Writings of Jerome - Letters b

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The Principal Works of St. Jerome

Translated by the Hon. W. H. Fremantle, M.A.,
Canon of Canterbury Cathedral and Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford,

with the assistance of The Rev. G. Lewis, M.A.,
Of Balliol College, Oxford, Vicar of Dodderhill near Droitwick,

and The Rev. W. G. Martley, M.A.,
Of Balliol College, Oxford.

Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London

Published in 1892 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.


Letter XXV. To Marcella.

An explanation of the ten names given to God in the Hebrew Scriptures. The ten names are El, Elohim, Sabaôth, Eliôn, Asher yeheyeh (Ex. iii. 14), Adonai, Jah, the tetragram JHVH, and Shaddai. Written at Rome 384 a.d.

Letter XXVI. To Marcella.

An explanation of certain Hebrew words which have been left untranslated in the versions. The words are Alleluia, Amen, Maranatha. Written at Rome 384 a.d.

Letter XXVII. To Marcella.

In this letter Jerome defends himself against the charge of having altered the text of Scripture, and shows that he has merely brought the Latin Version of the N.T. into agreement with the Greek original. Written at Rome 384 a.d.

1. After I had written my former letter, [708] containing a few remarks on some Hebrew words, a report suddenly reached me that certain contemptible creatures were deliberately assailing me with the charge that I had endeavored to correct passages in the gospels, against the authority of the ancients and the opinion of the whole world. Now, though I might--as far as strict right goes--treat these persons with contempt (it is idle to play the lyre for an ass [709] ), yet, lest they should follow their usual habit and reproach me with superciliousness, let them take my answer as follows: I am not so dull-wilted nor so coarsely ignorant (qualities which they take for holiness, calling themselves the disciples of fishermen as if men were made holy by knowing nothing)--I am not, I repeat, so ignorant as to suppose that any of the Lord's words is either in need of correction or is not divinely inspired; but the Latin manuscripts of the Scriptures are proved to be faulty by the variations which all of them exhibit, and my object has been to restore them to the form of the Greek original, from which my detractors do not deny that they have been translated. If they dislike water drawn from the clear spring, let them drink of the muddy streamlet, and when they come to read the Scriptures, let them lay aside [710] the keen eye which they turn on woods frequented by game-birds and waters abounding in shellfish. Easily satisfied in this instance alone, let them, if they will, regard the words of Christ as rude sayings, albeit that over these so many great intellects have labored for so many ages rather to divine than to expound the meaning of each single word. Let them charge the great apostle with want of literary skill, although it is said of him that much learning made him mad. [711]

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2. I know that as you read these words you will knit your brows, and fear that my freedom of speech is sowing the seeds of fresh quarrels; and that, if you could, you would gladly put your finger on my mouth to prevent me from even speaking of things which others do not blush to do. But, I ask you, wherein have I used too great license? Have I ever embellished my dinner plates with engravings of idols? Have I ever, at a Christian banquet, set before the eyes of virgins the polluting spectacle of Satyrs embracing bacchanals? or have I ever assailed any one in too bitter terms? Have I ever complained of beggars turned millionaires? Have I ever censured heirs for the funerals which they have given to their benefactors? [712] The one thing that I have unfortunately said has been that virgins ought to live more in the company of women than of men, [713] and by this I have made the whole city look scandalized and caused every one to point at me the finger of scorn. "They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head," [714] and I am become "a proverb to them." [715] Do you suppose after this that I will now say anything rash?

3. But "when I set the wheel rolling I began to form a wine flagon; how comes it that a waterpot is the result?" [716] Lest Horace laugh at me I come back to my two-legged asses, and din into their ears, not the music of the lute, but the blare of the trumpet. [717] They may say if they will, "rejoicing in hope; serving the time," but we will say "rejoicing in hope; serving the Lord." [718] They may see fit to receive an accusation against a presbyter unconditionally; but we will say in the words of Scripture, "Against an elder [719] receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all." [720] They may choose to read, "It is a man's saying, and worthy of all acceptation;" we are content to err with the Greeks, that is to say with the apostle himself, who spoke Greek. Our version, therefore, is, it is "a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation." [721] Lastly, let them take as much pleasure as they please in their Gallican "geldings;" [722] we will be satisfied with the simple "ass" of Zechariah, loosed from its halter and made ready for the Saviour's service, which received the Lord on its back, and so fulfilled Isaiah's prediction: "Blessed is he that soweth beside all waters, where the ox and the ass tread under foot." [723]


[708] XXVI. [709] ;'Ono lura was a Greek proverb. [710] Reading nec diligentiam instead of et. [711] Acts xxvi. 24. [712] Hæreditarias sepulturas. [713] The reference is to Letter XXII. [714] Ps. lxix. 4. [715] Ps. lxix. 11. [716] Hor. A. P. 21, 22. [717] Perhaps an allusion to the Greek proverb, ,'onos luras ekouse kai salpingos hus. "The ass listened to the lyre, and the pig to the trumpet." [718] Rom. xii. 11, 12. The reading kurio "Lord" is probably correct. The R.V. says, "Some ancient authorities read the opportunity," (kairo). [719] I.e. a "presbyter." [720] 1 Tim. v. 19, 20. [721] 1 Tim. i. 15. [722] Jerome's detractors suggested this word instead of the simpler "ass" in Zech. ix. 9 and Matt. xxi. 2-5. The phrase "Gallican geldings" appears to be a quotation from Plaut. Aul. iii. 5, 21. [723] Isa. xxxii. 20, LXX.

Letter XXVIII. To Marcella.

An explanation of the Hebrew word Selah. This word, rendered by the LXX. diapsalma and by Aquila aei, was as much a crux in Jerome's day as it is in ours. "Some," he writes, "make it a `change of metre,' others `a pause for breath,' others `the beginning of a new subject.' According to yet others it has something to do with rhythm or marks a burst of instrumental music." Jerome himself inclines to follow Aquila and Origen, who make the word mean "forever," and suggests that it betokens completion, like the "explicit" or "feliciter" in contemporary Latin mss. Written at Rome a.d. 384.

Letter XXIX. To Marcella

An explanation of the Hebrew words Ephod bad (1 Sam. ii. 18) and Teraphim (Judges xvii. 5). Written at Rome to Marcella, also at Rome a.d. 384.

Letter XXX. To Paula.

Some account of the so-called alphabetical psalms (XXXVII., CXI., CXII., CXIX., CXLV.). After explaining the mystical meaning of the alphabet, Jerome goes on thus: "What honey is sweeter than to know the wisdom of God? others, if they will, may possess riches, drink from a jewelled cup, shine in silks, and try in vain to exhaust their wealth in the most varied pleasures. Our riches are to meditate in the law of the Lord day and night, [724] to knock at the closed door, [725] to receive the `three loaves' of the Trinity, [726] and, when the Lord goes before us, to walk upon the water of the world." [727] Written at Rome a.d. 384.


[724] Ps. i. 2. [725] Matt. vii. 7. [726] Luke xi. 5-8. [727] Matt. xiv. 25-33.

Letter XXXI. To Eustochium.

Jerome writes to thank Eustochium for some presents sent to him by her on the festival of St. Peter. He also moralizes on the mystical meaning of the articles sent. The letter should be compared with Letter XLIV., of which the theme is similar. Written at Rome in 384 a.d. (on St. Peter's Day).

1. Doves, bracelets, and a letter are outwardly but small gifts to receive from a virgin, but the action which has prompted them enhances their value. And since honey may not be offered in sacrifice to God, [728] you have shown skill in taking off their overmuch sweetness and making them pungent--if I may so say--with a dash of pepper. For nothing that is simply pleasurable or merely sweet can please God. Everything must have in it a sharp seasoning of truth. Christ's passover must be eaten with bitter herbs. [729]

2. It is true that a festival such as the birthday [730] of Saint Peter should be seasoned with more gladness than usual; still our merriment must not forget the limit set by Scripture, and we must not stray too far from the boundary of our wrestling-ground. Your presents, indeed, remind me of the sacred volume, for in it Ezekiel decks Jerusalem with bracelets, [731] Baruch receives letters from Jeremiah, [732] and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove at the baptism of Christ. [733] But to give you, too, a sprinkling of pepper and to remind you of my former letter, [734] I send you to-day this three-fold warning. Cease not to adorn yourself with good works--the true bracelets of a Christian woman. [735] Rend not the letter written on your heart [736] as the profane king cut with his penknife that delivered to him by Baruch. [737] Let not Hosea say to you as to Ephraim, "Thou art like a silly dove." [738]

My words are too harsh, you will say, and hardly suitable to a festival like the present. If so, you have provoked me to it by the nature of your own gifts. So long as you put bitter with sweet, you must expect the same from me, sharp words that is, as well as praise.

3. However, I do not wish to make light of your gifts, least of all the basket of fine cherries, blushing with such a virgin modesty that I can fancy them freshly gathered by Lucullus [739] himself. For it was he who first introduced the fruit at Rome after his conquest of Pontus and Armenia; and the cherry tree is so called because he brought it from Cerasus. Now as the Scriptures do not mention cherries, but do speak of a basket of figs, [740] I will use these instead to point my moral. May you be made of fruits such as those which grow before God's temple and of which He says, "Behold they are good, very good." [741] The Saviour likes nothing that is half and half, and, while he welcomes the hot and does not shun the cold, he tells us in the Apocalypse that he will spew the lukewarm out of his mouth. [742] Wherefore we must be careful to celebrate our holy day not so much with abundance of food as with exultation of spirit. For it is altogether unreasonable to wish to honor a martyr by excess who himself, as you know, pleased God by fasting. When you take food always recollect that eating should be followed by reading, and also by prayer. And if, by taking this course, you displease some, repeat to yourself the words of the Apostle: "If I yet pleased men I should not be the servant of Christ" [743]


[728] Lev. ii. 11. [729] Ex. xii. 8. [730] I.e. the day of his martyrdom, his heavenly nativity. [731] Ezek. xvi. 11. [732] Jer. xxxvi.; Baruch vi. [733] Matt. iii. 16. [734] Letter XXII. [735] 1 Tim. ii. 10. [736] 2 Cor. iii. 2. [737] Jer. xxxvi. 23. [738] Hos. vii. 11. [739] Celebrated for his campaigns against Mithridates, and also as a prince of epicures. [740] Jer. xxiv. 1-3. [741] Jer. xxiv. 3. [742] Rev. iii. 15, 16. [743] Gal. i. 10.

Letter XXXII. To Marcella.

Jerome writes that he is busy collating Aquila's Greek version of the Old Testament with the Hebrew, inquires after Marcella's mother, and forwards the two preceding letters (XXX., XXXI.). Written at Rome in 384 a.d.

1. There are two reasons for the shortness of this letter, one that its bearer is impatient to start, and the other that I am too busy to waste time on trifles. You ask what business can be so urgent as to stop me from a chat on paper. Let me tell you, then, that for some time past I have been comparing Aquila's version [744] of the Old Testament with the scrolls of the Hebrew, to see if from hatred to Christ the synagogue has changed the text; and--to speak frankly to a friend--I have found several variations which confirm our faith. After having exactly revised the prophets, Solomon, [745] the psalter, and the books of Kings, I am now engaged on Exodus (called by the Jews, from its opening words, Eleh shemôth [746] ), and when I have finished this I shall go on to Leviticus. Now you see why I can let no claim for a letter withdraw me from my work. However, as I do not wish my friend Currentius [747] to run altogether in vain, I have tacked on to this little talk two letters [748] which I am sending to your sister Paula, and to her dear child Eustochium. Read these, and if you find them instructive or pleasant, take what I have said to them as meant for you also.

2. I hope that Albina, your mother and mine, is well. In bodily health, I mean, for I doubt not of her spiritual welfare. Pray salute her for me, and cherish her with double affection, both as a Christian and as a mother.


[744] This version, made in the reign of Hadrian by a Jewish proselyte who is said by some to have been a renegade Christian, was marked by an exaggerated literalism and a close following of the Hebrew original. By the Church it was regarded with suspicion as being designedly anti-Christian. Jerome, however, here acquits Aquila of the charge brought against him. [745] I.e. all the sapiential books, viz. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom. [746] Exod. i. 1, T+W+M+Sh H+L+#, A.V., "these are the names." [747] The name means runner. Hence the allusion to Gal. ii. 2. [748] XXX., XXXI.

Letter XXXIII. To Paula.

A fragment of a letter in which Jerome institutes a comparison between the industry as writers of M. T. Varro and Origen. It is noteworthy as passing an unqualified eulogium upon Origen, which contrasts strongly with the tone adopted by the writer in subsequent years (see, e.g., Letter LXXXIV.). Its date is probably 384 a.d.

1. Antiquity marvels at Marcus Terentius Varro, [749] because of the countless books which he wrote for Latin readers; and Greek writers are extravagant in their praise of their man of brass, [750] because he has written more works than one of us could so much as copy. But since Latin ears would find a list of Greek writings tiresome, I shall confine myself to the Latin Varro. I shall try to show that we of to-day are sleeping the sleep of Epimenides, [751] and devoting to the amassing of riches the energy which our predecessors gave to sound, if secular, learning.

2. Varro's writings include forty-five books of antiquities, four concerning the life of the Roman people.

3. But why, you ask me, have I thus mentioned Varro and the man of brass? Simply to bring to your notice our Christian man of brass, or, rather, man of adamant [752] --Origen, I mean--whose zeal for the study of Scripture has fairly earned for him this latter name. Would you learn what monuments of his genius he has left us? The following list exhibits them. His writings comprise thirteen books on Genesis, two books of Mystical Homilies, notes on Exodus, notes on Leviticus, * * * * also single books, [753] four books on First Principles, two books on the Resurrection, two dialogues on the same subject. [754]

4. So, you see, the labors of this one man have surpassed those of all previous writers, Greek and Latin. Who has ever managed to read all that he has written? Yet what reward have his exertions brought him? He stands condemned by his bishop, Demetrius, [755] only the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phenicia, and Achaia dissenting. Imperial Rome consents to his condemnation, and even convenes a senate to censure him, [756] not--as the rabid hounds who now pursue him cry--because of the novelty or heterodoxy of his doctrines, but because men could not tolerate the incomparable eloquence and knowledge which, when once he opened his lips, made others seem dumb.

5. I have written the above quickly and incautiously, by the light of a poor lantern. You will see why, if you think of those who to-day represent Epicurus and Aristippus. [757]


[749] Of the 490 books composed by this voluminous writer only two are extant, a treatise on husbandry and an essay on the Latin language. [750] The epithet chalkenteros , "heart of brass," is applied by Suidas to the grammarian Didymus, who, according to Athenæus, wrote 3,500 books. Of these not one is extant. [751] Which lasted 57 years. [752] 'Adamantios --Origen is so called by Eusebius (H. E. vi. 14, 10). It appears to have been his proper name. [753] "They may have been detached essays on particular subjects."--Westcott. [754] All the works mentioned have perished except the treatise on First Principles, and this in its completeness is extant only in the Latin version of Rufinus. The version made by Jerome has perished. [755] Origen left Alexandria for good in 231 a.d., and it was in that or the following year that Demetrius convoked the synod which condemned not so much his writings as his conduct. He appears to have been excommunicated as a heretic. [756] For Origen's condemnation in a synod held at Rome this passage is the principal authority. It is more than doubtful whether such a synod ever met; if it did it must have been when Pontianus was pope, in 231 or 232 a.d. Jerome may only mean that the great men of Rome all agreed in this condemnation. [757] Both these philosophers were hedonists, and the latter was a sensualist as well. Jerome is probably satirizing the worldly clergy of Rome, just as in after-years he nicknames his opponent Jovinian "the Christian Epicurus."

Letter XXXIV. To Marcella.

In reply to a request from Marcella for information concerning two phrases in Ps. cxxvii. ("bread of sorrow," v. 2, and "children of the shaken off," A.V. "of the youth," v. 4). Jerome, after lamenting that Origen's notes on the psalm are no longer extant, gives the following explanations:

The Hebrew phrase "bread of sorrow" is rendered by the LXX. "bread of idols"; by Aquila, "bread of troubles"; by Symmachus, "bread of misery." Theodotion follows the LXX. So does Origen's Fifth Version. The Sixth renders "bread of error." In support of the LXX. the word used here is in Ps. cxv. 4, translated "idols." Either the troubles of life are meant or else the tenets of heresy.

With the second phrase he deals at greater length. After showing that Hilary of Poitiers's view (viz. that the persons meant are the apostles, who were told to shake the dust off their feet, Matt. x. 14) is untenable and would require "shakers off" to be substituted for "shaken off," Jerome reverts to the Hebrew as before and declares that the true rendering is that of Symmachus and Theodotion, viz. "children of youth." He points out that the LXX. (by whom the Latin translators had been misled) fall into the same mistake at Neh. iv. 16. Finally he corrects a slip of Hilary as to Ps. cxxviii. 2, where, through a misunderstanding of the LXX., the latter had substituted "the labors of thy fruits" for "the labors of thy hands." He speaks throughout with high respect of Hilary, and says that it was not the bishop's fault that he was ignorant of Hebrew. The date of the letter is probably a.d. 384.

Letter XXXV. From Pope Damasus.

Damasus addresses five questions to Jerome with a request for information concerning them. They are:

1. What is the meaning of the words "Whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold"? (Gen. iv. 5.)

2. If God has made all things good, how comes it that He gives charge to Noah concerning unclean animals, and says to Peter, "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common"? (Acts x. 15.)

3. How is Gen. xv. 16, "in the fourth generation they shall come hither again," to be reconciled with Ex. xiii. 18, LXX, "in the fifth generation the children of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt"?

4. Why did Abraham receive circumcision as a seal of his faith? (Rom. iv. 11.)

5. Why was Isaac, a righteous man and dear to God, allowed by God to become the dupe of Jacob? (Gen. xxvii.) Written at Rome 384 a.d.

Letter XXXVI. To Pope Damasus.

Jerome's reply to the foregoing. For the second and fourth questions he refers Damasus to the writings of Tertullian, Novatian, and Origen. The remaining three he deals with in detail.

Gen. iv. 15, he understands to mean "the slayer of Cain shall complete the sevenfold vengeance which is to be wreaked upon him."

Exodus xiii. 18, he proposes to reconcile with Gen. xv. 16, by supposing that in the one place the tribe of Levi is referred to, in the other the tribe of Judah. He suggests, however, that the words rendered by the LXX. "in the fifth generation" more probably mean "harnessed" (so A.V.) or "laden." In reply to the question about Isaac he says: "No man save Him who for our salvation has deigned to put on flesh has full knowledge and a complete grasp of the truth. Paul, Samuel, David, Elisha, all make mistakes, and holy men only know what God reveals to them." He then goes on to give a mystical interpretation of the passage suggested by the martyr Hippolytus. Written the day after the previous letter.

Letter XXXVII. To Marcella.

Marcella had asked Jerome to lend her a copy of a commentary by Rhetitius, bishop of Augustodunum (Autun), on the Song of Songs. He now refuses to do so on the ground that the work abounds with errors, of which the two following are samples: (1) Rhetitius identifies Tharshish with Tarsus, and (2) he supposes that Uphaz (in the phrase "gold of Uphaz") is the same as Cephas. Written at Rome a.d. 384.

Letter XXXVIII. To Marcella.

Blæsilla, the daughter of Paula and sister of Eustochium, had lost her husband seven months after her marriage. A dangerous illness had then led to her conversion, and she was now famous throughout Rome for the length to which she carried her austerities. Many censured her for what they deemed her fanaticism, and Jerome, as her spiritual adviser, came in for some of the blame. In the present letter he defends her conduct, and declares that persons who cavil at lives like hers have no claim to be considered Christians. Written at Rome in 385 a.d.

