Jerome and Apocrypha


I just had a protestant friend who is strongly Anti-Church and definatly Anti-Catholic Church tell me that Saint Jerome denied that the deuteronomical books as inspired by God and even the work of God in general. Is this true? Why is the apocrypha included in Biblical canon?

Brandon :gopray2:


[quote="SeekerOfFaith20, post:1, topic:311181"]
I just had a protestant friend who is strongly Anti-Church and definatly Anti-Catholic Church tell me that Saint Jerome denied that the deuteronomical books as inspired by God and even the work of God in general. Is this true? Why is the apocrypha included in Biblical canon?

Brandon :gopray2:


// If I remember correctly, at the time (during translation), St. Jerome did because he did not find a Hebrew version of the deuterocanonical and he was around with Jewish people that did not accept them. Later, he regret and accepted them.


Those books were used by Jews before Christ, as attested to by ancient manuscripts found in both the Hebrew and Greek languages. The Christian Church always recognized them as authentic and canonical. 1,700-2,000 years after they were written, Martin Luther declared them “not inspired” and labelled them “apocrypha”. Why? Because he disagreed with their contents. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches have always held them to be inspired for nearly two millennia.

Truthfully, Jerome (a Catholic with whom your friend strongly disagrees with on everything else) did not believe them to be inspired, but was not in any position of authority to declare one way or the other. Jerome, out of obedience to the Church and Pope, translated them into Latin at the request of the Pope.

In just one of those “non-inspired” books (2 Maccabees), you may read about the pre-Christian conquering and oppression of Israel by the Seleucid Kings; of the imposition of the death penalty for the practice of Judaism (the Mosaic law); of the Jewish Maccabean (“hammer”) revolt, which restored freedom, self-rule and the practice of their faith to the Jews; of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been defiled by pagans. The re-dedication of the Temple was the first celebration of the Jewish holy days we know today as Hanukkah. In that book, you may read about the goodness and holiness of praying for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins. In that book, you may read about the promise of the resurrection and about eternal life - written 175 years before Christ! Remember that Christ had to be born under the Mosaic law in order to fulfill that law. This book documents the re-establishment of that law, and of the promised resurrection and eternal life. If that was not inspired by God, then just who did?


St. Jerome was an advocate of the then-controversial idea of Hebraica veritas (“Hebrew truth”) and so believed that Hebrew texts (those which were available to him, that is) were more reliable than the Greek Septuagint and its deritative translations which most Christians were using back then. Naturally, since the deuterocanonicals were not accepted by Jews of his time, he had a hard time believing that they were actually inspired. Eventually however, he gave in out of obedience and translated two the deuterocanonicals: Tobit and Judith (although at least he did a very hasty job). Some of the books in the Vulgate seem to have not been Jerome’s actual work, but are either Old Latin versions (Wisdom, Sirach, 1-2 Maccabees, 3-4 Esdras) or the work of later, unknown revisers (Baruch, Prayer of Manasseh, Laodiceans) which were added to the collection of his translations to produce a complete set.


Rather than me telling you, why don't we go straight through the horse's mouth? :D

