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  • The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship
  • Neil Adkin
The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship. By Megan Hale Williams. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 2006. Pp. xii, 315. $45.00.)

Jerome himself tells us that while he lived as a monk in the desert he took up the study of Hebrew to take his mind off its obsession with sex (Epist. 125.12.1). Williams, on the other hand, attempts to understand the saint's Hebrew scholarship "with the analytical tools of recent cultural history—including the work of Bourdieu, Foucault, and Roger Chartier" (so the blurb). She hereby comes to the conclusion that Jerome was the first to merge the monastic and scholastic life-styles. It may perhaps be felt that the "fundamental contradictions" between the two are somewhat overstated. After all, the same epistle 125 breezily prescribes both bookish and unbookish avocations for the monk: texantur et lina capiendis piscibus, scribantur libri, ut et [End Page 322] manus operetur cibos et anima lectione saturetur (11.4).Williams has nonetheless produced a very fine study.

The Introduction rightly devotes considerable attention to the "crucial" issue of Jerome's education. Here we are, however, told apropos of the grammaticus that "the texts studied did not include prose authors"(p. 7).What then about Rufinus, who tells us that when Jerome himself set up as a grammaticus in his monastery at Bethlehem he historicos auctores . . . exponebat (Apol. adv. Hier. 2.11)? On the same page Jerome's own grammaticus, the great Aelius Donatus, is transmogrified by conflation with Aelius Theon into a second-century composer of Greek progymnasmata. On page 16 the form declamatiunculus would make any grammaticus wince.

Williams's translations are her "own" (p. xi). It must unfortunately be said that on occasion they give cause for cavil.The point may be illustrated by reference to one passage that (p. 103) "will remain important for much that is to come."Here sic . . . ut is not "in order that," but "in such a way that"; illi is not "and . . . they" but after quidam and alii a further disjunctive; cf. TLL s.v. ille, 355.66-78 ("i.q. alius"); multorum vel probanda vel improbanda is not "which of the many are to be approved or rejected" but "the views, acceptable or otherwise,of many."[I]n uno opere quod edisserit, expositiones is not "in one work what he has learned concerning the arguments" but "the arguments in the one work under discussion." [V]idelicet is not "for example" but "namely" (an important distinction, since here the word is followed by the authors of the school syllabus). [A]rgue interpretes eorum quare . . . is not "attack their interpretations because . . . " but "blame their interpreters for. . . ." [I]n eadem re is not "on each passage" but "on the same subject."Two further examples of such mistranslation may be adduced from somewhat later in the book. On page 122 apponent is misrendered as "oppose"; instead, this is Hebrew yasaph. On page 167 mihi genuinus infigitur is misrendered as "I who have made authenticity my cause"; instead, this is Persius' genuinum (sc. dentem) fregit in illis (1.115).

Notwithstanding such slips, Williams has much of value to say about Jerome's early career with its social and literary networkings (chap. 1), about his crafting of an exegetic persona and the "invention of the Hebraica veritas" as a way to upstage Origen (chap. 2), about his commentaries on the Prophets and his emphasis on the historical sense (chap. 3), about the contents of his library (chap. 4) and its logistics (chap. 5), and about the cost of his scholarship (chap. 6) and the consequent need for patronage (chap. 7).A very important appendix synthesizes progress made since Cavallera on the chronology of Jerome's career.This gripping and stylish book with its wealth of acute Einzelbeobachtungen is accordingly a very valuable contribution to Jerome studies. [End Page 323]

Neil Adkin
University of Nebraska at Lincoln


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