Vulgate Prologues

Eusebius Hieronymus was born in about 331 AD in Stridon, a town near Aquilea in Dalmatia, to a well-to-do Christian family. For a fine biography of Jerome, see J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Harper & Row, 1975). The work that he is most famous for now is his translation of most of the Old Testament of the Latin Vulgate Bible into Latin from Hebrew, and the revision of the Old Latin Gospels with reference to the Greek. At the completion of each stage of this lengthy work, Jerome would send the finished translation with an introductory cover letter to the friends who requested them. Thus was the origin of the prologues. Of those included in the Stuttgart hand edition, only that to the Epistles of Paul is by another (unknown) hand. All the other prologues are from the hand of Jerome. All are translated here anew.

The order of the production is roughly as follows. The completion of revision of the Gospels took place right around 382, at which time Jerome was in Rome and very close to Pope Damasus (366-384), at whose request he undertook this work. Next he undertook a revision of the Old Latin Psalter in use at Rome (this is the one he mentions in the beginning of the first Prologue to the Psalms), but which revision is now lost. The ancient pre-revised version is called the “Roman Psalter” and still extant. Almost immediately upon arriving in Bethlehem in 386, he completed another revision of the Old Latin Psalter which was to become known as the “Gallican Psalter” (because of its being favored by Alcuin, a later editor of the Vulgate Bible). This Psalter is the only of Jerome’s in the Vulgate tradition from his early body of his work on the Old Testament books of the Old Latin version revised according to Origen’s Hexapla. During the next four years, he would similarly produce revisions of Job and Song of Songs (both of which still survive) and of Chronicles and the Solomonic books (which are lost). In 390 he completely changed direction, dropping the revision of the Old Latin according to the Hexapla, and translating instead from the Hebrew. The first of these new works was Samuel-Kings (“Regum”), and its lengthy prologue serves as a kind of programmatic statement for Jerome’s intentions and goals in this project. Next came a translation of the Psalter from the Hebrew. Both Regum and the Psalter were completed by 392. The Prophets followed, then Job, all completed by 394. Next he translated Ezra (which included both our Ezra and Nehemiah) in 394 or 395, and Chronicles in 395. The books of Solomon (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) were completed in three days (!) in the autumn of 398. From late 398 to late 404 or 405, the Pentateuch and then the group Joshua-Judges-Ruth-Esther were completed. Sometime between 405 and 407 he also translated Tobit and Judith, though not with the same care given his other translations. The remaining books in the Old Testament of the Latin Vulgate Bible are not from Jerome’s well-worn pen, but are either Old Latin versions (Wisdom, Sirach, Maccabees, 3 & 4 Esdras) or the work of later, unknown revisers (Baruch, Prayer of Manasseh). Outside of the Gospels in the New Testament, the reviser or revisers are completely unknown, but the work was essentially similar to Jerome’s: revision of the Old Latin text according to the Greek. It is likely that the Epistles of Paul (including Hebrews) were revised in a body by a single editor, also unknown, the preface of which group would seem to indicate this. Whether the other books were revised by several or an individual is unknown.

The text used for the prologues below is that found in the beautiful Stuttgart handbook Biblica Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, 4th Edition, 1994. Valuable help came from Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti, at the suggestion of the ever-helpful Mike Aquilina of The Way of the Fathers. Blame no wretchedness of rendering on them, as it will be solely my own fault. I’ve added a number of hyperlinked footnotes to the text of the prologues, indicating variant renderings, Biblical citations, obscure passages, and providing a very few explanatory notes. The bibliography below includes works that I used in the process of translation and putting together the introduction and also those few works mentioned in the notes. If any problems or errors are found, please contact me.

Italic superscript numbers indicate the line number in the Stuttgart edition. The other superscript numbers are hyperlinked to the notes, which are found at the end of each prologue. After clicking the note link, to return to your place in the prologue, simply hit the Back button of your web browser (or the equivalent keystroke, the Backspace key in the case of Internet Explorer and Firefox). The line numbers are only given for every third line (1, 3, 6, …).

Charlesworth, James H. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2 volumes. New York: Doubleday, 1983, 1985.
Collins, John F. A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1985.
Döpp, Siegmar and Wilhelm Geerlings, eds. Dictionary of Early Christian Literature. New York: Herder & Herder, 2000.
Freedman, David Noel, ed. Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Grant, Robert M. Gods and the One God. Library of Early Christianity 1. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1986.
Kelly, J. N. D. Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.
Lardet, Pierre. Saint Jérôme: Apologie Contre Rufin: Introduction, Texte Critique, Traduction et Index. Sources Chrétiennes 303. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1983.
Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879, repr. 1998.
Stelten, Leo F. Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
Tkacz, Catherine Brown. “Labor Tam Utilis: The Creation of the Vulgate.” Vigiliae Christianae 50 (1996), 42-72.
Weber, Robert, ed. Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem. 4th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994.




1I have received the desired letters of my Desiderius, who in a foretelling of things to happen has obtained with Daniel a certain name 1, beseeching that I might hand over to our hearers a translation of the Pentateuch in the Latin tongue 3from the Hebrew language. Certainly a dangerous work, open to the barkings of detractors, who accuse me of insult to the Seventy to coin a new interpretation for the old ones, thus 6approving ability like wine.2 As has very often been testified by me, I, for my part, am able to offer in the Tabernacle of God, without the riches of one being damaged by the poverties of others.

But that I may have dared, the effort of Origen provoked me, who mixed the translation of 9Theodotion to the ancient edition, with asterisk and obelus, that is, star and skewer, a work distinguishing everything, while he either makes to shine those things which were previously lacking, or he slays and pierces through everything superfluous.3 And especially by the authority of the Evangelists and the Apostles, in which we read many things from the Old 12Testament which are not found in our books, as it is with: “Out of Egypt I have called My Son,” 4 and “For He shall be called a Nazarene,” 5 and “They will look on Him Whom they have pierced,” 6 and “Rivers of living waters shall flow from his belly,” 7 and “Things which no 15eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has arisen in the heart of man, which God has prepared for those loving Him,” 8 and many others which are desiring a proper context.9

Therefore let us ask them where these are written, and when they are unable to say, we may produce them from the Hebrew books. 18The first witness is in Hosea,10 the second in Isaiah,11 the third in Zechariah,12 the fourth in Proverbs,13 the fifth is also in Isaiah,14 of which many are ignorant, the follies of apocrypha being followed, preferring Iberian15 dirges to authentic books.

The cause of the error is not for me to explain. 21The Jews say it was done wisely in deliberation, so Ptolemy, the worshipper of one god, might not yet discover a double divinity with the Hebrews; he made them do so chiefly for this reason, because he was seen to fall into the dogma of Plato.16 Accordingly, wherever anything sacred in 24Scripture is witnessed of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, they are either translated otherwise, or they have passed over all in silence, so they might both satisfy the king, and might not divulge the secret of the Faith.

And I don’t know who was the first author to construct with his lying the seventy cells in Alexandria, into which 27divided were those who wrote, with Aristeas the champion17 of the same Ptolemy, and many after the time of Josephus having reported no such thing, but rather for them to have gathered in groups, writing in one basilica, and not to have prophesied.

For it is one thing to be a seer, another to be an interpreter. In that one the Spirit 30predicts things to come; in this one by his learning and abundance of words he translates those things he has understood. Unless Tullius18 is understood to have translated, by inspiration of the spirit of rhetoric, the Economics of Xenophon, the Protagoras of Plato, and the For Ctesiphon by Demosthenes. Or the Holy Spirit wove together the witnesses of these books one way through 33the Seventy interpreters and another way through the Apostles, so that what they passed over in silence, what was written by these was invented.

Therefore, what? We condemn the ancients? By no means! But after the studies of those earlier in the House of God, we work at what we can. They 36were interpreted before the coming of Christ and what they didn’t know, they translated in ambiguous19 sentences. We write after His Passion and Resurrection, not so much prophecy as history. For in the one are told what things were heard, in the other what were seen. What we understand better, we also 39translate better.

