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§ 177. The Works of Jerome.


The writings of Jerome, which fill eleven folios in the edition of Vallarsi, may be divided into exegetical, historical, polemic doctrinal, and polemic ethical works, and epistles.20952095   The Vallarsi edition, Verona, 1734-’42, and with improvements, Venet. 1766’72, is much more complete and accurate than the Benedictine or Maurine edition of Martianay and Pouget, in 5 vols. 1706, although this far surpassed the older editions of Erasmus, and Marianus Victorius. The edition of Migne, Paris (Petit-Montrouge), 1845-’46, also in 11 volumes (tom. xxii.-xxx. of the Patrologia Lat.), notwithstanding the boastful title, is only an uncritical reprint of the edition of Vallarsi with unessential changes in the order of arrangement; the Vitae Hieronymi and the Testimonia de Hieronymo being transferred from the eleventh to the first volume, which is more convenient. Vallarsi, a presbyter of Verona, was assisted in his work by Scipio Maffei, and others. I have mostly used his edition, especially in the Epistles.

I. The exegetical works stand at the head.

Among these the Vulgata,20962096   The name Vulgata, sc. editio, κοινὴ ἔκδοσις, i. e., the received text of the Bible, was a customary designation of the Septuagint, as also of the Latin Itala (frequently so used in Jeromeand Augustine), sometimes used in the bad sense of a vulgar, corrupt text as distinct from the original. The council of Trent sanctioned the use of the term in the honorable sense for Jerome’s version of the Bible. With the same right Luther’s version might be called the German, King James’ version the English Vulgate. or Latin version of the whole Bible, Old Testament and New, is by far the most important and valuable, and constitutes alone an immortal service.20972097   This is now pretty generally acknowledged. We add a few of the most weighty testimonies. Luther, who bore a real aversion to Jeromeon account of his fanatical devotion to monkery, still, in view of the invaluable assistance he received from the Vulgate in his own similar work, does him the justice to say: “St. Jeromehas personally done more and greater in translation than any one man will imitate.” Zöckler, l.c. p. 183, thinks: “The Vulgate is unquestionably the most important and most meritorious achievement of our author, the ripest fruit of his laborious studies, not only in the department of Hebrew, in which he leaves all other ecclesiastical authors of antiquity far behind, but also in that of Greek and of biblical criticism and exegesis in general, in which he excels at least all, even the greatest, of the Western fathers.” O. F. Fritzsche(in Herzog’s Encykl. vol. xvii. p. 435): “The severe judgment respecting the labor of Jeromesoftened with time, and, in fact, so swung to the opposite, that he was regarded as preserved from error by the guidance of the Holy Ghost. This certainly cannot be admitted, for the defects are palpably many and various. Yet criticism must acknowledge that Jeromeperformed a truly important service for his age; that he first gave the Old Testament to the West, and in a measure also the New, in a substantially pure form; put a stop, provisionally, to the confusion of the Bible text; and as a translator gave, on the whole, the true sense. He very properly aimed to be interpres, not paraphrastes, but in the great dissimilarity between the Hebrew and Latin idiom, he encountered the danger of slavish literalness. This he has in general avoided, and has been able to keep a certain mean between too great strictness and too great freedom, so that the language, though everywhere showing the Hebrew tinge, would not at all offend, but rather favor, the reader of that day. Yet it may be said that Jeromecould have done still better. It was not that reverence, caution, restrained him; to avoid offence, he adhered as closely as possible to the current version, especially in the New Testament. He sometimes let false translations stand, when they seemed harmless (” quod non nocebat, mutare noluimus ”), and probably followed popular usage in respect to phraseology; so that the style is not perfectly uniform. Finally, he did not always give himself due time, but worked rapidly. This is particularly true in the Apocrypha, of which, however, he had a very low estimate. Some parts he left entirely untouched, others he translated or revised very hastily.” Comp. also the opinion of the English scholar, B. F. Westcott, in W. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. iii. pp. 1696 and 1714 f., who says among other things: “When every allowance has been made for the rudeness of the original Latin, and the haste of Jerome’s revision, it can scarcely be denied that the Vulgate is not only the most venerable but also the most precious monument of Latin Christianity. For ten centuries it preserved in Western Europe a text of Holy Scripture far purer than that which was current in the Byzantine church; and at the revival of Greek learning, guided the way towards a revision of the late Greek text, in which the best biblical critics have followed the steps of Bentley, with ever-deepening conviction of the supreme importance of the coincidence of the earliest Greek and Latin authorities.”

