Vol. 3 Chapter X (Cont’d) – Ambrose


I. S. Ambrosius Mediolanensis episcopus: Opera ad manuscriptos codices Vaticanos, Gallicanos, Belgicos, etc., emendata, studio et labore monachorum ord. S. Benedicti e congreg. S. Mauri (Jac. du Fricke et Nic. de Nourry). Paris. 1686-’90, 2 vols. fol. This edition was reprinted at Venice, 1748-’51, in 4 vols. fol., and in 1781 in 8 vols. 4to, and by Abbé Migne in his Patrol., Petit-Montrouge, 1843, 2 tom. in 4 Parts with some additions. The Libri tres de officiis, and the Hexaëmeron of Ambrose have also been frequently published separately. A convenient edition of both is included in Gersdorf’s Bibliotheca Patrum Latinorum selecta, vols. viii. and ix. Lips. 1839. His hymns are found also in Daniel’s Thesaurus hymnolog tom. i. p. 12 sqq.

II. Paulinus (deacon of Milan and secretary of Ambrose): Vita S. Ambrosii (written by request of St. Augustine, derived from personal knowledge, from Marcella, sister of Ambrose, and several friends). The Vita of an anonymous writer, in Greek and Latin, in the Bened. ed. of the Opera. Both in the Appendix to tom. ii. ed. Benedictinae. Benedictini Editores: Vita Ambrosii ex ejus potissimum scriptis collecta et secundum chronologiae ordinem digesta, in the Bened. ed., in the Appendix to tom. ii., and in Migne’s reprint, tom. i. (very thorough and instructive). Comp. also the Selecta veterum testimonia de S. Ambr. in the same editions. The biographies of Hermant (1678), Tillemont (tom. x. pp. 78-306), Vagliano (Sommario degli archivescovi di Milano), Butler (sub Dec. 7), Schröckh, Böhringer, J. P. Silbert (Das Leben des heiligen Ambrosius, Wien, 1841).

Bannard: Histoire de S. Ambroise. Paris, 1871. Ebert: Gesch. der christl. lat. Lit., i. 135-176 (1874). Robinson Thornton: St. Ambrose: his Life, Times, and Teaching. Lond., 1879, 215 pages (Soc. for Promoting Christ. Knowledge). Plitt, in Herzog,2 i. 331-335. J. Ll. Davies, in Smith and Wace, i. 91-99. Cunitz, in Lichtenberger, i. 229-232. Farrar: “Lives of the Fathers” (1889), ii. 84-149. On the hymns of Ambrose, Comp. especially Ebert, l. c.

Ambrose, son of the governor (praefectus) of Gaul, which was one of the three great dioceses of the Western empire, was born at Treves (Treviri) about 340, educated at Rome for the highest civil offices, and after greatly distinguishing himself as a rhetorician, was elected imperial president (praetor) of Upper Italy; whereupon Probus, prefect of Italy, gave him the remarkable advice, afterwards interpreted as an involuntary prophecy: “Go, and act not the judge, but the bishop.” He administered this office with justice and mildness, enjoying universal esteem.

The episcopal chair of Milan, the second capital of Italy, and frequently the residence of the emperors, was at that time occupied by the Cappadocian, Auxentius, the head of the Arian party in the West. Soon after the arrival of Ambrose, Auxentius died. A division then arose among the people in the choice of a successor, and a dangerous riot threatened. The governor considered it his duty to allay the storm. But while he was yet speaking to the people, the voice of a child suddenly rang out: “Let Ambrose be bishop!” It seemed a voice of God, and Arians and Catholics cried, Amen.

Ambrose was at that time a catechumen, and therefore not even baptized. He was terrified, and seized all possible, and even most eccentric, means to escape the responsible office. He was obliged to submit, was baptized, and eight days afterwards, in 374, was consecrated bishop of Milan. His friend, Basil the Great of Caesarea, was delighted that God had chosen such a man to so important a post, who counted noble birth, wealth, and eloquence loss, that he might win Christ.

From this time forward Ambrose lived wholly for the church, and became one of the greatest bishops of ancient Christendom, full of Roman dignity, energy, and administrative wisdom, and of the unction of the Holy Ghost. He began his work with the sale of his great estates and of his gold and silver for the benefit of the poor; reserving an allowance for his pious sister Marcella or Marcellina, who in early youth had taken the vow of virginity. With voluntary poverty he associated the strictest regimen of the ascetic spirit of his time; accepted no invitations to banquets; took dinner only on Sunday, Saturday, and the festivals of celebrated martyrs; devoted the greater part of the night to prayer, to the hitherto necessarily neglected study of the Scriptures and the Greek fathers, and to theological writing; preached every Sunday, and often in the week; was accessible to all, most accessible to the poor and needy; and administered his spiritual oversight, particularly his instruction of catechumens, with the greatest fidelity.