Hear, therefore, O rival; listen, O detractor! I do not condemn, I do not rebuke the Seventy, but I confidently prefer the Apostles to all of them. Christ speaks to me through their mouth, who I read were placed before the prophets among the Spiritual gifts, among which 42interpreters hold almost the last place.20 Why are you tortured by spite? Why do you incite the souls of the ignorant against me? If anywhere in the translation I have been seen by you to err, ask the Hebrews. Consult the teachers of the many different cities. What they have of Christ, your books do not have. 45It is another matter if afterward the testimonies approved by the Apostles against them were removed, and the Latin copies are more correct than the Greek, and the Greek than the Hebrew! Truth is against these enviers.

Now I pray you, dearest Desiderius, so that in such a great work which you have made me undertake and take up a 48beginning from Genesis, you might help in your prayers, how I might, by the same Spirit by Whom the books were written, be able to translate them into the Latin language.


1 See Vulgate Daniel 9.23: quia vir desideriorum es tu, “for you are a man of desires”
2 i.e., “older is better”
3 Origen, in his Hexapla, marked lines which were in the Hebrew version available to him but not in the Septuagint with an asterisk and including in those passages the versions from the translation of Theodotion. Those passages in the Septuagint which were not in the Hebrew were marked with an obelus ÷ The ending of each such passage was indicated by the metobelus, a mark like our colon symbol :
4 Matthew 2.15
5 Matthew 2.23
6 John 19.37
7 John 7.38
8 1 Corinthians 2.9
9 Greek here: συνταγμα
10 Hosea 11.1
11 Isaiah 11.1
12 Zechariah 12.10
13 Proverbs 18.4
14 Isaiah 64.4
15 Iberia = Spain
16 Apparently referring to Graeco-Roman philosophical monotheism of Middle and Neo-Platonism. See Grant, Gods.
17Greek here: υπερασπιστης.. For the extended fictional version of the translation of the Septuagint that Jerome is referring to, see the Letter of Aristeas (OTP 2.7-34)
18 Marcus Tullius Cicero
19 Or “uncertain”
20 1 Corinthians 12.28


1Having finally finished with the Pentateuch of Moses, as though freed for a great advantage, we set our hand to Jesus son of Nave, whom the Hebrews call Joshua ben Nun, that is, Joshua son of 3Nun, and to the book of Judges, which they call Sopthim, to Ruth also and Esther, which they extol by the same names. And we admonish the reader, that he, being careful with Scripture, might preserve the forest of Hebrew names and their separations divided into parts, 6so that our work and his effort might not be wasted. And that in the first place, which I have often testified, let him know me not to coin the new in rebuke of the old, as though my friends are accused, but rather, for my part, to offer to men of my language those things of ours which still delight, 9like the copies of the Hexapla1 for the Greeks, which require great expense and work, so they might have our edition, and anywhere the readings of the ancient scrolls were doubtful, comparing this to them, they might find what they seek, especially when among the Latins there are as many versions2 as there are 12books, and everyone has, according to his own judgment, either added or subtracted whatever seemed right to him, and he indeed may not have been able to be certain what differed. From which may scorpion cease to rise against us with bow-like wound, and poisoned tongue desist from slandering a holy work, either accepting, if it 15has pleased, or condemning, if it has displeased, and will have remembered these verses: “Your mouth has abounded in malice, and your tongue constructed deceits; sitting, you have spoken against your brother, and against the son of your mother imposed a scandal. These things you have done and I was quiet; you wrongly thought 18that I might be like you: I will accuse you and stand before your face.” 3 For what advantage is it to the listener for us to sweat at work and to work at criticizing others, for Jews to lament that the opportunity has been taken away from them for falsely accusing and insulting Christians, and for men of the Church to despise, 21indeed to tear apart, that from which enemies are tortured. If only what is old in the interpretation pleases them, which things are also not displeasing to me, and they think of receiving nothing further, why are they reading or not reading those things which are either added or cut out by the asterisks and obeli? 4 For what reason have the churches accepted the translation of 24Daniel by Theodotion? 5 Why are Origen and Eusebius Pamphilou admired for having treated entire editions similarly? Or what foolishness was it, after they had spoken true things, to set forth things which were false? And from where in the New Testament 27are they able to prove the received testimonies, which are not supported in the books of the Old? Thus, we say, I may be seen to be not altogether quiet to accusers.

Otherwise, after the falling asleep of holy Paula,6 whose life is an example of virtue, and these books, which I was not able to deny to you, Eustochium 30the virgin of Christ, we have decided “while spirit yet rules these limbs” 7 to incline to the explanation of the Prophets, and to resume, in a kind of return home, a work long unfinished, especially when the admirable and holy man Pammachius demands the same in letters, and 33we, hurrying on to the homeland, need to pass by the deadly songs of the sirens with deaf ear.


1 Greek here: εξαπλοις
2 Or “texts” exemplaria
3 Psalm 49.19-21
4 See note 3 in the Prologue to Genesis, above.
5 The Old Greek/Septuagint translation of Daniel was displaced very early by the version by Theodotion, so successfully in fact, that there are now only three manuscript copies of the OG/LXX Daniel: Chester Beatty Papyrus 967, Codex Chisianus 88, and the Ambrosian Syro-Hexaplar. See ABD 2.18; 2.29.
6 Jerome’s friend Paula died in January 404.
7 Vergil, Aeneid 4.336


1There are twenty-two letters among the Hebrews, as is also witnessed by the language of the Syrians and Chaldeans, which is for the most part similar to the Hebrew; for these twenty-two 3elements also have the same sound, but different characters. The Samaritans still write the Pentateuch of Moses in the same number of letters, only they differ in shapes and points.1 And Ezra, the scribe and doctor of the Law, after the capture of 6Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubbabel, is certain to have invented2 other letters, which we now use, when up to that time the characters of the Samaritans and the Hebrews were the same. In the book of Numbers this same total is also mystically shown by the census of the Levites 9and the priests.3 And we find in certain Greek scrolls to this day the four-lettered Name of God written in the ancient letters. But also the thirty-sixth Psalm,4 and the one hundred tenth,5 and the one hundred eleventh,6 and the one hundred 12eighteenth,7 and the one hundred forty-fourth,8 although written in different meter, are nevertheless woven with an alphabet of the same number. And in the Lamentations of Jeremiah,9 and his prayer, also at the end of the Proverbs of Solomon from that place in which he says “Who can find 15a strong woman?”10 are counted the same alphabet or sections.11 Furthermore, five of the letters among them are double: chaph, mem, nun, phe, sade. For they write with these one way at the beginning and in the middle of words, another at the end. From which also five 18are considered double books by most: Samuel, Malachim,12 Dabreiamin,13 Ezra,14 Jeremiah with Cinoth,15 that is, his Lamentantions. Therefore, just as there are twenty-two elements, by which we write in Hebrew all that we say, and the human voice is comprised of16 their beginnings, 21thus twenty-two scrolls are counted, by which letters and writings a just man is instructed in the doctrine of God, as though in tender infancy and still nursing.17

The first book is called among them Bresith,18 which we call Genesis; the second, Hellesmoth,19 which is named 24Exodus; the third, Vaiecra,20 that is Leviticus; the fourth Vaiedabber,21 which we call Numbers; the fifth, Addebarim,22 which is designated Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they appropropriately call Thorat,23 that is, the Law.

27The second order is made of the Prophets, and begins with Jesus son of Nave, which is called among them Joshua benNum.24 Then they append Sopthim,25 that is the book of Judges; and they attach Ruth to the same, because the history narrated happened in the days of the Judges. 30Samuel follows third, which we call First and Second Kingdoms. Fourth is Malachim,26 that is Kings, which book contains Third and Fourth Kingdoms; and it is much better to say Malachim, that is Kings, rather than Malachoth,27 that is Kingdoms, for it 33does not describe the kingdoms of many nations, but only that of the Israelite people which contains twelve tribes. Fifth is Isaiah, sixth Jeremiah, seventh Ezekiel, eighth the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called Thareasra28 among them.

