Jerome’s Prologue to Judith

In this preface, too, St Jerome makes mention of the authority of the Church, in this case literally the famous First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, as declaring Judith among the books of Holy Scripture. In fact, he also mentions that “among the Hebrews” the book was considered as among the “Hagiographa,” some would say a somewhat flexible term, which in the previous prologue (to Tobias), he certainly seems to have equated with the Scriptures. If this is the case, then at one point in history, in the late 4th century, Judith was considered by at least some Jews in Palestine to have been Scripture. He does, however, in that very first sentence note that even though it is considered an “accepted” book, this is considered to have no bearing on the status of other books. Interesting. Enjoy!

[See also the final draft version of this translation, on this page]

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BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE TO JUDITH

Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work translating more sense from sense than word from word. I have removed the extremely faulty variety of the many books; only those which I was able to find in the Chaldean words with understanding intact did I express in Latin ones.

Receive the widow Judith, an example of chastity, and declare triumphal honor with perpetual praises for her. For this one, imitable not only for women, but also for men, has the Rewarder of her chastity given, Who has granted such strength, that she conquered the one unconquered by all men, she surpassed the insurpassable.

END OF THE PROLOGUE

Jerome’s Prologue to Tobias

[This is the first of St Jerome’s Vulgate prologues for one of the apocrypha that I’ve done. It’s very interesting, if one pays attention to his reasoning in this prologue, it being actually a letter which accompanied his translation of Tobias to the Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus. St Jerome is often considered or claimed to be vehemently opposed to the apocrypha, especially in antapocryphal Protestant circles. But we find in this letter that this is only half of the picture. While the apocrypha were not included in the Hebrew Bible, and St Jerome respects the Hebrew studies on this matter, he explcitly states here that the decisions of Christian bishops are more important. Something like this has been the response to critics of the “apocrypha,” “deuterocanonicals,” or whatever you want to call them, throughout the ages: they are included in the canon because that has been, is, and always will be the practice of the Church. It’s good to see this from St Jerome, and we’ll see a similar thing in his Prologue to Judith, coming up next. Enjoy!

[See also the final draft version of this translation, on this page]

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BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE TO TOBIAS

Jerome to the Bishops in the Lord Cromatius and Heliodorus, health!

I do not cease to wonder at the constancy of your demanding. For you demand that I bring a book written in Chaldean words into Latin writing, indeed the book of Tobias, which the Hebrews exclude from the catalogue of Divine Scriptures, being mindful of those things which they have titled Hagiographa. I have done enough for your desire, yet not by my study. For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops. I have persisted as I have been able, and because the language of the Chaldeans is close to Hebrew speech, finding a speaker very skilled in both languages, I took to the work of one day, and whatever he expressed to me in Hebrew words, this, with a summoned scribe, I have set forth in Latin words. I will be paid the price of this work by your prayers, when, by your grace, I will have learned what you request to have been completed by me was worthy.

END OF THE PROLOGUE