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Prefaces to the Books of the Vulgate Version of the Old Testament.

Translations from the Septuagint and Chaldee


Letter 28 (Augustine) - Letter 56 (Jerome) (A.D. 394 or 395)
From Augustine to Jerome
Augustine's first letter to Jerome; through a series of accidents it was not delivered until nine years after it had been written. In it Augustine comments on Jerome's new Latin version of the Old Testament and advises him in his future labours to adhere more closely to the text of the Septuagint. He also discusses Jerome's account (in his commentary on the epistle to the Galatians) of the quarrel between Paul and Peter at Antioch. This according to Jerome was not a real misunderstanding but only one artificially 'got up' to put clearly before the Church the mischief of Christians conforming to the now obsolete Mosaic Law. Augustine strongly controverts this view and maintains that it is fatal to the veracity and authority claimed felt scripture. Written from Hippo about the year A.D. 394
"To Jerome, my most beloved lord, and brother and fellow presbyter, worthy of being honoured and embraced with the sincerest affectionate devotion: Augustine sends greetings ....

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Letters Letter 71 (A.D. 403)
        From Augustine to Jerome
In this letter Augustine commends to Jerome the deacon Cyprian, explains how it is that his first letter (Letter 56) has miscarried, and urges Jerome to base his scriptural labours not on the Hebrew text but on the version of the Septuagint. The date of the letter is A.D. 403.
"To my venerable lord Jerome, my esteemed and holy brother and fellow presbyter: Augustine sends greetings in the Lord......

"When he was 19 and a student at Carthage, he read a treatise by Cicero that opened his eyes to the delights of philosophy.
He was from the beginning a brilliant student, with an eager intellectual curiousity, but he never mastered Greek -- he tells us that his first Greek teacher was a brutal man who constantly beat his students, and Augustine rebelled and refused to study. By the time he realized that he really needed to know Greek, it was too late; and although he acquired a smattering of the language, he was never really at home in it. However, his mastery of Latin was another matter. He became an expert both in the eloquent use of the language and in the use of clever arguments to make his points. He became a teacher of rhetoric in Carthage, but was dissatisfied. It was the custom for students to pay their fees to the professor on the last day of the term, and many students attended faithfully all term, and then did not pay. In his late twenties, Augustine decided to leave Africa and seek his fortune in Rome"

"He disliked Greek at school, and notes in the Retractions some mistakes he made in his early works through ignorance of Greek. In later life he became much better at it, and could check Latin translations against a Greek original..., but in his twenties he would have found it hard work to read a Greek philosophical or theological text (1.14.23)".
        ( Confessions 1.14.23) http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/110101.htm
23. "But why, then, did I dislike Greek learning which was full of like tales? x For Homer also was skilled in inventing similar stories, and is most sweetly vain, yet was he disagreeable to me as a boy. I believe Virgil, indeed, would be the same to Grecian children, if compelled to learn him, as I was Homer. The difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of learning a foreign language mingled as it were with gall all the sweetness of those fabulous Grecian stories. For not a single word of it did I understand, and to make me do so, they vehemently urged me with cruel threatenings and punishments. There was a time also when (as an infant) I knew no Latin; but this I acquired without any fear or tormenting, by merely taking notice, amid the blandishments of my nurses, the jests of those who smiled on me, and the sportiveness of those who toyed with me. I learnt all this, indeed, without being urged by any pressure of punishment, for my own heart urged me to bring forth its own conceptions, which I could not do unless by learning words, not of those who taught me, but of those who talked to me; into whose ears, also, I brought forth whatever I discerned. From this it is sufficiently clear that a free curiosity hath more influence in our learning these things than a necessity full of fear. But this last restrains the overflowings of that freedom, through Thy laws, O God, --Thy laws, from the ferule of the schoolmaster to the trials of the martyr, being. effective to mingle for us a salutary bitter, calling us back to Thyself from the pernicious delights which allure us from Thee".

Augustinus Hipponensis - Quaestionum in Heptateuchum libri VII, I QUAESTIONES IN GENESIM
        Cum Scripturas sanctas, quae appellantur canonicae,
-->     legendo et cum aliis codicibus secundum Septuaginta interpretationem conferendo percurreremus,
placuit eas quaestiones, quae in mentem venirent, sive breviter commemorando, vel etiam pertractando tantummodo proponerentur, sive etiam qualitercumque tamquam a festinantibus solverentur, stilo alligare, ne de memoria fugerent. Non ut eas satis explicaremus, sed ut, cum opus esset, possemus inspicere; sive ut admoneremur quid adhuc esset requirendum, sive ut ex eo quod iam videbatur inventum, ut poteramus, essemus et ad cogitandum instructi, et ad respondendum parati. Si quis igitur haec legere propter incultum in nostra festinatione sermonem non fastidierit, si quas quaestiones propositas invenerit nec solutas, non ideo sibi nihil collatum putet. Nonnulla enim pars inventionis est, nosse quid quaeras. Quarum autem solutio placuerit, non ibi vile contemnat eloquium, sed de aliqua participatione doctrinae potius gratuletur. Non enim disputatio veritate, sed veritas disputatione requiritur. Exceptis ergo his quae a principio, ubi Deus caelum et terram fecisse narratur, usque ad dimissionem duorum primorum hominum de paradiso, tractari multipliciter possunt, de quibus alias, quantum potuimus, disseruimus;  haec sunt quae legentibus nobis occurrentia voluimus litteris attinere.