36The third order holds the Hagiographa,29 and begins with Job, the first book, the second from David, which in five sections also comprise one scroll of the Psalms. The third is Solomon, having three books: Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth,30 and 39Ecclesiastes, that is Accoeleth,31 and The Song of Songs, which they denote with the title Sirassirim.32 Sixth is Daniel, seventh Dabreiamin,33 that is Words of the Days, which we may call more clearly a chronicle34 of all of Divine history, which book is written among us as First and Second 42Paralipomenon; eighth is Ezra, which is also in the same manner among Greeks and Latins divided into two books; ninth is Esther.

And thus there are likewise twenty-two books in the Old Law, that is, five of Moses, 45eight of the Prophets, nine of the Hagiographa. Although some may write Ruth and Cinoth among the Hagiographa, and think of counting these books among their number, and then by this to have twenty-four books of the Old Law, which the Apoclypse of John 48introduces under the number of twenty-four elders worshipping the Lamb and offering their crowns, prostrated on their faces,35 and crying out with unwearying voice: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty, 51Who was and Who is, and Who will be.” 36

This prologue to the Scriptures may be appropriate as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so we may be able to know whatever is outside of these 54is to be set apart among the apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon, and the book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith and Tobias, and The Shepherd are not in the canon. I have found the First Book of the Maccabees is Hebrew, the Second is Greek, which 57may also be proven by their styles.37

While these things may be so, I implore you, reader, that you might not consider my work a rebuke of the ancients. Each one offers to the Tabernacle of God what he is able. Some offer gold 60and silver and precious stones; others, linen and purple, scarlet and blue. It will go well with us, if we offer the skins and hair of goats.38 For the Apostle still judges our more contemptible parts more necessary.39 From which both the whole of the 63beauty of the Tabernacle and each individual kind, a distinction of the present and future Church, is covered with skins and goat-hair coverings,40 and the heat of the sun and the harmful rain are kept off by those things which are of lesser value. Therefore, first read my Samuel and Malachim; mine, I say, mine. 66For whatever we have learned and know by often translating and carefully correcting is ours. And when you understand what you did not know before, either consider me a translator, if you are grateful, or a paraphraser,41 if ungrateful, although I am truly not at all aware of anything of the Hebrew truth 69to have been changed by me. Certainly, if you are incredulous, read the Greek and Latin books and compare them with these little works, and wherever you will see among them to differ, ask any one of the Hebrews, in whom you might place better faith, and if 72he confirms ours, I think that you will not consider him a diviner, as he has similarly divined in the very same place with me.

But I also ask you, handmaidens of Christ, who have anointed the head of the reclining Lord with the most precious 75myrrh of faith,42 who have in no way sought the Savior in the tomb,43 for whom Christ has now ascended to the Father, that you might oppose the shields 78of your prayers against the barking dogs which rage against me with rabid mouth and go around the city,44 and in it they are considered educated if slandering others. I, knowing my humility, will always remember these sentences: “I will guard my ways, so I will not offend with my tongue; I have placed a guard on my mouth, while the sinner stands against me; I was mute, and humiliated, 81and silent because of good things.”45


1 or “endings” apicibus
2 or “found” repperisse
3 Numbers 3.39
4 Psalm 37 MT
5 Psalm 111 MT
6 Psalm 112 MT
7 Psalm 119 MT
8 Psalm 145 MT
9 Lamentations 1-4
10 Proverbs 31.10-31
11 Jerome is referring here to the alphabetic acrostics found in the various cited passages above. Each line or group of lines in the Hebrew begins with the successive letters of the entire Hebrew alphabet. See also “Acrostic,” ABD 1.58-60.
12 1-2 Kings
13 1-2 Chronicles
14 Ezra-Nehemiah
15 קִינוֹת, but nowadays referred to as אֵיכָה after the first word of the book.
16 Or “understood by” conprehenditur
17 Jerome here compares an adult learning the Scriptures to an infant learning the alphabet.
18 בְּרֵשִׁית, the first word of the book of Genesis in Hebrew, “In the beginning….”
19 ‏אֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת, apparently the first words of the book of Exodus in Jerome’s Hebrew text, “These are the names.”
Our modern MT reads וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת“And these are the names.”
20 וַיִּקְרָא, the first word of Leviticus, “And he called”
21 וַיְדַבֵּר, the first word of Numbers, “And he spoke.” Nowadays, it is referred to as בְּמִדְבַּר “In the desert of [Sinai]” orבַּמִּדְבַּר “In the desert”
22 הַדְּבַרִים the second word in Deuteronomy “The words,” nowadays referred to as דְּבַרִים “Words.”
23 תּוֹרַת is the construct form, as found in תּוֹרַת משֶׁה “Law of Moses,” while תּוֹרָה is the more familiar nominal form, “Law.”
24 יוֹשׁוּעַ בִּן־נוּן
25 שׁוֹפְטִים
26 מְלַכִים
27 מְלַכוֹת actually means “queens;” מַמְלַכוֹת is “kingdoms.”
28 תְּרֵי־עֲשְׂרֵי is Aramaic for “twelve”
29 Greek here: αγιογραφα
30 מְשָׁלוֹת nowadays referred to asמִשְׁלֵי the first word of Proverbs “The proverbs of [Solomon]” or a slight variant מַשְׁלֵי
31הַקּוֹהֶלֶת nowadays referred to by the second word of the book קוֹהֶלֶת
32 שִׁיר־הַשִּׁירִים
33 דִּבְרֵי־הַיַּמִים
34 Greek here: χρονικον
35 Revelation 4.4, 10
36 Revelation 4.8
37 Greek here: φρασιν
38 Exodus 25.2-7; 35.5-9
39 1 Corinthians 12.22
40 Exodus 26.7-14; 36.14-19
41 Greek here: παραφραστην
42 Matthew 26.7; Mark 14.2
43 John 20.15-17
44 Psalm 58.7, 15 LXX
45 Psalm 38.2-3 LXX


1If the version of the Seventy translators is pure and has remained as it was rendered by them into Greek, you have urged me on superfluously, my Cromatius, most holy and most learned of bishops, 3that I translated the Hebrew scrolls into the Latin language. For what has formerly won the ears of men and strengthened the faith of those being born to the Church was indeed proper to be approved by our silence. Now, in fact, when different 6versions are held by a variety of regions, and this genuine and ancient translation is corrupted and violated, you have considered our opinion, either to judge which of the many is the true one, or to put together new work with old work, and shutting off to the Jews, as it is said, “a horn to pierce the eyes.”1 The region of 9Alexandria and Egypt praises in their Seventy the authority of Hesychius; the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the version of Lucian the Martyr; in the middle, between these provinces, the people of Palestine read the books which, having been labored over by Origen, Eusebius and Pamphilius published. 12And all the world contends among them with this threefold variety. And Origen certainly not only put together the texts of four editions, writing the words in a single row2 so that one regularly differing may be compared to others agreeing among themselves, but what is more 15audacious, into the edition of the Seventy he mixed the edition of Theodotion, marking with asterisks those things which were missing, and placing virgules3 by those things which are seen to be superfulous. If, therefore, it was allowed to others not to hold what they once accepted, and after the seventy chambers, which are considered without a single 18author, individual chambers were opened, and thus is read in the churches what the Seventy did not know, why do my (fellow) Latins not accept me, who thus put together the new with the inviolate old edition so that I might make my work acceptable to the Hebrews and, what is greater than these, to the authors, the Apostles? 21I have recently written a book, “On the best kind of translating,”4 showing these things in the Gospel, and others similar to these, to be found in the books of the Hebrews: “Out of Egypt I called my son,”5 and “For he will be called a Nazarene,”6 and “They will look on him whom they have pierced,”7 and that of the Apostle, “Things which eye has not seen, nor ear 24heard, and had not arisen in the heart of man, which God has prepared for those loving Him.”8 The Apostles and Evangelists were certainly acquainted with the Seventy interpreters, but from where are they (supposed) to say these things which are not found in the Seventy? 27Christ our God, author of both Testaments, says in the Gospel according to John, “He who believes in me, as Scripture has said, Rivers of living water will flow from his belly.”9 Certainly, whatever is witnessed by the Savior to be written, is written. 30Where is it written? The Seventy do not have it; the Church ignores the apocrypha; thus is the turning back to the Hebrew books, from which the Lord spoke and the disciples took forth texts. In peace I will say these things of the ancients, and I respond only to my detractors, who bite me with dogs’ teeth, 33slandering me in public, speaking at corners, the same being both accusers and defenders, when approving for others what they reprove me for, as though virtue and error were not in conflict, but change with the author. I have recalled another edition of the Seventy translators corrected 36from the Greek to have been distributed by us, and me not to need to be considered their enemy, which things I always explain in the gatherings of the brothers. And what is now Dabreiamin,10 that is, Words of the Days, I have translated. I have therefore made the foreignness of the meanings clearer, and have separated lines into members, so that the inextribcable spaces and forest of names, which 39were confused through the error of the scribes, are, as Hismenius says, “themselves singing to me and mine,”11 even if the ears of others are deaf.


