructive letter to Asella (xlv.) bade a final farewell to Rome. Accompanied by his brother Paulinian and his friend Vincentius (cont. Ruf. iii. 22), he sailed direct to Antioch. Paula and Eustochium (Ep. cviii., where all these incidents are narrated), leaving Paulina, then of marriageable age, and her young brother Toxotius, embarked at the same time, but visited Epiphanius in Cyprus on their way. The friends were reunited at Antioch, as winter was setting in. Paula would brook no delay, and, despite the inclemency of the season, they started at once for Palestine. They visited Sarepta, Acre, Caesarea, Joppa, Lydda, and Emmaus, arriving at Jerusalem early in 386. The city was moved at their coming, and the proconsul prepared a splendid reception for them in the Praetorium; but they only stayed to see the holy places, and, after visiting spots of special interest in the S. of Palestine, journeyed on into Egypt. There the time was divided between the two great objects of Jerome's life, the study of Scripture and the promotion of asceticism. At Alexandria he sat, though already grey-haired (lxxxiv. 3), at the feet of Didymus, the great Origenistic teacher, whom, in contrast to his blindness, Jerome delights to speak of as "the seer." (See in his praises the preface to the commentary on Ephesians.) Jerome had already, as we have seen, translated in part his book on the Holy Spirit; and now, at the request of his distinguished pupil, Didymus composed his Commentary on Hosea and Zechariah (Hieron. pref. to Hosea, and de Vir. Ill. 109). Pausing at Alexandria only 30 days, they turned to the monasteries of Nitria, where they were received with great honour. At one time they were almost persuaded to remain in the Egyptian desert, but the attractions of the holy places of Palestine prevailed; and sailing from Alexandria to Majoma, they settled at Bethlehem, in the autumn of 386. There Jerome lived the remaining 34 years of his life, pursuing unremittingly and with the utmost success the two great objects of his life.

Bethlehem, First Period, 386–392. Monasteries.

Their first work was to establish themselves at Bethlehem. A monastery and a convent were built, over which Jerome and Paula respectively presided (Ep. cviii. 14, 19). There was a church in which they met on 464Sundays, and perhaps oftener (cxlvii.); and a hospice for pilgrims, of whom a vast number came from all parts to visit the holy places (Epp. xlvi. lxvi.; cont. Vigilantium, 13, 14). These institutions were mainly supported by Paula, though, towards the end of her life, when she by her profusion had become poor, their support fell upon Jerome, who, for this purpose, sold his estate in Pannonia (Ep. lxvi.). He lived in a cell (cv. and cont. Joan. Jerus.), in or close to the monastery, surrounded by his library, to which he continually added, as is shewn by his constant reference to a great variety of authors, sacred and profane, and by his account of obtaining a copy of the Hexapla from the library at Caesarea (Comm. on Titus, c. 3, p. 734). He describes himself as living very moderately on bread and vegetables (Ep. lxxix. 4); he was not neglectful of his person, but recommended a moderate neatness of dress (lii., lx. 10). We do not read of any special austerities beyond the fact of his seclusion from the world, which he speaks of as a living in the fields and in solitude, that he might mourn for his sins and gain Christ's mercy (cont. Joan. Jerus. 41). He did not officiate in the services, but his time was greatly absorbed by the cares (Ep. cxiv. 1) and discipline (cxlvii.) of the monastery and by the crowds of monks and pilgrims who flocked to the hospice (lxvi. 14; adv. Ruf. i. 31). He expounded the Scriptures daily to the brethren in the monastery. Sacred studies were his main pursuit, and his diligence is almost incredible. "He is wholly absorbed in reading," says Sulpicius; "he takes no rest by day or by night; he is ever reading or writing something." He wrote, or rather dictated, with great rapidity. He was believed at times to have composed 1.000 lines of his commentaries in a day (pref. to bk. ii. of Comm. on. Ephes. in vol. vii. col. 507). He wrote almost daily to Paula and Eustochium (de Vir. Ill. 135); and, though many of his letters were mere messages, yet almost all were at once published (Ep. xlix. 2), either by friends or enemies. There were many interruptions. Besides the excessive number of ordinary pilgrims, persons came from all parts, and needed special entertainment. The agitated state of the empire also was felt in the hermitage of Bethlehem. The successive invasions of the Huns (Ep. lxxvii. 8) and the Isaurians (cxiv.) created a panic in Palestine, so that, in 395, ships had been provided at Joppa to carry away the virgins of Bethlehem, who hurried to the coast to embark, when the danger passed away. These invasions caused great lack of means at Bethlehem (cxiv. 1), so that Jerome and his friends had to sell all to continue the work. Amidst such difficulties his great literary works were accomplished. Immediately on settling at Bethlehem, he set to work to perfect his knowledge of Hebrew with the aid of a Jew named Bar Anina (called Barabbas by Jerome's adversaries, who conceived that through this teacher his version was tainted with Judaism; see Ruf. Apol. ii. 12). Their interviews took place at night (Ep. lxxxiv.), each being afraid of the suspicions their intercourse might cause. He also learned Chaldee, but less thoroughly (pref. to Daniel, vol. ix. col. 1358). When any unusual difficulty occurred in translation or exposition, he obtained further aid. For the book of Job he paid a teacher to come to him from Lydda (pref. to Job, vol. ix. col. 1140); for the Chaldee of Tobit he had a rabbi from Tiberias (pref. to Tobit, vol. x.). The Chronicles he went over word by word with a doctor of law from Tiberias (pref. to Chron.). The great expense entailed was no doubt in part defrayed by Paula. At a later time, when his resources failed, Chromatius of Aquileia, and Heliodorus of Altinum, supported the scribes who assisted him (pref. to Esther, addressed to Chrom. and Hel.).

Bible Work.

