Document: Translation of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Songs of Solomon according to the Hebrew
Addressee: Chromatius and Heliodorus
Date: 398
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): Translated by K.P. Edgecomb (see below.)
Notes: This was eventually incorporated into the Vulgate.

Jerome’s Preface to his Translation of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon*

Jerome to Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus.

May the letter join those joined in priesthood. Indeed, a sheet may not divide those who the love of Christ has connected. You request commentaries on Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, and Malachi. I wrote, even if it cost through ill-health. You have sent the solace of expenses, by our scribes and copyists having been sustained, so that our genius exerts itself most strongly for you. And behold, from every side a diverse crowd of those demanding, as though it is equal for me either to work for you with others hungering, or I might be subject to anyone besides you in matters of giving and receiving. And so, with a long sickness broken, I have not kept inwardly silent this year and been mute with you. I have dedicated to your names the work of three days, namely the translation of the three scrolls of Solomon: Masloth,1 which are Parables in Hebrew, called in the common edition Proverbs; Coeleth,2 which in Greek is Ecclesiastes, in Latin we could say Preacher; (and) Sirassirim,3 which is translated into our language Song of Songs.

Also included is the book of the model of virtue4 Jesus son of Sirach, and another falsely ascribed work5 which is titled Wisdom of Solomon. The former of these I have also found in Hebrew, titled not Ecclesiasticus as among the Latins, but Parables, to which were joined Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, as though it made of equal worth the likeness not only of the number of the books of Solomon, but also the kind of subjects. The second was never among the Hebrews, the very style of which is redolent of Greek speech. And several of the ancient scribes affirm this one is of Philo Judaeus. Therefore, just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.

If anyone is truly more pleased by the edition of the Seventy interpreters, he has it already corrected by us. For it is not as though we build the new so that we destroy the old. And yet, when one will have read most carefully, he will know our things to be better understood, which haven’t soured by having been poured into a third vessel, but have rather preserved their flavor by having been entrusted to a new container immediately from the press.6


1מַשְׁלוֹת, nowadays מִשְׁלֵי or מַשׁלֵי
2 קוֹהֶלֶת
3 שִׁיר־השִּׁירִים
4 Greek here: παναρετος
5 Greek here: ψευδεπιγραφος
6 By this imagery, Jerome indicates his direct translation from the Hebrew into Latin, not Hebrew to Greek to Latin, as it would be had he been translating from the Septuagint or other Greek versions.

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

Jerome Abbreviations

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Updated 2/17/2014, by MS

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