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“Jerome Prefaces to the Psalms - original Latin Text with English translation”

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Click here to read at in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translations below are a) for the first preface - based on the translation in NPNF Series 2, Volume 6, p. 494 (updated by Andrew Maguire): b) for the second preface - by the Revd Andrew Maguire (this should be acknowledged when the translation is used elsewhere).

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Preface of Jerome to the Book of Psalms

A while ago, when I was living at Rome, I revised the Psalter, and corrected it in large measure in accordance with the Septuagint version, albeit hastily. You now find it, Paula and Eustochium, again corrupted through the fault of copyists, and realise the fact that ancient error is more powerful than modern correction. Your urge me then, as it were, to cross-plough the land which has already been broken up, and, by means of the transverse furrows, to root out the thorns which are beginning to spring again. It is only right, you say, that such vigorous, but harmful growths should be cut down as often as they appear. And so I issue my customary admonition by way of preface both to you, for whom it happens that I am undertaking this great labour, and to those persons who desire to have copies such as I describe. Pray see that what I have carefully revised be transcribed with similar painstaking care. All readers can observe for themselves where there is placed either a horizontal line or mark issuing from the centre, that is, either an obelus () or an asterisk (). And wherever they see a preceding virgule (i.e. obelus), they are to understand that between this mark and the two stops (:) which I have introduced, the Septuagint translation contains additional matter. But where they see an asterisk (), an addition from the Hebrew books is indicated, which also goes as far as the two stops, in accordance, at least, with the edition of Theodotion which, in its simplicity of language is not unlike the Septuagint version. Aware that I have done this for you and for any studious person I am in no doubt that there will be many who, through envy or arrogance, will prefer to appear contemptuous of what is plain for all to see rather than to learn, and to drink from a turbulent stream rather than from the purest spring.

Preface of Jerome to the Book of Psalms according to the actual Hebrew

Eusebius Hieronymus to his Sophronius, health!

I know that some think the Psalter is split into five books, so that, wherever the Septuagint translators have written γένοιτο, γένοιτο (that is, “let it be so, let it be so”, for which in Hebrew is said “Amen, Amen”) there is the end of a book. We, however, following the judgement of the Hebrews, and especially of the Apostles, who always in the New Testament refer to the Book of Psalms, maintain that there is one book. We also assert that all the psalms are the work of the authors whose names are placed in the titles, namely of David, and of Asaph, and of Jeduthun, the Sons of Korah, of Heman the Ezraite, of Moses, and of Solomon, and of the rest, and that Ezra brought them together in one volume. For if Amen, which Aquila translated “trustworthily”, was only ever placed at the end of books and there was not actually a variety in its position, sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end of a discourse or sentence, then the Saviour would never say in the Gospel, “Amen, amen, I say to you”, and the letters of Paul would not contain it in the middle of the work. Nor would Moses and Jeremiah and others present us with many books giving examples of this. In fact they often add “Amen” in the middle of their books. Furthermore the number of twenty-two Hebrew books and the mystery of the same number will be changed. For even the Hebrew title, Sephar Thallim, which is translated “Book of Hymns”, agreeing with the Apostolic authority, shows that there are not many books, but one volume.

Recently, when you were disputing with a Hebrew, you put forward some testimonies from the Psalms. He wanted to ridicule you and stated that in virtually every instance what you were saying was not justified from the Hebrew. Since you were arguing from the Septuagint translation you have earnestly requested that, in the steps of Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion, I should translate a new edition in the Latin language. You said that you were greatly troubled by the variety of translations and that, perhaps through misplaced affection, you were content with my translation or my judgment. So, urged by you, to whom I owe both things of which I am capable and things of which I am not capable, I have once again handed myself over to the barking of detractors. I would prefer you to question my skills rather than my ready friendship. I shall certainly say with confidence (and I can cite many witnesses of this work) that at least I have not knowingly changed anything of the truth of the Hebrew. So wherever my edition differs from the old ones, ask anybody you like from the Hebrews, and you will clearly see that my grudging rivals pull my work apart in vain. They prefer to appear contemptuous of what is plain for all to see rather than to learn. Perverse people! When they are always seeking out new pleasures and the nearby seas are not sufficient for their huge appetites, why, in the study of Scripture alone, are they content with the old flavour? I do not say this to bite at my predecessors, or to disparage in any way their translation, which, carefully amended, I gave some while ago to the people of my own tongue. No, I have done this work because it is one thing to read the Psalms in the Churches of those who believe in Christ, but quite another to answer Jewish people who make false accusations over individual words. If, as you promise, you translate my modest work into Greek, opposing the detractors, and you wish to make the most learned people witnesses of my inexperience, I will quote Horace to you: “Don't carry wood into the forest”. I will have just one consolation if I know that in our common labour you and I share both the praise and the hostile criticism. I hope that you fare well in the Lord and that you remember me.


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Prefaces to the Psalms
Jerome translation
Prefaces to Bible Translations
Latin translation of Bible
Migne Latin Text
Patrologiae Latinae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Latina


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