Does Jerome say that Christians need never shower again after baptism?

Some websites claim that Jerome said that after being baptized you didn’t need to take a shower ever again.  For instance this website states:

In fact, the association between the bath and baptism was so strong that some Christians, like the particularly grumpy St Jerome, argued that once you’d been baptised you didn’t need to bathe. Like Ever. Again. (The jury is still out on whether he actually thought this or it was just a useful strategy as a hermit to keep all those pesky followers away.)

So…. did he say this?

Well… sort of.  The source is Jerome, Letter 14 (To Heliodorus, on the ascetic life), chapter 10.  His correspondent was in danger of giving up.  Jerome writes:

How long shall the smoky prison of these cities shut you in? Believe me, I see something more of light than you behold. How sweet it is to fling off the burden of the flesh, and to fly aloft to the clear radiance of the sky ! Are you afraid of poverty? Christ calls the poor blessed. Are you frightened by the thought of toil? No athlete gains his crown -without sweat. Are you thinking about food? Faith feels not hunger. Do you dread bruising your limbs worn away with fasting on the bare ground? The Lord lies by your side. Is your rough head bristling with uncombed hair? Your head is Christ. Does the infinite vastness of the desert seem terrible ? In spirit you may always stroll in paradise, and when in thought you have ascended there you will no longer be in the desert.  Is your skin rough and scurfy without baths ? He who has once washed in Christ needs not to wash again. Listen to the apostle’s brief reply to all complaints: ‘The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall come after them, which shall be revealed in us.’ You are a pampered darling indeed, dearest brother, if you wish to rejoice here with this world and afterwards to reign with Christ.  (Jerome, Select Letters, Loeb Classical Library, p.51)

The crucial bit in Latin:

Scabra sine balneis adtrahitur cutis? sed qui in Christo semel lotus est, non illi necesse est iterum lavare.

I’ve used the older Loeb translation here, but there is a ACW translation, marred by having too many section numbers of various kinds.  This renders it:

Is your skin made scabrous without baths? But he who is once washed in Christ need not wash again. (p.69)

This helpfully supplies John 13:10 as the passage that Jerome has in mind:

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. (ESV)

Dicit ei Jesus: Qui lotus est, non indiget nisi ut pedes lavet, sed est mundus totus.(Vulgate)

Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. (Douai)

So… the claim is literally true, but it’s not a considered theological claim that Jerome is making here.  It’s an off-the-cuff remark in a different context.  The would-be ascetic is missing the public baths.  Jerome invokes, slightly trickily, the authority of Jesus.


The rediscovery of Philo, Eusebius’ Chronicon in Armenian

A number of otherwise lost works of antiquity are preserved in Armenian.  The monks of the Mechitarist order, Armenians based in Venice, were responsible for the first publications of these, usually with a Latin translation.  Such was their scholarly reputation that, when the French Revolutionaries conquered Venice, under a certain Napoleon, and seized almost all the monasteries, the Mechitarists uniquely were left along.

One of their publications was the Chronicon of Eusebius.  The Greek original, in two books, is lost.  St. Jerome came across a copy in Constantinople in 379 AD, and translated book 2 into Latin, thereby beginning the process of western historical study of dates and events.  But the Armenian translation from the Greek does not include Jerome’s additions, and also includes book 1.  As ever with Eusebius, book 1 is full of direct quotations from now-lost ancient authors such as Alexander Polyhistor.

Today I came across a fascinating paper by Anna Sirinian, “‘Armenian Philo’: A survey of the literature”, in S.M. Lombardi &c, Studies on the Ancient Armenian Version of Philo’s Works, Brill (2010), 7-44 (Preview), which describes the discovery of the lost works by Philo, and also, around the same time, of the manuscript of Eusebius’ Chronicon.

I thought that a couple of lively pages from this article might be of interest to many outside of Philo enthusiasts.  Note that I have not included the many and very useful footnotes.  My OCR software has mangled the various above-letter items in the transcription of Armenian, but I doubt that matters here.  Consult the Google Books preview for the full text.

Anna Sirinian (p.10):

At the end of the eighteenth century, the Mechitarist Fathers reaped the fruits of their intense activity of research in the field of ancient and medieval Armenian literature with an amazing double discovery. Eusebius’s Chronicon emerged from an Armenian manuscript at Constantinople, while Philo’s treatises were found in the Armenian Cathedral at Lvov (then Poland). Thus some works of these two fundamental writers, whose Greek originals are not extant, were brought back to light. Here, in short, is the story of these two discoveries.

In 1791, during a journey across Poland in search of manuscripts, the Mechitarist Father Yovhannes Zohrapean, also known as Giovanni Zohrab (1756-1829), came across an old dusty book stored away in the Armenian Cathedral at Lvov: it was a complete codex of the corpus of ‘Armenian Philo’. This superb parchment codex had been copied in 1296 by the scribe Vasil in an elegant bolorgir (minuscule), by order of the philosopher-king Het’um II.  Having identified the contents, Zohrab finally obtained permission to take the manuscript back to Venice, where it was copied before being given back.

A few years earlier, in 1787,13 an erudite friend of the Mechitarists at Constantinople, Georg Dpir Ter Yovhannisean (1737-1811), better known by his nickname ‘Palatec’i’, had let them know of the existence of Eusebius’s manuscript at the Armenian Patriarchal Library in that city.[14]

The famous scholar Mkrtic’ Awgerean (1762-1854)—alias Giovanni Battista Aucher, also a Mechitarist Father—bears witness to his early interest in this codex.  He requested and obtained from Palatec‘i a copy of this manuscript at San Lazzaro island, Venice, where it arrived in October 1790.  Aucher suspected the quality of Palatec’i’s copy, and in due course, in 1793, ordered a new copy from him. In effect, Palatec’i had indeed interpolated the original at a few points the first time, but the new copy was faithful to the original down to the most minute details. It was Giovanni Zohrab, then stationed at Constantinople, who carried this second copy back to Venice in 1794.

