Given by His
Holiness Pope Benedict XV
15 September 1920
Since the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, had bestowed the Scriptures on
the human race for their instruction in Divine things, He also raised
up in successive ages saintly and learned men whose task it should be
to develop that treasure and so provide for the faithful plenteous
"consolation from the Scriptures." Foremost among these teachers
stands St. Jerome. Him the Catholic Church acclaims and reveres as her
"Greatest Doctor," divinely given her for the understanding of the
Bible. And now that the fifteenth centenary of his death is approaching
we would not willingly let pass so favorable an opportunity of
addressing you on the debt we owe him. For the responsibility of our
Apostolic office impels us to set before you his wonderful example and
so promote the study of Holy Scripture in accordance with the teaching
of our predecessors, Leo XIII and Pius X, which we desire to apply more
precisely still to the present needs of the Church. For St. Jerome -
"strenuous Catholic, learned in the Scriptures," "teacher of
Catholics," "model of virtue, world's teacher" - has by his
earnest and illuminative defense of Catholic doctrine on Holy Scripture
left us most precious instructions. These we propose to set before you
and so promote among the children of the Church, and especially among
the clergy, assiduous and reverent study of the Bible.
2. No need to remind you, Venerable Brethren, that Jerome was born in
Stridonia, in a town "on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia"; that
from his infancy he was brought up a Catholic; that after his
baptism here in Rome he lived to an advanced age and devoted all his
powers to studying, expounding, and defending the Bible. At Rome he had
learned Latin and Greek, and hardly had he left the school of rhetoric
than he ventured on a Commentary on Abdias the Prophet. This "youthful
piece of work" kindled in him such love of the Bible that he decided
- like the man in the Gospel who found a treasure - to spurn "any
emoluments the world could provide," and devote himself wholly to
such studies. Nothing could deter him from this stern resolve. He left
home, parents, sister, and relatives; he denied himself the more
delicate food he had been accustomed to, and went to the East so that
he might gather from studious reading of the Bible the fuller riches of
Christ and true knowledge of his Savior. Jerome himself tells us in
several places how assiduously he toiled:
An eager desire to learn obsessed me. But I was not so foolish as to
try and teach myself. At Antioch I regularly attended the lectures of
Apollinaris of Laodicea; but while I learned much from him about the
Bible, I would never accept his doubtful teaching about its
3. From Antioch be betook to the desert of Chalcis, in Syria, to
perfect himself in his knowledge of the Bible, and at the same time to
curb "youthful desires" by means of hard study. Here he engaged a
convert Jew to teach him Hebrew and Chaldaic.
What a toil it was! How difficult I found it! How often I was on the
point of giving it up in despair, and yet in my eagerness to learn took
it up again! Myself can bear witness of this, and so, too, can those
who had lived with me at the time. Yet I thank God for the fruit I won
from that bitter seed.
4. Lest, however, he should grow idle in this desert where there were
no heretics to vex him, Jerome betook himself to Constantinople, where
for nearly three years he studied Holy Scripture under St. Gregory the
Theologian, then Bishop of that See and in the height of his fame as a
teacher. While there he translated into Latin Origen's Homilies on the
Prophets and Eusebius' Chronicle; he also wrote on Isaias' vision of
the Seraphim. He then returned to Rome on ecclesiastical business, and
Pope Damasus admitted him into his court. However, he let nothing
distract him from continual occupation with the Bible, and the task
of copying various manuscripts, as well as answering the many
questions put to him by students of both sexes.
5. Pope Damasus had entrusted to him a most laborious task, the
correction of the Latin text of the Bible. So well did Jerome carry
this out that even today men versed in such studies appreciate its
value more and more. But he ever yearned for Palestine, and when the
Pope died he retired to Bethlehem to a monastery nigh to the cave where
Christ was born. Every moment he could spare from prayer he gave to
Though my hair was now growing gray and though I looked more like
professor than student, yet I went to Alexandria to attend Didymus'
lectures. I owe him much. What I did not know I learned. What I knew
already I did not lose through his different presentation of it. Men
thought I had done with tutors; but when I got back to Jerusalem and
Bethlehem how hard I worked and what a price I paid for my night-time
teacher Baraninus! Like another Nicodemus he was afraid of the
6. Nor was Jerome content merely to gather up this or that teacher's
words; he gathered from all quarters whatever might prove of use to him
in this task. From the outset he had accumulated the best possible
copies of the Bible and the best commentators on it, but now he worked
on copies from the synagogues and from the library formed at Caesarea
by Origen and Eusebius; he hoped by assiduous comparison of texts to
arrive at greater certainty touching the actual text and its meaning.
With this same purpose he went all through Palestine. For he was
thoroughly convinced of the truth of what he once wrote to Domnio and
A man will understand the Bible better if he has seen Judaea with his
own eyes and discovered its ancient cities and sites either under the
old names or newer ones. In company with some learned Hebrews I went
through the entire land the names of whose sites are on every
7. He nourished his soul unceasingly on this most pleasant food: he
explained St. Paul's Epistles; he corrected the Latin version of the
Old Testament by the Greek; he translated afresh nearly all the books
of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin; day by day he discussed
Biblical questions with the brethren who came to him, and answered
letters on Biblical questions which poured in upon him from all sides;
besides all this, he was constantly refuting men who assailed Catholic
doctrine and unity. Indeed, such was his love for Holy Scripture that
he ceased not from writing or dictating till his hand stiffened in
death and his voice was silent forever. So it was that, sparing himself
neither labor nor watching nor expense, he continued to extreme old age
meditating day and night beside the Crib on the Law of the Lord; of
greater profit to the Catholic cause by his life and example in his
solitude than if he had passed his life at Rome, the capital of the
8. After this preliminary account of St. Jerome's life and labors we
may now treat of his teaching on the divine dignity and absolute truth
You will not find a page in his writings which does not show clearly
that he, in common with the whole Catholic Church, firmly and
consistently held that the Sacred Books - written as they were under
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - have God for their Author, and as
such were delivered to the Church. Thus he asserts that the Books of
the Bible were composed at the inspiration, or suggestion, or even at
the dictation of the Holy Spirit; even that they were written and
edited by Him. Yet he never questions but that the individual authors
of these Books worked in full freedom under the Divine afflatus, each
of them in accordance with his individual nature and character. Thus he
is not merely content to affirm as a general principle - what indeed
pertains to all the sacred writers - that they followed the Spirit of
God as they wrote, in such sort that God is the principal cause of all
that Scripture means and says; but he also accurately describes what
pertains to each individual writer. In each case Jerome shows us how,
in composition, in language, in style and mode of expression, each of
them uses his own gifts and powers; hence he is able to portray and
describe for us their individual character, almost their very features;
this is especially so in his treatment of the Prophets and of St. Paul.
This partnership of God and man in the production of a work in common
Jerome illustrates by the case of a workman who uses instruments for
the production of his work; for he says that whatsoever the sacred
authors say "Is the word of God, and not their own; and what the Lord
says by their mouths He says, as it were, by means of an
9. If we ask how we are to explain this power and action of God, the
principal cause, on the sacred writers we shall find that St. Jerome in
no wise differs from the common teaching of the Catholic Church. For he
holds that God, through His grace, illumines the writer's mind
regarding the particular truth which, "in the person of God," he is to
set before men; he holds, moreover, that God moves the writer's will -
nay, even impels it - to write; finally, that God abides with him
unceasingly, in unique fashion, until his task is accomplished. Whence
the Saint infers the supreme excellence and dignity of Scripture, and
declares that knowledge of it is to be likened to the "treasure"
and the "pearl beyond price," since in them are to be found the
riches of Christ and "silver wherewith to adorn God's house."
10. Jerome also insists on the supereminent authority of Scripture.
When controversy arose he had recourse to the Bible as a storehouse of
arguments, and he used its testimony as a weapon for refuting his
adversaries' arguments, because he held that the Bible's witness
afforded solid and irrefutable arguments. Thus, when Helvidius denied
the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God, Jerome was content simply
Just as we do not deny these things which are written, so do we
repudiate things that are not written. That God was born of a Virgin we
believe, because we read it. That Mary was married after His birth we
do not believe because we do not read it."
11. In the same fashion he undertakes to defend against Jovinian, with
precisely the same weapons, the Catholic doctrines of the virginal
state, of perseverance, of abstinence, and of the merit of good works:
"In refuting his statements I shall rely especially on the testimony of
Scripture, lest he should grumble and complain that he has been
vanquished rather by my eloquence than by the truth."