1. When Abraham is tempted to slay his son the trial only serves to strengthen his faith. [758] When Joseph is sold into Egypt, his sojourn there enables him to support his father and his brothers. [759] When Hezekiah is panic-stricken at the near approach of death, his tears and prayers obtain for him a respite of fifteen years. [760] If the faith of the apostle, Peter, is shaken by his Lord's passion, it is that, weeping bitterly, he may hear the soothing words: "Feed my sheep." [761] If Paul, that ravening wolf, [762] that little Benjamin, [763] is blinded in a trance, it is that he may receive his sight, and may be led, by the sudden horror of surrounding darkness, to call Him Lord Whom before he persecuted as man. [764]

2. So is it now, my dear Marcella, with our beloved Blæsilla. The burning fever from which we have seen her suffering unceasingly for nearly thirty days has been sent to teach her to renounce her over-great attention to that body which the worms must shortly devour. The Lord Jesus has come to her in her sickness, and has taken her by the hand, and behold, she arises and ministers unto Him. [765] Formerly her life savored somewhat of carelessness; and, fast bound in the bands of wealth, she lay as one dead in the tomb of the world. But Jesus was moved with indignation, [766] and was troubled in spirit, and cried aloud and said, Blæsilla, come forth. [767] She, at His call, has arisen and has come forth, and sits at meat with the Lord. [768] The Jews, if they will, may threaten her in their wrath; they may seek to slay her, because Christ has raised her up. [769] It is enough that the apostles give God the glory. Blæsilla knows that her life is due to Him who has given it back to her. She knows that now she can clasp the feet of Him whom but a little while ago she dreaded as her judge. [770] Then life had all but forsaken her body, and the approach of death made her gasp and shiver. What succour did she obtain in that hour from her kinsfolk? What comfort was there in their words lighter than smoke? She owes no debt to you, ye unkindly kindred, now that she is dead to the world and alive unto Christ. [771] The Christian must rejoice that it is so, and he that is vexed must admit that he has no claim to be called a Christian.

3. A widow who is "loosed from the law of her husband" [772] has, for her one duty, to continue a widow. But, you will say, a sombre dress vexes the world. In that case, John the Baptist would vex it, too; and yet, among those that are born of women, there has not been a greater than he. [773] He was called an angel; [774] he baptized the Lord Himself, and yet he was clothed in raiment of camel's hair, and girded with a leathern girdle. [775] Is the world displeased because a widow's food is coarse? Nothing can be coarser than locusts, and yet these were the food of John. The women who ought to scandalize Christians are those who paint their eyes and lips with rouge and cosmetics; whose chalked faces, unnaturally white, are like those of idols; upon whose cheeks every chance tear leaves a furrow; who fail to realize that years make them old; who heap their heads with hair not their own; who smooth their faces, and rub out the wrinkles of age; and who, in the presence of their grandsons, behave like trembling school-girls. A Christian woman should blush to do violence to nature, or to stimulate desire by bestowing care upon the flesh. "They that are in the flesh," the apostle tells us, "cannot please God." [776]

4. In days gone by our dear widow was extremely fastidious in her dress, and spent whole days before her mirror to correct its deficiencies. Now she boldly says: "We all with unveiled face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord." [777] In those days maids arranged her hair, and her head, which had done no harm, was forced into a waving head-dress. Now she leaves her hair alone, and her only head-dress is a veil. In those days the softest feather-bed seemed hard to her, and she could scarcely find rest on a pile of mattresses. Now she rises eager for prayer, her shrill voice cries Alleluia before every other, she is the first to praise her Lord. She kneels upon the bare ground, and with frequent tears cleanses a face once defiled with white lead. After prayer comes the singing of psalms, and it is only when her neck aches and her knees totter, and her eyes begin to close with weariness, that she gives them leave reluctantly to rest. As her dress is dark, lying on the ground does not soil it. Cheap shoes permit her to give to the poor the price of gilded ones. No gold and jewels adorn her girdle; it is made of wool, plain and scrupulously clean. It is intended to keep her clothes right, and not to cut her waist in two. Therefore, if the scorpion looks askance upon her purpose, and with alluring words tempts her once more to eat of the forbidden tree, she must crush him beneath her feet with a curse, and say, as he lies dying in his allotted dust: [778] "Get thee behind me, Satan." [779] Satan means adversary, [780] and one who dislikes Christ's commandments, is more than Christ's adversary; he is anti-christ.

5. But what, I ask you, have we ever done that men should be offended at us? Have we ever imitated the apostles? We are told of the first disciples that they forsook their boat and their nets, and even their aged father. [781] The publican stood up from the receipt of custom and followed the Saviour once for all. [782] And when a disciple wished to return home, that he might take leave of his kinsfolk, the Master's voice refused consent. [783] A son was even forbidden to bury his father, [784] as if to show that it is sometimes a religious duty to be undutiful for the Lord's sake. [785] With us it is different. We are held to be monks if we refuse to dress in silk. We are called sour and severe if we keep sober and refrain from excessive laughter. The mob salutes us as Greeks and impostors [786] if our tunics are fresh and clean. They may deal in still severer witticisms if they please; they may parade every fat paunch [787] they can lay hold of, to turn us into ridicule. Our Blæsilla will laugh at their efforts, and will bear with patience the taunts of all such croaking frogs, for she will remember that men called her Lord, Beelzebub. [788]


[758] Gen. xxii. [759] Gen. xxxvii., xlvi. [760] 2 Kings xx.; Isa. xxxviii. [761] Luke xxii. 54-62; Joh. xxi. 16. [762] Gen. xlix. 27. [763] Ps. lxviii. 27. [764] Acts ix. 3-18. [765] Cf. Mark i. 30, 31. [766] John xi. 38, R.V. marg. [767] Joh. xi. 38-44. [768] Joh. xii. 2. [769] Joh. xii. 10. [770] Luke vii. 38. [771] Rom. vi. 11. [772] Rom. vii. 2. [773] Luke vii. 28. [774] Luke vii. 27. The word "angel" means "messenger." [775] Matt. iii. 4. [776] Rom. viii. 8. [777] 2 Cor. iii. 18, R.V. [778] Gen. iii. 14. [779] Matt. xvi. 23. [780] 1 Pet. v. 8. [781] Matt. iv. 18-22. [782] Matt. ix. 9. [783] Luke ix. 61, 62. [784] Matt. viii. 21. [785] Luke xiv. 26. [786] Cf. Letter LIV. § 5. [787] Pinguis aqualiculus--Pers. i. 57. [788] Matt. x. 25.

Letter XXXIX. To Paula.

Blæsilla died within three months of her conversion, and Jerome now writes to Paula to offer her his sympathy and, if possible, to moderate her grief. He asks her to remember that Blæsilla is now in paradise, and so far to control herself as to prevent enemies of the faith from cavilling at her conduct. Then he concludes with the prophecy (since more than fulfilled) that in his writings Blæsilla's name shall never die. Written at Rome in 389 a.d.

1. "Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears: that I might weep," not as Jeremiah says, "For the slain of my people," [789] nor as Jesus, for the miserable fate of Jerusalem, [790] but for holiness, mercy, innocence, chastity, and all the virtues, for all are gone now that Blæsilla is dead. For her sake I do not grieve, but for myself I must; my loss is too great to be borne with resignation. Who can recall with dry eyes the glowing faith which induced a girl of twenty to raise the standard of the Cross, and to mourn the loss of her virginity more than the death of her husband? Who can recall without a sigh the earnestness of her prayers, the brilliancy of her conversation, the tenacity of her memory, and the quickness of her intellect? Had you heard her speak Greek you would have deemed her ignorant of Latin; yet when she used the tongue of Rome her words were free from a foreign accent. She even rivalled the great Origen in those acquirements which won for him the admiration of Greece. For in a few months, or rather days, she so completely mastered the difficulties of Hebrew as to emulate her mother's zeal in learning and singing the psalms. Her attire was plain, but this plainness was not, as it often is, a mark of pride. Indeed, her self-abasement was so perfect that she dressed no better than her maids, and was only distinguished from them by the greater ease of her walk. Her steps tottered with weakness, her face was pale and quivering, her slender neck scarcely upheld her head. Still she always had in her hand a prophet or a gospel. As I think of her my eyes fill with tears, sobs impede my voice, and such is my emotion that my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. As she lay there dying, her poor frame parched with burning fever, and her relatives gathered round her bed, her last words were: "Pray to the Lord Jesus, that He may pardon me, because what I would have done I have not been able to do." Be at peace, dear Blæsilla, in full assurance that your garments are always white. [791] For yours is the purity of an everlasting virginity. I feel confident that my words are true: conversion can never be too late. The words to the dying robber are a pledge of this: "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise." [792] When at last her spirit was delivered from the burden of the flesh, and had returned to Him who gave it; [793] when, too, after her long pilgrimage, she had ascended up into her ancient heritage, her obsequies were celebrated with customary splendor. People of rank headed the procession, a pall made of cloth of gold covered her bier. But I seemed to hear a voice from heaven, saying: "I do not recognize these trappings; such is not the garb I used to wear; this magnificence is strange to me."

2. But what is this? I wish to check a mother's weeping, and I groan myself. I make no secret of my feelings; this entire letter is written in tears. Even Jesus wept for Lazarus because He loved him. [794] But he is a poor comforter who is overcome by his own sighs, and from whose afflicted heart tears are wrung as well as words. Dear Paula, my agony is as great as yours. Jesus knows it, whom Blæsilla now follows; the holy angels know it, whose company she now enjoys. I was her father in the spirit, her foster-father in affection. Sometimes I say: "Let the day perish wherein I was born," [795] and again, "Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth." [796] I cry: "Righteous art thou, O Lord...yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?" [797] and "as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked, and I said: How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most high? Behold these are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches." [798] But again I recall other words, "If I say I will speak thus, behold I should offend against the generation of thy children." [799] Do not great waves of doubt surge up over my soul as over yours? How comes it, I ask, that godless men live to old age in the enjoyment of this world's riches? How comes it that untutored youth and innocent childhood are cut down while still in the bud? Why is it that children three years old or two, and even unweaned infants, are possessed with devils, covered with leprosy, and eaten up with jaundice, while godless men and profane, adulterers and murderers, have health and strength to blaspheme God? Are we not told that the unrighteousness of the father does not fall upon the son, [800] and that "the soul that sinneth it shall die?" [801] Or if the old doctrine holds good that the sins of the fathers must be visited upon the children, [802] an old man's countless sins cannot fairly be avenged upon a harmless infant. And I have said: "Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued." [803] Yet when I have thought of these things, like the prophet I have learned to say: "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end." [804] Truly the judgments of the Lord are a great deep. [805] "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" [806] God is good, and all that He does must be good also. Does He decree that I must lose my husband? I mourn my loss, but because it is His will I bear it with resignation. Is an only son snatched from me? The blow is hard, yet it can be borne, for He who has taken away is He who gave. [807] If I become blind a friend's reading will console me. If I become deaf I shall escape from sinful words, and my thoughts shall be of God alone. And if, besides such trials as these, poverty, cold, sickness, and nakedness oppress me, I shall wait for death, and regard them as passing evils, soon to give way to a better issue. Let us reflect on the words of the sapiential psalm: "Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments." [808] Only he can speak thus who in all his troubles magnifies the Lord, and, putting down his sufferings to his sins, thanks God for his clemency.

The daughters of Judah, we are told, rejoiced, because of all the judgments of the Lord. [809] Therefore, since Judah means confession, and since every believing soul confesses its faith, [810] he who claims to believe in Christ must rejoice in all Christ's judgments. Am I in health? I thank my Creator. Am I sick? In this case, too, I praise God's will. For "when I am weak, then am I strong;" and the strength of the spirit is made perfect in the weakness of the flesh. Even an apostle must bear what he dislikes, that ailment for the removal of which he besought the Lord thrice. God's reply was: "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." [811] Lest he should be unduly elated by his revelations, a reminder of his human weakness was given to him, just as in the triumphal car of the victorious general there was always a slave to whisper constantly, amid the cheerings of the multitude, "Remember that thou art but man." [812]

3. But why should that be hard to bear which we must one day ourselves endure? And why do we grieve for the dead? We are not born to live forever. Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah, Peter, James, and John, Paul, the "chosen vessel," [813] and even the Son of God Himself have all died; and are we vexed when a soul leaves its earthly tenement? Perhaps he is taken away, "lest that wickedness should alter his understanding...for his soul pleased the Lord: therefore hasted he to take him away from the people" [814] --lest in life's long journey he should lose his way in some trackless maze. We should indeed mourn for the dead, but only for him whom Gehenna receives, whom Tartarus devours, and for whose punishment the eternal fire burns. But we who, in departing, are accompanied by an escort of angels, and met by Christ Himself, should rather grieve that we have to tarry yet longer in this tabernacle of death. [815] For "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." [816] Our one longing should be that expressed by the psalmist: "Woe is me that my pilgrimage is prolonged, that I have dwelt with them that dwell in Kedar, that my soul hath made a far pilgrimage." [817] Kedar means darkness, and darkness stands for this present world (for, we are told, "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not" [818] ). Therefore we should congratulate our dear Blæsilla that she has passed from darkness to light, [819] and has in the first flush of her dawning faith received the crown of her completed work. Had she been cut off (as I pray that none may be) while her thoughts were full of worldly desires and passing pleasures, then mourning would indeed have been her due, and no tears shed for her would have been too many. As it is, by the mercy of Christ she, four months ago, renewed her baptism in her vow of widowhood, and for the rest of her days spurned the world, and thought only of the religious life. Have you no fear, then, lest the Saviour may say to you: "Are you angry, Paula, that your daughter has become my daughter? Are you vexed at my decree, and do you, with rebellious tears, grudge me the possession of Blæsilla? You ought to know what my purpose is both for you and for yours. You deny yourself food, not to fast but to gratify your grief; and such abstinence is displeasing to me. Such fasts are my enemies. I receive no soul which forsakes the body against my will. A foolish philosophy may boast of martyrs of this kind; it may boast of a Zeno [820] a Cleombrotus, [821] or a Cato. [822] My spirit rests only upon him "that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word. [823] Is this the meaning of your vow to me that you would lead a religious life? Is it for this that you dress yourself differently from other matrons, and array yourself in the garb of a nun? Mourning is for those who wear silk dresses. In the midst of your tears the call will come, and you, too, must die; yet you flee from me as from a cruel judge, and fancy that you can avoid falling into my hands. Jonah, that headstrong prophet, once fled from me, yet in the depths of the sea he was still mine. [824] If you really believed your daughter to be alive, you would not grieve that she had passed to a better world. This is the commandment that I have given you through my apostle, that you sorrow not for them that sleep, even as the Gentiles, which have no hope. [825] Blush, for you are put to shame by the example of a heathen. The devil's handmaid [826] is better than mine. For, while she imagines that her unbelieving husband has been translated to heaven, you either do not or will not believe that your daughter is at rest with me."

4. Why should I not mourn, you say? Jacob put on sackcloth for Joseph, and when all his family gathered round him, refused to be comforted. "I will go down," he said, "into the grave unto my son mourning." [827] David also mourned for Absalom, covering his face, and crying: "O my son, Absalom...my son, Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son!" [828] Moses, [829] too, and Aaron, [830] and the rest of the saints were mourned for with a solemn mourning. The answer to your reasoning is simple. Jacob, it is true, mourned for Joseph, whom he fancied slain, and thought to meet only in the grave (his words were: "I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning"), but he only did so because Christ had not yet broken open the door of paradise, nor quenched with his blood the flaming sword and the whirling of the guardian cherubim. [831] (Hence in the story of Dives and Lazarus, Abraham and the beggar, though really in a place of refreshment, are described as being in hell. [832] ) And David, who, after interceding in vain for the life of his infant child, refused to weep for it, knowing that it had not sinned, did well to weep for a son who had been a parricide--in will, if not in deed. [833] And when we read that, for Moses and Aaron, lamentation was made after ancient custom, this ought not to surprise us, for even in the Acts of the Apostles, in the full blaze of the gospel, we see that the brethren at Jerusalem made great lamentation for Stephen. [834] This great lamentation, however, refers not to the mourners, but to the funeral procession and to the crowds which accompanied it. This is what the Scripture says of Jacob: "Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, and all the house of Joseph and his brethren"; and a few lines farther on: "And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a great company." Finally, "they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation." [835] This solemn lamentation does not impose prolonged weeping upon the Egyptians, but simply describes the funeral ceremony. In like manner, when we read of weeping made for Moses and Aaron, [836] this is all that is meant.

I cannot adequately extol the mysteries of Scripture, nor sufficiently admire the spiritual meaning conveyed in its most simple words. We are told, for instance, that lamentation was made for Moses; yet when the funeral of Joshua is described [837] no mention at all is made of weeping. The reason, of course, is that under Moses--that is under the old Law--all men were bound by the sentence passed on Adam's sin, and when they descended into hell [838] were rightly accompanied with tears. For, as the apostle says, "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned." [839] But under Jesus, [840] that is, under the Gospel of Christ, who has unlocked for us the gate of paradise, death is accompanied, not with sorrow, but with joy. The Jews go on weeping to this day; they make bare their feet, they crouch in sackcloth, they roll in ashes. And to make their superstition complete, they follow a foolish custom of the Pharisees, and eat lentils, [841] to show, it would seem, for what poor fare they have lost their birthright. [842] Of course they are right to weep, for as they do not believe in the Lord's resurrection they are being made ready for the advent of antichrist. But we who have put on Christ [843] and according to the apostle are a royal and priestly race, [844] we ought not to grieve for the dead. "Moses," the Scripture tells us, "said unto Aaron and unto Eleazar, and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left: Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people." [845] Rend not your clothes, he says, neither mourn as pagans, lest you die. For, for us sin is death. In this same book, Leviticus, there is a provision which may perhaps strike some as cruel, yet is necessary to faith: the high priest is forbidden to approach the dead bodies of his father and mother, of his brothers and of his children; [846] to the end, that no grief may distract a soul engaged in offering sacrifice to God, and wholly devoted to the Divine mysteries. Are we not taught the same lesson in the Gospel in other words? Is not the disciple forbidden to say farewell to his home or to bury his dead father? [847] Of the high priest, again, it is said: "He shall not go out of the sanctuary, and the sanctification of his God shall not be contaminated, for the anointing oil of his God is upon him." [848] Certainly, now that we have believed in Christ, and bear Him within us, by reason of the oil of His anointing which we have received, [849] we ought not to depart from His temple--that is, from our Christian profession--we ought not to go forth to mingle with the unbelieving Gentiles, but always to remain within, as servants obedient to the will of the Lord.

5. I have spoken plainly, lest you might ignorantly suppose that Scripture sanctions your grief; and that, if you err, you have reason on your side. And, so far, my words have been addressed to the average Christian woman. But now it will not be so. For in your case, as I well know, renunciation of the world has been complete; you have rejected and trampled on the delights of life, and you give yourself daily to fasting, to reading, and to prayer. Like Abraham, [850] you desire to leave your country and kindred, to forsake Mesopotamia and the Chaldæans, to enter into the promised land. Dead to the world before your death, you have spent all your mere worldly substance upon the poor, or have bestowed it upon your children. I am the more surprised, therefore, that you should act in a manner which in others would justly call for reprehension. You call to mind Blæsilla's companionship, her conversation, and her endearing ways; and you cannot endure the thought that you have lost them all. I pardon you the tears of a mother, but I ask you to restrain your grief. When I think of the parent I cannot blame you for weeping: but when I think of the Christian and the recluse, the mother disappears from my view. Your wound is still fresh, and any touch of mine, however gentle, is more likely to inflame than to heal it. Yet why do you not try to overcome by reason a grief which time must inevitably assuage? Naomi, fleeing because of famine to the land of Moab, there lost her husband and her sons. Yet when she was thus deprived of her natural protectors, Ruth, a stranger, never left her side. [851] And see what a great thing it is to comfort a lonely woman! Ruth, for her reward, is made an ancestress of Christ. [852] Consider the great trials which Job endured, and you will see that you are over-delicate. Amid the ruins of his house, the pains of his sores, his countless bereavements, and, last of all, the snares laid for him by his wife, he still lifted up his eyes to heaven, and maintained his patience unbroken. I know what you are going to say: "All this befell him as a righteous man, to try his righteousness." Well, choose which alternative you please. Either you are holy, in which case God is putting your holiness to the proof; or else you are a sinner, in which case you have no right to complain. For if so, you endure far less than your deserts.

