Saint Sophronius Eusebius Hie-Ronymus (Jerome), one of the four great doctors of the Latin church, born at Stridon, on the confines of Pannonia and Dalmatia, about 340, died in Bethlehem Sept. 30, 420. His own writings furnish an almost complete autobiography. His father Eusebius was a wealthy Christian. In 363 he was sent to Rome with his countryman Bonosus, and studied Greek and Latin literature and eloquence. In 365 he was baptized and took the name of Hieronymus. He afterward visited with Bonosus the southern and northern provinces of Gaul and the coast of Britain, and studied for some time at Treves. Returning to Italy, Jerome became the inmate of a monastery at Aquileia, and under the direction of Valerianus, bishop of that city, devoted himself to the study of Scripture and theology. While there he transcribed a commentary on the Psalms and a treatise on synods by St. Hilary of Poitiers, and published his first known treatise, addressed to Innocentius, De Muliere septies Percussa. There he formed the acquaintance of Rufinus, afterward his most determined theological opponent. In 372 he was called to Stridon to reclaim one of his sisters, and this incident seems to have determined him to leave Italy for ever.
After a brief stay in Rome, he set out for Syria with several friends, travelled on foot through Thrace and Asia Minor, and stopped at Antioch to follow a course of lectures on Biblical exegesis by the future heresiarch Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea. He afterward withdrew into the desert of Chalcis near Antioch, where he spent four years in a hermit's cell, assiduously studied the Hebrew language, and wrote a letter on Manichaeism and two letters to Pope Damasus, one of which was in relation to the schism reigning in the church of Antioch, where there were at that time three rival bishops. The pope having advised him to acknowledge Paulinus as bishop, Jerome returned to Antioch, and in 376 consented to receive priestly orders, on the condition that he should not be forced to accept any pastoral charge. He immediately applied himself to acquire an accurate knowledge of Biblical topography and a thorough familiarity with the Hebrew and Chaldee, visiting the most celebrated scenes of Bible history, and consulting everywhere the most learned Jews. To perfect himself in Greek and to have the Bible interpreted to him by the best living masters, he went to Constantinople about 380, and became the disciple of St. Gregory Nazianzen, whom he calls his father and master.
In that city he wrote a commentary on the 6th chapter of Isaiah, and translated 14 homilies of Origen and the chronicle of Eusebius. His version only follows the original to the siege of Troy; in the second part Jerome confesses to his having arranged the matters in his own way as far as the 20th year of Constantine, the remainder being entirely his work down to the death of Valens (378). Being called to Rome by Pope Damasus in 382,. he acted as notary to the council held there in that year, and afterward remained as secretary or referendarius to the pope until the death of the latter in 384. Jerome resided in a monastery, and at the pope's request began his revision of the old Latin or Italic version of the Bible. He produced the translation of the Psalms called Psalterium Romanum, and another of the Gospels dedicated to the pope, wrote a commentary on the parable of the prodigal son, a letter on the hierarchy, and a treatise against Helvidius, who denied the perpetual virginity of Mary the mother of Christ. His love of monastic seclusion induced him to win converts by voice and pen to this mode of life. A large number of noble persons, particularly Roman ladies, forsook all worldly pursuits, and placed themselves under his direction.
This, and Jerome's denunciation of the worldly lives led by the generality of Roman Christians, made him many enemies, lay and clerical; while his frequent instructions on the Scriptures and Christian virtues to his numerous female converts afforded an opportunity for spreading malignant reports against him. So long as Pope Damasus lived he supported Jerome against his slanderers; but after the election of Siricius, Jerome, taking with him his younger brother Politian, set out once more for the East. In order to find the most perfect models of monastic life, he visited the monasteries of Upper and Lower Egypt, and finally fixed his abode at Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. Thither he was soon followed by some of his distinguished Roman converts, who devoted a portion of their wealth to the erection of monasteries. One of these, for men, was placed under Jerome's direction, and to it he soon added a hostelry and hospital for pilgrims, and for the numerous refugees who fled from Rome after its sack by Alaric in 410. There he completed his Latin version of the Scriptures, which became in the western churches what the Sep-tuagint was in the East, and served as a basis for nearly all the earlier translations of the Scriptures subsequently made into the vernacular tongues of Europe. From Bethlehem Jerome also issued treatises against the heretics of his time, such as Jovinian, Vigilantius, and Pelagius. He combated the doctrines of John, bishop of Jerusalem, and of his old friend Rufinus, who was propagating Origenism. In 416 the Pelagians, who were in the ascendancy in Palestine, burned his establishment at Bethlehem, and compelled him to fly for his life.
Having remained in concealment for more than two years, he returned to Bethlehem in 418, exhausted by privations, anxiety, and infirmities. He was buried amid the ruins of one of his monasteries; but his remains were afterward taken to Rome, and placed in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, near the tomb of Sixtus V. His feast is celebrated on Sept. 30. - The personal character of St. Jerome has been the subject of much censure and much praise. His writings show him to have been a man of ardent nature, invincibly attached to what he conceived to be the truth and the right; but his very impetuosity was apt to hurry him into extremes. He advocated evangelical poverty and self-denial under the form of monas-ticism among the Roman patricians, as a remedy for the low morality which everywhere prevailed; but no one denounced with greater energy than he both false monks and false penitents. Biblical scholars are unanimous in acknowledging the incomparable services which his labors rendered to the church.
His complete works comprise a volume of letters, several biographical series, topographical and grammatical dissertations about Hebrew history and geography, commentaries on the books of the Old and New Testaments, translations of works of several ecclesiastical writers, and finally his Latin version of the Bible. Of all his works this is the most useful and most widely known, though in a corrupted form, under the name of the Latin Vulgate. (See Bible.) We have now the text of the New Testament from MSS. of about the middle of the 6th century, the Codex Amiatinus, edited by Tischendorf in 1853 and again in 1855, and the Codex Fuldemis, edited by Ranke in 1868, which rank with the oldest and best Greek MSS. in determining the true reading of the sacred text. The readings of the former in the Old Testament have been added by Heyse and Tischendorf to the Clementine Vulgate Latin, with emendations and various readings by Vercellone (1873). The principal editions of his works are those of Erasmus and CEco-lampadius (9 vols, fol., Basel, 1516, reprinted in 1526 and 1537, and at Lyons in 1530); of Marianus Victorinus (9 vols., Rome, 1566-'72; Paris, 1578, 1608, and 1643); of Tribbecho-vius (12 vols, fol., Frankfort and Leipsic, 1684); of the Benedictines Pouget and Martianay (5 vols., Paris, 1693-1706); and that of Vallarsi and Maffei (11 vols., Verona, 1734-'42; Venice, 1766-'72; reproduced by Migne, Patrologie latine, vols, xxii.-xxx., Paris, 1845-'6). His life has been written by Martianay (Paris, 1706), by Stilting in the Acta Sanctorum for September, and by Alban Butler, "Lives of the Saints," Sept. 30. See also Collombet's Histoire de St. Jerome (Lyons, 1844), and Zockler, Hieronymus, sein Leben und Wirken (Gotha, 1865).