The Arians he vigorously opposed by word and act, and contributed to the victory of the Nicene faith in the West. In this work he behaved himself towards the Arian empress Justina with rare boldness, dignity, and consistency, in the heroic spirit of an Athanasius. The court demanded the cession of a catholic church for the use of the Arians, and claimed for them equal rights with the orthodox. But Ambrose asserted the entire independence of the church towards the state, and by perseverance came off victorious in the end. It was his maxim, that the emperor is in the church, but not over the church, and therefore has no right to the church buildings.

He did not meddle in secular matters, nor ask favor of the magistracy, except when he could put in a word of intercession for the unfortunate and for persons condemned to death in those despotic times. This enabled him to act the more independently in his spiritual office, as a real prince of the church, fearless even of the emperor himself. Thus he declared to the usurper Maximus, who desired church fellowship, that he would never admit him, unless he should do sincere penance for the murder of the emperor Gratian.

When the Roman prefect, Symmachus, the noblest and most eloquent advocate of the decaying heathenism of his time, implored the emperor Valentinian, in an apology for the altar of Victory which stood in the hall of the Roman senate, to tolerate the worship and the sanctuaries of the ancient gods, Ambrose met him with an admirable reply, and prevented the granting of his request.

The most imposing appearance of our bishop against the temporal power was in his dealing with Theodosius, when this truly great, but passionate and despotic, emperor, enraged at Thessalonica for a riot, had caused many thousand innocent persons to be put to death with the guilty, and Ambrose, interesting himself for the unfortunate, like a Nathan with David, demanded repentance of the emperor, and refused him the holy communion. “How wilt thou,” said he to him in the vestibule of the church, “how wilt thou lift up in prayer the hands still dripping with the blood of the murdered? How wilt thou receive with such hands the most holy body of the Lord? How wilt thou bring to thy mouth his precious blood? Get thee away, and dare not to heap crime upon crime.” When Theodosius appealed to David’s murder and adultery, the bishop answered: “Well, if thou hast imitated David in sin, imitate him also in repentance.” The emperor actually submitted to ecclesiastical discipline, made public confession of his sin, and did not receive absolution until he had issued a law that the sentence of death should never be executed till thirty days after it was pronounced.

From this time the relation between Ambrose and Theodosius continued undisturbed, and the emperor is reported to have said afterwards with reference to the bishop, that he had recently found the first man who told him the truth, and that he knew only one man who was worthy to be bishop. He died in the arms of Ambrose at Milan in 395. The bishop delivered his funeral oration in which he tells, to his honor, that on his dying bed he was more concerned for the condition of the church than for himself, and says to the soldiers: “The faith of Theodosius was your victory; let your truth and faith be the strength of his sons. Where unbelief is, there is blindness, but where fidelity is, there is the host of angels.”

Two years after this, Ambrose himself was fatally sick. All Milan was in terror. When he was urged to pray God for a lengthening of his life, he answered: “I have so lived among you that I cannot be ashamed to live longer; but neither do I fear to die; for we have a good Lord.” During his sickness he had miraculous intimations and heard heavenly voices, and he himself related that Christ appeared to him smiling. His notary and biographer, the deacon Paulinus, who adorns his life throughout with miraculous incidents, tells us: “Not long before his death, while he was dictating to me his exposition of the Forty-third Psalm, I saw upon his head a flame in the form of a small shield; hereupon his face became white as snow, and not till some time after did it return to its natural color.” In the night of Good Friday, on Saturday, the 4th of April, 397, he died, at the age of fifty-seven years, having first spent several hours, with his hands crossed, in uninterrupted prayer. Even Jews and pagans lamented his death. On the night of Easter following many were baptized in the church where his body was exposed. Not a few of the newly baptized children saw him seated in the episcopal chair with a shining star upon his head. Even after his death he wrought miracles in many places, in proof of which Paulinus gives his own experience, credible persons, and documents.

