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St. Jerome is considered to be a “Father of the Church.” He is best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin, called the Vulgate (or “common language of the people”), historically the most important vernacular edition of the Holy Scriptures.
After having been tutored by his father in religion and essential studies, Jerome was sent as a young man to Rome for further study, where he mastered Latin and Greek (his native language was Illyrian), read widely and absorbed the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Although he was baptized in Rome, his religious faith declined. He went to Trier to continue studies. Here his religious spirit was reawakened, and he became interested in ecclesial matters.
In 374, Jerome went to Antioch, which was then afflicted with serious disputes and doctrinal divisions, and he spent several years leading an ascetic life in the desert, about which he wrote. Though reluctant, he was ordained a priest at Antioch. He believed his vocation to be that of a monk or hermit.
He went to Constantinople to study Scripture under St. Gregory Nazianzen, then in 382 he went to Rome to attend the council Pope Damasus called concerning the schism at Antioch. Jerome became the pope’s secretary.
While in this position of influence, he revised the old Latin translations of the Gospels and Psalms, followed by the rest of the New Testament. He became known for his learning and honesty but was also strongly disliked — by the pagans as well as by Christians who objected to his teachings and his harsh, outspoken manner. After the pope’s death in 385, he decided to return to Antioch; later he went to Jerusalem, Alexandria and eventually settled in a monastery in Bethlehem, where he led a life of asceticism and study, established a school and a hospice, continued his writings against heresies, and did translations.
It was in Bethlehem that Jerome translated most the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, and revised his translation of the Psalms using the Hebrew text. From 395-400, Jerome engaged in a conflict against Origenism. He also had a protracted dispute with Augustine over the interpretation (exegesis) of St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.
Jerome died on Sept. 30, 420, and was buried under the nearby Church of the Nativity, though his body was later reburied in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
The very prolific literary activity of St. Jerome may be summed up under a few principal topics: translations and exegesis of the Bible; theological controversies; historical works; and letters. St. Jerome owes his place in the history of biblical studies chiefly to his commentaries, revisions and new translations of the Bible from the Hebrew.