Studies and Travels to 378 (§ 1).
Sojourn in Rome, 382-385 (§ 2).
Residence in Palestine after 385 (§ 3).
Biblical and Exegetical (§ 1).
Historical (§ 2).
Dogmatic and Polemical (§ 3).
Letters (§ 4).
His Excellences and Defects (§ 1).
His Lack of Independence (§ 2).
Returning to Antioch, in 378 or 379, he was ordained by Bishop Paulinus, apparently with some unwillingness and on condition that he still continue his ascetic life. Soon afterward he went to Constantinople to pursue his study of Scripture under the instruction of Gregory Nazianzen. There he seems to have spent two years; the next three (382-385) he was in Rome again, in close intercourse with Pope Damasus and the leading Roman Christians. Invited thither originally to the synod of 382 held for the purpose of ending the schism of Antioch, he made himself indispensable to the pope, and took a prominent place in his councils. Among other duties he undertook the revision of the text of the Latin Bible on the basis of the Greek New Testament and the Septuagint, in order to put an end to the marked divergences in the current western texts (see BIBLE VERSIONS, A, II., 2). This commission determined the course of his scholarly activity for many years, and gave occasion to his most important achievement. He undoubtedly exercised an important influence during these three years, to which, outside of his unusual learning, his zeal for ascetic strictness and the realization of the monastic ideal contributed not a little. He was surrounded by a circle of well-born and well-educated women, including some from the noblest patrician families, such as the widows Marcella and Paula, (qq.v.) with their daughters Blaesilla and Eustochium. The resulting inclination of these women for the monastic life, and his unsparing criticism of the life of the secular clergy, raised a growing hostility against him, especially in the class just named. Soon after the death of his patron, Damasus (Dec. 10, 384), he decided to retire from a position which was fast becoming impossible.
In August 385 he returned to Antioch, accompanied by his brother Paulinianus and several friends and followed a little later by Paula and Eustochium, who had resolved to leave their patrician surroundings and to end their days in the Holy Land. In the winter of 385 Jerome
The writings of Jerome cover nearly all the principal departments of Christian theology; but the most numerous and important belong to that of Biblical study, including especially his labors for the improvement or translation of the Latin text. His knowledge of Hebrew, primarily required for this branch of his work, gives also to his exegetical treatises (especially to those written after 386) a value greater than that of most patristic commentaries, although he is as a rule too much hampered by Jewish tradition, and indulges too often in allegorical and mystical subtleties after the manner of Philo and the Alexandrian school. But he deserves credit for the distinctness with which he emphasizes the difference between the Old-Testament Apocrypha and the Hebraica veritas of the canonical books (cf. especially his introductions to the Books of Samuel, see Prologus Galeatus, to the Solomonic writings, to Tobit, and to Judith. His exegetical works fall into three groups: (a) his translations or recastings of Greek predecessors, including fourteen homilies on Jeremiah and the same number on Ezekiel by Origen (translated c. 380 in Constantinople); two homilies of Origen on the Song of Solomon (in Rome, c. 383); and thirty-nine on Luke (c. 389, in Bethlehem). The nine homilies of Origen on Isaiah included among his works were not done by him. Here should be mentioned, as an important contribution to the topography of Palestine, his book De situ et nominibus locorum Hebraeorum, a translation with additions and some regrettable omissions of the Onomasticon of Eusebius. To the same period (c. 390) belongs the Liber interpretationis nominum Hebraicorum, based on a work supposed to go back to Philo and expanded by Origen. (b) Original commentaries on the Old Testament. To the period before his settlement at Bethlehem and the following five years belong a series of short Old-Testament studies- De seraphim, De voce Osanna, De tribus quaestionibus veteris legis (usually included among the letters as xviii., xx., xxxvi.); Quaestiones hebraicae in Genesin; Commentarius in Ecclesiasten; Tractatus septem in Psalmos x.-xvi. (lost); Explanationes in Michaeam, Sophoniam, Nahum, Habacuc, Aggaeum. About 395 he composed a series of longer commentaries, though in rather a desultory fashion-- first on the remaining seven minor prophets, then on Isaiah (c. 395-c. 400), on Daniel (c. 407), on Ezekiel (between 410 and 415), and on Jeremiah (after 415, left unfinished). (c) New-Testament commentaries. These include only Philemon, Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus (hastily composed 387-388); Matthew (dictated in a fortnight, 398); Mark, selected passages in Luke, the prologue of John, and Revelation. Treating the last-named book in his cursory fashion, he made use of an excerpt from the commentary of the North-African Tichonius, which is preserved as a sort of argument at the beginning of the more extended work of the Spanish presbyter Beatus of Libana. But before this he had already devoted to the Apocalypse another treatment, a rather arbitrary recasting of the commentary of Victorinus (d. 303), with whose chiliastic views he was not in accord, substituting for the chiliastic conclusion a spiritualizing exposition of his own, supplying an introduction, and making certain changes in the text.
