|Bible Research > Canon > Lists > Jerome|
Jerome (340-420) was born near Aquileia, lived in Rome for a time, and spent most of his later life as a monk in Syria and Palestine. He was the most learned churchman of his time, and was commissioned by the bishop of Rome to produce an authoritative Latin version (the Vulgate).
This preface, also known as the Prologus Galeatus, "Helmeted Preface," was written by Jerome about the year 391. In it he maintains that, for the Old Testament, only the Hebrew books traditionally regarded as Holy Scripture by the Jews are canonical, and the extra books of the Septuagint "are not in the canon."
|Incipit Prologus Sancti Hieronymi in Libro Regum 1||St. Jerome's Prologue to the Books of the Kings 2|
|Viginti et duas esse litteras apud Hebraeos, Syrorum quoque et Chaldeorum lingua testatur, quae hebraeae magna ex parte confinis est; nam et ipsi viginti duo elementa habent eodem sono, sed diversis caracteribus. Samaritani etiam Pentateuchum Mosi totidem litteris scriptitant, figuris tantum et apicibus discrepantes. Certumque est Ezram scribam legisque doctorem post captam Hierosolymam et instaurationem templi sub Zorobabel alias litteras repperisse, quibus nunc utimur, cum ad illud usque tempus idem Samaritanorum et Hebraeorum caracteres fuerint. In libro quoque Numerorum haec eadem supputatio sub Levitarum ac sacerdotum censu mystice ostenditur. Et nomen Domini tetragrammaton in quibusdam graecis voluminibus usque hodie antiquis expressum litteris invenimus. Sed et psalmi tricesimus sextus, et centesimus decimus, et centesimus undecimus, et centesimus octavus decimus, et centesimus quadragesimus quartus, quamquam diverso scribantur metro, tamen eiusdem numeri texuntur alfabeto. Et Hieremiae Lamentationes et oratio eius, Salomonis quoque in fine Proverbia ab eo loco in quo ait: «Mulierem fortem quis inveniet», hisdem alfabetis vel incisionibus supputantur. Porro quinque litterae duplices apud eos sunt: chaph, mem, nun, phe, sade; aliter enim per has scribunt principia medietatesque verborum, aliter fines. Unde et quinque a plerisque libri duplices aestimantur: Samuhel, Malachim, Dabreiamin, Ezras, Hieremias cum Cinoth, id est Lamentationibus suis. Quomodo igitur viginti duo elementa sunt, per quae scribimus hebraice omne quod loquimur, et eorum initiis vox humana conprehenditur, ita viginti duo volumina supputantur, quibus quasi litteris et exordiis, in Dei doctrina, tenera adhuc et lactans viri iusti eruditur infantia.||That the Hebrews have twenty-two letters is testified also by the Syrian and Chaldaaen languages, which for the most part correspond to the Hebrew; for they have twenty-two elementary sounds which are pronounced the same way, but are differently written. The Samaritans also write the Pentateuch of Moses with just the same number of letters, differing only in the shape and points 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 other letters which we now use, for up to that time the Samaritan and Hebrew characters were the same. In the book of Numbers, moreover, where we have the census of the Levites and priests [Num. 3:39], the same total is presented mystically. And we find the four-lettered name of the Lord [tetragrammaton] 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, are all composed [as acrostics] according to an 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 steadfast woman?" are instances of the same number of letters forming the division into sections. Furthermore, 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, and 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 human voice is comprehended 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.|
|Primus apud eos liber vocatur Bresith, quem nos Genesim dicimus; secundus Hellesmoth, qui Exodus appellatur; tertius Vaiecra, id est Leviticus; quartus Vaiedabber, quem Numeros vocamus; quintus Addabarim, qui Deuteronomium praenotatur. Hii sunt quinque libri Mosi, quos proprie Thorath, id est Legem appellant.||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 Thorath, that is, 'Law.'|
|Secundum Prophetarum ordinem faciunt, et incipiunt ab Iesu filio Nave, qui apud eos Iosue Bennum dicitur. Deinde subtexunt Sopthim, id est Iudicum librum; et in eundem conpingunt Ruth, quia in diebus Iudicum facta narratur historia. Tertius sequitur Samuhel, quem nos Regnorum primum et secundum dicimus. Quartus Malachim, id est Regum, qui tertio et quarto Regnorum volumine continetur; meliusque multo est Malachim, id est Regum, quam Malachoth, id est Regnorum dicere, non enim multarum gentium regna describit, sed unius israhelitici populi qui tribubus duodecim continetur. Quintus est Esaias, sextus Hieremias, septimus Hiezecihel, octavus liber duodecim Prophetarum, qui apud illos vocatur Thareasra.||The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with Jesus the son of Nave, which among them is called Joshua ben 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; and the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among them Thare Asra.|
