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]
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.
Continue reading “Jerome’s Prologue to Daniel”