September 30, 2008

Jerome

September 30 is the remembrance of Jerome. I choose to remember his story because it's a reminder of the history of the Bible. Sometimes I think we think (actually, without thinking) the Bible has been around forever, and too, in people's hands. Yes, currently it's in about everyone's home and can be found almost anywhere. We take it for granted. In fact many of us probably have many copies and in many translations.

BUT, for thousands of years the Old and then the New Testament were oral tradition in churches and gatherings. The common populace could never own scripture, let alone read it for themselves till still a period of time after the printing press. For those thousands of years it had to be handwritten and not on today's abundant paper.

Grouping of texts were coveted and guarded. Some monasteries built up around one such text. But a whole canon of what we today know as The Bible didn't begin to come together until around AD400. And then not to the common people. The Hebrew canon was finally established about 100AD. The New Testament began first around the texts written or authorized by an apostle of Jesus. Initially what was used in churches was oral readings for edification of the body.

Jerome had devoted the bulk of his life preserving and caring for early church documents. Jerome was a master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic. In 383 Pope Damascus I commissioned Jerome, his secretary, to make a good, complete Latin translation of the Bible. It is called the Vulgate, meaning "common" or "popular". It took him 21 years to complete.

Jerome wrote many commentaries on books of the Bible and was doing the commentary on Ezekiel when Rome was being ransacked and fell, and likened the book to what was then happening. He lived his last years from 386 to 420 in Bethlehem, living as a monk and finishing the Bible translation.


There's so much history in connection to the Bible and it is fascinating. Throughout church history there are many people, who being able to read scripture, would tell the church leadership a thing or two!... And too, when the Muslim peoples started pushing on all the borders of Europe and Constantinople fell, Europe had not had any original language documents, and with the refugees came a lot of original manuscripts and art and all. Which began both the Renaissance and Reformation (both the arts and spiritual attraction to what had not been seen in Europe since the barbarians' destruction). And that starts a whole new era that we're just now maybe attempting to alter into a new era (like every 500 years a transformation of the church)?!


Jerome was noted as a cantankerous, codgy, feisty character, so I wonder about the spirit of his translation! But it was the only one for a thousand plus years and it did spread the Gospel through the known world.
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