1 Cicero, Pro Murena 25
2 Or “from each region” e regione singula
3 That is, obeli.
4 This work is preserved among Jerome’s writings as Letter 57, To Pammachius.
5 Matthew 2.15
6 Matthew 2.23
7 John 19.37
8 1 Corinthians 2.9
9 John 7.38
10 דַּבְּרֵי־יַמִים for Masoretic/modern דִּבְרֵי־הַיַּמִים
11 cf Cicero, Brutus 187; Valerius Maximus 3.7


1Whether it may be more difficult to do or not to do what you have requested, I have not yet established. For it is also not my desire to refuse your commands, and the greatness of weight 3imposed thus press upon the neck, so that before a falling under the bundle, there might rather be a lightening of the load. The efforts of the envious agree with this, who consider all that I write rebuke, with conscience occasionally fighting against them, publicly tearing apart those things which 6they read secretly, to such a degree that I am compelled to cry out and to say: “O Lord, free my soul from crooked lips and a false tongue”1. It is the third year that you always write and write again, that I might translate the book of Ezra for you from Hebrew, as though you do not have the Greek 9and Latin scrolls, or whatever it is which is translated by us might not be something immediately spat upon by all. As a certain person says, “For to strive without effort, and not to seek anything by wearying except hatred, is extreme insanity.”2 Therefore, I implore you, my dearest Domnius and Rogatian, 12that, keeping the reading private, you will not bring the book forth into the public, nor throw food to the fastidious, and you will avoid the pride of them who know only how to judge others, and themselves know how to do nothing. And if there are any of the brothers whom we do not displease, give the text to them, 15admonishing that they transcribe the Hebrew names, of which there is a great abundance in this scroll, separately and with intermediate spaces. For it will profit nothing to correct the book, without diligence being preserved in the correction of the copiers.

18Neither should it disturb anyone that the book edited by us is one, nor should they be delighted by the dreams of the third and fourth books of the apocrypha,3 both because among the Hebrews the words of Ezra and Nehemiah are confined to one scroll, and those things which are not found among them, nor 21are of the twenty-four elders,4 are for throwing away. And if anyone sets the Seventy interpreters before you, the variety of the texts of which shows them torn and perverted, nor indeed can it be asserted truth is diverse, send him to the Gospels, in which are set down many things 24as though from the Old Testament, things which are not found among the Seventy interpreters, like this: “He will be called a Nazarene,”5 and “From Egypt I have called my son,”6 and “They will look on him whom they have pierced”7 and many other things which we are saving for a more extensive work, and ask 27of him where they might be written, and when he has not been able to reveal where, you must read from these texts which recently were edited by us, daily pierced by the tongues of the slanderous.

But so that I might come to a shortcut, certainly what I will introduce is the most reasonable. I have given, 30in what is translated by me, anything that is not found in the Greek or is found otherwise than there. Which interpreter do they mangle? They may ask the Hebrews and their authors, whether they accept or reject the faithfulness of my translation. Furthermore, it is another thing if, as is said, with eyes closed they want 33to slander me and not imitate the study and goodwill of the Greeks, who, after the Seventy translators, with the Gospel of Christ now shining, they both attentively read the Jewish and Ebionite interpreters of the Old Law, namely Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and have also dedicated them to the churches, 36through the labor of Origen in the Hexapla.8 How much more should Latins be grateful, having understood that the joy of Greece is to borrow anything from them?9 For firstly, it is of great expense and of infinite difficulty to be able to have all of the texts; 39then also, those who have them and are ignorant of the Hebrew language will err more, not knowing which ones of the many will have said the truth. Which thing also happened recently to a certain very wise man among the Greeks, so that occasionally leaving the sense of the Scriptures, the error of some particular translator 42was followed. And we, who at least have a little knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, and our Latin does not lack style in any way, are both better able than others to judge, and to express those things of them which we understand in our language. Therefore, even if a serpent hisses, 45“and the victor Sinon throws burning torches,”10 with Christ helping, my speech will never be silenced, for even my severed tongue will stutter something. Those who will, may read; those who won’t, may throw away. They may scatter the writings; they may slander the letters. Much more by your love will I be provoked toward study, rather than 48be deterred by their detraction and hatred.


1 Psalm 119.2 LXX
2 Sallust, Jugurtha 3
3 That is, 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras.
4 That is, the twenty-four canonical Old Testament books, figuratively represented by the twenty-four elders in the Apocalypse, as noted by Jerome in his Prologue to Kings, above.
5 Matthew 2.23
6 Matthew 2.15
7 John 19.37
8 Greek here: εξαπλοις
9 Very obscure clause here quod exultatem cernerent Graeciam a se aliquid mutuari.
10 Vergil, Aeneid 2.329


1Jerome 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 the 3Chaldean language 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. 6For 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 9is 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.

12I 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.



1Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found1 among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those things which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, 3it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council2 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 6curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work3 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.

9Receive the widow Judith, an example of chastity, and declare triumphal honor with perpetual praises for her. For this one has the Rewarder of her chastity given as imitable not only for women but also for men, Who granted her such strength, that she conquered 12the one unconquered by all men, she surpassed the insurpassable.


1 Or “read” legitur
2 That is, the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325. Unfortunately the Acts for this Council are lost, and we have only a list of (perhaps authentic) twenty canons promulgated by the Council, none of which actually mention the Biblical canon. Obviously, the implication here is that Jerome’s interlocutors were aware of a positive evaluation or use of Judith in the context of the Council which is since lost to us.
3 Literally, “little lamp” lucubratiunculum, an idiom connoting the amount of work possible to be done in a night by the light of a single very small oil lamp which is not refilled. That is to say Jerome did not spend very much time on this at all.