Above all his contemporaries, and above all his successors down to the sixteenth century, Jerome, by his linguistic knowledge, his Oriental travel, and his entire culture, was best fitted, and, in fact, the only man, to undertake and successfully execute so gigantic a task, and a task which just then, with the approaching separation of East and West, and the decay of the knowledge of the original languages of the Bible in Latin Christendom, was of the highest necessity. Here, its so often in history, we plainly discern the hand of divine Providence. Jerome began the work during his second residence in Rome (382–385), at the suggestion of pope Damasus, who deserves much more credit for that suggestion than for his hymns. He at first intended only a revision of the Itala, the old Latin version of the Bible which came down from the second century, and the text of which had fallen into inextricable confusion through the negligence of transcribers and the caprice of correctors.20982098   Jeromesays of the Itala: “Tot sunt exemplaria paene quot codices, ” and frequently complains of the “varietas” and “vitiositas” of the Codices Latini, which he charges partly upon the original translators, partly upon presumptuous revisers, partly upon negligent transcribers. Comp. especially his Praefat. in Evang. ad Damasum. He finished the translation at Bethlehem, in the year 405, after twenty years of toil. He translated first the Gospels, then the rest of the New Testament, next the Psalter (which he wrought over twice, in Rome and in Bethlehem20992099    Both versions continued in use, the former as the Psalterium Romanum, the other as the Psalterium Gallicanum, like the two English versions of the Psalms in the worship of the Anglican church.), and then, in irregular succession, the historical, prophetic, and poetical books, and in part the Apocrypha, which, however, he placed decidedly below the canonical books. By this “labor pius, sed periculosa praesumtio,” as he called it, he subjected himself to all kinds of enmity from ignorance and blind aversion to change, and was abused as a disturber of the peace and falsifier of the Scripture;21002100   Falsarius, sacrilegus, et corruptor Scripturae. but from other sources he received much encouragement. The New Testament and the Psalter were circulated and used in the church long before the completion of the whole. Augustine, for example, was using the New Testament of Jerome, and urged him strongly to translate the Old Testament, but to translate it from the Septuagint.21012101   Augustinefeared, from the displacement of the Septuagint, which he regarded as apostolically sanctioned, and as inspired, a division between the Greek and Latin church, but yielded afterwards, in part at least, to the correct view of Jerome, and rectified in his Retractations several false translations in his former works. Westcott, in his scholarly article on the Vulgate (in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, iii. 702), makes the remark: “There are few more touching instances of humility than that of the young Augustinebending himself in entire submission before the contemptuous and impatient reproof of the veteran scholar.” Gradually the whole version made its way on its own merits, without authoritative enforcement, and was used in the West, at first together with the Itala, and after about the ninth century alone.

The Vulgate takes the first place among the Bible-versions of the ancient church. It exerted the same influence upon Latin Christendom as the Septuagint upon Greek, and it is directly or indirectly the mother of most of the earlier versions in the European vernaculars.21022102   Excepting the Gothic version, which is older than Jerome, and the Slavonic, which comes down from Methodius and Cyril. It is made immediately from the original languages, though with the use of all accessible helps, and is as much superior to the Itala as Luther’s Bible to the older German versions. From the present stage of biblical philology and exegesis the Vulgate can be charged, indeed, with innumerable faults, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and arbitrary, dealing, in particulars;21032103   It has been so censured long ago by Le Clere in his Quaestiones Hieronymianae, but notwithstanding these, it deserves, as a whole, the highest praise for the boldness with which it went back from the half-deified Septuagint directly to the original Hebrew; for its union of fidelity and freedom; and for the dignity, clearness, and gracefulness of its style. Accordingly, after the extinction of the knowledge of Greek, it very naturally became the clerical Bible of Western Christendom, and so continued to be, till the genius of the Reformation in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and England, returning to the original text, and still further penetrating the spirit of the Scriptures, though with the continual help of the Vulgate, produced a number of popular Bibles, which were the same to the evangelical laity that the Vulgate had been for many centuries to the Catholic clergy. This high place the Vulgate holds even to this day in the Roman church, where it is unwarrantably and perniciously placed on an equality with the original.21042104   For particulars respecting the Vulgate, see H. Hody: De Bibliorum textibus originalibus, Oxon. 1705; Joh. Clericus: Quaestiones Hieronymianae, Amsterd. 1719 (who, provoked by the exaggerated praise of the Benedictine editor, Martianay, subjected the Vulgate to a sharp and penetrating though in part unjust criticism); Leander van Ess: Pragmatisch-kritische Geschichte der Vulgata, Tüb. 1824; the lengthy article Vulgata by O. F. Fritzschein Herzog’s Theol. Encycl. vol. xvii. pp. 422-460; an article on the same subject by B. F. Westcottin W. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1863, vol. iii. pp. 688-718; and Zöckler: Hieronymus, pp. 99 ff.; 183 ff.; 343 ff.
   The text of the Vulgate, in the course of time, has become as corrupt as the text of the Itala was at the time of Jerome, and it is as much in need of a critical revision from manuscript sources, as the textus receptus of the Greek Testament. The authorized editions of SixtusV. and ClementXIII. have not accomplished this task. Martianay, in the Benedictine edition of Jerome’s work, did more valuable service towards an approximate restoration of the Vulgate in its original form from manuscript sources. Of late the learned Barnabite C. Vercellonehas commenced such a critical revision in Variae Lectiones Vulgatae Latin. Bibliorum editionis, tom. i. (Pentat.), Rome, 1860; tom. ii. Pars prior (to 1 Regg.), 1862. Westcott, in the article referred to, has made use of the chief results of this work, which may be said to create an epoch in the history of the Vulgate.