       Augustine and the Greek Philosophers

    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/twayne/twaynebib.html http://www.library.villanova.edu/html2/lib/augustine/staug.htm

a. "Græcæ autem linguæ non sit nobis tantus habitus, ut talium rerum libris legendis et intelligendis ullo modo reperiamur idonei" (De Trin. lib III)
b. "et ego quidem græcæ linguæ perparum assecutus sum, et prope nihil". (Contra litteras Petiliani, lib II, xxxviii, 91. Migne, Vol. XLIII.)
c. "Quid autem erat causæ cur græcas litteras oderam quibus puerulus imbuebar ne nunc quidem mihi satis exploratum est":
("But what was the cause of my dislike of Greek literature, which I studied from my boyhood, I cannot even now understand." Conf. I:13).
etc. .....

    Letters of Sts. Augustine and Jerome
Letter 75 (Augustine) - Letter 112 (Jerome) (A.D. 404)
From Jerome to Augustine
( This is Jerome's answer to Letters 40, 48, and 71. On receiving these letters, Jerome in three days completes an exhaustive reply to all the questions which Augustine had raised. He explains what is the true title of his book "On Illustrious Men", deals at great length with the dispute between Paul and Peter, expounds his views with regard to the Septuagint, and shews by the story of "the gourd" how close and accurate his translations are. His language throughout is kind but rather patronising: indeed in this whole correspondence Jerome seldom sufficiently recognizes the greatness of Augustine. The date of the letter is A.D. 404.)
" .... In that version I was translating from the Greek: but in the later version, translating from the Hebrew itself, I have expressed what I understood it to mean, being careful to preserve rather the exact sense than the order of the words .... ".

    St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Letter 82 (Augustine) - Letter 116 (Jerome) (A.D. 405)
From Augustine to Jerome
(A long letter in which Augustine for the third time (see Letter 56 and Letter 67) restates his opinion about Jerome's theory of the dispute between Peter and Paul at Antioch. In doing so, however, he disclaims all desire to hurt Jerome's feelings, apologizes for the tone of his previous letters, and again explains that it is not his fault that they have failed so long to reach Jerome. Written shortly after Letter 115).

Chapter V, 34 s.
34. "As to your translation, you have now convinced me of the benefits to be secured by your proposal to translate the Scriptures from the original Hebrew, in order that you may bring to light those things which have been either omitted or perverted by the Jews. But I beg you to be so good as state by what Jews this has been done, whether by those who before the Lord's advent translated the Old Testament- and if so, by what one or more of them -- or by the Jews of later times, who may be supposed to have mutilated or corrupted the Greek manuscripts, in order to prevent themselves from being unable to answer the evidence given by these concerning the Christian faith. I cannot find any reason which should have prompted the earlier Jewish translators to such unfaithfulness. I beg of you, moreover, to send us your translation of the Septuagint, which I did not know that you had published. I am also longing to read that book of yours which you named De optimo genere interpretandi, and to know from it how to adjust the balance between the product of the translator's acquaintance with the original language, and the conjectures of those who are able commentators on the Scripture, who, notwithstanding their common loyalty to the one true faith, must often bring forward various opinions on account of the obscurity of many passages; although this difference of interpretation by no means involves departure from the unity of the faith; just as one commentator may himself give, in harmony with the faith which he holds, two different interpretations of the same passage, because the obscurity of the passage makes both equally admissible.
35. I desire, moreover, your translation of the Septuagint, in order that we may be delivered, so far as is possible, from the consequences of the notable incompetency of those who, whether qualified or not, have attempted a Latin translation; and in order that those who think that I look with jealousy on your useful labours, may at : length, if it be possible, perceive that my only reason for objecting to the public reading of your translation from the Hebrew in our churches was, lest, bringing forward anything which was, as it were, new and opposed to the authority of the Septuagint version, we should trouble by serious cause of offense the flocks of Christ, whose ears and hearts have become accustomed to listen to that version to which the seal of approbation was given by the apostles themselves. Wherefore, as to that shrub in the book of Jonah,' if in the Hebrew it is neither "gourd" nor "ivy," but something else which stands erect, supported by its own stem without other props, I would prefer to call it "gourd" in all our Latin versions; for I do not think that the Seventy would have rendered it thus at random, had they not known that the plant was something like a gourd".

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