[This Preface was the first in order of publication. It was set forth as an
exposition of the principles adopted by Jerome in all his translations from
the Hebrew--the "Helmeted Preface," as he calls it in the beginning of the
last paragraph--with which he was prepared to do battle against all who
impugn his design and methods. It was addressed to Paula and Eustochium,
and published about A. D. 391.]

    That the Hebrews have twenty-two letters is testified by the Syrian and
Chaldaean languages which are nearly related to the Hebrew, for they have
twenty--two elementary sounds which are pronounced the same way, but are
differently written. The Samaritans also employ just the same number of
letters in their copies of the Pentateuch of Moses and differ only in the
shape and outline of the letters. And it is certain that Esdras, the scribe
and teacher of the law, after the capture of Jerusalem and the restoration
of the temple by Zerubbabel, invented (1)other letters which we now use,
although up to that time the Samaritan and Hebrew characters were the same.
In the (2)book of Numbers, also, where we have the census of the Levites
and priests, the mystic teaching of Scripture conducts us to the same
result. And we find the four-lettered name of the Lord in certain Greek
books written to this day in the ancient characters. The thirty-seventh
Psalm, moreover, the one hundred and eleventh, the one hundred and twelfth,
the one hundred and nineteenth and the one hundred and forty-fifth,
although they are written in different metres, have for their (1)acrostic
framework au alphabet of the same number of letters, The Lamentations of
Jeremiah, and his Prayer, the Proverbs of Solomon also, towards the end,
from the place where we read "Who will find a brave woman?" are instances
of the same number of letters forming the division into sections. And,
again, five are double letters, viz., Caph, Mem, Nun, Phe, Sade, for at the
beginning and in the middle of words they are written one way, and at the
end another way. Whence it happens that, by most people, five of the books
are reckoned as double, viz., Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Jeremiah,
with Kinoth, i.e., his Lamentations. As, then, there are twenty-two
elementary characters by means of which we write in Hebrew all we say, and
the compass of the human voice is contained within their limits, so we
reckon twenty-two books, by which, as by the alphabet of the doctrine of
God, a righteous man is instructed in tender infancy, and, as it were,
while still at the breast.

    The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name
Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the third,
Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers;
the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy. These are the
five books of Moses, which they properly call (2)Thorath, that is law.

    The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with Jesus
the son of Nave, who among them is called Joshua the son of Nun. Next in
the series is Sophtim, that is the book of Judges; and in the same book
they include Ruth, because the events narrated occurred in the days of the
Judges. Then comes Samuel, which we call First and Second Kings. The fourth
is Malachim, that is, Kings, which is contained in the third and fourth
volumes of Kings. And it is far better to say Malachim, that is Kings, than
Malachoth, that is Kingdoms. For the author does not describe the Kingdoms
of many nations, but that of one people, the people of Israel, which is
comprised in the twelve tribes. The fifth is Isaiah, the sixth, Jeremiah,
the seventh, Ezekiel, the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which
is called among the Jews (1)Thare Asra.

    To the third class belong the Hagiographa, of which the first book
begins with Job, the second with David, whose writings they divide into
five parts and comprise in one volume of Psalms; the third is Solomon, in
three books, Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth,
Ecclesiastes, that is Coeleth, the Song of Songs, which they denote by the
title Sir Assiriim; the sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre Aiamim, that
is, Words of Days, which we may more expressively call a chronicle of the
whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and
Second (2)Chronicles; the eighth, Ezra, which itself is likewise divided
amongst Greeks and Latins into (3)two books; the ninth is Esther.

    And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is,
five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some
include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think
that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have
twenty-four books of the old law. And these the Apocalypse of John
represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb, and with downcast
looks offer their crowns, while in their presence stand the four living
creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the
future, and with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God
Almighty, who west, and art, and art to come.