Why should I repeat old stories? Listen to a modern instance. The holy Melanium, [853] eminent among Christians for her true nobility (may the Lord grant that you and I may have part with her in His day!), while the dead body of her husband was still unburied, still warm, had the misfortune to lose at one stroke two of her sons. The sequel seems incredible, but Christ is my witness that my words are true. Would you not suppose that in her frenzy she would have unbound her hair, and rent her clothes, and torn her breast? Yet not a tear fell from her eyes. Motionless she stood there; then casting herself at the feet of Christ, she smiled, as though she held Him with her hands. "Henceforth, Lord," she said, "I will serve Thee more readily, for Thou hast freed me from a great burden." But perhaps her remaining children overcame her determination. No, indeed; she set so little store by them that she gave up all that she had to her only son, and then, in spite of the approaching winter, took ship for Jerusalem.

6. Spare yourself, I beseech you, spare Blæsilla, who now reigns with Christ; at least spare Eustochium, whose tender years and inexperience depend on you for guidance and instruction. Now does the devil rage and complain that he is set at naught, because he sees one of your children exalted in triumph. The victory which he failed to win over her that is gone he hopes to obtain over her who still remains. Too great affection towards one's children is disaffection towards God. Abraham gladly prepares to slay his only son, and do you complain if one child out of several has received her crown? I cannot say what I am going to say without a groan. When you were carried fainting out of the funeral procession, whispers such as these were audible in the crowd. "Is not this what we have often said. She weeps for her daughter, killed with fasting. She wanted her to marry again, that she might have grandchildren. How long must we refrain from driving these detestable monks out of Rome? Why do we not stone them or hurl them into the Tiber? They have misled this unhappy lady; that she is not a nun from choice is clear. No heathen mother ever wept for her children as she does for Blæsilla." What sorrow, think you, must not Christ have endured when He listened to such words as these! And how triumphantly must Satan have exulted, eager as he is to snatch your soul! Luring you with the claims of a grief which seems natural and right, and always keeping before you the image of Blæsilla, his aim is to slay the mother of the victress, and then to fall upon her forsaken sister. I do not speak thus to terrify you. The Lord is my witness that I address you now as though I were standing at His judgment seat. Tears which have no meaning are an object of abhorrence. Yours are detestable tears, sacrilegious tears, unbelieving tears; for they know no limits, and bring you to the verge of death. You shriek and cry out as though on fire within, and do your best to put an end to yourself. But to you and others like you Jesus comes in His mercy and says: "Why weepest thou? the damsel is not dead but sleepeth." [854] The bystanders may laugh him to scorn; such unbelief is worthy of the Jews. If you prostrate yourself in grief at your daughter's tomb you too will hear the chiding of the angel, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" [855] It was because Mary Magdalene had done this that when she recognized the Lord's voice calling her and fell at His feet, He said to her: "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father;" [856] that is to say, you are not worthy to touch, as risen, one whom you suppose still in the tomb.

7. What crosses and tortures, think you, must not our Blæsilla endure to see Christ angry with you, though it be but a little! At this moment she cries to you as you weep: "If ever you loved me, mother, if I was nourished at your breast, if I was taught by your precepts, do not grudge me my exaltation, do not so act that we shall be separated forever. Do you fancy that I am alone? In place of you I now have Mary the mother of the Lord. Here I see many whom before I have not known. My companions are infinitely better than any that I had on earth. Here I have the company of Anna, the prophetess of the Gospel; [857] and--what should kindle in you more fervent joy--I have gained in three short months what cost her the labor of many years to win. Both of us widows indeed, we have been both rewarded with the palm of chastity. Do you pity me because I have left the world behind me? It is I who should, and do, pity you who, still immured in its prison, daily fight with anger, with covetousness, with lust, with this or that temptation leading the soul to ruin. If you wish to be indeed my mother, you must please Christ. She is not my mother who displeases my Lord." Many other things does she say which here I pass over; she prays also to God for you. For me, too, I feel sure, she makes intercession and asks God to pardon my sins in return for the warnings and advice that I bestowed on her, when to secure her salvation I braved the ill will of her family.

8. Therefore, so long as breath animates my body, so long as I continue in the enjoyment of life, I engage, declare, and promise that Blæsilla's name shall be forever on my tongue, that my labors shall be dedicated to her honor, and that my talents shall be devoted to her praise. No page will I write in which Blæsilla's name shall not occur. Wherever the records of my utterance shall find their way, thither she, too, will travel with my poor writings. Virgins, widows, monks and priests, as they read, will see how deeply her image is impressed upon my mind. Everlasting remembrance will make up for the shortness of her life. Living as she does with Christ in heaven, she will live also on the lips of men. The present will soon pass away and give place to the future, and that future will judge her without partiality and without prejudice. As a childless widow she will occupy a middle place between Paula, the mother of children, and Eustochium the virgin. In my writings she will never die. She will hear me conversing of her always, either with her sister or with her mother.


[789] Jer. ix. 1. [790] Luke xix. 41. [791] Eccles. ix. 8. [792] Luke xxiii. 43. [793] Cf. Eccles. xii. 7. [794] John xi. 35, 36. [795] Job iii. 3: cf. Jer. xx. 14. [796] Jer. xv. 10. [797] Jer. xii. 1. [798] Ps. lxxiii. 2, 3, 11, 12, Vulg. [799] Ps. lxxiii. 15. [800] Ezek. xviii. 20. [801] Ezek. xviii. 4. [802] Ex. xx. 5. [803] Ps. lxxiii. 13, 14. [804] Ps. lxxiii. 16, 17. [805] Ps. xxxvi. 6. [806] Rom. xi. 33. [807] Job i. 21. [808] Ps. cxix. 137. [809] Ps. xcvii. 8. [810] Rom. x. 10. [811] 2 Cor. xii. 8, 9, 10. [812] Cf. Tertullian, Apol. 33. [813] Acts ix. 15. [814] Wisd. iv. 11, 14. [815] 2 Cor. v. 4. [816] 2 Cor. v. 6. [817] Ps. cxx. 5, 6, Vulg. [818] Joh. i. 5. [819] Eph. v. 8. [820] A famous stoic who committed suicide in extreme old age. See Diogenes Laertius (vii. 1) for an account of his death. [821] An academic philosopher of Ambracia, who is said to have killed himself after reading the Phædo of Plato. [822] Cato of Utica, who, after the battle of Thapsus (46 b.c.), committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of Cæsar. [823] Isa. lxvi. 2. [824] Jon. ii. 2-7. [825] 1 Thess. iv. 13. [826] Viz. Paulina, wife of Prætextatus and priestess of Ceres. See Letter XXIII. § 3. [827] Gen. xxxvii. 35. [828] 2 Sam. xviii. 33. [829] Deut. xxxiv. 8. [830] Nu. xx. 29. [831] Gen. iii. 24: cf. Ezek. i. 15-20. Here as in his Comm. on Eccles. iii. 16-22, Jerome follows Origen, who, in his homily de Engastrimytho, lays down that until Christ came to set them free the patriarchs, prophets, and saints of the Old Testament were all in hell. [832] Apud inferos--Luke xvi. 23. [833] 2 Sam. xvii. 1-4. [834] Acts viii. 2. [835] Gen. 1. 7-10. [836] Nu. xx. 29; Deut. xxxiv. 6-8. [837] Josh. xxiv. 30. [838] Ad inferos. Hades is meant, not Gehenna. [839] Rom. v. 14. [840] The Greek form of Joshua. Cf. Acts vii. 45, A.V. [841] I learn from Dr. Neubauer, of Oxford, that this is still a practice during mourning among the Jews of the East. He refers to Tur Joreh Deah. §378. [842] Gen. xxv. 34. [843] Gal. iii. 27. [844] 1 Pet. ii. 9. [845] Lev. x. 6, 12. [846] Lev. xxi. 10-12. [847] Luke ix. 59-62. [848] Lev. xxi. 12, Vulg. [849] 1 Joh. ii. 27. [850] Gen. xii. 1-4. [851] Ruth i. [852] Matt. i. 5. [853] Or Melania. She went with Rufinus to the East, and settled with him on the Mt. of Olives; and incurred Jerome's resentment as Rufinus' friend. See Ep. cxxxiii. 3. "She whose name of blackness attests the darkness of her perfidy." [854] Mark v. 39. [855] Luke xxiv. 5. [856] Joh. xx. 17. [857] Luke ii. 36, 37.

Letter XL. To Marcella.

Onasus, of Segesta, the subject of this letter, was among Jerome's Roman opponents. He is here held up to ridicule in a manner which reflects little credit on the writer's urbanity. The date of the letter is 385 a.d.

1. The medical men called surgeons pass for being cruel, but really deserve pity. For is it not pitiful to cut away the dead flesh of another man with merciless knives without being moved by his pangs? Is it not pitiful that the man who is curing the patient is callous to his sufferings, and has to appear as his enemy? Yet such is the order of nature. While truth is always bitter, pleasantness waits upon evil-doing. Isaiah goes naked without blushing as a type of captivity to come. [858] Jeremiah is sent from Jerusalem to the Euphrates (a river in Mesopotamia), and leaves his girdle to be marred in the Chaldæan camp, among the Assyrians hostile to his people. [859] Ezekiel is told to eat bread made of mingled seeds and sprinkled with the dung of men and cattle. [860] He has to see his wife die without shedding a tear. [861] Amos is driven from Samaria. [862] Why is he driven from it? Surely in this case as in the others, because he was a spiritual surgeon, who cut away the parts diseased by sin and urged men to repentance. The apostle Paul says: "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" [863] And so the Saviour Himself found it, from whom many of the disciples went back because His sayings seemed hard. [864]

2. It is not surprising, then, that by exposing their faults I have offended many. I have arranged to operate on a cancerous nose; [865] let him who suffers from wens tremble. I wish to rebuke a chattering daw; let the crow realize that she is offensive. [866] Yet, after all, is there but one person in Rome

"Whose nostrils are disfigured by a scar?" [867]

Is Onasus of Segesta alone in puffing out his cheeks like bladders and balancing hollow phrases on his tongue?

I say that certain persons have, by crime, perjury, and false pretences, attained to this or that high position. How does it hurt you who know that the charge does not touch you? I laugh at a pleader who has no clients, and sneer at a penny-a-liner's eloquence. What does it matter to you who are such a refined speaker? It is my whim to inveigh against mercenary priests. You are rich already, why should you be angry? I wish to shut up Vulcan and burn him in his own flames. Are you his guest or his neighbor that you try to save an idol's shrine from the fire? I choose to make merry over ghosts and owls and monsters of the Nile; and whatever I say, you take it as aimed at you. At whatever fault I point my pen, you cry out that you are meant. You collar me and drag me into court and absurdly charge me with writing satires when I only write plain prose!

So you really think yourself a pretty fellow just because you have a lucky name! [868] Why it does not follow at all. A brake is called a brake just because the light does not break through it. [869] The Fates are called "sparers," [870] just because they never spare. The Furies are spoken of as gracious, [871] because they show no grace. And in common speech Ethiopians go by the name of silverlings. Still, if the showing up of faults always angers you, I will soothe you now with the words of Persius: "May you be a catch for my lord and lady's daughter! May the pretty ladies scramble for you! May the ground you walk on turn to a rose-bed!" [872]

3. All the same, I will give you a hint what features to hide if you want to look your best. Show no nose upon your face and keep your mouth shut. You will then stand some chance of being counted both handsome and eloquent.


[858] Isa. xx. 2. [859] Jer. xiii. 6, 7. [860] Ezek. iv. 9-16. [861] Ezek. xxiv. 15-18. [862] Amos vii. 12, 13. [863] Gal. iv. 16. [864] John vi. 60, 66. [865] Nasus. A play on the name Onasus. [866] Cf. Persius, l. 33. [867] Virg. A. vi. 497. [868] Onasus means "lucky" or "profitable;" it is another form of Onesimus. [869] Quoted from Quintilian i. 6, 34 (lucus a non lucendo). [870] Parcæ, from parcere, to spare. [871] Eumenides, the Greek name for the Furies. [872] Pers. ii. 37, 38.

Letter XLI. To Marcella.

An effort having been made to convert Marcella to Montanism, [873] Jerome here summarizes for her its leading doctrines, which he contrasts with those of the Church. Written at Rome in 385 a.d.

1. As regards the passages brought together from the gospel of John with which a certain votary of Montanus has assailed you, passages in which our Saviour promises that He will go to the Father, and that He will send the Paraclete [874] --as regards these, the Acts of the Apostles inform us both for what time the promises were made, and at what time they were actually fulfilled. Ten days had elapsed, we are told, from the Lord's ascension and fifty from His resurrection, when the Holy Spirit came down, and the tongues of the believers were cloven, so that each spoke every language. Then it was that, when certain persons of those who as yet believed not declared that the disciples were drunk with new wine, Peter standing in the midst of the apostles, and of all the concourse said: "Ye men of Judæa and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants, and on my handmaidens I will pour out...of my spirit." [875]

2. If, then, the apostle Peter, upon whom the Lord has founded the Church, [876] has expressly said that the prophecy and promise of the Lord were then and there fulfilled, how can we claim another fulfilment for ourselves? if the Montanists reply that Philip's four daughters prophesied [877] at a later date, and that a prophet is mentioned named Agabus, [878] and that in the partition of the spirit, prophets are spoken of as well as apostles, teachers and others, [879] and that Paul himself prophesied many things concerning heresies still future, and the end of the world; we tell them that we do not so much reject prophecy--for this is attested by the passion of the Lord--as refuse to receive prophets whose utterances fail to accord with the Scriptures old and new.

3. In the first place we differ from the Montanists regarding the rule of faith. We distinguish the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three persons, but unite them as one substance. They, on the other hand, following the doctrine of Sabellius, [880] force the Trinity into the narrow limits of a single personality. We, while we do not encourage them, yet allow second marriages, since Paul bids the younger widows to marry. [881] They suppose a repetition of marriage a sin so awful that he who has committed it is to be regarded as an adulterer. We, according to the apostolic tradition (in which the whole world is at one with us), fast through one Lent yearly; whereas they keep three in the year as though three saviours had suffered. I do not mean, of course, that it is unlawful to fast at other times through the year--always excepting Pentecost [882] --only that while in Lent it is a duty of obligation, at other seasons it is a matter of choice. With us, again, the bishops occupy the place of the apostles, but with them a bishop ranks not first but third. For while they put first the patriarchs of Pepusa [883] in Phrygia, and place next to these the ministers called stewards, [884] the bishops are relegated to the third or almost the lowest rank. No doubt their object is to make their religion more pretentious by putting that last which we put first. Again they close the doors of the Church to almost every fault, whilst we read daily, "I desire the repentance of a sinner rather than his death," [885] and "Shall they fall and not arise, saith the Lord," [886] and once more "Return ye backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings." [887] Their strictness does not prevent them from themselves committing grave sins, far from it; but there is this difference between us and them, that, whereas they in their self-righteousness blush to confess their faults, we do penance for ours, and so more readily gain pardon for them.

4. I pass over their sacraments [888] of sin, made up as they are said to be, of sucking children subjected to a triumphant martyrdom. [889] I prefer, I say, not to credit these; accusations of blood-shedding may well be false. But I must confute the open blasphemy of men who say that God first determined in the Old Testament to save the world by Moses and the prophets, but that finding Himself unable to fulfil His purpose He took to Himself a body of the Virgin, and preaching under the form of the Son in Christ, underwent death for our salvation. Moreover that, when by these two steps He was unable to save the world, He last of all descended by the Holy Spirit upon Montanus and those demented women Prisca and Maximilia; and that thus the mutilated and emasculate [890] Montanus possessed a fulness of knowledge such as was never claimed by Paul; for he was content to say, "We know in part, and we prophesy in part," and again, "Now we see through a glass darkly." [891]

These are statements which require no refutation. To expose the infidelity of the Montanists is to triumph over it. Nor is it necessary that in so short a letter as this I should overthrow the several absurdities which they bring forward. You are well acquainted with the Scriptures; and, as I take it, you have written, not because you have been disturbed by their cavils, but only to learn my opinion about them.


[873] Montanus lived at Ardaban, in Phrygia, in the second half of the second century, and founded a sect of prophetic enthusiasts and ascetics, which was afterward joined by Tertullian. [874] Joh. xiv. 28; xv. 26. [875] Acts ii. 14-18. [876] Matt. xvi. 18. [877] Acts xxi. 9. [878] Acts xi. 28; xxi. 10, 11. [879] 1 Cor. xii. 28; cf. Eph. iv. 11. [880] A presbyter of the Libyan Pentapolis who taught at Rome in the early years of the third century. He "confounded the persons" of the Trinity and was subsequently accounted a heretic. Cf. Letter XV. [881] 1 Tim. v. 14. [882] Viz. the period between Easter Day and Whitsunday. [883] Called by the Montanists the New Jerusalem. [884] Oeconomos--according to a probable emendation. The text has cenonas. [885] Ezek. xviii. 23. [886] Jer. viii. 4. [887] Jer. iii. 22. [888] Mysteria. [889] Victuro martyre confarrata. The precise meaning of the words is obscure. [890] Some suppose him to have been a priest of Cybele, but it would be a mistake to lay too much stress on Jerome's words. [891] 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 12.

Letter XLII. To Marcella.

At Marcella's request Jerome explains to her what is "the sin against the Holy Ghost" spoken of by Christ, and shows Novatian's [892] explanation of it to be untenable. Written at Rome in 385 a.d.

1. The question you send is short and the answer is clear. There is this passage in the gospel: "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world nor in the world to come." [893] Now if Novatian affirms that none but Christian renegades can sin against the Holy Ghost, it is plain that the Jews who blasphemed Christ were not guilty of this sin. Yet they were wicked husbandmen, they had slain the prophets, they were then compassing the death of the Lord; [894] and so utterly lost were they that the Son of God told them that it was they whom he had come to save. [895] It must be proved to Novatian, therefore, that the sin which shall never be forgiven is not the blasphemy of men disembowelled by torture who in their agony deny their Lord, but is the captious clamor of those who, while they see that God's works are the fruit of virtue, ascribe the virtue to a demon and declare the signs wrought to belong not to the divine excellence but to the devil. And this is the whole gist of our Saviour's argument, when He teaches that Satan cannot be cast out by Satan, and that his kingdom is not divided against itself. [896] If it is the devil's object to injure God's creation, how can he wish to cure the sick and to expel himself from the bodies possessed by him? Let Novatian prove that of those who have been compelled to sacrifice before a judge's tribunal any has declared of the things written in the gospel that they were wrought not by the Son of God but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils; [897] and then he will be able to make good his contention that this [898] is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which shall never be forgiven.

