Thursday, September 30, 2010

St. Jerome and the Vulgate

His remarkable translation is without equal.To quote:
....When Damasus appointed Jerome to be his secretary in 382, he also entrusted to him the task of having a complete version of the Bible in Latin. What a task this was as evident in Jerome's reply.
"You urge me to revise the old Latin version, and, as it were, to sit in judgment on the copies of the Scriptures which are now scattered throughout the whole world; and, inasmuch as they differ from one another, you would have me decide which of them agree with the Greek original. The labour is one of love, but at the same time both perilous and presumptuous; for in judging others I must be content to be judged by all; and how can I dare to change the language of the world in its hoary old age, and carry it back to the early days of its infancy? Is there a man, learned or unlearned, who will not, when he takes the volume into his hands, and perceives that what he reads does not suit his settled tastes, break out immediately into violent language, and call me a forger and a profane person for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient books, or to make any changes or corrections therein? Now there are two consoling reflections which enable me to bear the odium-in the first place, the command is given by you who are the supreme bishop; and secondly, even on the showing of those who revile us, readings at variance with the early copies cannot be right."
....Nor was Jerome content merely to gather up this or that teacher's words; he gathered from all quarters whatever might prove of use to him in this task. From the outset he had accumulated the best possible copies of the Bible and the best commentators on it, but now in Bethlehem he worked on copies from the Jewish synagogues and from the library formed at Caesarea by Origen and Eusebius. He hoped that by assiduously comparing texts he would ascertain at greater accuracy of text and its meaning. With this same intent he also scoured Palestine. He thoroughly believed as he once wrote to Domnio and Rogatian:
"A man will understand the Bible better if he has seen Judaea with his own eyes and discovered its ancient cities and sites either under the old names or newer ones. In company with some learned Hebrews I went through the entire land the names of whose sites are on every Christian's lips."
I am sure Paula assisted Jerome immensely in his work as the latter corrected some of the earlier Latin versions of Scripture; translated New Testament Greek into Latin and nearly all the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. Although immersed in this work he gave time to those who visited him about the Bible and also corresponded with those wanting answers about the Bible. Meditating on Holy Scripture was indeed the love of Jerome's life and he poured over it day and night even in his old age. Indeed for Jerome and many after him, knowledge of Scripture was like the "pearl beyond price".
Like all scholars of his time Jerome believed that Scripture was inspired by God, yet he never questioned that the individual authors/editors of the various Books worked in full freedom under the divine inspiration, according to his own individual nature and character. Jerome was able to convey something of this individuality in the Vulgate. 
Apart from trying to provide a more accurate account of Scripture, there was another purpose in Jerome's mind for his work. This was to enhance the preaching of priests. To him it was imperative that they could quote from the Bible. "Let a priest's speech be seasoned with the Bible," for "the Scriptures are a trumpet that stirs us with a mighty voice and penetrates to the soul of them that believe," and "nothing so strikes home as an example taken from the Bible," insisted Jerome. This Latin doctor had eight-eight formulation of sound principles regarding reading and studying the bible, which he believed provided a safe path for all to follow in getting from the Sacred Books their full meaning.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails