Among the best accounts of St. Jerome are: Saint Jérôme, la Société chrétienne à Rome et l᾿emigration romaine en Terre Sainte , par M. Amédée Thierry (Paris, 1867), and Hieronymus sein Leben und Werken von Dr. Otto Zöckler (Gotha, 1865); the former gives a vivid, artistic, and, on the whole, accurate picture of his life, with large extracts in the original from his writings, the latter a critical and comprehensive view of both. These contain all that is best in previous biographers, such as the Benedictine Martianay (Paris, 1706), Sebastian Dolci (Ancona, 1750), Engelstoft (Copenhagen, 1797); to which may be added notices of Jerome in the Acta Sanctorum, Biblia Sacra , Du Pin's and Ceillier's Histories of Ecclesiastical Writers , the excellent article in the D. of G. and R. Biogr. , the Life of Jerome prefixed to Vallarsi's ed. of his works, which has a singular value from its succinct narrative and careful investigation of dates.
He was born c. 346 at Stridon, a town near Aquileia, of Catholic Christian parents (Pref. to Job ), who, according to the custom then common, did not have him baptized in infancy. They were not very wealthy, but possessed houses (Ep. lxvi. 4) and slaves ( cont. Ruf. i. c. 30), and lived in close intimacy with the richer family of Bonosus, Jerome's foster-brother ( Ep. iii. 5). They were living in 373, when Jerome first went to the East (xxii. 30), but, since he never mentions them later, they probably died in the Gothic invasion (377) when Stridon was destroyed. He had a brother Paulinian, some 20 years younger (lxxxii. 8), who from 385 lived constantly with him. He was brought up in comfort, if not in luxury (xxii. 30) and received a good education. He was in a grammar school, probably at Rome, and about 17 years old, when the death of the emperor Julian (363) was announced ( Comm. on Habakkuk , i. 10). Certainly it was not much later than this that he was sent with his friend Bonosus to complete his education at Rome, and they probably lived together there. The chief study of those days was rhetoric, to which Jerome applied himself diligently, attending the law courts and hearing the best pleaders (Comm. on Gal. ii. 13). Early in his stay at Rome he lived irregularly and fell into sin ( Ep. vi. 4, xiv. 6, xlviii. 20). But he was drawn back, and finally cast in his lot with the Christian church. He describes how on Sundays he used to visit, with other young men of like age and mind, the tombs of the martyrs in the Catacombs ( Comm. in. Ezek. c. 40, p. 468); and this indicates a serious bent, which culminated in his baptism at Rome while Liberius was pope, i.e. before 366. While there, he acquired a considerable library ( Ep. xxii. 30) which he afterwards carried wherever he went. On the termination of his studies in Rome he determined to go with Bonosus into Gaul, for what purpose is unknown. They probably first returned home and lived together for a time in Aquileia, or some other town in N. Italy. Certainly they at this time made the acquaintance of Rufinus (iii. 3) and that friendship began between him and Jerome which afterwards turned out so disastrously to both (see Augustine to Jerome, Ep. cx.). Hearing that they were going into Gaul, the country of Hilary, Rufinus begged Jerome to copy for him Hilary's commentary on the Psalms and his book upon the Councils ( Ep. v. 2); and this may have fostered Jerome's tendency towards ecclesiastical literature, which was henceforward the main pursuit of his life. This vocation declared itself during his stay in Gaul. He went with his friend to several parts of Gaul, staying longest at Trèves, then the seat of government. But his mind was occupied with scriptural studies, and he made his first attempt at a commentary. It was on the prophet Obadiah, which he interpreted mystically (pref. to Comm. on Obadiah ).