Ambrose, like Cyprian before him, and Leo I. after him, was greatest in administration. As bishop he towered above the contemporary popes. As a theologian and author he is only a star of the second magnitude among the church fathers, yielding by far to Jerome and Augustine. We have from this distinguished prelate several exegetical, doctrinal, and ascetic works, besides homilies, orations, and letters. In exegesis he adopts the allegorical method entire, and yields little substantial information. The most important among his exegetical works are his homilies on the history of creation (Hexaëmeron, written 389), an Exposition of twenty-one Psalms (390-397), and a Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (386). The Commentary on the Pauline Epistles (Ambrosiaster so called or Pseudo-Ambrosius) which found its way among his works, is of uncertain authorship, perhaps the work of the Roman deacon Hilary under pope Damasus, and resembles in many respects the commentaries of Pelagius. Among his doctrinal writings his five books On Faith, three On the Holy Ghost, and six On the Sacraments (catechetical sermons on baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist) are worthy of mention. Among his ethical writings the work On Duties is the most important. It resembles in form the well-known work of Cicero on the same subject, and reproduces it in a Christian spirit. It is a collection of rules of living for the clergy, and is the first attempt at a Christian doctrine of morals, though without systematic method. Besides this he composed several ascetic essays: Three books on Virgins; On Virginity; On the Institution of the Virgin; On Exhortation to Virginity; On the Fall of a Consecrated Virgin, etc., which contributed much to the spread of celibacy and monastic piety. Of his ninety-one Epistles several are of considerable historical interest.

In his exegesis and in his theology, especially in the doctrine of the incarnation and the Trinity, Ambrose is entirely dependent on the Greek fathers; most on Basil, whose Hexaëmeron he almost slavishly copied. In anthropology he forms the transition from the Oriental doctrine to the system of Augustine, whose teacher and forerunner he was. He is most peculiar in his ethics, which he has set forth in his three books De Officiis. As a pulpit orator he possessed great dignity, force, and unction, and made a deep impression on Augustine, to whose conversion he contributed a considerable share. Many mothers forbade their daughters to hear him lest he should induce them to lead a life of celibacy.

Ambrose has also a very important place in the history of worship, and did immortal service for the music and poetry of the church, as in a former section we have seen. Here again, as in theology and exegesis, he brought over the treasures of the Greek church into the Latin. The church of Milan uses to this day a peculiar liturgy which is called after him the ritus Ambrosianus.


176. Jerome as a Divine and Scholar

Amédée Thierry: St. Jérôme, la société chrétienne à Rome et l’emigration romaine en terre sainte. Par., 1867. 2 vols. (He says at the close: “There is no continuation of Jerome’s work; a few more letters of Augustine and Paulinus, and night falls on the West.”) Lübeck: Hieronymus quos noverit scriptores et ex quibus hauserit. Leipzig, 1872. Ebert: Gesch. der christl. lat. Lit. Leipz., 1874 sqq., i. 176-203 (especially on the Latinity of Jerome, in which he places him first among the fathers). Edward L. Cutts: St. Jerome. London, 1877 (Soc. for Promot. Chr. Knowledge), 230 pages. Zöckler, in Herzog,2 vi. 103-108. Cunitz, in Lichtenberger, vii. 243-250. Freemantle, in Smith and Wace, iii. 29-50. (“Jerome lived and reigned for a thousand years. His writings contain the whole spirit of the church of the middle ages, its monasticism, its contrast of sacred things with profane, its credulity and superstition, its subjection to hierarchical authority, its dread of heresy, its passion for pilgrimages. To the society which was thus in a great measure formed by him, his Bible was the greatest boon which could have been given. But he founded no school and had no inspiring power; there was no courage or width of view in his spiritual legacy which could break through the fatal circle of bondage to received authority which was closing round mankind.”) Farrar, l.c. ii. 150-297.

On Jerome as a Bible translator, comp. F. Kaulen (R.C.): Geschichte der Vulgata. Mainz, 1869. Hermann Rönsch: Itala und Vulgata. Das Sprachidiom der urchristlichen Itala und der katholischen Vulgata. 2d ed., revised. Marburg, 1875. L. Ziegler: Die latein Bibelübersetzungen vor Hieronymus und die Itala des Augustinus. München, 1879. (He maintains the existence of several Latin versions or revisions before Jerome.) Westcott’s art. “Vulgate,” in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible. O. F. Fritzsche: Latein. Bibelübersetzungen, in the new ed. of Herzog, vol. viii. (1881), pp. 433-472. Westcott and Hort’s Greek Testament, vol. ii., lntrod., pp. 78-84.

Comp. the Literature at §41; and especially the excellent monograph (which has since reached us) of Prof. Otto Zöckler: Hieronymus. Sein Leben und Wirken aus seinen Schriften dargestellt. Gotha, 1865.

Having already sketched the life and character of Jerome (born about 340, died in 419) in connection with the history of monasticism, we limit ourselves here to his theological and literary labors, in which he did his chief service to the church, and has gained the greatest credit to himself.