2. But to put a more searching question still: let Novatian tell us how he distinguishes speaking against the Son of Man from blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. For I maintain that on his principles men who have denied Christ under persecution have only spoken against the Son of Man, and have not blasphemed the Holy Ghost. For when a man is asked if he is a Christian, and declares that he is not; obviously in denying Christ, that is the Son of Man, he does no despite to the Holy Ghost. But if his denial of Christ involves a denial of the Holy Ghost, this heretic can perhaps tell us how the Son of Man can be denied without sinning against the Holy Ghost. If he thinks that we are here intended by the term Holy Ghost to understand the Father, no mention at all of the Father is made by the denier in his denial. When the apostle Peter, taken aback by a maid's question, denied the Lord, did he sin against the Son of Man or against the Holy Ghost? If Novatian absurdly twists Peter's words, "I know not the man," [899] to mean a denial not of Christ's Messiahship but of His humanity, he will make the Saviour a liar, for He foretold [900] that He Himself, that is His divine Sonship, must be denied. Now, when Peter denied the Son of God, he wept bitterly and effaced his threefold denial by a threefold confession. [901] His sin, therefore, was not the sin against the Holy Ghost which can never be forgiven. It is obvious, then, that this sin involves blasphemy, calling one Beelzebub for his actions, whose virtues prove him to be God. If Novatian can bring an instance of a renegade who has called Christ Beelzebub, I will at once give up my position and admit that after such a fall the denier can win no forgiveness. To give way under torture and to deny oneself to be a Christian is one thing, to say that Christ is the devil is another. And this you will yourself see if you read the passage [902] attentively.

3. I ought to have discussed the matter more fully, but some friends have visited my humble abode, and I cannot refuse to give myself up to them. Still, as it might seem arrogant not to answer you at once, I have compressed a wide subject into a few words, and have sent you not a letter but an explanatory note. [903]


[892] Novatian, a Roman presbyter in the middle of the third century, held that the "lapsed," who had failed during the persecutions, could not be readmitted to the church. His sect upheld an extreme moral puritanism, as is shown in the speech of Constantine to their bishop at the Council of Nicæa: "Acesius, you should set up a ladder to heaven, and go up by yourself alone." [893] Matt. xii. 32. [894] Matt. xxi. 33. [895] Matt. xviii. 11. [896] Matt. xii. 25, 26. [897] Matt. xii. 24. [898] Viz. denial of Christ by Christians. [899] Matt. xxvi. 74. [900] Matt. xxvi. 33-35; Joh. xiii. 38. [901] Joh. xxi. 15-17. [902] Viz. Matt. xii. 32, quoted above. [903] Commentariolum.

Letter XLIII. To Marcella.

Jerome draws a contrast between his daily life and that of Origen, and sorrowfully admits his own shortcomings. He then suggests to Marcella the advantages which life in the country offers over life in town, and hints that he is himself disposed to make trial of it. Written at Rome in 385 a.d.

1. Ambrose who supplied Origen, true man of adamant and of brass, [904] with money, materials and amanuenses to bring out his countless books--Ambrose, in a letter to his friend from Athens, states that they never took a meal together without something being read, and never went to bed till some portion of Scripture had been brought home to them by a brother's voice. Night and day, in fact, were so ordered that prayer only gave place to reading and reading to prayer.

2. Have we, brute beasts that we are, ever done the like? Why, we yawn if we read for over an hour; we rub our foreheads and vainly try to suppress our languor. And then, after this great feat, we plunge for relief into worldly business once more.

I say nothing of the meals with which we dull our faculties, and I would rather not estimate the time that we spend in paying and receiving visits. Next we fall into conversation; we waste our words, we attack people behind their backs, we detail their way of living, we carp at them and are carped at by them in turn. Such is the fare that engages our attention at dinner and afterwards. Then, when our guests have retired, we make up our accounts, and these are sure to cause us either anger or anxiety. The first makes us like raging lions, and the second seeks vainly to make provision for years to come. We do not recollect the words of the Gospel: "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?" [905] The clothing which we buy is designed not merely for use but for display. Where there is a chance of saving money we quicken our pace, speak promptly, and keep our ears open. If we hear of household losses--such as often occur--our looks become dejected and gloomy. The gain of a penny [906] fills us with joy; the loss of a half-penny [907] plunges us into sorrow. One man is of so many minds that the prophet's prayer is: "Lord, in thy city scatter their image." [908] For created as we are in the image of God and after His likeness, [909] it is our own wickedness which makes us assume masks. [910] Just as on the stage the same actor now figures as a brawny Hercules, now softens into a tender Venus, now shivers in the role of Cybele; so we--who, if we were not of the world, would be hated by the world [911] --for every sin that we commit have a corresponding mask.

3. Wherefore, seeing that we have journeyed for much of our life through a troubled sea, and that our vessel has been in turn shaken by raging blasts and shattered upon treacherous reefs, let us, as soon as may be, make for the haven of rural quietude. There such country dainties as milk and household bread, and greens watered by our own hands, will supply us with coarse but harmless fare. So living, sleep will not call us away from prayer, nor satiety from reading. In summer the shade of a tree will afford us privacy. In autumn the quality of the air and the leaves strewn under foot will invite us to stop and rest. In springtime the fields will be bright with flowers, and our psalms will sound the sweeter for the twittering of the birds. When winter comes with its frost and snow, I shall not have to buy fuel, and, whether I sleep or keep vigil, shall be warmer than in town. At least, so far as I know, I shall keep off the cold at less expense. Let Rome keep to itself its noise and bustle, let the cruel shows of the arena go on, let the crowd rave at the circus, let the playgoers revel in the theatres and--for I must not altogether pass over our Christian friends--let the House of Ladies [912] hold its daily sittings. It is good for us to cleave to the Lord, [913] and to put our hope in the Lord God, so that when we have exchanged our present poverty for the kingdom of heaven, we may be able to exclaim: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." [914] Surely if we can find such blessedness in heaven we may well grieve to have sought after pleasures poor and passing here upon earth. Farewell.


[904] For the meaning of these epithets as applied to Origen see Letter XXXIII. § 1. [905] Luke xii. 20. [906] Nummus. Sc. Sestertius = 4 cents = 2 pence. [907] Obolus = 3 1-2 cents = 1 penny 3 farthings. [908] Ps. lxxiii. 20, Vulg. [909] Gen. i. 26. [910] These were worn by both Greek and Roman actors. [911] Joh. xv. 19. [912] Ps. lxxiii. 28. [913] Senatus Matronarum. Comp. Letter XXXIII. 4: "Rome calls together its senate to condemn him." [914] Ps. lxxiii. 25.

Letter XLIV. To Marcella.

Marcella had sent some small articles as a present (probably to Paula and Eustochium) and Jerome now writes in their name to thank her for them. He notices the appropriateness of the gifts, not only to the ladies, but also to himself. Written at Rome in 385 a.d.

When absent in body we are wont to converse together in spirit. [915] Each of us does what he or she can. You send us gifts, we send you back letters of thanks. And as we are virgins who have taken the veil, [916] it is our duty to show that hidden meanings lurk under your nice presents. Sackcloth, then, is a token of prayer and fasting, the chairs remind us that a virgin should never stir abroad, and the wax tapers that we should look for the bridegroom's coming with our lights burning. [917] The cups also warn us to mortify the flesh and always to be ready for martyrdom. "How bright," says the psalmist, "is the cup of the Lord, intoxicating them that drink it!" [918] Moreover, when you offer to matrons little fly-flaps to brush away mosquitoes, it is a charming way of hinting that they should at once check voluptuous feelings, for "dying flies," we are told, "spoil sweet ointment." [919] In such presents, then, as these, virgins can find a model, and matrons a pattern. To me, too, your gifts convey a lesson, although one of an opposite kind. For chairs suit idlers, sackcloth does for penitents, and cups are wanted for the thirsty. And I shall be glad to light your tapers, if only to banish the terrors of the night and the fears of an evil conscience.


[915] Cf. Col. ii. 5. [916] Cf. Letter CXXX. § 2. [917] Matt. xxv. 1. [918] Ps. xxiii. 5, according to the Gallican psalter. [919] Eccles. x. 1, Vulg.

Letter XLV. To Asella.

After leaving Rome for the East, Jerome writes to Asella to refute the calumnies by which he had been assailed, especially as regards his intimacy with Paula and Eustochium. Written on board ship at Ostia, in August, 385 a.d.

1. Were I to think myself able to requite your kindness I should be foolish. God is able in my stead to reward a soul which is consecrated to Him. So unworthy, indeed, am I of your regard that I have never ventured to estimate its value or even to wish that it might be given me for Christ's sake. Some consider me a wicked man, laden with iniquity; and such language is more than justified by my actual sins. Yet in dealing with the bad you do well to account them good. It is dangerous to judge another man's servant; [920] and to speak evil of the righteous is a sin not easily pardoned. The day will surely come when you and I shall mourn for others; for not a few will be in the flames.

2. I am said to be an infamous turncoat, a slippery knave, one who lies and deceives others by Satanic arts. Which is the safer course, I should like to know, to invent or credit these charges against innocent persons, or to refuse to believe them, even of the guilty? Some kissed my hands, yet attacked me with the tongues of vipers; sympathy was on their lips, but malignant joy in their hearts. The Lord saw them and had them in derision, [921] reserving my poor self and them for judgment to come. One would attack my gait or my way of laughing; another would find something amiss in my looks; another would suspect the simplicity of my manner. Such is the company in which I have lived for almost three years.

It often happened that I found myself surrounded with virgins, and to some of these I expounded the divine books as best I could. Our studies brought about constant intercourse, this soon ripened into intimacy, and this, in turn, produced mutual confidence. If they have ever seen anything in my conduct unbecoming a Christian let them say so. Have I taken any one's money? Have I not disdained all gifts, whether small or great? Has the chink of any one's coin been heard in my hand? [922] Has my language been equivocal, or my eye wanton? No; my sex is my one crime, and even on this score I am not assailed, save when there is a talk of Paula going to Jerusalem. Very well, then. They believed my accuser when he lied; why do they not believe him when he retracts? He is the same man now that he was then, and yet he who before declared me guilty now confesses that I am innocent. Surely a man's words under torture are more trustworthy than in moments of gayety, except, indeed, that people are prone to believe falsehoods designed to gratify their ears, or, worse still, stories which, till then uninvented, they have urged others to invent.

3. Before I became acquainted with the family of the saintly Paula, all Rome resounded with my praises. Almost every one concurred in judging me worthy of the episcopate. Damasus, of blessed memory, spoke no words but mine. [923] Men called me holy, humble, eloquent.

Did I ever cross the threshold of a light woman? Was I ever fascinated by silk dresses, or glowing gems, or rouged faces, or display of gold? Of all the ladies in Rome but one had power to subdue me, and that one was Paula. She mourned and fasted, she was squalid with dirt, her eyes were dim from weeping. For whole nights she would pray to the Lord for mercy, and often the rising sun found her still at her prayers. The psalms were her only songs, the Gospel her whole speech, continence her one indulgence, fasting the staple of her life. The only woman who took my fancy was one whom I had not so much as seen at table. But when I began to revere, respect, and venerate her as her conspicuous chastity deserved, all my former virtues forsook me on the spot.

4. Oh! envy, that dost begin by tearing thyself! Oh! cunning malignity of Satan, that dost always persecute things holy! Of all the ladies in Rome, the only ones that caused scandal were Paula and Melanium, who, despising their wealth and deserting their children, uplifted the cross of the Lord as a standard of religion. Had they frequented the baths, or chosen to use perfumes, or taken advantage of their wealth and position as widows to enjoy life and to be independent, they would have been saluted as ladies of high rank and saintliness. As it is, of course, it is in order to appear beautiful that they put on sackcloth and ashes, and they endure fasting and filth merely to go down into the Gehenna of fire! As if they could not perish with the crowd whom the mob applauds! [924] If it were Gentiles or Jews who thus assailed their mode of life, they would at least have the consolation of failing to please only those whom Christ Himself has failed to please. But, shameful to say, it is Christians who thus neglect the care of their own households, and, disregarding the beams in their own eyes, look for motes in those of their neighbors. [925] They pull to pieces every profession of religion, and think that they have found a remedy for their own doom, if they can disprove the holiness of others, if they can detract from every one, if they can show that those who perish are many, and sinners, a great multitude.

5. You bathe daily; another regards such over-niceness as defilement. You surfeit yourself on wild fowl and pride yourself on eating sturgeon; I, on the contrary, fill my belly with beans. You find pleasure in troops of laughing girls; I prefer Paula and Melanium who weep. You covet what belongs to others; they disdain what is their own. You like wines flavored with honey; they drink cold water, more delicious still. You count as lost what you cannot have, eat up, and devour on the moment; they believe in the Scriptures, and look for good things to come. And if they are wrong, and if the resurrection of the body on which they rely is a foolish delusion, what does it matter to you? We, on our side, look with disfavor on such a life as yours. You can fatten yourself on your good things as much as you please; I for my part prefer paleness and emaciation. You suppose that men like me are unhappy; we regard you as more unhappy still. Thus we reciprocate each other's thoughts, and appear to each other mutually insane.

6. I write this in haste, dear Lady Asella, as I go on board, overwhelmed with grief and tears; yet I thank my God that I am counted worthy of the world's hatred. [926] Pray for me that, after Babylon, I may see Jerusalem once more; that Joshua, the son of Josedech, may have dominion over me, [927] and not Nebuchadnezzar, that Ezra, whose name means helper, may come and restore me to my own country. I was a fool in wishing to sing the Lord's song in a strange land, [928] and in leaving Mount Sinai, to seek the help of Egypt. I forgot that the Gospel warns us [929] that he who goes down from Jerusalem immediately falls among robbers, is spoiled, is wounded, is left for dead. But, although priest and Levite may disregard me, there is still the good Samaritan who, when men said to him, "Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil," [930] disclaimed having a devil, but did not disclaim being a Samaritan, [931] this being the Hebrew equivalent for our word guardian. Men call me a mischief-maker, and I take the title as a recognition of my faith. For I am but a servant, and the Jews still call my master a magician. The apostle, [932] likewise, is spoken of as a deceiver. There hath no temptation taken me but such as is common to man. [933] How few distresses have I endured, I who am yet a soldier of the cross! Men have laid to my charge a crime of which I am not guilty; [934] but I know that I must enter the kingdom of heaven through evil report as well as through good. [935]

7. Salute Paula and Eustochium, who, whatever the world may think, are always mine in Christ. Salute Albina, your mother, and Marcella, your sister; Marcellina also, and the holy Felicitas; and say to them all: "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, [936] and there shall be revealed the principle by which each has lived."

And now, illustrious model of chastity and virginity, remember me, I beseech you, in your prayers, and by your intercessions calm the waves of the sea.


[920] Rom. xiv. 4. [921] Ps. ii. 4. [922] Cf. 1 Sam. xii. 3. [923] Damasus meus sermo erat, or "spoke of none but me." [924] Ironical. [925] Matt. vii. 3. [926] Joh. xv. 18. [927] Haggai i. 1. [928] Ps. cxxxvii. 4. [929] Luke x. 30-35. [930] Joh. viii. 48. [931] Joh. viii. 49. [932] I.e. Paul. See 2 Cor. vi. 9. [933] 1 Cor. x. 13. [934] He means the sin of incontinence. [935] 2 Cor. vi. 8. [936] Rom. xiv. 10.

Letter XLVI. Paula and Eustochium to Marcella.

Jerome writes to Marcella in the name of Paula and Eustochium, describing the charms of the Holy Land, and urging her to leave Rome and to join her old companions at Bethlehem. Much of the letter is devoted to disposing of the objection that since the Passion of Christ the Holy Land has been under a curse. The date of the letter is a.d. 386. It is written from Bethlehem, which now becomes Jerome's home for the remainder of his life.

1. Love cannot be measured, impatience knows no bounds, and eagerness can brook no delay. Wherefore we, oblivious of our weakness, and relying more on our will than our capacity, desire--pupils though we be--to instruct our mistress. We are like the sow in the proverb, [937] which sets up to teach the goddess of invention. You were the first to set our tinder alight; the first, by precept and example, to urge us to adopt our present life. As a hen gathers her chickens, so did you take us under your wing. [938] And will you now let us fly about at random with no mother near us? Will you leave us to dread the swoop of the hawk and the shadow of each passing bird of prey? Separated from you, we do what we can: we utter our mournful plaint, and more by sobs than by tears we adjure you to give back to us the Marcella whom we love. She is mild, she is suave, she is sweeter than the sweetest honey. She must not, therefore, be stern and morose to us, whom her winning ways have roused to adopt a life like her own.

2. Assuming that what we ask is for the best, our eagerness to obtain it is nothing to be ashamed of. And if all the Scriptures agree with our view, we are not too bold in urging you to a course to which you have yourself often urged us.

What are God's first words to Abraham? "Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred unto a land that I will show thee." [939] The patriarch--the first to receive a promise of Christ--is here told to leave the Chaldees, to leave the city of confusion [940] and its rehoboth [941] or broad places; to leave also the plain of Shinar, where the tower of pride had been raised to heaven. [942] He has to pass through the waves of this world, and to ford its rivers; those by which the saints sat down and wept when they remembered Zion, [943] and Chebar's flood, whence Ezekiel was carried to Jerusalem by the hair of his head. [944] All this Abraham undergoes that he may dwell in a land of promise watered from above, and not like Egypt, from below, [945] no producer of herbs for the weak and ailing, [946] but a land that looks for the early and the latter rain from heaven. [947] It is a land of hills and valleys, [948] and stands high above the sea. The attractions of the world it entirely wants, but its spiritual attractions are for this all the greater. Mary, the mother of the Lord, left the lowlands and made her way to the hill country, when, after receiving the angel's message, she realized that she bore within her womb the Son of God. [949] When of old the Philistines had been overcome, when their devilish audacity had been smitten, when their champion had fallen on his face to the earth, [950] it was from this city that there went forth a procession of jubilant souls, a harmonious choir to sing our David's victory over tens of thousands. [951] Here, too, it was that the angel grasped his sword, and while he laid waste the whole of the ungodly city, marked out the temple of the Lord in the threshing floor of Ornan, king of the Jebusites. [952] Thus early was it made plain that Christ's church would grow up, not in Israel, but among the Gentiles. Turn back to Genesis, [953] and you will find that this was the city over which Melchizedek held sway, that king of Salem who, as a type of Christ, offered to Abraham bread and wine, and even then consecrated the mystery which Christians consecrate in the body and blood of the Saviour. [954]

3. Perhaps you will tacitly reprove us for deserting the order of Scripture, and letting our confused account ramble this way and that, as one thing or another strikes us. If so, we say once more what we said at the outset: love has no logic, and impatience knows no rule. In the Song of Songs the precept is given as a hard one: "Regulate your love towards me." [955] And so we plead that, if we err, we do so not from ignorance but from feeling.

Well, then, to bring forward something still more out of place, we must go back to yet remoter times. Tradition has it that in this city, nay, more, on this very spot, Adam lived and died. The place where our Lord was crucified is called Calvary, [956] because the skull of the primitive man was buried there. So it came to pass that the second Adam, that is the blood [957] of Christ, as it dropped from the cross, washed away the sins of the buried protoplast, [958] the first Adam, and thus the words of the apostle were fulfilled: "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." [959]

It would be tedious to enumerate all the prophets and holy men who have been sent forth from this place. All that is strange and mysterious to us is familiar and natural to this city and country. By its very names, three in number, it proves the doctrine of the trinity. For it is called first Jebus, then Salem, then Jerusalem: names of which the first means "down-trodden," the second "peace," and the third "vision of peace." [960] For it is only by slow stages that we reach our goal; it is only after we have been trodden down that we are lifted up to see the vision of peace. Because of this peace Solomon, [961] the man of peace, was born there, and "in peace was his place made." [962] King of kings, and lord of lords, his name and that of the city show him to be a type of Christ. Need we speak of David and his descendants, all of whom reigned here? As Judæa is exalted above all other provinces, so is this city exalted above all Judæa. To speak more tersely, the glory of the province is derived from its capital; and whatever fame the members possess is in every case due to the head.