The friends returned to Italy. Eusebius, bp. of Vercellae, had a few years before returned from banishment in the East, bringing with him Evagrius, a presbyter (afterwards bp.) of Antioch, who during his stay in Italy had played a considerable part in church affairs (Ep. i. 15). He seems to have had a great influence over Jerome at this time; and either with him or about the same time he settled at Aquileia, and from 370 to 373 the chief scene of interest lies there, where a company of young men devoted themselves to sacred studies and the ascetic life. It included the presbyter Chromatius (afterwards bp. of Aquileia), his brother Eusebius, with Jovinus the archdeacon; Rufinus, Bonosus, Heliodorus (afterwards bp. of Altinum), the monk Chrysogonus, the subdeacon Niceas, and Hylas the freedman of the wealthy Roman lady Melania; all of whom are met with later in Jerome's history. They were knit together by close friendship and common pursuits; and the presence of Evagrius, who knew the holy places and hermitages of the East, gave a special direction to their ascetic tendencies. For a time all went well. The baptism of Rufinus took place now (Ruf. Apol. i. 4). It was Jerome's fortune to become, wherever he lived, the object of great affection, and also of great animosity. Whatever was the cause ( Ep. iii. 3), the society at Aquileia suddenly dispersed.
The friends went (probably early in 373) in different directions. Bonosus retired to an island in the Adriatic and lived as a hermit (vii. 3). Rufinus went to the East in the train of Melania. Jerome, with Heliodorus, Innocentius, and Hylas, accompanied Evagrius to Palestine. Leaving his parents, sister, relations and home comforts (xxii. 30), but taking his library, he travelled through Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, Galatia, Cappadocia and Cilicia, to Antioch. The journey was exhausting, and Jerome had a long period of ill-health, culminating in a fever. Innocentius and Hylas died from the same fever. Heliodorus went to Jerusalem. During his illness (ib. ) Jerome had his bent towards scriptural studies and asceticism confirmed. While his friends stood by his bed expecting his death, he felt himself, in a trance, carried before the throne of God, and condemned as being no Christian but a Ciceronian, who preferred worldly literature to Christ. From this time, though he continued to quote the classics profusely, his literary interest was wholly with the Bible and church writings. It seems likely that, as soon as his health was restored, he determined to embrace the solitary life. He wrote to Theodosius (ii.), who was apparently a kind of chief of the hermits in the desert of Chalcis, asking to be received among them, and thither he proceeded about the autumn of 374.
He was now about 28 years old. The desert of Chalcis, where he lived for 4 or 5 years (374–379), was in the country of the Saracens, in the E. of Syria (v.). It was peopled by hermits, who lived mainly in solitude, but had frequent intercourse among themselves and a little with the world. They lived under some kind of discipline, with a ruling presbyter named Marcus (xvii.). Jerome lived in a cell, and gained his own living (xvii. 3); probably, according to the recommendation he gives later to Rusticus (cxxv.), cultivating a garden, and making baskets of rushes, or, more congenially, copying books. He describes his life in writing to Eustochium (xxii. 7), 9 or 10 years later, as one of spiritual struggles. "I sat alone; I was filled with bitterness: my limbs were uncomely and rough with sackcloth, and my squalid skin became as black as an Ethiopian's. Every day I was in tears and groans; and if ever the sleep which hung upon my eyelids overcame my resistance, I knocked against the ground my bare bones, which scarce clung together. I say nothing of my meat and drink, since the monks even when sick use cold water, and it is thought a luxury if they ever partake of cooked food. Through fear of hell, I had condemned myself to prison; I had scorpions and wild beasts for my only companions." His literary talent was by no means idle during this period. He wrote letters to his friends in Italy, to Florentius at Jerusalem (v.–xvii.), and to Heliodorus (xiv.) on the Praises of the Desert, chiding him for not having embraced the perfect life of solitude. A Jew who had become a Christian was his instructor in Hebrew (xviii. 