Translated by The Hon. W. H. Fremantle, M.A., Canon of Canterbury Cathedral
and Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford, with the assistance of the
Rev. G. Lewis, M.A., of Balliol College, Oxford, Vicar of Dodderhill near
Droitwick, and the Rev. W. G. Martley, M.A., of Balliol College, Oxford.

[A selection, including specimens of each class of Preface, as all as all
which bears on the better understanding of the life and views of Jerome;
where a Preface repeats what has been said before, or where it gives facts
or interpretations which are well known or of no particular value, only a
short statement of its contents is given.

The Prefaces fall under three heads: 1st. Those prefixed to Jerome's early
works bearing on Church history or Scripture. 2d. The Prefaces to the
Vulgate translation. 3d. Those prefixed to the Commentaries.]



    Jerome to his friends[1] Vincentius and Gallienus, Greeting:

    1. It has long been the practice of learned men to exercise their minds
by rendering into Latin the works of Greek writers, and, what is more
difficult, to translate the poems of illustrious authors though trammelled
by the farther requirements of verse. It was thus that our Tully literally
translated whole books of Plato; and after publishing an edition of[2]
Aratus (who may now be considered a Roman) in hexameter verse, he amused
himself with the economics of Xenophon. In this latter work the golden
river of eloquence again and again meets with obstacles, around which its
waters break and foam to such an extent that persons unacquainted with the
original would not believe they were reading Cicero's words. And no wonder!
It is hard to follow another man's  lines and everywhere keep within
bounds. It is an arduous task to preserve felicity and grace unimpaired in
a translation. Some word has forcibly expressed a given thought; I have no
word of my own to convey the meaning; and while I am seeking to satisfy the
sense I may go a long way round and accomplish but a small distance of my
journey. Then we must take into account the ins and outs of transposition,
the variations in cases, the diversity of figures, and, lastly, the
peculiar, and, so to speak, the native idiom of the language. A literal
translation sounds absurd; if, on the other hand, I am obliged to change
either the order or the words themselves, I shall appear to have forsaken
the duty of a translator.

    2. So, my dear Vincentius, and you, Gallienus, whom I love as my own
soul, I beseech you, whatever may be the value of this hurried piece of
work, to read it with the feelings of a friend rather than with those of a
critic. And I ask this all the more earnestly because, as you know, I
dictated with great rapidity to my amanuensis; and how difficult the task
is, the sacred records testify; for the old flavour is not preserved in the
Greek version by the Seventy. It was this that stimulated Aquila,
Symmachus, and Theodotion; and the result of their labors was to impart a
totally different character to one and the same work; one strove to give
word for word, another the general meaning, while the third desired to
avoid any great divergency from the ancients. A fifth, sixth, and seventh
edition, though no one knows to what authors they are to be attributed,
exhibit so pleasing a variety of their own that, in spite of their being
anonymous, they have won an authoritative position. Hence, some go so far
as to consider the sacred writings somewhat harsh and grating to the ear;
which arises from the fact that the persons of whom I speak are not aware
that the writings in question are a translation from the Hebrew, and
therefore, looking at the surface not at the substance, they shudder at the
squalid dress before they discover the fair body which the language
clothes. In fact, what can be more musical than the Psalter? Like the
writings of our own[1] Flaccus and the Grecian Pindar it now trips along in
iambics, now flows in sonorous alcaics, now swells into sapphics, now[2]
marches in half-foot metre. What can be more lovely than the strains of
Deuteronomy and Isaiah? What more grave than Solomon's words? What more
finished than Job? All these, as Josephus and Origen tell us, were composed
in hexameters and pentameters, and so circulated amongst their own people.
When we read these in Greek they have some meaning; when in Latin they are
utterly incoherent. But if any one thinks that the grace of language does
not suffer through translation, let him render Homer word for word into
Latin. I will go farther and say that, if he will translate this author
into the prose of his own language, the order of! the words will seem
ridiculous, and the most eloquent of poets almost dumb.

