Jerome, El Greco

JEROME, St (c.345–420), Eusebius Hieronymus, biblical scholar. The date of Jerome’s birth at Strido, near Aquileia, has been the subject of dispute: Prosper of Aquitaine says that he was 90 when he died, implying that he was born in 330; though a chronology based on Prosper’s statement has recently found some support (P. Hamblenne and J.N.D. Kelly), most scholars argue for a later date.

Jerome studied at Rome, where he was baptized, and then travelled in Gaul before devoting himself to an ascetic life with friends at Aquileia. About 374 he set out for Palestine. He delayed in Antioch, where he heard the lectures of Apollinarius of Laodicea until self-accused in a dream of preferring pagan literature to religious (‘Ciceronianus es, non Christianus’).

He then settled as a hermit at Chalcis in the Syrian desert for four or five years, and while there learnt Hebrew. On his return to Antioch he was ordained priest by Paulinus, next spent some time in Constantinople, and from 382 to 385 was back in Rome, where he acted as secretary to Pope Damasus and successfully preached asceticism .

After Damasus’ death he visited Antioch, Egypt, and Palestine, and in 386 finally settled at Bethlehem, where he ruled a newly founded men’s monastery and devoted the rest of his life to study.

Jerome’s writings issued from a scholarship unsurpassed in the early Church. His greatest achievement was his translation of most of the Bible into Latin from the original tongues, to which he had been orig. prompted by Damasus . He also wrote many biblical commentaries, in which he brought a wide range of linguistic and topographical material to bear on the interpretation of the sacred text. Further, he anticipated the Reformers in advocating the acceptance by the Church of the Hebrew Canon of Scripture, thereby excluding those Books which came to be called the Apocrypha. In addition to his biblical work, he translated and continued Eusebius’ ‘Chronicle’; compiled a ‘De Viris Illustribus’, a bibliography of ecclesiastical writers; and translated into Latin works by Origen and Didymus.

His correspondence is of great interest and historical importance. His passionate nature also led him to throw himself into many controversies and to attack Arianism, Pelagianism, and Origenism (the last of which had led to a bitter quarrel with his friend Rufinus of Aquileia who had remained faithful to Origen). In some of his letters to friends and in his tracts against Helvidius and Jovinian, he advocated extreme asceticism.

Since the 13th cent. he has often been depicted in art with a red hat, on the supposition that Damasus created him a cardinal. He is also often represented with a lion at his feet. Feast day, 30 Sept.

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