Thursday, June 08, 2006

Paula and Jerome

This post is dedicated to my brother who emailed suggesting that I write about Paula. It seems fitting that this last post should be once again directly about women and Bible translation.

Paula was a wealthy widow of the 4th century, who left grown and married children in Rome, and along with her daughter Eustochium, lived in Bethlehem for 20 years in a religious community of men and women, which she built to support the work of Jerome in translating the Latin Vulgate.

She funded and adminstered the four houses of the community, the chapels and the hostel. She requested, urged and compelled the scholar Jerome to pursue and maintain his work on translation and commentary. She studied Greek and Hebrew and worked along with Jerome for 20 years.

Many of his translations are dedicated to her, they traveled together and letters attest to a close relationship. Although he outlived her for many years, he was buried beside her.
    In some privileged late medieval circles, where religious men and women were mingling with a measure of freedom for devotional and instructional purposes, the relationships of early saints such as Jerome and the widow Paula perhaps provided an inspirational model for later similar pairings, and one that implicitly endorsed not only the education of women but also the act of translating sacred texts into the vernacular. Here
Although Jerome has been described as curmudgeonly, misdirected, and argumentative, Paula saw his potential, and inspired, funded and adminstered the extensive scholarly work that they produced together. When he left off a particularly difficult commentary, she insisted that he persevere, Obsequar igitur voluntati tuae "I shall submit to your will," he responded.

He wrote to Paula and her daughter,

    There are people, O Paula and Eustochium, who take offence at seeing your names at the beginning of my works. These people do not know that Olda [Huldah] prophesied when the men were mute, that while Barak trembled, Deborah saved Israel, that Judith and Esther delivered from supreme peril the children of God. I pass over in silence Anna and Elizabeth and the other holy women of the Gospel, but humble stars when compared with the great luminary, Mary.
      Shall I speak now of the illustrious women among the heathen? Does not Plato have Aspasia speak in his dialogues? Does not Sappho hold the lyre at the same time as Alcaeus and Pindar? Did not Themista philosophize with the sages of Greece? And the mother of the Gracchi, your Cornelia, daughter of Cato, wife of Brutus, before whom pale the austere virtue of the father and the courage of the husband --are they not the pride of the whole of Rome? I shall add but one word more. Was it not to women that Our Lord appeared after His resurrection? Yes, and the men could then blush for not having sought what women had found. - Saint Jerome
        The roles in their relationship are demonstrated in this letter which Jerome wrote to Eustochium, who continued the work of her mother after she died.
          ... he addresses her as "my Eustochium, my daughter, my mistress, my companion, my sister," and tells her "my age, your worth, our profession and our love of God, permit me to give you all these names." Here
            How better to end this chapter of my blog!

            In spite of all my intentions to close this blog until next fall, I may drop in from time to time. People occasionally hand me a book and say "This is for your blog!"

            As for the rest, remember the good and forget the bad. I hope you have enjoyed some of the stories that were told to me.

            5 comments:

            codepoke said...

            Beautiful, and tremendously encouraging. Thank you for this post, and for all the posts.

            Lord bless you this summer.

            Michael F. Bird said...

            Suzanne,
            That's good post to end on before the summer. Don't wait too long before you start posting again!!

            SingingOwl said...

            Thanks, Suzanne.

            I just talked about Jerome and Paula a few weeks ago in a sermon (Mother's Day) about strong women. :-)

            Be blessed. Thanks for all your excellent and thought-provoking posts. Enjoy your summer!

            Patchouli said...

            Suzanne, I always leave your blog challenged and inspired. I will most definitely miss your posts, and look forward to your return.

            lingamish said...

            I don't know if we'll survive without you. Have a great summer.