4. You have long been anxious to break forth into speech; the very letters we have formed perceive it, and our paper already understands the question you are going to put. You will reply to us by saying: it was so of old, when "the Lord loved the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob," and when her foundations were in the holy mountains. [963] Even these verses, however, are susceptible of a deeper interpretation. But things are changed since then. The risen Lord has proclaimed in tones of thunder: "Your house is left unto you desolate." With tears He has prophesied its downfall: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold your house is left unto you desolate." [964] The veil of the temple has been rent; [965] an army has encompassed Jerusalem, it has been stained by the blood of the Lord. Now, therefore, its guardian angels have forsaken it and the grace of Christ has been withdrawn. Josephus, himself a Jewish writer, asserts [966] that at the Lord's crucifixion there broke from the temple voices of heavenly powers, saying: "Let us depart hence." These and other considerations show that where grace abounded there did sin much more abound. [967] Again, when the apostles received the command: "Go ye and teach all nations," [968] and when they said themselves: "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you...lo we turn to the Gentiles," [969] then all the spiritual importance [970] of Judæa and its old intimacy with God were transferred by the apostles to the nations.

5. The difficulty is strongly stated, and may well puzzle even those proficient in Scripture; but for all that, it admits of an easy solution. The Lord wept for the fall of Jerusalem, [971] and He would not have done so if He did not love it. He wept for Lazarus because He loved him. [972] The truth is that it was the people who sinned and not the place. The capture of a city is involved in the slaying of its inhabitants. If Jerusalem was destroyed, it was that its people might be punished; if the temple was overthrown, it was that its figurative sacrifices might be abolished. As regards its site, lapse of time has but invested it with fresh grandeur. The Jews of old reverenced the Holy of Holies, because of the things contained in it--the cherubim, the mercy-seat, the ark of the covenant, the manna, Aaron's rod, and the golden altar. [973] Does the Lord's sepulchre seem less worthy of veneration? As often as we enter it we see the Saviour in His grave clothes, and if we linger we see again the angel sitting at His feet, and the napkin folded at His head. [974] Long before this sepulchre was hewn out by Joseph, [975] its glory was foretold in Isaiah's prediction, "his rest shall be glorious," [976] meaning that the place of the Lord's burial should be held in universal honor.

6. How, then, you will say, do we read in the apocalypse written by John: "The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall...kill them [that is, obviously, the prophets], and their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified?" [977] If the great city where the Lord was crucified is Jerusalem, and if the place of His crucifixion is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt; then as the Lord was crucified at Jerusalem, Jerusalem must be Sodom and Egypt. Holy Scripture, I reply first of all, cannot contradict itself. One book cannot invalidate the drift of the whole. A single verse cannot annul the meaning of a book. Ten lines earlier in the apocalypse it is written: "Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." [978] The apocalypse was written by John long after the Lord's passion, yet in it he speaks of Jerusalem as the holy city. But if so, how can he spiritually call it Sodom and Egypt? It is no answer to say that the Jerusalem which is called holy is the heavenly one which is to be, while that which is called Sodom is the earthly one tottering to its downfall. For it is the Jerusalem to come that is referred to in the description of the beast, "which shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and shall make war against the two prophets, and shall overcome them and kill them, and their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city." [979] At the close of the book it is farther described thus: "And the city lieth four-square, and the length of it and the breadth are the same as the height; and he measured the city with the golden reed twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the walls thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold" [980] --and so on. Now where there is a square there can be neither length nor breadth. And what kind of measurement is that which makes length and breadth equal to height? And how can there be walls of jasper, or a whole city of pure gold; its foundations and its streets of precious stones, and its twelve gates each glowing with pearls?

7. Evidently this description cannot be taken literally (in fact, it is absurd to suppose a city the length, breadth and height of which are all twelve thousand furlongs), and therefore the details of it must be mystically understood. The great city which Cain first built and called after his son [981] must be taken to represent this world, which the devil, that accuser of his brethren, that fratricide who is doomed to perish, has built of vice cemented with crime, and filled with iniquity. Therefore it is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. Thus it is written, "Sodom shall return to her former estate," [982] that is to say, the world must be restored as it has been before. For we cannot believe that Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim [983] are to be built again: they must be left to lie in ashes forever. We never read of Egypt as put for Jerusalem: it always stands for this world. To collect from Scripture the countless proofs of this would be tedious: I shall adduce but one passage, a passage in which this world is most clearly called Egypt. The apostle Jude, the brother of James, writes thus in his catholic epistle: "I will, therefore, put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this how that Jesus, [984] having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." [985] And, lest you should fancy Joshua the son of Nun to be meant, the passage goes on thus: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." [986] Moreover, to convince you that in every place where Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah are named together it is not these spots, but the present world, which is meant, he mentions them immediately in this sense. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah," he writes, "and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." [987] But what need is there to collect more proofs when, after the passion and the resurrection of the Lord, the evangelist Matthew tells us: "The rocks rent, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared unto many"? [988] We must not interpret this passage straight off, as many people [989] absurdly do, of the heavenly Jerusalem: the apparition there of the bodies of the saints could be no sign to men of the Lord's rising. Since, therefore, the evangelists and all the Scriptures speak of Jerusalem as the holy city, and since the psalmist commands us to worship the Lord "at his footstool;" [990] allow no one to call it Sodom and Egypt, for by it the Lord forbids men to swear because "it is the city of the great king." [991]

8. The land is accursed, you say, because it has drunk in the blood of the Lord. On what grounds, then, do men regard as blessed those spots where Peter and Paul, the leaders of the Christian host, have shed their blood for Christ? If the confession of men and servants is glorious, must there not be glory likewise in the confession of their Lord and God? Everywhere we venerate the tombs of the martyrs; we apply their holy ashes to our eyes; we even touch them, if we may, with our lips. And yet some think that we should neglect the tomb in which the Lord Himself is buried. If we refuse to believe human testimony, let us at least credit the devil and his angels. [992] For when in front of the Holy Sepulchre they are driven out of those bodies which they have possessed, they moan and tremble as if they stood before Christ's judgment-seat, and grieve, too late that they have crucified Him in whose presence they now cower. If--as a wicked theory maintains--this holy place has, since the Lord's passion, become an abomination, why was Paul in such haste to reach Jerusalem to keep Pentecost in it? [993] Yet to those who held him back he said: "What mean ye to weep and to break my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus." [994] Need I speak of those other holy and illustrious men who, after the preaching of Christ, brought their votive gifts and offerings to the brethren who were at Jerusalem?

9. Time forbids me to survey the period which has passed since the Lord's ascension, or to recount the bishops, the martyrs, the divines, who have come to Jerusalem from a feeling that their devotion and knowledge would be incomplete and their virtue without the finishing touch, unless they adored Christ in the very spot where the gospel first flashed from the gibbet. If a famous orator [995] blames a man for having learned Greek at Lilybæum instead of at Athens, and Latin in Sicily instead of at Rome (on the ground, obviously, that each province has its own characteristics), can we suppose a Christian's education complete who has not visited the Christian Athens?

10. In speaking thus we do not mean to deny that the kingdom of God is within us, [996] or to say that there are no holy men elsewhere; we merely assert in the strongest manner that those who stand first throughout the world are here gathered side by side. We ourselves are among the last, not the first; yet we have come hither to see the first of all nations. Of all the ornaments of the Church our company of monks and virgins is one of the finest; it is like a fair flower or a priceless gem. Every man of note in Gaul hastens hither. The Briton, "sundered from our world," [997] no sooner makes progress in religion than he leaves the setting sun in quest of a spot of which he knows only through Scripture and common report. Need we recall the Armenians, the Persians, the peoples of India and Arabia? Or those of our neighbor, Egypt, so rich in monks; of Pontus and Cappadocia; of Cæle-Syria and Mesopotamia and the teeming east? In fulfilment of the Saviour's words, "Wherever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together," [998] they all assemble here and exhibit in this one city the most varied virtues. Differing in speech, they are one in religion, and almost every nation has a choir of its own. Yet amid this great concourse there is no arrogance, no disdain of self-restraint; all strive after humility, that greatest of Christian virtues. Whosoever is last is here regarded as first. [999] Their dress neither provokes remark nor calls for admiration. In whatever guise a man shows himself he is neither censured nor flattered. Long fasts help no one here. Starvation wins no deference, and the taking of food in moderation is not condemned. "To his own master" each one "standeth or falleth." [1000] No man judges another lest he be judged of the Lord. [1001] Backbiting, so common in other parts, is wholly unknown here. Sensuality and excess are far removed from us. And in the city there are so many places of prayer that a day would not be sufficient to go round them all.

11. But, as every one praises most what is within his reach, let us pass now to the cottage-inn which sheltered Christ and Mary. [1002] With what expressions and what language can we set before you the cave of the Saviour? The stall where he cried as a babe can be best honored by silence; for words are inadequate to speak its praise. Where are the spacious porticoes? Where are the gilded ceilings? Where are the mansions furnished by the miserable toil of doomed wretches? Where are the costly halls raised by untitled opulence for man's vile body to walk in? Where are the roofs that intercept the sky, as if anything could be finer than the expanse of heaven? Behold, in this poor crevice of the earth the Creator of the heavens was born; here He was wrapped in swaddling clothes; here He was seen by the shepherds; here He was pointed out by the star; here He was adored by the wise men. This spot is holier, me-thinks, than that Tarpeian rock [1003] which has shown itself displeasing to God by the frequency with which it has been struck by lightning.

12. Read the apocalypse of John, and consider what is sung therein of the woman arrayed in purple, and of the blasphemy written upon her brow, of the seven mountains, of the many waters, and of the end of Babylon. [1004] "Come out of her, my people," so the Lord says, "that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." [1005] Turn back also to Jeremiah and pay heed to what he has written of like import: "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul." [1006] For "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit." [1007] It is true that Rome has a holy church, trophies of apostles and martyrs, a true confession of Christ. The faith has been preached there by an apostle, heathenism has been trodden down, the name of Christian is daily exalted higher and higher. But the display, power, and size of the city, the seeing and the being seen, the paying and the receiving of visits, the alternate flattery and detraction, talking and listening, as well as the necessity of facing so great a throng even when one is least in the mood to do so--all these things are alike foreign to the principles and fatal to the repose of the monastic life. For when people come in our way we either see them coming and are compelled to speak, or we do not see them and lay ourselves open to the charge of haughtiness. Sometimes, also, in returning visits we are obliged to pass through proud portals and gilded doors and to face the clamor of carping lackeys. But, as we have said above, in the cottage of Christ all is simple and rustic: and except for the chanting of psalms there is complete silence. Wherever one turns the laborer at his plough sings alleluia, the toiling mower cheers himself with psalms, and the vine-dresser while he prunes his vine sings one of the lays of David. These are the songs of the country; these, in popular phrase, its love ditties: these the shepherd whistles; these the tiller uses to aid his toil.

13. But what are we doing? Forgetting what is required of us, we are taken up with what we wish. Will the time never come when a breathless messenger shall bring the news that our dear Marcella has reached the shores of Palestine, and when every band of monks and every troop of virgins shall unite in a song of welcome? In our excitement we are already hurrying to meet you: without waiting for a vehicle, we hasten off at once on foot. We shall clasp you by the hand, we shall look upon your face; and when, after long waiting, we at last embrace you, we shall find it hard to tear ourselves away. Will the day never come when we shall together enter the Saviour's cave, and together weep in the sepulchre of the Lord with His sister and with His mother? [1008] Then shall we touch with our lips the wood of the cross, and rise in prayer and resolve upon the Mount of Olives with the ascending Lord. [1009] We shall see Lazarus come forth bound with grave clothes, [1010] we shall look upon the waters of Jordan purified for the washing of the Lord. [1011] Thence we shall pass to the folds of the shepherds, [1012] we shall pray together in the mausoleum of David. [1013] We shall see the prophet, Amos, [1014] upon his crag blowing his shepherd's horn. We shall hasten, if not to the tents, to the monuments of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of their three illustrious wives. [1015] We shall see the fountain in which the eunuch was immersed by Philip. [1016] We shall make a pilgrimage to Samaria, and side by side venerate the ashes of John the Baptist, of Elisha, [1017] and of Obadiah. We shall enter the very caves where in the time of persecution and famine the companies of the prophets were fed. [1018] If only you will come, we shall go to see Nazareth, as its name denotes, the flower [1019] of Galilee. Not far off Cana will be visible, where the water was turned into wine. [1020] We shall make our way to Tabor, [1021] and see the tabernacles there which the Saviour shares, not, as Peter once wished, with Moses and Elijah, but with the Father and with the Holy Ghost. Thence we shall come to the Sea of Gennesaret, and when there we shall see the spots where the five thousand were filled with five loaves, [1022] and the four thousand with seven. [1023] The town of Nain will meet our eyes, at the gate of which the widow's son was raised to life. [1024] Hermon too will be visible, and the torrent of Endor, at which Sisera was vanquished. [1025] Our eyes will look also on Capernaum, the scene of so many of our Lord's signs--yes, and on all Galilee besides. And when, accompanied by Christ, we shall have made our way back to our cave through Shiloh and Bethel, and those other places where churches are set up like standards to commemorate the Lord's victories, then we shall sing heartily, we shall weep copiously, we shall pray unceasingly. Wounded with the Saviour's shaft, we shall say one to another: "I have found Him whom my soul loveth; I will hold Him and will not let Him go." [1026]


[937] Sus Minervam. [938] 2 Esdras. i. 30; Matt. xxiii. 37. [939] Gen. xii. 1. [940] I.e. Babel--Gen. xi. 9. [941] Gen. x. 11. [942] Gen. xi. 2, 4. [943] Ps. cxxxvii. 1. [944] Ezek. viii. 3. [945] Deut. xi. 10. [946] Rom. xiv. 2. [947] Deut. xi. 14. [948] Deut. xi. 11. [949] Luke i. 26-31, 39. [950] 1 Sam. xvii. 49. [951] 1 Sam. xviii. 6, 7. [952] 1 Chron. xxi. 15, 18; 2 Chron. iii. 1. [953] Gen. xiv. 18. [954] Mysterium christianum in salvatoris sanguine et corpore dedicavit. [955] Cant. ii. 4 b, Vulg. Hebrew = A.V. [956] I.e. the place of a skull (Latin, Calvaria). [957] One of Jerome's fanciful ideas. Haddam S+R+H+ is the Hebrew for "the blood." [958] ho protoplastos = "the first-formed." The word is applied to Adam in Wisd. vii. 1. [959] Eph. v. 14. [960] Cf. Hymns Ancient and Modern, No. 235. "Truly Jerusalem name we that shore Vision of peace that brings joy evermore." [961] Hebrew, Shelomoh, connected with shalem, peace. [962] Ps. lxxvi. 2, LXX. [963] Ps. lxxxvii. 1, 2. [964] Matt. xxiii. 37, 38. [965] Matt. xxvii. 51. [966] Bellum Judaicum, vi. 5. [967] Rom. v. 20. [968] Matt. xxviii. 19. [969] Acts xiii. 46. [970] Sacramentum. [971] Luke xix. 41. [972] Joh. xi. 35, 36. [973] Heb. ix. 3-5. [974] John xx. 6, 7, 12. [975] I.e. Joseph of Arimathæa.--Joh. xix. 38 sqq. [976] Isa. xi. 10. [977] Rev. xi. 7, 8, R.V. [978] Rev. xi. 2. [979] Rev. xi. 7, 8. [980] Rev. xxi. 16-18. [981] Gen. iv. 17. [982] Ezek. xvi. 55. [983] Deut. xxix. 23. [984] A.V. "the Lord." [985] Jude 5. [986] Jude 6. [987] Jude 7. [988] Matt. xxvii. 51, 53. [989] E.g. Origen in his commentary on the passage. [990] Ps. cxxxii. 7. [991] Matt. v. 35. [992] Matt. xxv. 41. [993] Acts xx. 16. [994] Acts xxi. 13. [995] Cicero of Cæcilius (in Q. Cæc. xii.). [996] Luke xvii. 21. [997] Virgil, E. i. 67. [998] Luke xvii. 37. [999] Cf. Matt. xix. 30. [1000] Rom. xiv. 4. [1001] Matt. vii. 1. [1002] Luke ii. 7. [1003] Otherwise called the capitol. Here stood the great temple of Jupiter, which was to the religion of Rome what the Parthenon was to that of Athens. [1004] Rev. xvii. 4, 5, 9; i. 15; xvii; xviii. [1005] Rev. xviii. 4. [1006] Jer. li. 6. [1007] Rev. xviii. 2. [1008] Joh. xix. 25. [1009] Acts i. 9, 12. [1010] Joh. xi. 43, 44. [1011] Matt. iii. 13. [1012] Luke ii. 8. [1013] 1 Kings ii. 10. [1014] "Who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa"--Am. i. 1. [1015] Sarah, Rebekah, Leah--Gen. xlix. 31. [1016] Acts viii. 36. [1017] 2 Kings xiii. 21. [1018] 1 Kings xviii. 3, 4. [1019] Lit. "sprout." In Isa. xi. 1 it is rendered by A.V. "branch." [1020] Joh. ii. 1-11. [1021] Matt. xvii. 1-9. [1022] Matt. xiv. 15, sqq. [1023] Matt. xv. 32, sqq. [1024] Luke vii. 11, sqq. [1025] Ps. lxxxiii. 9, 10. [1026] Cant. iii. 4, Vulg.

Letter XLVII. To Desiderius.

Jerome invites two of his old friends at Rome, Desiderius and his sister (or wife) Serenilla, to join him at Bethlehem. It is possible but not probable that this Desiderius is the same with Desiderius of Aquitaine, who afterwards induced Jerome to write against Vigilantius.

An interval of seven years separates this letter (of which the date is 393 a.d.) from the preceding, and all the letters written during this period have wholly perished.

1. Surprised as I have been, my excellent friend, to read the language which your kindness has prompted you to hold concerning me, I have rejoiced that I possess the testimony of one both eloquent and sincere; but when I turn from you to myself I feel vexed that, owing to my unworthiness, your words of praise and eulogy rather weigh me down than lift me up. You know, of course, that I make it a principle to raise the standard of humility, and to prepare for scaling the heights by walking for the present in the lowest places. For what am I or what is my significance that I should have the voice of learning raised to bear witness of me, or that the palm of eloquence should be laid at my feet by one whose style is so charming that it has almost deterred me from writing a letter at all? I must, however, make the attempt in order that charity which seeks not her own [1027] but always her neighbor's good, may at least return a compliment, since it cannot convey a lesson.

2. I offer my congratulations to you and to your holy and revered sister, [1028] Serenilla, who, true to her name, [1029] has trodden down the troubled waves of the world, and has passed to Christ's calm haven: a happiness which--if we may trust the augury of your name--is in store for you also. For we read that the holy Daniel was called "a man of desires," [1030] and the friend of God, because he desired to know His mysteries. Therefore, I do with pleasure what the revered Paula has asked of me. I urge and implore you both by the charity of the Lord that you will give your presence to us, and that a visit to the holy places may induce you to enrich us with this great gift. Even supposing that you do not care for our society, it is still your duty as believers to worship on the spot where the Lord's feet once stood and to see for yourselves the still fresh traces of His birth, His cross, and His passion.

3. Several of my little pieces have flown away out of their nest, and have rashly sought for themselves the honor of publication. I have not sent you any lest I should send works which you already have. But if you care to borrow copies of them, you can do so either from our holy sister, Marcella, who has her abode upon the Aventine, or from that holy man, Domnio, who is the Lot of our times. [1031] Meantime, I look for your arrival, and will give you all I have when you once come; or, if any hindrances prevent you from joining us, I will gladly send you such treatises as you shall desire. Following the example of Tranquillus [1032] and of Apollonius the Greek, [1033] I have written a book concerning illustrious men [1034] from the apostles' time to our own; and after enumerating a great number I have put myself down on the last page as one born out of due time, and the least of all Christians. [1035] Here I have found it necessary to give a short account of my writings down to the fourteenth year [1036] of the Emperor Theodosius. If you find, on procuring this treatise from the persons mentioned above, that there are any pieces mentioned which you have not already got, I will have them copied for you by degrees, if you wish it.


