Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hail, St. Jerome, translator and scholar

"St. Jerome", El Greco ca. 1600 AD

St. Jerome (347 AD - 420 AD) was the leading Biblical scholar of his day, and St. Jerome's translation of the Bible into Latin, known as the Vulgate, was not only a tremendous contribution to the Church but also a remarkable scholarly achievement, which displays not only deep knowledge of Biblical languages, but also a thorough understanding of the geography and history of the Holy Land.

The Vulgate formed an important part of the framework from which the Romance languages grew.   Words borrowed from Greek such as episcopus, presbyter, diaconus, Christus, Paraclitus, baptisma, anathema and Christian coinages such as Salvator, Incarnatio, Resurrectio, Trinitas, compassio, ingratitudo, immortalilas, impossibilitas would not have gained universal currency without the Vulgate.  More on the literary influence of St. Jerome here.

St. Jerome was a prickly man who did not relish criticism, a trait which made him many enemies and which shows clearly in his correspondence.  The following is taken from a letter from St. Jerome to St. Augustine of Hippo concerning the Septuagint.   St. Augustine considered the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek made by 70 translators in the 2nd century BC, to have been inspired, whereas St. Jerome believed only the scriptures themselves to have been inspired, not the translation. 

" ... [Y]ou ask why a former translation which I made of some of the canonical books was carefully marked with asterisks and obelisks, whereas I afterwards published a translation without these. You must pardon my saying that you seem to me not to understand the matter . .  . Do you wish to be a true admirer and partisan of the Seventy translators? Then do not read what you find under the asterisks; rather erase them from the volumes, that you may approve yourself indeed a follower of the ancients. If, however, you do this, you will be compelled to find fault with all the libraries of the Churches; for you will scarcely find more than one manuscript here and there which has not these interpolations."

No comments:

Post a Comment