12. So, too, when defending himself against the same Helvidius, he
says: "He was, you might say, begged to yield to me, and be led away as
a willing and unresisting captive in the bonds of truth." Again,
"We must not follow the errors of our parents, nor of those who have
gone before us; we have the authority of the Scriptures and God's
teaching to command us." Once more, when showing Fabiola how to
deal with critics, he says:
When you are really instructed in the Divine Scriptures, and have
realized that its laws and testimonies are the bonds of truth, then you
can contend with adversaries; then you will fetter them and lead them
bound into captivity; then of the foes you have made captive you will
make freemen of God.
13. Jerome further shows that the immunity of Scripture from error or
deception is necessarily bound up with its Divine inspiration and
supreme authority. He says he had learnt this in the most celebrated
schools, whether of East or West, and that it was taught him as the
doctrine of the Fathers, and generally received. Thus when, at the
instance of Pope Damasus, he had begun correcting the Latin text of the
New Testament, and certain "manikins" had vehemently attacked him for
"making corrections in the Gospels in face of the authority of the
Fathers and of general opinion," Jerome briefly replied that he was not
so utterly stupid nor so grossly uneducated as to imagine that the
Lord's words needed any correction or were not divinely inspired.
Similarly, when explaining Ezechiel's first vision as portraying the
Four Gospels, he remarks: "That the entire body and the back were full
of eyes will be plain to anybody who realizes that there is nought in
the Gospels which does not shine and illumine the world by its
splendor, so that even things that seem trifling and unimportant shine
with the majesty of the Holy Spirit."
14. What he has said here of the Gospels he applies in his Commentaries
to the rest of the Lord's words; he regards it as the very rule and
foundation of Catholic interpretation; indeed, for Jerome, a true
prophet was to be distinguished from a false by this very note of
truth: "The Lord's words are true; for Him to say it, means that it
is." Again, "Scripture cannot lie"; it is wrong to say
Scripture lies, nay, it is impious even to admit the very notion of
error where the Bible is concerned. "The Apostles," he says, "are
one thing; other writers" - that is, profane writers - "are
another;" "the former always tell the truth; the latter - as being
mere men - sometimes err," and though many things are said in the
Bible which seem incredible, yet they are true; in this "word of
truth" you cannot find things or statements which are contradictory,
"there is nothing discordant nor conflicting"; consequently, "when
Scripture seems to be in conflict with itself both passages are true
despite their diversity."
15. Holding principles like these, Jerome was compelled, when he
discovered apparent discrepancies in the Sacred Books, to use every
endeavor to unravel the difficulty. If he felt that he had not
satisfactorily settled the problem, he would return to it again and
again, not always, indeed, with the happiest results. Yet he would
never accuse the sacred writers of the slightest mistake - "that we
leave to impious folk like Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian." Here he
is in full agreement with Augustine, who wrote to Jerome that to the
Sacred Books alone had he been wont to accord such honor and reverence
as firmly to believe that none of their writers had ever fallen into
any error; and that consequently, if in the said books he came across
anything which seemed to run counter to the truth, he did not think
that that was really the case, but either that his copy was defective
or that the translator had made a mistake, or again, that he himself
had failed to understand. He continues: "Nor do I deem that you think
otherwise. Indeed, I absolutely decline to think that you would have
people read your own books in the same way as they read those of the
Prophets and Apostles; the idea that these latter could contain any
errors is impious." 
16. St. Jerome's teaching on this point serves to confirm and
illustrate what our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, declared to
be the ancient and traditional belief of the Church touching the
absolute immunity of Scripture from error: "So far is it from being the
case that error can be compatible with inspiration, that, on the
contrary, it not only of its very nature precludes the presence of
error, but as necessarily excludes it and forbids it as God, the
Supreme Truth, necessarily cannot be the Author of error."
17. Then, after giving the definitions of the Councils of Florence and
Trent, confirmed by the Council of the Vatican, Pope Leo continues:
"Consequently it is not to the point to suggest that the Holy Spirit
used men as His instruments for writing, and that therefore, while no
error is referable to the primary Author, it may well be due to the
inspired authors themselves. For by supernatural power the Holy Spirit
so stirred them and moved them to write, so assisted them as they
wrote, that their minds could rightly conceive only those and all those
things which He himself bade them conceive; only such things could they
faithfully commit to writing and aptly express with unerring truth;
else God would not be the Author of the entirety of Sacred Scripture."
18. But although these words of our predecessor leave no room for doubt
or dispute, it grieves us to find that not only men outside, but even
children of the Catholic Church - nay, what is a peculiar sorrow to us,
even clerics and professors of sacred learning - who in their own
conceit either openly repudiate or at least attack in secret the
Church's teaching on this point.
We warmly commend, of course, those who, with the assistance of
critical methods, seek to discover new ways of explaining the
difficulties in Holy Scripture, whether for their own guidance or to
help others. But we remind them that they will only come to miserable
grief if they neglect our predecessor's injunctions and overstep the
limits set by the Fathers.
19. Yet no one can pretend that certain recent writers really adhere to
these limitations. For while conceding that inspiration extends to
every phrase - and, indeed, to every single word of Scripture - yet, by
endeavoring to distinguish between what they style the primary or
religious and the secondary or profane element in the Bible, they claim
that the effect of inspiration - namely, absolute truth and immunity
from error - are to be restricted to that primary or religious element.
Their notion is that only what concerns religion is intended and taught
by God in Scripture, and that all the rest - things concerning "profane
knowledge," the garments in which Divine truth is presented - God
merely permits, and even leaves to the individual author's greater or
less knowledge. Small wonder, then, that in their view a considerable
number of things occur in the Bible touching physical science, history
and the like, which cannot be reconciled with modern progress in
20. Some even maintain that these views do not conflict with what our
predecessor laid down since - so they claim - he said that the sacred
writers spoke in accordance with the external - and thus deceptive -
appearance of things in nature. But the Pontiff's own words show that
this is a rash and false deduction. For sound philosophy teaches that
the senses can never be deceived as regards their own proper and
immediate object. Therefore, from the merely external appearance of
things - of which, of course, we have always to take account as Leo
XIII, following in the footsteps of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, most
wisely remarks - we can never conclude that there is any error in
21. Moreover, our predecessor, sweeping aside all such distinctions
between what these critics are pleased to call primary and secondary
elements, says in no ambiguous fashion that "those who fancy that when
it is a question of the truth of certain expressions we have not got to
consider so much what God said as why He said it," are very far indeed
from the truth. He also teaches that Divine inspiration extends to
every part of the Bible without the slightest exception, and that no
error can occur in the inspired text: "It would be wholly impious to
limit inspiration to certain portions only of Scripture or to concede
that the sacred authors themselves could have erred." 
22. Those, too, who hold that the historical portions of Scripture do
not rest on the absolute truth of the facts but merely upon what they
are pleased to term their relative truth, namely, what people then
commonly thought, are - no less than are the aforementioned critics -
out of harmony with the Church's teaching, which is endorsed by the
testimony of Jerome and other Fathers. Yet they are not afraid to
deduce such views from the words of Leo XIII on the ground that he
allowed that the principles he had laid down touching the things of
nature could be applied to historical things as well. Hence they
maintain that precisely as the sacred writers spoke of physical things
according to appearance, so, too, while ignorant of the facts, they
narrated them in accordance with general opinion or even on baseless
evidence; neither do they tell us the sources whence they derived their
knowledge, nor do they make other peoples' narrative their own. Such
views are clearly false, and constitute a calumny on our predecessor.
After all, what analogy is there between physics and history? For
whereas physics is concerned with "sensible appearances" and must
consequently square with phenomena, history on the contrary, must
square with the facts, since history is the written account of events
as they actually occurred. If we were to accept such views, how could
we maintain the truth insisted on throughout Leo XIII's Encyclical -
viz. that the sacred narrative is absolutely free from error?
23. And if Leo XIII does say that we can apply to history and cognate
subjects the same principles which hold good for science, he yet does
not lay this down as a universal law, but simply says that we can apply
a like line of argument when refuting the fallacies of adversaries and
defending the historical truth of Scripture from their assaults.