|Tertius ordo αγιογραφα possidet, et primus liber incipit ab Iob, secundus a David, quem quinque incisionibus et uno Psalmorum volumine conprehendunt. Tertius est Salomon, tres libros habens: Proverbia, quae illi Parabolas, id est Masaloth appellant, et Ecclesiasten, id est Accoeleth, et Canticum canticorum, quem titulo Sirassirim praenotant. Sextus est Danihel, septimus Dabreiamin, id est Verba dierum, quod significantius χρονικον totius divinae historiae possumus appellare, qui liber apud nos Paralipomenon primus et secundus scribitur; octavus Ezras, qui et ipse similiter apud Graecos et Latinos in duos libros divisus est, nonus Hester.||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; and the Song of Songs, which they denote by the title Sir Assirim. The sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre Aiamim, that is, Words of Days, which we may more descriptively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and Second Paralipomenon [Chronicles]. The eighth is Ezra, which itself is likewise divided amongst Greeks and Latins into two books; the ninth is Esther.|
|Atque ita fiunt pariter veteris legis libri viginti duo, id est Mosi quinque, Prophetarum octo, Agiograforum novem. Quamquam nonnulli Ruth et Cinoth inter Agiografa scriptitent et libros hos in suo putent numero supputandos, ac per hoc esse priscae legis libros viginti quattuor, quos sub numero viginti quattuor seniorum Apocalypsis Iohannis inducit adorantes Agnum et coronas suas prostratis vultibus offerentes, stantibus coram quattuor animalibus oculatis retro et ante, id est et in praeteritum et in futurum, et indefessa voce clamantibus: «Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus omnipotens, qui erat et qui est et qui futurus est».||And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Law; 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 ancient Law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb and offer their crowns with lowered visage, 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 was and is and will be."|
|Hic prologus Scripturarum quasi galeatum principium omnibus libris, quos de hebraeo vertimus in latinum, convenire potest, ut scire valeamus, quicquid extra hos est, inter apocrifa seponendum. Igitur Sapientia, quae vulgo Salomonis inscribitur, et Iesu filii Sirach liber et Iudith et Tobias et Pastor non sunt in canone. Macchabeorum primum librum hebraicum repperi, secundus graecus est, quod et ex ipsa φρασιν probari potest.||This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a helmeted [i.e. defensive] introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is outside of them must be placed aside among 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 [of Hermes?] are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees is found in Hebrew, but the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style.|
|Quae cum ita se habeant, obsecro te lector, ne laborem meum reprehensionem aestimes antiquorum. In tabernaculum Dei offert unusquisque quod polest: alii aurum et argentum et lapides pretiosos, alii byssum et purpuram, coccum offerunt et hyacinthum; nobiscum bene agetur, si obtulerimus pelles et caprarum pilos. Et tamen Apostolus contemptibiliora nostra magis necessaria iudicat. Unde et tota illa tabernaculi pulchritudo et per singulas species Ecclesiae praesentis futuraeque distinctio pellibus tegitur et ciliciis, ardoremque solis et iniuriam imbrium ea quae viliora sunt prohibent. Lege ergo primum Samuhel et Malachim meum; meum, inquam, meum: quicquid enim crebrius vertendo et emendando sollicitius et didicimus et tenemus, nostrum est. Et cum intellexeris quod antea nesciebas, vel interpretem me aestimato, si gratus es, vel παραφραστην, si ingratus, quamquam mihi omnino conscius non sim mutasse me quippiam de hebraica veritate. Certe si incredulus es, lege graecos codices et latinos et confer cum his opusculis, et ubicumque inter se videris discrepare, interroga quemlibet Hebraeorum cui magis accomodare debeas fidem, et si nostra firmaverit, puto quod eum non aestimes coniectorem, ut in eodem loco mecum similiter divinarit.||Although these things are thus, I beseech you, my reader, not to think that my labours are intended to disparage the ancients [i.e. the translators of the older versions]. 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 [cf. Exod.25:3-5]. And yet the Apostle pronounces our more contemptible things more necessary than others [1 Cor. 12:22]. 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 goat-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 something of which you were before ignorant, reckon me a translator if you are grateful, or a paraphraser if ungrateful, although 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 in whom you can have more faith, 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.|
