Friday, May 04, 2007

Jerome's Preface to Genesis

Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate, wrote prefaces in his work before different books of the Bible. Before the book of Genesis he defended his utilization of Hebrew texts instead of using the Septuagint.
I have received the desired letters of my Desiderius, who in a foretelling of things to happen has obtained with Daniel a certain name [see Vulgate Daniel 9.23: quia vir desideriorum es tu, “for you are a man of desires”], beseeching that I might hand over to our hearers a translation of the Pentateuch in the Latin tongue from the Hebrew words. Certainly a dangerous work, open to the barkings of detractors, who accuse me of insult to the Seventy to prepare a new interpretation from the old ones, thus approving ability (or “genius”) like wine.

Now, the interesting thing is that Jerome's defense centers around Messianic prophecies mentioned in the New Testament, do not appear in the Septuagint, but appear in the Hebrew texts. The Hebrew texts referred to probably became what we now know as the Masoretic texts (remember the earliest texts we have of that tradition date from around 900 CE).
And especially by the authority of the Evangelists and the Apostles, in which we read many things from the Old Testament which are not found in our books, as it is (with): “Out of Egypt I have called My Son,” and “For He shall be called a Nazarene,” and “They will look on Him Whom they have pierced,” and “Rivers of living waters shall flow from his belly,” and “Things which no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has arisen in the heart of man, which God has prepared for those loving Him,” and many others which are desiring a proper context.

What is interesting about this list is that "He shall be called a Nazarene" is disputed by traditional Judaism. Anti-missionaries point it out as a New Testament error. Apparently, Jerome saw it right in the text of the Hebrew.

For the record, Dr. Michael Brown deals with that objection in Volume 4 of his Answering Jewish Objections, a summary of which can be found here.

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