PODCAST: Jerome, Part 1 (History of Christianity #156 with Daniel Whyte III)

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This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #156, titled, “Jerome (Part 1).”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Romans 12:1-2 which reads: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Jerome. He said: “I frankly confess that I get carried away with indignation. I cannot listen to such sacrilege with patience.’”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Jerome (Part 1)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

None of the great personalities of the fourth century is more intriguing than Jerome. He is outstanding, not for his sanctity, like Anthony, nor for his keen theological insight, like Athanasius [ATH-A-NAY-SEE-US], nor for his firmness before the authorities, like Ambrose [AM-BROZE], nor even for his preaching, like Chrysostom [CRYS-OZ-TOM], but rather for his titanic and endless struggle with the world and with himself. Although he is known as “Saint Jerome,” he was not one of those saints who are granted the joy of God’s peace in this life. His holiness was not humble, peaceful, and sweet, but rather proud, stormy, and even bitter. He always strove to be more than human, and therefore had little patience for those who appeared indolent, or who dared criticize him. Those who suffered his sharp attacks were not only the heretics of his time, as well as the ignorant and the hypocritical, but also John Chrysostom [CRYS-OZ-TOM], Ambrose [AM-BROZE] of Milan [MEE-LAHN], Basil of Caesarea, and Augustine of Hippo. Those who disagreed with him were “two-legged asses.” But in spite of this attitude–and perhaps to a large measure because of it–Jerome earned a place among the great Christian figures of the fourth century. Even so, throughout the history of Christian art he has been depicted as a sour ascetic, often contemplating a skull.

He was born around 348 CE, in an obscure corner of northern Italy. He was younger than many of the great figures of the fourth century. But it has been aptly said that Jerome was born an old man, and therefore he soon considered himself older than his contemporaries. More surprisingly, they came to regard him as an imposing and ancient institution.

He was an ardent admirer of classical learning, and felt that this love for an essentially pagan tradition was sinful. His inner turmoil on this score peaked when, during a serious illness, he dreamed that he was at the final judgment and was asked: “Who are you?” “I am a Christian,” Jerome answered. But the judge retorted: “You lie. You are a Ciceronian [CY-CER-OH-NEE-UHN].” After that experience, Jerome resolved to devote himself fully to the study of scripture and of Christian literature. But he never ceased reading and imitating the style of the classical pagan authors.

He was also obsessed with sex. Upon retiring to the monastic life, he hoped to be rid of that burden. But even there he was followed by his dreams and by the memories of dancers in Rome. He sought to suppress such thoughts by punishing his body, and by and exaggeratedly austere life. He was unkempt, and even came to affirm that, having been washed by Christ, there was no need to ever wash again. And yet that did not suffice. In order to fill his mind with something that would take the pleasures of Rome, he decided to study Hebrew. That language, with its strange alphabet and grammar, seemed barbaric to him. But he told himself that, since the Old Testament was written in it, it must be divine.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Jerome.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.