St. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to gather and examine all Holy Scriptures, Old and New and translate them into LATIN for the good of the Catholic Church. Here is what he responded in a correspondence to Pope Damasus:
“You urge me to revise the old Latin version, and, as it were, to sit in judgment on the copies of the Scriptures which are now scattered throughout the whole world; and, inasmuch as they differ from one another, you would have me decide which of them agree with the Greek original. The labour is one of love, but at the same time both perilous and presumptuous; for in judging others I must be content to be judged by all; and how can I dare to change the language of the world in its hoary old age, and carry it back to the early days of its infancy? Is there a man, learned or unlearned, who will not, when he takes the volume into his hands, and perceives that what he reads does not suit his settled tastes, break out immediately into violent language, and call me a forger and a profane person for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient books, or to make any changes or corrections therein? Now there are two consoling reflections which enable me to bear the odium-in the first place, the command is given by you who are the supreme bishop; and secondly, even on the showing of those who revile us, readings at variance with the early copies cannot be right.”
St. Jerome was an extremely brilliant and educated Roman citizen from Dalmatia. He moved to Bethlehem to be close to the source and began examining all the Hebrew and Greek text of the Old testament. There is estimated to be around seven Old Testaments written in Greek. The one St. Jerome worked on most was the “Septuagint” that had been translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria Egypt in the second century Before Christ. The New Testament was originally written in Greek, with some having been translated into Latin already.
Pope Damasus I and St. Jerome knew at this time (390) that Latin was the most common language of the Roman Empire. They also wanted to correct errors that had crept into some translations or hand written transcripts of the Bible. St. Jerome also wanted to make the Bible understandable for the bishops and priests who only spoke Latin. He wanted them to preach the “Word of God” in their sermons.
So at this time we can already see the universal need for Latin in the Catholic Church. Greek was also spoken at this time in parts of the Catholic Church as we find in the Byzantine Catholic Liturgies today. But the Roman Catholics were using Latin.
As seen in the great writings of St. Jerome and St. Augustine, many of the theological teachings and discourses were written in Latin. The precise explanation of these complex theological discourses was done best in the great language of Latin.
St. Jerome is one of the four Great Latin Doctors of the Church along with St. Augustine, St. Ambrose and St. Gregory the Great (who codified the Latin Mass).
Here is a holy quote from St. Jerome on Chastity for the Love of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. “How very difficult it is for the human heart not to love something! Of necessity, our minds and wills must be drawn to some kind of affection. Carnal love is overcome by spiritual love. Desire is extinguished by deeper desire. Whatever is taken from carnal love is given to the higher love.”
To the shock of most Catholics, Vatican II kept Latin as the official Language of the Church and is to be kept in a special place of honor. Like St. Jerome, after the third century, most great theological discourses were written in Latin because it is a very accurate language to express theological thought in. Most of these great text are still in their original Latin today.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.