Twenty years went by without the news of this amazing double discovery ever getting beyond the restricted circle of the Mechitarists and their erudite friends. The silence was broken by another discoverer and editor of ancient texts of the time, Angelo Mai (1782-1854), who published the news in the pamphlet De Philonis Iudaei et Eusebii Pamphili scriptis ineditis aliorumque libris ex Armeniaca lingua convertendis dissertatio cum ipsorum operum Philonis ac praesertim Eusebiis speciminibus, scribente Angelo Maio A[mbrosiani] C[ollegii] D[octore] ex notitia sibi ab Armeniacorum codicum dominis impertita, Mediolani, Regiis typis 1816. Having been told of the existence of ‘Armenian Philo’ by Francesco Reina, Mai had spoken to Father Zohrab, ‘clarissimus doctor Armenius’, who had told him of both these discoveries during a trip to Milan. Through the information gathered from Father Zohrab, Mai could also offer a description of the two manuscripts, a list of Philo’s works in Armenian and even a provisional Latin translation of the Chronicon, in anticipation of the definitive publication of this work in the near future.

Two years later, in 1818, the Armenian version of the Chronicon was published twice over: first Angelo Mai and Giovanni Zohrab published it, exclusively in Latin translation, in Milan; Aucher’s Armenian edition with facing Latin translation was then published at Venice a few weeks later. According to Giancarlo Bolognesi, there is evidence to think that Giovanni Zohrab was vying with Aucher and effectively deprived him of his rights to publish the text exclusively. While Aucher was in Constantinople looking for other possible witnesses with which to compare Palatec’i’s second, more accurate copy, Zohrab took advantage of his absence and took possession of the first—interpolated—copy of Eusebius. In his introduction, Aucher bitterly points out how the recent Milanese publication had been obtained “ex priori illo exemplo, quod a Georgio exscriptore interpolatum diximus, clam nobis, me vero Venetiis absente, Mediolanum delato”.

A similar path was followed in the edition of ‘Armenian Philo’. Here too one may find the pair Mai-Zohrab on one side, and Aucher on the other. But it was Aucher this time who eventually edited the Armenian translation of all Philo’s lost Greek texts between 1822 and 1826. For this purpose he used the Venetian copy of the manuscript discovered at Lvov by Zohrab.26 This copy had been executed by several Mechitarist Fathers under Aucher’s direction. It bears two colophons, the first written by Zohrab to commemorate his fortunate discovery of the ancient exemplar at the Lvov library, the second—written immediately after the first—by Aucher himself. The latter confirms that the exemplar had been brought to San Lazzaro by Zohrab; however, he adds that he has himself worked on the text by completing some missing portions (lrac’uc’ak’ in the plural) of it with the help of another ancient copy discovered at Constantinople.

But there is extant also another copy of the Lvov manuscript, dated by the colophon 1816, this time the work of Zohrab exclusively. This second copy only contains ‘Armenian Philo’ of the lost Greek works, and it is now preserved at the National Library of Paris. In the colophon, Zohrab declares that, after collaborating with Mai in the publication of the Latin translation of the Chronicon, printed in 1816 in the pamphlet De Philonis Iudaei et Eusebii Pamphili scriptis ineditis, cited above, he had also prepared the Latin translation of ‘Armenian Philo’ having collated Philo’s text with another exemplar whose identification remains vague. He adds, however, that he could not utilize this text because of “incidental difficulties” (xapanarar attic’ i veray haseal, argelin zsorays gorcadrut’iwn) …

What fun!  And how interesting to hear the details of this frantic rivalry!

The footnote 14 specifies more information about the manuscript of the Chronicon:

14. This manuscript, dated to the thirteenth century, is currently preserved at the Matenadaran in Erevan with the shelfmark n. 1904, cf. O. Eganyan, A. Zeyfunyan, P‘. Ant’apyan, C’uc’ak Jeragrac’ Mastoc‘i anvan Matenadarani [Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Matenadaran Library], I, Haykakan SSH GA Hratarakc’ut’yun, Erevan 1965, 671. Apparently, Palatec’i himself came across this manuscript during his travels in search of ancient codices on behalf of the Mechitarist Fathers: as he was about to drink from a well in the Samaxi region, in the southern ranges of the Caucasian mountains, he found the ancient book of the Chronicon used as a covering across the opening of the drinking hole: cf. A. Ayvazyan, Sar hay kensagriiteanc‘ [Armenian Biographies], I, Constantinople 1893, 49-51 (cit. from B. C’ugaszean, Georg Dpir Palatec’u geank’i ew gorcuneut’ean taregrut’iwn 1737-1811 [Chronology of the Life and Works of Georg Dpir Palatec’i], Gind, Erevan 1994, 91-92). The complex history of this manuscript and its various journeys between Jerusalem, Constantinople, Ejmiacin and Erevan, deserve further study, which I propose to undertake elsewhere.

Let us hope Dr. S. finds the time to publish that study, which can only be interesting.  Few of us can work with Armenian sources, and someone who can must do work of lasting value.

I have read elsewhere the tale of the discovery of the codex; but as I heard it, it was being used as a cover for a water-jug, rather than a well.  It would be good to clarify this point.