There are twenty-two letters among the Hebrews, as is also witnessed by the language of the Syrians and Chaldeans, which is for the most part similar to the Hebrew; for these twenty-two elements also have the same sound, but different characters. The Samaritans still write the Pentateuch of Moses in the same number of letters, only they differ in shapes and points (or "endings" apicibus). And Ezra, the scribe and doctor of the Law, after the capture of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubbabel, is certain to have found (or "invented" repperisse) other letters, which we now use, when up to that time the characters of the Samaritans and the Hebrews were the same. In the book of Numbers this same total is also mystically shown by the census of the Levites and the priests. And we find in certain Greek scrolls to this day the four-lettered Name of God written in the ancient letters. But also the thirty-sixth Psalm, and the one hundred tenth, and the one hundred eleventh, and the one hundred eighteenth, and the one hundred forty-fourth, although written in different meter, are nevertheless woven with an alphabet of the same number. And in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and his prayer, also at the end of the Proverbs of Solomon from that place in which he says "Who can find a strong woman?" are counted the same alphabet or sections. Furthermore, five of the letters among them are double: chaph, mem, nun, phe, sade. For they write with these one way at the beginning and in the middle of words, another at the end. From which also five are considered double books by most: Samuel, Malachim, Dabreiamin, Ezra, Jeremiah with Cinoth, that is, his Lamentantion. Therefore, just as there are twenty-two elements, by which we write in Hebrew all that we say, and the human voice is understood by their beginnings (or "parts" initiis), thus twenty-two scrolls are counted, by which letters and writings a just man is instructed in the doctrine of God, as though in tender infancy and still nursing.

The first book is called among them Bresith, which we call Genesis; the second, Hellesmoth, which is named Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Addebarim, which is designated Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they appropropriately call Thorat, that is, the Law.

The second order is made of the Prophets, and begins with Jesus son of Nave, which is called among them Joshua benNum. Then they append Sopthim, that is the book of Judges; and they attach Ruth to the same, because the history narrated happened in the days of the Judges. Samuel follows third, which we call First and Second Kingdoms. Fourth is Malachim, that is Kings, which book contains Third and Fourth Kingdoms; and it is much better to say Malachim, that is Kings, rather than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms, for it does not describe the kingdoms of many nations, but only that of the Israelite people which contains twelve tribes. Fifth is Isaiah, sixth Jeremiah, seventh Ezekiel, eighth the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called Thareasra among them.

The third order holds the Hagiographa, and begins with Job, the first book, the second by David, which is also one book of Psalms comprising five sections. The third is Solomon, having three books: Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth, and Ecclesiastes, that is Accoeleth, and The Song of Songs, which they denote with the title Sirassirim. Sixth is Daniel, seventh Dabreiamin, that is Words of the Days, which we may call more clearly a chronicle (Gk here: χρονικον) of all of Divine history, which book is written among us as First and Second Paralipomenon; eighth is Ezra, which is also in the same manner among Greeks and Latins divided into two books; ninth is Esther.

And thus there are likewise twenty-two books in the Old (Testament), that is five of Moses, eight of the Prophets, nine of the Hagiographa. Although some may write Ruth and Cinoth among the Hagiographa, and think of counting these books among their number, and then by this to have twenty-four books of the Old Law, which the Apocalypse of John introduces with the number of twenty-four elders worshipping the Lamb and offering their crowns, prostrated on their faces, and crying out with unwearying voice: "Holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty, Who was and Who is, and Who will be."



This prologue to the Scriptures may be appropriate as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so we may be able to know whatever is outside of these is set aside among the apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon, and the book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith and Tobias, and The Shepherd are not in the canon. I have found the First Book of the Maccabees (is) Hebrew, the Second is Greek, which may also be proven by their styles.

While these things may be so, I implore you, reader, that you might not consider my work a rebuke of the ancients. Each one offers to the Tabernacle of God what he is able. Some offer gold and silver and precious stones; others, linen and purple, scarlet and blue. It will go well with us, if we offer the skins and hair of goats. For the Apostle still judges our more contemptible parts more necessary. From which both the whole of the beauty of the Tabernacle and each individual kind, a distinction of the present and future Church, is covered with skins and goat-hair coverings, and the heat of the sun and the harmful rain are kept off by those things which are of lesser value. Therefore, first read my Samuel and Kings; mine, I say, mine. For whatever we have learned and know by often translating and carefully correcting is ours. And when you come to understand what you did not know before, either consider me a translator, if you are grateful, or a paraphraser, if ungrateful, although I am truly not at all aware of anything of the Hebrew to have been changed by me. Certainly, if you are incredulous, read the Greek and Latin books and compare (them) with these little works, and wherever you will see among them to differ, ask any one of the Hebrews, in whom you might place better faith, and if he confirms us, I think that you will not consider him a diviner, as he has similarly divined in the very same place with me.

