Question: Who is St. Jerome and why is he so significant that we honored him with a feast on September 30?
Answer: Biblical scholars and translators owe a great debt to the model and standard that Jerome, 345-420, set for all biblical scholarship. Jerome was considered the greatest biblical scholar of his day, conversant with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He set about translating the books of the Bible from their original languages into Latin. Much of Jerome’s correspondence with his contemporaries has survived and gives us a powerful glimpse into the kind of person that he was, as well as the time in which he lived. Jerome eventually became Pope Damasus’ (366-384) personal secretary. In the West, Latin was overtaking Greek as the language of the common people. The pope desired a translation of the Bible that would be accurately translated from the original languages into the language and idiom of the people. Previous Latin translations existed, but they were poor in quality. Jerome set about this task and spent the rest of his life meticulously translating. He is credited with the translation of the Bible know as the Vulgate, a Latin translation intended to address the needs of the common people. That translation became the standard and the only one used by Catholics until modern times. Catholic Christians did not actively engage in a similar process until 1943, when Pius XII allowed Catholic scholars once again to go back to the original languages and translate an accurate and meticulous version of the Bible into the languages of the common people. We carry on that tradition to this very day.