24. Nor do modern innovators stop here: they even try to claim St.
Jerome as a patron of their views on the ground that he maintained that
historic truth and sequence were not observed in the Bible, "precisely
as things actually took place, but in accordance with what men thought
at that time," and that he even held that this was the true norm for
history. A strange distortion of St. Jerome's words! He does not
say that when giving us an account of events the writer was ignorant of
the truth and simply adopted the false views then current; he merely
says that in giving names to persons or things he followed general
custom. Thus the Evangelist calls St. Joseph the father of Jesus, but
what he meant by the title "father" here is abundantly clear from the
whole context. For St. Jerome "the true norm of history" is this: when
it is question of such appellatives (as "father," etc), and when there
is no danger or error, then a writer must adopt the ordinary forms of
speech simply because such forms of speech are in ordinary use. More
than this: Jerome maintains that belief in the Biblical narrative is as
necessary to salvation as is belief in the doctrines of the faith; thus
in his Commentary on the Epistle to Philemon he says: ""What I mean is
this: Does any man believe in God the Creator? He cannot do so unless
he first believe that the things written of God's Saints are true." He
then gives examples from the Old Testament, and adds: "Now unless a man
believes all these and other things too which are written of the Saints
he cannot believe in the God of the Saints."
25. Thus St. Jerome is in complete agreement with St. Augustine, who
sums up the general belief of Christian antiquity when he says: "Holy
Scripture is invested with supreme authority by reason of its sure and
momentous teachings regarding the faith. Whatever, then, it tells us of
Enoch, Elias and Moses - that we believe. We do not, for instance,
believe that God's Son was born of the Virgin Mary simply because He
could not otherwise have appeared in the flesh and 'walked amongst men'
- as Faustus would have it - but we believe it simply because it is
written in Scripture; and unless we believe in Scripture we can neither
be Christians nor be saved." 
26. Then there are other assailants of Holy Scripture who misuse
principles - which are only sound, if kept within due bounds - in order
to overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible and thus destroy
Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers. If Jerome were living now
he would sharpen his keenest controversial weapons against people who
set aside what is the mind and judgment of the Church, and take too
ready a refuge in such notions as "implicit quotations" or
"pseudo-historical narratives," or in "kinds of literature" in the
Bible such as cannot be reconciled with the entire and perfect truth of
God's word, or who suggest such origins of the Bible as must inevitably
weaken - if not destroy - its authority.
27. What can we say of men who in expounding the very Gospels so
whittle away the human trust we should repose in it as to overturn
Divine faith in it? They refuse to allow that the things which Christ
said or did have come down to us unchanged and entire through witnesses
who carefully committed to writing what they themselves had seen or
heard. They maintain - and particularly in their treatment of the
Fourth Gospel - that much is due of course to the Evangelists - who,
however, added much from their own imaginations; but much, too, is due
to narratives compiled by the faithful at other periods, the result, of
course, being that the twin streams now flowing in the same channel
cannot be distinguished from one another. Not thus did Jerome and
Augustine and the other Doctors of the Church understand the historical
trustworthiness of the Gospels; yet of it one wrote: "He who saw it has
borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he tells the
truth, and you also may believe" (Jn. 19:35). So, too, St. Jerome:
after rebuking the heretical framers of the apocryphal Gospels for
"attempting rather to fill up the story than to tell it truly," he
says of the Canonical Scriptures: "None can doubt but that what is
written took place." Here again he is in fullest harmony with
Augustine, who so beautifully says: "These things are true; they are
faithfully and truthfully written of Christ; so that whosoever believes
His Gospel may be thereby instructed in the truth and misled by no
28. All this shows us how earnestly we must strive to avoid, as
children of the Church, this insane freedom in ventilating opinions
which the Fathers were careful to shun. This we shall more readily
achieve if you, Venerable Brethren, will make both clergy and laity
committed to your care by the Holy Spirit realize that neither Jerome
nor the other Fathers of the Church learned their doctrine touching
Holy Scripture save in the school of the Divine Master Himself. We know
what He felt about Holy Scripture: when He said, "It is written," and
"the Scripture must needs be fulfilled," we have therein an argument
which admits of no exception and which should put an end to all
29. Yet it is worthwhile dwelling on this point a little: when Christ
preached to the people, whether on the Mount by the lakeside, or in the
synagogue at Nazareth, or in His own city of Capharnaum, He took His
points and His arguments from the Bible. From the same source came His
weapons when disputing with the Scribes and Pharisees. Whether teaching
or disputing He quotes from all parts of Scripture and takes His
example from it; He quotes it as an argument which must be accepted. He
refers without any discrimination of sources to the stories of Jonas
and the Ninivites, of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon, of Elias and
Eliseus, of David and of Noe, of Lot and the Sodomites, and even of
Lot's wife. (cf. Mt. 12:3, 39-42; Lk. 17:26-29, 32). How solemn His
witness to the truth of the sacred books: "One jot, or one tittle shall
not pass of the Law till all be fulfilled" (Mt. 5:18); and again: "The
Scripture cannot be broken" (Jn. 10:35); and consequently: "He
therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall
so teach men shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.
5:19). Before His Ascension, too, when He would steep His Apostles in
the same doctrine: "He opened their understanding that they might
understand the Scriptures. And He said to them: thus it is written, and
thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the
third day" (Lk. 24:45).
30. In a word, then: Jerome's teaching on the superexcellence and truth
of Scripture is Christ's teaching. Wherefore we exhort all the Church's
children, and especially those whose duty it is to teach in seminaries,
to follow closely in St. Jerome's footsteps. If they will but do so
they will learn to prize as he prized the treasure of the Scriptures,
and will derive from them most abundant and blessed fruit.
31. Now, if we make use of the "Greatest of Doctors" as our guide and
teacher we shall derive from so doing not only the gains signalized
above, but others too, which cannot be regarded as trifling or few.
What these gains are, Venerable Brethren, we will set out briefly. At
the outset, then, we are deeply impressed by the intense love of the
Bible which St. Jerome exhibits in his whole life and teaching: both
are steeped in the Spirit of God. This intense love of the Bible he was
ever striving to kindle in the hearts of the faithful, and his words on
this subject to the maiden Demetrias are really addressed to us all:
"Love the Bible and wisdom will love you; love it and it will preserve
you; honor it and it will embrace you; these are the jewels which you
should wear on your breast and in your ears."
32. His unceasing reading of the Bible and his painstaking study of
each book - nay, of every phrase and word - gave him a knowledge of the
text such as no other ecclesiastical writer of old possessed. It is due
to this familiarity with the text and to his own acute judgment that
the Vulgate version Jerome made is, in the judgment of all capable men,
preferable to any other ancient version, since it appears to give us
the sense of the original more accurately and with greater elegance
than they. The said Vulgate, "approved by so many centuries of use in
the Church" was pronounced by the Council of Trent "authentic," and the
same Council insisted that it was to be used in teaching and in the
liturgy. If God in His mercy grants us life, we sincerely hope to
see an amended and faithfully restored edition. We have no doubt that
when this arduous task - entrusted by our predecessor, Pius X, to the
Benedictine Order - has been completed it will prove of great
assistance in the study of the Bible.
33. But to return to St. Jerome's love of the Bible: this is so
conspicuous in his letters that they almost seem woven out of Scripture
texts; and, as St. Bernard found no taste in things which did not echo
the most sweet Name of Jesus, so no literature made any appeal to
Jerome unless it derived its light from Holy Scripture. Thus he wrote
to Paulinus, formerly senator and even consul, and only recently
converted to the faith: If only you had this foundation (knowledge of
Scripture); nay, more - if you would let Scripture give the finishing
touches to your work - I should find nothing more beautiful, more
learned, even nothing more Latin than your volumes. . . If you could
but add to your wisdom and eloquence study of and real acquaintance
with Holy Scripture, we should speedily have to acknowledge you a
leader amongst us.
34. How we are to seek for this great treasure, given as it is by our
Father in heaven for our solace during this earthly pilgrimage, St.
Jerome's example shows us. First, we must be well prepared and must
possess a good will. Thus Jerome himself, immediately on his baptism,
determined to remove whatever might prove a hindrance to his ambitions
in this respect. Like the men who found a treasure and "for joy thereof
went and sold all that he had and bought that field" (Mt. 13:44), so
did Jerome say farewell to the idle pleasures of this passing world; he
went into the desert, and since he realized what risks he had run in
the past through the allurements of vice, he adopted a most severe
style of life. With all obstacles thus removed he prepared his soul for
"the knowledge of Jesus Christ" and for putting on Him Who was "meek
and humble of heart." But he went through what Augustine also
experienced when he took up the study of Scripture. For the latter has
told us how, steeped as a youth in Cicero and profane authors, the
Bible seemed to him unfit to be compared with Cicero.