1The Book of Esther stands corrupted by various translators. Which book I, lifting up from the archives of the Hebrews, have translated more accurately word for word. The common 3edition drags the book by knotted ropes of words hither and yon, adding to it things which may have been said or heard at any time. This is as is usual with instruction in schools, when a subject has been taken up, to figure out from the words which someone may have used, which one either suffered injury, or which one 6caused injury.1

And you, O Paula and Eustochium, since you have both studied to enter the libraries of the Hebrews and also have approved of the battles of the interpreters, holding the Hebrew Book of Esther, 9look through each word of our translation, so you may be able to understand me also to have augmented nothing by adding, but rather with faithful witness simply to have translated, just as it is found in the Hebrew, the Hebrew history into the Latin language. We are not affected by the praises of men, nor 12are we afraid of (their) slanders. For to be pleasing to God we do not inwardly fear those caring for the minas of men, “for God has scattered the bones of those desiring to be pleasing to men,”2 and according to the Apostle, those like this are “not able to be servants of Christ.”3


1 Or “…who either suffered or who caused injury.” Very obscure sentence here, sicut solitum est scolaribus disciplinis sumpto themate excogitare, quibus verbis uti potuit qui iniuriam passus est vel ille qui iniuriam fecit. I formerly took this to refer to the textual mess that Jerome mentions just before, understanding him to be discussing textual criticism in schools, as we know was done in Alexandria with the Homeric epics. But several readers have convinced me to think of this as a reference to the study of the rhetoric of defense and accusation in a juridical sense, many of which cases were of course studied in a Latin reader’s education. St Jerome’s particular fondness for Cicero may be partly in view here.
2 Psalm 52.6 LXX
3 Galatians 1.10


1I am forced, through each of the books of Divine Scripture, to respond to the slander of adversaries who accuse my translation of rebuking the Seventy translators, 3as though among the Greeks Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion had not also translated either word for word, or meaning for meaning, or by mixing both together, also a kind of translation of equal proportion, and also Origen had divided all the scrolls of the Old Instrument 6with obeli and asterisks which, either added by him or taken from Theodotion, he added to the ancient translation, proving what was added to have been lacking. Therefore my detractors should learn to accept in full what they have accepted in part, or to erase 9my translation along with their asterisks. For it should not be, that those who they accepted to have omitted many things may not be acknowledged to have certainly erred in some things, especially in Job, in which if you will have removed those things which are added under the asterisks, the greater part will be cut off. And 12this is only among the Greeks. Otherwise, among the Latins, before their translation which we recently edited under asterisks and obeli, almost seven hundred or eight hundred (lines) were obliterated, so that the book, shortened and cut up and eaten away, shows its deformity publicly to readers.

15And this translation follows no translator of the ancients, but will rather convey from the language itself, Hebrew and Arabic and sometimes Syrian, now words, now meanings, now both together. For even among the Hebrews the whole book is considered oblique and slippery and what in 18Greek the rhetors call figuratively arranged,1 and while one thing is said, it does another, as if you would hold tightly an eel or a little murena fish, when you press harder, then the sooner it escapes. I remember I paid not a little money toward understanding of this scroll, for an 21instructor from Lydda who among the Hebrews was thought to have first rank, with whose teaching I know not whether I accomplished anything; this one thing I know: for me not to have been able to translate anything that I didn’t understand before.

24Therefore, from the beginning to the words of Job, among the Hebrews the speech is prose. Next, from the words of Job in which he says, “May the day perish in which I was born, and the night in which it was said: A man is conceived,”2 to that place, where it 27is written before the end of the scroll: “Therefore I accuse myself and make repentance in dust and ashes,”3 the verses are in hexameter, running in dactyl and spondee and, according to the idiom of the language, also accepting numerous other (poetic) feet not of the same (number of) syllables, but of the same intervals. Sometimes also, by breaking the law of (poetic metrical) numbers,4 the 30rhythm itself is found sweet and ringing, which is understood better by prosodists than by a simple reader.5 And from the verse mentioned above to the end of the book, the small section that remains continues with prose speech. If that seems unbelievable to anyone, 33namely that among the Hebrews there are meters, and either the Psalter or the Lamentation of Jermiah or almost all the songs of the Scriptures are to be understood in the manner of our Flaccus and the Greek Pindar and Alkaios and Sappho, let him read Philo, Josephus, Origen, and Eusebius of Caesarea, 36and by their testimony he will prove me to speak the truth.

For which reason, let my dogs therefore hear me to have labored at this scroll, not as rebuking the ancient translation, but rather so those things in it which are either obscure or missing 39or certainly corrupted by the error of scribes may be made more clear by our translation, who for our part have both learned the Hebrew language, and also in Latin, almost from our cradle we were worn out6 among grammarians and rhetors and philosophers. But if among the Greeks, after 42the edition of the Seventy, with the Gospel of Christ shining, the Jew Aquila, and Symmachus and Theodotion, judaizing heretics, are accepted, who have hidden many mysteries of the Savior by sly translation, and yet are found in the Hexapla7 among the churches and are explained 45by men of the Church, how much more should I, a Christian of Christian parents and bearing the standard of the cross on my forehead, whose study8 was to recover the missing, to correct the corrupted, and to open the sacraments of the Church with pure and faithful language, not be rejected by either disdainful or by 48malicious readers? Let whoever will to keep the old books, either written on purple skins with gold and silver, or in uncial letters, as they commonly say, more loads of writing rather than books, while they leave to me and mine to have poor little leaves and 51not such beautiful books as correct ones. Both editions, the Seventy according to the Greeks and mine according to the Hebrews, was translated into Latin by my labor. May each one choose what he will, and prove himself studious rather than malevolent.


1 Greek here: εσχηματισμενος, a term used to describe rhetorically complex figurative language.
2 Job 3.3
3 Job 42.6
4 The terms used here refer particularly to metrical poetry, with which most moderns are no longer familiar. “Hexameter” is poetry arranged in lines of twelve syllables, six short and six long in different combinations. “Dactyl” is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, and “spondee” is two long syllables. “Feet” refers to this kind of patterned pairing represented by dactyl and spondee. “Interval” refers to the difference between long and short vowels.
5 cf. Horace, Carmina, 4.2.11
6 Obscure here: detriti sumus
7 Greek here: εξαπλοις
8 Or “effort” studium


1Not long ago while located in Rome, I emended the Psalter, and had corrected it, though cursorily, for the most part according to the (version of the) Seventy interpreters. Because you see it again, O 3Paula and Eustochium, corrupted by the error of the scribes, and the more ancient error to prevail rather than the new emendation, you urge that I work the land like some kind of field already ploughed, and uproot with sideways furrows the thorns being reborn,1 saying it is proper 6that what so frequently sprouts badly is just as frequently cut down. For this reason I remind by my usual preface, both you for whom this mighty work exerts itself, and those who would have copies of such, that those things to have been diligently emended might be transcribed with care and diligence. 9Each may himself note either a horizontal line or a radiant sign, that is, either an obelus or an asterisk, and wherever he sees a preceding virgule,2 from there to the two points which we have marked in, he knows more is to be found in the (version of the) Seventy interpreters; and where 12he has looked at the image of a star,3 he will have recognized an addition from the Hebrew scrolls, likewise up to the two points,4 only according to the edition of Theodotion who did not differ from the Seventy interpreters in simplicity of speech. I, 15knowing myself to have done this for you and for each studious person, do not doubt there will be many who, either envious or arrogant, “prefer to be seen to condemn the brilliant rather than to learn,”5 and to drink from a turbulent river much rather than from an entirely pure spring.


1 This is an oblique reference to Jerome’s use of the obelus, which is a “sideways” mark: ÷
2 Virgule = obelus
3 Jerome’s asterisk mark was
4 Like our colon mark :
5 A saying of unknown origin.


1Eusebius Hieronymus to his Sophronius, health!

I know some to think the Psalter to be divided into five books, as though wherever 3among the Seventy interpreters is written γενοιτο γενοιτο, that is, “may it be, may it be,” for which in Hebrew is said “amen amen,” is the end of the books. And we, the authority of the Hebrews being followed, and especially of the Apostles, who always in the New Testament 6name the Book of Psalms,1 have asserted one volume. We also testify of all the authors who are set down in the titles of their psalms, namely of David, and of Asaph, and of Jeduthun, of the Sons of Korah, of Heman the Ezraite, of Moses, and of Solomon, and of the rest, which Ezra 9compiled into one volume. For if amen, for which Aquila translated “trustworthy,”2 is only placed at the end of books and not sometimes either at the beginning or at the end of either words or sentences, then both the Savior never said in the Gospel, “Amen, amen, I say 12to you,”3 and the letters of Paul (never) contained it in the middle of the work, also Moses, and Jeremiah, and others in this way had many books, who in the middle of their books frequently interposed amen, as also the number of twenty-two Hebrew books and the mystery 15of the same number will be changed.4 For also its Hebrew title, Sephar Thallim,5 which is interpreted “Scroll of Hymns,” agreeing with the Apostolic authority, shows not many books, but one scroll.