The Commentaries of Jerome cover Genesis, the Major and Minor Prophets, Ecclesiastes, Job, some of the Psalms,21052105   His seven treatises on Psalms x.-xvi. (probably translated from Origen), and his brief annotations to all the Psalms (commentarioli) are lost, but the pseudo-hieronymianum breviarium in Psalmos, a poor compilation of later times (Opera, vii. 1-588), contains perhaps fragments of these. the Gospel of Matthew, and the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Titus, and Philemon.21062106   Opera, tom. iii. iv. v. vi. and vii. Jeromededicated his commentaries and other writings mostly to those high-born ladies of Rome whom he induced to embrace the ascetic mode of life, as Paula, Eustochium, Marcella, &c.h He received much encouragement from them in his labors;—such was the lively theological interest which prevailed in some female circles at the time. He was, however, censured on this account, and defended himself in the Preface to his Commentary on Zephaniah, tom. vi. 671, by referring to Deborah and Huldah, Judith and Esther, Anna, Elizabeth, and Mary, not forgetting the heathen Sappho, Aspasia, Themista, and the Cornelia Gracchorum, as examples of literary women. Besides these he translated the Homilies of Origen on Jeremiah and Ezekiel, on the Gospel of Luke, and on the Song of Solomon. Of the last he says: “While Origen in his other writings has surpassed all others, on the Song of Solomon he has surpassed himself.”21072107   Praef. in Homil. Orig. in Cantic. Cant. tom. iii. 500. Rufinus, during the Origenistic controversy, did not forget to remind him of this sentence.

His best exegetical labors are those on the Prophets (Particularly his Isaiah, written a.d. 408–410; his Ezekiel, a.d. 410–415; and his Jeremiah to chap. xxxii., interrupted by his death), and those on the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus, (written in 388), together with his critical Questions (or investigations) on Genesis. But they are not uniformly carried out; many parts are very indifferent, others thrown off with unconscionable carelessness in reliance on his genius and his reading, or dictated to an amanuensis as they came into his head.21082108   He frequently excuses this “dictare quodcunque in buccam venerit,” by his want of time and the weakness of his eyes. Comp. Preface to the third book of his Comment. in Ep. ad Galat. (tom. vii. 486). At the close of the brief Preface to the second book of his Commentary on the Ep. to the Ephesians (tom. vii. 486), he says that he often managed to write as many as a thousand lines in one day (“interdum per singulos dies usque ad numerum mille versuum—i.e., here στίχοι —-pervenire”). He not seldom surprises by clear, natural, and conclusive expositions, while just on the difficult passages he wavers, or confines himself to adducing Jewish traditions and the exegetical opinions of the earlier fathers, especially of Origen, Eusebius, Apollinaris, and Didymus, leaving the reader to judge and to choose. His scholarly industry, taste, and skill, however, always afford a certain compensation for the defect of method and consistency, so that his Commentaries are, after all, the most instructive we have from the Latin church of that day, not excepting even those of Augustine, which otherwise greatly surpass them in theological depth and spiritual unction. He justly observes in the Preface to his Commentary on Isaiah: “He who does not know the Scriptures, does not know the power and wisdom of God; ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ.”21092109   “Qui nescit Scripturas, nescit Dei virtutem ejusque sapientiam; ignoratio Scripturarum ignoratio Christi est.”

