Document: Translation of Esther according to the Hebrew
Incipit: Librum Hester variis
Addressees: Paula and Eustochium
Date: completed 404-406
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: There were significant differences between the Hebrew and Septuagint versions of Esther. For an explanation of how Jerome handled this, see Kevin Edgecomb’s Notes on the Additions to Esther.

Jerome’s Preface to his Translation of Esther*

The Book of Esther stands corrupted by various translators. Which book I, lifting up from the archives of the Hebrews, have translated more accurately word for word. The common edition drags the book by knotted ropes of words hither and yon, adding to it things which may have been said or heard at any time. This is as is usual with instruction in schools, when a subject has been taken up, to figure out from the words which someone may have used, which one either suffered injury, or which one caused injury (to the text).1

And you, O Paula and Eustochium, since you have both studied to enter the libraries of the Hebrews and also have approved of the battles of the interpreters, holding the Hebrew Book of Esther, look through each word of our translation, so you may be able to understand me also to have augmented nothing by adding, but rather with faithful witness simply to have translated, just as it is found in the Hebrew, the Hebrew history into the Latin language. We are not affected by the praises of men, nor are we afraid of (their) slanders. For to be pleasing to God we do not inwardly fear those caring for the minas of men, “for God has scattered the bones of those desiring to be pleasing to men,”2 and according to the Apostle, those like this are “not able to be servants of Christ.”3


1 Or “…who either suffered or who caused injury.” Very obscure sentence here, sicut solitum est scolaribus disciplinis sumpto themate excogitare, quibus verbis uti potuit qui iniuriam passus est vel ille qui iniuriam fecit. I’ve taken it to refer to the textual mess that Jerome mentions just before, understanding him to be discussing textual criticism in schools, as we know was done in Alexandria with the Homeric epics.
2 Psalm 52.6 LXX
3 Galatians 1.10

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

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Updated on 2/17/2014, by MS

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