Document: Translation of Chronicles (Paralipomenon) according to the Hebrew
Addressee: Chromatius of Aquileia
Date: 396
Latin Text: R. Weber and B. Gryson, eds., Biblia sacra: iuxta Vulgatam versionem (Stuttgart 1994). [text provided by Douay-Rheims Bible Online]
English Translation (Preface Only): Preface translated by K.P. Edgecomb (see below.)
Notes: This was eventually incorporated into the Vulgate.

Jerome’s Preface to his Translation of Paralipomenon (Chronicles)*

If the version of the Seventy translators is pure and has remained as it was rendered by them into Greek, you have urged me on superfluously, my Cromatius, most holy and most learned of bishops, that I translated the Hebrew scrolls into the Latin language. For what has formerly won the ears of men and strengthened the faith of those being born to the Church was indeed proper to be approved by our silence. Now, in fact, when different versions are held by a variety of regions, and this genuine and ancient translation is corrupted and violated, you have considered our opinion, either to judge which of the many is the true one, or to put together new work with old work, and shutting off to the Jews, as it is said, “a horn to pierce the eyes.”1 The region of Alexandria and Egypt praises in their Seventy the authority of Hesychius; the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the version of Lucian the Martyr; in the middle, between these provinces, the people of Palestine read the books which, having been labored over by Origen, Eusebius and Pamphilius published. And all the world contends among them with this threefold variety. And Origen certainly not only put together the texts of four editions, writing the words in a single row2 so that one regularly differing may be compared to others agreeing among themselves, but what is more audacious, into the edition of the Seventy he mixed the edition of Theodotion, marking with asterisks those things which were missing, and placing virgules3 by those things which are seen to be superfulous. If, therefore, it was allowed to others not to hold what they once accepted, and after the seventy chambers, which are considered without a single author, individual chambers were opened, and thus is read in the churches what the Seventy did not know, why do my (fellow) Latins not accept me, who thus put together the new with the inviolate old edition so that I might make my work acceptable to the Hebrews and, what is greater than these, to the authors, the Apostles? I have recently written a book, “On the best kind of translating,”4 showing these things in the Gospel, and others similar to these, to be found in the books of the Hebrews: “Out of Egypt I called my son,”5 and “For he will be called a Nazarene,”6 and “They will look on him whom they have pierced,”7 and that of the Apostle, “Things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and had not arisen in the heart of man, which God has prepared for those loving Him.”8 The Apostles and Evangelists were certainly acquainted with the Seventy interpreters, but from where are they (supposed) to say these things which are not found in the Seventy? Christ our God, author of both Testaments, says in the Gospel according to John, “He who believes in me, as Scripture has said, Rivers of living water will flow from his belly.”9 Certainly, whatever is witnessed by the Savior to be written, is written. Where is it written? The Seventy do not have it; the Church ignores the apocrypha; thus is the turning back to the Hebrew books, from which the Lord spoke and the disciples took forth texts. In peace I will say these things of the ancients, and I respond only to my detractors, who bite me with dogs’ teeth, slandering me in public, speaking at corners, the same being both accusers and defenders, when approving for others what they reprove me for, as though virtue and error were not in conflict, but change with the author. I have recalled another edition of the Seventy translators corrected from the Greek to have been distributed by us, and me not to need to be considered their enemy, which things I always explain in the gatherings of the brothers. And what is now Dabreiamin,10 that is, Words of the Days, I have translated. I have therefore made the foreignness of the meanings clearer, and have separated lines into members, so that the inextribcable spaces and forest of names, which were confused through the error of the scribes, are, as Hismenius says, “themselves singing to me and mine,”11 even if the ears of others are deaf.


1 Cicero, Pro Murena 25
2 Or “from each region” e regione singula
3 That is, obeli.
4 This work is preserved among Jerome’s writings as Letter 57, To Pammachius.
5 Matthew 2.15
6 Matthew 2.23
7 John 19.37
8 1 Corinthians 2.9
9 John 7.38
10 דַּבְּרֵי־יַמִים for Masoretic/modern דִּבְרֵי־הַיַּמִים
11 cf Cicero, Brutus 187; Valerius Maximus 3.7

*We thank Kevin Edgecomb for permission to publish his translation on our page.

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