Jerome had the natural talent and the acquired knowledge, to make him the father of grammatico-historical interpretation, upon which all sound study of the Scriptures must proceed. He very rightly felt that the expositor must not put his own fancies into the word of God, but draw out the meaning of that word, and he sometimes finds fault with Origen and the allegorical method for roaming in the wide fields of imagination, and giving out the writer’s own thought and fancy for the hidden Wisdom of the Scriptures and the church.21102110   Comp. particularly the Preface to the fifth book of his Commentary on Isaiah, and Ep. 53 ad Paulinum, c. 7. In this healthful exegetical spirit he excelled all the fathers, except Chrysostom and Theodoret. In the Latin church no others, except the heretical Pelagius (whose short exposition of the Epistles of Paul is incorporated in the works of Jerome), and the unknown Ambrosiaster (whose commentary has found its way among the works of Ambrose), thought like him. But he was far from being consistent; he committed the very fault he censures in Eusebius, who in the superscription of his Commentary on Isaiah promised a historical exposition, but, forgetting the promise, fell into the fashion of Origen. Though he often makes very bold utterances, such as that on the original identity of presbyter and bishop,21112111    In the Comm. on Tit. i. 5, and elsewhere, e.g., Epist. 69 ad Oceanum, c. 3, and Epist. 146 ad Evangelum, c. 1. Such assertions, which we find also in Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, and Theodoret were not disputed at that time, but subsequently they gave rise to violent disputes between Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Comp. my History of the Apostolic Church, § 132. and even shows traces of a loose view of inspiration,21122112   He admits, for instance, chronological contradictions, or, at least inexplicable difficulties in the Gospel history (Ep. 57 ad Pammach. c. 7 and 8), and he even ventures unjustly to censure St. Paul for supposed solecisms, barbarisms, and weak arguments (Ep. 121 ad Alag.; Comment. in Gal. iii. 1; iv. 24; vi. 2; Comment. in Eph. iii. 3, 8, 13; Comment. in Tit. i. 3). yet he had not the courage, and was too scrupulously concerned for his orthodoxy, to break with the traditional exegesis. He could not resist the impulse to indulge, after giving the historical sense, in fantastic allegorizing, or, as he expresses himself, “to spread the sails of the spiritual understanding.”21132113   “Spiritualis intelligentiae vela panders,” or “spirituale aedificium super historiae fundamentum extruere,” or “quasi inter saxa et scopulos” (between Scylla and Charybdis), “sic inter historiam et allegoriam omtionis cursum flectere.”

He distinguishes in most cases a double sense of the Scriptures: the literal and the spiritual, or the historical and the allegorical; sometimes, with Origen and the Alexandrians, a triple sense: the historical, the tropological (moral), and the pneumatical (mystical).

The word of God does unquestionably carry in its letter a living and life-giving spirit; and is capable of endless application to all times and circumstances; and here lies the truth in the allegorical method of the ancient church. But the spiritual sense must be derived with tender conscientiousness and self-command from the natural, literal meaning, not brought from without, as another sense beside, or above, or against the literal.

Jerome goes sometimes as far as Origen in the unscrupulous twisting of the letter and the history, and adopts his mischievous principle of entirely rejecting the literal sense whenever it may seem ludicrous or unworthy. For instance: By the Shunamite damsel, the concubine of the aged king David, he understands (imitating Origen’s allegorical obliteration of the double crime against Uriah and Bathsheba) the ever-virgin Wisdom of God, so extolled by Solomon;21142114    Ep. 52 ad Nepotianum, c. 2-4. He objects against the historical construction, that it is absurd, inasmuch as the aged David, then seventy years old, might as well have warmed himself in the arms of Bathsheba, Abigail, and the other wives and concubines still living, considering that Abraham at a still more advanced age was content with his Sarah, Isaac with his Rebeccah. The Shunamite, therefore, must be “sapientia quae numquam senescit” (c. 4, tom. i. 258). Nevertheless, in another place, he understands the same passage literally, Contra Jovinian. l. i. c. 24 (tom. i. 274), where he mentions this and other sins of David, “non quod sanctis viris aliquid detrahere audeam, sed quod aliud sit in lege versari, aliud in evangelio.” and the earnest controversy between Paul and Peter he alters into a sham fight for the instruction of the Antiochian Christians who were present; thus making out of it a deceitful accommodation, over which Augustine (who took just offence at such patrocinium mendacii) drew him into an epistolary controversy characteristic of the two men.”21152115   Comp. Jerome’s Com. on Gal. ii. 11-14; Aug. Epp. 28, 40, and 82, or Epp. 56, 67, and 116 among the Epistles of Jerome(Opera, i. 300 sqq.; 404 sqq.; 761 sqq.) After defending for a long time his false interpretation, Jeromegave it up at last, a.d.415, in his Dial. contra Pelag. l. i. c. 22. Augustine, on the other hand, yielded his erroneous preference for a translation of the Old Testament from the Septuagint instead of the original Hebrew, although he continued to entertain an exaggerated estimate of the value of the Septuagint and the very imperfect Itala. Besides these two points of dispute the Origenistic errors were a subject of correspondence between these most distinguished fathers of the Latin Church.