St Jerome on “Christmas Trees” in Jeremiah 10

There is an interesting claim that circulates online – one of many – that Jeremiah 10:2-5 condemns the use of Christmas trees.  Helpfully this site, “Watch Jerusalem” [1] gives the claim plainly:

The Book of Jeremiah (written around 600 B.C.E.) states the following:

“Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen …. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree ….” (10:1-5, King James Version)

Here we see a tradition during the time of Jeremiah of cutting down a tree out of the forest, bringing it home, fastening it upright, and covering it with various decorations. The tradition is quite clearly identified as a pagan one that should not be followed.

This website is operated by the followers of Herbert W. Armstrong, who created “The Worldwide Church of God”, a heretical American group, in the middle of the last century.  The claim perhaps originates with the Armstrongites, although a search is inconclusive, and apparently is popular with the “Hebrew Roots” groups that appeared in the 1980s.

The claim is present in this article from a KJV-Only website, “Christmas Trees” by a certain John Hinton.

Jeremiah 10:2 KJV Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3* For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4* They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

… The Christmas tree is a blatant affront to God, but many, if not most, professed Christians put one up. Most that do not, do not because it is inconvenient, not because they are convicted by the Bible.

The modern perversions hide this warning by perverting this passage by disguising the adorned tree as an ordinary idol. I have seen many Christmas trees through the windows of churches all across America, even Baptist churches. This is as strong a statement that they could make about what kind of church they are, and should be a warning to all with any spiritual discernment at all.

Modern translations make it much clearer that what is in view here is an idol – possibly an Asherah pole – rather than a tree.  The cutting down of the tree is to obtain the wood in order to make it.  So it seems that this particular teaching is an instance where the old language of the KJV tends to mislead a modern reader.

I thought that it would be interesting to see what an older commentator on Jeremiah made of this passage.  Origen, in his Homilies on Jeremiah, does not discuss this section of Jeremiah 10.  But Jerome, writing in 414 AD, does!

Here is what he says.  We’re using the Michael Graves translation published by IVP, p.66:[2]

10: 1-3a: Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor he dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the people are false.”

Strictly speaking, he says this against those who worship celestial bodies and things that have been set as signs for years, times, calculations and days, and who suppose that the human race is governed by these celestial bodies and that earthly affairs are ordered according to celestial causes. And when he says “the customs (or statutes) of the people are false,” he shows all human wisdom to be futile and to have nothing useful within it.

10:3b-5: “A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. Men deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it will not fall apart”—or “will not move.” “They have been fashioned in the likeness of a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”

This is a description of the idols that the nations worship. “A tree from the forest,” he says, “is cut down”—thus, the material out of which idols are made is cheap and perishable; “worked … by the hands of a craftsman”— since the craftsman is mortal, mortal also are the things that he fashions; “Men deck it with silver and gold,” so that by the glow of each of these materials the simple may be deceived. This same error has been passed down to us, in that we judge people’s religion by their wealth. “They fasten it with hammer and nails so that it will not fall apart,” or “will not move.” How great can the power of idols be, if they are not capable of standing up unless they are fastened with hammer and nails? “They have been fashioned in the likeness of a palm tree*—they have the beauty of metalwork and have been decorated through the art of painting, but they do not possess usefulness, such as would provide some benefit to the craftsman. “And they cannot speak,” for there is nothing alive about them, as it is written: “They have mouths but do not speak . . . they have ears but do not hear.”232 “They have to be carried”—the one who does the carrying is stronger than the things that are carried; indeed, in the one there is the capacity to think, bur in the other there is a physical form without the capacity to think. “Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” For most of the nations regularly worship demons, in some cases to prevent them from doing harm and in other cases to entreat some favor. Whence also is the Virgilian phrase: “a black sheep to the storm god, a white to the favoring Zephyrs.”239

Whatever we have said about idols can also be applied to all teachings that are contrary to the truth. For false teachings promise great things and fabricate from within them an image for empty worship. They make grand claims, and they hamper the reasoning of the unskilled by their golden theories and their eloquence that glows with the splendor of silver. They are propped up by those who invent them, and they have no usefulness. The cultivation of such teachings belongs properly to the nations and to those who are ignorant of God.

The references are to Ps. 115:5-6 and Vergil, Aeneid 3.120 (in the Loeb text).

So we see that Jerome, like any sensible man, reads the text as referring to the process of manufacturing a wooden idol.

Christmas first appears in the historical record in 336 AD, in the Chronography of 354.  But there is no record, for more than a thousand years, that anybody ever celebrated Christmas with a tree, until 1521, when a register in the town hall in Séléstat in  German-speaking Alsace records the first appearance of the Christmas tree, decorated with communion wafers and red apples.  A few years later, a blight forced the use of artificial glass apples instead of real ones, and the Christmas tree “bauble” familiar to ourselves was born.

But in 414 AD, quite naturally, the Christmas tree is entirely unknown to St Jerome.

  1. [1]Christopher Eames, “Christmas Trees – in the Hebrew Bible?”, December 24, 2020.
  2. [2]Jerome: Commentary on Jeremiah, tr. Michael Graves, IVP 2012.

Online and downloadable: the 5th century Oxford manuscript of Jerome

We take for granted so much these days.  The web has transformed the life of the researcher.  But sometimes we see something and we just marvel; because we remember how things once were, only a few years ago.

Long ago, maybe almost twenty years ago, I led a collaborative project online to translate the Chronicle of Jerome.  The work ends with the disaster of Adrianople in 378, and was written a year later, when everything was still in confusion.

We worked from a printed Latin text, which I scanned and placed online in a custom editor.

