Thursday, October 1, 2009

on Saint Jerome

It is a significant step forward for modern American Lutheranism that Saint Jerome now has a place in the liturgical life of the Missouri Synod. How much of a place is another question. But at least he is mentioned in the new worship books, and merits a bio on the LCMS web site. So I am very grateful for these developments. For Jerome was a holy priest, and is a great doctor of the Church. Counted, in fact, as one of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church, he has an immortal place, or should, in our study and spirituality. I myself find not only his writings, and of course his translating work to be of great value, but also his life to be very instructive. He was a man who knew what it was to wrestle with the Old Adam, and to find his comfort in Christ.

I commend to the reader the magisterial biography by J.N.D. Kelly. And I commend to your devotion this homily by Father Larry Beane.

Now a quick note or two of gentle criticism. First, The LCMS seems embarrassed to call Jerome a "priest," and opts instead for the innovative designation, "Translator of Holy Scripture." Second, The writer or committee responsible for this bio has Jerome's birth in 345. In doing so, he/it indeed is in line with much of popular literature on St. Jerome, such as Justo Gonzalas' Story of Christianity. Books of that sort tend to place his birth in the mid to late 340s. I, however, side with a much earlier dating of Jerome's birth. Kelly devotes a whole excursus, a veritable chapter of its own, to this very question, and argues for the year 331. I find his argument convincing. But each student of church history, will, of course, come to his own conclusion.

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