My swelling pride shrank from its modest garb, while my gaze could not
pierce to what the latter hid. Of a truth Scripture was meant to grow
up with the childlike; but then I could not be childlike; turgid
eloquence appealed mightily to me.
So, too, St. Jerome; even though withdrawn into the desert he still
found such delight in profane literature that at first he failed to
discern the lowly Christ in His lowly Scriptures:
Wretch that I was! I read Cicero even before I broke my fast! And after
the long night-watches, when memory of my past sins wrung tears from my
soul, even then I took up my Plautus! Then perhaps I would come to my
senses and would start reading the Prophets. But their uncouth language
made me shiver, and, since blind eyes do not see the light, I blamed
the sun and not my own eyes.
35. But in a brief space Jerome became so enamored of the "folly of the
Cross" that he himself serves as a proof of the extent to which a
humble and devout frame of mind is conducive to the understanding of
Holy Scripture. He realized that "in expounding Scripture we need God's
Holy Spirit"; he saw that one cannot otherwise read or understand
it "than the Holy Spirit by Whom it was written demands."
Consequently, he was ever humbly praying for God's assistance and for
the light of the Holy Spirit, and asking his friends to do the same for
him. We find him commending to the Divine assistance and to his
brethren's prayers his Commentaries on various books as he began them,
and then rendering God due thanks when completed.
36. As he trusted to God's grace, so too did he rely upon the authority
of his predecessors: "What I have learned I did not teach myself - a
wretchedly presumptous teacher! - but I learned it from illustrious men
in the Church." Again: "In studying Scripture I never trusted to
myself." To Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, he imparted the rule
he had laid down for his own student life: "It has always been my
custom to fight for the prerogatives of a Christian, not to overpass
the limits set by the Fathers, always to bear in mind that Roman faith
praised by the Apostle."
37. He ever paid submissive homage to the Church, our supreme teacher
through the Roman Pontiffs. Thus, with a view to putting an end to the
controversy raging in the East concerning the mystery of the Holy
Trinity, he submitted the question to the Roman See for settlement, and
wrote from the Syrian desert to Pope Damasus as follows:
I decided, therefore, to consult the Chair of Peter and that Roman
faith which the Apostle praised; I ask for my soul's food from that
city wherein I first put on the garment of Christ. . .I, who follow no
other leader save Christ, associate myself with Your Blessedness, in
communion, that is, with the Chair of Peter. For I know the Church was
built upon that Rock. . . I beg you to settle this dispute. If you
desire it I shall not be afraid to say there are Three Hypostases. If
it is your wish let them draw up a Symbol of faith subsequent to that
of Nicaea, and let us orthodox praise God in the same form of words as
the Arians employ.
38. And in his next letter: "Meanwhile I keep crying out, 'Any man who
is joined to Peter's Chair, he is my man'." Since he had learnt
this "rule of faith" from his study of the Bible, he was able to refute
a false interpretation of a Biblical text with the simple remark: "Yes,
but the Church of God does not admit that." When, again,
Vigilantius quoted an Apocryphal book, Jerome was content to reply: "A
book I have never so much as read! For what is the good of soiling
one's hands with a book the Church does not receive?" With his
strong insistence on adhering to the integrity of the faith, it is not
to be wondered at that he attacked vehemently those who left the
Church; he promptly regarded them as his own personal enemies. "To put
it briefly," he says, "I have never spared heretics, and have always
striven to regard the Church's enemies as my own." To Rufinus he
writes: "There is one point in which I cannot agree with you: you ask
me to spare heretics - or, in other words - not to prove myself a
Catholic." Yet at the same time Jerome deplored the lamentable
state of heretics, and adjured them to return to their sorrowing
Mother, the one source of salvation; he prayed, too, with all
earnestness for the conversion of those "who had quitted the Church and
put away the Holy Spirit's teaching to follow their own notions."
39. Was there ever a time, Venerable Brethren, when there was greater
call than now for us all, lay and cleric alike, to imbibe the spirit of
this "Greatest of Doctors"? For there are many contumacious folk now
who sneer at the authority and government of God, Who has revealed
Himself, and of the Church which teaches. You know - for Leo XIII
warned us - "how insistently men fight against us; You know the arms
and arts they rely upon." It is your duty, then, to train as many
really fit defenders of this holiest of causes as you can. They must be
ready to combat not only those who deny the existence of the
Supernatural Order altogether, and are thus led to deny the existence
of any divine revelation or inspiration, but those, too, who - through
an itching desire for novelty - venture to interpret the sacred books
as though they were of purely human origin; Those, too, who scoff at
opinions held of old in the Church, or who, through contempt of its
teaching office, either reck little of, or silently disregard, or at
least obstinately endeavor to adapt to their own views, the
Constitutions of the Apostolic See or the decisions of the Pontifical
Would that all Catholics would cling to St. Jerome's golden rule and
obediently listen to their Mother's words, so as modestly to keep
within the bounds marked out by the Fathers and ratified by the Church.
40. To return, however, to the question of the formation of Biblical
students. We must lay the foundations in piety and humility of mind;
only when we have done that does St. Jerome invite us to study the
Bible. In the first place, he insists, in season and out, on daily
reading of the text. "Provided," he says, "our bodies are not the
slaves of sin, wisdom will come to us; but exercise your mind, feed it
daily with Holy Scripture." And again: "We have got, then, to read
Holy Scripture assiduously; we have got to meditate on the Law of God
day and night so that, as expert money-changers, we may be able to
detect false coin from true."
41. For matrons and maidens alike he lays down the same rule. Thus,
writing to the Roman matron Laeta about her daughter's training, he
Every day she should give you a definite account of her Bible-reading .
. .For her the Bible must take the place of silks and jewels . . . Let
her learn the Psalter first, and find her recreation in its songs; let
her learn from Solomon's Proverbs the way of life, from Ecclesiastes
how to trample on the world. In Job she will find an example of patient
virtue. Thence let her pass to the Gospels; they should always be in
her hands. She should steep herself in the Acts and the Epistles. And
when she has enriched her soul with these treasures she should commit
to memory the Prophets, the Heptateuch, Kings and Chronicles, Esdras
and Esther: then she can learn the Canticle of Canticles without any
42. He says the same to Eustochium: "Read assiduously and learn as much
as you can. Let sleep find you holding your Bible, and when your head
nods let it be resting on the sacred page."
When he sent Eustochium the epitaph he had composed for her mother
Paula, he especially praised that holy woman for having so
wholeheartedly devoted herself and her daughter to Bible study that she
knew the Bible through and through, and had committed it to memory. He
I will tell you another thing about her, though evil-disposed people
may cavil at it: she determined to learn Hebrew, a language which I
myself, with immense labor and toil from my youth upwards, have only
partly learned, and which I even now dare not cease studying lest it
should quit me. But Paula learned it, and so well that she could chant
the Psalms in Hebrew, and could speak it, too, without any trace of a
Latin accent. We can see the same thing even now in her daughter
43. He tells us much the same of Marcella, who also knew the Bible
exceedingly well. And none can fail to see what profit and sweet
tranquillity must result in well-disposed souls from such devout
reading of the Bible. Whosoever comes to it in piety, faith and
humility, and with determination to make progress in it, will assuredly
find therein and will eat the "Bread that cometh down from heaven" (Jn.
6:33); he will, in his own person, experience the truth of David's
words: "The hidden and uncertain things of Thy Wisdom Thou hast made
manifest to me!" (Ps. 50:8), for this table of the "Divine Word" does
really "contain holy teaching, teach the true faith, and lead us
unfalteringly beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies."
Hence, as far as in us lies, we, Venerable Brethren, shall, with St.
Jerome as our guide, never desist from urging the faithful to read
daily the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles, so as to gather thence
food for their souls.
44. Our thoughts naturally turn just now to the Society of St. Jerome,
which we ourselves were instrumental in founding; its success has
gladdened us, and we trust that the future will see a great impulse
given to it.
The object of this Society is to put into the hands of as many people
as possible the Gospels and Acts, so that every Christian family may
have them and become accustomed to reading them. This we have much at
heart, for we have seen how useful it is. We earnestly hope, then, that
similar Societies will be founded in your dioceses and affiliated to
the parent Society here.
