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July 5, 2007 / vivator

Jerome and canon of Old Testament

Jerome or Eusebius Hieronymus (c. 347 to 420 AD) was scripture scholar who translated the Bible into Latin known as Vulgate.  He also wrote commentaries and homilies on books of the Bible and other books.  In his preface to the books of Vulgate written in 391 Jerome listed the Old Testament books.

The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they properly call Thorath, that is law.

The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with Jesus the son of Nave, who among them is called Joshua the son of Nun. Next in the series is Sophtim, that is the book of Judges; and in the same book they include Ruth, because the events narrated occurred in the days of the Judges. Then comes Samuel, which we call First and Second Kings. The fourth is Malachim, that is, Kings, which is contained in the third and fourth volumes of Kings. And it is far better to say Malachim, that is Kings, than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms. For the author does not describe the Kingdoms of many nations, but that of one people, the people of Israel, which is comprised in the twelve tribes. The fifth is Isaiah, the sixth, Jeremiah, the seventh, Ezekiel, the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among the Jews Thare Asra.

To the third class belong the Hagiographa, of which the first book begins with Job, the second with David, whose writings they divide into five parts and comprise in one volume of Psalms; the third is Solomon, in three books, Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth, Ecclesiastes, that is Coeleth, the Song of Songs, which they denote by the title Sir Assirim; the sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre Aiamim, that is, Words of Days, which we may more expressively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and Second Chronicles; the eighth, Ezra, which itself is likewise divided amongst Greeks and Latins into two books; the ninth is Esther.

And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four books of the old law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb, and with downcast looks offer their crowns, while in their presence stand the four living creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who wast, and art, and art to come.

Jerome, Prefaces of the Books of the Vulgate version of the Old Testament

From Schaff, P. and Wace, H. (Editors): The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,

Series II, Vol. 6, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., pages 489-490.

Jerome followed the three-division of the present day Jewish scripture, except that he placed Ruth and Lamentations in the second division.  His list is equal but with a different order of books to the twenty-four books of the present Jewish scripture and thirty-nine protocanonical books in the Catholic’s Old Testament or thirty-nine canonical books in that of Protestant’s.  He included deuterocanonical books in his Latin translation but referred them as apocrypha.  However he still cited them in many of his works, among which:

English translation is from The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 48.

Though the evil doer is subject to the hatred of God, the liar perishes together. ‘A lying mouth slays the soul’. [Wisdom 1:11]

Jerome, Homily 2 on Psalm 5

It is Solomon who says that he longed to make wisdom his bride [Wisdom 8:2].  In another place, he says again of wisdom: Love her, and she will embrace you; embrace her and she will preserve you.’ [Proverbs 4:6,8]

Jerome, Homily 42 on Psalm 127 (128)

English translation is from The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 53.

Almsgiving atones for sin that we have not been able to wash away otherwise.  What does Scripture say in this regard?  “Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.” [Sirach 3:30]  The effects of almsgiving are similar to those of baptism; just as baptism remits sin, even so almsgiving atones for sins.

Jerome, Homily 46 on Psalm 133(134)

It is the practice of Scripture, nevertheless, when intending to reveal something secret, hidden, or mysterious, to say: ‘O searcher of heart and reins, o God [Psalm 7:9]; so since the heart is secret, the more secret regions of the heart are the reins.  In Wisdom, too, a book attributed to the famous Solomon, we find: ‘God is witness of his reins, and the sure observer of his heart and listener to his tongue [Wisdom 1:6]; …..

Jerome, Homily 61 on Psalm 15(16)

You who love the Lord, hate evil [Psalm 97:10].  If the Lord is good … What is it that we read? ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep’ [John 10:11]; and again in another parable: ‘Friend, art thou envious because I am generous?’ [Matthew 20:15]  ‘You who love the Lord, hate evil.’  There cannot be two contradictory loves in one man.  Just as there is no harmony between Christ and Belial, between justice and iniquity [2 Corinthians 6:14-15], so it is impossible for one soul to love both good and evil.  You who love the Lord, hate evil, the devil; in every deed, there is one love of one and hatred of the other.  ‘He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.’ [John 14:21]  On the other hand, what is said in regard to the devil? ‘By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they follow him who are on his side.’ [Wisdom 2:24]

Jerome, Homily 73 on Psalm 95(96)

In another place in Scripture, we read appropriately of the Son: “They have forsaken the fountain of wisdom [Baruch 3:12];

Jerome, Homily 92 on Psalm 41(42)

English translation is from The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 57.

His works are all true, and His ways justice, and He can humiliate the proud.  Antiochus Epiphanius, a very cruel king, overturned the altar and caused Justice itself to be trampled underfoot, because it was permitted by the Lord; the reason given is: ‘because of many sins.’ [2 Maccabee 5:17].

Jerome, Against the Pelagians 2.30


One Comment

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  1. Newchasm / Jul 23 2007 11:03 am

    Luther moved the books to apocrypha. Later some multi-denominational national council of Bible translating deleted it. They also forced others to. Protestants didn’t cry out because they didn’t use them. They then began to delete references in the NT too. I disagree with that.

    Some of those deutro books have problems with an idea of biblical inerrancy to be set on a level playing field with the others. I think this is related to our manuscipts or lack thereof of many of them.

    As for reformers, the books were quoted but in support, never alone. The early church did the same to my understanding with these books. The church fathers also were quoted extensively by reformers. Protestantism first came from a minority position in early Catholicism.

    As for the catholic use of these books, I am unconvinced they teach purgatory. It was an old testament book which merely showed that they knew of a greater atonement would come even for those dead. They have little new doctrine. The use of these books to justify catholic doctrine is spurious and deceptive. Protestants cannot defend against them as well because they generally don’t know them.

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