JEROME—or, to give him his significant Greek name, Eusebius Hieronymus—was born A.D. 345 at Stridon in Dalmatia, a small town near Aquileia, which was partly destroyed by the Goths during their invasion of 377. His father, Eusebius, and his mother were Christians of moderate wealth and were alive in 373 when Jerome first went to the East, but probably died when Stridon was taken by the barbarians. Jerome himself received a good education at his local school, and then, like most young provincials of talent, he was attracted to Rome, where he studied rhetoric under the great grammarian Aelius Donatus, returning with his friend Bonosus to Aquileia in 370. In that town he established his first society of ascetics, which lasted for three years until some event—referred to by him variously as ‘a sudden storm’ and ‘a monstrous rending asunder’—broke up the fellowship, and Jerome with a few of his closer associates went eastwards to Antioch.
Jovinianus, concerning whom we know little more than is to be found in the two following books, had published at Rome a Latin treatise containing all, or part of the opinions here controverted, viz. (1) “That a virgin is no better as such than a wife in the sight of God. (2) Abstinence is no better than a thankful partaking of food. (3) A person baptized with the Spirit as well as with water cannot sin. (4) All sins are equal. (5) There is but one grade of punishment and one of reward in the future state.” In addition to this he held the birth of our Lord to have been by a “true parturition,” and was thus at issue with the orthodoxy of the time, according to which the infant Jesus passed through the walls of the womb as His Resurrection body afterwards did out of the tomb or through the closed doors. Pammachius, Jerome’s friend, brought Jovinian’s book under the notice of Siricius, bishop of Rome, and it was shortly afterwards condemned in synods at that city and at Milan (about a.d. 390).
St. Jerome's reputation rests primarily on his achievements as a translator and as a scriptural exegete. The important service that he rendered to the Church in his doctrinal works is often overlooked or minimized by those who look for originality and independence of thought
The Prefaces to Jerome’s works have in many cases a special value. This value is sometimes personal; they are the free expressions of his feelings to those whom he trusts. Sometimes it lies in the mention of particular events; sometimes in showing the special difficulties he encountered as a translator, or the state of mind of those for whom he wrote; sometimes in making us understand the extent and limits of his own knowledge, and the views on points such as the inspiration of Scripture which actuated him as a translator or commentator; sometimes, again, in the particular interpretations which he gives. These things gain a great importance from the fact that Jerome’s influence and that of his Vulgate was preponderant in Western Europe for more than a thousand years.
After writing the letter to Ctesiphon, in which I replied to the questions propounded, I received frequent expostulations from the brethren, who wanted to know why I any longer delayed the promised work in which I undertook to answer all the subtleties of the preachers of Impassibility. For every one knows what was the contention of the Stoics and Peripatetics, that is, the old Academy, some of them asserted that the pathe, which we may call emotions, such as sorrow, joy, hope, fear, can be thoroughly eradicated from the minds of men; others that their power can be broken, that they can be governed and restrained, as unmanageable horses are held in check by peculiar kinds of bits. Their views have been explained by Tully in the “Tusculan Disputations,” and Origen in his “Stromata” endeavours to blend them with ecclesiastical truth.
Jerome was one of the very few early Christian scholars to know any Hebrew. This is a unique introduction, translation, and commentary of his Questions on Genesis - a fascinating work showing a Christian working alongside Jews in an age very different from our own. Jerome's influence on the Church is well known - but this work is equally important for the light thrown on the history and origin of many ideas at the heart of the Jewish tradition.
Not only the first of the letters but probably the earliest extant composition of Jerome (c. 370 a.d.). Innocent, to whom it is addressed, was one of the little band of enthusiasts whom Jerome gathered round him in Aquileia. He followed his friend to Syria, where he died in 374 a.d. (See Letter III., 3.)