—The results of his first six years' labours may be thus summed up. The commentary on Eccles. and the translation of Didymus on the Holy Spirit were completed; commentaries were written on Gal. Eph. Tit. and Philemon; the version of N.T. begun in Rome was revised; a treatise on Pss. x.–xvi. was written; and translations made of Origen's Commentaries on St. Luke and the Psalms. Jerome, who had long before felt the great importance for scriptural studies of a knowledge of the localities (pref. to Chron.), turned to account his travels in Palestine in his work on the names of Hebrew places, mainly translated from Eusebius, and gave to the world what may be called "Chips from his Workshop," in the book on Hebrew proper names and the Hebrew questions on Gen., a work which he seems to have intended to carry on in the other books as a pendant to his translations. Further, as a preparatory work to the Vulg., he had revised the Latin version of O.T. then current (which was imperfectly made from the LXX), by a comparison of Origen's Hexapla (pref. to Joshua, vol. ix. 356; pref. to Chron. vol. ix. col. 1394; pref. to Job, vol. ix. col. 1142; Ep. lxxi. ad Lucinium). This work, though not mentioned in the Catalogue (de Vir. Ill. 135), certainly existed. Jerome used it in his familiar expositions each day (cont. Ruf. ii. 24). Augustine had heard of it and asked to see it (Ep. cxxxiv., end), but it had, through fraud or neglect, been lost; and all that remains of it is Job, the Psalms, and the preface to the books of Solomon (vol. x.). The Vulgate itself was in preparation, as we find from the Catalogue; but as it was not produced for some years, what had been done thus far was evidently only preliminary and imperfect work.

Besides his work on the Scriptures, Jerome had designed a vast scheme of church history, from the beginning to his own time, giving the lives of all the most eminent men; and as a preliminary to this, and in furtherance of asceticism, he wrote Lives of Malchus and Hilarion. The minuteness of detail in these works would have made a church history on such a scale impossible; and the credulity they shew throws doubt on Jerome's capacity for such work.

A far more important work for the purposes of the church historian is the book which is variously called the "Catalogue of Church Writers," the "Book on Illustrious Men," or the "Epitaphion" (though it includes men then living). Some portions are taken from Eusebius, but the design and most of the details are original. It includes the writers of N.T., and church teachers of East and West up to Jerome's own time, and even men accounted heretics and non-Christians like Seneca, whose works were of importance to the progress of human thought.

The letter which Jerome wrote in the name of Paula and Eustochium to Marcella at Rome (Ep. xlvi.), the only letter preserved from these first six years, expresses an enthusiastic view of their privileges in reading the Scriptures in the tongue and country in which they were written. The crowds who came from all parts seem to them to be so many choirs, engaged in services of praise, each in their own tongue. The very ploughmen chant Hallelujahs. Far from the Babylon of Rome, they associate with the saints of Scripture and find in the holy places the gate of heaven. This view of Palestine is always present to Jerome, however much he has to confess the actual secularization of Jerusalem (lviii. 4); and it makes his Biblical work not merely one of learning but of piety.

Second Period, 393–404.—Private letters of Jerome abound during this period, and illustrate his personal history.

To this period belong the many external difficulties at Bethlehem already mentioned. During almost the whole of 398 Jerome was ill, and again in 404–405 (lxxiv. 6, cxiv. 1). He was disturbed also by the controversy or schism between the monks of Bethlehem and the bp. of Jerusalem; and an injury to his hand prevented his writing. Poverty was also overtaking him. Paula had spent her fortune in lavish charity, and Jerome sent his brother Paulinianus to their former home to sell the remains of their property to support the monasteries (lxvi. 14). The sad quarrel between Jerome and Rufinus began in 394; see under the controversies (infra) which occupied so much of this period.

Commentaries.—Jerome had begun his commentaries on the Minor Prophets in 391 (de Vir. Ill. 135); they form four books, and were published at long intervals up to 406. In 397 he wrote his commentary on Matthew, the last on the N.T. It was finished, with great haste and eagerness (Ep. lxxiii. 10), in Lent 398, as he was recovering from an illness. After a long interval the commentary on Isaiah followed, and thereafter he wrote upon the Great Prophets only.

The Vulgate.

That which we now call the Vulgate, and which is in the main the work of Jerome, was during his life the Bible of the learned and only by degrees won general acceptance. The editio vulgata in previous use was a loose translation from the LXX, almost every copy varying. Jerome had begun very early to read the O.T. in Gk. Here the same difficulty met him. The LXX version was confronted, in Origen's Hexapla, with those of Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus, and with two others called Quinta and Sexta. Where they differed, who was to decide? This question is asked by Jerome as early as the preface to the Chronicle of Eusebius (381) and was constantly repeated in defence of his translation. He seems to have distinctly contemplated this work from the moment of his settlement at Bethlehem, and a great deal of the labour of his first years there may be regarded as preliminary to it. It was begun within the first few years. But, in so elaborate a work, it was impossible that the first copies should be perfect. It is probable that the whole, or larger part, was gone through at an early date and given to his friends or the public after a more mature revision, according as his health or courage allowed. He distinctly purposed to publish it from the first. Yet the actual publication was made in a fragmentary and hesitating manner. At times he speaks of portions as extorted from him by the earnest requests of his friends (pref. to Gen. vol. ix. etc.). Some parts he represents as done in extreme haste; the books of Solomon as the work of three days (pref. in vol. ix. col. 1307); Tobit and Judith were each that of a single day. He shews in his prefaces extreme sensitiveness to attacks upon his work, and speaks of it often as an ungrateful task. Of the Apocrypha he translated only parts, and these very cursorily (pref. to Tobit, vol. x.), doubtless because of his comparative indifference to the Apocrypha, his opinion of which is quoted in Art. vi. of the 39 Articles, from the preface to the Books of Solomon (vol. ix. ed. 1308). Samuel and Kings were published first, then Job and the Prophets, then Ezra, Nehemiah and Genesis. All these were finished in or before 393; but here occurred a break, due partly, no doubt, to unsettlement and panic caused by the invasion of the Huns in 395. In 396 the work was resumed at the entreaty of Chromatius and Heliodorus, who sent him money to support the necessary helpers (pref. to Books of Solomon). The Books of Solomon were them completed (398) and the preface indicates an intention to continue the work more systematically. But the ill-feeling excited by his translation made him unwilling to continue, and his long illness in 398 intervened. He tells Lucinius that he had then given his servants the whole except the Octateuch to copy (Ep. xlix. 4). But, from whatever cause, the work was not resumed till 403–404, in which years the remainder was completed, namely, the last four books of Moses, Joshua and Judges, Ruth and Esther. His friends collected the translations into one volume, and the title of Vulgate, which had hitherto applied to the version before in use (pref. to Ezk. vol. ix. col. 995, pref. to Esther, vol. ix. 1503), in time came to belong to an edition which is in the main the work of Jerome.