[1027] 1 Cor. xiii. 5. [1028] I.e. his wife. Cf. 1 Cor. ix. 5. [1029] Serenilla, "calm." [1030] Dan. ix. 23, A.V. marg. Desiderius means "one who is an object of desire." [1031] Cf. 2 Peter ii. 7, 8. [1032] I.e. the historian Suetonius. [1033] Probably Apollonius of Tyre, who appears to have written an account of the principal philosophers who followed Zeno. [1034] See this work in Vol. III. of this series. [1035] Cf. 1 Cor. xv. 8, 9. [1036] a.d. 392-3.

Letter XLVIII. To Pammachius.

An "apology" for the two books "against Jovinian" which Jerome had written a short time previously, and of which he had sent copies to Rome. These Pammachius and his other friends had withheld from publication, thinking that Jerome had unduly exalted virginity at the expense of marriage. He now writes to make good his position, and to do this makes copious extracts from the obnoxious treatise. The date of the letter is 393 or 394 a.d.

1. Your own silence is my reason for not having written hitherto. For I feared that, if I were to write to you without first hearing from you, you would consider me not so much a conscientious as a troublesome correspondent. But, now that I have been challenged by your most delightful letter, a letter which calls upon me to defend my views by an appeal to first principles, I receive my old fellow-learner, companion, and friend with open arms, as the saying goes; and I look forward to having in you a champion of my poor writings; if, that is to say, I can first conciliate your judgment to give sentence in my favor, and can instruct my advocate in all those points on which I am assailed. For both your favorite, Cicero, and before him--in his one short treatise--Antonius, [1037] write to this effect, that the chief requisite for victory is to acquaint one's self carefully with the case which one has to plead.

2. Certain persons find fault with me because in the books which I have written against Jovinian I have been excessive (so they say) in praise of virginity and in depreciation of marriage; and they affirm that to preach up chastity till no comparison is left between a wife and a virgin is equivalent to a condemnation of matrimony. If I remember aright the point of the dispute, the question at issue between myself and Jovinian is that he puts marriage on a level with virginity, while I make it inferior; he declares that there is little or no difference between the two states, I assert that there is a great deal. Finally--a result due under God to your agency--he has been condemned because he has dared to set matrimony on an equality with perpetual chastity. Or, if a virgin and a wife are to be looked on as the same, how comes it that Rome has refused to listen to this impious doctrine? A virgin owes her being to a man, but a man does not owe his to a virgin. There can be no middle course. Either my view of the matter must be embraced, or else that of Jovinian. If I am blamed for putting wedlock below virginity, he must be praised for putting the two states on a level. If, on the other hand, he is condemned for supposing them equal, his condemnation must be taken as testimony in favor of my treatise. If men of the world chafe under the notion that they occupy a position inferior to that of virgins, I wonder that clergymen and monks--who both live celibate lives--refrain from praising what they consistently practise. They cut themselves off from their wives to imitate the chastity of virgins, and yet they will have it that married women are as good as these. They should either be joined again to their wives whom they have renounced, or, if they persist in living apart from them, they will have to confess--by their lives if not by their words--that, in preferring virginity to marriage, they have chosen the better course. Am I then a mere novice in the Scriptures, reading the sacred volumes for the first time? And is the line there drawn between virginity and marriage so fine that I have been unable to observe it? I could know nothing, forsooth, of the saying, "Be not righteous overmuch!" [1038] Thus, while I try to protect myself on one side, I am wounded on the other; to speak more plainly still, while I close with Jovinian in hand-to-hand combat, Manichæus stabs me in the back. Have I not, I would ask, in the very forefront of my work set the following preface: [1039] "We are no disciples of Marcion [1040] or of Manichæus, [1041] to detract from marriage. Nor are we deceived by the error of Tatian, [1042] the chief of the Encratites, [1043] into supposing all cohabitation unclean. For he condemns and reprobates not marriage only, but foods also which God has created for us to enjoy. [1044] We know that in a large house there are vessels not only of silver and of gold, but of wood also and of earth. [1045] We know, too, that on the foundation of Christ which Paul the master builder has laid, some build up gold, silver, and precious stones; others, on the contrary, hay, wood, and stubble. [1046] We are not ignorant that `marriage is honorable...and the bed undefiled.' [1047] We have read the first decree of God: `Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.' [1048] But while we allow marriage, we prefer the virginity which springs from it. Gold is more precious than silver, but is silver on that account the less silver? Is it an insult to a tree to prefer its apples to its roots or its leaves? Is it an injury to corn to put the ear before the stalk and the blade? As apples come from the tree and grain from the straw, so virginity comes from wedlock. Yields of one hundredfold, of sixtyfold, and of thirtyfold [1049] may all come from one soil and from one sowing, yet they will differ widely in quantity. The yield thirtyfold signifies wedlock, for the joining together of the fingers to express that number, suggestive as it is of a loving gentle kiss or embracing, aptly represents the relation of husband and wife. The yield sixtyfold refers to widows who are placed in a position of distress and tribulation. Accordingly, they are typified by that finger which is placed under the other to express the number sixty; for, as it is extremely trying when one has once tasted pleasure to abstain from its enticements, so the reward of doing this is proportionately great. Moreover, a hundred--I ask the reader to give me his best attention--necessitates a change from the left hand to the right; but while the hand is different the fingers are the same as those which on the left hand signify married women and widows; only in this instance the circle formed by them indicates the crown of virginity." [1050]

3. Does a man who speaks thus, I would ask you, condemn marriage? If I have called virginity gold, I have spoken of marriage as silver. I have set forth that the yields an hundredfold, sixtyfold, and thirtyfold--all spring from one soil and from one sowing, although in amount they differ widely. Will any of my readers be so unfair as to judge me, not by my words, but by his own opinion? At any rate, I have dealt much more gently with marriage than most Latin and Greek writers; [1051] who, by referring the hundredfold yield to martyrs, the sixtyfold to virgins, and the thirtyfold to widows, show that in their opinion married persons are excluded from the good ground and from the seed of the great Father. [1052] But, lest it might be supposed that, though cautious at the outset, I was imprudent in the remainder of my work, have I not, after marking out the divisions of it, on coming to the actual questions immediately introduced the following: [1053] "I ask all of you of both sexes, at once those who are virgins and continent and those who are married or twice married, to aid my efforts with your prayers." Jovinian is the foe of all indiscriminately, but can I condemn as Manichæan heretics persons whose prayers I need and whose assistance I entreat to help me in my work?

4. As the brief compass of a letter does not suffer us to delay too long on a single point, let us now pass to those which remain. In explaining the testimony of the apostle, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise, also, the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife," [1054] we have subjoined the following: [1055] "The entire question relates to those who are living in wedlock, whether it is lawful for them to put away their wives, a thing which the Lord also has forbidden in the Gospel. [1056] Hence, also, the apostle says: `It is good for a man not to touch' a wife or `a woman,' [1057] as if there were danger in the contact which he who should so touch one could not escape. Accordingly, when the Egyptian woman desired to touch Joseph he flung away his cloak and fled from her hands. [1058] But as he who has once married a wife cannot, except by consent, abstain from intercourse with her or repudiate her, so long as she does not sin, he must render unto his wife her due, [1059] because he has of his own free will bound himself to render it under compulsion." Can one who declares that it is a precept of the Lord that wives should not be put away, and that what God has joined together man must not, without consent, put asunder [1060] --can such an one be said to condemn marriage? Again, in the verses which follow, the apostle says: "But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." [1061] In explanation of this saying we made the following remarks: [1062] "What I myself would wish, he says, is clear. But since there are diversities of gifts in the church, [1063] I allow marriage as well, that I may not appear to condemn nature. Reflect, too, that the gift of virginity is one thing, that of marriage another. For had there been one reward for married women and for virgins he would never, after giving the counsel of continence, have gone on to say: `But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner and another after that.' Where each class has its proper gift, there must be some distinction between the classes. I allow that marriage, as well as virginity, is the gift of God, but there is a great difference between gift and gift. Finally, the apostle himself says of one who had lived in incest and afterwards repented: `Contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him and comfort him,' [1064] and `To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also.' [1065] And, lest we might suppose a man's gift to be but a small thing, he has added: `For if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the sight [1066] of Christ.' [1067] The gifts of Christ are different. Hence Joseph as a type of Him had a coat of many colors. [1068] So in the forty-fourth psalm [1069] we read of the Church: `Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold, wrought about with divers colors.' [1070] The apostle Peter, too, speaks (of husbands and wives) `as being heirs together of the manifold grace of God.' [1071] In Greek the expression is still more striking, the word used being poikile, that is, `many-colored.'"

5. I ask, then, what is the meaning of men's obstinate determination to shut their eyes and to refuse to look on what is as clear as day? I have said that there are diversities of gifts in the Church, and that virginity is one gift and wedlock another. And shortly after I have used the words: "I allow marriage also to be a gift of God, but there is a great difference between gift and gift." Can it be said that I condemn that which in the clearest terms I declare to be the gift of God? Moreover, if Joseph is taken as a type of the Lord, his coat of many colors is a type of virgins and widows, celibates and wedded. Can any one who has any part in Christ's tunic be regarded as an alien? Have we not spoken of the very queen herself--that is, the Church of the Saviour--as wearing a vesture of gold wrought about with divers colors? Moreover, when I came to discuss marriage in connection with the following verses, [1072] I still adhered to the same view. [1073] "This passage," I said, "has indeed no relation to the present controversy; for, following the decision of the Lord, the apostle teaches that a wife must not be put away saving for fornication, and that, if she has been put away, she cannot during the lifetime of her husband marry another man, or, at any rate, that she ought, if possible, to be reconciled to her husband. In another verse he speaks to the same effect: `The wife is bound...as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband; [1074] she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord,' [1075] that is to a Christian. Thus the apostle, while he allows a second or a third marriage in the Lord, forbids even a first with a heathen."

6. I ask my detractors to open their ears and to realize the fact that I have allowed second and third marriages "in the Lord." If, then, I have not condemned second and third marriages, how can I have proscribed a first? Moreover, in the passage where I interpret the words of the apostle, "Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised" [1076] (a passage, it is true, which some most careful interpreters of Scripture refer to the circumcision and slavery of the Law), do I not in the clearest terms stand up for the marriage-tie? My words are these: [1077] "`If any man is called in uncircumcision, let him not be circumcised.' You had a wife, the apostle says, when you believed. Do not fancy your faith in Christ to be a reason for parting from her. For `God hath called us in peace.' [1078] `Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God.' [1079] Neither celibacy nor wedlock is of the slightest use without works, since even faith, the distinguishing mark of Christians, if it have not works, is said to be dead, [1080] and on such terms as these the virgins of Vesta or of Juno, who was constant to one [1081] husband, might claim to be numbered among the saints. And a little further on he says: `Art thou called being a servant, care not for it; but, if thou mayest be made free, use it rather;' [1082] that is to say, if you have a wife, and are bound to her, and render her her due, and have not power of your own body--or, to speak yet more plainly--if you are the slave of a wife, do not allow this to cause you sorrow, do not sigh over the loss of your virginity. Even if you can find pretexts for parting from her to enjoy the freedom of chastity, do not seek your own welfare at the price of another's ruin. Keep your wife for a little, and do not try too hastily to overcome her reluctance. Wait till she follows your example. If you only have patience, your wife will some day become your sister."

7. In another passage we have discussed the reasons which led Paul to say: "Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful." [1083] Here also, while we have extolled virginity, we have been careful to give marriage its due. [1084] "Had the Lord commanded virginity," we said, "He would have seemed to condemn marriage and to do away with that seed-plot of humanity from which virginity itself springs. Had He cut away the root how could He have looked for fruit? Unless He had first laid the foundations, how could He have built the edifice or crowned it with a roof made to cover its whole extent?" If we have spoken of marriage as the root whose fruit is virginity, and if we have made wedlock the foundation on which the building or the roof of perpetual chastity is raised, which of my detractors can be so captious or so blind as to ignore the foundation on which the fabric and its roof are built, while he has before his eyes both the fabric and the roof themselves? Once more, in another place, we have brought forward the testimony of the apostle to this effect: "Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife." [1085] To this we have appended the following remarks: [1086] "Each of us has his own sphere allotted to him. Let me have mine, and do you keep yours. If you are bound to a wife, do not put her away. If I am loosed from a wife, let me not seek a wife. Just as I do not loose marriage-ties when they are once made, so do you refrain from binding together what at present is loosed from such ties." Yet another passage bears unmistakable testimony to the view which we have taken of virginity and of wedlock: [1087] "The apostle casts no snare upon us, [1088] nor does he compel us to be what we do not wish. He only urges us to what is honorable and seemly, inciting us earnestly to serve the Lord, to be anxious always to please Him, and to look for His will which He has prepared for us to do. We are to be like alert and armed soldiers, who immediately execute the orders given to them and perform them without that travail of mind [1089] which, according to the preacher, is given to the men of this world `to be exercised therewith.'" [1090] At the end, also, of our comparison of virgins and married women we have summed up the discussion thus: [1091] "When one thing is good and another thing is better; when that which is good has a different reward from that which is better; and when there are more rewards than one, then, obviously, there exists a diversity of gifts. The difference between marriage and virginity is as great as that between not doing evil and doing good--or, to speak more favorably still, as that between what is good and what is still better."

8. In the sequel we go on to speak thus: [1092] "The apostle, in concluding his discussion of marriage and of virginity, is careful to observe a mean course in discriminating between them, and, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, he keeps to the King's highway, [1093] and thus fulfils the injunction, `Be not righteous overmuch.' [1094] Moreover, when he goes on to compare monogamy with digamy, he puts digamy after monogamy, just as before he subordinated marriage to virginity." Do we not clearly show by this language what is typified in the Holy Scriptures by the terms right and left, and also what we take to be the meaning of the words "Be not righteous overmuch"? We turn to the left if, following the lust of Jews and Gentiles, we burn for sexual intercourse; we turn to the right if, following the error of the Manichæans, we under a pretence of chastity entangle ourselves in the meshes of unchastity. But we keep to the King's highway if we aspire to virginity yet refrain from condemning marriage. Can any one, moreover, be so unfair in his criticism of my poor treatise as to allege that I condemn first marriages, when he reads my opinion on second ones as follows: [1095] "The apostle, it is true, allows second marriages, but only to such women as are bent upon them, to such as cannot contain, [1096] lest `when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ they marry, having condemnation because they have rejected their first faith,' [1097] and he makes this concession because many `are turned aside after Satan.' [1098] But they will be happier if they abide as widows. To this he immediately adds his apostolical authority, `after my judgment.' Moreover, lest any should consider that authority, being human, to be of small weight, he goes on to say, `and I think also that I have the spirit of God.' [1099] Thus, where he urges men to continence he appeals not to human authority, but to the Spirit of God; but when he gives them permission to marry he does not mention the Spirit of God, but allows prudential considerations to turn the balance, relaxing the strictness of his code in favor of individuals according to their several needs." Having thus brought forward proofs that second marriages are allowed by the apostle, we at once added the remarks which follow: [1100] "As marriage is permitted to virgins by reason of the danger of fornication, and as what in itself is not desirable is thus made excusable, so by reason of the same danger widows are permitted to marry a second time. For it is better that a woman should know one man (though he should be a second husband or a third) than that she should know several. In other words, it is preferable that she should prostitute herself to one rather than to many." Calumny may do its worst. We have spoken here not of a first marriage, but of a second, of a third, or (if you like) of a fourth. But lest any one should apply my words (that it is better for a woman to prostitute herself to one man than to several) to a first marriage when my whole argument dealt with digamy and trigamy, I marked my own view of these practices with the words: [1101] "`All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.' [1102] I do not condemn digamists nor yet trigamists, nor even, to put an extreme, case, octogamists. I will make a still greater concession: I am ready to receive even a whore-monger, if penitent. In every case where fairness is possible, fair consideration must be shown."

9. My calumniator should blush at his assertion that I condemn first marriages when he reads my words just now quoted: "I do not condemn digamists or trigamists, or even, to put an extreme case, octogamists." Not to condemn is one thing, to commend is another. I may concede a practice as allowable and yet not praise it as meritorious. But if I seem severe in saying, "In every case where fairness is possible, fair consideration must be shown," no one, I fancy, will judge me either cruel or stern who reads that the places prepared for virgins and for wedded persons are different from those prepared for trigamists, octogamists, and penitents. That Christ Himself, although in the flesh a virgin, was in the spirit a monogamist, having one wife, even the Church, [1103] I have shown in the latter part of my argument. [1104] And yet I am supposed to condemn marriage! I am said to condemn it, although I use such words as these: [1105] "It is an undoubted fact that the levitical priests were descended from the stock of Aaron, Eleazar, and Phinehas; and, as all these were married men, we might well be confronted with them if, led away by the error of the Encratites, we were to contend that marriage is in itself deserving of condemnation." Here I blame Tatian, the chief of the Encratites, for his rejection of marriage, and yet I myself am said to condemn it! Once more, when I contrast virgins with widows, my own words show what my view is concerning wedlock, and set forth the threefold gradation which I propose of virgins, widows--whether in practice or in fact [1106] --and wedded wives. "I do not deny"--these are my words [1107] --"the blessedness of widows who continue such after their baptism, nor do I undervalue the merit of wives who live in chastity with their husbands; but, just as widows receive a greater reward from God than wives obedient to their husbands, they, too, must be content to see virgins preferred before themselves."

10. Again, when explaining the witness of the apostle to the Galatians, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified," I have spoken to the following effect: "Marriages also are works of the law. And for this reason there is a curse upon such as do not produce offspring. They are permitted, it is true, even under the Gospel; but it is one thing to concede an indulgence to what is a weakness and quite another to promise a reward to what is a virtue." See my express declaration that marriage is allowed in the Gospel, yet that those who are married cannot receive the rewards of chastity so long as they render their due one to another. If married men feel indignant at this statement, let them vent their anger not on me but on the Holy Scriptures; nay, more, upon all bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and the whole company of priests and levites, who know that they cannot offer sacrifices if they fulfil the obligations of marriage. Again, when I adduce evidence from the Apocalypse, [1108] is it not clear what view I take concerning virgins, widows, and wives? "These are they who sing a new song [1109] which no man can sing except he be a virgin. These are `the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb,' [1110] and they are without spot. If virgins are the first fruits unto God, then widows and wives who live in continence must come after the first fruits--that is to say, in the second place and in the third." We place widows, then, and wives in the second place and in the third, and for this we are charged by the frenzy of a heretic with condemning marriage altogether.

11. Throughout the book I have made many remarks in a tone of great moderation on virginity, widowhood, and marriage. But for the sake of brevity, I will here adduce but one passage, and that of such a kind that no one, I think, will be found to gainsay it save some one who wishes to prove himself malicious or mad. In describing our Lord's visit to the marriage at Cana in Galilee, [1111] after some other remarks I have added these: [1112] "He who went but once to a marriage has taught us that a woman should marry but once; and this fact might tell against virginity if we failed to give marriage its due place--after virginity that is, and chaste widowhood. But, as it is only heretics who condemn marriage and tread under foot the ordinance of God, we listen with gladness to every word said by our Lord in praise of marriage. For the Church does not condemn marriage, but only subordinates it. It does not reject it altogether, but regulates it, knowing (as I have said above) that `in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor and some to dishonor. If a man, therefore, purge himself...he shall be a vessel unto honor meet...and prepared unto every good work.'" [1113] I listen with gladness, I say here, to every word said by the apostle in praise of marriage. Do I listen with gladness to the praise of marriage, and do I yet condemn marriage? The Church, I say, does not condemn wedlock, but subordinates it. Whether you like it or not, marriage is subordinated to virginity and widowhood. Even when marriage continues to fulfil its function, the Church does not condemn it, but only subordinates it; it does not reject it, but only regulates it. It is in your power, if you will, to mount the second step of chastity. [1114] Why are you angry if, standing on the third and lowest step, you will not make haste to go up higher?