10), and Jerome obtained from one of the sect of the Nazarenes at Beroea the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which he copied, and afterwards translated into Greek and Latin (de Vir. Ill. 2, 3). He was frequently visited by Evagrius ( Ep. vii. 1), who also acted as the intermediary of his communication with his friends in Aquileia, and later with Damasus at Rome (xv. 5). But again, owing chiefly to his vehement feelings and expressions, he made enemies. He was driven away by the ill-will of his brother-monks. At first, as we see from his letter to Heliodorus, he was satisfied with his condition; but his last years in the desert were embittered by theological strife, relating to the conflicts in the church at Antioch, from which he was glad to escape. The see of Antioch was claimed by three bishops, Vitalis the Arian, Meletius, acknowledged by Basil and the orthodox bishops of the East (Basil, Ep. 156, to Evagrius), and Paulinus, supported by pope Damasus and the stronger anti-Arian party of Rome. Between Meletius and Paulinus the dispute was mainly verbal, but none the less bitter. Jerome complains that the Meletians, not content with his holding the truth, treated him as a heretic if he did not do so in their words ( Ep. xv. 3). He appealed to Damasus, strongly protesting his submission to Rome (xv. xvi.). Finding his position more and more difficult, he wrote to Marcus, the chief presbyter of the monks of Chalcis (xvii.), in the winter of 378, professing his soundness in the faith, declaring that he was ready, but for illness, to depart, and begging the hospitality of the desert till the winter was past. Proceeding in the spring of 379 to Antioch, he stayed there till 380, uniting himself to the party of Paulinus, and and by him was ordained presbyter against his will. He never celebrated the Eucharist or officiated as presbyter, as appears from many passages in his works. There are extant no letters and only one work of this period, the dialogue of an orthodox man with a Luciferian. Lucifer of Cagliari having taken part in the appointment of Paulinus, a corrective was needed for the more extreme among the Western party at Antioch; and this was given in Jerome's dialogue, which is clear, moderate, and free from the violence of his later controversial works. It exhibits a considerable knowledge of church history, and contains the account of the council of Ariminum, with the famous words (c. 19): "Ingemuit totus orbis et Arianum se esse miratus est." In 380 Jerome went to Constantinople until the end of 381. He sought the instruction of Gregory Nazianzen, who had taken charge of the orthodox church there in 379, and frequent allusions in his works witness to his profiting greatly from his master's mode of interpreting Scripture. He calls him "praeceptor meus" ( de Vir. Ill. 117) and appeals to his authority in his commentaries and letters ( Comm. on Ephes. v. 3; Epp. l. 1, lii. 8, etc.). He was also acquainted with Gregory of Nyssa ( de Vir. Ill. 128). He was attacked, while at Constantinople, with a complaint in the eyes, arising from overwork, which caused him to dictate the works he now wrote. This practice afterwards became habitual to him (pref. to Comm. on Gal. iii.), though he did not wholly give up writing with his own hand; and he contrasts the imperfections of the works which he dictated with the greater elaboration he could give those he himself wrote. He wrote no letters here; but his literary activity was great. He translated the Chronicle of Eusebius, a large work, which embraces the chronology from the creation to a.d. 330, Jerome adding the events of the next 50 years. He translated the Homilies of Origen on Jer. and Ezk., possibly also on Isa., and wrote a short treatise for Damasus on the interpretations of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6 , which is improperly placed among the letters ( Ep. xviii.). These works mark the epoch when he began to feel the importance of Origen as a church-writer, though daring even then to differ from him in doctrine, and also to realize the imperfections of the existing versions of the Scriptures. In the treatise on the Seraphim, and again in the preface to the Chronicle, we find him contrast the various Gk. versions of O.T., studies which eventually forced on him the necessity of a translation direct from the Hebrew. What were his relations to the council of Constantinople in 381 we do not know. It is certain, however, that pope Damasus desired his presence in Rome at the council of 382, which reviewed the Acts of that council, and that he went in the train of bps. Paulinus of Antioch and Epiphanius of Constantia (Salamis) in Cyprus (cxxiii. 10; cxxvii. 7).
