Why was St. Jerome admonished in a dream by the Lord for reading Cicero?

For those who are familiar with the story.

St. Jerome was a big fan of reading Cicero and other pagan literature…but Our Lord admonished him for it…

what wrong did St. Jerome do?

I am not familiar with Cicero. In fact, I’m googling it now to learn more. Can you specify which works/titles St. Jerome read before he was admonished?
I am looking forward to this thread.

God Bless!!

I suggest this article:


St. Jerome at one point experienced being accused of being a

“Ciceronian rather than Christian”

And thus turned more to his life’s work and love – Sacred Scripture.

Such though is not to be taken to mean that a Christian cannot read Cicero or other of the Roman and Greek classics.

Certainly though they are to be Christians too rather than Ciceronians…or Stoics etc…

It looks to me that there was a danger of syncretism of Christian and pagan at the time, and those popular authors were perhaps such good writers that the danger was too great.

As a classicist myself, when I first started reading the Fathers on New Advent, that dream of Jerome’s scared me.

I would’ve interpreted it as the angel referring to the fact that Jerome seemed to put his reading of secular literature above his devotion to God in prayer and other service. However, he doesn’t just agrree to make God his priority in response to this dream. He swears off all classical literature altogether and that is the only thing that seems to release him from his dream. So, it would seem that thsi was the proper response that God wanted, if we are to take his dram as divinely inspired.

Still, the dream may have been meant to be more particular than universal in that what was right for Jerome may have, in fact, been to give up classical literature altogether as, if he kept reading it, it may still have presented a problem for him in prioritizing his spiritual life.

Thing is, in a later letter aimed at his rival Rufinus’ claims that Jerome still quoted classical literature in his writings, Jerome seems pretty much to discount his dream, mentioning that dreams are liable to be just that, dreams. He even cites a verse of Scripture to back up this claim. He also seems to say that he was not entirely conscious of what he was saying/vowing in that dream, so he may not have been fully in his “right mind” in his dream when he vowed what he did (simply because it was a dream and the mind doesn’t always work logically in dreams). (At least, this is what I get out of what he says here. This letter can actually be a little confusing, I think.) In seeming to say that he was not in his right mind at the time, Jerome might even be saying that even his vow was not one he would’ve made were he fully conscious. He, in fact, seems to argue that his dream was NOT divinely given by saying how completely counter to reality many other dreams can be. One might dream, for instance, that he is committing adultery while he would never do so in real life. One might dream that he receives the martyr’s crown while he is obviously not dead in real life. Implicitly, Jerome seems to be saying that the judgment that he saw may simply be a strangeness in a dream rather than anything in reality divinely sent or otherwise significant.

While Jerome does consciously seem to have struggled with his priorities and this may have to whatever degree influenced his dream, whether it was divinely inspired or not seems to be a question. Does the Church have any official position on the inspiration of this dream of Jerome?

I mean, there were certainly other Christians, both earlier, within Jerome’s time and later who read classical literature for various reasons.

Also, if we are to take Jerome’s dream and his vow as literally applicable in every sense to our lives, we all would have to give up all secular literature (and possibly movies, music, etc.) and focus entirely on sacred things.

Any other thoughts on this?

Hi MysticMissMisty,

I’m afraid you won’t get much input on this thread. Forum rules ask us not to resurrect old threads–this one is 3 years old.

Please post this as a new topic. I’d be interested in reading more.

God bless you.

With all due respect, I think that’s the problem with the “no posted to old threads” rule. I mean, I’m sure there was some reason behind it, but, isn’t it a bit redundant to have to re-post on a subject that has already been started, even if it is old, and even if you may still have something new to contribute to it. It just seems so inefficient both for the poster and for the reader who has to go to several different threads to find answers to a question he/she may have been searching that could just as easily have been answered in one thread! Also, if you want to follow up to several points that have already been made on an “old” thread, you are forced to re-hash all of those in a new thread so that others reading it won’t get confused.

I would be curious to know what the reasoning behind the “no posting to old threads” rule is…

(Plus, how “old” is a thread supposed to be before we can no longer post to it??)

From the Forum Rules:

If you find an old topic that you wish to “resurrect”, please start a new thread. The reason for doing it that way is very simple. The people who were on that thread my be gone or may no longer be interested in the subject. If you begin a new thread, you may get a fresh perspective.

We leave old threads in plain sight, because people often come to ask a question. Rather than starting a thread on something that has been discussed, the person can go into search mode and find the discussion, inform himself and move on.

I cannot and will not spend time closing old threads. TC Forum began in May 2004. On my side of the screen there are 50 threads per page and over 300 pages of threads that go back to 2004.

Unless a thread is problematic, I simply allow it to stand. If people lose interest, it will fall into the background as new ones arise. Besides, how am I supposed to plan that on the third Tuesday of March 2012 this thread will not longer be of interest so I should close it. I don’t know what I’m going to eat for Christmas this year.

If the last post on a thread is more than three months old, it may mean that no one is really interested in that topic. If the last post is two-years old or more, the posters may have moved on to the Happy Posting Ground or simply to another forum. No offense intended.

If you really have something to add to the subject, start a new thread.

Thanks. Good reasoning.

(though I’m still not sure what is technically considered “old”, 3 months? 2 years?)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.