Commendation, too, is due to Catholics in other countries who have
published the entire New Testament, as well as selected portions of the
Old, in neat and simple form so as to popularize their use. Much again
must accrue to the Church of God when numbers of people thus approach
this table of heavenly instruction which the Lord provided through the
ministry of His Prophets, Apostles and Doctors for the entire Christian
45. If, then, St. Jerome begs for assiduous reading of the Bible by the
faithful in general, he insists on it for those who are called to "bear
the yoke of Christ" and preach His word. His words to Rusticus the monk
apply to all clerics:
So long as you are in your own country regard you cell as your orchard;
there you can gather Scripture's various fruits and enjoy the pleasures
it affords you. Always have a book in your hands and read it; learn the
Psalter by heart; pray unceasingly; watch over your senses lest idle
thoughts creep in. Similarly to Nepotian: "Constantly read the
Bible; in fact, have it always in your hands. Learn what you have got
to teach. Get firm hold of that "faithful word that is according to
doctrine, that you may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and convince
When reminding Paulinus of the lessons St. Paul gave to Timothy and
Titus, and which he himself had derived from the Bible, Jerome says: "A
mere holy rusticity only avails the man himself; but however much a
life so meritorious may serve to build up the Church of God, it does as
much harm to the Church if it fails to "resist the gainsayer."
Malachias the Prophet says, or rather the Lord says it by Malachias:
"Ask for the Law from the priests." For it is the priest's duty to give
an answer when asked about the Law. In Deuteronomy we read: "Ask thy
father and he will tell thee; ask the priests and they will tell thee.
. ." Daniel, too, at the close of his glorious vision, declares that
"the just shall shine like stars and they that are learned as the
brightness of the firmament." What a vast difference, then, between a
righteous rusticity and a learned righteousness! The former likened to
the stars; the latter to the heavens themselves!
He writes ironically to Marcella about the "self-righteous lack of
education" noticeable in some clerics, who "think that to be without
culture and to be holy are the same thing, and who dub themselves
'disciples of the fisherman'; as though they were holy simply because
Nor is it only the "uncultured" whom Jerome condemns. Learned clerics
sin through ignorance of the Bible; therefore he demands of them an
assiduous reading of the text.
46. Strive, then, Venerable Brethren, to bring home to your clerics and
priests these teachings of the Sainted Commentator. You have to remind
them constantly of the demands made by their divine vocation if they
would be worthy of it: "The lips of the priest shall keep knowledge,
and men shall ask the Law at his mouth, for he is the Angel of the Lord
of hosts" (Mal. 2:7). They must realize, then, that they cannot neglect
study of the Bible, and that this can only be undertaken along the
lines laid down by Leo XIII in his Encyclical Providentissimus
Deus. They cannot do this better than by frequenting the Biblical
Institute established by our predecessor, Pius X, in accordance with
the wishes of Leo XIII. As the experience of the past ten years has
shown, it has proved a great gain to the Church. Not all, however, can
avail themselves of this. It will be well, then, Venerable Brethren,
that picked men, both of the secular and regular clergy, should come to
Rome for Biblical study. All will not come with the same object. Some,
in accordance with the real purpose of the Institute, will so devote
themselves to Biblical study that "afterwards, both in private and in
public, whether by writing or by teaching, whether as professors in
Catholic schools or by writing in defense of Catholic truth, they may
be able worthily to uphold the cause of Biblical study. "Others,
however, already priests, will obtain here a wider knowledge of the
Bible than they were able to acquire during their theological course;
they will gain, too, an acquaintance with the great commentators and
with Biblical history and geography. Such knowledge will avail them
much in their ministry; they will be "instructed to every good
47. We learn, then, from St. Jerome's example and teaching the
qualities required in one who would devote himself to Biblical study.
But what, in his view, is the goal of such study? First, that from the
Bible's pages we learn spiritual perfection. Meditating as he did day
and night on the Law of the Lord and on His Scriptures, Jerome himself
found there the "Bread that cometh down from heaven," the manna
containing all delights. And we certainly cannot do without that
bread. How can a cleric teach others the way of salvation if through
neglect of meditation on God's word he fails to teach himself? What
confidence can he have that, when ministering to others, he is really
"a leader of the blind, a light to them that are in darkness, an
instructor of the foolish, having the form of knowledge and of truth in
the law," if he is unwilling to study the said Law and thus shuts the
door on any divine illumination on it?
Alas! many of God's ministers, through never looking at their Bible,
perish themselves and allow many others to perish also. "The children
have asked for bread, and there was none to break it unto them" (Lam.
4:4); and "With desolation is all the land made desolate, for there is
none than meditateth in the heart" (Jer. 12:11).
48. Secondly, it is from the Bible that we gather confirmations and
illustrations of any particular doctrine we wish to defend. In this
Jerome was marvelously expert. When disputing with the heretics of his
day he refuted them by singularly apt and weighty arguments drawn from
the Bible. If men of the present age would but imitate him in this we
should see realized what our predecessor, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical,
Providentissimus Deus, said was so eminently desirable: "The Bible
influencing our theological teaching and indeed becoming its very
49. Lastly, the real value of the Bible is for our preaching - if the
latter is to be fruitful. On this point it is a pleasure to illustrate
from Jerome what we ourselves said in our Encyclical on "preaching the
Word of God," entitled Humani generis. How insistently Jerome urges on
priests assiduous reading of the Bible if they would worthily teach and
preach! Their words will have neither value nor weight nor any power to
touch men's souls save in proportion as they are "informed" by Holy
Scripture: "Let a priest's speech be seasoned with the Bible," for
"the Scriptures are a trumpet that stirs us with a mighty voice and
penetrates to the soul of them that believe," and "nothing so
strikes home as an example taken from the Bible."
50. These mainly concern the exegetes, yet preachers, too, must always
bear them in mind. Jerome's first rule is careful study of the actual
words so that we may be perfectly certain what the writer really does
say. He was most careful to consult the original text, to compare
various versions, and, if he discovered any mistake in them, to explain
it and thus make the text perfectly clear. The precise meaning, too,
that attaches to particular words has to be worked out, for "when
discussing Holy Scripture it is not words we want so much as the
meaning of words." We do not for a moment deny that Jerome, in
imitation of Latin and Greek doctors before him, leaned too much,
especially at the outset, towards allegorical interpretations. But his
love of the Bible, his unceasing toil in reading and re-reading it and
weighing its meaning, compelled him to an ever-growing appreciation of
its literal sense and to the 88 formulation of sound principles
regarding it. These we set down here, for they provide a safe path for
us all to follow in getting from the Sacred Books their full meaning.
In the first place, then, we must study the literal or historical
I earnestly warn the prudent reader not to pay attention to
superstitious interpretations such as are given cut and dried according
to some interpreter's fancy. He should study the beginning, middle, and
end, and so form a connected idea of the whole of what he finds
51. Jerome then goes on to say that all interpretation rests on the
literal sense, and that we are not to think that there is no
literal sense merely because a thing is said metaphorically, for "the
history itself is often presented in metaphorical dress and described
figuratively." Indeed, he himself affords the best refutation of
those who maintain that he says that certain passages have no
historical meaning: "We are not rejecting the history, we are merely
giving a spiritual interpretation of it.'' Once, however, he has
firmly established the literal or historical meaning, Jerome goes on to
seek our deeper and hidden meanings, as to nourish his mind with more
delicate food. Thus he says of the Book of Proverbs - and he makes the
same remark about other parts of the Bible - that we must not stop at
the simple literal sense: "Just as we have to seek gold in the earth,
for the kernel in the shell, for the chestnut's hidden fruit beneath
its hairy coverings, so in Holy Scripture we have to dig deep for its
52. When teaching Paulinus "how to make true progress in the Bible," he
says: "Everything we read in the Sacred Books shines and glitters even
in its outer shell; but the marrow of it is sweeter. If you want the
kernel you must break the shell."
At the same time, he insists that in searching for this deeper meaning
we must proceed in due order, "lest in our search for spiritual riches
we seem to despise the history as poverty-stricken." Consequently
he repudiates many mystical interpretations alleged by ancient writers;
for he feels that they are not sufficiently based on the literal
When all these promises of which the Prophets sang are regarded not
merely as empty sounds or idle tropological expressions, but as
established on earth and having solid historical foundations, then, can
we put on them the coping-stone of a spiritual interpretation.
53. On this point he makes the wise remark that we ought not to desert
the path mapped out by Christ and His Apostles, who, while regarding
the Old Testament as preparing for and foreshadowing the New Covenant,
and whilst consequently explaining various passages in the former as
figurative, yet do not give a figurative interpretation of all alike.
In confirmation of this he often refers us to St. Paul, who, when
"explaining the mystery of Adam and Eve, did not deny that they were
formed, but on that historical basis erected a spiritual
interpretation, and said: 'Therefore shall a man leave,' etc."