Bible Work. —His stay in Rome, from the spring of 382 to Aug. 385, was a very eventful and decisive period in his life. He made many friends and many enemies; his knowledge and reputation as a scholar greatly increased, and his experience of Rome determined him to give himself irrevocably and exclusively to his two great interests, scriptural study and the promotion of asceticism. He undertook, at the request of Damasus, a revision of the version of the Psalms (vol. x. col. 121). He translated from the LXX; and his new version was used in the Roman church till the pontificate of Pius V. He, also at the request of Damasus, revised the N.T., of which the old Versio Itala was very defective. The preface addressed to Damasus (ib. col. 557) is a good critical document, pointing out that the old version had been varied by transcribers, and asking, "If anyone has the right version, which is it?" It was intended as a preface to the Gospels only; but from the record of his works in the list of ecclesiastical writers ( de Vir. Ill. 135), which states that he had restored the N.T. according to the original Greek, as well as from other passages ( e.g. Ep. xxvii. 3), we infer that the whole version was completed (see Vallarsi's pref. to vol. x.; also Murray's Illus. B. D. (1908), art. VULGATE). He also, at the request of Damasus and others, wrote many short exegetical treatises, included among his letters (on Hosanna , xix. xx.; Prodigal Son , xxi.; O.T. Names of God , xxv.; Halleluia and Amen , xxvi.; Sela and Diapsalma , xxviii.; Ephod and Seraphim , xxix.; Alphabetical Psalms , xxx.; "The Bread of Carefulness ," xxxiv.). He began also his studies on the original of O.T. by collating the Gk. versions of Aquila and the LXX with the Heb. (xxxii., xxxvi. 12), and was thus further confirmed in the convictions which led to the Vulgate version. He translated for Damasus the Commentary of Origen on the Song of Songs (vol. x. p. 500), and began his translation of the work of Didymus, the blind Origenistic teacher of Alexandria, on the Holy Spirit, which he did not complete till after his settlement at Bethlehem, probably because of the increasing suspicions and enmity of clergy and people, whom he speaks of as the senate of the Pharisees, against all that had any connexion with Origen (pref. to Didymus on the Holy Spirit , vol. ii. 105), which cause also prevented him continuing the translation of Origen's Commentaries, begun at Constantinople. Jerome was Origen's vehement champion and the contemptuous opponent of his impugners. "The city of Rome," he says, "consents to his condemnation . . . not because of the novelty of his doctrines, not because of heresy, as the dogs who are mad against him now pretend; but because they could not bear the glory of his eloquence and his knowledge, and because, when he spoke, they were all thought to be dumb" (Ep. xxxiii. 4).
Asceticism. —The other chief object of his life increased this enmity, although it also made great advances during his stay at Rome. Nearly fifty years before, Athanasius and the monk Peter (334) had sown the seeds of asceticism at Rome by their accounts of the monasteries of Nitria and the Thebaid. The declining state of the empire had meanwhile predisposed men either to selfish luxury or monasticism. Epiphanius, with whom Jerome now came to Rome, had been trained by the hermits HILARION and HESYCHAS; he was, with Paulinus, the guest of the wealthy and noble Paula (cviii. 5), the heiress of the Aemilian race; and thus Jerome was introduced to one who became his life-long friend and his chief support in his labours She had three daughters: Blessila, whose death, after a short and austere widowhood, was so eventful to Jerome himself; Julia Eustochium, who first among the Roman nobility took the virgin's vow; and Paulina, who married Jerome's friend Pammachius. These formed part of a circle of ladies who gradually gathered round the ascetic teacher of scriptural lore. Among them were MARCELLA, whose house on the Aventine was their meeting-place; her young friend Principia (cxxvii.); her sister the recluse Asella, the confidant of Jerome's complaints on leaving Rome (xlv.); Lea, already the head of a kind of convent, whose sudden death was announced whilst the friends were reading the Psalms (xxiii.); Furia, the descendant of Camillus, sister-in-law to Blesilla, and her mother Titiana; Marcellina and Felicitas, to whom Jerome's last adieus were sent on leaving Rome (xlv.); perhaps also, though she is not named till later, the enthusiastic Fabiola, less steady, but more eager than the rest (lxxvii.). These ladies, all of the highest patrician families, were already disposed to the ascetic life. Contact with the Eastern bishops added a special interest in Palestine; and the presence of Jerome confirmed both these tendencies. He became the centre of a band of friends who, withdrawn from a political and social life which they regarded as hopelessly corrupt, gave themselves to the study of Scripture and to works of charity. They knew Greek; learned Hebrew that they might sing the Psalms in the original; learned by heart the writings of their teacher (lxxvii. 9); held daily meetings whereat he expounded the Scriptures (xxiii. 1), and for them he wrote many of his exegetical treatises. The principles he instilled into their minds may be seen in many of his letters of this period, which were at once copied and eagerly seized both by friends and enemies. The treatise which especially illustrates his teaching at this time is addressed to Eustochium on the Preservation of Virginity (xxii.). Jerome's own experience in the desert, his anti-Ciceronian dream at Antioch, his knowledge of the desert monks, of whom he gives a valuable description, were here used in favour of the virgin and ascetic life; the extreme fear of impurity contrasts strangely with the gross suggestions in every page; it contains such a depreciation of the married state, the vexations of which ("uteri tumentes, infantium vagitus") are only relieved by vulgar and selfish luxury, that almost the only advantage allowed it is that by it virgins are brought into the world; and the vivid descriptions of Roman life—the pretended virgins, the avaricious and self-indulgent matrons, the dainty, luxurious, and rapacious clergy—forcible as they are, lose some of their value by their appearance of caricature. Another treatise written during this period, against the layman HELVIDIUS, the pupil of Auxentius of Milan, on the perpetual virginity of Mary, though its main points are well argued, exhibits the same fanatical aversion to marriage, combined with a supercilious disregard of his opponent which was habitual to Jerome.