    This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a " helmeted " introduction
to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be
assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the
Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of
Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias,
and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have
found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very
style. Seeing that all this is so, I beseech you, my reader, not to think
that my labours are in any sense intended to disparage the old translators.
For the service of the tabernacle of God each one offers what he can; some
gold and silver and precious stones, others linen and blue and purple and
scarlet; we shall do well if we offer skins and goats' hair. And yet the
Apostle pronounces our more contemptible parts more necessary than others.
Accordingly, the beauty of the tabernacle as a whole and in its several
kinds (and the ornaments of the church present and future) was covered with
skins and goats'-hair cloths, and the heat of the sun and the injurious
rain were warded off by those things which are of less account. First read,
then, my Samuel and Kings; mine, I say, mine. For whatever by diligent
translation and by anxious emendation we have learnt and made our own, is
ours. And when you understand that whereof you were before ignorant,
either, if you are grateful, reckon me a translator, or, if ungrateful, a
paraphraser, albeit I am not in the least conscious of having deviated from
the Hebrew original. At all events, if you are incredulous, read the Greek
and Latin manuscripts and compare them with these poor efforts of mine, and
wherever you see they disagree, ask some Hebrew (though you ought rather to
place confidence in me), and if he confirm our view, I suppose you will not
think him a soothsayer and suppose that he and I have, in rendering the
same passage, divined alike. But I ask you also, the (1)handmaidens of
Christ, who anoint the head of your reclining Lord with the most precious
ointment of faith, who by no means seek the Saviour in the tomb, for whom
Christ has long since ascended to the Father--I beg you to confront with
the shields of your prayers the mad dogs who bark and rage against me, and
go about the city, and think themselves learned if they disparage others.
I, knowing my lowliness, will always remember what we are told. (2)"I said,
I will take heed to my ways that I offend not in my tongue. I have set a
guard upon my mouth while the sinner standeth against me. I became dumb,
and was hum. bled, and kept silence from good words."


[This Preface is almost wholly a repetition of the arguments adduced in the
Preface to Genesis. It is addressed to Chromatius, bishop of Aquileia, who
took great interest in the work and provided funds forits continuance. The
date is A.D. 395.]


[This Preface is addressed to Domnio (a Roman presbyter. See Letters L.,
and XLVII. 3, Paulinus, Ep. 3) and Rogatianus, of whom nothing is known. It
was written A. D, 394. It is a repetition of his constant ground of self-
defence, and contains a noble expression of his determination to carry the
work through. "The serpent may hiss, and

    "'Victorious Sinon hurl his brand of fire,'

but never shall my mouth be closed. Cut off my tongue; it will still
stammer out something. "]


[To Paula and Eustochium, early in 404. Merely assures them that he is
acting as a faithful translator, adding nothing of his own; whereas in the
version then in common use (vulgata), the book is drawn out into all kinds
of perplexing entanglements of language."]


[This was put into circulation about the same time as the sixteen prophets,
that is, about the year 393. It was written in 392. It has no dedication,
but is full of personal interest, and shows the deplorable state in which
the text of many parts of Scripture was before his time, thus justifying
his boast, "I have rescued Job from the dunghill."]