But I also ask you, handmaidens of Christ, who have anointed the head of your reclining Lord with the most precious myrrh of faith, who have in no way sought the Savior in the tomb, for whom Christ has now ascended to the Father, that you might oppose the shields of your prayers against the barking dogs which rage against me with rabid mouth and go around the city, and in it they are considered educated if slandering others. I, knowing my humility, will always remember these sentences: “I will guard my ways, so I will not offend with my tongue; I have placed a guard on my mouth, while the sinner stands against me; I was mute, and humiliated, and silent because of good things.”

  • ‘Helmeted’ Prologue to Kings (AD 390)


The churches of the Lord Savior do not read the Prophet Daniel according to the Seventy interpreters, using (instead) the edition of Theodotion, and I don’t know why this happened. For whether because the language is Chaldean and differs in certain properties from our speech, (or) the Seventy interpreters were not willing to keep the same lines in the translation, or the book was edited under their name by some unknown other who did not sufficiently know the Chaldean language, or not knowing anything else which was the cause, I can affirm this one thing, that it often differs from the truth and with proper judgment is repudiated. Indeed, it is known most of Daniel and some of Ezra were written in Hebrew letters but the Chaldean language, and one pericope of Jeremiah, and also Job to have much in common with the Arabic language.

When I was a very young man, after the reading and flowery rhetoric of Quintilian and Cicero, when I had opened myself to the drudgery of this language and with much effort and much time I with difficulty had begun to pronounce the breathy and buzzing words, as though walking in a crypt to see a little light from above, I finally dashed myself against Daniel, and I was affected by such weariness that, sunken in desperation, I wanted to despise all (my) old work. Indeed, a Hebrew was encouraging me, and he was often repeating to me by his language “Persistent work conquers all,” as in me (?) I saw an amateur among them, I began again to be a student of Chaldean. And so I might confess the truth, to the present day I am better able to read and understand than to pronounce the Chaldean language.



Therefore, I have shown these things to you as a difficulty of Daniel, which among the Hebrews has neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three young men, nor the fables of Bel and the dragon, which we, because they are spread throughout the whole world, have appended by banishing and placing them after the spit (or “obelus”), so we will not be seen among the unlearned to have cut off a large part of the scroll. I heard a certain one of the teachers of the Jews, when he derided the history of Susanna and said it to have been forged by an unknown Greek, to propose that which Africanus also proposed to Origen, these etymologies to come down from the Greek language: “to split” from “mastich” and “to saw” from “oak” (απο του σχινου σχισαι και απο του πρινου πρισαι). On which subject we are able to give this understanding to those of our own (language), as we might, for example say it to have said of the oak tree (ilice), “you will perish there (illico)” or of the mastic tree (lentisco), “May the angel crush you like a lentil bean (lentem)” or “You will not perish slowly (lente)” or “Pliant (lentus), that is, flexible, you are led to death” or anything which fits the name of the tree. Then he jested for there to have been so much leisure time for the three young men, that in the furnace of raging fires they played with (poetic) meter, and called in order all the elements to the praise of God. Or what miracle or Divine inspiration is it, either a dragon having been killed by a lump of tar or the tricks of the priests of Bel having been discovered, which things are better accomplished by the wisdom of a clever man rather than by the prophetic Spirit? When indeed he came to Habakkuk and had read (of him) having been carried off from Judea to Chaldea carrying a dish, he requested an example where we might have read in all the Old Testament any one of the saints to have flown with a heavy body and in a short time to have passed over so great a space of lands. To which, when one of us rather a little too quick to speaking had brought Ezekiel into the discussion (lit. “middle”) and said him to have been moved from Chaldea to Judea, he derided the man and from the same scroll proved Ezekiel to have seen himself moved in the Spirit. Finally also our Apostle, namely as an erudite man and one who had learned the Law from the Hebrews, was also not daring to affirm himself taken away in the body, but was to have said “Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows.” By these and arguments of such kinds he exposed (or “accused”) the apocryphal fables in the book of the Church.