|Sed et vos famulas Christi rogo, quae Domini discumbentis pretiosissimo fidei myro unguitis caput, quae nequaquam Salvatorem quaeritis in sepulchro, quibus iam ad Patrem Christus ascendit, ut contra latrantes canes, qui adversum me rabido ore desaeviunt et circumeunt civitatem atque in eo se doctos arbitrantur, si aliis detrahant, orationum vestrarum clypeos opponatis. Ego sciens humilitatem meam, illius semper sententiae recordabor: «Custodiam vias meas, ut non delinquam in lingua mea; posui ori meo custodiam, cum consisteret peccator adversum me; obmutui et humiliatus sum, et silui a bonis».||But I ask you also, handmaidens of Christ, 3 who anoint the head of your reclining Lord with the most precious myrrh 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 dogs who bark and rage against me with rabid mouths, and who go about the city, and think themselves learned if they disparage others. Knowing my lowliness, I will always remember what we are told: "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 humbled, and kept silence from good words." [Psalm 38:2-3]|
|Simon Petrus ... scripsit duas epistolas, quae catholicae nominantur, quarum secunda a plerisque eius esse negatur, propter styli cum priore dissonantiam. Sed et evangelium iuxta Marcum, qui auditor eius et interpres fuit, huius dicitur. Libri autem, e quibus unus Actorum eius inscribitur, alius Evangelii, tertius Praedicationis, quartus Apocalypseos, quintus Iudicii, inter apocryphas scripturas repudiantur.||Simon Peter ... wrote two epistles which are called catholic, the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him. Then too the gospel according to Mark, who was his hearer and interpreter, is said to be his. On the other hand, the books of which one is entitled his acts, another his gospel, a third his preaching, a fourth his revelation, a fifth his judgment, are repudiated as apocryphal.|
|Habebat ergo [Paulus] Titum interpretus sicut et beatus Petrus Marcum, cuius evangelium Petro narrante et illo scribente compositum est. Denique et duae epistulae, quae feruntur Petri, stilo inter se et caractere discrepant structuraque verborum; ex quo intellegimus pro necessitate rerum diversis eum usum interpretibus.||Thus [Paul] had Titus as an interpreter, just as the blessed Peter also had Mark, whose gospel was composed with Peter narrating and him writing. Further, the two epistles, which circulate as Peter's, are also different in style among themselves and in character, and in word structure; from which we understand that he used different interpreters as necessary.|
|Tangam et novum breviter Testamentum. Matthaeus, Marcus, Lucas, et Joannes, quadriga Domini, et verum Cherubim, quod interpretatur scientiae multitudo, per totum corpus oculati sunt, scintillae emicant, discurrunt fulgura, pedes habent rectos et in sublime tendentes, terga pennata et ubique volitantia. Tenent se mutuo, sibique perplexi sunt, et quasi rota in rota volvuntur, et pergunt quocumque eos flatus Sancti Spiritus perduxerit.||The New Testament I will briefly deal with. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Lord's team of four, the true cherubim or store of knowledge. With them the whole body is full of eyes, they glitter as sparks, they run and return like lightning, their feet are straight feet, and lifted up, their backs also are winged, ready to fly in all directions. They hold together each by each and are interwoven one with another: like wheels within wheels they roll along and go whithersoever the breath of the Holy Spirit wafts them. [Ezekiel 1:7-21]|
|Paulus Apostolus ad septem Ecclesias scribit, octava enim ad Hebraeos a plerisque extra numerum ponitur, Timotheum instruit ac Titum, Philemonem pro fugitivo famulo (Onesimo) deprecatur. Super quo tacere melius puto, quam pauca scribere.||The apostle Paul writes to seven churches (for the eighth epistle—that to the Hebrews—is not generally counted in with the others). He instructs Timothy and Titus; he intercedes with Philemon for his runaway slave. Of him I think it better to say nothing than to write inadequately.|