12. Since, then, I have so often reminded my reader of my views; and since I have picked my way like a prudent traveller over every inch of the road, stating repeatedly that, while I receive marriage as a thing in itself admissible, I yet prefer continence, widowhood, and virginity, the wise and generous reader ought to have judged what seemed hard sayings by my general drift, and not to have charged me with putting forward inconsistent opinions in one and the same book. For who is so dull or so inexperienced in writing as to praise and to condemn one and the same object, as to destroy what he has built up, and to build up what he has destroyed; and when he has vanquished his opponent, to turn his sword, last of all against himself? Were my detractors country bred or unacquainted with the arts of rhetoric or of logic, I should pardon their want of insight; nor should I censure them for accusing me if I saw that their ignorance was in fault and not their will. As it is men of intellect who have enjoyed a liberal education make it their object less to understand me than to wound me, and for such I have this short answer, that they should correct my faults and not merely censure me for them. The lists are open, I cry; your enemy has marshalled his forces, his position is plain, and (if I may quote Virgil [1115] )--

The foeman calls you: meet him face to face.

Such men should answer their opponent. They ought to keep within the limits of debate, and not to wield the schoolmaster's rod. Their books should aim at showing in what my statements have fallen short of the truth, and in what they have exceeded it. For, although I will not listen to fault-finders, I will follow the advice of teachers. To direct the fighter how to fight when you yourself occupy a post of vantage on the wall is a kind of teaching that does not commend itself; and when you are yourself bathed in perfumes, it is unworthy to charge a bleeding soldier with cowardice. Nor in saying this do I lay myself open to a charge of boasting that while others have slept I only have entered the lists. My meaning simply is that men who have seen me wounded in this warfare may possibly be a little too cautious in their methods of fighting. I would not have you engage in an encounter in which you will have nothing to do but to protect yourself, your right hand remaining motionless while your left manages your shield. You must either strike or fall. I cannot account you a victor unless I see your opponent put to the sword.

13. You are, no doubt, men of vast acquirements; but we too have studied in the schools, and, like you, we have learned from the precepts of Aristotle--or, rather, from those which he has derived from Gorgias--that there are different ways of speaking; and we know, among other things, that he who writes for display uses one style, and he who writes to convince, another. [1116] In the former case the debate is desultory; to confute the opposer, now this argument is adduced and now that. One argues as one pleases, saying one thing while one means another. To quote the proverb, "With one hand one offers bread, in the other one holds a stone." [1117] In the latter case a certain frankness and openness of countenance are necessary. For it is one thing to start a problem and another to expound what is already proved. The first calls for a disputant, the second for a teacher. I stand in the thick of the fray, my life in constant danger: you who profess to teach me are a man of books. "Do not," you say, "attack unexpectedly or wound by a side-thrust. Strike straight at your opponent. You should be ashamed to resort to feints instead of force." As if it were not the perfection of fighting to menace one part and to strike another. Read, I beg of you, Demosthenes or Cicero, or (if you do not care for pleaders whose aim is to speak plausibly rather than truly) read Plato, Theophrastus, Xenophon, Aristotle, and the rest of those who draw their respective rills of wisdom from the Socratic fountain-head. Do they show any openness? Are they devoid of artifice? Is not every word they say filled with meaning? And does not this meaning always make for victory? Origen, Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris [1118] write at great length against Celsus and Porphyry. [1119] Consider how subtle are the arguments, how insidious the engines with which they overthrow what the spirit of the devil has wrought. Sometimes, it is true, they are compelled to say not what they think but what is needful; and for this reason they employ against their opponents the assertions of the Gentiles themselves. I say nothing of the Latin authors, of Tertullian, Cyprian, Minutius, Victorinus, Lactantius, Hilary, lest I should appear not so much to be defending myself as to be assailing others. I will only mention the Apostle Paul, whose words seem to me, as often as I hear them, to be not words, but peals of thunder. Read his epistles, and especially those addressed to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to the Ephesians, in all of which he stands in the thick of the battle, and you will see how skilful and how careful he is in the proofs which he draws from the Old Testament, and how warily he cloaks the object which he has in view. His words seem simplicity itself: the expressions of a guileless and unsophisticated person--one who has no skill either to plan a dilemma or to avoid it. Still, whichever way you look, they are thunderbolts. His pleading halts, yet he carries every point which he takes up. He turns his back upon his foe only to overcome him; he simulates flight, but only that he may slay. He, then, if any one, ought to be calumniated; we should speak thus to him: "The proofs which you have used against the Jews or against other heretics bear a different meaning in their own contexts to that which they bear in your epistles. We see passages taken captive by your pen and pressed into service to win you a victory which in the volumes from which they are taken have no controversial bearing at all." May he not reply to us in the words of the Saviour: "I have one mode of speech for those that are without and another for those that are within; the crowds hear my parables, but their interpretation is for my disciples alone"? [1120] The Lord puts questions to the Pharisees, but does not elucidate them. To teach a disciple is one thing; to vanquish an opponent, another. "My mystery is for me," says the prophet; "my mystery is for me and for them that are mine." [1121]

14. You are indignant with me because I have merely silenced Jovinian and not instructed him. You, do I say? Nay, rather, they who grieve to hear him anathematized, and who impeach their own pretended orthodoxy by eulogizing in another the heresy which they hold themselves. I should have asked him, forsooth, to surrender peaceably! I had no right to disregard his struggles and to drag him against his will into the bonds of truth! I might use such language had the desire of victory induced me to say anything counter to the rule laid down in Scripture, and had I taken the line--so often adopted by strong men in controversy--of justifying the means by the result. As it is, however, I have been an exponent of the apostle rather than a dogmatist on my own account; and my function has been simply that of a commentator. Anything, therefore, which seems a hard saying should be imputed to the writer expounded by me rather than to me the expounder; unless, indeed, he spoke otherwise than he is represented to have done, and I have by an unfair interpretation wrested the plain meaning of his words. If any one charges me with this disingenuousness let him prove his charge from the Scriptures themselves.

I have said in my book, [1122] "If `it is good for a man not to touch a woman,' then it is bad for him to touch one, for bad, and bad only, is the opposite of good. But, if though bad it is made venial, then it is allowed to prevent something which would be worse than bad," and so on down to the commencement of the next chapter. The above is my comment upon the apostle's words: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." [1123] In what way does my meaning differ from that intended by the apostle? Except that where he speaks decidedly I do so with hesitation. He defines a dogma, I hazard an inquiry. He openly says: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." I timidly ask if it is good for a man not to touch one. If I thus waver, I cannot be said to speak positively. He says: "It is good not to touch." I add what is a possible antithesis to "good." And immediately afterwards I speak thus: [1124] "Notice the apostle's carefulness. He does not say: `It is good for a man not to have a wife,' but, `It is good for a man not to touch a woman'; as if there is danger in the very touching of one--danger which he who touches cannot escape." You see, therefore, that I am not expounding the law as to husbands and wives, but simply discussing the general question of sexual intercourse--how in comparison with chastity and virginity, the life of angels, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman."

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity." [1125] But if all created things are good, [1126] as being the handiwork of a good Creator, how comes it that all things are vanity? If the earth is vanity, are the heavens vanity too?--and the angels, the thrones, the dominations, the powers, and the rest of the virtues? [1127] No; if things which are good in themselves as being the handiwork of a good Creator are called vanity, it is because they are compared with things which are better still. For example, compared with a lamp, a lantern is good for nothing; compared with a star, a lamp does not shine at all; the brightest star pales before the moon; put the moon beside the sun, and it no longer looks bright; compare the sun with Christ, and it is darkness. "I am that I am," God says; [1128] and if you compare all created things with Him they have no existence. "Give not thy sceptre," says Esther, "unto them that be nothing" [1129] --that is to say, to idols and demons. And certainly they were idols and demons to whom she prayed that she and hers might not be given over. In Job also we read how Bildad says of the wicked man: "His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and destruction as a king shall trample upon him. The companions also of him who is not shall abide in his tabernacle." [1130] This evidently relates to the devil, who must be in existence, otherwise he could not be said to have companions. Still, because he is lost to God, he is said not to be.

Now it was in a similar sense that I declared it to be a bad thing to touch a woman--I did not say a wife--because it is a good thing not to touch one. And I added: [1131] "I call virginity fine corn, wedlock barley, and fornication cow-dung." Surely both corn and barley are creatures of God. But of the two multitudes miraculously supplied in the Gospel the larger was fed upon barley loaves, and the smaller on corn bread. [1132] "Thou, Lord," says the psalmist, "shalt save both man and beast." [1133] I have myself said the same thing in other words, when I have spoken of virginity as gold and of wedlock as silver. [1134] Again, in discussing [1135] the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed virgins who were not defiled with women, [1136] I have tried to show that all who have not remained virgins are reckoned as defiled when compared with the perfect chastity of the angels and of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if any one thinks it hard or reprehensible that I have placed the same interval between virginity and wedlock as there is between fine corn and barley, let him read the book of the holy Ambrose "On Widows," and he will find, among other statements concerning virginity and marriage, the following: [1137] "The apostle has not expressed his preference for marriage so unreservedly as to quench in men the aspiration after virginity; he commences with a recommendation of continence, and it is only subsequently that he stoops to mention the remedies for its opposite. And although to the strong he has pointed out the prize of their high calling, [1138] yet he suffers none to faint by the way; [1139] whilst he applauds those who lead the van, he does not despise those who bring up the rear. For he had himself learned that the Lord Jesus gave to some barley bread, lest they should faint by the way, but offered to others His own body, that they should strive to attain His kingdom;" [1140] and immediately afterwards: "The nuptial tie, then, is not to be avoided as a crime, but to be refused as a hard burden. For the law binds the wife to bring forth children in labor and in sorrow. Her desire is to be to her husband that he should rule over her. [1141] It is not the widow, then, but the bride, who is handed over to labor and sorrow in childbearing. It is not the virgin, but the married woman, who is subjected to the sway of a husband." And in another place, "Ye are bought," says the apostle, "with a price; [1142] be not therefore the servants of men." [1143] You see how clearly he defines the servitude which attends the married state. And a little farther on: "If, then, even a good marriage is servitude, what must a bad one be, in which husband and wife cannot sanctify, but only mutually destroy each other?" What I have said about virginity and marriage diffusely, Ambrose has stated tersely and pointedly, compressing much meaning into a few words. Virginity is described by him as a means of recommending continence, marriage as a remedy for incontinence. And when he descends from broad principles to particular details, he significantly holds out to virgins the prize of the high calling, yet comforts the married, that they may not faint by the way. While eulogizing the one class, he does not despise the other. Marriage he compares to the barley bread set before the multitude, virginity to the body of Christ given to the disciples. There is much less difference, it seems to me, between barley and fine corn than between barley and the body of Christ. Finally, he speaks of marriage as a hard burden, to be avoided if possible, and as a badge of the most unmistakable servitude. He makes, also, many other statements, which he has followed up at length in his three books "On Virgins."

15. From all which considerations it is clear that I have said nothing at all new concerning virginity and marriage, but have followed in all respects the judgment of older writers--of Ambrose, that is to say, and others who have discussed the doctrines of the Church. "And I would sooner follow them in their faults than copy the dull pedantry of the writers of to-day." [1144] Let married men, if they please, swell with rage because I have said, [1145] "I ask you, what kind of good thing is that which forbids a man to pray, and which prevents him from receiving the body of Christ?" When I do my duty as a husband, I cannot fulfil the requirements of continence. The same apostle, in another place, commands us to pray always. [1146] "But if we are always to pray we must never yield to the claims of wedlock for, as often as I render her due to my wife, I incapacitate myself for prayer." When I spoke thus it is clear that I relied on the words of the apostle: "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to...prayer." [1147] The Apostle Paul tells us that when we have intercourse with our wives we cannot pray. If, then, sexual intercourse prevents what is less important--that is, prayer--how much more does it prevent what is more important--that is, the reception of the body of Christ? Peter, too, exhorts us to continence, that our "prayers be not hindered." [1148] How, I should like to know, have I sinned in all this? What have I done? How have I been in fault? If the waters of a stream are thick and muddy, it is not the river-bed which is to blame, but the source. Am I attacked because I have ventured to add to the words of the apostle these words of my own: "What kind of good thing is that which prevents a man from receiving the body of Christ?" If so, I will make answer briefly thus: Which is the more important, to pray or to receive Christ's body? Surely to receive Christ's body. If, then, sexual intercourse hinders the less important thing, much more does it hinder that which is the more important.

I have said in the same treatise [1149] that David and they that were with him could not have lawfully eaten the shew-bread had they not made answer that for three days they had not been defiled with women [1150] --not, of course, with harlots, intercourse with whom was forbidden by the law, but with their own wives, to whom they were lawfully united. Moreover, when the people were about to receive the law on Mount Sinai they were commanded to keep away from their wives for three days. [1151] I know that at Rome it is customary for the faithful always to receive the body of Christ, a custom which I neither censure nor indorse. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." [1152] But I appeal to the consciences of those persons who after indulging in sexual intercourse on the same day receive the communion--having first, as Persius puts it, "washed off the night in a flowing stream," [1153] and I ask such why they do not presume to approach the martyrs or to enter the churches. [1154] Is Christ of one mind abroad and of another at home? What is unlawful in church cannot be lawful at home. Nothing is hidden from God. "The night shineth as the day" before Him. [1155] Let each man examine himself, and so let him approach the body of Christ. [1156] Not, of course, that the deferring of communion for one day or for two makes a Christian any the holier or that what I have not deserved to-day I shall deserve to-morrow or the day after. But if I grieve that I have not shared in Christ's body it does help me to avoid for a little while my wife's embraces, and to prefer to wedded love the love of Christ. A hard discipline, you will say, and one not to be borne. What man of the world could bear it? He that can bear it, I reply, let him bear it; [1157] he that cannot must look to himself. It is my business to say, not what each man can do or will do, but what the Scriptures inculcate.

16. Again, objection has been taken to my comments on the apostle in the following passage: [1158] "But lest any should suppose from the context of the words before quoted (namely, `that ye may give yourselves...to prayer and come together again') that the apostle desires this consummation, and does not merely concede it to obviate a worse downfall, he immediately adds, `that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.' [1159] `And come together again.' What a noble indulgence the words convey! One which he blushes to speak of in plainer words, which he prefers only to Satan's temptation, and which has its root in incontinence. Do we labor to expound this as a dark saying when the writer has himself explained his meaning? "I speak this," he says, `by way of permission, and not as a command.' [1160] Do we still hesitate to speak of wedlock as a thing permitted instead of as a thing enjoined? or are we afraid that such permission will exclude second or third marriages or some other case?" What have I said here which the apostle has not said? The phrase, I suppose, "which he blushes to speak of in plainer words." I imagine that when he says "come together," and does not mention for what, he takes a modest way of indicating what he does not like to name openly--that is, sexual intercourse. Or is the objection to the words which follow--"which he prefers only to Satan's temptation, and which has its root in incontinence"? Are they not the very words of the apostle, only differently arranged--"that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency"? Or do people cavil because I said, "Do we still hesitate to speak of wedlock as a thing permitted instead of as a thing enjoined?" If this seems a hard saying, it should be ascribed to the apostle, who says, "But I speak this by way of permission, and not as a command," and not to me, who, except that I have rearranged their order, have changed neither the words nor their meaning.

17. The shortness of a letter compels me to hasten on. I pass, accordingly, to the points which remain. "I say," remarks the apostle, "to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn." [1161] This section I have interpreted thus: [1162] "When he has granted to those who are married the use of wedlock, and has made clear his own wishes and concessions, he passes on to those who are unmarried or widows, and sets before them his own example. He calls them happy if they abide even as he, [1163] but he goes on, `if they cannot contain, let them marry.' He thus repeats his former language, `but only to avoid fornication,' and `that Satan tempt you not for your incontinence.' And when he says, `If they cannot contain, let them marry,' he gives as a reason for his words that `it is better to marry than to burn.' It is only good to marry, because it is bad to burn. But take away the fire of lust, and he will not say `it is better to marry.' For a thing is said to be better in antithesis to something which is worse, and not simply in contrast with what is admittedly good. It is as though he said, `It is better to have one eye than none.'" Shortly afterwards, apostrophizing the apostle, I spoke thus: [1164] "If marriage is good in itself, do not compare it with a conflagration, but simply say, `It is good to marry.' I must suspect the goodness of a thing which only becomes a lesser evil in the presence of a greater one. I, for my part, would have it not a lighter evil but a downright good." The apostle wishes unmarried women and widows to abstain from sexual intercourse, incites them to follow his own example, and calls them happy if they abide even as he. But if they cannot contain, and are tempted to quench the fire of lust by fornication rather than by continence, it is better, he tells them, to marry than to burn. Upon which precept I have made this comment: "It is good to marry, simply because it is bad to burn," not putting forward a view of my own, but only explaining the apostle's precept, "It is better to marry than to burn;" that is, it is better to take a husband than to commit fornication. If, then, you teach that burning or fornication is good, the good will still be surpassed by what is still better. [1165] But if marriage is only a degree better than the evil to which it is preferred, it cannot be of that unblemished perfection and blessedness which suggest a comparison with the life of angels. Suppose I say, "It is better to be a virgin than a married woman;" in this case I have preferred to what is good what is still better. But suppose I go a step further and say, "It is better to marry than to commit fornication;" in that case I have preferred, not a better thing to a good thing, but a good thing to a bad one. There is a wide difference between the two cases; for, while virginity is related to marriage as better is to good, marriage is related to fornication as good is to bad. How, I should like to know, have I sinned in this explanation? My fixed purpose was not to bend the Scriptures to my own wishes, but simply to say what I took to be their meaning. A commentator has no business to dilate on his own views; his duty is to make plain the meaning of the author whom he professes to interpret. For, if he contradicts the writer whom he is trying to expound, he will prove to be his opponent rather than his interpreter. When I am freely expressing my own opinion, and not commenting upon the Scriptures, then any one that pleases may charge me with having spoken hardly of marriage. But if he can find no ground for such a charge, he should attribute such passages in my commentaries as appear severe or harsh to the author commented on, and not to me, who am only his interpreter.

18. Another charge brought against me is simply intolerable! It is urged that in explaining the apostle's words concerning husbands and wives, "Such shall have trouble in the flesh," I have said: [1166] "We in our ignorance had supposed that in the flesh at least wedlock would have rejoicing. But if married persons are to have trouble in the flesh, the only thing in which they seemed likely to have pleasure, what motive will be left to make women marry? for, besides having trouble in spirit and soul, they will also have it even in the flesh." [1167] Do I condemn marriage if I enumerate its troubles, such as the crying of infants, the death of children, the chance of abortion, domestic losses, and so forth? Whilst Damasus of holy memory was still living, I wrote a book against Helvidius "On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mary," in which, duly to extol the bliss of virginity, I was forced to say much of the troubles of marriage. Did that excellent man--versed in Scripture as he was, and a virgin doctor of the virgin Church--find anything to censure in my discourse? Moreover, in the treatise which I addressed to Eustochium [1168] I used much harsher language regarding marriage, and yet no one was offended at it. Nay, every lover of chastity strained his ears to catch my eulogy of continence. Read Tertullian, read Cyprian, read Ambrose, and either accuse me with them or acquit me with them. My critics resemble the characters of Plautus. Their only wit lies in detraction; and they try to make themselves out men of learning by assailing all parties in turn. Thus they bestow their censure impartially upon myself and upon my opponent, and maintain that we are both beaten, although one or other of us must have succeeded.