Jerome is the most learned, the most eloquent, and the most interesting author among the Latin fathers. He had by nature a burning thirst for knowledge, and continued unweariedly teaching, and learning, and writing, to the end of a very long life. His was one of those intellectual natures, to which reading and study are as indispensable as daily bread. He could not live without books. He accordingly collected, by great sacrifices, a library for that time very considerable and costly, which accompanied him on his journeys. He further availed himself of the oral instruction of great church teachers, like Apollinaris the Elder in Laodicea, Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople, and Didymus of Alexandria, and was not ashamed to become an inquiring pupil in his mature age. His principle in studying was, in his own words: “To read the ancients, to test everything, to hold fast the good, and never to depart from the catholic faith.”

Besides the passion for knowledge, which is the mother of learning, he possessed a remarkable memory, a keen understanding, quick and sound judgment, an ardent temperament, a lively imagination, sparkling wit, and brilliant power of expression. He was a master in all the arts and artifices of rhetoric, and dialectics. He, far more than Lactantius, deserves the name of the Christian Cicero, though he is inferior to Lactantius in classic purity, and was not free from the faulty taste, of his time. Tertullian had, indeed, long before applied the Roman language as the organ of Christian theology; Cyprian, Lactantius, Hilary, and Ambrose, had gone further on the same path; and Augustine has enriched the Christian literature with a greater number of pregnant sentences than all the other fathers together. Nevertheless Jerome is the chief former of the Latin church language, for which his Vulgate did a decisive and standard service similar to that of Luther’s translation of the Bible for German literature, and that of the authorized English Protestant version for English.

His scholarship embraced the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages and literature; while even Augustine had but imperfect knowledge of the Greek, and none at all of the Hebrew. Jerome was familiar with the Latin classics, especially with Cicero, Virgil, and Horace; and even after his famous anti-Ciceronian vision (which transformed him from a more or less secular scholar into a Christian ascetic and hermit) he could not entirely cease to read over the favorite authors of his youth, or at least to quote them from his faithful memory; thus subjecting himself to the charge of inconsistency, and even of perjury, from Rufinus. Equally accurate was his knowledge of the literature of the church. Of the Latin fathers he particularly admired Tertullian for his powerful genius and vigorous style, though he could not forgive him his Montanism; after him Cyprian, Lactantius, Hilary, and Ambrose. In the Greek classics he was less at home; yet he shows acquaintance with Hesiod, Sophocles, Herodotus, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Galen. But in the Greek fathers he was well read, especially in Origen, Eusebius, Didymus, and Gregory Nazianzen; less in Irenaeus, Athanasius, Basil, and other doctrinal writers.

The Hebrew he learned with great labor in his mature years; first from a converted but anonymous Jew, during his five years’ ascetic seclusion in the Syrian desert of Chalcis (374-379); afterwards in Bethlehem (about 385) from the Palestinian Rabbi Bar-Anina, who, through fear of the Jews, visited him by night. This exposed him to the foolish rumor among bigoted opponents, that he preferred Judaism to Christianity, and betrayed Christ in preference to the new “Barabbas.” He afterwards, in translating the Old Testament, brought other Jewish scholars to his aid, who cost him dear. He also inspired several of his admiring female pupils, like St. Paula and her daughter Eustochium, with enthusiasm for the study of the sacred language of the old covenant, and brought them on so far that they could sing with him the Hebrew Psalms in praise of the Lord. He lamented the injurious influence of these studies on his style, since “the rattling sound of the Hebrew soiled all the elegance and beauty of Latin speech.” Yet, on the other hand, he was by the same means preserved from flying off into hollow and turgid ornamentations, from which his earlier writings, such as his letters to Heliodorus and Innocentius, are not altogether free. Though his knowledge of Hebrew was defective, it was much greater than that of Origen, Epiphanius, and Ephraem Syrus, the only other fathers besides himself who understood Hebrew at all; and it is the more noticeable, when we consider the want of grammatical and lexicographical helps and of the Masoretic punctuation.

Jerome, who unfortunately was not free from vanity, prided himself not a little upon his learning, and boasted against his opponent Rufinus, that he was “a philosopher, a rhetorician, a grammarian, a dialectician, a Hebrew, a Greek, a Latin, three-tongued,” that is, master of the three principal languages of the then civilized world.

All these manifold and rare gifts and attainments made him an extremely influential and useful teacher of the church; for he brought them all into the service of an earnest and energetic, though monkishly eccentric piety. They gave him superior access to the sense of the Holy Scriptures, which continued to be his daily study to extreme old age, and stood far higher in his esteem than all the classics. His writings are imbued with Bible knowledge, and strewn with Bible quotations.

