Discover more from Pro Deo et Libertate
St. Jerome: Lover of Scripture
“They please the world most, who please Christ least.” —St. Jerome
Today is the feast of St. Jerome, one of the greatest writers and theologians—and probably the greatest linguist—in Christian history. Jerome was most famous for his translation of the Bible into Latin, called the Vulgate, and used as the standard translation of the Bible for more than a thousand years afterward.
A preeminent Greek and Latin scholar told me after a lecture at my college that Jerome had so much depth and breadth of knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin that modern English translations made from the Vulgate are actually usually more accurate than those made straight from the original languages—there are so many nuances that have been lost over the centuries!
But Jerome was not just a linguist and translator—he was also a brilliant theologian. Below is a short summary of his life:
“[ECPubs] The venerable Jerome, priest of Stridon, who, born in Dalmatia, was an exceptional laborer. He pursued the studies of all literature in Rome and was baptized there. Then, seized by the power of the contemplative life and having embraced an ascetic life, he proceeded to the East and was ordained a priest. When he returned to Rome, he stayed in a retreat of Pope Damasus, and then left for Bethlehem in Judea. There he founded a monastery. The notable teacher escaped the world by translating and explaining the Holy Scriptures. In a marvelous way he was a worker fulfilling very many of the needs of the Church. Finally, when he had lived to an advanced age, he reposed in peace [d. 420 AD].”
I recently visited Bethlehem in Israel, where I was able to see the entrance to the cave where Jerome lived, right next to the location of the cave where Jesus Christ was born on the first Christmas. It is fitting that the saint who made the Scriptures understandable for ordinary Christians more than any other translator should have done much of his work only a few steps from the cave where the Savior of the world was born, to start His mission of redeeming mankind.
Jerome once observed, “They please the world most, who please Christ least.” He was disappointed of many worldly aspirations he had in his life, his hopes for advancement to the episcopate and even the papacy, because he spoke uncomfortable truths so openly. But another of his quotes shows us how he managed to turn these disappointments to good, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
Jerome loved the Bible because, in it, he found the Divine Lord for whom he had turned his back on the world. He found meaning for his suffering and inspiration for his trials. Like St. Jerome, let us turn constantly to the Scriptures to hear the word of God, so that, like Jerome too, each of us might one day hear Christ say (Matt. 25:34), “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”