    3. What is the drift of all this? I would not have you think it strange
if here and there we stumble; if the language lag; if it bristle with
consonants or present gaping chasms of vowels; or be cramped by
condensation of the narrative. The most learned among men have toiled at
the same task; and in addition to the difficulty which all experience, and
which we have alleged to attend all translation, it must not be forgotten
that a peculiar difficulty besets us, inasmuch as the history is manifold,
is full of barbarous names, circumstances of which the Latins know nothing,
dates which are tangled knots, critical marks blended alike with the events
and the numbers, so that it is almost harder to discern the sequence of the
words than to come to a knowledge of what is related.

    [Here follows a long passage showing an arrangement according to which
the dates are distinguished by certain colours as belonging to one or
another of the kingdoms, the history of which is dealt with. This passage
seems unintelligible in the absence of the coloured figures, and would be
of no use unless the book with its original arrangement were being

    I am well aware that there will be many who, with their customary
fondness for universal detraction (from which the only escape is by writing
nothing at all), will drive their fangs into this volume. They will cavil
at the dates, change the order, impugn the accuracy of events, winnow the
syllables, and, as is very frequently the case, will impute the negligence
of copyists to the authors. I should be within my right if I were to rebut
them by saying that they need not read unless they choose; but I would
rather send them away in a calm state of mind, so that they may attribute
to the Greek author the credit which is his due, and may recognize that any
insertions for which we are responsible have been taken from other men of
the highest repute. The truth is that I have partly discharged the office
of a translator and partly that of a writer. I have with the utmost
fidelity rendered the Greek portion, and at the same thee have added
certain things which appeared to me to have been allowed to slip,
particularly in the Roman history, which Eusebius, the author of this book,
as it seems to me, only glanced at; not so much because of ignorance, for
he was a learned man, as because, writing in Greek, he thought them of
slight importance to his countrymen. So again from Ninus and Abraham, right
up to the captivity of Troy, the translation is from the Greek only. From
Troy to the twentieth year of Constantine there is much, at one thee
separately added, at another intermingled, which I have gleaned with great
diligence from Tranquillus and other famous historians. Moreover, the
portion from the aforesaid year of Constantine to the sixth consulship of
the Emperor Valens and the second of Valentinianus is entirely my own.
Content to end here, I have reserved the remaining period, that of
Gratianus and Theodosius, for a wider historical survey; not that I am
afraid to discuss the living freely and truthfully, for the fear of God
banishes the fear of man; but because while our country is still exposed to
the fury of the barbarians everything is in confusion.


Jerome to the most holy Pope Damasus:

    Origen, whilst in his other books he has surpassed all others, has in
the Song of Songs surpassed himself. He wrote ten volumes upon it, which
amount to almost twenty thousand lines, and in these he discussed, first
the version of the Seventy Translators, then those of Aquila, Symmachus,
and Theodotion, and lastly, a fifth version which he states that he found
on the coast of Atrium, with such magnificence and fulness, that he appears
to me to have realized what is said in the poem: "The king brought me into
his chamber." I have left that work on one side, since it would require
almost boundless leisure and labour and money to translate so great a work
into Latin, even if it could be worthily done; and I have translated these
two short treatises, which he composed in the form of daily lectures for
those who were still like babes and sucklings, and I have studied
faithfulness rather than elegance. You can conceive how great a value the
larger work possesses, when the smaller gives you such satisfaction.


    Philo, the most erudite man among the Jews, is declared by Origen to
have done what I am now doing; he set forth a book of Hebrew Names,
classing them under their initial letters, and placing the etymology of
each at the side. This work I originally proposed to translate into Latin.
It is well known in the Greek world, and is to be found in all libraries.
But I found that the copies were so discordant to one another, and the
order so I confused, that I judged it to be better to say nothing, rather
than to write what would justly be condemned. A work of this kind, however,
appeared likely to be of use; and my friends Lupulianus and Valerianus[1]
urged me to attempt it, because, as they thought, I had made some progress
in the knowledge of Hebrew. I, therefore, went through all the books of
Scripture in order, and in the restoration which I have now made of the
ancient fabric, I think that I have produced a work which may be found
valuable by Greeks as well as Latins.