Controversies.—Controversial works at this period occupied a share of Jerome's energies out of all proportion to their importance.

Against Jovinian.

— Jovinian was a Roman monk, originally distinguished by extreme asceticism, who had adopted freer opinions. He put off the monastic dress and lived like other men. The book of Jovinian was sent to Jerome about the end of 393, and he at once answered it in two books. He warmly attacks Jovinian as a renegade and as a dog who has returned to his vomit.


—The second great controversy in which Jerome was now engaged arose about Origenism, which embraces in its wide sweep Epiphanius, bp. of Cyprus, John, bp. of Jerusalem, Theophilus, bp. of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, the pope Anastasius, and above 466all Jerome's former friend Rufinus—a controversy by which the churches of the East and the West were long and deeply agitated. It divides itself, as far as Jerome is concerned, into two distinct parts: the first represented by his writing against John of Jerusalem, and extending from 494–499, when peace was made between them; the second represented by three books directed against Rufinus, the first two written in 401, the third in 402.

Jerome's own relation to Origen is not difficult to understand, though it laid him open to the charge of inconsistency. He had become acquainted with his works during his first enthusiasm for Greek ecclesiastical learning and had recognized his as the greatest name in Christian literature, worthy of comparison with the greatest of classical times (see esp. Ep. xxxiii.). The literary interest was to Jerome, then as at all times, more than the dogmatic; deeply impressed by the genius and learning of the great Alexandrine, his praise, like his subsequent blame, was without reason or moderation. He spoke with entire commendation of his commentaries, and even of the Τόμοι, or Chapters, which included the book περὶ Ἀρχῶν (which may be translated either On First Principles or On the Powers on which the chief controversy afterwards turned). "In his work," he says (pref. to trans. of Origen on Jer. vol. v. col. 611), "he gave all the sails of his genius to the free breath of the winds, and receding from the shore, went forth into the open sea." It was not the peculiarities of Origen's dogmatic system, but the boldness of his genius, that appealed to the mind of Jerome. From the first he shewed a certain independence, nor did he ever give his adherence to Origen's peculiar system. He quoted without blame even such theories as the possible restoration of Satan, but never gave his personal assent to them. Even when, afterwards, he became a violent opponent of Origenism, he shewed discrimination. He continued to use Origen's commentaries, and even in some points of doctrine commended his exposition. His vehement language, however, makes him appear first a violent partisan of Origen, and later an equally violent opponent. The change, moreover, has the appearance of being the result, not so much of a great conviction, as of a fear of the suspicion of heresy.

John, bishop of Jerusalem, and Rufinus.

—During the first year of Jerome's stay at Bethlehem he was on good terms with both John the bishop and Rufinus, who had been established with Melania on Mount Olives since 377. John, who succeeded Cyril a few months before Jerome and Paula arrived in 386, was on familiar terms with Rufinus whom he ordained, and there is no sign that he was ill-disposed towards Jerome. The troubles originated in the visit to Jerusalem of a certain Aterbius, otherwise unknown (cont. Ruf. iii. 33), who scattered accusations of Origenistic heresy among the foremost persons at Jerusalem, and joining Jerome with Rufinus on account of their friendship, charged them both with heresy. Jerome made a confession of his faith which satisfied this self-appointed inquisitor; but Rufinus refused to see him, and with threats bade him begone. This was apparently in 393. In 394 Epiphanius, bp. of Salamis in Cyprus, who in his book on heresies had formally included the doctrines of Origen, visited Jerusalem, and strife broke out in the church of the Resurrection, where Epiphanius's pointed sermon against Origenism was taken as reflecting so directly upon John that the bishop sent his archdeacon to remonstrate and stop him. John, after he had delivered a long sermon against Anthropomorphism, was requested by Epiphanius, amidst the ironical applause of the people, to condemn Origenism with the same earnestness; and then Epiphanius came to the monastery at Bethlehem declaring John a heretic, and, after attempting to elicit some anti-Origenistic confession from the bishop, finally at night left his house, where he had been a guest, for the monastery. Epiphanius, convinced that John was on the verge of heresy, advised Jerome and his friends to separate themselves from their bishop; and provided for the ministrations of their church by ordaining Jerome's brother Paulinian.