Moreover, when in discussing digamy and trigamy I have said, [1169] "It is better for a woman to know one man, even though he be a second husband or a third, than several; it is more tolerable for her to prostitute herself to one man than to many," have I not immediately subjoined my reason for so saying? "The Samaritan woman in the Gospel, when she declares that her present husband is her sixth, is rebuked by the Lord on the ground that he is not her husband." [1170] For my own part, I now once more freely proclaim that digamy is not condemned in the Church--no, nor yet trigamy--and that a woman may marry a fifth husband, or a sixth, or a greater number still just as lawfully as she may marry a second; but that, while such marriages are not condemned, neither are they commended. They are meant as alleviations of an unhappy lot, and in no way redound to the glory of continence. I have spoken to the same effect elsewhere. [1171] "When a woman marries more than once--whether she does so twice or three times matters little--she ceases to be a monogamist. `All things are lawful...but all things are not expedient.' [1172] I do not condemn digamists or trigamists, or even, to put an impossible case, octogamists. Let a woman have an eighth husband if she must; only let her cease to prostitute herself."

19. I will come now to the passage in which I am accused of saying that--at least according to the true Hebrew text--the words "God saw that it was good" [1173] are not inserted after the second day of the creation, as they are after the first, third, and remaining ones, and of adding immediately the following comment: [1174] "We are meant to understand that there is something not good in the number two, separating us as it does from unity, and prefiguring the marriage-tie. Just as in the account of Noah's ark all the animals that enter by twos are unclean, but those of which an uneven number is taken are clean." [1175] In this statement a passing objection is made to what I have said concerning the second day, whether on the ground that the words mentioned really occur in the passage, although I say that they do not occur, or because, assuming them to occur, I have understood them in a sense different from that which the context evidently requires. As regards the non-occurrence of the words in question (viz., "God saw that it was good"), let them take not my evidence, but that of all the Jewish and other translators--Aquila [1176] namely, Symmachus, [1177] and Theodotion. [1178] But if the words, although occurring in the account of the other days, do not occur in the account of this, either let them give a more plausible reason than I have done for their non-occurrence, or, failing such, let them, whether they like it or not, accept the suggestion which I have made. Furthermore, if in Noah's ark all the animals that enter by twos are unclean, whilst those of which an uneven number is taken are clean, and if there is no dispute about the accuracy of the text, let them explain if they can why it is so written. But if they cannot explain it, then, whether they will or not, they must embrace my explanation of the matter. Either produce better fare and ask me to be your guest, or else rest content with the meal that I offer you, however poor it may be. [1179]

I must now mention the ecclesiastical writers who have dealt with this question of the odd number. They are, among the Greeks, Clement, Hippolytus, Origen, Dionysius, Eusebius, Didymus; and, among ourselves, Tertullian, Cyprian, Victorinus, Lactantius, Hilary. What Cyprian said to Fortunatus about the number seven is clear from the letter which he sent to him. [1180] Or perhaps I ought to bring forward the reasonings of Pythagoras, Archytas of Tarentum, and Publius Scipio in (Cicero's) sixth book "Concerning the Common Weal." If my detractors will not listen to any of these I will make the grammar schools shout in their ears the words of Virgil:

Uneven numbers are the joy of God. [1181]

20. To say, as I have done, that virginity is cleaner than wedlock, that the even numbers must give way to the odd, that the types of the Old Testament establish the truth of the Gospel: this, it appears, is a great sin subversive of the churches and intolerable to the world. The remaining points which are censured in my treatise are, I take it, of less importance, or else resolve themselves into this. I have, therefore, refrained from answering them, both that I may not exceed the limit at my disposal, and that I may not seem to distrust your intelligence, knowing as I do that you are ready to be my champion even before I ask you. With my last breath, then, I protest that neither now nor at any former time have I condemned marriage. I have merely answered an opponent without any fear that they of my own party would lay snares for me. I extol virginity to the skies, not because I myself possess it, but because, not possessing it, I admire it all the more. Surely it is a modest and ingenuous confession to praise in others that which you lack yourself. The weight of my body keeps me fixed to the ground, but do I fail to admire the flying birds or to praise the dove because, in the words of Virgil, [1182] it

Glides on its liquid path with motionless swift wings?

Let no man deceive himself, let no man, giving ear to the voice of flattery, rush upon ruin. The first virginity man derives from his birth, the second from his second birth. [1183] The words are not mine; it is an old saying, "No man can serve two masters;" [1184] that is, the flesh and the spirit. For "the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other," so that we cannot do the things that we would. [1185] When, then, anything in my little work seems to you harsh, have regard not to my words, but to the Scripture, whence they are taken.

21. Christ Himself is a virgin; [1186] and His mother is also a virgin; yea, though she is His mother, she is a virgin still. For Jesus has entered in through the closed doors, [1187] and in His sepulchre--a new one hewn out of the hardest rock--no man is laid either before Him or after Him. [1188] Mary is "a garden enclosed...a fountain sealed," [1189] and from that fountain flows, according to Joel, [1190] the river which waters the torrent bed either [1191] of cords or of thorns; [1192] of cords being those of the sins by which we were beforetime bound, [1193] the thorns those which choked the seed the goodman of the house had sown. [1194] She is the east gate, spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel, [1195] always shut and always shining, and either concealing or revealing the Holy of Holies; and through her "the Sun of Righteousness," [1196] our "high priest after the order of Melchizedek," [1197] goes in and out. Let my critics explain to me how Jesus can have entered in through closed doors when He allowed His hands and His side to be handled, and showed that He had bones and flesh, [1198] thus proving that His was a true body and no mere phantom of one, and I will explain how the holy Mary can be at once a mother and a virgin. A mother before she was wedded, she remained a virgin after bearing her son. Therefore, as I was going to say, the virgin Christ and the virgin Mary have dedicated in themselves the first fruits of virginity for both sexes. [1199] The apostles have either been virgins or, though married, have lived celibate lives. Those persons who are chosen to be bishops, priests, and deacons are either virgins or widowers; or at least when once they have received the priesthood, are vowed to perpetual chastity. Why do we delude ourselves and feel vexed if while we are continually straining after sexual indulgence, we find the palm of chastity denied to us? We wish to fare sumptuously, and to enjoy the embraces of our wives, yet at the same time we desire to reign with Christ among virgins and widows. Shall there be but one reward, then, for hunger and for excess, for filth and for finery, for sackcloth and for silk? Lazarus, [1200] in his lifetime, received evil things, and the rich man, clothed in purple, fat and sleek, while he lived enjoyed the good things of the flesh but, now that they are dead, they occupy different positions. Misery has given place to satisfaction, and satisfaction to misery. And it rests with us whether we will follow Lazarus or the rich man.


[1037] Marcus Antonius, a Roman orator spoken of by Cicero. Orator c. 5, De Oratore i. c. 21, 47, 48. His treatise "De ratione dicendi" is lost. See Quintal iii. 1, 192. [1038] Eccl. vii. 16: see Ag. Jov. i. 14. [1039] Against Jov. i. 3. [1040] A Gnostic presbyter of the second century who rejected the Old Testament. [1041] An Eastern teacher of the third century, a.d., the main feature of whose system was its uncompromising dualism. [1042] A Syrian rhetorician converted to Christianity by Justin Martyr. He wrote a harmony of the Gospels called Diatessaron. [1043] I.e. "the abstainers," or "the continent," a Gnostic sect in the second century. [1044] 1 Tim. iv. 3. [1045] 2 Tim. ii. 20. [1046] 1 Cor. iii. 10-12. [1047] Heb. xiii. 4. [1048] Gen. i. 28. [1049] Matt. xiii. 8. [1050] From this passage compared with Ep. cxxiii. 9, and Bede De Temporum Ratione, c. 1. (De Loquetâ Digitorum), it appears that the number thirty was indicated by joining the tips of the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, sixty was indicated by curling up the forefinger of the same hand and then doubling the thumb over it, while one hundred was expressed by joining the tips of the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. See Prof. Mayor's learned note on Juv. x. 249. [1051] E.g. Cyprian and Origen (Hom. i. in Jos.). [1052] Paterfamilias. Vide Cypr. de Hab. Virg. 21. [1053] Ag. Jov. i. 4. [1054] 1 Cor. vii. 4. [1055] Ag. Jov. i. 7. [1056] Matt. xix. 9. [1057] 1 Cor. vii. 1. [1058] Gen. xxxix. 12, 13. [1059] 1 Cor. vii. 3, R.V. [1060] Matt. xix. 6. [1061] 1 Cor. vii. 7. [1062] Ag. Jov. i. 8. [1063] 1 Cor. xii. 4. [1064] 2 Cor. ii. 7. [1065] 2 Cor. ii. 10. [1066] A.V. marg. [1067] 2 Cor. ii. 10. [1068] Gen. xxxvii. 23. [1069] Acc. to the Vulgate. In A.V. it is the 45th. [1070] Ps. xlv. 10, P.B.V. [1071] 1 Pet. iii. 7; iv. 10. [1072] 1 Cor. vii. 8-10. [1073] Ag. Jov. i. 10. [1074] Rom. vii. 2. [1075] 1 Cor. vii. 39. [1076] 1 Cor. vii. 18. [1077] Ag. Jov. i. 11. [1078] 1 Cor. vii. 15, R.V. [1079] 1 Cor. vii. 19. [1080] Jas. ii. 17. [1081] Univira. [1082] 1 Cor. vii. 21. [1083] 1 Cor. vii. 25. [1084] Ag. Jov. i. 12. [1085] 1 Cor. vii. 21. [1086] Ag. Jov. i. 12. [1087] Ag. Jov. i. 13. [1088] 1 Cor. vii. 35. [1089] Jerome here explains the word aperispastos (A.V. "without distraction") in 1 Cor. vii. 35. [1090] Eccles. i. 13; iii. 10. [1091] Ag. Jov. i. 13. [1092] Ag. Jov. i. 14. [1093] Nu. xx. 17. [1094] Eccles. vii. 16. [1095] Ag. Jov. i. 14. [1096] 1 Cor. vii. 9. [1097] 1 Tim. v. 11, 12, R.V. [1098] 1 Tim. v. 15. [1099] 1 Cor. vii. 40. [1100] Ag. Jov. i. 14. [1101] Ag. Jov. i. 15. [1102] 1 Cor. vi. 12. [1103] Eph. v. 23, 24. [1104] Ag. Jov. i. 9. [1105] Ag. Jov. i. 23. [1106] Viduitas vel continentia. [1107] Ag. Jov. i. 33. [1108] Ag. Jov. i. 40. [1109] Rev. xiv. 3. [1110] Rev. xiv. 4. [1111] Joh. ii. 1, 2. [1112] Ag. Jov. i. 40. [1113] 2 Tim. ii. 20, 21. [1114] I.e. continence in marriage. [1115] Virg. A. xi. 374, 5. [1116] Aliud esse gumnastikos scribere, aliud dogmatikos . The words do not appear to be used in this sense in the extant works of Aristotle. [1117] Plaut. Aul. ii. 2, 18. [1118] The reply of Origen to Celsus is still extant; those of Methodius, Eusebius and Apollinaris to Porphyry have perished. Cf. Letter LXX. § 3. [1119] Two philosophic opponents of Christianity who flourished, the first in the second, the second in the third, century of our era. [1120] Matt. xiii. 10-17. [1121] Isa. xxiv. 16, Vulg. [1122] Ag. Jov. i. 7. [1123] 1 Cor. vii. 1, 2. [1124] Ag. Jov. i. 7. [1125] Eccles. i. 2. [1126] Gen. i. 31; 1 Tim. iv. 4. [1127] Col. i. 16. Cf. Milton, P. L. v. 601. [1128] Ex. iii. 14. [1129] Esth. xiv. 11. [1130] Job xviii. 14, 15, Vulg. [1131] Ag. Jov. i. 7. [1132] Matt. xiv. 15-21; xv. 32-38. Cf. Joh. vi. 5-13. [1133] Ps. xxxvi. 7, P.B.V. [1134] Ag. Jov. i. 3. [1135] Ag. Jov. i. 40. [1136] Rev. xiv. 1, 4. [1137] Ambrose, On Widowhood, xiii. 79; xiii. 81; xi. 69. [1138] Phil. iii. 14. [1139] Matt. xv. 32. [1140] Matt. xxvi. 26, 29. [1141] Gen. iii. 16. [1142] 1 Cor. vi. 20; vii. 23. [1143] Cf. Eph. vi. 6. [1144] Ter. Andria Prol. 20, 21. [1145] Ag. Jov. i. 7. [1146] 1 Th. v. 17. [1147] 1 Cor. vii. 5. [1148] 1 Pet. iii. 7. [1149] Ag. Jov. i. 20. [1150] 1 Sam. xxi. 4, 5. [1151] Ex. xix. 15. [1152] Rom. xiv. 5. [1153] Pers. ii. 16. [1154] That what is now known as reservation of the elements was practised in the early church there is abundant evidence to show. Justin Martyr (Apol. I. 65) writes: "The deacons communicate each of those present and carry away to the absent of the blest bread and wine and water." And those to whom the eucharist was thus taken were not bound to consume it immediately, or all at once, but might reserve a part or all for future occasions. According to Basil (Ep. 93), "in Egypt the laity for the most part had every one the communion in their own houses"--and "all those who dwell alone in the desert, when there is no priest, keep the communion at home and receive it at their own hands." So Jerome speaks (Letter CXXV. 20) of Exuperius as "carrying the Lord's body in a wicker basket, His blood in a vessel of glass." See the article "Reservation" in Smith and Cheetham's Dict. of Christian Antiquities. [1155] Ps. cxxxix. 11, 12. [1156] Cf. 1 Cor. xi. 28. [1157] Cf. Matt. xix. 12. [1158] Against Jov. i. 8. [1159] 1 Cor. vii. 5. [1160] 1 Cor. vii. 6, Vulg. [1161] 1 Cor. vii. 8, 9. [1162] Ag. Jov. i. 9. [1163] 1 Cor. vii. 8. [1164] Ag. Jov. i. 9. [1165] Fornication must still be subordinated to marriage. [1166] Ag. Jov. i. 13. [1167] 1 Th. v. 23. [1168] Letter XXII. [1169] Ag. Jov. i. 14. [1170] Joh. iv. 16-18. Jerome's version of the story is inaccurate. [1171] Ag. Jov. i. 15. [1172] 1 Cor. vi. 12. [1173] Gen. i. 10. [1174] Ag. Jov. i. 16. [1175] Gen. vii. 2. [1176] The author of a literal Greek version of the O.T. made in the second century. [1177] An ebionitic translator, free, not literal, in style. [1178] A careful reviser of the LXX. whose work was welcomed by the Church. His version of Daniel completely superseded the older one. [1179] Cf. Hor. Ep. i. 6, 67, 68. [1180] Cyprian, Letter to Fortunatus, xiii. 11. [1181] Virg. E. viii. 75. [1182] Virg. A. v. 217. [1183] Tert. de Exh. Cast. I. [1184] Matt. vi. 24. [1185] Gal. v. 17. [1186] Ag. Jov. i. 31. [1187] Joh. xx. 19. [1188] Joh. xix. 41. [1189] Cant. iv. 12. [1190] Joel iii. 18; according to the LXX. and Hebrew. A.V. has "vale of Shittim" (thorns). [1191] LXX. [1192] Hebrew. [1193] Cf. Prov. v. 22. [1194] Matt. xiii. 7. [1195] Ezek. xliv. 2, 3. [1196] Mal. iv. 2. [1197] Heb. v. 10. [1198] Joh. xx. 19, 27. [1199] Cf. Letter XXII. § 18. [1200] Luke xvi. 19-25.

Letter XLIX. To Pammachius.

Jerome encloses the preceding letter, thanks Pammachius for his efforts to suppress his treatise "against Jovinian," but declares these to be useless, and exhorts him, if he still has any hesitation in his mind, to turn to the Scriptures and the commentaries made upon them by Origen and others. Written at the same time as the preceding letter.

1. Christian modesty sometimes requires us to be silent even to our friends, and to nurse our humility in peace, where the renewal of an old friendship would expose us to the charge of self-seeking. Thus, when you have kept silence I have kept silence too, and have not cared to remonstrate with you, lest I should be thought more anxious to conciliate a person of influence than to cultivate a friend. But, now that it has become a duty to reply to your letter, I will endeavor always to be beforehand with you, and not so much to answer your queries as to write independently of them. Thus, if I have shown my modesty hitherto by silence, I will henceforth show it still more by coming forward to speak.

2. I quite recognize the kindness and forethought which have induced you to withdraw from circulation some copies of my work against Jovinian. Your diligence, however, has been of no avail, for several people coming from the city have repeatedly read aloud to me passages which they have come across in Rome. In this province, also, the books have already been circulated; and, as you have read yourself in Horace, "Words once uttered cannot be recalled." [1201] I am not so fortunate as are most of the writers of the day--able, that is, to correct my trifles whenever I like. When once I have written anything, either my admirers or my ill-wishers--from different motives, but with equal zeal--sow my work broadcast among the public; and their language, whether it is that of eulogy or of criticism, is apt to run to excess. [1202] They are guided not by the merits of the piece, but by their own angry feelings. Accordingly, I have done what I could. I have dedicated to you a defence of the work in question, feeling sure that when you have read it you will yourself satisfy the doubts of others on my behalf; or else, if you too turn up your nose at the task, you will have to explain in some new manner that section of the apostle [1203] in which he discusses virginity and marriage.

3. I do not speak thus that I may provoke you to write on the subject yourself--although I know your zeal in the study of the sacred writings to be greater than my own--but that you may compel my tormentors to do so. They are educated; in their own eyes no mean scholars; competent not merely to censure but to instruct me. If they write on the subject, my view will be the sooner neglected when it is compared with theirs. Read, I pray you, and diligently consider the words of the apostle, and you will then see that--with a view to avoid misrepresentation--I have been much more gentle towards married persons than he was disposed to be. Origen, Dionysius, Pierius, Eusebius of Cæsarea, Didymus, Apollinaris, have used great latitude in the interpretation of this epistle. [1204] When Pierius, sifting and expounding the apostle's meaning, comes to the words, "I would that all men were even as I myself," [1205] he makes this comment upon them: "In saying this Paul plainly preaches abstinence from marriage." Is the fault here mine, or am I responsible for harshness? Compared with this sentence of Pierius, [1206] all that I have ever written is mild indeed. Consult the commentaries of the above-named writers and take advantage of the Church libraries; you will then more speedily finish as you would wish the enterprise which you have so happily begun. [1207]

4. I hear that the hopes of the entire city are centred in you, and that bishop [1208] and people are agreed in wishing for your exaltation. To be a bishop [1209] is much, to deserve to be one is more.

If you read the books of the sixteen prophets [1210] which I have rendered into Latin from the Hebrew; and if, when you have done so, you express satisfaction with my labors, the news will encourage me to take out of my desk some other works now shut up in it. I have lately translated Job into our mother tongue: you will be able to borrow a copy of it from your cousin, the saintly Marcella. Read it both in Greek and in Latin, and compare the old version with my rendering. You will then clearly see that the difference between them is that between truth and falsehood. Some of my commentaries upon the twelve prophets I have sent to the reverend father Domnio, also the four books of Kings--that is, the two called Samuel and the two called Malâchim. [1211] If you care to read these you will learn for yourself how difficult it is to understand the Holy Scriptures, and particularly the prophets; and how through the fault of the translators passages which for the Jews flow clearly on for us abound with mistakes. Once more, you must not in my small writings look for any such eloquence as that which for Christ's sake you disregard in Cicero. A version made for the use of the Church, even though it may possess a literary charm, ought to disguise and avoid it as far as possible; in order that it may not speak to the idle schools and few disciples of the philosophers, but may address itself rather to the entire human race.


[1201] Hor. AP. 390. [1202] See the Preface to Jerome's Comm. on Daniel. [1203] 1 Cor. vii. [1204] 1 Corinthians. [1205] 1 Cor. vii. 7. [1206] Master of the catechetical school of Alexandria, 265 a.d. His writings have perished. His name occurs again in Letter LXX. § 4. [1207] Ad optata cæptaque pervenies. [1208] Pontifex. [1209] Sacerdos. [1210] Thus including Daniel. [1211] The Hebrew word for "Kings."

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