    I here in the Preface beg the reader to take notice that, if he finds
anything omitted in this work, it is reserved for mention in another. I
have at this moment on hand a book of Hebrew Questions, an undertaking of a
new kind such as has never until now been heard of amongst either the
Greeks or the Latins. I say this, not with a view of arrogantly puffing up
my own work, but because I know how much labour I have spent on it, and
wish to provoke those whose knowledge is deficient to read it. I recommend
all those who wish to possess both that work and the present one, and also
the book of Hebrew Places, which I am about to publish, to make no account
of the Jews and all their ebullitions of vexation. Moreover, I have added
the meaning of the words and names in the New Testament, so that the fabric
might receive its last touch and might stand complete. I wished also in
this to imitate Origen, whom all but the ignorant acknowledge as the
greatest teacher of the Churches next to the Apostles; for in this work,
which stands among the noblest monuments of his genius, he endeavoured as a
Christian to supply what Philo, as a Jew, had omitted.


    Eusebius, who took his second name from the blessed Martyr Pamphilus,
after he had written the ten books of his" Ecclesiastical History," the
Chronicle of Dates, of which I published a Latin version, the book in which
he set forth the names of the different nations and those given to them of
old by the Jews and by those of the present day, the topography of the and
of Juda and the portions allotted to the tribes, together with a
representation of Jerusalem itself and its temple, which he accompanied
with a very short explanation, bestowed his about at the end of his life
upon this little work, of which the design is to gather for us out of the
Holy Scriptures the names of almost ill the cities, mountains, rivers,
hamlets, and other places, whether they remain the same or have since been
changed or in some degree corrupted. I have taken up the work of this
admirable man, and have translated it, following-he arrangement of the
Greeks, and taking the words in the order of their initial letters, but
leaving out those names which did not seem worthy of mention, and making a
considerable number of alterations. I have explained my method once for all
in the Preface to my translation of the Chronicle, where I said that I
might be called at once a translator and the composer of a new work; but I
repeat this especially because one who had hardly the first tincture of
letters has ventured upon a translation of this very book into Latin,
though his language is hardly to be called Latin. His lack of scholarship
will be seen by the observant reader as soon as he compares it with my
translation. I do not pretend to a style which soars to the skies; but I
hope that I can rise above one which grovels on the earth.


    The object of the Preface to a book is to set forth the argument of the
work which follows; but I am compelled to begin by answering what has been
said against me. My case is somewhat like that of Terence, who turned the
scenic prologues of his plays into a defence of himself. We have a[1]
Luscius Lanuvinus, like the one who worried him, and who brought charges
against the poet as if he had been a plunderer of the treasury. The bard of
Mantua suffered in the same way; he had translated a few verses of Homer
very exactly, and they said that he was nothing but a plagiarist from the
ancients. But he answered them that it was no small proof of strength to
wrest the club of Hercules from his hands. Why, even Tully, who stands on
the pinnacle of Roman eloquence, that king of orators and glory of the
Latin tongue, has actions for embezzlement[2] brought against him by the
Greeks. I cannot, therefore, be surprised if a poor little fellow like me
is exposed to the gruntings of vile swine who trample our pearls Tinder
their feet, when some of the most learned of men, men whose glory ought to
have hushed the voice of ill will, have felt the flames of envy. It is
true, this happened by a kind of justice to men whose eloquence had filled
with its resonance the theatres and the senate, the public assembly and the
rostra; hardihood always courts detraction, and (as Horace says):

    "The[3] highest peaks invoke
    The lightning's stroke."

But I am in a corner, remote from the city and the forum, and the
wranglings of crowded courts; yet, even so (as Quintilian says) ill-will
has sought me out. Therefore, I beseech the reader,

                          "If[1] one there be, if one.
    Who, rapt by strong desire, these lines shall read,"