One of Jerome's earliest attempts in the department of history was his Temporum liber, composed c. 380 in Constantinople; this is a recasting in Latin of the chronological tables which compose the second part of the Chronicon of Eusebius, with a supplement covering the period from 325 to 379. In spite of numerous errors taken over from Eusebius, and some of his own, Jerome produced a valuable work, if only for the impulse which it gave to such later chroniclers as Prosper, Cassiodorus, and Victor of Tannuna to continue his annals. Three other works of a hagiological nature are the Vita Pauli monachi, written during his first sojourn at
Practically all of Jerome's productions in the field of dogma have a more or less violently polemical character, and are directed against assailants of the orthodox doctrines. Even the translation of the treatise of Didymus on the Holy Spirit into Latin (begun in Rome 384, completed at Bethlehem) shows an apologetic tendency against the Arians and Pneumatomachi. The same is true of his version of Origen's De principiis (c. 399), intended to supersede the inaccurate translation by Rufinus. The more strictly polemical writings cover every period of his life. During the sojourns at Antioch and Constantinople he was mainly occupied with the Arian controversy, and especially with the schisms centering around Meletius and Lucifer. Two letters to Pope Damasus (xv. and xvi.) complain of the conduct of both parties at Antioch, the Meletians and Paulinians, who had tried to draw him into their controversy over the application of the terms ousia and hypostasis to the trinity. At the same time or a little later (379) he composed his Liber Contra Luciferianos, in which he cleverly uses the dialogue form to combat the tenets of that faction, particularly their rejection of baptism by heretics. In Rome (c. 383) he wrote a passionate counterblast against the teaching of Helvidius, in defense of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, and of the superiority of the single over the married state. An opponent of a somewhat similar nature was Jovinianus, with whom he came into conflict in 392 (Adversus Jovinianum, and the defense of this work addressed to his friend Pammachius, numbered xlviii. in the letters). Once more he defended the ordinary catholic practises of piety and his own ascetic ethics in 406 against the Spanish presbyter Vigilantius, who opposed the cultus of martyrs and relics, the vow of poverty, and clerical celibacy. Meanwhile the controversy with John of Jerusalem and Rufinus concerning the orthodoxy of Origen occurred. To this period belong some of his most passionate and most comprehensive polemical works-- the Contra Joannem Hierosolymitanum (398 or 399); the two closely-connected Apologiae contra Rufinum (402); and the "last word" written a few months later, the Liber tertius seu ultima responsio adversus scripta Rufini. For further details see ORIGENISTIC CONTROVERSIES. The last of his polemical works is the skilfully-composed Dialogue contra Pelagianos (415).
Jerome's letters, both by the great variety of their subjects and by their qualities of style, form the most interesting portion of his literary remains. Whether he is discussing problems of scholarship, or reasoning on cases of conscience, comforting the afflicted, or saying pleasant things to his friends, scourging the vices and corruptions of the time, exhorting to the ascetic life and renunciation of the world, or breaking a lance with his theological opponents, he gives a vivid picture not only of his own mind, but of the age and its peculiar characteristics. The letters most frequently reprinted or referred to are of a hortatory nature, such as xiv., Ad Heliodorum de laude vitae solitariae; xxii., Ad Eustochium de custodia virginitatis; lii., Ad Nepotianum de vita clericorum et monachorum, a sort of epitome of pastoral theology from the ascetic standpoint; liii., Ad Paulinum de studio scripturarum; lvii., to the same, De institutione monachi; lxx., Ad Magnum de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis; and cvii., Ad Laetam de institutione filiae.
Jerome undoubtedly ranks as the most learned of the western Fathers. He surpasses the others especially in his knowledge of Hebrew, gained by hard study, and not unskilfully used. It is true that he was perfectly conscious of his advantages, and not entirely free from the temptation to despise or belittle his literary rivals, especially Ambrose. His own scholarship is by no means without its weak points. His acquaintance with Greek and Latin literature, both pagan and Christian, is great, but by no means without its gaps and its traces of superficial reading; and his knowledge of Hebrew offers innumerable points of attack to modern criticism. As a general rule it is not so much by absolute knowledge that he shines as by an almost poetical elegance, an incisive wit, a singular skill in adapting recognized or proverbial phrases to his purpose, and a successful aiming at rhetorical effect. His weaknesses are most noticeable in dogmatic subjects. He was so little of a dogmatic theologian that he contributed only indirectly to the development of doctrine. The same may be said of his contribution to moral theology, in which he showed less an interest in abstract ethical speculation than a morbid ascetic zeal and passionate enthusiasm for the monastic ideal.
It was this attitude that made Luther judge him so severely. In fact, Evangelical readers are generally little inclined to accept his writings as authoritative,
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