    I am compelled at every step in my treatment of the books of Holy
Scripture to reply to the abuse of my opponents who charge my translation
with being a censure of the Seventy; as though Aquila among Greek authors,
and Symmachus and Theodotion, had not rendered word for word, or
paraphrased, or combined the two methods in a sort of translation which is
neither the one nor the other; and as though Origen had not marked all the
books of the Old Testament with obeli and asterisks, which he either
introduced or adopted from Theodotion, and inserted in the old translation,
thus showing that what he added was deficient in the older version. My
detractors must therefore learn either to receive altogether what they have
in part admitted, or they must erase my translation and at the same time
their own asterisks. For they must allow that those translators, who it is
clear have left out numerous details, have erred in some points; especially
in the book of Job, where, if you withdraw such passages as have been added
and marked with asterisks, the greater part of the book will be cut away.
This, at all events, will be so in Greek. On the other hand, previous to
the publication of our recent translation with asterisks and obeli, about
seven or eight hundred lines were missing in the Latin, so that the book,
mutilated, torn, and disintegrated exhibits its deformity to those who
publicly read it. The present translation follows no ancient translator,
but will be found to reproduce now the exact words, now the meaning, now
both together of the original Hebrew, Arabic, and occasionally the Syriac
For an indirectness and a slipperiness attaches to the whole book, even in
the Hebrew and, as orators say in Greek, it is (1)tricked out with figures
of speech, and while it say one thing, it does another; just as if you
close your hand to hold an eel or a little (1)muraena, the more you squeeze
it, the sooner it escapes. I remember that in order to understand this
volume, I paid a not inconsiderable sum for the services of a teacher, a
native of Lydda, who was amongst the Hebrews reckoned to be in the front
rank; whether I profited at all by his teaching, I do not know; of this one
thing I am sure, that I could translate only that which I previously
understood. Well, then, from the beginning of the book to the words of Job,
the Hebrew version is in prose. Further, from the words of Job where he
says, (2)"May the day perish wherein I was born and the night in which it
was said, a man-child is conceived," to the place where before the close of
the book it is written (3)"Therefore I blame myself and repent in dust and
ashes," we have hexameter verses running in dactyl and spondee: and owing
to the idiom of the language other feet are frequently introduced not
containing the same number of syllables, but the same quantities.
Sometimes, also, a sweet and musical rhythm is produced by the breaking up
of the verses in accordance with the laws of metre, a fact better known to
prosodists than to the ordinary reader. But from the aforesaid verse to the
end of the book the small remaining section is a prose composition. And if
it seem incredible to any one that the Hebrews really have metres, and
that, whether we consider the Psalter or the Lamentations of Jeremiah, or
almost all the songs of Scripture, they bear a resemblance to our Flaccus,
and the Greek Pindar, and Alcaeus, and Sappho, let him read Philo,
Josephus, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, and with the aid of their testimony
he will find that I speak the truth. Wherefore, let my barking critics
listen as I tell them that my motive in toiling at this book was not to
censure the ancient translation, but that those passages in it which are
obscure, or those which have been omitted, or at all events, through the
fault of copyists have been corrupted, might have light thrown upon them by
our translation; for we have some slight knowledge of Hebrew, and, as
regards Latin, my life, almost from the cradle, has been spent in the
company of grammarians, rhetoricians, and philosophers. But if, since the
version of the Seventy was published, and even now, when the Gospel of
Christ is beaming forth, the Jewish Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion,
judaising heretics, have been welcomed amongst the Greeks--heretics, who,
by their deceitful translation, have concealed many mysteries of salvation,
and yet, in the Hexapla are found in the Churches and are expounded by
churchmen; ought not I, a Christian, born of Christian parents, and who
carry the standard of the cross on my brow, and am zealous to recover what
is lost, to correct what is corrupt, and to disclose in pure and faithful
language the mysteries of the Church, ought not I, let me, ask, much more
to escape the reprobation of fastidious or malicious readers ? Let those
who will keep the old books with their gold and silver letters on purple
skins, or, to follow the ordinary phrase, in " uncial characters," loads of
writing rather than manuscripts, if only they will leave for me and mine,
our poor pages and copies which are less remarkable for beauty than for
accuracy. I have toiled to translate both the Greek versions of the
Seventy, and the Hebrew which is the basis of my own, into Latin. Let every
one choose which he likes, and(1) he will find out that what he objects to
in me, is the result of sound learning, not of malice.


[Dedicated to Sophronius. about the year 392. Jerome had, while at Rome,
made a translation of the Psalms from the LXX., which he had afterwards
corrected by collation with the Hebrew text (see the Preface addressed to
Paula and Eustochium, infra). His friend Sophronius, in quoting the Psalms
to the Jews, was constantly met with the reply, "It does not so stand in
the Hebrew." He, therefore, urged Jerome to translate them direct from the
original. Jerome, in presenting the translation to his friend, records the
intention which he had expressed of translating the new Latin version into
Greek. This we know was done by Sophronius, not only for the Psalms, but
also for the rest of the Vulgate and was valued by the Greeks (Apol. ii.
24, vol. iii. of this series, p. 515).]


