Nichols, Steve. “Jerome.” 5 Minutes in Church History. 16 Sept 2015. http://5minutesinchurchhistory.com/jerome/. Accessed 16 Sept 2015.
Jerome was a significant figure in the early church. He was born in 347 and he died in 420. He is best known for what we call the Vulgate, which is the most important Latin translation of the Bible. From the year 400 all the way through to the time of the Reformation, more than 1,100 years, the definitive translation of the most important book in history was Jerome’s Vulgate. Even after the Reformation, the Vulgate remained the standard text in the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years. To this day, those who want to study the Latin text do much of their work in Jerome’s translation.
Jerome began his work on a new Latin translation in the 380s. Prior to this, there was just a loose collection of Latin manuscripts called the Old Latin texts. Jerome’s work was largely a revision of these texts, though he also consulted some Greek manuscripts to complete his translation of the Gospels.
In 385, Jerome was working at Rome, but he found himself on the outs with some of the elites of the city, so he had to flee. He ended up going to some wonderful cities of the ancient world, including Antioch, which is a significant city in Christian history, and Alexandria, which had that wonderful library and was a magnet for scholars. But he ended up spending most of his life in Bethlehem, and there he continued to work on his Latin translation.
It was Jerome who coined the term Apocrypha, meaning “hidden,” to refer to a collection of Greek and Aramaic texts that date from the time between the Old and New Testaments. You could say they were hidden because they were placed in between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Or, they were hidden because they were not the “revealed” books, as in, these are not the canonical books. As Jerome was compiling the Vulgate, he included the Apocryphal books in the Old Testament, but he noted in his prologues that he did not consider them canonical because they were not part of the Hebrew Bible.
This issue came up at the Council of Trent, which was the Roman Catholic response to the Reformation. There, two things happened in regard to Jerome. First, the Apocryphal books were recognized as canonical for the first time in church history. Before the Council of Trent they were always considered useful for study but not as inspired or canonical. And second, in reaction to Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German and William Tyndale’s translation into English, the Roman Catholic Church came down against vernacular editions and made the definitive statement, “The text for us will be the Vulgate.”