But it became clear, during the project, that the original work was colour coded.  Headings and columns were put in red.  There seemed no reason for our online edition not to show those colours.  But the printed text did not report this information.

Even then, the possibilities of online access were clear to some.  The Bodleian Library had a few manuscripts online, which was very unusual.  So we had access to a 9th century manuscript at Merton College Oxford.  But this was four colour, while Jerome’s preface only mentioned two.

However, at Oxford, in the Bodleian Library, there is a manuscript written around 450 AD.  It was written within a couple of decades of Jerome’s death, which is quite amazing.  The shelfmark is Ms. Auct. T. 2. 26.  As it happens, I have a reader’s card for the Bodleian, thanks to my student days.  So without much hope, in much  fear and trembling, I wrote to them and asked if I might examine it.

A gracious reply was forthcoming.  So soon after, I printed out the draft translation on paper, took my pencils, and drove to Oxford.  There I was received kindly in Duke Humphries Library, and the volume was brought out.  The librarian actually said that they were glad of an opportunity to bring it out of the vault.  And there I sat, little old me, marking up the print-out with the colours from a manuscript that had known the days of imperial Rome.

I had already laid out the complicated text in HTML, and I had made mistakes along the way.  I was amused, as I worked through the manuscript, to discover that the scribe had evidently made some of the same mistakes.  You always tended to write the year numbers first; and sometimes you kept writing them too long.  His erasures made clear that he had done the same.

At the time I had no real idea of just how valuable this item was, or how decent the librarians were being in letting a random chap rock up and handle it.   It is probably priceless.  It is an actual ancient book, written when there was still a western Roman emperor on the throne in Rome.  The first hundred pages are modern, relatively – 15th century, replacing lost original pages.  But then the stiff old parchment appears of the old book.  The book also contains the only copy of the Chronicle of Marcellinus, which is a continuation of Jerome.

These memories came back to me today when I discovered that, at the Digital Bodleian site, the whole manuscript is online, and can be downloaded in full colour in PDF form.  The permalink to the manuscript is  In fact I had a problem with the download, and the Digital Bodleian staff quickly fixed it (thanks Tim!).

Here is part of a random page (f.110v).  The left hand numbers are the years of the ruler “of the Romans”, the right hand “of the Jews”.  Tiberius appears, and the regnal years reset to 1.  The Olympiad is shown also.  The work is in columns on two pages, but this is the left side.

Bodleian Library MS. Auct. T.2.26, Jerome’s Chronicle, f110v (top)

I can say, from my own memory, just how amazing this is.  When I remember, less than twenty years ago, that access to this volume was basically impossible.  Nobody ever saw it.  But now… anybody can consult it, anywhere in the world.

It is hard to find words to say just how wonderful this is, and how overwhelming it feels, to see the PDF appear on my PC.  Unbelievable; and so very, very marvellous.


An online quote attributed to St. Jerome, on prayer

It’s often wise to be wary of online quotes which carry a famous name, but no reference.  One of these caught my eye a couple of days ago, and I wondered if it was genuine.  A google search revealed nothing as to its source, unfortunately.  It does appear without reference in a Catholic collection of quotes from the saints.

Here it is:

“Let prayer arm us when we leave our homes. When we return from the streets let us pray before we sit down, nor give our miserable body rest until our soul is fed.” – St. Jerome

The quotation in this case is indeed authentic.  The reference is St Jerome, Letter 22 to Eustochium (de virginitate servanda / on the duties of a virgin), chapter 37; taken from F.A.Wright (translator), St Jerome: Select Letters, Loeb Classical Library 262 (1933), p.144-5.

Letter 22 is a treatise, really, rather than a letter.  It was composed around 384 AD.  It was translated by W. H. Fremantle for the 19th century Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series II, volume 6.  This translation may be found online in many places, such as here.  Fremantle renders the Latin as follows:

When we leave the roof which shelters us, prayer should be our armor; and when we return from the street we should pray before we sit down, and not give the frail body rest until the soul is fed.

Yet another translation of letter 22 appears in P. Carroll, The satirical letters of St. Jerome, Chicago, 1956, on p.17-68.[1]  There are probably others.  The most recent translation known to me is by Charles Christopher Mierow, The Letters of St Jerome, vol. 1 (1-22), (1963), in the Ancient Christian Writers series, on p.134-80.  But I have not seen any of these.

The Latin text was printed by Hilberg in CSEL 54, on pages 143-211, from which the Loeb text was supposedly drawn.  The text of our quote is the same in both, and reads:

Egredientes hospitium armet oratio, regredientibus de platea oratio occurrat ante, quam sessio, nec prius corpusculum requiescat, quam anima pascatur.

Manuscripts are listed in Hilberg on p.143.  The oldest is 6th century.

There is apparently a commentary on the letter: Neil Adkin, Jerome on Virginity: A Commentary on the Libellus de virginitate servanda (Letter 22), ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 42 (Cambridge: Francis Cairns, 2003).[2]

The Loeb is out of copyright, and so may be found on, or via this site.  Searching for it by Google is a depressing business, with a mass of bookseller results entirely concealing the download.  I had to specify “PDF” in the search to locate the free copy.  This made me notice how unfit a search engine Google now is.  It’s not really oriented towards useful information, so much as commerce.  Once it would easily have brought me material useful to me.  Now it brings me material useful to the shareholders of Amazon and half-a-hundred other merchants.  I had not originally known that it was online.  I did consider buying a volume; a sheer waste of money.  I did feel rather annoyed once I realised.

