JEROME, SAINT (c. 347-419/420)
A father of the church who was one of the greatest biblical scholars of all time. His foremost accomplishment was translating the Bible from its original languages into Latin.
Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus in Latin) was born in Stridon at the head of the Adriatic. His advanced education began in Rome and was continued during many years of travel to cities of the East, including Antioch, Laodicea, and Constantinople. In Chalcis, as a hermit in the Syrian desert, he learned Hebrew and Greek. In Alexandria he attended classes under ORIGEN in the CATECHETICAL SCHOOL. In 382-385 Jerome returned to Rome, where he was secretary to Pope Damasus I, began his biblical translation at the pope’s request, and taught Paula and other Roman noblewomen, who were his disciples.
After the death of Damasus, Jerome, accompanied by his disciples, returned to the East, where he visited Egypt and Palestine before settling down in Bethlehem to devote the remaining three decades of his life to a vast literary production. Throughout his life he practiced a strict asceticism that he must have encountered in the East, especially in his visits to Coptic monasteries in Egypt. He may have been made a cardinal by Damasus, although the only evidence is a late thirteenth-century image of him in a cardinal’s red hat. He is one of the four doctors of the Roman Catholic church, which celebrates his feast day on 30 September. He is not in the Copto- Arabic Synaxarion.
Jerome’s translation of the Bible is notable in that he based it on original texts in Hebrew and Greek, creating a more accurate version than the Old Latin version then in use. The Vulgate, controversial at first, eventually became the official version of the Roman Catholic church. Jerome also produced many biblical commentaries, wherein he excelled in covering a wide range of linguistic and topographical topics concerned with interpretation of scripture. He continued the great Historia ecclesiastica of EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA on church history and wrote De illustribus, an account of Christian authors, including the Coptic church fathers, that was the first great work on patristics. He translated many works of such Coptic fathers as Origen and DIDYMUS THE BLIND. Jerome also combated prevailing heresies, notably ARIANISM and PELAGIANISM, and he turned against Origen as a result of the rising tide of Origenist controversy.
- Leigh-Bennett, E. Handbook of the Early Christian Fathers. London, 1920.
- Wright, F. A. Fathers of the Church. New York, 1929.
AZIZ S. ATIYA