John now appealed to Alexandria and to Rome against Jerome and his friends as schismatics. Theophilus of Alexandria at once took John's side, but, becoming an anti-Origenist later, opened communication with Jerome, of which the latter gladly availed himself. Jerome was thenceforward the minister of Theophilus in his communication with the West in the war against Origen; and thus completely united himself with the anti-Origenistic party. Rufinus, when he arrived in Rome with Melania in 397, found the contest about Origenism at its height, but ignorance on the subject was so great that pope Anastasius, even though induced to condemn Origen, plainly admitted in his letter to John of Jerusalem (Hieron. ii. 677, Vallarsi's Rufinus [Migne's Patr. xxi.] 408) that he neither knew who Origen was nor what he had written. Rufinus being asked by a pious man named Macarius to give an exposition of Origen's tenets, made the translation of the περὶ Ἀρχῶν which is now published in Origen's works and is the only extant version. This translation was at once the subject of dispute. Jerome's friends complained that Rufinus had given a falsely favourable version. Rufinus declared that he had only used the just freedom of a critic and translator in omitting passages interpolated by heretics, who wished to make Origen speak their views, and in translating Eastern thoughts into Western idioms. But the real complaint against Rufinus rested on personal grounds. In his preface he had seemed to associate Jerome, as the translator of Origen, with Origen's work, and to shield himself under Jerome's authority. Jerome and his friends, extremely sensitive of the least reproach of heresy and having already taken a strong part against Origen, trembled for his reputation. Rufinus's preface was sent to him by Pammachius and Oceanus, with the request (Ep. lxxxii.) that he would point out the truth, and would translate the περὶ Αρχῶν as Origen had written it. Jerome did so, and with his new translation sent a long letter (lxxxiv.) to his two friends, which, though making too little of his former admiration for Origen, in the main states the case fairly and without asperity 467towards Rufinus. The same may be said of his letter (lxxxi.) to Rufinus himself, possibly in answer to one from Rufinus ("diu te Romae moratum sermo proprius indicavit"), which speaks of their reconciliation and remonstrates, as a friend with a friend, against the mention Rufinus had made of him. "There are not many," he says, "who can be pleased with feigned praise" ("fictis laudibus"). This letter, unfortunately, did not reach Rufinus. He had gone to Aquileia with the ordinary commendation ("literae formatae") from the pope. Siricius had died; his successor, Anastasius, was in the hands of Pammachius and Marcella (cxxvii.), who were moving him to condemn Origen. Anastasius, though ignorant on the whole subject, was struck by passages shewn him by Eusebius in Jerome's translation of the περὶ Ἀρχῶν, which had been given him by Marcella (Rufin. Apol. ii.), and proceeded to condemn Origen. He also was persuaded to summon Rufinus (Rufinus [Migne's Patr. Lat. xxi.] 403) to Rome to make a confession of his faith; and wrote to John of Jerusalem, expressing his fear as to Rufinus's intentions and his faith (see the letter in Jerome's Works, ii. 677, Rufinus, 408). Jerome's friends kept his letter to Rufinus, so that Rufinus was prevented from learning Jerome's actual dispositions towards him. He only knew that the latter's friends were in some way involving him in the condemnation they had procured against Origen and which the emperors themselves had now ratified (Anastasius to John, u.s.). To Anastasius, therefore, he replied in a short letter, excusing himself from coming to Rome, but giving an explicit declaration of his faith. But from Jerome he was wholly alienated. His friend Apronianus at Rome having sent him the letter of Jerome to Pammachius and Oceanus, he replied in the document which is called his Apology, with bitter feelings against his former friend. He did not scruple to use against him the facts known to him through their former intimacy, such as the vows made in consequence of his anti-Ciceronian dream, which he declared Jerome to have broken, and he allowed himself to join in the carping spirit in which Jerome's enemies spoke against his translation of the Scriptures. This document was privately circulated among Rufinus's friends at Rome. It became partly known to Pammachius and Marcella, who, not being able to obtain a copy, sent him a description of its contents, with such quotations as they could procure. Jerome at once composed the two first books of his Apology in the form of a letter to his Roman friends. Its tone is that of one not quite willing to break through an old friendship, but its language is strong and at times contemptuous. It was brought to Rufinus at Aquileia, who answered in a letter meant for Jerome's eyes alone, which has not come down to us. From Jerome's reply we know that it was sharp and bitter, and declared his ability to produce facts which if known to the world would blast Jerome's character for ever. Jerome was estranged by extracts from Rufinus's Apology. Then Rufinus himself sent him a true copy, and the result was a final rupture. Augustine, to whom Jerome sent his book, writes (Hieron. Ep. cx. 6) with the utmost sorrow at the scandal; he declares that he was cast down by the thought that "persons so dear and so familiar, united by a chain of friendship which had been known to all the church," should now be publicly tearing each other to pieces. He writes like one who has an equal esteem for both the combatants, and only desires their reconciliation. But Jerome never ceased to speak of his former friend with passionate condemnation and contempt. When Rufinus died in Sicily in 410 he wrote: "The scorpion lies underground between Enceladus and Porphyrion, and the hydra of many heads has at last ceased to hiss against me" (pref. to Comm. on Exk.). In later years he sees the spirit of Rufinus revived in Pelagius (pref. to Comm. on Jer. bk. i.), and even in letters of edification he cannot refrain from bitter remarks on his memory (Ep. cxxv. 18, cxxxiii. 3).


—A fourth controversy was with Vigilantius (cont. Vig. liber unus), a Spanish monk, into whom, as Jerome says, the soul of his former opponent Jovinian had passed, a controversy further embittered by mutual accusations of Origenism, and in which Jerome's violence and contemptuousness passes all bounds. Vigilantius had stayed at the monastery at Bethlehem in 396, on the introduction of Paulinus. In a letter to Vigilantius in 396, Jerome accuses him of blasphemous interpretations of Scripture derived from Origen. He treats him as a vulgar fool, without the least claim to knowledge or letters. He applies to him the proverb Ὄνῳ λύρα, turns his name to Dormitantius, and ends by saying he hopes he may find pardon when, as Origen holds, the devil will find it. Vigilantius is said by Gennadius (de Scr. Eccl. 35) to have been an ignorant man, though polished in words. But he was as far in advance of Jerome in his views of the Christian life as he was behind him in literary power. His book, written in 404, was sent by Riparius to Jerome, who replied (Ep cix.), dismissing the matter with contempt. Afterwards, probably finding the opinions of Vigilantius gaining ground, he, at the request of certain presbyters, wrote his treatise against him. It is a short book, dictated, he states, unius noctis lucubratione; his friend Sisinnius, who was to take it, being greatly hurried. Vigilantius maintained that the honour paid to the martyrs' tombs was excessive, that watching in their basilicas was to be deprecated, that the alleged miracles done there were false; that the money collected for the "poor saints at Jerusalem" had better be kept at home; that the hermit life was cowardice; and, lastly, that it would be well that presbyters should be married before ordination. Jerome speaks of these accusations as being so openly blasphemous as to require neither argument nor the production of testimonies against them, but merely the expression of the writer's indignation. He does not admit even a grain of truth in them. "If you do not honour the tombs of the martyrs," he says, "you assert that they were not wrong in burning the martyrs." He himself believes the miracles, and values the intercession of the saints. This is the treatise in which Jerome felt most sure he was in the right, and the only one in which he was wholly in the wrong.