The Google search did produce two search results, which are on JSTOR.  The first is a negative review of the Loeb volume by the great Alexander Souter, here, which lists the defects and concludes with the words “It is abundantly clear that this book suffers from want of competence and of care”.  The second is a truly vicious review by one Martin R. P. McGuire here, ending with the words, “Professor Wright has shown himself incompetent to deal in a scholarly and accurate manner with a patristic writer. The editors of the Loeb must assume a certain amount of responsibility for not having investigated his qualifications thoroughly before assigning to him the letters of St. Jerome.”

The tone of the McGuire review is so intemperate that we must suppose some form of personal animosity.  There is a Wikipedia article on McGuire that informs us that he was a Catholic University of America scholar.

But who was F. A. Wright?  This is hard to say.  He does not appear in the Dictionary of National Biography.  His publications are mainly translations or deal with Greek poetry.  I did find a short statement in a book on Rationalist Criticism of Greek Tragedy, by James E. Ford, p.56:

Frederick Adam Wright was professor of Greek at London University, but his real vocation was his commitment to liberal causes, one of which was women’s rights (“The fact is—and it is well to state it plainly—that the Greek world perished from one main cause, a low ideal of womanhood” [1]). He takes from Verrall the basic idea of the ironic dual message in Euripides’ plays and states his acceptance of Verrall’s interpretations of Iphigenia in Taurus, Heracles, Orestes, and the Bacchae (see 109, 111). [3]

Other sources are vague.  One website says: “Frederick Adam Wright (1869-1946) was Professor of Classics in the University of London.”  The index of contributors in the “The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900, Volume 5”, p.857, confirms his dates but says vaguely “headmaster, class. scholar”.  One final source, that I was only able to access as a snippet, stated: “FREDERICK ADAM WRIGHT (1869-1946) Wright was Professor of Classics at Birkbeck College, London, and the author of numerous books on classical literature as well as of translations from Greek and Latin authors.”[4]

Possibly Professor Wright and his critics may have been divided by political considerations here.  But I would guess that the cause of all the problems identified by Souter is that the old man simply produced a translation by the slacker standards of the early Loeb volumes, and left the rest to the Loeb editors; who let him down.

All the same, F. A. Wright gave expression to a thought of St Jerome that has achieved an independent existence.  I expect St Jerome is pleased!

  1. [1]ACW preface, p.20, currently visible online as preview here.
  2. [2]I owe many of these details to the excellent Fourth Century website, and their page on Letter 22 here.
  3. [3]Google Books preview here.
  4. [4]Richard Stoneman, Daphne into laurel: translations of classical poetry from Chaucer to the present, 1982.  The page number is unknown to me, but possible p.305.

Translations of the biblical commentaries of St Jerome

St Jerome produced a significant quantity of commentaries on the bible, and translated still others.  These last were mostly by Origen.  Yet his commentaries have remained untranslated until recent times; and it is actually surprisingly difficult to discover what has, and has not, been translated.

I thought that I would give what information I have available, if only for my own use.  Contributions are welcome; I have little information about French translations, for instance.

There are modern critical editions of the text of most of these in CCSL vols. 72-76, and no doubt older, punctuated, and more readable ones in the Patrologia Latina.

Quaestiones Hebraicae in Genesim. Ed. PL23, col. 983-1062 (better than CCSL) Tr. C.T.R. Hayward, St Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis, Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies, Clarendon Press (1995)

Notes on the Psalms.  Isolated scholia, printed in CCSL 72.  [No translation.]  German: Siegfried Risse, Hieronymus: Commentarioli in Psalmos – Anmerkungen zum Psalter, Series: Fontes Christiani 79, Brepols, 2005.

Commentary on Ecclesiastes.  Tr. Richard J. Goodrich, ACW 66 (2012).  Tr. Robin MacGregor, ed. John Litteral (2014, but made earlier).  Amazon.  French: Commentaire de l’Ecclésiaste / Jérôme ; trad., introd., annot., guide thématique de Gérard Fry,…, Migne (Paris) 2001.  Spanish: Comentario al Eclesiastés / Jerónimo ; introducción, traducción y notas deJosé Boira Sales, Ciudad Nueva (Madrid) 2004.

Commentary on Isaiah.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, ACW68 (2015).  Italian translation by  R. Maisano for Citta Nuovo, 2014.

“Adbrevatio” on 1st five verses of Isaiah.  [No translation.]

Commentary on Jeremiah.  Tr. Michael Graves, 2012, for IVP Academic.

Commentary on Ezekiel.  Translation by Thomas P. Scheck, forthcoming (see comment below).

Commentary on Daniel.  Translated by Gleason L. Archer, 1958, and online.  Italian translation: S. Cola, S. Girolamo: Commento a Daniele, Rome 1966.

Commentary on Hosea.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 2, IVP 2017.

Commentary on Joel.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 2, IVP 2017.

Commentary on Amos.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 2, IVP 2017.

Commentary on Obadiah.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, IVP 2016.

Commentary on Jonah.  Tim Hegedus, thesis, 1991.  Online here.  Tr. Robin MacGregor, ed. John Litteral, 2014.  ISBN: 978-1500784935. (Amazon)  French: SC 43.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, IVP 2016.

Commentary on Micah.  Anthony Cazares, “A Translation of St. Jerome’s Commentary on Micah.” MA thesis, Ave Maria University, 2013. This translation is contracted to be published by Intervarsity Press (Ancient Christian Texts). [1]  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, IVP 2016.

Commentary on Nahum. Sr. Albert Marie Surmanski, OP, “A Translation of St. Jerome’s Commentary on Nahum.” 2011. This translation is contracted to be published by Intervarsity Press (Ancient Christian Texts).  [2]  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, IVP 2016.

