Today is the Feast Day of Saint Jerome, probably the greatest biblical scholar of the Patristic period and a Doctor of the Church. Jerome was skilled in translation and is responsible for much of the translation of the Latin Bible that came to be known as the Vulgate. He was conversant with the translations of the Old Testament in Greek and the Hebrew text itself. He was also familiar with the traditions of rabbinical interpretation. As F.X. Murphy writes in the New Catholic Encyclopedia,
“Jerome brought to his exegesis an enormous erudition beginning with his knowledge of the classics and amplified with a close attention to Hebrew tradition and an on-site appreciation of the milieu in which the Scriptures were composed. He had an original mind and excellent human intuition. He employed a well-defined hermeneutical method, borrowing what was good from all three traditions of exegesis, the Alexandrian, Antiochene, and Rabbinical, and while his earlier works abound in allegorical interpretation, his later demonstrate a well-balanced utilization of the best thought then available for "giving my Latin readers the hidden treasures of Hebrew erudition" in keeping with the true meaning of the Scriptures” (759)
He remains in so many ways a model for Scripture scholars today, as his attention to languages, hermeneutics, literary and social context and a close relationship with Jewish methods and scholars reveals. He is even more a model for all lovers of Scripture. In his letter to Laeta concerning her infant daughter Paula (Letter 107), who was to be raised as a consecrated virgin, Jerome advises that the Scriptures be a part of daily life for the little girl. Dei Verbum 25 cites his famous dictum, “for ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, Prol.: PL 24,17). His extensive work on the Bible, which even more significantly was careful and skillful, demonstrates just how intimate he was with Christ. The best way to celebrate his Feast Day is obvious: read as much Scripture as you are able! Not just today, but everyday.
John W. Martens
Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens