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]


  1. Kevin, amazing site! I greatly appreciate having read Jerome’s prologues. I am currently writing a book on the New Testament reliability and its canon. My level of knowledge is lacking regarding how to read Eusebius’ tables. Are you able to confirm if his tables would include the ‘pericope’ from John of the woman caught in adultery? Thanks, Doug

  2. Thanks, Doug! The evidence in the Eusebian Canons for it is ambiguous because it’s included in a a large section that is listed as in canon X, which is the one which lists all the sections that don’t have parallels in the other gospels. That is, while the whole Eusebian section 86 of John covers all of 7.45-8.19a now, there’s no indication in the tables themselves whether all of the Pericope Adulterae (7.53-8.11) was actually included within that section, since all of it is marked as unique. So, we simply can’t tell whether it was included or not. I don’t recall offhand whether Eusebius refers to that story in others of his writings, but I don’t think he does. Wieland Wilker’s textual commentary presents (some? all?) the earliest witnesses, and Eusebius isn’t among them. Roger Pearse has posted the translations of a number of Eusebius’ writings, and you might be able to find something in there. Happy hunting! Let me know if I can be of any further help!

  3. Dear Kevin, I greatly appreciate your website. At present I am collecting information for an article on Eusebian Canons for Russian Wikipedia, and your site is really helpful.

    Among other things, I am trying to find some explanation for the absence of Mark-Luke-John and Mark-John lists in the canons. In doing so I came upon an article by Carl Nordenfalk, who explains it on the basis of sacrality of the number 10. Below is a long excerpt from Nordenfalk’s paper. If you are interested, I can send you the entire pdf.

    Carl Nordenfalk, “Canon Tables of Papyrus” (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 36. (1982), pp. 29-38.), pp. 29-30:

    “The hidden reason for his limiting the Canones to ten must have been the particular significance attached in ancient numerology to that figure. Just as according to St. Irenaeus (Adu. haer., 111, 1 1 ) there had to be four Gospels, neither more nor less, because the number four conformed to the cardinal points of the Universe, so the Canon Tables attained a similar degree of perfection by being ten.2 Since Pythagoras, the numbers “four” and “ten” had been considered to be mutually connected by mathematical laws.3 Eusebius himself refers to it in his Oration in Praise of Constantine, delivered in 335 at the occasion of the Emperor’s Tricennalia: “. . . the number four produces the number ten. For the aggregate of one, and two, and three, and four, is ten.”4 Later in the same speech he elaborates further: “. . . the number ten, which contains the end of all numbers, and terminates them in itself, may truly be called a full and perfect number, as comprehending every species and every measure of numbers, proportions, concords, and harmonies.”

    The restriction of the Canon Tables to ten thus made them particularly well suited to be a “harmony” of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.”

    Nordenfalk continues:

    “H. McArthur, “The Eusebian Sections and Canons,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterlj, 27 (1965), 251, suggests that Eusebius limited his tables to ten, because there were no parallels at all between Mark, Luke, and John and between Mark and John only. However, this is not the case. There are at least a few episodes in the life of Jesus which are told in the last three Gospels, but not in the first. The sudden appearance of the risen Christ to all the Apostles described in Lk. 24:36 ff. and J n . 20:19 ff.has been assigned by Eusebius to Canon IX, but it is evidently the same incident that Mark reports in 16: 14. The perplexity of the Apostles at Jesus’ prophecy of his death and resurrection mentioned in Rlk. 9:9 and Jn. 16: 17 are both referred to Canon X as being unique readings, but could as well have been set in parallel. Generally speaking, the number of Canons depends upon how the sections are delimited. In his section division Eusebius is not concerned about keeping the different events strictly apart. He fails, for example, to divide the long section Jn . 8:21-10:15, assigning it in its entirety to Canon X, as if there were no parallels to it in the other Gospels. Yet the healing of the blind man by Christ who touches his eyes with saliva described by Jn. 9:6 occurs in Mk. 8:23 as well. It, too, is assigned to Canon X. Admittedly the accounts of Jesus’ life and sayings found in Mark and John only, or in Mark, Luke, and John only, are not very numerous. Nevertheless, Eusebius might well have allowed them to form two more short Tables had he wanted to do so for the sake of completeness.”

    I am sorry for a long quote.

    From layman’s point of view, I think that the following objections could be made to Nordenfalk’s suggestion that Eusebius could, but did not, make two more tables:

    1) Delimitation of sections could be, to some large extent, not the work of Eusebius but of Ammonius (as suggests Robert Waltz in his Online Encyclopaedia: Thus, Eusebius might be simply using what sections he already had without splitting them further to separate more parallel pericopes.

    2) Nordenfalk refers to Mark 16:14, but Eusebius had not included the endings of Mark into his canons. In Nestle-Aland, Mark 16:9-20 only is divided into “Ammonian” sections (234)-(241), but these numbers are not included into the canon lists (and they do not derive from the original form of the Eusebian canons).

    If you have any time and interest I would greatly appreciate your opinion on this subject.

    Thank you,


  4. Please, excuse me, but do the comments from non-bloggers pass here? I tried to submit a comment, but nothing changed on page upon submission.

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