Commentary on Habakkuk.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, IVP 2016.

Commentary on Zephaniah.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 1, IVP 2016.

Commentary on Haggai.  Daniel M. Garland, St. Jerome’s Commentary on the Prophet Haggai” in St. Jerome’s Commentaries on the Twelve Prophets, vol. 1, Ancient Christian Texts, IVP Academic, 2016.

Commentary on Zechariah.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 2, IVP 2017.

Commentary on Malachi.  Translated by Thomas P. Scheck &c, Commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 2, IVP 2017.

Commentary on Matthew.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, in FOC 117, 2008.  Preview.  French: SC 242 & 259.  Italian: S. Aliquo, Rome, 1969.

Commentary on Galatians.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Andrew Cain, St Jerome: Commentary on Galatians, series: Fathers of the Church 121 (2010): Preview.  Also tr. Thomas P. Scheck, St Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus and Philemon, Notre Dame (2010).  Italian: Commento alla Epistola ai Galati / Girolamo di Stridone ; introduzione, traduzione e note a cura di Giacomo Raspanti, Brepols, 2010.

Commentary on Ephesians.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Ronald E. Heine, The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, OUP 2002.

Commentary on Titus.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, St Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus and Philemon, Notre Dame (2010)

Commentary on Philemon.  Ed. PL 26.  Tr. Thomas P. Scheck, St Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus and Philemon, Notre Dame (2010)

Commentary on Revelation.  A revision of the commentary of Victorinus of Pettau.  Ed. CSEL 49 (1916).

There’s quite a lot more extant in English than I had realised, in truth.  It looks very much as if Thomas P. Scheck has the remainder in hand, possibly in cooperation with IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts series of translations purely of ancient commentaries.  If so, then we should all be grateful.

* UPDATE: I learn from a correspondent (see the comments below) that Thomas P. Scheck has translated Jerome on Ezekiel, and has also collected translators for a two-volume translation of the commentaries on the minor prophets, to appear from IVP.  That will mean that for the first time, we will have all of Jerome’s commentaries available in English.  Well done, Dr Scheck!

UPDATE: The two-volume translation of Jerome’s Commentaries on the Twelve Prophets has now been published from IVP (vol. 1, 2016; vol. 2, 2017).  I have updated the lists.

  1. [1]Translation directed by Thomas P. Scheck: see CV here.
  2. [2]Translation directed by Thomas P. Scheck: see CV here.

New Latin-Italian edition of the collected works of St Jerome from Città Nuova

It is really remarkable that the works of St Jerome have never been translated in their entirety into any modern language.

But the Italians are good on this kind of thing, and while searching for whatever exists, I learned of a project to do just that.  It is being directed by the excellent Claudio Moreschini, and I see other familiar names like Angelo di Berardino and Sandra Isetti are involved.

Here is the home page, at the publisher, which lists all the works that will be included and how they will be divided up.  (Use Google Translate to read this)  Fifteen volumes are projected.

The volumes will be Latin and Italian on facing pages.

Some volumes have already appeared.  A search on reveals that volume 15 (Historical and Hagiographical Works) is out; and also the Commentary on Isaiah, in 4 volumes, translated by R. Maisano.  Each volume is about $70, so not cheap; but no doubt libraries can afford them.

This is a welcome initiative, and one can only wish that a similar project could be undertaken in English – and, ideally, without enriching some publisher along the way.


Jerome, Commentary on Jeremiah, on Matthew 27:25

The next patristic work to refer to Matthew 27:25 is in Jerome’s Commentary on Jeremiah.  BiblIndex gives the following information:

Jerome, In Hieremiam prophetam libri VI. REITER S., CCL 74 (1960). § 2 (p.71, l.18) & § 3 (p.162, l.20 & § 3 (p.181, l.14)

Which is fine if you have the Corpus Christianorum Latina at your elbow.  As we all do, yes?  Ahem.  No, we don’t.  So we must seek for alternatives.

The text is in Migne, of course, in the Patrologia Latina 24, cols. 679-900 (here).  But it would be a bit weary looking through that for the three references.

Fortunately there is an English translation.  It’s another of those useful translations by IVP Academic, which are so rarely bought by libraries in the UK for some unknown reason.[1]  There’s even a Google Books preview, here.  That means we can search in it; and a search for “27:25” gives three locations, as of course it should.

The first is on page 46:

6:19b: “I am bringing evil on this people, the fruit of their thoughts,”—or “apostasy”— “because they have not given heed to thy words and as for thy law, they have rejected it.”

He calls “evil” the punishments and penalties that he is bringing, not on the nations who are called to the truth of the gospel but on this people who said, “We will not give heed.” The people will receive the “fruit” of their “thoughts” or “apostasies,” as blessed David says: “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands. And the reason for all of this is clear: they did not heed the words of the Lord, and they rejected his law.

6:20: “To what purpose does frankincense come to me from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.”

That frankincense comes from Sheba no one doubts; thus the Virgilian phrase “And its hundred altars steam with Sabacan incense.” Moreover, “sweet cane,” which in Hebrew is cane, and which the LXX and Theodotion translated as “cinnamon,” is shown by the prophetic word to come from a faraway land, which we understand to be India, from where many perfumes come through the Red Sea. This particular kind of spice physicians call quill-cassia. And this is the sense: “It is in vain that you offer to me your sweet-smelling spices and your burnt offerings, even though you have performed acts of anointing that were commanded in the law; for you have not done my will in the law.” This is what was said above: “They have not given heed to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it ” This may rightly be applied to those who offer sacrifices from what has been taken by violence and from the plundering of the destitute and then suppose that by this money taken from iniquity they are ransoming their sins. Scripture says, “The ransom of a mans soul is his wealth”—yet, not wealth derived from iniquity but wealth gathered by hard work and righteousness.