18Therefore, because recently, when disputing with a Hebrew, you produced certain testimonies about the Lord Savior from the Psalms, and he, wishing to outmaneuver you,6 asserted throughout nearly every one of the words that it is not found thus in Hebrew, so that you were opposed to the Seventy interpreters, 21you most zealously demanded that, after Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, I translated a new edition in the Latin language. For you said yourself to be greatly confused by the variety of interpreters, and that you are inclined by love7 to be content with either my translation or my judgment. For this reason, 24having been compelled by you, to whom I am unable to deny even those things I cannot do, I again handed myself over to the barkings of detractors, and I preferred you to question my strengths rather than my willingness in friendship. Certainly I will speak confidently and I will cite many witnesses of this work, 27knowing myself in this matter to have changed nothing of the truth of the Hebrew. Therefore, wherever my edition has differed from the old ones, ask any of the Hebrews, and you will clearly see me to be torn in pieces by those striving after error, who “prefer to be seen to condemn the brilliant rather than to learn,”8 most perverse men. For 30when they always desire new delicacies, and their gullets, like the seas, do not suffice, why in only study of the Scriptures are they content with an old flavor? I do not say this so that I might bite my predecessors, nor have I considered slandering any translation of those 33which I very diligently corrected, (and) formerly gave to men of my language; but that it is one thing to read the Psalms in the churches of those believing in Christ, another thing to answer the Jews who accuse every word.

36But if, as you proffer, you will have translated my little work into Greek, Opposing the Ridiculers,9 and you will have made the most learned men witnesses to my ignorance, I will say to you that (saying) of Horace, “You do not carry wood into a forest.”10 Except that I have this solace, 39if in the common work I know both praise and slander to be common to me and you.

I desire you to be well in the Lord Jesus, and to remember me.


1 see Luke 20.42; Acts 1.20
2 Greek here: πεπιστωμενος
3 John 1.51, etc.
4 See the discussion of the number of Hebrew books of the Old Testament in the Prologue to Kings.
5 Nowadays pointed סֶפֶר תְּהִלְלִים.
6 Or “avoid” eludere
7 Or “by the love you bear” amore quo laberis
8 A saying of unknown origin.
9 Greek title here: αντιφιλονεικων τοις διασυρουσιν
10 Horace, Satires, 1.10.34


1Jerome to Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus.

May the letter join those joined in priesthood. Indeed, a sheet may not divide those who 3the love of Christ has connected. You request commentaries on Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, and Malachi. I wrote, even if it cost through ill-health. You have sent the solace of expenses, by our scribes and copyists having been sustained, so that our genius exerts itself most strongly for you. 6And behold, from every side a diverse crowd of those demanding, as though it is equal for me either to work for you with others hungering, or I might be subject to anyone besides you in matters of giving and receiving. And so, with a long sickness broken, I have not kept inwardly silent this year and 9been mute with you. I have dedicated to your names the work of three days, namely the translation of the three scrolls of Solomon: Masloth,1 which are Parables in Hebrew, called in the common edition Proverbs; Coeleth,2 which in Greek is Ecclesiastes, in Latin we could say Preacher; 12(and) Sirassirim,3 which is translated into our language Song of Songs.

Also included is the book of the model of virtue4 Jesus son of Sirach, and another falsely ascribed work5 which is titled Wisdom of Solomon. The former of these I have also found in Hebrew, titled not Ecclesiasticus as 15among the Latins, but Parables, to which were joined Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, as though it made of equal worth the likeness not only of the number of the books of Solomon, but also the kind of subjects. The second was never among the Hebrews, the very style of which 18is redolent of Greek speech. And several of the ancient scribes affirm this one is of Philo Judaeus. Therefore, just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening 21of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.

If anyone is truly more pleased by the edition of the Seventy interpreters, he has it already corrected by us. For it is not as though we build the new so that we destroy the old. And yet, when one 24will have read most carefully, he will know our things to be better understood, which haven’t soured by having been poured into a third vessel, but have rather preserved their flavor by having been entrusted to a new container immediately from the press.6


1מַשְׁלוֹת, nowadays מִשְׁלֵי or מַשׁלֵי
2 קוֹהֶלֶת
3 שִׁיר־השִּׁירִים
4 Greek here: παναρετος
5 Greek here: ψευδεπιγραφος
6 By this imagery, Jerome indicates his direct translation from the Hebrew into Latin, not Hebrew to Greek to Latin, as it would be had he been translating from the Septuagint or other Greek versions.


1No one, when he will have seen the Prophets to be written in verses, would think them to be bound in meter among the Hebrews, and to have anything in common with the Psalms or the works 3of Solomon. But what is customary to be used in Demosthenes and Cicero, as they are written in words with divisions,1 who certainly wrote prose and not in verses, we also, providing ease of reading, have divided a new translation with a new kind of writing. 6And first, knowing of Isaiah what is presented in his language, certainly as a man noble and of urbane elegance he does not have anything of rusticity mixed into (his) language. For this reason it happens that in comparison with others the translation was not able to preserve the flower of his language. 9And then adding this, that it is being spoken not only by a prophet, but by an evangelist. For thus all the mysteries of Christ and the Church are pursued to clarity, so that you would not think them to be prophesied of the future, but they covered the history of things past. For this reason I suppose 12the Seventy interpreters to have been unwilling at that time to set forth clearly for the gentiles the sacraments of their faith, not throwing holy things to dogs or pearls to swine,2 which things, when you will have read this edition, you will note were hidden by them.

15Nor am I unaware of how much work it is to understand the Prophets, or for anyone not to be easily able to judge from the translation, unless he will have before understood those things which he will have read, and we to suffer from the bites of many, who, being goaded by jealousy, what they are not able to follow, they despise. Therefore, knowing 18and being wise, I place my hand in the fire, and nevertheless I pray this for the scornful readers: that just as the Greeks after the Seventy translators read Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion, either for study of their doctrines or so that they better understand the Seventy through their 21collation, that these are deemed worthy to have at least one translator after the earlier ones. Reading first and afterward despising, they are seen not to condemn by judgment, but rather by the ignorant presumption of hatred.

24And Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem and Judea when the ten tribes had not yet been led into captivity, and the oracle covered both kingdoms, now together, now separately. And while he sometimes looks at present history, and indicated the return of the people to Judea 27after the Babylonian captivity, yet is all his concern for the calling of the nations and for the coming of Christ. Who, how much the more you love, O Paula and Eustochium, the more strive for him, so that for the present disparagement, by which the envious incessantly tear me into pieces, 30the same One may restore a reward to me in the future, Who knows me to have exerted myself in the learning of foreign languages for this: so the Jews might not jump all day on the errors of the Scriptures in His Church.


1 ut per cola scribantur et commata in which per cola et commata refers to the writing out of the passages not only with spaces between the words, but in sense units, breaking verses down into separate lines determined by such. This was particularly to aid reading comprehension in difficult works, like those of Cicero and Demosthenes. It essentially describes the way the poetic passages are printed in Bibles to this day.
2 Matthew 7.6


1The Prophet Jeremiah, for whom this prologue is written, was seen among the Hebrews to be certainly more rustic in language than Isaiah and Hosea and certain other prophets, 3but equal in meanings, which the same Spirit obviously prophesied. Furthermore, his simplicity of speech happened from the place in which he was born. For he was from Anathoth, which is up to today a village three miles distant from Jerusalem, a priest from 6priests and sanctified in his mother’s womb, dedicating with her virginity a man of the Gospel to the Church of Christ.1 This boy began to prophesy the captivity of the city and Judea both not only by the Spirit, but also saw it with eyes of flesh. The Assyrians had already transferred the ten tribes of Israel 9among the Medes, and now colonies of the nations had taken possession of their lands. For this reason he prophesied only in Judah and Benjamin, and he lamented the ruins of his city in a fourfold alphabet,2 which we have presented in the measure of the meter and in verses. Besides this, the order of visions, 12which is entirely confused among the Greeks and Latins,3 we have corrected to the original truth. And the Book of Baruch, his scribe, which is neither read nor found among the Hebrews, we have omitted, standing ready, because of these things, for all the curses from the envious, to whom it is necessary for me 15to respond through a separate short work. And I suffer this because you request it. Otherwise, for the benefit of the wicked, it was more proper to set a limit for their rage by my silence, rather than any new things written to provoke daily the insanity of the jealous.