54. If only Biblical students and preachers would but follow this
example of Christ and His Apostles; if they would but obey the
directions of Leo XIII, and not neglect "those allegorical or similar
explanations which the Fathers have given, especially when these are
based on the literal sense, and are supported by weighty
authority"; if they would pass from the literal to the more
profound meaning in temperate fashion, and thus lift themselves to a
higher plane, they would, with St. Jerome, realize how true are St.
Paul's words: "All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for
teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice" (2
Tim. 3: 16).
They would, too, derive abundant help from the infinite treasury of
facts and ideas in the Bible, and would thence be able to mold firmly
but gently the lives and characters of the faithful.
55. As for methods of expounding Holy Scripture - "for amongst the
dispensers of the mysteries of God it is required that a man be found
faithful" - St. Jerome lays down that we have got to keep to the "true
interpretation, and that the real function of a commentator is to set
forth not what he himself would like his author to mean, but what he
really does mean."
And he continues: "It is dangerous to speak in the Church, lest through
some faulty interpretation we make Christ's Gospel into man's
Gospel." And again: "In explaining the Bible we need no florid
oratorical composition, but that learned simplicity which is
This ideal he ever kept before him; he acknowledges that in his
Commentaries he "seeks no praise, but so to set out what another has
well said that it may be understood in the sense in which it was
said." He further demands of an expositor of Scripture a style
which, "while leaving no impression of haziness. . .yet explains
things, sets out the meaning, clears up obscurities, and is not mere
56. And here we may set down some passages from his writings which will
serve to show to what an extent he shrank from that declamatory kind of
eloquence which simply aims at winning empty applause by an equally
empty and noisy flow of words. He says to Nepotian: "I do not want you
to be a declaimer or a garrulous brawler; rather be skilled in the
Mysteries, learned in the Sacraments of God. To make the populace gape
by spinning words and speaking like a whirlwind is only worthy of
And once more: "Students ordained at this time seem not to think how
they may get at the real marrow of Holy Scripture, but how best they
may make peoples' ears tingle by their flowery declamations!" 
Again: "I prefer to say nothing of men who, like myself, have passed
from profane literature to Biblical study, but who, if they happen once
to have caught men's ears by their ornate sermons, straightway begin to
fancy that whatsoever they say is God's law. Apparently they do not
think it worth while to discover what the Prophets and Apostles really
meant; they are content to string together texts made to fit the
meaning they want. One would almost fancy that instead of being a
degraded species of oratory, it must be a fine thing to pervert the
meaning of the text and compel the reluctant Scripture to yield the
meaning one wants!"
57. "As a matter of fact, mere loquacity would not win any credit
unless backed by Scriptural authority, that is, when men see that the
speaker is trying to give his false doctrine Biblical support" (Tit.
1:10). Moreover, this garrulous eloquence and wordy rusticity "lacks
biting power, has nothing vivid or life-giving in it; it is flaccid,
languid and enervated; it is like boiled herbs and grass, which
speedily dry up and wither away."
On the contrary the Gospel teaching is straightforward, it is like that
"least of all seeds" - the mustard seed - "no mere vegetable, but
something that 'grows into a tree so that the birds of the air come and
dwell in its branches'." The consequence is that everybody hears
gladly this simple and holy fashion of speech, for it is clear and has
real beauty without artificiality: "There are certain eloquent folk who
puff out their cheeks and produce a foaming torrent of words; may they
win all the eulogiums they crave for! For myself, I prefer so to speak
that I may be intelligible; when I discuss the Bible I prefer the
Bible's simplicity. . . A cleric's exposition of the Bible should,
of course, have a certain becoming eloquence; but he must keep this in
the background, for he must ever have in view the human race and not
the leisurely philosophical schools with their choice coterie of
If the younger clergy would but strive to reduce principles like these
to practice, and if their elders would keep such principles before
their eyes, we are well assured that they would prove of very real
assistance to those to whom they minister.
58. It only remains for us, Venerable Brethren, to refer to those
"sweet fruits" which Jerome gathered from "the bitter seed" of
literature. For we confidently hope that his example will fire both
clergy and laity with enthusiasm for the study of the Bible. It will be
better, however, for you to gather from the lips of the saintly hermit
rather than from our words what real spiritual delight he found in the
Bible and its study. Notice, then, in what strain he writes to
Paulinus, "my companion, friend, and fellow mystic": "I beseech you to
live amidst these things. To meditate on them, to know nought else, to
have no other interests, this is really a foretaste of the joys of
59. He says much the same to his pupil Paula: "Tell me whether you know
of anything more sacred than this sacred mystery, anything more
delightful than the pleasure found herein? What food, what honey could
be sweeter than to learn of God's Providence, to enter into His shrine
and look into the mind of the Creator, to listen to the Lord's words at
which the wise of this world laugh, but which really are full of
spiritual teaching? Others may have their wealth, may drink out of
jeweled cups, be clad in silks, enjoy popular applause, find it
impossible to exhaust their wealth by dissipating it in pleasures of
all kinds; but our delight is to meditate on the Law of the Lord day
and night, to knock at His door when shut, to receive our food from the
Trinity of Persons, and, under the guidance of the Lord, trample under
foot the swelling tumults of this world."
And in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, which he
dedicated to Paula and her daughter Eustochium, he says: "If aught
could sustain and support a wise man in this life or help him to
preserve his equanimity amid the conflicts of the world, it is, I
reckon, meditation on and knowledge of the Bible."
60. And so it was with Jerome himself: afflicted with many mental
anxieties and bodily pains, he yet ever enjoyed an interior peace. Nor
was this due simply to some idle pleasure he found in such studies: it
sprang from love of God and it worked itself out in an earnest love of
God's Church - the divinely appointed guardian of God's Word. For in
the Books of both Testaments Jerome saw the Church of God foretold. Did
not practically every one of the illustrious and sainted women who hold
a place of honor in the Old Testament prefigure the Church, God's
Spouse? Did not the priesthood, the sacrifices, the solemnities, nay,
nearly everything described in the Old Testament shadow forth that same
Church? How many Psalms and Prophecies he saw fulfilled in that Church?
To him it was clear that the Church's greatest privileges were set
forth by Christ and His Apostles. Small wonder, then, that growing
familiarity with the Bible meant for Jerome growing love of the Spouse
of Christ. We have seen with what reverent yet enthusiastic love he
attached himself to the Roman Church and to the See of Peter, how
eagerly he attacked those who assailed her. So when applauding
Augustine, his junior yet his fellow-soldier, and rejoicing in the fact
that they were one in their hatred of heresy, he hails him with the
words: "Well done! You are famous throughout the world. Catholics
revere you and point you out as the establisher of the old-time faith;
and - an even greater glory - all heretics hate you. And they hate me
too; unable to slay us with the sword, they would that wishes could
Sulpicius Severus quotes Postumianus to the same effect: "His unceasing
conflict with wicked men brings on him their hatred. Heretics hate him,
for he never ceases attacking them; clerics hate him, for he assails
their criminal lives. But all good men admire him and love him." 
And Jerome had to endure much from heretics and abandoned men,
especially when the Pelagians laid waste the monastery at Bethlehem.
Yet all this he bore with equanimity, like a man who would not hesitate
to die for the faith: "I rejoice when I hear that my children are
fighting for Christ. May He in whom we believe confirm our zeal so that
we may gladly shed our blood for His faith. Our very home is - as far
as worldly belongings go - completely ruined by the heretics; yet
through Christ's mercy it is filled with spiritual riches. It is better
to have to be content with dry bread than to lose one's faith." 
61. And while he never suffered errors to creep in unnoticed, he
likewise never failed to lash with biting tongue any looseness in
morals, for he was always anxious "to present," unto Christ "the Church
in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but
that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). How terribly
he upbraids men who have degraded the dignity of the priesthood! With
what vigor he inveighs against the pagan morals then infecting Rome!
But he rightly felt that nothing could better avail to stem this flood
of vice than the spectacle afforded by the real beauty of the Christian
life; and that a love of what is really good is the best antidote to
evil. Hence he urged that young people must be piously brought up, the
married taught a holy integrity of life, pure souls have the beauty of
virginity put before them, that the sweet austerity of an interior life
should be extolled, and since the primal law of Christian religion was
the combination of toil with charity, that if this could only be
preserved human society would recover from its disturbed state. Of this
charity he says very beautifully: "The believing soul is Christ's true
temple. Adorn it, deck it out, offer your gifts to it, in it receive
Christ. Of what profit to have your walls glittering with jewels while
Christ dies of hunger in poverty?"