Concerning which subject, leaving the judgment to the decision of the reader, I warn him Daniel is not to be found in the Prophets among the Hebrews, but among those which they titled the Hagiographa. Since indeed all of Scripture is divided by them into three parts, into the Law, into the Prophets, (and) into the Hagiographa, that is, into five and eight and eleven books, which is not (necessary) to explain at this time. And to those things of this prophet, or rather against this book, which Porphyry accused, the witnesses are Methodius, Eusebius, (and) Apollinaris, who, responding to his madness with many thousands of verses, I do not know whether they are satisfying to the interested reader. For which reason I entreat you, O Paula and Eustochium, pour out prayers for me to the Lord, so that as long as I am in this little body, I might write something pleasing to you, useful to the Church, (and) worthy to posterity. I am indeed not greatly moved by the judgments of the present, which on either side are in error either by love or by hate.

  • Prologue to Daniel


Jerome to Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus.

May the letter join those joined in priesthood. Indeed, a sheet may not divide those who the love of Christ has connected. You request commentaries on Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, and Malachi. I wrote, even if it cost through ill-health. You have sent the solace of expenses, by our scribes and copyist having been sustained, so that our genius exerts itself most strongly for you. And behold, from every side a diverse crowd of those demanding, as though it is equal for me either to work for you with others hungering, or I might be subject to anyone besides you in matters of giving and receiving. And so, with a long sickness broken, I have not kept inwardly silent this year and been mute with you. I have dedicated to your names the work of three days, namely the translation of the three scrolls of Solomon: Masloth, which are Parables in Hebrew, called in the common edition Proverbs; Coeleth, which in Greek is Ecclesiastes, in Latin we could say Preacher; (and) Sirassirim, which is translated into our language Song of Songs.



Also included is the book of the model of virtue (παναρετος) Jesus son of Sirach, and another falsely ascribed work (ψευδεπιγραφος) which is titled Wisdom of Solomon. The former of these I have also found in Hebrew, titled not Ecclesiasticus as among the Latins, but Parables, to which were joined Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, as though it made of equal worth the likeness not only of the number of the books of Solomon, but also the kind of subjects. The second was never among the Hebrews, the very style of which reeks of Greek eloquence. And none of the ancient scribes affirm this one is of Philo Judaeus. Therefore, just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.

If anyone is truly more pleased by the edition of the Seventy interpreters, he has it already corrected by us. For it is not as though we build the new so that we destroy the old. And yes, when one will have read most carefully, he will know our things to be more understood, which haven't soured by having been poured into a third vessel, but have rather preserved their flavor by having been entrusted to a new container immediately from the press.

  • Prologue on the books of Solomon (398)


The Book of Esther stands corrupted by various translators. Which (book) I, lifting up from the archives of the Hebrews, have translated more accurately word for word. The common edition drags the book by knotted ropes of words hither and yon, adding to it things which may have been said or heard at any time. This is as is usual with instruction by schools, when a subject has been taken up, to figure out from the words which someone could have used, which one either suffered injury, or which one caused injury (to the text).

And you, O Paula and Eustochium, since you have both studied to enter the libraries of the Hebrews and also have approved of the battles of the interpreters, holding the Hebrew Book of Esther, look through each word of our translation, so you may be able to understand me also to augmented nothing by adding, but rather with faithful witness to have translated, just as it is found in the Hebrew, the Hebrew history into the Latin language. We are not affected by the praises of men, nor are we afraid of (their) slanders. For to be pleasing to God we do not inwardly fear those caring for the minas of men, "for God has scattered the bones of those desiring to be pleasing to men" (Ps 52.6), and according to the Apostle, those like this are "not able to be servants of Christ" (Gal 1.10).