But with all this he was not free from faults as glaring as his virtues are shining, which disturb our due esteem and admiration. He lacked depth of mind and character, delicate sense of truth, and firm, strong convictions. He allowed himself inconsistencies of every kind, especially in his treatment of Origen, and, through solicitude for his own reputation for orthodoxy, he was unjust to that great teacher, to whom he owed so much. He was very impulsive in temperament, and too much followed momentary, changing impressions. Many of his works were thrown off with great haste and little consideration. He was by nature an extremely vain, ambitious, and passionate man, and he never succeeded in fully overcoming these evil forces. He could not bear censure. Even his later polemic writings are full of envy, hatred, and anger. In his correspondence with Augustine, with all assurances of respect, he everywhere gives that father to feel his own superiority as a comprehensive scholar, and in one place tells him that he never had taken the trouble to read his writings, excepting his Soliloquies and “some commentaries on the Psalms.” He indulged in rhetorical exaggerations and unjust inferences, which violated the laws of truth and honesty; and he supported himself in this, with a characteristic reference to the sophist Gorgias, by the equivocal distinction between the gymnastic or polemic style and the didactic. From his master Cicero he had also learned the vicious rhetorical arts of bombast, declamatory fiction, and applause-seeking effects, which are unworthy of a Christian theologian, and which invite the reproach of the divine judge in that vision: “Thou liest! thou art a Ciceronian, not a Christian; for where thy treasure is, there thy heart is also.”


177. The Works of Jerome

The writings of Jerome, which fill eleven folios in the edition of Vallarsi, may be divided into exegetical, historical, polemic doctrinal, and polemic ethical works, and epistles.

I. The exegetical works stand at the head.

Among these the Vulgata, or Latin version of the whole Bible, Old Testament and New, is by far the most important and valuable, and constitutes alone an immortal service.

Above all his contemporaries, and above all his successors down to the sixteenth century, Jerome, by his linguistic knowledge, his Oriental travel, and his entire culture, was best fitted, and, in fact, the only man, to undertake and successfully execute so gigantic a task, and a task which just then, with the approaching separation of East and West, and the decay of the knowledge of the original languages of the Bible in Latin Christendom, was of the highest necessity. Here, its so often in history, we plainly discern the hand of divine Providence. Jerome began the work during his second residence in Rome (382-385), at the suggestion of pope Damasus, who deserves much more credit for that suggestion than for his hymns. He at first intended only a revision of the Itala, the old Latin version of the Bible which came down from the second century, and the text of which had fallen into inextricable confusion through the negligence of transcribers and the caprice of correctors. He finished the translation at Bethlehem, in the year 405, after twenty years of toil. He translated first the Gospels, then the rest of the New Testament, next the Psalter (which he wrought over twice, in Rome and in Bethlehem), and then, in irregular succession, the historical, prophetic, and poetical books, and in part the Apocrypha, which, however, he placed decidedly below the canonical books. By this “labor pius, sed periculosa praesumtio,” as he called it, he subjected himself to all kinds of enmity from ignorance and blind aversion to change, and was abused as a disturber of the peace and falsifier of the Scripture; but from other sources he received much encouragement. The New Testament and the Psalter were circulated and used in the church long before the completion of the whole. Augustine, for example, was using the New Testament of Jerome, and urged him strongly to translate the Old Testament, but to translate it from the Septuagint. Gradually the whole version made its way on its own merits, without authoritative enforcement, and was used in the West, at first together with the Itala, and after about the ninth century alone.

The Vulgate takes the first place among the Bible-versions of the ancient church. It exerted the same influence upon Latin Christendom as the Septuagint upon Greek, and it is directly or indirectly the mother of most of the earlier versions in the European vernaculars. It is made immediately from the original languages, though with the use of all accessible helps, and is as much superior to the Itala as Luther’s Bible to the older German versions. From the present stage of biblical philology and exegesis the Vulgate can be charged, indeed, with innumerable faults, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and arbitrary, dealing, in particulars; but notwithstanding these, it deserves, as a whole, the highest praise for the boldness with which it went back from the half-deified Septuagint directly to the original Hebrew; for its union of fidelity and freedom; and for the dignity, clearness, and gracefulness of its style. Accordingly, after the extinction of the knowledge of Greek, it very naturally became the clerical Bible of Western Christendom, and so continued to be, till the genius of the Reformation in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and England, returning to the original text, and still further penetrating the spirit of the Scriptures, though with the continual help of the Vulgate, produced a number of popular Bibles, which were the same to the evangelical laity that the Vulgate had been for many centuries to the Catholic clergy. This high place the Vulgate holds even to this day in the Roman church, where it is unwarrantably and perniciously placed on an equality with the original.

The Commentaries of Jerome cover Genesis, the Major and Minor Prophets, Ecclesiastes, Job, some of the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Titus, and Philemon. Besides these he translated the Homilies of Origen on Jeremiah and Ezekiel, on the Gospel of Luke, and on the Song of Solomon. Of the last he says: “While Origen in his other writings has surpassed all others, on the Song of Solomon he has surpassed himself.”