It is remarkable that Augustine and Jerome, in the two exegetical questions, on which they corresponded, interchanged sides, and each took the other’s point of view. In the dispute on the occurrence in Antioch (Gal. ii. 11–14), Augustine represented the principle of evangelical freedom and love of truth, Jerome the principle of traditional committal to dogma and an equivocal theory of accommodation; while in their dispute on the authority of the Septuagint Jerome held to true progress, Augustine to retrogression and false traditionalism. And each afterwards saw his error, and at least partially gave it up.

In the exposition of the Prophets, Jerome sees too many allusions to the heretics of his time (as Luther finds everywhere allusions to the Papists, fanatics, and sectarians); and, on the other hand, with the zeal he inherited from Origen against all chiliasm, he finds far too little reference to the end of, all things in the second coming of our Lord. He limits, for example, even the eschatological discourse of Christ in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and Paul’s prophecy of the man of sin in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians, to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Among the exegetical works in the wider sense belongs the book On the Interpretation of the Hebrew Names, an etymological lexicon of the proper names of the Old and New Testaments, useful for its time, but in many respects defective, and now worthless;21162116   Liber de interpretatione nominum Hebraicorum, or De nominibus Hebr. (Opera, tom iii. 1-120). Clericus, in his Quaestiones Hieronymianae, severely criticised this book. and a free translation of the Onomasticon of Eusebius, a sort of biblical topology in alphabetical order, still valuable to antiquarian scholarship.21172117    Liber de situ et nominibus locorum Hebraicorum, usually cited under the title Eusebii Onomasticon (urbium et locorum S. Scripturae). Opera, tom. iii. 121-290. Comp. Clericus: Eusebii Onomasticon cum versione Hieronymi, Amstel. 1707, and a modern convenient edition in Greek and Latin by F. Larsowand G. Parthey, Berlin, 1862.

II. The historical works, some of which we have already elsewhere touched, are important to the history of the fathers and the saints to Christian literature, and to the history of morals.

First among them is a free Latin reproduction and continuation of the Greek Chronicle of Eusebius; i.e., chronological tables of the most important events of the history of the world and the church to the year 379.21182118   Opera, viii. 1-820, including the Greek fragments. There is added also the Chronicon of Prosper Aquitanus (pp. 821-856), and the Apparatus, Castigationes et Notae of Arn. Pontac. We must mention also the famous separate edition of Jerome’s Chronicle and its continuators by Joseph Scaliger: Thesaurus temporum Eusebii Pamphili, Hieronymi, Prosperi, etc., Lugd. Bat. 1606, ed. altera Amstel. 1658. Scaliger and Vallarsi have spent immense industry and acuteness in editing this work made very difficult by the many chronological and other blunders and the corruptions of the text caused by ignorant and careless transcribers. The Chronicle of Eusebius is now known also in an Armenian translation, edited by Angelo Mai, Rome, 1833. The Greek original is lost with the exception of a few fragments of Syncellus. Jerome dictated this work quite fugitively during his residence with Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople (a.d. 380). In spite of its many errors, it formed a very useful and meritorious contribution to Latin literature, and a principal source of the scanty historical information of Western Christendom throughout the middle age. Prosper Aquitanus, a friend of Augustine and defender of the doctrines of free grace against the Semi-Pelagians in Gaul, continued the Chronicle to the year 449; later authors brought it down to the middle of the sixth century.

More original is the Catalogue of Illustrious Authors,21192119   Liber de illustribus viris, or De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis, frequently quoted by the title Catalogus. See Opera, ed. Vallarsi, tom. ii. 821-956, together with the Greek translation of Pseudo-Sophronius. which Jerome composed in the tenth year of Theodosius (a.d. 392 and 393),21202120    This date is given by himself, cap. 135, in which he speaks of his own writings. at the request of his friend, an officer, Dexter. It is the pioneer in the history of theological literature, and gives, in one hundred and thirty-five chapters, short biographical notices of as many ecclesiastical writers, from the apostles to Jerome himself, with accounts of their most important works. It was partly designed to refute the charge of ignorance, which Celsus, Porphyry, Julian, and other pagans, made against the Christians. Jerome, at that time, was not yet so violent a heretic-hater, and was quite fair and liberal in his estimate of such men as Origen and Eusebius.21212121    In the very first chapter he says of the Second Epistle of Peter that it was by most rejected as spurious “propter styli cum priore dissonantiam.” A thorough investigation, however, leads to a more favorable result as to the genuineness of this Epistle. He admits in his catalogue even heretics, as Tatian, Bardesanes, and Priscillian, also the Jews Philo and Josephus, and the heathen philosopher Seneca. But many of his sketches are too short and meagre; even those, for example, of so important men as Cyprian, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Ambrose, and Chrysostom († 407).21222122   Of Chrysostomhe merely says, cap. 129: “Joannes Antiochenae ecclesiae presbyter, Eusebii Emiseni Diodorique sectator, multa componere dicitar, de quibus περὶ ἱεροσύνηςtantum legi.” But afterwards, during the Origenistic controversies, he translated a passionate libel of Theophilus of Alexandria against Chrysostom, and praised it as a valuable book (Comp. Ep. 114 ad Theophilum, written 405). Fragments of this miserable Libellus Theophili contra Joannem Chrysost. are preserved in the Defensio trium capp. l. vi. by Facundus of Hermiane. His junior cotemporary, Augustine, who had at that time already written several philosophical, exegetical, and polemic works, he entirely omits.

