Today we honor St. Jerome who sorted out all the copies of Bible books to give us one reliable copy of the whole Bible.

Friday, 9/30/11

Today is the feast of St. Jerome. In 340 a.d. he was born across the Adriatic from Italy in what we might think of as northern Greece. A very bright boy, he travelled to Rome for studies, and although he had not been a Christian, he was attracted to the monastic life, and prepared himself for Baptism. His brilliance attracted Pope Damasus, who turned much of the church’s administration work over to him. Jerome was forty-three when the pope died, and it was brought home to him that in wheeling and dealing for the pope he had made a good number of enemies.

Thinking it best to leave Rome, he settled in the coastal mountains of northern Israel, getting to work on gathering copies of the Gospels and Epistles. He found a dozen or more different copies of Matthew’s and John’s gospels, and many different copies of Paul’s letters: all of those were in the original Greek with a little Aramaic. By carefully comparing all versions he was able to put aside copies that had bits added on to the originals. In the end he came up with a single version of each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and he translated them into the Latin spoken by common people. The Latin word for the common people was the vulgus, and from that, Jerome’s copy of the Bible came to be called the Vulgate.

Next, Jerome got working on the Old Testament, using both original Hebrew and a body of their Greek translations of the Hebrew made in Egypt in 200 b.c.

“Jerome was seventy years old in 410 when news came that Alaric, king of the Visigoths had captured Rome. Jerome wrote, “When that light of the world was put out, I mean when the Roman Empire was decapitated, the whole world perished.”

He went on, “It’s true that all that begins must perish. But Rome! Who would believe that Rome could collapse?”  It gives us worries about the U.S.

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