This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #159, titled, “Jerome (Part 4).”
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 15:4 which reads: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Polycarp of Smyrna [SMER-NUH]. He said: “Let us then persevere unceasingly in our hope, and in the pledge of our righteousness, that is in Christ Jesus.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Jerome (Part 4)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
At first Jerome did not answer Augustine’s letter–nor a second one. Augustine insisted on the matter, writing again and blaming Jerome for scandalizing the faithful. As an example of the evils caused by Jerome’s translation, he refers to the manner in which Jerome translated the name of the plant that provided shade for the prophet Jonah. The traditional version–based on Greek–called it a gourd. Jerome translated it as ivy. Augustine reports:
A certain bishop, our brother, ordered that your translation be employed in the church he leads. People were surprised that you translated a passage in Jonah in a very different way than they were used to singing [in church] for generations. There was a riot, particularly since the Greeks claimed that the passage was wrong….So you see the consequences of supporting your translation on manuscripts that cannot be verified by known languages [that is, Greek or Latin, rather than Hebrew].
When Jerome finally responded to Augustine’s letters, he implied that Augustine was simply a young man seeking to make a name for himself by criticizing his elders. While at first appearing to praise Augustine’s learning, Jerome subtly indicated that he was doing Augustine a favor by not pursuing the controversy, for a debate between the two of them would be an unequal contest. In the course of the letter, he proceeded to crush Augustine’s arguments, eventually telling him that “you don’t even understand what you are asking about,” and calling his opponents–apparently including Augustine among them–cu-curbitarians, or “gourdists.”
Although most of Jerome’s controversies ended in wounds that never healed, the outcome was different in this particular case. Years later, Jerome felt the need to refute the doctrine of the Pelagians [PUH-LAY-GEE-AHNS] and to that end he had recourse to Augustine’s works. His next letter to the wise bishop of North Africa expressed an admiration that he reserved for very few.
At first glance, Jerome appeared to be an extremely insensitive person whose only concern was his own prestige. But in truth he was very different than he appeared, and his rigid facade hid a sensitive spirit. No one knew this as well as did Paula and Eustochium [YOU-STO-CHEE-UM]. But Paula died in 404, and Jerome felt alone and desolate. His grief was all the greater, for he was convinced that it was not only his end that approached, but that of an era. A few years later, on August 24, 410, Rome was taken and sacked by the Goths under Alaric’s [AL-UH-RIK’s] command. The news shook the world. Jerome heard of it in Bethlehem, and wrote to Eustochium [YOU-STO-CHEE-UM]:
Who could have believed that Rome, built by the conquest of the world, would fall? That the mother of many nations has turned to her grave?…My eyes are dim by my advanced age…and with the light that I have at night I can no longer read Hebrew books, which are difficult even during the day for the smallness of their letters.
Jerome survived for almost ten more years. They were years of loneliness, pain, and controversy. Finally, a few months after the death of Eustochium [YOU-STO-CHEE-UM], who had become as a daughter to him, the tired scholar went to his rest.
Next time, we will begin looking at “Augustine of Hippo.”
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.