A crisis in Jerome's fortunes came with the end of 384. Damasus, who had been pope for nearly 20 years, was dying, and amongst his possible successors Jerome could not escape mention. He had, as he tells us, on first coming to Rome, been pointed out as the future pope (xlv. 3). But he was entirely unfitted by character and habit of mind for an office which has always required the talents of the statesman and man of the world, rather than those of the student, and he had offended every part of the community. The general lay feeling was strongly opposed to asceticism (xxvii. 2). At the funeral of Blesilla (xxxix. 4) the rumour was spread that she had been killed by the excessive austerities enjoined upon her; the violent grief of her mother was taken as a reproach to the ascetic system, and the cry was heard, "The monks to the Tiber!" Jerome, though cautioned by his friends to moderate his language (xxvii. 2), continued to use the most insulting expressions towards all who opposed him. It is not surprising that the Roman church should have deemed him unfitted to be its head, and that Jerome himself should, in his calmer reflections, have felt that Rome was ill-suited to him, and that in attempting, with his temper and habits, to carry out his conception of Christianity in Rome he had been vainly trying "to sing the Lord's song in a strange land" (xlv.6). Siricius, the successor of Damasus, had no sympathy with Jerome either then or in the subsequent Origenistic controversy. The party of friends on the Aventine was broken up. Jerome counsels Marcella (xliv.) to leave Rome and seek religious seclusion in the country. Paula and Eustochium preferred to go with him to Palestine. In Aug. 385 Jerome embarked, with all that was dearest to him, at Portus, and in his touching and instructive letter to Asella (xlv.) bade a final farewell to Rome. Accompanied by his brother Paulinian and his friend Vincentius (cont. Ruf. iii. 22), he sailed direct to Antioch. Paula and Eustochium ( Ep. cviii., where all these incidents are narrated), leaving Paulina, then of marriageable age, and her young brother Toxotius, embarked at the same time, but visited Epiphanius in Cyprus on their way. The friends were reunited at Antioch, as winter was setting in. Paula would brook no delay, and, despite the inclemency of the season, they started at once for Palestine. They visited Sarepta, Acre, Caesarea, Joppa, Lydda, and Emmaus, arriving at Jerusalem early in 386. The city was moved at their coming, and the proconsul prepared a splendid reception for them in the Praetorium; but they only stayed to see the holy places, and, after visiting spots of special interest in the S. of Palestine, journeyed on into Egypt. There the time was divided between the two great objects of Jerome's life, the study of Scripture and the promotion of asceticism. At Alexandria he sat, though already grey-haired (lxxxiv. 3), at the feet of Didymus, the great Origenistic teacher, whom, in contrast to his blindness, Jerome delights to speak of as "the seer." (See in his praises the preface to the commentary on Ephesians.) Jerome had already, as we have seen, translated in part his book on the Holy Spirit; and now, at the request of his distinguished pupil, Didymus composed his Commentary on Hosea and Zechariah (Hieron. pref. to Hosea , and de Vir. Ill. 109). Pausing at Alexandria only 30 days, they turned to the monasteries of Nitria, where they were received with great honour. At one time they were almost persuaded to remain in the Egyptian desert, but the attractions of the holy places of Palestine prevailed; and sailing from Alexandria to Majoma, they settled at Bethlehem, in the autumn of 386. There Jerome lived the remaining 34 years of his life, pursuing unremittingly and with the utmost success the two great objects of his life.