—The exchange of letters between Jerome and Augustine, though begun with something of asperity, ended in edification. Jerome heard of Augustine soon after his conversion (386); and Augustine, eight years his junior, had a great respect (which did not prevent criticism) for Jerome and his work. Augustine's friend Alypius stayed with Jerome in 393, and Jerome heard with satisfaction of the great African's zeal for the study of Scripture and of his rising fame. In 394 Augustine, then coadjutor bp. of Hippo (succeeding in 395), having had his attention no doubt called to Jerome's works by Alypius, wrote the letter (among Jerome's, lvi.) which originated the controversy. It related to the interpretation of the dispute of St. Paul and St. Peter at Antioch, recorded in Gal. ii. The letter is written in a grave tone, but perhaps with something of assumption, considering the great position of Jerome. Augustine commends him for translating Greek commentaries into Latin, and wishes that in his translations of O.T. he would note very carefully the places in which he diverges from the LXX. He then notes that Jerome, in his Commentary on the Galatians, had maintained that the dispute was merely feigned, that Peter had pretended to act so as to incur Paul's rebuke, in order to set before the church the incongruity of a Christian continuing under Mosaic law. This appeared to Augustine to impute to the apostles an acted lie. This letter was committed, together with other works of Augustine on which Jerome's opinion was desired, to Profuturus, a presbyter, who being, before he sailed, elected to a bishopric in N. Africa, turned back, and soon after died. He had neither transmitted the letter to Jerome nor returned it to Augustine; but it was seen by others and copied, so that the attack on Jerome was widely known in the West while entirely unknown to Jerome at Bethlehem. Augustine, discovering that his letter had not reached Jerome, wrote a second (among Jerome's, lxvii.), again entering into the question, asking Jerome to confess his error and to sing a palinode for the injury done to Christian truth. Paulus, to whom this letter was committed, proved untrustworthy, and let it be circulated without being transmitted to Jerome. It was seen by a deacon, Sisinnius, who, coming to Bethlehem some five years afterwards, either brought a copy or described its contents to Jerome. Meanwhile Augustine heard, through pilgrims returning from Palestine, the state of the facts and the feelings aroused by them. He wrote a short letter to excuse himself (among Jerome's, ci.), pointing out that what he had written was not, as seemed to be supposed, a book for publication, but a personal letter expressing to a friend a difference of opinion. He begged Jerome to point out similarly any points of his writings he might think wrong, and concluded with an earnest wish for some personal converse with the great teacher of Bethlehem. Jerome replied in a letter (cii.) in which friendship struggled with suspicion and resentment. He sent some of his works, including those last written, against Rufinus. As to Augustine's works, he says he knows little of them, but intimates that he might have much to say in criticism. He insinuates that Augustine might be seeking honour by attacking him, but warns him that he too can strike hard. Augustine replied in a letter (among Jerome's, civ.) written with demonstrations of profound respect, but in which, after explaining how his first letter had miscarried, he again enters into questions of Biblical literature. He commends Jerome's new translations of N.T., but begs him not to translate O.T. from the Heb., enforcing his wish by the story of a parish in Africa being scandalized and almost broken up by its bishop reading Jonah in Jerome's new version. In this version as then read, ivy was substituted for gourd in c. iv. When the bishop read "ivy" the people rose and cried out "gourd," till he was obliged to resort to the received version, lest he should be left without any followers. Augustine recommends Jerome to translate from the LXX, with notes where his version deviates from the received text. Jerome answers that he has never received Augustine's original letter, but has only seen what purports to be a copy. "Send me," he says, "your letter signed by yourself, or else cease from attacking me. As to your writings, which you put forward so much, I have only read the Soliloquies and the Commentary on the Psalms, and will only say that in this last there are things disagreeing with the best Greek commentaries. Let me beg you in future, if you write to me, to take care that I am the first whom your letter reaches." Augustine now (in 404) sent by a presbyter Praesidius authentic copies of his two original letters (written nine or ten years before), accompanied by one in which he begged that the matter might be treated as between friends, and not grow into a feud like that of Jerome and Rufinus, which he deeply lamented. On receipt of this Jerome at once wrote (Ep. civ.) a full answer to Augustine's principal letters (in Hieron. lvi. lxvii. civ. cx.), and on the question of St. Peter at Antioch appealed to the great Eastern expositors of Scripture. Augustine replied in a long letter (in Jerome's, cxvi.) on the chief question, adding many expressions tending to satisfy Jerome as to their personal relations. Jerome appears to have been more than satisfied; perhaps even to have been convinced. The only allusions in his later writings to this controversy seem to favour Augustine's view. Augustine wrote two letters to him a few years later on the origin of souls (cxxxi.), and on the meaning of the words, "He that offends in one point is guilty of all" (cxxxii.). Jerome's reply (cxxxiv.) is wholly friendly. He refers to a request in one of Augustine's former letters (civ.) for translations from the LXX, saying that these had been stolen from him, and adds, "Each of us has his gift; there is nothing in your letters but what I admire; and I wish to be understood as assenting to all you say, for we must be united in order to withstand Pelagianism." Augustine, on his part, shewed a remarkable deference to Jerome's opinion on the origin of souls, as to which after five years he still hesitated (Hieron. Ep. cxliv.) to give a definite answer to his friend Optatus because he had not received one from Jerome; and he sent Orosius, probably referring to this 469very question, to sit, as Orosius himself says, at the feet of Jerome (de Lib. Arb. 3). The remaining letters shew a constant increase of friendship. The two great teachers, though from somewhat different points of view, laboured together in combating Pelagianism; and, having been to each other for a while almost as heretics, stand justly side by side as canonized doctors of Latin Christianity.

Last Period, 405–420. Old Age and Troubles.