1 While this sounds unusual, it was common in the Patristic period to refer to the Old Testament Israel as the Church, with the Lord of the Old Testament identified with the Lord in the New, Jesus Christ. The reference to the Gospel is related to the number of prophecies in Jeremiah which were considered pointing toward Christ.
2 This refers to the alphabetic acrostics found in the first four chapters of Lamentations, traditionally ascribed, as here, to Jeremiah.
3 The Greek and Old Latin translations of Jeremiah differ in being somewhat shorter than the Masoretic Text, but being much differently arranged. While Jerome seems to have considered this an effect of textual corruption, perfectly understandably, it is in fact due to a difference in the underlying Hebrew text used for the LXX translation, from which in turn the Old Latin was translated. The confirmation for the existence of this alternate edition of Jeremiah in Hebrew is from the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QJerb, d. It likely represents an earlier arrangement of the chapters than the Masoretic Text.


1The Prophet Ezekiel was led captive with Joachim1 king of Judah to Babylon, and he prophesied there to those who were captives with him, to those repenting that 3they had willingly handed over the prophecy of Jeremiah to enemies, and yet saw the city Jerusalem to stand, which he had predicted would fall. And in his thirtieth year of age, and in the fifth year of the captivity, he began to speak to his fellow captives. And 6at the same time, though later, this one in Chaldea and Jeremiah in Judea prophesied. His style is neither greatly eloquent nor excessively rustic, but properly proportioned between both. And he was a priest, as also was Jeremiah, the beginning and ending of the book 9being wrapped in great obscurities. But also the common edition of him does not differ much from the Hebrew one. Because of that I greatly wonder what was the cause, that when we have the same translators in all the books, in some they translated the same things, in others, different things. Therefore, read this also according to 12our translation because, by being written in words with spaces, it gives a clearer meaning to readers. And if my friends also mock this, say to them that no one restrains them from writing. But I do not respect him who follows them, which is more clearly said in Greek, 15as they are called insult-swallowers.2


1 sic. Codex Amiatinus reads ioachin. The mistake is still common.
2 Greek here: φαγολοιδοροι


1The 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. 3For 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 6know 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 also Ezra were written in Hebrew letters but the Chaldean 9language, and one pericope of Jeremiah, and also Job to have much in common with the Arabic language.

When I was a very young man, after the reading and flowery rhetoric of Quintilian and Cicero, 12when I had opened myself to the drudgery of this language and with much effort and much time I with difficulty had begun to pronounce the breathy and buzzing words, as though walking in a crypt to see a little light from above, I finally dashed myself against Daniel, and I was affected by such weariness 15that, sunken in desperation, I wanted to despise all (my) old work. Indeed, a Hebrew was encouraging me, and he was often repeating to me by his language “Persistent work conquers all,”1 as in me I saw an amateur among them, I began again to be a student of Chaldean. 18And so I might confess the truth, to the present day I am better able to read and understand than to pronounce the Chaldean language.

Therefore, I have shown these things to you as a difficulty of Daniel, which among the Hebrews has neither 21the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three young men, nor the fables of Bel and the dragon, which we, because they are spread throughout the whole world, have appended by banishing and placing them after the skewer,2 so we will not be seen among the unlearned to have cut off a large part of the scroll. I heard 24a certain one of the teachers of the Jews, when he derided the history of Susanna and said it to have been forged by an unknown Greek, to propose that which Africanus also proposed to Origen, these etymologies3 to come down from 27the Greek language: “to split” from “mastich” and “to saw” from “oak.”4 On which subject we are able to give this understanding to those of our own language, as we might, for example say it to have said of the oak tree,5 “you will perish there”6 or of the mastic tree,7 “May the angel crush you like a lentil bean”8 or “You will not perish slowly”9 or “Pliant,10 that is, flexible, you are led 30to death” or anything which fits the name of the tree. Then he jested for there to have been so much leisure time for the three young men, that in the furnace of raging fires they played with (poetic) meter, and called in order all the elements to the praise of God.11 Or what miracle and indication 33of Divine inspiration is it, either a dragon having been killed by a lump of tar or the tricks of the priests of Bel having been discovered,12 which things are better accomplished by the wisdom of a clever man rather than by the prophetic Spirit? When indeed he came to Habakkuk13 and had read him having been carried off from Judea to Chaldea 36carrying a dish, he requested an example where we might have read in all the Old Testament any one of the saints to have flown with a heavy body and in a short time to have passed over so great a space of lands. To which, when one of us rather a little too quick to speaking 39had brought Ezekiel14 into the discussion15 and said him to have been moved from Chaldea to Judea, he derided the man and from the same scroll proved Ezekiel to have seen himself moved in the Spirit. Finally also our Apostle, namely as an erudite man and one who had learned the Law 42from the Hebrews, was also not daring to affirm himself taken away in the body, but had said “Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows.”16 By these and arguments of such kinds he exposed17 (or “accused”) the apocryphal fables in the book of the Church.

45Concerning which subject, leaving the judgment to the decision of the reader, I warn him Daniel is not to be found in the Prophets among the Hebrews, but among those which they titled the Hagiographa. Since indeed all of Scripture is divided by them into three parts, into the Law, into the Prophets, and into 48the Hagiographa, that is, into five and eight and eleven books, which is not necessary to explain at this time. And to those things of this prophet, or rather against this book, which Porphyry accused, the witnesses are Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris, who, responding to his madness with many thousands of verses, 51I do not know whether they are satisfying to the interested reader. For which reason I entreat you, O Paula and Eustochium, pour out prayers for me to the Lord, so that as long as I am in this little body, I might write something pleasing to you, useful to the Church, and worthy to posterity. 54I am indeed not greatly moved by the judgments of the present, which on either side are in error either by love or by hate.


1 Vergil, Georgics 1.146
2 Skewer = obelus
3 Greek here: ετυμολογιας.
4 Greek here: απο του σχινου σχισαι και απο του πρινου πρισαι. See Daniel 13.54-59.
5 ilice
6 illico
7 lentisco
8 lentem
9 lente
10 lentus
11 Daniel 3.51-90
12 Daniel 14.26; 14.1-21
13 Daniel 14.32-38
14 Ezekiel 8.3
15 Literally “middle” medium
16 2 Corinthians 12.2
17 Or “accused” arguebat


1The order of the Twelve Prophets is not the same among the Hebrews as it is among us.1 For which reason, according to how it is read there, they are also arranged here. Hosea 3is 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 6of 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 contemporary2 of Isaiah; and Malachi in fact to have been of the times of Haggai and Zechariah. And those in which the time is not set down in the title, 9under those kings which they were to have prophesied under, they also prophesied after those which have titles.