not to expect eloquence or oratorical grace in those Books of Hebrew
Questions, which I propose to write on all the sacred books; but rather,
that he should himself answer my detractors for me, and tell them that a
work of a new kind can claim some indulgence. I am poor and of low estate;
I neither possess riches nor do I think it right to accept them if they are
offered me; and, similarly, let me tell them that it is impossible for them
to have the riches of Christ, that is, the knowledge of the Scriptures, and
the world's riches as well. It will be my simple aim, therefore, first, to
point out the mistakes of those who suspect some fault in the Hebrew
Scriptures, and, secondly, to correct the faults, which evidently teem in
the Greek and Latin copies, by a reference to the original authority; and,
further, to explain the etymology of things, names, and countries, when it
is not apparent from the sound of the Latin words, by giving a paraphrase
in the vulgar tongue. To enable the student more easily to take note of
these emendations, I propose, in the first place, to set out the true[2]
reading itself, as I am now able to do, and then, by bringing the later
readings into comparison with it, to[3]indicate what has been omitted or
added or altered. It is not my purpose, as snarling ill-will pretends, to
convict the LXX. of error, nor do I look upon my own labour as a
disparagement of theirs. The fact is that they, since their work was
undertaken for King Ptolemy of Alexandria, did not choose to bring to light
all the mysteries which the sacred writings contain, and especially those
which give the promise of the advent of Christ, for fear that he who held
the Jews in esteem because they were believed to worship one God, would
come to think that they worshipped a second. But we find that the
Evangelists, and even our Lord and Saviour, and the Apostle Paul, also,
bring forward many citations as coming from the Old Testament which are not
contained in our copies; and on these I shall dilate more fully in their
proper places. But it is clear from this fact that those are the best MSS.
which most correspond with the authoritative words of the New Testament.
Add to this that Josephus, who gives the story of the Seventy Translators,
reports them as translating only the five books of Moses; and we also
acknowledge that these are more in harmony with the Hebrew than the rest.
And, further, those who afterward came into the field as translators --I
mean Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion--give a version very different
from that which we use.(1)

    I have but one word more to say, and it may calm my detractors. Foreign
goods are to be imported only to the regions where there is a demand for
them. Country people are not obliged to buy balsam, pepper, and dates. As
to Origen, I say nothing. His name (if I may compare small things with
great) is even more than my own the object of ill-will, because, though
following the common version in his Homilies, which were spoken to common
people, yet, in his Tomes,(2) that is, in his fuller discussion of
Scripture, he yields to the Hebrew as the truth, and, though surrounded by
his own forces, occasionally seeks the foreign tongue as his ally. I will
only say this about him: that I should gladly have his knowledge of the
Scriptures, even if accompanied with all the ill-will which clings to his
name, and that I do not care a straw for these shades and spectral ghosts,
whose nature is said to be to chatter in dark corners and be a terror to


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, Bethlehem, A.D. 388.]

    I remember that, about five years ago, when I was still living at Rome,
I read Ecclesiastes to the saintly Blesilla,(1) so that I might provoke her
to the contempt of this earthly scene, and to count as nothing all that she
saw in the world; and that she asked me to throw my remarks upon all the
more obscure passages into the form of a short commentary, so that, when I
was absent, she might still understand what she read She was withdrawn from
us by her sudden death, while girding herself for our work; we were not
counted worthy to have such an one as the partner of our life; and,
therefore, Paula and Eustochium, I kept silence under the stroke of such a
wound. But now, living as I do in the smaller community of Bethlehem, I pay
what I owe to her memory and to you. I would only point out this, that I
have followed no one's authority. I have translated direct from the Hebrew,
adapting my words as much as possible to the form of the Septuagint, but
only in those places in which they did not diverge far from the Hebrew. I
have occasionally referred also to the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and
Theodotion, but so as not to alarm the zealous student by too many
novelties, nor yet to let my commentary follow the side streams of opinion,
turning aside, against my conscientious conviction, from the fountainhead
of truth.


[This version was made at Rome between the years 382 and 385. The only
Preface remaining is that to the translation of the Gospels, but Jerome
speaks of, and quotes from, his version of the other parts also. The work
was undertaken at the request and under the sanction of Pope Damasus, who
had consulted Jerome in A.D, 383 on certain points of Scriptural criticism
and apparently in the same year urged him to revise the current Latin
version by help of the Greek original. It is to be observed that Jerome's
aim was "to revise the old Latin," and not to make a new version. When
Augustin expressed to him his gratitude for 'his translation of the
Gospels,' he tacitly corrected him by substituting for this phrase 'the
correction of the New Testament.' Yet, although he proposed to himself this
limited object, the various forms of corruption which had been introduced
were, as he describes, so numerous that the difference of the old and
revised (Hieronymian) text is throughout clear and striking." See article
by Westcott in " Dictionary of Bible," on the Vulgate, and Fremantle's
article on Jerome in "Dictionary of Christian Bibliography."]