[Dedicated to Chromatius and Heliodorus, A.D. 393. The Preface is important
as showing the help given to Jerome by his friends, the rapidity of his
work. and his view of the Apocryphal we give the two chief passages.]

    It is well that my letter should couple those who are coupled in the
episcopate; and that I should not separate on paper those who are bound in
one by the law of Christ. I would have written the commentaries on Hosea,
Amos, Zechariah, and the Kings, which you ask of me, if I had not been
prevented by illness. You give me comfort by the supplies you send me; you
support my secretaries and copyists, so that the efforts of all my powers
may be given to you. And then all at once comes a thick crowd of people
with all sorts of demands, as if it was just that I should neglect your
hunger and work for others, or as if, in the matter of giving and
receiving, I had a debt to any one but you. And so, though I am broken by a
long illness, yet, not to be altogether silent and dumb amongst you this
year, I have dedicated to you three days' work, that is to say, the
translation of the three books of Solomon.

[After speaking of the books of the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus,
which were sent at the same time, the Preface continues:]

    As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees,
but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read
these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority
to doctrines of the Church. If any one is better pleased with the edition
of the Seventy, there it is, long since corrected by me. For it is not our
aim in producing the new to destroy the old. And yet if our friend reads
carefully, he will find that our version is the more intelligible, for it
has not turned sour by being poured three times over into different
vessels, but has been drawn straight from the press, and stored in a clean
jar, and has. thus preserved its own flavour.


[Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, about A.D. 393. This Preface speaks of
Isaiah as using the polished diction natural to a man of rank and
refinement, as an Evangelist more than a prophet, and a poet rather than a
prose writer. He then reiterates his defence of his translation, saying
that now, " The Jews can no longer scoff at our Churches because of the
falsity of our Scriptures."]


[Short Prefaces without dedication, but probably addressed to Paula and
Eustochium, about A.D. 393.]


[The Preface is interesting as showing the difficulties caused by the
incorporation of apocryphal matter into this book, the fact that
Theodotion's version, not the LXX., was read in the Churches, and that the
book was reckoned by the Jews not among the prophets but among the
Hagiographa. It was addressed to Paula and Eustochium about A.D. 392.]