The Catalogue was afterwards continued in the same spirit by the Semi-Pelagian Gennadius of Marseilles, by Isidore of Seville, by Ildefonsus, and by others, into the middle age.

Jerome wrote also biographies of celebrated hermits, Paul of Thebes (a.d. 375), Hilarion, and the imprisoned Malchus (a.d. 390), in very graceful and entertaining style, but with many fabulous and superstitious accompaniments, and with extravagant veneration of the monastic life, which he aimed by these writings to promote.21232123   Opera, tom. ii. 1 sqq. In most of the former editions these Vitae are wrongly placed among the Epistles. To the same class of writings belongs the translation of the Regula Pachomii. Characteristic is the judgment of Gibbon (ch. xxxvii. ad Ann. 370): “The stories of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus by Jeromeare admirably told: and the only defect of these pleasing compositions is the want of truth and common sense.” They were read at that time as eagerly as novels. These biographies, and several necrological letters in honor of deceased friends, such as Nepotian, Lucinius, Lea, Blasilla, Paulina, Paula, and Marcella are masterpieces of rhetorical ascetic hagiography. They introduce the legend ary literature of the middle age, with its indiscriminate mixture of history and fable, and its sacrifice of historical truth to popular edification.

III. Of the polemic doctrinal and ethical works21242124   All in the second volume of the editions of Vallarsi (p. 171 sqq.) and Migne(p. 155 sqq.). some relate to the Arian controversies, some to the Origenistic, some to the Pelagian. In the first class belongs the Dialogue against the schismatic Luciferians,21252125   Altercatio Luciferiani et Orthodoxi, or Dialogus contra Luciferianos. The Luciferians had their name from Lucifer, bishop of Calaris in Sardinia (died 371), the head of the strict Athanasian party, who arbitrarily ordained Paulinus bishop of Antioch in opposition to the legitimate Meletius (362), because the latter had been elected by the Arian or Semi-Arian party, although immediately after his ordination he had given in his adhesion to the Nicene faith. Lucifer afterwards fell out with the orthodox and organized a new schismatic party, which adopted Novatian principles of discipline, but in the beginning of the fifth century gradually returned to the bosom of the Catholic church. which Jerome wrote during his desert life in Syria (a.d. 379) on the occasion of the Meletian schism in Antioch; also his translation of the work of Didymus On the Holy Ghost, begun in Rome and finished in Bethlehem. His book Against Bishop John of Jerusalem (a.d. 399), and his Apology to his former friend Rufinus, in three books (a.d. 402–403), are directed against Origenism.21262126   Besides these Jerometranslated several letters of Epiphanius and Theophilus of Alexandria against the Origenists, which have been incorporated by Vallarsi with the collection of Jerome’s Epistles. In the third class belongs the Dialogue against the Pelagians, in three books (a.d. 415). Other polemic works, Against Helvidius (written in 383), Against Jovinian (a.d. 393), and Against Vigilantius (dictated rapidly in one night in 406), are partly doctrinal, partly ethical in their nature, and mainly devoted to the advocacy of the immaculate virginity of Mary, celibacy, vigils, relic-worship, and the monastic life.