62. As for toil, his whole life and not merely his writings afford the
best example. Postumianus, who spent six months with him at Bethlehem,
says: "He is wholly occupied in reading and with books; he rests
neither day nor night; he is always either reading or writing
something." Jerome's love of the Church, too, shines out even in
his Commentaries wherein he lets slip no opportunity for praising the
Spouse of Christ: "The choicest things of all the nations have come and
the Lord's House is filled with glory: that is, "the Church of the
Living God, the pillar and the ground of truth." . . . With jewels like
these is the Church richer than ever was the synagogue; with these
living stones is the House of God built up and eternal peace bestowed
upon her."  "Come, let us go up to the Mount of the Lord: for we
must needs go up if we would come to Christ and to the House of the God
of Jacob, to the Church which is 'the pillar and ground of
truth.'" "By the Lord's voice is the Church established upon the
rock, and her hath the King brought into His chamber, to her by secret
condescension hath He put forth His hand through the lattices." 
63. Again and again, as in the passages just given, does Jerome
celebrate the intimate union between Christ and His Church. For since
the Head can never be separated from the mystical body, so, too, love
of Christ is ever associated with zeal of His Church; and this love of
Christ must ever be the chiefest and most agreeable result of a
knowledge of Holy Scripture. So convinced indeed was Jerome that
familiarity with the Bible was the royal road to the knowledge and love
of Christ that he did not hesitate to say: "Ignorance of the Bible
means ignorance of Christ." And "what other life can there be
without knowledge of the Bible wherein Christ, the life of them that
believe, is set before us?' Every single page of either Testament
seems to center around Christ; hence Jerome, commenting on the words of
the Apocalypse about the River and the Tree of Life, says: "One stream
flows out from the throne of God, and that is the Grace of the Holy
Spirit, and that grace of the Holy Spirit is in the Holy Scriptures,
that is in the stream of the Scriptures. Yet has that stream twin
banks, the Old Testament and the New, and the Tree planted on either
side is Christ." 
64. Small wonder, then, if in his devout meditations he applied
everything in the Bible to Christ: "When I read the Gospel and find
there testimonies from the Law and from the Prophets, I see only
Christ; I so see Moses and the Prophets and I understand them of
Christ. Then when I come to the splendor of Christ Himself, and when I
gaze at that glorious sunlight, I care not to look at the lamplight.
For what light can a lamp give when lit in the daytime? If the sun
shines out, the lamplight does not show. So, too, when Christ is
present the Law and the Prophets do not show. Not that I would detract
from the Law and the Prophets; rather do I praise them in that they
show forth Christ. But I so read the Law and the Prophets as not to
abide in them but from them to pass to Christ." 
65. Hence was Jerome wondrously uplifted to love for and knowledge of
Christ through his study of the Bible in which he discovered the
precious pearl of the Gospel: "There is one most priceless pearl: the
knowledge of the Savior, the mystery of His Passion, the secret of His
Resurrection." Burning as he did with the love of Christ we cannot
but marvel that he, poor and lowly with Christ, with soul freed from
earthly cares, sought Christ alone, by His spirit was he led, with Him
he lived in closest intimacy, by imitating Him he would bear about the
image of His sufferings in himself. For him nought more glorious than
to suffer with and for Christ. Hence it was that when on Damasus' death
he, wounded and weary from evil men's assaults, left Rome and wrote
just before he embarked: "Though some fancy me a scoundrel and guilty
of every crime - and, indeed, this is a small matter when I think of my
sins - yet you do well when from your soul you reckon evil men good.
Thank God I am deemed worthy to be hated by the world. . . What real
sorrows have I to bear - I who fight for the Cross? Men heap false
accusations on me; yet I know that through ill report and good report
we win the kingdom of heaven." 
66. In like fashion does he exhort the maiden Eustochium to courageous
and lifelong toil for Christ's sake: "To become what the Martyrs, the
Apostles, what even Christ Himself was, means immense labor - but what
a reward! . . . What I have been saying to you will sound hard to one
who does not love Christ. But those who consider worldly pomp a mere
offscouring and all under the sun mere nothingness if only they may win
Christ, those who are dead with Christ, have risen with Him and have
crucified the flesh with its vices and concupiscences - they will echo
the words: 'Who shall separate us from the charity of Christ?'"
67. Immense, then, was the profit Jerome derived from reading
Scripture; hence came those interior illuminations whereby he was ever
more and more drawn to knowledge and love of Christ; hence, too, that
love of prayer of which he has written so well; hence his wonderful
familiarity with Christ, Whose sweetness drew him so that he ran
unfalteringly along the arduous way of the Cross to the palm of
victory. Hence, too, his ardent love for the Holy Eucharist: "Who is
wealthier than he who carries the Lord's Body in his wicker basket, the
Lord's Blood in his crystal vessel?" Hence, too, his love for
Christ's Mother, whose perpetual virginity he had so keenly defended,
whose title as God's Mother and as the greatest example of all the
virtues he constantly set before Christ's spouses for their
imitation. No one, then, can wonder that Jerome should have been
so powerfully drawn to those spots in Palestine which had been
consecrated by the presence of our Redeemer and His Mother. It is easy
to recognize the hand of Jerome in the words written from Bethlehem to
Marcella by his disciples, Paula and Eustochium: "What words can serve
to describe to you the Savior's cave? As for the manger in which He lay
- well, our silence does it more honor than any poor words of ours. . .
Will the day ever dawn where we can enter His cave to weep at His tomb
with the sister (of Lazarus) and mourn with His Mother; when we can
kiss the wood of His Cross and, with the ascending Lord on Olivet, be
uplifted in mind and spirit?" 
Filled with memories such as these, Jerome could, while far away from
Rome and leading a life hard for the body but inexpressibly sweet to
the soul, cry out: "Would that Rome had what tiny Bethlehem
68. But we rejoice - and Rome with us - that the Saint's desire has
been fulfilled, though far otherwise than he hoped for. For whereas
David's royal city once gloried in the possession of the relics of "the
Greatest Doctor" reposing in the cave where he dwelt so long, Rome now
possesses them, for they lie in St. Mary Major's beside the Lord's
Crib. His voice is now still, though at one time the whole Catholic
world listened to it when it echoed from the desert; yet Jerome still
speaks in his writings, which "shine like lamps throughout the
world." Jerome still calls to us. His voice rings out, telling us
of the super-excellence of Holy Scripture, of its integral character
and historical trustworthiness, telling us, too, of the pleasant fruits
resulting from reading and meditating upon it. His voice summons all
the Church's children to return to a truly Christian standard of life,
to shake themselves free from a pagan type of morality which seems to
have sprung to life again in these days. His voice calls upon us, and
especially on Italian piety and zeal, to restore to the See of Peter
divinely established here that honor and liberty which its Apostolic
dignity and duty demand. The voice of Jerome summons those Christian
nations which have unhappily fallen away from Mother Church to turn
once more to her in whom lies all hope of eternal salvation. Would,
too, that the Eastern Churches, so long in opposition to the See of
Peter, would listen to Jerome's voice. When he lived in the East and
sat at the feet of Gregory and Didymus, he said only what the
Christians of the East thought in his time when he declared that "If
anyone is outside the Ark of Noe he will perish in the over-whelming
flood." Today this flood seems on the verge of sweeping away all
human institutions - unless God steps in to prevent it. And surely this
calamity must come if men persist in sweeping on one side God the
Creator and Conserver of all things! Surely whatever cuts itself off
from Christ must perish! Yet He Who at His disciples' prayer calmed the
raging sea can restore peace to the tottering fabric of society. May
Jerome, who so loved God's Church and so strenuously defended it
against its enemies, win for us the removal of every element of
discord, in accordance with Christ's prayer, so that there may be "one
fold and one shepherd."
69. Delay not, Venerable Brethren, to impart to your people and clergy
what on the fifteenth centenary of the death of "the Greatest Doctor"
we have here set before you. Urge upon all not merely to embrace under
Jerome's guidance Catholic doctrine touching the inspiration of
Scripture, but to hold fast to the principles laid down in the
Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, and in this present Encyclical. Our
one desire for all the Church's children is that, being saturated with
the Bible, they may arrive at the all surpassing knowledge of Jesus
Christ. In testimony of which desire and of our fatherly feeling for
you we impart to you and all your flocks the Apostolic blessing.