    The Septuagint version of Daniel the prophet is not read by the
Churches of our Lord and Saviour. They use Theodotion's version, but how
this came to pass I cannot tell. Whether it be that the language is
Chaldee, which differs in certain peculiarities from our speech, and the
Seventy were unwilling to follow those deviations in a translation; or that
the book was published in the name of the Seventy, by some one or other not
familiar with Chaldee, or if there be some other reason, I know not; this
one thing I can affirm--that it differs widely from the original, and is
rightly rejected. For we must bear in mind that Daniel and Ezra, the former
especially, were written in Hebrew letters, but in the Chaldee language, as
was (1)one section of Jeremiah; and, further, that Job has much affinity
with Arabic. As for myself, when, in my youth, after reading the flowery
rhetoric of Quintilian and Tully, I entered on the vigorous study of this
language, the expenditure of much time and energy barely enabled me to
utter the puffing and hissing words; I seemed to be walking in a sort of
underground chamber with a few scattered rays of light shining down upon
me; and when at last I met with Daniel, such a sense of weariness came over
me that, in a fit of despair, I could have counted all my former toil as
useless. But there was a certain Hebrew who encouraged me, and was forever
quoting for my benefit the saying that `'Persistent labour conquers all
things "; and so, conscious that among Hebrews I was only a smatterer, I
once more began to study Chaldee. And, to confess the truth, to this day I
can read and understand Chaldee better than I can pronounce it. I say this
to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew
contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths,
nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon, because, however, they are to be
found everywhere, we have formed them into an appendix, prefixing to them
an obelus, and thus making an end of them, so as not to seem to the
uninformed to have cut off a large portion of the volume. I heard a certain
Jewish teacher, when mocking at the history of Susanna, and saying that it
was the fiction of some Greek or other, raise the same objection which
Africanus brought against Origen--that these etymologies of (2)schi'sai
from (3)schi^nos, and (4)pri'sai from (5) pri^nos, are to be traced to the
Greek. To make the point clear to Latin readers: It is as if he were to
say, playing upon the word ilex, illico pereas; or upon lentiscus, may the
angel make a lentil of you, or may you perish non lente, or may you lentus
(that is pliant or compliant) be led to death, or anything else suiting the
name of the tree. Then he would captiously maintain that the three youths
in the furnace of raging fire had leisure enough to amuse themselves with
making poetry, and to summon all the elements in turn to praise God. Or
what was there miraculous, he would say, or what indication of divine
inspiration, in the slaying of the dragon with a lump of pitch, or in
frustrating the schemes of the priests of Bel? Such deeds were more the
results of an able man's forethought than of a prophetic spirit. But when
he came to (1)Habakkuk and read that be was carried from Judaea into
Chaldaea to bring a dish of food to Daniel, he asked where we found an
instance in the whole of the Old Testament of any saint with an ordinary
body flying through the air, and in a quarter of an hour traversing vast
tracts of country. And when one of us who was rather too ready to speak
adduced the instance of Ezekiel, and said that he was transported from
Chaldaea into Judaea, he derided the man and proved from the book itself
that Ezekiel, in spirit, saw himself carried over. And he argued that even
our own Apostle, being an accomplished man and one who had been taught the
law by Hebrews, had not dared to affirm that he was bodily rapt away, but
had said: (2)"Whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not; God
knoweth." By these and similar arguments he used to refute the apocryphal
fables in the Church's book. Leaving this for the reader to pronounce upon
as he may think fit, I give warning that Daniel in Hebrew is not found
among the prophets, but amongst the writers of the Hagiographa; for all
Scripture is by them divided into three parts: the law, the Prophets, and
the Hagiographa, which have respectively five, eight, and eleven books, a
point which we cannot now discuss. But as to the objections which
(3)Porphyry raises against this prophet, or rather brings against the book,
(4)Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris may be cited as witnesses, for they
replied to his folly in many thousand lines of writing, whether with
satisfaction to the curious reader I know not. Therefore, I beseech you,
Paula and Eustochium, to pour out your supplications for me to the Lord,
that so long as I am in this poor body, I may write something pleasing to
you, useful to the Church, worthy of posterity. As for my contemporaries, I
am indifferent to their opinions, for they pass from side to side as they
are moved by love or hatred.


[This Preface, dedicated to Paula and Eustochium in A.D. 392, contains
nothing of importance, merely mentioning the dates of a few of the
prophets, and the fact that the Twelve Prophets were counted by the Hebrews
as forming a single book.]


[There are three stages of Jerome's work of Scripture Translation. The
first is during his stay at Rome, A,D. 382-385, when he translated only
from the Greek--the New Testament from the Greek MSS., and the Book of
Psalms from the LXX. The second is the period immediately after his
settlement at Bethlehem, when he translated still from the LXX., but marked
with obeli and asterisks the passages in which that version differed from
the Hebrew; the third from A.D. 390-404, in which he translated directly
from the Hebrew. The work of the second period is that which is now before
us. The whole of the Old Testament was translated from the LXX. (see his
"Apology," book ii. c. 24), but most of it was lost during his lifetime
(see Letters CXXXIV. (end) and CXVI. 34 (in Augustin Letter, 62)). What
remains is the Book of Job, the Psalms, Chronicles, the Books of Solomon.
and Tobit and Judith.]