His best exegetical labors are those on the Prophets (Particularly his Isaiah, written a.d. 408-410; his Ezekiel, a.d. 410-415; and his Jeremiah to Jer_32:1-44, interrupted by his death), and those on the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus, (written in 388), together with his critical Questions (or investigations) on Genesis. But they are not uniformly carried out; many parts are very indifferent, others thrown off with unconscionable carelessness in reliance on his genius and his reading, or dictated to an amanuensis as they came into his head. He not seldom surprises by clear, natural, and conclusive expositions, while just on the difficult passages he wavers, or confines himself to adducing Jewish traditions and the exegetical opinions of the earlier fathers, especially of Origen, Eusebius, Apollinaris, and Didymus, leaving the reader to judge and to choose. His scholarly industry, taste, and skill, however, always afford a certain compensation for the defect of method and consistency, so that his Commentaries are, after all, the most instructive we have from the Latin church of that day, not excepting even those of Augustine, which otherwise greatly surpass them in theological depth and spiritual unction. He justly observes in the Preface to his Commentary on Isaiah: “He who does not know the Scriptures, does not know the power and wisdom of God; ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ.”

Jerome had the natural talent and the acquired knowledge, to make him the father of grammatico-historical interpretation, upon which all sound study of the Scriptures must proceed. He very rightly felt that the expositor must not put his own fancies into the word of God, but draw out the meaning of that word, and he sometimes finds fault with Origen and the allegorical method for roaming in the wide fields of imagination, and giving out the writer’s own thought and fancy for the hidden Wisdom of the Scriptures and the church. In this healthful exegetical spirit he excelled all the fathers, except Chrysostom and Theodoret. In the Latin church no others, except the heretical Pelagius (whose short exposition of the Epistles of Paul is incorporated in the works of Jerome), and the unknown Ambrosiaster (whose commentary has found its way among the works of Ambrose), thought like him. But he was far from being consistent; he committed the very fault he censures in Eusebius, who in the superscription of his Commentary on Isaiah promised a historical exposition, but, forgetting the promise, fell into the fashion of Origen. Though he often makes very bold utterances, such as that on the original identity of presbyter and bishop, and even shows traces of a loose view of inspiration, yet he had not the courage, and was too scrupulously concerned for his orthodoxy, to break with the traditional exegesis. He could not resist the impulse to indulge, after giving the historical sense, in fantastic allegorizing, or, as he expresses himself, “to spread the sails of the spiritual understanding.”

He distinguishes in most cases a double sense of the Scriptures: the literal and the spiritual, or the historical and the allegorical; sometimes, with Origen and the Alexandrians, a triple sense: the historical, the tropological (moral), and the pneumatical (mystical).

The word of God does unquestionably carry in its letter a living and life-giving spirit; and is capable of endless application to all times and circumstances; and here lies the truth in the allegorical method of the ancient church. But the spiritual sense must be derived with tender conscientiousness and self-command from the natural, literal meaning, not brought from without, as another sense beside, or above, or against the literal.

Jerome goes sometimes as far as Origen in the unscrupulous twisting of the letter and the history, and adopts his mischievous principle of entirely rejecting the literal sense whenever it may seem ludicrous or unworthy. For instance: By the Shunamite damsel, the concubine of the aged king David, he understands (imitating Origen’s allegorical obliteration of the double crime against Uriah and Bathsheba) the ever-virgin Wisdom of God, so extolled by Solomon; and the earnest controversy between Paul and Peter he alters into a sham fight for the instruction of the Antiochian Christians who were present; thus making out of it a deceitful accommodation, over which Augustine (who took just offence at such patrocinium mendacii) drew him into an epistolary controversy characteristic of the two men.”

It is remarkable that Augustine and Jerome, in the two exegetical questions, on which they corresponded, interchanged sides, and each took the other’s point of view. In the dispute on the occurrence in Antioch (Gal_2:11-14), Augustine represented the principle of evangelical freedom and love of truth, Jerome the principle of traditional committal to dogma and an equivocal theory of accommodation; while in their dispute on the authority of the Septuagint Jerome held to true progress, Augustine to retrogression and false traditionalism. And each afterwards saw his error, and at least partially gave it up.

In the exposition of the Prophets, Jerome sees too many allusions to the heretics of his time (as Luther finds everywhere allusions to the Papists, fanatics, and sectarians); and, on the other hand, with the zeal he inherited from Origen against all chiliasm, he finds far too little reference to the end of, all things in the second coming of our Lord. He limits, for example, even the eschatological discourse of Christ in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and Paul’s prophecy of the man of sin in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians, to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Among the exegetical works in the wider sense belongs the book On the Interpretation of the Hebrew Names, an etymological lexicon of the proper names of the Old and New Testaments, useful for its time, but in many respects defective, and now worthless; and a free translation of the Onomasticon of Eusebius, a sort of biblical topology in alphabetical order, still valuable to antiquarian scholarship.