[Addressed to Pope(1) Damasus, A.D. 383.]

    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. For
if we are to pin our faith to the Latin texts, it is for our opponents to
tell us which; for there are almost as many forms of texts as there are
copies. If, on the other hand, we are to glean the truth from a comparison
of many, why not go back to the original Greek and correct the mistakes
introduced by inaccurate translators, and the blundering alterations of
confident but ignorant critics, and, further, all that has been inserted or
changed by copyists more asleep than awake? I am not discussing the Old
Testament, which was turned into Greek by the Seventy elders, and(1) has
reached us by a descent of three steps. I do not ask what (2)Aquila and
(3)Symmachus think, or why (4)Theodotion takes a middle course between the
ancients and the moderns. I am willing to let that be the true translation
which had apostolic approval. I am now speaking of the New Testament. This
was undoubtedly composed in Greek, with the exception of the work of
Matthew the Apostle, who was the first to commit to writing the Gospel of
Christ, and who published his work in Judaea in Hebrew characters. We must
confess that as we have it in our language it is marked by discrepancies,
and now that the stream is distributed into different channels we must go
back to the fountainhead. I pass over those manuscripts which are
associated with the names of (1)Lucian and Hesychius, and the authority of
which is perversely maintained by a handful of disputatious persons. It is
obvious that these writers could not amend anything in the Old Testament
after the labours of the Seventy; and it was useless to correct the New,
for versions of Scripture which already exist in the languages of many
nations show that their additions are false. I therefore promise in this
short Preface the four Gospels only, which are to be taken in the following
order, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, as they have been revised by a comparison
of the Greek manuscripts. Only early ones have been used. But to avoid any
great divergences from the Latin which we are accustomed to read, I have
used my pen with some restraint, and while I have corrected only such
passages as seemed to convey a different meaning, I have allowed the rest
to remain as they are.

[The Preface concludes with a description of lists of words made by
Eusebius and translated by Jerome, designed to show what passages occur in
two or more of the Gospels.]


[This version was not undertaken with ecclesiastical sanction as was the
case with the Gospels, but at the request of private friends, or from
Jerome's "own sense of the imperious necessity of the work." It was wholly
made at Bethlehem and was begun about A.D. 391, and finished about A.D.
404. The approximate dates of the several books are given before each
Preface in the following pages.]


[This Preface was addressed to Desiderius, but which of the three
correspondents of Jerome who bore this name is uncertain (See Article
Desiderius in Smith and Wace's "Dictionary of Christian Biography"). We do
not give it because it has been given at length as a specimen of the rest,
in Jerome's "Apology," book ii., vol. iii. of this series, pp. 515-516).
Jerome in it complains that he is accused of forging a new version. He
justifies his undertaking by showing that in the versions then current many
passages were left out (though they exist in our copies of the LXX.), such
as "Out of Egypt" (Hos. xi. 1); "They shall look on him whom they pierced "
(Zech. xii. 10), etc., which are quoted in the New Testament and are found
in the Hebrew. He accounts for these omissions by the suggestion that the
LXX. were afraid of offending Ptolemy Lagus for whom they worked, and who
was a Platonist. He rejects the fable of the LXX. being shut up in separate
cells and producing an identical version, and protests against the notion
that they were inspired, and he urges his calumniators, by applying to
those who knew Hebrew, to test the correctness of his version.

There is no Preface to the other books of the Pentateuch. From the allusion
to the work on the Pentateuch as lately finished, in the Preface to Joshua,
which was published in 404, it is presumed that the date of the translation
of the Pentateuch is 403.]


[The Preface to these books was written A.D. 404; Jerome speaks of the
death of Paula, which took place in that year, and the work is addressed to
Eustochium alone The Preface is chiefly occupied with a defence of his
translation. He tells those who carp at it that they are not bound to read
it, and mentions that the Church had given no final sanction to the LXX.,
but read the book of Daniel in Theodotion's version. The books of Joshua,
Judges, and Ruth, were probably the last of the Vulgate translation; the
Preface declares Jerome's intention of devoting himself henceforward to the
Commentaries on the Prophets, a work which took up the remainder of his


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