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Happy St. Jerome Day! September 30, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Translation Sites.

Translators and interpreters celebrate September 30th as their day, since it is the Feast Day of the patron saint of librarians, scripture scholars, students, and of course, translators and interpreters. Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius, better known today as Saint Jerome, was born sometime between 340 and 347 AD in Stridon, which is located on the Italian side of the modern Italian-Croatian border. He studied theology in Trier, which is one of my favorite German cities.

St. Jerome is one of the few people awarded sainthood in recognition of services rendered to the Church rather than for eminent sanctity or miracles. St. Jerome earned his place in history mainly for his translations and revisions of the Bible. He revised translations of the Gospels and the Psalms and translated the Old and New Testaments into Latin. This translation was recognized eleven centuries later by the Council of Trent as the official version of the Bible: the Vulgate.

Jerome’s humility regarding his own work set a good example for translators who followed him. He freely admitted ignorance, even embarrassment, when warranted, and revisited some of his translations, making corrections and additions. On the other hand, he also pointed out that a translation’s accuracy depended greatly on the reliability of the source text: copyists often inadvertently introduced errors, which would be compounded and passed down through the centuries.

Perhaps his most famous mistranslation put horns on Moses’s head. The original Hebrew scripture (Exodus 34) stated that when Moses descended from Mt. Sinai, he had “rays of light” coming from his head. The Hebrew word can also mean “horns,” and Jerome chose the latter meaning. This error has been perpetuated to the present in many ways. When Michelangelo sculpted a marble Moses in 1515, he relied on Jerome’s description in the Latin Vulgate translation. The resulting 235-cm-high horned statue can be seen in Rome (S. Pietro in Vincoli) today.

St. Jerome is usually depicted as a half-clad anchorite, with cross, skull and Bible for the only furniture of his cell, his red hat or some other indication of his rank somewhere in the picture. He is also often depicted with a lion, due to a medieval story in which he removed a thorn from a lion’s paw, and, less often, an owl, the symbol of wisdom and scholarship. Writing materials and the trumpet of final judgment are also part of his iconography.

St. Jerome died at Bethlehem from a long illness on September 30, 420. He is buried at St. Mary Major in Rome.

* This post was cobbled together from The Translator Interpreter Hall of Fame, Wikipedia, and here. For some fun with St. Jerome, see Sue Ellen Wright and Jost Zetzsche’s Jeromobot videos. We’ve also heard rumors that Jeromobot will be at this year’s ATA conference.



1. Serge Mboule - September 30, 2008

Hi fellow translators,

Happy St jerome from Cameroon. I am Serge Mboule,senior translator,working from English to French.
I wish you all the best.

Serge Mboule
senior translator

2. theo marube (@theomarube) - August 29, 2011

Already planning for St. Jerome Day 2011 get- together in Kenya…send in ideas

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