Bethlehem, First Period , 386–392. Monasteries. —Their first work was to establish themselves at Bethlehem. A monastery and a convent were built, over which Jerome and Paula respectively presided (Ep. cviii. 14, 19). There was a church in which they met on Sundays, and perhaps oftener (cxlvii.); and a hospice for pilgrims, of whom a vast number came from all parts to visit the holy places ( Epp. xlvi. lxvi.; cont. Vigilantium , 13, 14). These institutions were mainly supported by Paula, though, towards the end of her life, when she by her profusion had become poor, their support fell upon Jerome, who, for this purpose, sold his estate in Pannonia (Ep. lxvi.). He lived in a cell (cv. and cont. Joan. Jerus. ), in or close to the monastery, surrounded by his library, to which he continually added, as is shewn by his constant reference to a great variety of authors, sacred and profane, and by his account of obtaining a copy of the Hexapla from the library at Caesarea (Comm. on Titus , c. 3, p. 734). He describes himself as living very moderately on bread and vegetables (Ep. lxxix. 4); he was not neglectful of his person, but recommended a moderate neatness of dress (lii., lx. 10). We do not read of any special austerities beyond the fact of his seclusion from the world, which he speaks of as a living in the fields and in solitude, that he might mourn for his sins and gain Christ's mercy ( cont. Joan. Jerus. 41). He did not officiate in the services, but his time was greatly absorbed by the cares ( Ep. cxiv. 1) and discipline (cxlvii.) of the monastery and by the crowds of monks and pilgrims who flocked to the hospice (lxvi. 14; adv. Ruf. i. 31). He expounded the Scriptures daily to the brethren in the monastery. Sacred studies were his main pursuit, and his diligence is almost incredible. "He is wholly absorbed in reading," says Sulpicius; "he takes no rest by day or by night; he is ever reading or writing something." He wrote, or rather dictated, with great rapidity. He was believed at times to have composed 1.000 lines of his commentaries in a day (pref. to bk. ii. of Comm. on. Ephes. in vol. vii. col. 507). He wrote almost daily to Paula and Eustochium ( de Vir. Ill. 135); and, though many of his letters were mere messages, yet almost all were at once published ( Ep. xlix. 2), either by friends or enemies. There were many interruptions. Besides the excessive number of ordinary pilgrims, persons came from all parts, and needed special entertainment. The agitated state of the empire also was felt in the hermitage of Bethlehem. The successive invasions of the Huns ( Ep. lxxvii. 8) and the Isaurians (cxiv.) created a panic in Palestine, so that, in 395, ships had been provided at Joppa to carry away the virgins of Bethlehem, who hurried to the coast to embark, when the danger passed away. These invasions caused great lack of means at Bethlehem (cxiv. 1), so that Jerome and his friends had to sell all to continue the work. Amidst such difficulties his great literary works were accomplished. Immediately on settling at Bethlehem, he set to work to perfect his knowledge of Hebrew with the aid of a Jew named Bar Anina (called Barabbas by Jerome's adversaries, who conceived that through this teacher his version was tainted with Judaism; see Ruf. Apol. ii. 12). Their interviews took place at night ( Ep. lxxxiv.), each being afraid of the suspicions their intercourse might cause. He also learned Chaldee, but less thoroughly (pref. to Daniel , vol. ix. col. 1358). When any unusual difficulty occurred in translation or exposition, he obtained further aid. For the book of Job he paid a teacher to come to him from Lydda (pref. to Job , vol. ix. col. 1140); for the Chaldee of Tobit he had a rabbi from Tiberias (pref. to Tobit , vol. x.). The Chronicles he went over word by word with a doctor of law from Tiberias (pref. to Chron. ). The great expense entailed was no doubt in part defrayed by Paula. At a later time, when his resources failed, Chromatius of Aquileia, and Heliodorus of Altinum, supported the scribes who assisted him (pref. to Esther , addressed to Chrom. and Hel.).