6:21: “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will lay before this people devastations, and they shall be devastated by them,’ — or ‘weakness, and they shall become weak by them’—’fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.'”

We see that everything the Lord threatened against this people has been fulfilled. For daily they are devastated by their blasphemies; there is nothing of strength in them, but every one among them is weak. Sons follow the blasphemies of their fathers, and every day they receive this curse: “His blood be on us and on our children!” And not only they but also their “neighbors and friends”—all who follow the law and the prophets according to the letter that kills and not according to the Spirit that gives life—all of them perish equally, because all have sinned equally.

On page 105 there is a reference, but this is not in the preview, sadly.  It must be on Jeremiah 17:1-6, or something like that.  A look at the PL reveals that it is on 17:1, col.786 (p.54 in the PDF linked above).  Let me translate bits of this myself.  (The poor quality printing rather impedes my understanding of the last bit, since I can’t work out what the words are!)

17:1. The sin of Judah is inscribed with an iron pen with an adamant point, written on the tablet of their hearts and on the horns of their altars.

Of the gentiles who were converted to God, it was written earlier, “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might” (Jer.16:21): now, concerning the Jews who were thrown down, it is said, “the sin of Judah is inscribed with an iron pen with an adamant point” etc.  I do not know why in the Septuagint … [text critical remarks omitted]  The sins of the gentles are erased, because converted to the Lord from the ends of the earth they hear this, “Praise the Lord, all you nations…”.  But the indelible sin of Judah, which, as I might say, has no reason to be abolished, is written with an iron pen with an adamant point, which in Hebrew is called … and it lasts because it is inscribed, for eternity.  For they themselves said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children”.  Which is why it is written or inscribed on the horns of the altars, or their altars, so that the sacrilegious work should be held in memory for ever.  But if this is so, …

On page 116, there is a final reference:

18:17: “Like a scorching wind I will scatter them before the enemy”—or “enemies—”I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.

Even today the judgment of God remains against the Jews. Throughout the entire world they are scattered before their enemy, the devil—or their enemies, the demons. Although they invoke the name of God day and night in their synagogues of Satan, God shows them his back and not his face, so that they may understand that he is always departing and never coming to them. Moreover, the day of the calamity of the Jews is the whole period from the passion of the Savior to the consummation of the age, so that, after the fullness of the Gentiles has entered in, then all Israel will be saved.

18:18: Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not heed any of his words.”

This is the plot, at that time of the Jews against Jeremiah or against the Lord Savior, and today of the heresies against the Lord’s servants. They make up false charges and preempt holy people with accusations, as they plan not what truth they will speak but what falsehoods they will invent. For they boast that God’s law, counsel and speech will remain with their priests, wise men and pseudoprophets, although Scripture says, “Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul.”

18:19-22a: Give heed to me, O Lord, and hear the voice of my adversaries! Shall evil be rendered for good, since they have dug a pit for my life? Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them. Therefore deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword; let their wives become childless and widowed. May their men be struck with death, their youths slain by the sword in battle. May a cry be heard from their houses!

It was as a type of the Savior that Jeremiah endured all of this at the hands of the Jewish people, who later were destroyed when the Babylonians came. But it was fulfilled more fully and more perfectly in Christ, when the city was overthrown and the people were massacred by the Roman sword, not because of idolatry (which was not a problem at that time), but because they killed the Son of God, when all the people cried out together: “Away, away with such a one! We have no king but Caesar!” And the curse of eternal damnation against them was fulfilled: “His blood be on us and on our children!” For they had dug a pit for Christ and said, “Let us remove him from the land of the living!” But Christ had such great compassion toward them that he stood before the Father to speak good for them and to tum away the Father’s wrath from them. so that even on the cross he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”’ We are only touching briefly on what is clear so that we can spend more time on obscure matters. We will not offer the absurd interpretations of some and talk about the captivity of the heavenly Jerusalem. Instead, we follow the clear historia and the most obvious prophecy with complete confidence in the words and the meaning.

 It’s unfortunate that I can’t access one of the three references in the IVP translation, but the general approach is clear.  Jerome is treating the Old Testament text as a prediction or foreshadowing of the events of the life of Christ; and all those cases where Jeremiah was threatened by the hate of others, he relates to the Jews’ hostility to Christ and, no doubt, the Christian message.  This seems to be an exegetical principle, probably deriving from Origen and his approach to the OT.

Which of course leads us to wonder whether Origen’s exegesis of Jeremiah is extant, and, if so, what he says on these passages.

  1. [1]Jerome, Commentary on Jeremiah, ed. Michael Graves.  IVP Academic, 2012.

Jerome on Matthew 27:25

While looking for information on the textual tradition of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, I stumbled across a Google books preview of Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew, in the Fathers of the Church series, vol. 117 (2008), ably translated by Thomas Scheck.  This work in four books also references Matthew 27:25 (His blood be upon us and on our children).