|Actus Apostolorum nudam quidem sonare videntur historiam, et nascentis Ecclesiae infantiam texere: sed si noverimus scriptorem eorum Lucam esse medicum, cujus laus est in Evangelio, animadvertemus pariter omnia verba illius, animae languentis esse medicinam. Jacobus, Petrus, Joannes, Judas Apostoli, septem Epistolas ediderunt tam mysticas quam succinctas, et breves pariter et longas: breves in verbis, longas in sententiis, ut rarus sit qui non in earum lectione caecutiat. 4 Apocalypsis Joannis tot habet sacramenta, quot verba. Parum dixi pro merito voluminis. Laus omnis inferior est: in verbis singulis multiplices latent intelligentiae.||The Acts of the Apostles seem to relate a mere unvarnished narrative descriptive of the infancy of the newly born church; but when once we realize that their author is Luke the physician "whose praise is in the gospel," we shall see that all his words are medicine for the sick soul. The apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude, have published seven epistles at once spiritual and to the point, short and long, short that is in words but lengthy in substance so that there are few indeed who do not find themselves in the dark 4 when they read them. The apocalypse of John has as many mysteries as words. In saying this I have said less than the book deserves. All praise of it is inadequate; manifold meanings lie hid in its every word.|
|Oro te, frater carissime, inter haec vivere, ista meditari, nihil aliud nosse, nihil quaerere ...||I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books, to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else ...|
“This very clear and important passage shews that when Jerome speaks of the ‘Epistle to the Hebrews as not reckoned among St Paul’s’ in his letter to Paulinus (394 A.D.), we must suppose that the doubt applies to the authorship and not to the Canonicity of the writing. The distinct and decisive reference to ancient and constant (abutuntur) testimony for the two disputed books deserves careful attention.” —B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (5th ed. London: MacMillan and Co., 1881), p. 452.
|Illud nostris dicendum est, hanc epistolam quae inscribitur ad Hebraeos, non solum ab ecclesiis Orientis, sed ab omnibus retro ecclesiasticis Graeci sermonis scriptoribus, quasi Pauli apostoli suscipi, licet plerique eam vel Barnabae, vel Clementis arbitrentur; et nihil interesse, cujus sit, cum ecclesiastici viri sit, et quotidie ecclesiarum lectione celebretur. Quod si eam Latinorum consuetudo non recipit inter Scripturas canonicas; nec Graecorum quidem ecclesiae Apocalypsin Joannis eadem libertate suscipiunt; et tamen nos utramque suscipimus, nequaquam hujus temporis consuetudinem, sed veterum scriptorum auctoritatem sequentes, qui plerumque utriusque abutuntur testimoniis, non ut interdum de apocryphis facere solent, quippe qui et gentilium litterarum raro utantur exemplis, sed quasi canonicis et ecclesiasticis.||This must be said to our people, that the epistle which is entitled "To the Hebrews" is accepted as the apostle Paul's not only by the churches of the east but by all church writers in the Greek language of earlier times, although many judge it to be by Barnabas or by Clement. It is of no great moment who the author is, since it is the work of a churchman and receives recognition day by day in the public reading of the churches. If the custom of the Latins does not receive it among the canonical scriptures, neither, by the same liberty, do the churches of the Greeks accept John's Apocalypse. Yet we accept them both, not following the custom of the present time but the precedent of early writers, who generally make free use of testimonies from both works. And this they do, not as they are wont on occasion to quote from apocryphal writings, as indeed they use examples from pagan literature, but treating them as canonical and churchly works.|
1. The Latin text of the Prologue to the Books of the Kings presented here is from the Biblia Sacra Vulgata edited by Robert Weber: Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem; Adiuvantibus Bonifatio Fischer OSB, Iohanne Gribomont OSB, H.F.D. Sparks, W. Thiele; Recensuit et Brevi Apparatu Instruxit Robertus Weber OSB; Editio Tertia Emendata quam Paravit, etc. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1983), pp. 364-66. Weber's text-critical notes are omitted. The Latin text of other passages on this page conforms to the edition of Migne.
2. The English translations presented here are based upon W. H. Fremantle's, which appeared in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, vol. 6, St. Jerome; Letters and Select Works (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893). I have made a few changes only to make the translation more literal. —M.D.M.
3. Here Jerome addresses two friends, Paula and Eustochium, to whom this preface was sent as a letter.
4. Other manuscripts read concutiatur, "aroused."
|Bible Research > Canon > Lists > Jerome|