Jerome’s Prologue to the Gospels

I translated St Jerome’s prologue to the Gospels several years ago, as part of a project involving the Eusebian canon tables. That translation is here, and a page leading to my information on the canon table system is here. I’ll revisit that translation when I edit the others for consistency. Not right now though. This prologue to the Gospels is the last by St Jerome. That prologue written as an introduction to the Letters of Paul is not by him, as he seems never to have translated or edited any translations of Paul’s Letters. I’m working on that one right now, and it’ll be posted next. It’s the last of the prologues preserved in the Vulgate.

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

Jerome’s Prologue to the Twelve Prophets

This is St Jerome’s prologue to the Twelve Prophets, or Twelve Minor Prophets as they’re often called, because these books are shorter relative to the books of the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. It’s a very short prologue, but there are two items of interest in it. One is that St Jerome mentions that “the Hebrews” of his day considered Malachi to be Ezra. I don’t think I’d ever read that before, so it was a pleasant surprise. The other interesting thing is that St Jerome considered the Twelve Prophets to be chronologically arranged (which I do too, great, somewhat curmudgeonly minds thinking alike), and that the books which don’t include dating indications can be dated after those who do. And now, I think my introduction to the prologue has now come to more words than are actually in it, so with no further ado, here it is. Enjoy!

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

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BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE OF THE TWELVE PROPHETS

The order of the Twelve Prophets is not the same among the Hebrews as it is among us. For which reason, according to how it is read there, they are also arranged here. Hosea is composed of short clauses and speaking as though by aphorisms. Joel is clear in the beginning, more obscure at the end. And they each have their individual properties up to Malachi, who the Hebrews name Ezra the scribe and teacher of the Law. And because it is too long to speak of all these things now, I would only you were warned this, O Paula and Eustochium: the book of the Twelve Prophets to be one; and Hosea a contemporary (συνχρονος) of Isaiah; (and) Malachi in fact to have been of the times of Haggai and Zechariah. And those (books) in which the time is not set down in the title, under those kings which they were to have prophesied under, they also prophesied after those which have titles.

END OF THE PROLOGUE

Jerome’s Prologue to Daniel

This prologue by St Jerome is a little odd to translate, as it’s dealing in part with some wordplay in both Greek and Latin. I’ve placed the original words in parentheses, as I’ve done in others of the prologue translations, but they’re especially necessary here. I get the distinct impression that St Jerome is actually showing us a sense of humor, or is at the very least recalling some funny sayings from a past teacher. There is also the fascinating and rather bittersweet retrospective on his learning Chaldean, which we call Aramaic these days. Another interesting part is his mention of the Hebrew Scriptures being divided into three parts: the Law with five books, the Prophets with eight books, and the Hagiographa with eleven books, for a total of twenty-four books. And though he doesn’t name the books included in those numbers here, the scheme is close enough to that which he presented in his “Helmeted Introduction” to Kings (22 books there, as opposed to 24 here), to determine these are the books for each category: Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel/Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, The Twelve; Hagiographa: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, Esther, and somewhere in there Ruth and Lamentations, which in the “Helmeted Introduction” are attached to Judges and Jeremiah respectively, presumably to make the total number of books fit the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet: twenty-two. So, we have at least that evidence of what was the canon of at least some Jews in Palestine in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D. Enjoy!

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

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BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE OF JEROME TO THE BOOK OF DANIEL

The churches of the Lord Savior do not read the Prophet Daniel according to the Seventy interpreters, using (instead) the edition of Theodotion, and I don’t know why this happened. For whether because the language is Chaldean and differs in certain properties from our speech, (or) the Seventy interpreters were not willing to keep the same lines in the translation, or the book was edited under their name by some unknown other who did not sufficiently know the Chaldean language, or not knowing anything else which was the cause, I can affirm this one thing, that it often differs from the truth and with proper judgment is repudiated. Indeed, it is known most of Daniel and some of Ezra were written in Hebrew letters but the Chaldean language, and one pericope of Jeremiah, and also Job to have much in common with the Arabic language.

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