Here’s what it says, from book 4, on 27:25.  FoC p.312-313:

27:24. So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the people, saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this just man; see to it yourselves.”Pilate took water in accordance with the following prophecy: “I will wash my hands among the innocent.” Thus, in the washing of his hands, the works of the Gentiles are cleansed, and in some manner he estranges us from the impiety of the Jews who shouted: “Crucify him.” For he contested this and said: I certainly wanted to set the innocent man free, but because a sedition is arising and the crime of treason against Caesar is being attached to me: “I am innocent of the blood of this man.” The judge who is compelled to bring a verdict against the Lord does not condemn the one offered, but exposes those who offered him; he pronounces that he who is to be crucified is just. “See to it yourselves,” he says; I am a minister of the laws; it is your voice that is shedding his blood.

27:25. And all the people answered and said: “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”This imprecation upon the Jews continues until the present day. The Lord’s blood will not be removed from them. This is why it says through Isaiah: “If you wash your hands before me, I will not listen; for your hands are full of blood.” The Jews have left the best heritage to their children, saying: “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

27:26. Then he released for them Barabbas; but he had Jesus scourged, and handed him over to them to be crucified. Barabbas the thief, who made seditions among the crowds, who was the author of murders, was released to the people of the Jews. He stands for the devil, who reigns in them until today. It is for this reason that they are unable to have peace. But Jesus, having been handed over by the Jews, is absolved by the wife of Pilate, and is called a just man by the governor himself. …

This is useful for our current project into the use of Matthew 27:25 in the Fathers.  But paging idly back a little, I came across another interesting passage on p.310:

27:9-10. Then was fulfilled what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by the sons of Israel, and they gave them for a potter’s field, just as the Lord appointed for me.”This testimony is not found in Jeremiah. Something similar is recorded in Zechariah, who is nearly the last of the twelve prophets. Yet both the order and the wording are different, although the sense is not that discordant. Recently I read something in a certain little Hebrew book that a Hebrew from the Nazarene sect brought to me. It was an apocryphon of Jeremiah in which I found this text written word for word. Yet it still seems more likely to me that the testimony was taken from Zechariah by a common practice of the evangelists and apostles. In citation they bring out only the sense from the Old Testament. They tend to neglect the order of the words.

Interesting indeed, although I learn from the footnote that apparently G. Bardy supposed in a paper in 1934 that Jerome invented the story of finding an apocryphon. But we need not worry about such a speculation.


Latin scribes getting Greek numerals wrong – authorial corrections in the text of Jerome’s Chronicle

Sometime before 325 AD, Eusebius of Caesarea compiled his Chronicle, in two books.  The second volume exploited the new, large-size, parchment codex, and consisted of page after page of tables of dates and events, synchronising events in different kingdoms, and laying the basis for all subsequent history.[1]  Around 380, Jerome came across a copy in Constantinople, and translated it into Latin.  A copy of his translation dated to 450 AD is held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where I have seen it; and 10 copies exist dated before 1000 AD.  Eusebius’ original Greek, unfortunately, did not survive.

The manuscripts split into two families, each based on a 5th century exemplar.  These are the group of 4 mss, SANP; and the group of 2, OM.  (A list, explaining each letter, can be found here).

In a fascinating paper which deserves to be better known,[2] Alden Mosshammer noticed that OM preserve errors of translation, which were corrected in SANP.   One of these requires access to the Greek.

Here’s the first example, (References are to Schoene’s 1956 edition, but you can find these in the online translation fairly easily).

P.217, line 24.

  • [Original] ἆθλα μ’ …  (nnn ran in the contest for the birthday of Rome …)
  • OM = athalamos natali romanae urbis cucurrit (currit M)  = “Athalamos ran in the contest…”
  • A = XL missus natali romanae urbis cucurrerunt = “40 ran in the contest…”
  • PN = quadraginta missus natali romanae urbis cucurrerunt = “40 ran in the contest…”

(I don’t know Greek numerals – what is the original number in Arabic numerals?)

It seems that Jerome dictated the numeral as a proper name, and the scribe wrote it down as one.  Somebody corrected it later, but OM preserve the dictation error.  Access to the Greek is required to spot this one.

The following example does not require consulting the Greek, and is in fact just a scribal correction:

P.83b, lines 21-23, is a heading.  It gives the name of Alcamenes, who was the 9th king of Sparta, and then the years of his reign follow below the heading.

  • [Original] = θἈλκαμένης  (i.e. “9. Alcamenes”).
  • O = thalcamenes
  • M = thalcamenis
  • A = VIIII menes
  • P = VIIII tarcamenes
  • N = VIIII tharcamenes

OM think the text reads “Thalcamenes”.  But the copyist SANP realised that the first letter was actually the number 9, although they still didn’t get the name right.  Possibly they realised this, because all the kings have numbers, so they inserted “VIIII” (i.e. “IX”) in front.

Here I have a little personal experience to contribute.

Scribes copied the names the first, and worked down the columns, rather than across.  When I transcribed the chronicle, I found that this was much the quickest and safest way.  The only problem was that you might write too many numerals, and suddenly realise that after year 9 there is a new king!  In the Bodleian ms (O), indeed, you see erasures of just this kind.  In HTML, luckily, I could just go back.

So the scribe will have quickly realised that a numeral was missing, and added it; although he could not determine the correct spelling of the name.  This correction could have occurred at any time, tho.

Mosshammer gives only these examples, and a couple of others which do not bear on this question.

Numerals in Greek are vulnerable things.  The first example proves that even St. Jerome could be foxed.  In this case, the lists of unfamiliar names, preceded by numerals, were a perfect occasion for error.

  1. [1]The online translation may be found here (part 1).
  2. [2]Alden Mosshammer, “Luca Bibl. Capit. 490 and the manuscript tradition of Hieronymus’ (Eusebius’) Chronicle”, California Studies in Classical Antiquity 8 (1975), pp. 203-240.  Online at JSTOR here.