These controversial writings, the contents of which we have already noted in the proper place, do the author, on the whole, little credit, and stand in striking contrast with his fame as one of the principal saints of the Roman church. They show an accurate acquaintance with all the arts of an advocate and all the pugilism of a dialectician, together with boundless vehemence and fanatical zealotism, which scruple over no weapons of wit, mockery, irony, suspicion, and calumny, to annihilate opponents, and which pursue them even after their death.21272127   Of the dead Jovinianhe says (Adv. Vigil.c. 1): “Ille Romanae ecclesicae auctoritate damnatus, inter phasides aves et carnes suillas non tam emisit spiritum, quam cructavit.” He threatened his former friend Rufinus, whose language he had perverted into a threat to take his life, with a libel suit, and after his death in 410 he wrote in an ignoble sense of triumph (in the Prologue to his Commentary on Ezekiel): “Scorpius inter Enceladum et Porphyrionem Trinacriae humo premitur, et hydra multorum capitum contra nos aliquando sibilare cessavit.” From Jerome’s polemical writings one would form a most unfavorable opinion of Rufinus. Two divines of Aquileja, Fontanini and Maria de Rubeis, felt it their duty to vindicate his memory against unjust aspersions. Comp. Zöckler, l.c. p. 266 f. Augustine, in a letter to Jerome(Ep. Hieron. 110, c. 10), called it a “magnum et triste miraculum, ” that the friendship of Jeromeand Rufinus should have turned into such enmity, and urged him to reconciliation, but in vain. This change, however, is easily explained, since hatred is only inverted love. Rufinus, it must be remembered, had not spared Jerome, and charged him even with worse than heathen impiety for calling, in hyper-ascetic zeal, Paula, the mother of the nun Eustochium, the “mother-in-law of God” (socrus Dei). See his Ep. xxii. c. 20 ad Paulam. And their contents afford no sufficient compensation for these faults. For Jerome was not an original, profound, systematic, or consistent thinker, and therefore very little fitted for a didactic theologian. In the Arian controversy he would not enter into any discussion of the distinction between οὐσίαand ὑπόστασις, and left this important question to the decision of the Roman bishop Damasus; in the Origenistic controversy he must, in his violent condemnation of all Origenists, contradict his own former view and veneration of Origen as the greatest teacher after the Apostles; and in the Pelagian controversy he was influenced chiefly by personal considerations, and drawn half way to Augustine’s side; for while he was always convinced of the universality of sin,21282128   Comp. particularly the passage Dial adv. Pelag. l. ii. c. 4 (tom. ii. p. 744). in reference to the freedom of the will and predestination he adopted synergistic or Semi-Pelagian views, and afterwards continued in the highest consideration among the Semi-Pelagians down to Erasmus.21292129   Hence it is not accidental, that several writings of Pelagius, his Commentary on the Epistles of Paul (with some emendations), his Epistola ad Demetriadem de virginitate, his Libellus fidei addressed to pope Innocent, and the Epistola ad Celantiam matronam de rations pie vivendi (which was probably likewise written by him), found their way, by an irony of history, into the writings of Jerome, on a seeming resemblance in spirit and aim.

He is equally unsatisfactory as a moralist and practical divine. He had no connected system of moral doctrine, and did not penetrate to the basis and kernel of the Christian life, but moved in the outer circle of asceticism and casuistry. Following the spirit of his time, he found the essence of religion in monastic flight from the world and contempt of the natural ordinances of God, especially of marriage; and, completely reversing sound principles, he advocated even ascetic filth as an external mark of inward purity.21302130    “Difficile inter epulas servatur pudicitia. Nitens cutis sordidum ostendit animum.” So he wrote to two ladies, a mother and her daughter in Gaul, Ep. 117, c. 6 (tom. i. 786). St. Anthony, the patriarch of monks, and other saints of the desert were of the same opinion, who washed themselves but seldom and combed their hair but once in a year, on holy Easter (when they ought to have been eminently holy, that is, according to their notions, eminently slovenly). What a contrast this to our modern principle that cleanliness is next to godliness! We must, however, judge this catholic ascetic cynicism from the stand-point of antiquity. Even Socrates, starting from the principle that freedom from need was divine, despised undergarments and shoes, and contented himself with a miserable cloak. Yet he did not neglect cleanliness altogether, and censured his disciple Antisthenes, who ostentatiously wore a dirty and torn cloak, by reminding him: “Friend, vanity peeps out from the holes of thy cloak.” Man is by nature lazy and dirty. Industry and cleanliness are the fruit of discipline and civilization. In this respect Europe is in advance of Asia, the Teutonic races in advance of the Latin. The Italians call the English and Americans, soap-wasters. The use of soap and of the razor is a test of modern civilization. Of marriage he had a very low conception, regarding it merely as a necessary evil for the increase of virgins. From the expression of Paul in 1 Cor. vii. 1: “It is good not to touch a woman,” he draws the utterly unwarranted inference: “It is therefore bad to touch one; for the only opposite of good is bad;” and he interprets the woe of the Lord upon those that are with child and those that give suck (Matt. xxiv. 19), as a condemnation of pregnancy in general, and of the crying of little children, and of all the trouble and fruit of the married life. The disagreeable fact of the marriage of Peter he endeavors to weaken by the groundless assumption that the apostle forsook his wife when he forsook his net, and, besides, that “he must have washed away the stain of his married life by the blood of his martyrdom.”21312131   Compare the work Against Jovinian, l. i. c. 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 26, 33, etc., and several of his ascetic letters. Some of his utterances on the state of matrimony gave offence even to his monastic friends.

