- Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writings and Legacy
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This volume represents a selection of papers from a conference held at Cardiff University in July 2006, Jerome of Stridon: Religion, Culture, Society and Literature in Late Antiquity. The contributors present an excellent sample of the best of contemporary scholarship on Jerome as a literary, historical, and religious figure. The book is divided into three parts: "Hagiography, Letters, Heresy, and the Man," "The Science of Scripture: Philology, Exegesis, and Translation," and "Reception: Fifth through Sixteenth Centuries."
The first part begins with an essay by Stefan Rebenich, "Inventing an Ascetic Hero: Jerome's Life of Paul the First Hermit." Rebenich focuses on Jerome's use of classical motifs and his motivation in writing the work, namely, to outdo the Life of Antony and thus promote himself as a monastic authority by creating an ascetic who is senior to Athanasius' hero and who (unlike Antony) embraces the classical tradition. Andrew Cain's essay, "Rethinking Jerome's Portraits of Holy Women," likewise focuses on Jerome's underlying motivations, arguing that Jerome's portrayals of Asella (Epist. 24) and Marcella (Epist. 127) are primarily propaganda meant to promote his own reputation and his religious and scholarly opinions.
In addition to Cain, two other essays offer detailed readings of selected letters of Jerome. Yves-Marie Duval, "Sur trois lettres méconnues de Jérôme concernant son séjour à Rome (382–385)," treats Epist. 27* to bishop Aurelius, Epist. 18* to the deacon Praesidius, and Epist. 43 to Marcella, all of which relate in some way to Jerome's stay in Rome between 382 and 385. Duval shows how Epist. 27* confirms Jerome's role as letter-writer for pope Damasus. This corrects the false impression that Jerome spent his time only in the service of his female friends. The other two letters give subtle evidence that Jerome did not leave Rome simply because of the death of Damasus or because of personal conflicts, but because he idealized withdrawal from the city of Rome and retreat to the Promised Land. Neil Adkin's essay, which discusses the appearance of phraseology borrowed from Tertullian in Jerome's Consolation to Heliodorus (Epist. 60), seeks to appreciate how Jerome recasts his source material with an eye towards "stylistic finesse," even at the cost of saying precisely what he meant to say.
In "Jerome on Jeremiah: Exegesis and Recovery," Philip Rousseau attempts to mine Jerome's Jeremiah commentary for biographical information, specifically, the extent to which Jerome developed a theological response to the crisis of the sack of Rome. Rousseau sees potential connections between Jeremiah's message about the fall of Judah and Jerome's experience of the fall of [End Page 386] Rome—although, as Rousseau points out, for Jerome Jerusalem is the church and the greatest threats to her safety are heretics. Thus, the restoration to be hoped for is the restoration of orthodoxy within the church. In "Le Dialogus Attici et Critobuli de Jérôme et la prédication Pélagienne en Palestine entre 411 et 415," Benoît Jeanjean convincingly argues that, despite standard polemics, Jerome's Dialogue Against the Pelagians offers genuine information about Pelagian thinking, namely, that God's grace consists in human free will as given at creation together with the giving of divine commands, and that a person in theory could be sinless and "righteous"—at least in comparison with other people. At this stage of the dispute, according to Jeanjean, Jerome still hoped to reform his theological adversary and so did not wish to condemn Pelagius personally.
Of the seven essays found in part two, two deal with the broader theological impact of Jerome's readings of specific biblical texts. Danuta Shanzer, "Jerome, Tobit, Alms...