St. Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus), c.347-420, was a Father of the Church and Doctor of the Church, whose great work was the translation of the Bible into Latin, the edition known as the Vulgate. He was born at Stridon on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia (roughly modern Slovenia & Croatia) of a well-to-do Catholic family. His parents sent him to Rome to further his intellectual interests, and there he acquired a knowledge of classical literature and was baptized at the age of 19. Shortly thereafter he journeyed to Trier in Gaul and to Aquileia in Italy, where he began to cultivate his theological interests in company with others who, like himself, were ascetically inclined.
In about 373, Jerome set out on a pilgrimage to the East. In Antioch, where he was warmly received, he continued to pursue his humanist and monastic studies. He also had a profound spiritual experience, dreaming that he was accused by Christ of being “a Ciceronian, not a Christian.” Accordingly, he determined to devote himself exclusively to the Bible and theology, although the translator Rufinus (345-410), Jerome’s close friend, suggested later that the vow was not strictly kept. Jerome moved to the desert of Chalcis, and while practicing more rigorous austerities, pursued his studies, including the learning of Hebrew. On his return to Antioch in 378 he heard Apollinaris the Younger (c.310-c.390) lecture and was admitted to the priesthood (379) by Paulinus, bishop of Antioch. In Constantinople, where he spent three years around 380, he was influenced by Gregory of Nazianzus.
When Jerome returned to Rome Pope Damasus I appointed him confidential secretary and librarian and commissioned him to begin his work of rendering the Bible into Latin. After the death (384) of Damasus, however, Jerome fell out of favor, and for a second time he decided to go to the East. He made brief visits to Antioch, Egypt, and Palestine. In 386, Jerome settled at Bethlehem in a monastery established for him by Paula, one of a group of wealthy Roman women whose spiritual advisor he had been and who remained his lifelong friend. There he began his most productive literary period, and there he remained for 34 years, until his death. From this period come his major biblical commentaries and the bulk of his work on the Latin Bible.
The writings of Jerome express a scholarship unsurpassed in the early church and helped to create the cultural tradition of the Middle Ages. He developed the use of philological and geographical material in his exegesis and recognized the scientific importance of archaeology. In his interpretation of the Bible he used both the allegorical method of the Alexandrian and the realism of the Antiochene schools. An often difficult, empassioned and hot-tempered man, Jerome made many enemies, but his correspondence with friends and enemies alike is of great interest, particularly that with Saint Augustine.
His greatest gifts were in scholarship, and he is a true founder of scientific biblical exegesis in the West. Jerome’s greatest single accomplishment was the Vulgate. The chaos of the older Latin translation was notorious. Working from the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT, Jerome, after twenty-three years of labor, gave Latin Christianity its Bible anew. Its supremacy was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in 1546, and it remains to this day the classical Latin Bible. He is the patron Saint of Librarians, Libraries, Archeologists, Archivists, Bible Scholars, Schoolchildren, Students Translators, and the city of Quebec, Canada.