This last period of Jerome's life was full of external dangers and towards its close agitated by controversy. In 405 the Isaurians devastated the N. of Palestine, the monasteries of Bethlehem were beset with fugitives, and Jerome and his friends were brought into great straits for the means of living. The winter was extremely cold, and Jerome was laid low by a severe illness in Lent 406 (Ep. cxiv.) which left him weak for a long time. The barbarian invasions culminated in the sack of Rome by Alaric in 410. In this last calamity, which seemed to be ushering in the end of the world (cxxiii.), Pammachius and Marcella died. Emigration from Italy to Africa and Syria set in, and the more religious among the fugitives flocked to Jerusalem and Bethlehem (pref. to bks. iii. and vii. of Comm. on Ezk.). Jerome was not unaffected by the evil political influences of the time. He represents himself as watched by enemies, who made it dangerous for him even to express his sense of the miseries of the empire. In his Commentary on the Monarchies in Daniel he reflects on the low state to which the Roman empire had fallen and its need of support from barbarians; and these words were taken as reflecting on Stilicho, the great half-Vandal general, the father-in-law and minister of Honorius, and the real ruler of the empire. Stilicho, whom Jerome afterwards speaks of (Ep. cxxiii. 17) as "the half-barbarian traitor who armed the enemy against us with our own resources," appears to have heard of Jerome's expressions in his commentary and to have taken great offence, and Jerome believed that he was meditating some revenge against him when he was put to death ("Dei judicio," pref. to bk. xi. of Comm. on Is.) by order of his imperial relative. In the year following the sack of Rome Palestine suffered from an incursion of barbarians from which Jerome barely escaped (Ep. cxxvi. 2). He was very poor (pref. to Comm. on Ezk. bk. viii.), but made no complaint of this. His best friends had passed away—Paula in 403, Pammachius and Marcella in 410 (pref. to Comm. on Ezk. bk. i.). Of his Roman friends, Oceanus, Principia, and the younger Fabiola alone remained (Epp. cxx. cxxvii.); Eustochium had very possibly (as Thierry supposes) less authority than her mother in the management of the convent, and this left room for irregularities like those related in Jerome's letter (cxlvii.) to Sabinianus. Eustochium died in 418 (pref. to Comm. on Jer. bk. i.). Jerome's days were taken up by the monastery and the hospice (pref. to Comm. on Ezk. bk. viii.) and he could only dictate his commentaries at night; he was even glad when winter came and gave him longer nights for this purpose (ib.). He was growing weak with age and frequent illnesses, and his eyesight, which had originally failed nearly 40 years before (Constantinople, 380), was so weak that he could hardly decipher Heb. letters at night (ib.). Controversy arose again with Pelagius (pref. to Comm. on Jer. bks. i.–iv.), and Jerome's relations with the bp. of Jerusalem can hardly have been smooth (Ep. cxxxvii.). On the other hand, his brother Paulinian was still with him; the younger Paula, daughter of Toxotius and Laeta (cvii. cxxxiv.), survived him and replaced her aunt Eustochium in managing the monasteries. Albina, and the younger Melania with her husband Pinianus (cxliv.), came to live with him; he had kindly relations with persons in many countries; and the only leading man of the Western church was his friend. Amidst all discouragements, he continued his Biblical studies and writings with no sign of weakness to the end.


—The Pelagian controversy was forced upon his notice. He had not antecedently formed any strong opinion on it, and had been connected in early life with some of the leading supporters of Pelagius (pref. to Comm. on Jer. bk. iv.). But no great question could now arise in the church without an appeal to Jerome, and his correspondence necessarily embraced this subject (Epp. cxxxiii. cxxxviii.). Orosius, the friend of Augustine, came to reside at Bethlehem in 44, full of the council of Carthage and of the thoughts and doings of his teacher; and when in 415 Pelagius and Coelestius came to Palestine, Jerome was in the very centre of the controversy. A synod was held under John of Jerusalem [JOANNES (216)] in July 415 with no result; and at a synod at Diospolis in 416 Pelagius was acquitted, partly, it was believed, because the Eastern bishops could not see their way in matters of Western theology and in judging of Latin expressions. But the mind of the church generally was against him, and Jerome was called upon to give expression to it. Ctesiphon from Rome wrote to him directly on the subject and drew a long reply (cxxxiii.). Augustine addressed to him two letters on points bearing upon the subject (cxxxi. cxxxii.), and in his letter on the origin of souls insinuated that Jerome's creationism might identify him with Pelagius's denial of the transmission of Adam's sin (cxxx. 6). Pelagius sometimes quoted Jerome as agreeing with him (pref. to Comm. on Jer. bk. i.), sometimes attacked passages in his commentaries (id. bk. iv.) and depreciated his translation of the Scriptures (pref. to Dial. against Pelag.). Orosius, who withstood Pelagius in the synod of Jerusalem with little success, appealed (de Libero Arbitrio contra Pelagium) to Jerome as a champion of the faith. Jerome wrote, therefore, in 3 books, the dialogue against the Pelagians, an amplification of his letter to Ctesiphon, in which Atticus (the Augustinian) and Critobulus (the Pelagian) maintain the argument. It turns upon the question whether a man can be without sin if he so wills. Its tone is much milder than that of Jerome's other controversial writings, with the single exception of the dialogue against the Luciferians. But still he is dealing with a heretic, and heresy is under the ban of the church and of heaven. This terrible doom contrasts somewhat sharply with the balanced argument, in which Jerome appears 470not as a thorough-going predestinarian, but a "synergist," maintaining the coexistence of the free will, and reducing predestination to God's foreknowledge of human determination (see the Dialogue, esp. i. 5, ii. 6, iii. 18). Nevertheless, the partisans of Pelagius were irritated to bitterness and violence. A crowd of Pelagian monks attacked, partly threw down, and partly burned the monasteries of Bethlehem, some of the inmates were slaughtered, and Jerome only escaped by taking refuge in a tower stronger than the rest. This violence, however, was their last effort. A strong letter from pope Innocentius (cxxxvii.) to John of Jerusalem (who died soon after, 418) warned him that he would be held accountable for any future violence, and Jerome received a letter (cxxxvi.) assuring him of the pope's protection. Jerome's letters to Riparius (cxxxviii.), Apronius (cxxxix.), and Augustine (cxli. cxliii.), speak of the cause of Augustine as triumphant, and of Pelagius, who is compared to Catiline, leaving Palestine, though Jerusalem is still held by some powerful adversary, who is compared to Nebuchadnezzar (cxliv.). There was, however, in the East no strong feeling against Pelagius. His cause was upheld by Theodore of Mopsuestia, who in a work, of which parts are extant (in Hieron. vol. ii. pp. 807–814), argues against Augustine and Jerome (whom he calls "Aram"), as "those who say that men sin by nature and not by will." In the West a work was written by Anianus, a deacon of Celeda, of which a copy was sent to Jerome (cxliii. 2) by Eusebius of Cremona, but to which he was never able to reply.


—The letters of this period of Jerome's life are mostly ones of counsel to those who asked his advice. Among these may be mentioned that to Ageruchia (cxxiii.), exhorting her to persevere in her estate as a widow, and giving as deterrents from a second marriage some touches of Roman manners and a remarkable account of the sack of Rome; to the virgin Demetrias (cxxx.), who had escaped from the burning of Rome and fallen into the hands of count Heraclian in Africa; and to Sabinianus (cxlvii.) the lapsed deacon, who had brought disorder into the monasteries, and from which letter a whole romance of monastic life might be constructed. Jerome wrote also the Memoir of Marcella (cxxvii.), who died from ill-treatment in the sack of Rome, addressing his letter to her friend Principia; but he was too dejected and infirm to write the Epitaphium of Eustochium, who died two years before him (cdxviii.). Other letters relate to scriptural studies; cxix., to Minucius and Alexander, learned presbyters of the diocese of Toulouse, on the interpretation of the words, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed"; cxx., to Hebidia, a lady of a remarkable family whose father and grandfather were orators, poets, professors, and priests of Apollo Belen at Bayeux; cxl., to the presbyter Cyprian, an exposition of Ps. xc.; cxxiv., to Avitus, on the περὶ Ἀρχῶν; cxxix., on how Palestine could be called the Promised Land; and cxlvi., to Evangelus an African presbyter, containing the well-known theory of Jerome on the relative positions of bishops, priests, and deacons.