[This book was dedicated to (1)Domnion and Rogatianus, about A.D. 358,
Jerome points out the advantages he enjoyed, in living in Palestine, for
obtaining correct information on matters illustrative of Scripture,
especially the names of places. The MSS. of the LXX, on such points were so
corrupt that occasionally three names were run into one, and "you would
think that you had before you, not a heap of Hebrew names, but those of
some foreign and Sarmatian tribe." Jerome had sent for a Jew, highly
esteemed among his brethren, from Tiberias, and. after " examining him from
top to toe," had, by his aid, emended the text and made the translation.
But he had not the critical knowledge to guard him against supposing that
the Books of Chronicles are " the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of
Judah," referred to in the Books of Kings.]


[This translation was dedicated to Paula and Eustochium, about the year
388. He complains that even the revision he was now making was the subject
of many cavils. Men prefer ancient faults to new truths, and would rather
have handsome copies than correct ones, but he boasts that "the blessed Job
who, as far as the Latins are concerned, was till now lying amidst filth
and swarming with the worms of error, is now whole and free from stain."]


[Jerome first undertook a revision of the Psalter with the help of the
Septuagint about the year 383, when living at Rome. This revision, which
obtained the name of the Roman Psalter " probably because it was made for
the use of the Roman Church at the request of Damasus," was retained until
the pontificate of Pius V. (A.D. 1566). Before long " the old error
prevailed over the new correction," the faults of the old version crept in
again through the negligence of copyists; and at the request of Paula and
Eustochium, Jerome commenced a new and more thorough revision. The exact
date is not known, the work was in all probability done at Bethlehem in the
years 387 and 388. This edition, which soon became popular, was introduced
by Gregory of Tours into the services of the Church of France, and thus
obtained the name of the Gallican Psalter. In 1566 it superseded the Roman,
in all churches except those of the Vatican, Milan, and St. Mark's,

   Long ago, when I was living at Rome, I revised the Psalter, and
corrected it in a great measure, though but cursorily, in accordance with
the Septuagint version. You now find it, Paula and Eustochiutn, again
corrupted through the fault of copyists, and realise the fact that ancient
error is more powerful than modern correction; and you therefore urge me,
as it were, to cross--plough the land which has already been broken up,
and, by means of the transverse furrows, to root out the thorns which are
beginning to spring again; it is only right, you say, that rank and noxious
growths should be cut down as often as they appear. And so I issue my
customary admonition by way of preface both to you, for whom it happens
that I am undertaking the labour, and to those persons who desire to have
copies such as I describe. Pray see that what I have carefully revised be
transcribed with similar painstaking care. Every reader can observe for
himself where there is placed either a horizontal line or mark issuing from
the centre, that is, either an obelus (t) or an asterisk (*). And wherever
be sees the former, he is to understand that between this mark and the two
stops (:) which I have introduced, the Septuagint translation contains
superfluous matter. But where he sees the asterisk (*), an addition to the
Hebrew books is indicated, which also goes as far as the two stops.


[This is addressed to Paula and Eustochium. Jerome describes the numerous
emendations he has had to make in what was then the received Latin text,
but says he has not found the same necessity in dealing with
Ecclesiasticus. He adds, " All I aim at is to give you a revised edition of
the Canonical Scriptures, and to employ my Latin on what is certain rather
than on what is doubtful."]


[The Preface is to Chromatius and Heliodorus. It recognizes that the books
are apocryphal. After his usual complaints of " the Pharisees " who
impugned his translations, he says: " Inasmuch as the Chaldee is closely
allied to the Hebrew, I procured the help of most skillful speaker of both
languages I could find and gave to the subject one day's hasty labour, my
method being to explain in Latin, with the aid of a secretary, whatever an
interpreter expressed to me in Hebrew words."

As to Judith, he notes that the Council of Nicaea had, contrary to the
Hebrew tradition, included it in the Canon of Scripture, and this, with his
friends' requests, had induced him to undertake the labour of emendation
and translation.]


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