Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on the Book of Genesis

There is a translation of Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis done by C.T.R. Hayward and published by Clarendon Press at Oxford. The text of the “Questions” is not very long, and probably not valuable on the whole to most readers. There are not a lot of profound exegetical thoughts, for example. On the other hand, it is useful to show the state of the Hebrew and Septuagint texts in Jerome’s day. Thus, from a textual critical standpoint, it is a very interesting and potentially useful work.

I’ve gleaned a few quotations that I found to be of interest as I was going through the work. They all relate to the Scriptures.

1) Preface, pp. 28-29:

For just as we ourselves are lowly and poor little ones, and neither have riches, nor are worthy to receive them when they are presented; so they also should recognize that they cannot put knowledge of the Scriptures (that is, the riches of Christ) on par with the riches of the world.

2) Preface, p. 30:

This one thing I say: that I would wish, along with hatred of his name, also to have knowledge of the Scriptures, and to value as a trifle the images and shadows of ghosts, whose nature is said to be to terrify little children and to chatter in dark corners.

3) At Genesis 16:17, p. 50

There is a difference of opinion why was called Isaac, but only one etymology of the name; for Isaac means ‘laughter’. Some people say that because Saraa had laughed, he was therefore called ‘laughter’; but this is incorrect. Others, however, say that it was because Abraham laughed; and this is what we approve. For it was in consequence of Abraham’s laughter that his son was called Isaac; only then do we read that Saraa also laughed. But it should be known that four persons in the Old Testament were called by their names without any concealment before they were born: Ishmael, Isaac, Solomon, and Josias. Read the Scriptures.

4) At Genesis 32:8-9, pp. 70-71

Now in the Book of Names, the statement which explains Israel as meaning ‘a man seeing God’ or ‘a mind seeing God’, a clichĂ© of almost everybody’s speech, seems to me to explain the word not so much accurately as in a manner that is forced. For Israel in this verse is written in these letters, iod, sin, res, aleph, lamed, which means ‘prince of God’, or, ‘directed one of God’, that is, euthutatos theou. But ‘a man seeing God’ is written with these letters: ‘man’ is written with three letters aleph, iod, sin (so that it is pronounced is), and ‘seeing’ with three, res, aleph, he, and is pronounced raa. Then el is written with two letters, aleph and lamed, and means ‘God’ or ‘strong one’. So although those men are of powerful influence and eloquence, and the shadow of those who have understood Israel as ‘man or mind seeing God’ weighs down upon us, we are led rather by the authority of Scripture and of the angel or God who called him Israel, than by the authority of any secular eloquence.

– TurretinFan


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