Given at St. Peter's, Rome, September 15, 1920, the seventh year of our
1. Rom. 15:4.
2. Sulpicius Severus, Dial., 1, 7.
3. John Cassian, De Incarn., 7, 26.
4. S. Prosper, Carmen de ingratis, 57
5. S. Jerome, De viris ill., 135.
6. Id., Epist. ad Theophilum, 82, 2, 2.
7. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 15, 1, 1; Epist. ad eundum, 16, 2, 1.
8. Id., In Abdiam, Prol.
9. Id., In Matt., 13:44.
10. Id., Epist. ad Eustochium, 22, 30, 1.
11. Id., Epist. ad Pammachium et Oceanum, 84, 3, 1.
12. Id., Epist. ad Rusticum, 125, 12.
13. Id., Epist. ad Geruchiam, 123, 9; Epist. ad Principiam, 127, 7, 1.
14. Id., Epist. and Principiam, 127, 7, 1.
15. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 36, 1; Epist. ad Marcellum, 32, 1.
16. Id., Epist. ad Asellam, 45, 2; Epist. ad Marcellinum et
Anapsychiam, 126, 3; Epist. ad Principiam, 127, 7.
17. Id., Epist. ad Pammachium et Oceanum, 84, 3, 1.
18. Id., Ad Domnionem et Rogatianum in I Paral., Praef.
19. Id., Tract. de Ps., 88.
20. Id., In Matt., 13:44; Tract. de Ps., 77.
21. Id., In Matt., 13:45.
22. Id., Quaest. in Genesim, Praef.
23. Id., In Agg., 2:1, In Gal., 2:10.
24. Id., Adv. Helv., 19.
25. Id., Adv. Iovin., 1, 4.
26. Id., Epist. ad Pammachium, 49, 14, 1.
27. Id., In Jer., 9:12-14.
28. Id., Epist. ad Fabiolam, 78, 30.
29. Id., Epist. ad Marcellam, 27, 1, 1.
30. Id., In Ezech., 1:15-18.
31. Id., In Mich., 2:11; 3:5-8.
32. Id., In Mich., 4:1.
33. Id., In Jer., 31:35.
34. Id., In Nah. 1:9.
35. Id., Epist. ad Pammachium, 57, 7, 4.
36. Id., Epist. Theophilum, 82, 7, 2.
37. Id., Epist. ad Vitalem, 72, 2, 2.
38. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 18, 7, 4; cf. Epist. Paula et Eustochium ad
Marcellam, 46, 6, 2.
39. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 36, 11, 2.
40. Id., Epist. ad Pammachium, 57, 9, 1.
41. S. Augustine, Ad S. Hieron., inter epist. S. Hier., 116, 3.
42. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; cf. Ench. Bibl., n. 125.
43. Ibid., cf. Ench. Bibl., n. 124.
44. S. Jerome, In Jer., 23:15-17; In Matt., 14:8; Adv. Helv., 4.
45. Id., In Philem., 4.
46. S. Aug., Contra Faustum, 26, 3, 6.
47. S. Jerome, In Matt., Prol.; cf. Luke, 1:1.
48. Id., Epist. ad Fabiolam, 78, 1, 1; cf. In Marc., 1:13-31.
49. S. Aug., Contra Faustum, 26, 8.
50. S. Jerome, Epist. ad Demetriadem, 130, 20; cf. Prov. 4:6,8.
51. Conc. Trid., Sess. 4 Decr. de ed. et usu ss. Iibrorum; cf. Ench.
Bibl., n. 61.
52. S. Jerome, Epist. ad Paulinum, 58, 9, 2; 11, 2.
53. S. Aug., Confessiones, 3, S; cf. 8, 12.
54. S. Jerome, Epist. ad Eustochium, 22, 30, 2.
55. Id., In Mich., 1:10-15.
56. Id., In Gal., 5:19-21.
57. Id., Epist. 108 sive Epitaphium S. Paulae, 26, 2.
58. Id., Ad Domnionem et Rogatianum in I Paral, Praef.
59. Id., Epist. ad Theophilum, 63, 2.
60. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 15, 1, 2, 4.
61. Id., Epist ad Damasum, 16, 2, 2.
62. Id., In Dan., 3:37.
63. Id., Adv. Vigil., 6.
64. Id., Dial. contra Pelagianos, Prol. 2.
65. Id., Contra Ruf., 3, 43.
66. Id., In Mich., I:I0-IS.
67. Id., In Is., 16:1-S.
68. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; cf. Ench. Bibl., n. 100.
69. S. Jerome, In Tit., 3:9.
70. Id., In Eph., 4:31.
71. Id., Epist. ad Laetam, 107, 9, 12.
72. Id., Epist. ad Eustochium, 22, 17, 2.
73. Id., Epist. 108 sive Epitaphium S. Paulae, 26.
74. Id., Epist. ad Principiam, 127, 7.
75. Imitatio Christi, 4, 11, 4.
76. S. Jerome, Epist. ad Rusticum, 125, 7, 3.
77. Id., Epist. ad Nepotianum, 52, 7, 1; cf. Tit. 1:9.
78. Id. Epist. ad Paulinum, 53, 3 3.
79. Id. Epsit. as Marcellam, 27, i, 2.
80. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; cf. Ench. Bibl., n. 100-132.
81. Pius X, Vinea electa, May 7, 1909; cf. A.A.S., I (1909) 447-451;
Ench. Bibl., n. 300.
82. S. Jerome, Tract. de Ps. 147; cf. Ps. 1:2, Wis. 16:20.
83. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; cf. Ench. Bibl., n. 114.
84. S. Jerome, Epist. ad Nepotianum, 52, 8, 1.
85. Id., In Amos, 3:3-8.
86. Id., In Zach., 9:15.
87. Id., Epist. ad Marcellam, 29, 1, 3.
88. Id., In Matt., 25:13.
89. Cf. Id., In Ezech., 38:1, 41:23, 42:13; In Marc., 1:13-31; Epist.
ad Dardanum, 129, 6, 1.
90. Id., In Hab., 3:14.
91. Id., In Marc., 9:1-7; cf. In Ezech., 40:24-27.
92. Id., In Eccles., 12:9.
93. Id., Epist. ad Paulinum, 58, 9, 1.
94. Id., In Eccles., 2:24-26.
95. Id., In Amos, 9:6.
96. Id., In Isa., 6:1-7.
97. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; cf. Ench. Bibl., n. 112.
98. S. Jerome, Epist. ad Pammachium, 49, 17, 7.
99. Id., In Gal., 1:11.
100. Id. In Amos, Praef.
101. Id. In Gal., Praef.
102. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 36, 14, 2; cf. Epist. ad Cyprianum,
103. Id., Epist. ad Nepotianum, 52, 8, 1.
104. Id., Dialogus contra Luciferianos, 11.
105. Id., Epist. ad Paulinum, 53, 7, 2.
106. Id., In Tit., 1:10.
107. Id., In Matt., 13:32.
108. Id., Epist. ad Damasum, 36, 14, 2.
109. Id., Epist. ad Pammachium, 48, 4, 3.
110. Id., Epist. ad Paulinum, 53, 10.
111. Id., Epist. ad Paulam, 30, 13.
112. Id., In Eph., Prol.
113. Id., Epist. ad Augustinum, 141, 2; cf. Epist. ad eumdem, 134,1.
114. Postumianus apud Sulp. Sev., Dial., 1, 9.
115. S. Jerome, Epist ad Apronium, 139.
116. Id., Epist. ad Paulinum, 58, 7, 1.
117. Postumianus, Dial., 1, 9.
118. S. Jerome, In Agg., 2:1-10.
119. Id., In Mich., 4:1-7.
120. Id., In Matt., Prol.
121. Id., In Isa., Prol.; cf. Tract. de Ps. 77.
122. Id., Epist. ad Paulam, 30, 7.
123. Id., Tract. de Ps. 1.
124. Id., Tract. in Marc., 9:1-7.
125. Id., In Matt., 13:45.
126. Id., Epist. ad Asellam, 45, 1, 6.
127. Id., Epist. ad Eustochium, 22, 38.
128. Id., Epist. ad Rusticum, 125, 20, 4.
129. Id., Epist. ad Eustochium, 22, 38, 3.
130. Id., Epist. Paula et Eustochium ad Marcellam, 46, 11, 13.
131. Id., Epist. ad Furiam, 54, 13, 6.
132. John Cassian, De Incarn., 7, 26.
133. S. Jerome, Epist ad Damasum, 15, 2, 1.