In a letter, otherwise very beautiful and rich, to the young Nepotian,21322132   Ep. 52 (i. 254 sqq.) de vita clericorum et monachorum, c. 5. he gives this advice: “Let your lodgings be rarely or never visited by women. You must either ignore alike, or love alike, all the daughters and virgins of Christ. Nay, dwell not under the same roof with them, nor trust their former chastity; you cannot be holier than David, nor wiser than Solomon. Never forget that a woman drove the inhabitants of Paradise out of their possession. In sickness any brother, or your sister, or your mother, can minister to in the lack of such relatives, the church herself maintains many aged women, whom you can at the same time remunerate for their nursing with welcome alms. I know some who are well in the body indeed, but sick in mind. It is a dangerous service in any case, that is done to you by one whose face you often see. If in your official duty as a clergyman you must visit a widow or a maiden, never enter her house alone. Take with you only those whose company does you no shame; only some reader, or acolyth, or psalm-singer, whose ornament consists not in clothes, but in good morals, who does not crimp his hair with crisping pins, but shows chastity in his whole bearing. But privately or without witnesses, never put yourself in the presence of a woman.”

Such exhortations, however, were quite in the spirit of that age, and were in part founded in Jerome’s own bitter experience in his youth, and in the thoroughly corrupt condition of social life in the sinking empire of Rome.

While advocating these ascetic extravagancies Jerome does not neglect to chastise the clergy and the monks for their faults with the scourge of cutting satire. And his writings are everywhere strewn with the pearls of beautiful moral maxims and eloquent exhortations to contempt of the world and godly conduct.21332133   Comp. a collection of the principal doctrinal and moral sentences of Jeromein Zöcklerp. 429 ff. and p. 458 ff.

IV. The Epistles of Jerome, with all their defects are uncommonly instructive and interesting, and, in easy flow and elegance of diction, are not inferior to the letters of Cicero. Vallarsi has for the first time put them into chronological order in the first volume of his edition, and has made the former numbering of them (even that of the Benedictine edition) obsolete. He reckons in all a hundred and fifty, including several letters from cotemporaries, such as Epiphanius, Theophilus of Alexandria, Augustine, Damasus, Pammachius, and Rufinus; some of them written directly to Jerome, and some treating of matters in which he was interested. They are addressed to friends like the Roman bishop Damasus, the senator Pammachius, the bishop Paulinus of Nola, Theophilus of Alexandria, Evangelus, Rufinus, Heliodorus, Riparius, Nepotianus, Oceanus, Avitus, Rusticus, Gaudentius, and Augustine, and some to distinguished ascetic women and maidens like Paula, Eustochium, Marcella, Furia, Fabiola, and Demetrias. They treat of almost all questions of philosophy and practical religion, which then agitated the Christian world, and they faithfully reflect the virtues and the faults and the remarkable contrasts of Jerome and of his age.

Orthodox in theology and Christology, Semi-Pelagian in anthropology, Romanizing in the doctrine of the church and tradition, anti-chiliastic in eschatology, legalistic and ascetic in ethics, a violent fighter of all heresies, a fanatical apologist of all monkish extravagancies,—Jerome was revered throughout the catholic middle age as the patron saint of Christian and ecclesiastical learning, and, next to Augustine, as maximus doctor ecclesiae; but by his enthusiastic love for the Holy Scriptures, his recourse to the original languages, his classic translation of the Bible, and his manifold exegetical merits, he also played materially into the hands of the Reformation, and as a scholar and an author still takes the first rank, and as an influential theologian the second (after Augustine), among the Latin fathers; while, as a moral character, he decidedly falls behind many others, like Hilary, Ambrose, and Leo I., and, even according to the standard of Roman asceticism, can only in a very limited sense be regarded as a saint.21342134   Comp. the various estimates of Jeromeat § 41 above; in Vallarsi, Opera Hier., tom. xi. 282-300, and in Zöckler, l.c. pp. 465-476. In the preface to his valuable monograph (p. v) Zöckler says: ”Jeromeis chiefly the orator and the scholar among the fathers. His life is essentially neither the life of a monk, nor a priest—for monk and priest he was only by the way—nor that of a saint—for he was no saint at all, at least not in the sense of the Roman church. It is from beginning to end the life of a scholar, a life replete with literary studies and all sorts of scholarly enterprises.” This judgment we can subscribe only with two qualifications: he was as much a monk as a scholar, and exerted an extraordinary influence on the spread of monasticism in the West; and his reputation as a saint rests precisely on the Romish overestimate of asceticism, as distinguished from the evangelical Protestant form of piety.



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