St. Jerome

Friday, 9/30/16

The Catholic Church has St. Jerome to thank for the Latin version of the Bible that was its standard text for fifteen hundred years. Taking its name from vulgus, the Latin word for ordinary people, Jerome’s Bible was known as the Vulgate. 

Jerome, a bright young man, came to Rome from Dalmatia. While engaged in classical studies, he became attracted to the monasteries founded on the Egyptian model. (People who didn’t care for Jerome said he only sought Baptism as an entry ticket for a monastery. I once knew a Buddhist nun who wanted to become a Catholic nun without first becoming a Catholic.)

Pope Damasus took Jerome from the monastery to help him in administrative work, giving him to think he would follow him as pope. But at the death of Pope Damasus, Jerome found he had made so many enemies that he would do well to flee from Rome. He settled in the Holy Land where he worked translating the Bible. In 1954, Phyllis McGinley wrote a poem about Jerome’s temper.

God’s angry saint, his crotchety scholar
Was St. Jerome, the great name caller.
He cared not a dime for the laws against libel, 
And in his spare time, he translated the Bible.

He couldn’t stand Romans, he couldn’t stand Greeks,
He couldn’t stand women for their painted cheeks.
He couldn’t stand pagans for their pagan ways,
But he doted on Cicero all his days.

As I remember it, the poem concluded with:
But he filled the world with a Christian leaven,
It takes all kinds to make a heaven.

After translating the New Testament from Greek into Latin, Jerome translated into Latin the accepted Greek translation of the Old Testament that was known as the Septuagint. Iin 410 when he heard that Alaric, king of the Visigoths, had sacked Rome. Jerome wrote:

“When the bright light of the world was put out, or rather
when the Roman Empire was decapitated, the whole
world perished in one city.

Everything, however long, has its end; the centuries that have passed
never return, and it’s true to say that all that begins must perish.

But Rome! Who would believe that Rome would have collapsed?”

No comments:

Post a Comment