Bible Work. —The results of his first six years' labours may be thus summed up. The commentary on Eccles. and the translation of Didymus on the Holy Spirit were completed; commentaries were written on Gal. Eph. Tit. and Philemon; the version of N.T. begun in Rome was revised; a treatise on Pss. x.–xvi. was written; and translations made of Origen's Commentaries on St. Luke and the Psalms. Jerome, who had long before felt the great importance for scriptural studies of a knowledge of the localities (pref. to Chron. ), turned to account his travels in Palestine in his work on the names of Hebrew places, mainly translated from Eusebius, and gave to the world what may be called "Chips from his Workshop," in the book on Hebrew proper names and the Hebrew questions on Gen., a work which he seems to have intended to carry on in the other books as a pendant to his translations. Further, as a preparatory work to the Vulg., he had revised the Latin version of O.T. then current (which was imperfectly made from the LXX), by a comparison of Origen's Hexapla (pref. to Joshua , vol. ix. 356; pref. to Chron. vol. ix. col. 1394; pref. to Job , vol. ix. col. 1142; Ep. lxxi. ad Lucinium ). This work, though not mentioned in the Catalogue (de Vir. Ill. 135), certainly existed. Jerome used it in his familiar expositions each day ( cont. Ruf. ii. 24). Augustine had heard of it and asked to see it ( Ep. cxxxiv., end), but it had, through fraud or neglect, been lost; and all that remains of it is Job, the Psalms, and the preface to the books of Solomon (vol. x.). The Vulgate itself was in preparation, as we find from the Catalogue; but as it was not produced for some years, what had been done thus far was evidently only preliminary and imperfect work.
Besides his work on the Scriptures, Jerome had designed a vast scheme of church history, from the beginning to his own time, giving the lives of all the most eminent men; and as a preliminary to this, and in furtherance of asceticism, he wrote Lives of MALCHUS and HILARION. The minuteness of detail in these works would have made a church history on such a scale impossible; and the credulity they shew throws doubt on Jerome's capacity for such work.
A far more important work for the purposes of the church historian is the book which is variously called the "Catalogue of Church Writers," the "Book on Illustrious Men," or the "Epitaphion" (though it includes men then living). Some portions are taken from Eusebius, but the design and most of the details are original. It includes the writers of N.T., and church teachers of East and West up to Jerome's own time, and even men accounted heretics and non-Christians like Seneca, whose works were of importance to the progress of human thought.
The letter which Jerome wrote in the name of Paula and Eustochium to Marcella at Rome (Ep. xlvi.), the only letter preserved from these first six years, expresses an enthusiastic view of their privileges in reading the Scriptures in the tongue and country in which they were written. The crowds who came from all parts seem to them to be so many choirs, engaged in services of praise, each in their own tongue. The very ploughmen chant Hallelujahs. Far from the Babylon of Rome, they associate with the saints of Scripture and find in the holy places the gate of heaven. This view of Palestine is always present to Jerome, however much he has to confess the actual secularization of Jerusalem (lviii. 4); and it makes his Biblical work not merely one of learning but of piety.
Second Period , 393–404.—Private letters of Jerome abound during this period, and illustrate his personal history.
To this period belong the many external difficulties at Bethlehem already mentioned. During almost the whole of 398 Jerome was ill, and again in 404–405 (lxxiv. 6, cxiv. 1). He was disturbed also by the controversy or schism between the monks of Bethlehem and the bp. of Jerusalem; and an injury to his hand prevented his writing. Poverty was also overtaking him. Paula had spent her fortune in lavish charity, and Jerome sent his brother Paulinianus to their former home to sell the remains of their property to support the monasteries (lxvi. 14). The sad quarrel between Jerome and Rufinus began in 394; see under the controversies (infra ) which occupied so much of this period.