Fathers of the Church
Letter XCIX: to Theophilus
by Jerome in 404 | translated by W. H. Fremantle, M.A., G. Lewis, M.A., W. G. Martley, M.A
To the most blessed pope Theophilus, Jerome.
1. From the time that I received the letters of your holiness together with the paschal treatise until the present day I have been so harassed with sorrow and mourning, with anxiety, and with the different reports which have come from all quarters concerning the condition of the church, that I have hardly been able to turn your volume into Latin. You know the truth of the old saying, grief chokes utterance; and it is more than ever true when to sickness of the mind is added sickness of the body. I have now been five days in bed in a burning fever: consequently it is only by using the greatest haste that I can dictate this very letter. But I wish to shew your holiness in a few words what pains I have taken, in translating your treatise, to transfer the charm of diction which marks every sentence in the original, and to make the style of the Latin correspond in some degree with that of the Greek.
2. At the outset you use the language of philosophy; and, without appearing to particularize, you slay one while you instruct all. In the remaining sections—a task most difficult of accomplishment—you combine philosophy and rhetoric and draw together for us Demosthenes and Plato. What diatribes you have launched against self- indulgence! What eulogies you have bestowed upon the virtue of continence! With what secret stores of wisdom you have spoken of the interchange of day and night, the course of the moon, the laws of the sun, the nature of our world; always appealing to the authority of scripture lest in a paschal treatise you should appear to have borrowed anything from secular sources! To be brief, I am afraid to praise you for these things lest I should be charged with offering flattery. The book is excellent both in the philosophical portions and where, without making personal attacks, you plead the cause which you have espoused. Wherefore, I beseech you, pardon me my backwardness: I have been so completely overcome by the falling asleep of the holy and venerable Paula that except my translation of this book I have hitherto written nothing bearing on sacred subjects. As you yourself know, I have suddenly lost the comforter whom I have led about with me, not—the Lord is my witness—to minister to my own needs, but for the relief and refreshment of the saints upon whom she has waited with all diligence. Your holy and estimable daughter Eustochium (who refuses to be comforted for the loss of her mother), and with her all the brotherhood humbly salute you. Kindly send me the books which you say that you have lately written that I may translate them or, if not that, at least read them. Farewell in Christ.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VI, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.