Commentaries on Greater Prophets.

—Of Bible work in his later years we have only the Commentaries on the Greater Prophets: on Daniel in 407; on Isaiah in 16 books, written in the intervals of business and illness, and issued at various times from 408–410; on Ezekiel, from 410–414; and on Jeremiah, cut short at c. xxxii. by Jerome's last illness. The prefaces to these are remarkable documents and very serviceable for the chronology of Jerome's life. Those on Ezekiel record the sack of Rome, the death of Rufinus (bk. i.), the immigration from Rome (bks. iii. and vii.), the rise of Pelagianism (bk. vi.) ; and bk. ix. of the commentary speaks of the invasion of Rome by count Heraclian. Jerome was prevented from taking up the commentary on Jeremiah till after the death of Eustochium (418), and thus his last work was written in the year (419) which intervened between Eustochium's death and his own. Yet not only is the work full of vigour, but the prefaces shew a renewal of controversial ardour against Pelagius, whom he speaks of as "Scotorum pultibus praegravatus" (bks. i. and iii.). That controversy and the business of the pilgrims (bk. iv.) shortened has time for the commentary (bk. iii.), which, though intended to be short (bk. i.), required his excuses in the last preface (bk. vi.) for its growing length.


—It is generally believed that a long sickness preceded the death of Jerome, that after 419 he was unable to work at all, that he was attended in this illness by the younger Paula and Melania; that he died, according to the Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitania, on Sept. 20, 420, and that he was buried beside Paula and Eustochium near the grotto of the Nativity. His body was believed to have been subsequently carried to Rome and placed in the church of Sta. Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline. Legends, such as that, immortalized by the etching of Albert Dürer, of the lion which constantly attended him, and of the miracles at his grave, are innumerable.

Writings now Extant.—Vallarsi's ed. contains a complete table of contents which may be usefully consulted. In our list the date of time and place at which each was composed, and the volume in Vallarsi's ed., are added.


(1) From the Hebrew.—The Vulgate of O.T., written at Bethlehem, begun 391, finished 404, vol. ix.

(2) From the LXX.—The Psalms as used at Rome, written in Rome 383; and as used in Gaul, written at Bethlehem c. 388. The book of Job, being part of the translation of LXX made between 386 and 392 at Bethlehem, the rest being lost (Ep. cxxxiv.), vol. x.

(3) From the Chaldee.—Tobit and Judith, Bethlehem, a.d. 398.

(4) From the Greek.—The Vulgate version of N.T., made at Rome between 382 and 385.


(1) Original.—Ecclesiastes, vol. iii. a.d. 388; Isaiah, vol. iv. 410; Jeremiah, i.–xxxii. 41, vol. iv. 419; Ezekiel, vol. v. 410–414; Daniel, vol. v. 407; Minor Prophets; vol. vi. at various times between 391 and 406; Matthew, vol. vii. 387; Galatians, Ephesians, Titus, Philemon, vol. vii. 388: all at Bethlehem.

(2) Translated from Origen.—Homilies on Jer. and Ezk., vol. v. Bethlehem, date doubtful; on Luke, vol. vii. Bethlehem, 389; Canticles, vol. iii. Rome and Bethlehem, 385–387.

There is also a commentary on Job, and a specimen of one on the Psalms, vol. vii.; and the translation of Origen's Homilies on Isaiah, all attributed to Jerome, vol. iv.


(1) Book of Hebrew Names, or Glossary of Proper Names in O.T.; Bethlehem, 388; vol. iii. 1.

(2) Book of Questions on Genesis, Bethlehem, 388; vol. iii. 301.

(3) A translation of Eusebius's book on the Sites and Names of Hebrew Places, Bethlehem, 388; vol. iii. 121.

(4) Translation of Didymus on the Holy Spirit, Rome and Bethlehem, 385–387; vol. ii. 105.


(1) Book of Illustrious Men, or Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Writers, Bethlehem, a.d. 392.

(2) Dialogue with a Luciferian, Antioch, 379.

(3) Lives of the Hermits: Paulus, Desert, 374; Malchus and Hilarion, Bethlehem, 390.

(4) Translation of the Rule of Pachomius; Bethlehem, 404.

(5) Books of ascetic controversy: against Helvidius, Rome, 383; against Jovinian, Bethlehem, 393; against Vigilantius, Bethlehem, 406.

(6) Books of personal controversy: against John, bp. of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, 398 or 399; against Rufinus, i. and ii. 402, iii. 404.

(7) Dialogue with a Pelagian, Bethlehem, 416.


— Translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius, with Jerome's additions, vol. viii., Constantinople, 382.


— The series of letters, vol. i. Ep. i. Aquileia, 371; ii.–iv. Antioch, 374; v-xvii. Desert, 374–379; xviii. Constantinople, 381; xix.–xlv. Rome, 382–385; xlvi.–cxlviii. Bethlehem, 386–418.

The works attributed to Jerome but not genuine, which are given in Vallarsi's ed., are: A Breviary, Commentary, and Preface on the Psalms, vol. vii.; some Greek fragments, and a Lexicon of Hebrew Names, the Names of Places in the Acts, the Ten Names of God, the Benedictions of the Patriarchs, the Ten Temptations in the Desert, a Commentary on the Song of Deborah, Hebrew Questions in Kings and Chronicles, an Exposition of Job, vol. iii., three letters in vol. i., and 51 in vol. xi., and several miscellaneous writings in vol. xi., most of which are by Pelagius.