1 The order of these books in the LXX and Old Latin is: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. See my page on the Dates of the Twelve Minor Prophets.
2 Greek here: συνχρονος


1To the blessed Pope Damasus, from Jerome,

You urge me to make a new work from the old, and that I might sit as a kind of judge over the versions of Scripture 3dispersed throughout the whole world, and that I might resolve which among such vary, and which of these they may be which truly agree with the Greek. Pious work, yet perilous presumption, 6to change the old and aging language of the world , to carry it back to infancy, for to judge others is to invite judging by all of them. Is there indeed any learned or unlearned man, who when he will have picked up the scroll in his hand, and taken a single taste of it, and seen what he will have read to differ, might not instantly raise his voice, 9calling me a forger, proclaiming me to be a sacrilegious man, that I might dare to add, to change, or to correct anything in the old books? Against such infamy I am consoled by two causes: that it is you, who are the highest priest, who so orders, and truth is not to be what might vary, as even now I am vindicated by 12the witness of slanderers. If indeed faith is administered by the Latin version, they might respond by which, for they are nearly as many as the books! If, however, truth is to be a seeking among many, why do we not now return to the Greek originals to correct those mistakes which either through faulty translators were set forth, 15or through confident but unskilled were wrongly revised, or through sleeping scribes either were added or were changed? Certainly, I do not discuss the Old Testament, which came from the Seventy Elders in the Greek language, changing in three steps until 18it arrived with us.1 Nor do I seek what Aquila, or what Symmachus may think, or why Theodotion may walk the middle of the road between old and new. This may be the true translation which the Apostles have approved. I now speak of the New Testament, which is undoubtedly Greek, except 21the Apostle Matthew, who had first set forth the Gospel of Christ in Hebrew letters in Judea. This (Testament) certainly differs in our language, and is led in the way of different streams; it is necessary to seek the single fountainhead. I pass over those books which are called by the name of Lucian and Hesychius, 24for which a few men wrongly claim authority, who anyway were not allowed to revise either in the Old Instrument after the Seventy Translators, or to pour out revisions in the New; with the Scriptures previously translated into the languages of many nations, 27the additions may now be shown to be false.

Therefore, this present little preface promises only the four Gospels, the order of which is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, revised 30in comparison with only old Greek books. They do not disagree with many familiar Latin readings, as we have kept our pen in control, but only those in which the sense will have been seen to have changed (from the Greek) are corrected; the rest remain as they have been.

33We have also copied the lists which Eusebius the bishop of Caesarea, following Ammonius of Alexandria, set out in ten numbers, as they are had in the Greek, so that if any may then wish through diligence to make known what in the Gospels may be either the same, or similar, or singular, 36he may learn their differences. This is great, since indeed error has sunk into our books; while concerning the same thing, one Evangelist has said more, into another they have added because they thought it inferior; or while another has differently expressed the same sense, whichever one of the four he had 39read first, he will revise the other to the version he values most. Whence it happened how in our time that all have been mixed; in Mark are many things of Luke, and even of Matthew; turned backwards in Matthew are many things of John and of Mark, yet in the remaining others, they are found to be correct. 42When, therefore, you will have read the lists which are attached below, the confusion of errors is removed, and you will know all the similar passages, and the singular ones, wherever you may turn to. In the first list, the four agree, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; in the second, three, Matthew, Mark, Luke; in the third, 45three, Matthew, Luke, John; in the fourth, three, Matthew, Mark, John; in the fifth, two, Matthew, Luke; in the sixth, two, Matthew, Mark; in the seventh, two, Matthew, John; in the eighth, two, Luke, Mark; in the ninth, two, Luke, John; in the tenth 48some peculiar ones are given which the others don’t have. Separately in the Gospels are numbered sections of unequal length, beginning with one and increasing to the end of the books. This is written before the passage in black, and it has under it a red number, which shows to which of the ten (lists) to 51proceed, with the first number to be sought in the list. Therefore, when the book is open, for example, if you will wish to know of this or that chapter in which list they may be, you will immediately be shown by the lower number. Returning to the beginning (of the book) in which the different lists are brought together, 54and immediately finding the same lists by the title in front, by that same number which you had sought in the Evangelist, which you will find marked in the inscription, you may also view other similar passages, the numbers of which you may note there. And when you know them, 57you will return to the single volumes, and immediately finding the number which you will have noted before, you will learn the places in which either the same things or similar things were said.

I wish that in Christ you may be well, and that you will remember me, most blessed Pope.


1 That is Hebrew to Greek to Latin.

(The following prologue to the translation of the letters of Paul is not by Jerome, but by an unknown other, as is the translation of the letters themselves.)


1First is asked, for what reason after the Gospels, which are a supplement of the Law and in which are collected for us examples and precepts of living abundantly, 3the Apostle wanted to send these letters to individual churches. And it was seen to have been for this reason, that, as is known, he strengthened the firstborn of the Church from new arising heresies, so that he cut off present and arising errors and also afterward excluded future 6questions by the example of the Prophets, who after the publishing of the Law of Moses, in which were collected all the commandments of God, nevertheless still by its revived teaching the people always restrained their sins, and because of the example in the books they indeed also left a memorial for us.

9Then is asked, for what reason did he not write more than ten letters to churches. For there are ten with that one which is called “To the Hebrews,” for the remaining four are directed particularly to disciples. So that he showed the New not to differ from the Old Testament, and himself 12not to do anything against the Law of Moses, he arranged his letters according to the number of the first Ten Words1 of the commandments, as many precepts as that one ordered those freed from Pharaoh, the same number this one taught those purchased from servitude of the devil and idolatry. 15And also the most learned men have handed down the tradition of2 the two stone tablets to have been a figure of the two Testaments.

Truly, some have contended the letter which is written to the Hebrews not to be of Paul because it is not titled with his name, and because of the distance of language and style, but rather either 18of Barnabas according to Tertullian, or of Luke according to some others, or in fact of Clement the disciple of the Apostles and ordained Bishop of the Roman Church after the apostles. To which one should respond: if, accordingly, it cannot be of Paul because it does not have his name, therefore it cannot be of anyone 21because it is titled with no name. But if that is absurd, it is better to be believing it of him who shines with such eloquence of his teaching. But because among the churches of the Hebrews he was considered, with a false suspicion, as a destroyer of the Law, he was willing, with name unspoken, to render account of the figures 24of the Law and the truth of Christ, so hatred of his boldly displayed name would not exclude the usefulness of the reading. It is truly not a wonder, if he is seen more eloquent in his own language, that is in Hebrew, rather than in a foreign one, that is in Greek, in which language the other letters are written.

27It certainly disturbs some that for some reason the letter to the Romans is placed first, when reason reveals it not written first. For this is shown by him to have written while travelling to Jerusalem,3 when he was exhorting the Corinthians and others before now by letters, as they collected the ministry which 30was carried with him.4 For which reason some want all the epistles to be understood arranged thus: that the first is set down which was sent later, and that through each letter by steps he came to the more perfect. For the majority of the Romans 33were so ignorant, that they did not understand themselves to be saved by the grace of God and not by their merits, and on account of this duo, the people struggled among themselves. Therefore, he asserted them to need to be strengthened,5 recalling the former vices of the gentiles.6 And now he says the gift of knowledge 36to be granted to the Corinthians,7 for he does not so much rebuke all, as he censures how they did not rebuke the sinners, as he says, “It is heard that there is fornication among you,”8 and again, “You are gathered together with my spirit to deliver such a one to Satan.”9 In the second letter they are truly praised and 39are admonished to advance more and more. Now the Galatians are accused of no other crimes except they had most fervently believed in false apostles. The Ephesians are truly worthy of no rebuke but much praise, because they kept the Apostolic Faith. And the Philippians are much more greatly 42praised, who were not willing even to hear false apostles. And the Colossians were of such a kind that, when they had not been bodily seen by the Apostle, they were considered worthy of this praise: “And if in the body I am absent, I am with you in the Spirit, rejoicing and seeing 45your order.”10 The Thessalonians were yet honored in two letters with all praise, to the extent that not only did they keep the unshaken faith of the Truth, but were indeed found standing together in the persecution of members. Truly something must be said of the Hebrews, of whom 48the Thessalonians, who are so highly praised, are said to have been imitators, as he says: “And you, brothers, have become imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea, for you have also suffered the same from your own countrymen as they have from the Judeans.”11 Among them he also recalls the same Hebrews, 51saying, “For you both had compassion for the prisoners and you also received with joy the plundering of your goods, knowing yourselves to have a greater and lasting substance.”12


1 decalogi
2 tradiderit
3 Romans 15.25
4 2 Corinthians 9.1, 12
5 Romans 1.11
6 gentilitatis
7 1 Corinthians 1.5
8 1 Corinthians 5.1
9 see 1 Corinthians 5.4-5
10 Colossians 2.5
11 1 Thessalonians 2.14
12 Hebrews 10.34