  • Prologue to Esther


Jerome to the Bishops in the Lord Cromatius and Heliodorus, health!

I do not cease to wonder at the constancy of your demanding. For you demand that I bring a book written in Chaldean words into Latin writing, indeed the book of Tobias, which the Hebrews exclude from the catalogue of Divine Scriptures, being mindful of those things which they have titled Hagiographa. I have done enough for your desire, yet not by my study. For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops. I have persisted as I have been able, and because the language of the Chaldeans is close to Hebrew speech, finding a speaker very skilled in both languages, I took to the work of one day, and whatever he expressed to me in Hebrew words, this, with a summoned scribe, I have set forth in Latin words. I will be paid the price of this work by your prayers, when, by your grace, I will have learned what you request to have been completed by me was worthy.

  • Prologue on Tobit (ca. 405-7)


Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night's work translating more sense from sense than word from word. I have removed the extremely faulty variety of the many books; only those which I was able to find in the Chaldean words with understanding intact did I express in Latin ones.

Receive the widow Judith, an example of chastity, and declare triumphal honor with perpetual praises for her. For this one, imitable not only for women, but also for men, has the Rewarder of her chastity given, Who has granted such strength, that she conquered the one unconquered by all men, she surpassed the insurpassable.

  • Prologue on Judith (ca. 405-7)


[quote="SeekerOfFaith20, post:1, topic:311181"]
I just had a protestant friend who is strongly Anti-Church and definatly Anti-Catholic Church tell me that Saint Jerome denied that the deuteronomical books as inspired by God and even the work of God in general. Is this true? Why is the apocrypha included in Biblical canon?

Brandon :gopray2:


Jerome followed the Pope, not himself...stress this to your protestant friend.

And ask him also....what is Jerome's authority to define what should be in the canon of the Bible? You will probably get a shrug...because it is a question he has not thought about.

And after this question, follow it with this next question....Why does he take Jerome's opinion on the Canon not to include the DC books, and why not Pope Damasus, who commissioned Jerome to produce the Latin Vulgate?

And show him Pope Damasus proclamation on what should be in the Canon of Scripture:


Why is the apocrypha included in Biblical canon?

The short answer being “Because the Church defined the canon.” Someone had to agree what books are in the Bible. You cannot get to a canon of scripture without someone to define the list. Then you keep that list for centuries. Thats tradition and authority.

The core of the objection usually presented by the protestants I’ve ever been involved with is that the apocrypha/deuterocanonical works were added later by confused pagan corruptions of Christianity who were either utterly clueless of what Jews believed and what was accepted in Jerusalem or else did so not out of ignorance but with malice to corrupt the faith. There’s lots of logic around that but this is the core.

The reality is Jesus and the authors of the New Testament were aware of the apocrypha and used them. The point being that while quotation does not equal canon, the Christ and the authors of the New Testament were very familiar with these books and used them.

This has become an obsession for me.

There are omnibus lists of usage, but in my experience they cast to wide a net and most who go through those lists wind up thinking the lists are proving the opposite. I’m working through some of those larger lists, and found their root source. Its a long list.

There are two strong examples at this link [yes its my personal website] : Particularly the example of Paul relying heavily on Wisdom of Solomon in his opening of Romans, and a prophecy of Christ in Wisdom 2 that, to me, seems the basis of much of the items noted in Gospel stories.

Wisdom 2 so moved me that its what pushed me in the direction, after many years of slow movement, to the Catholic church. Here is a list of the cross references I see between it and Matthew etc.

Finally, as protestants we so revered the King James Version. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the original King James had cross references between the New Testament and the Apocrypha, a lot of them. I have gone through the facsimile edition of a 1611 manuscript, pulled the cross references, noted what I think the connections are, and published them here


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