(1) As a Bible translator, Jerome deserves the highest place for his clear conviction of the importance of his task and his perseverance against great obstacles. This is shewn especially in his prefaces, which are of great value as shewing his system. He took very great pains, but not with all alike. The Chronicles he went over word by word with his Hebrew teacher; Tobit he translated in a single day. His method was, first, never to swerve needlessly from the original; second, to avoid solecisms; third, at all risks, even that of introducing solecisms, to give the true sense. These principles are not always consistently carried out. There is sometimes undue laxity, which is defended in the de Optimo Genere Interpretandi; sometimes an unnecessary literalism, arising from a notion that some hidden sense lies behind the words, but really depriving the words of sense. His versions were during his lifetime both highly prized and greatly condemned. His friend Sophronius translated a great part of them into Greek and they were read in many Eastern churches in Jerome's lifetime. After his death they gradually won universal acceptance in the West, and were finally, with some alterations (mostly for the worse), stamped with the authority of the Roman church at the council of Trent. See Vallarsi's preface to vol. ix., and Zöckler, pt. II. ii. Hieronymus als Bibel Uebersetzer.

(2) As an expositor, Jerome lacks originality. His Commentaries are mostly compilations from others, whose views he gives at times without any opinion of his own. This, however, makes them of special value as the record of the thoughts of distinguished men, such as Origen. His derivations are puerile. His interpretation of prophecy is the merest literal application of it to events in the church. He is often inconsistent, and at times seems to veil his own opinion under that of another. His allusions to the events of his own time as illustrations of Scripture are often of great interest. His great haste in writing (pref. to bk. ii. of Comm. on Eph. and pref. to bk. iii. of Comm. on Gal.), his frequent weak health and weak eyes, and his great self-confidence caused him to trust his memory too much.

(3) The books on Hebrew Names, Questions on Genesis, and the Site and Names of Hebrew Places shew a wide range of interest and are useful contributions to Biblical knowledge, especially the last-named, which is often appealed to in the present day. But even here he was too ready to accept Jewish tales rather than to exercise independent judgment.

In theology, properly so called, he is weak. His first letter to Damasus on the Trinitarian controversies at Antioch shews a clear perception of what the church taught, but also a shrinking from dogmatic questions and a servile submission to episcopal authority. He accepted without question the damnation of all the heathen. His dealings with Origen shew his weakness; he surrendered his impartial judgment as soon as Origen's works were condemned. In the Pelagian controversy his slight realization of the importance of the questions contrasts markedly with the deep conviction of the writings of Augustine. In some matters, which had not been dealt with by church authority, he held his own; e.g. as to the origin of souls he is decided as a creationist. He puts aside purgatory and scoffs at millenarianism. His views on the Apocrypha and on the orders of the Christian ministry have become classical.

(4) For church history he had some considerable faculty, as is shewn by the dialogue with a Luciferian. His knowledge was great and his sympathies large, when there was no question of church condemnations. His book de Viris Illustribus is especially valuable and 472his defence of it against Augustine's criticism shews him to have the wider culture and greater knowledge. But the lives of the hermits incorporate legend with history. In controversy his ordinary method is to take as absolute truth the decisions of bishops and even the popular feeling in the church and to use all his powers in enforcing these. His own life and documents which give its details are his best contributions to church history.

(5) His knowledge of and sympathy with human history generally was very like that of monks of later times. He had much curiosity and considerable knowledge. His translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius shews his interest in history, but is very uncritical. The mistakes of Eusebius are not corrected but aggravated by the translator; his own additions shew that his critical faculty was not such as to guard against the admission of considerable errors; and his credulity constantly reveals itself. He nowhere shews even the rudiments of a philosophy of history. He knew both the events of his time and facts lying beyond the usual range. He was acquainted with the routes to India, and mentions the Brahmans (Epp. xxii. lxx. etc.) and Buddha (adv. Jov. i. 42). Events like the fall of Rome deeply impressed him; but he deals with these very much as the monks of the middle ages dealt with the events of their time. He is a recluse, with no political sagacity and no sense of human progress.

(6) His letters are the most interesting part of his writings. They are very various; vivid in feeling and graphic in their pictures of life. The letters to Heliodorus (xiv.) on the praise of hermit life; to Eustochium (xxii.) on the preservation of virginity in the mixed life of the Roman church and world; to Asella (xlv.) on his departure from Rome; to Nepotian (lii.) on the duties of the presbyters and monks of his day; to Marcella from Paula and Eustochium (xlvi.), giving the enthusiastic description of monastic life among the holy places of Palestine; to Laeta (cvii.) on the education of a child whose grandfather was a heathen priest, whose parents were Christians, and who was herself to be a nun; to Rusticus (cxxv.), giving rules which shew the character of the monastic life in those days,—all these are literary gems; and the Epitaphia of Blesilla (xxxix.), Fabiola (lxxvii.), Nepotianus (lx.), Paula (cviii.), and Marcella (cxxvii.) form a hagiography of the best and most attractive kind.


—His style is excellent, and he was rightly praised .as the Christian Cicero by Erasmus, who contrasts his writings with monkish and scholastic literature. It is vivid, full of illustrations, with happy turns, such as "locus a non lucendo," Ὀνῷ λύπα, "fac de necessitate virtutem," "Ingemuit totus orbis et Arianum se esse miratus est." The scriptural quotations and allusions are often overdone and forced, but with no unreality or cant; and he never loses his dignity except in some controversial personalities.


—He was vain, and unable to bear rivals; extremely sensitive as to the estimation of his contemporaries, especially the bishops; passionate and resentful, but at times suddenly placable; scornful and violent in controversy; kind to the weak and poor; respectful in dealing with women; entirely without avarice; extraordinarily diligent, and nobly tenacious of the main objects of his life.


—His influence grew through his life and increased after his death. "He lived and reigned for a thousand years." His writings contain the whole spirit of the church of the middle ages; its monasticism, its contrast of sacred things with profane, its credulity and superstition, its deference to hierarchical authority, its dread of heresy, its passion for pilgrimages. To the society which was thus in a great measure formed by him, his Bible was the greatest boon which could have been given. But he founded no school and had no inspiring power; there was not sufficient courage or width of view in his spiritual legacy. As Thierry says, "There is no continuation of his work; a few more letters of Augustine and Paulinus, and night falls over the West." A cheap popular Life of St. Jerome by E. L. Cutts is pub. by S.P.C.K. in their Fathers for Eng. Readers. A trans. of his principal works is in the Lib. of Nic. and Post.-Nic. Fathers. The Bp. of Albany has in preparation (1911) a trans. of the Epistolae Selectae (ed. Hurter).

W. H. F remantle, D.D. Dean of Ripon.


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