Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis

By Saint Jerome; C. T. R. Hayward | Go to book overview
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Hebrew Questions on the Book of Genesis by Saint Jerome the Presbyter

At the beginning of my books, I ought to set forth the subject- matter of the work which follows; but I am compelled first of all to reply to things which have been said by way of abuse, and thereby I uphold something of the attitude of Terence, who used to put on stage the prologues of his comedies as a defence of his own work. For Luscius Lanvinus, who is like our Luscius, used to press him and charge him with being a poet-thief from the public treasury. The Mantuan bard also suffered this same thing from his rivals, so that he was dubbed a 'plunderer of the ancients' when he translated certain verses of Homer in a literal fashion. In reply, he told these men that it takes great strength to wrench the club of Hercules from his hand. And even Cicero, who stood at the very height of Roman eloquence as king of public speakers and as one who made glorious the Latin language, is accused by the Greeks of expropriation.

So it is not astonishing if filthy swine grunt against me as being a tiny little man, and trample pearls with their feet; since spite flames out against the most learned men and those who should have to overcome jealousy with renown. But justly did this happen to those men whose eloquence used to thunder forth in the theatres, the Senate House, the public assembly, and at the speakers' platform: for bravery in the public arena always has those who are jealous of it, and lightning-flashes strike the highest mountains. But I am far away from the cities, the market-place, the lawcourts, and the crowds; even so, as Quintilian says: Jealousy discovers the one who lies hidden from view. Wherefore I beseech the reader (if, however, anyone shall read these things, held captive by love) that, in the Book of Hebrew Questions which I have set out to write on the whole of Holy Scripture, he should not seek eloquence, nor the charm of public speakers; but rather that he should himself make reply to our enemies on our behalf, that pardon be granted to a new work. 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

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