II. The historical works, some of which we have already elsewhere touched, are important to the history of the fathers and the saints to Christian literature, and to the history of morals.

First among them is a free Latin reproduction and continuation of the Greek Chronicle of Eusebius; i.e., chronological tables of the most important events of the history of the world and the church to the year 379. Jerome dictated this work quite fugitively during his residence with Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople (a.d. 380). In spite of its many errors, it formed a very useful and meritorious contribution to Latin literature, and a principal source of the scanty historical information of Western Christendom throughout the middle age. Prosper Aquitanus, a friend of Augustine and defender of the doctrines of free grace against the Semi-Pelagians in Gaul, continued the Chronicle to the year 449; later authors brought it down to the middle of the sixth century.

More original is the Catalogue of Illustrious Authors, which Jerome composed in the tenth year of Theodosius (a.d. 392 and 393), at the request of his friend, an officer, Dexter. It is the pioneer in the history of theological literature, and gives, in one hundred and thirty-five chapters, short biographical notices of as many ecclesiastical writers, from the apostles to Jerome himself, with accounts of their most important works. It was partly designed to refute the charge of ignorance, which Celsus, Porphyry, Julian, and other pagans, made against the Christians. Jerome, at that time, was not yet so violent a heretic-hater, and was quite fair and liberal in his estimate of such men as Origen and Eusebius. But many of his sketches are too short and meagre; even those, for example, of so important men as Cyprian, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Ambrose, and Chrysostom († 407). His junior cotemporary, Augustine, who had at that time already written several philosophical, exegetical, and polemic works, he entirely omits.

The Catalogue was afterwards continued in the same spirit by the Semi-Pelagian Gennadius of Marseilles, by Isidore of Seville, by Ildefonsus, and by others, into the middle age.

Jerome wrote also biographies of celebrated hermits, Paul of Thebes (a.d. 375), Hilarion, and the imprisoned Malchus (a.d. 390), in very graceful and entertaining style, but with many fabulous and superstitious accompaniments, and with extravagant veneration of the monastic life, which he aimed by these writings to promote. They were read at that time as eagerly as novels. These biographies, and several necrological letters in honor of deceased friends, such as Nepotian, Lucinius, Lea, Blasilla, Paulina, Paula, and Marcella are masterpieces of rhetorical ascetic hagiography. They introduce the legend ary literature of the middle age, with its indiscriminate mixture of history and fable, and its sacrifice of historical truth to popular edification.

III. Of the polemic doctrinal and ethical works some relate to the Arian controversies, some to the Origenistic, some to the Pelagian. In the first class belongs the Dialogue against the schismatic Luciferians, which Jerome wrote during his desert life in Syria (a.d. 379) on the occasion of the Meletian schism in Antioch; also his translation of the work of Didymus On the Holy Ghost, begun in Rome and finished in Bethlehem. His book Against Bishop John of Jerusalem (a.d. 399), and his Apology to his former friend Rufinus, in three books (a.d. 402-403), are directed against Origenism. In the third class belongs the Dialogue against the Pelagians, in three books (a.d. 415). Other polemic works, Against Helvidius (written in 383), Against Jovinian (a.d. 393), and Against Vigilantius (dictated rapidly in one night in 406), are partly doctrinal, partly ethical in their nature, and mainly devoted to the advocacy of the immaculate virginity of Mary, celibacy, vigils, relic-worship, and the monastic life.

These controversial writings, the contents of which we have already noted in the proper place, do the author, on the whole, little credit, and stand in striking contrast with his fame as one of the principal saints of the Roman church. They show an accurate acquaintance with all the arts of an advocate and all the pugilism of a dialectician, together with boundless vehemence and fanatical zealotism, which scruple over no weapons of wit, mockery, irony, suspicion, and calumny, to annihilate opponents, and which pursue them even after their death. And their contents afford no sufficient compensation for these faults. For Jerome was not an original, profound, systematic, or consistent thinker, and therefore very little fitted for a didactic theologian. In the Arian controversy he would not enter into any discussion of the distinction between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις, and left this important question to the decision of the Roman bishop Damasus; in the Origenistic controversy he must, in his violent condemnation of all Origenists, contradict his own former view and veneration of Origen as the greatest teacher after the Apostles; and in the Pelagian controversy he was influenced chiefly by personal considerations, and drawn half way to Augustine’s side; for while he was always convinced of the universality of sin, in reference to the freedom of the will and predestination he adopted synergistic or Semi-Pelagian views, and afterwards continued in the highest consideration among the Semi-Pelagians down to Erasmus.

He is equally unsatisfactory as a moralist and practical divine. He had no connected system of moral doctrine, and did not penetrate to the basis and kernel of the Christian life, but moved in the outer circle of asceticism and casuistry. Following the spirit of his time, he found the essence of religion in monastic flight from the world and contempt of the natural ordinances of God, especially of marriage; and, completely reversing sound principles, he advocated even ascetic filth as an external mark of inward purity. Of marriage he had a very low conception, regarding it merely as a necessary evil for the increase of virgins. From the expression of Paul in 1Co_7:1: “It is good not to touch a woman,” he draws the utterly unwarranted inference: “It is therefore bad to touch one; for the only opposite of good is bad;” and he interprets the woe of the Lord upon those that are with child and those that give suck (Mat_24:19), as a condemnation of pregnancy in general, and of the crying of little children, and of all the trouble and fruit of the married life. The disagreeable fact of the marriage of Peter he endeavors to weaken by the groundless assumption that the apostle forsook his wife when he forsook his net, and, besides, that “he must have washed away the stain of his married life by the blood of his martyrdom.”

In a letter, otherwise very beautiful and rich, to the young Nepotian, he gives this advice: “Let your lodgings be rarely or never visited by women. You must either ignore alike, or love alike, all the daughters and virgins of Christ. Nay, dwell not under the same roof with them, nor trust their former chastity; you cannot be holier than David, nor wiser than Solomon. Never forget that a woman drove the inhabitants of Paradise out of their possession. In sickness any brother, or your sister, or your mother, can minister to in the lack of such relatives, the church herself maintains many aged women, whom you can at the same time remunerate for their nursing with welcome alms. I know some who are well in the body indeed, but sick in mind. It is a dangerous service in any case, that is done to you by one whose face you often see. If in your official duty as a clergyman you must visit a widow or a maiden, never enter her house alone. Take with you only those whose company does you no shame; only some reader, or acolyth, or psalm-singer, whose ornament consists not in clothes, but in good morals, who does not crimp his hair with crisping pins, but shows chastity in his whole bearing. But privately or without witnesses, never put yourself in the presence of a woman.”

Such exhortations, however, were quite in the spirit of that age, and were in part founded in Jerome’s own bitter experience in his youth, and in the thoroughly corrupt condition of social life in the sinking empire of Rome.

While advocating these ascetic extravagancies Jerome does not neglect to chastise the clergy and the monks for their faults with the scourge of cutting satire. And his writings are everywhere strewn with the pearls of beautiful moral maxims and eloquent exhortations to contempt of the world and godly conduct.

IV. The Epistles of Jerome, with all their defects are uncommonly instructive and interesting, and, in easy flow and elegance of diction, are not inferior to the letters of Cicero. Vallarsi has for the first time put them into chronological order in the first volume of his edition, and has made the former numbering of them (even that of the Benedictine edition) obsolete. He reckons in all a hundred and fifty, including several letters from cotemporaries, such as Epiphanius, Theophilus of Alexandria, Augustine, Damasus, Pammachius, and Rufinus; some of them written directly to Jerome, and some treating of matters in which he was interested. They are addressed to friends like the Roman bishop Damasus, the senator Pammachius, the bishop Paulinus of Nola, Theophilus of Alexandria, Evangelus, Rufinus, Heliodorus, Riparius, Nepotianus, Oceanus, Avitus, Rusticus, Gaudentius, and Augustine, and some to distinguished ascetic women and maidens like Paula, Eustochium, Marcella, Furia, Fabiola, and Demetrias. They treat of almost all questions of philosophy and practical religion, which then agitated the Christian world, and they faithfully reflect the virtues and the faults and the remarkable contrasts of Jerome and of his age.

Orthodox in theology and Christology, Semi-Pelagian in anthropology, Romanizing in the doctrine of the church and tradition, anti-chiliastic in eschatology, legalistic and ascetic in ethics, a violent fighter of all heresies, a fanatical apologist of all monkish extravagancies, — Jerome was revered throughout the catholic middle age as the patron saint of Christian and ecclesiastical learning, and, next to Augustine, as maximus doctor ecclesiae; but by his enthusiastic love for the Holy Scriptures, his recourse to the original languages, his classic translation of the Bible, and his manifold exegetical merits, he also played materially into the hands of the Reformation, and as a scholar and an author still takes the first rank, and as an influential theologian the second (after Augustine), among the Latin fathers; while, as a moral character, he decidedly falls behind many others, like Hilary, Ambrose, and Leo I., and, even according to the standard of Roman asceticism, can only in a very limited sense be regarded as a saint.