Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jerome on justification

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So, for this next period I will be focusing on Augustine and his contemporaries. Before I jump right into the big man himself, I thought it would be beneficial to read a little Jerome to get a better idea of where the West was before Augustine struck. I also just so happened to have received Dr. Thomas Sheck’s translation of Jerome’s commentary on Galatians, so I figured it was meant to be.

Before unpacking some of Jerome’s theology, it is essential to note that Jerome was highly influenced by Origen and was known to use Origen’s commentary extensively when writing his own. Jerome admits this in his preface,[1] and will at times quote word for word from Origen’s commentary when exegeting a text.[2] It is also important to understand that Jerome was borrowing much from the other Greek fathers that came before him, which means we are not only getting Jerome’s views in the commentary, but those who came before him as well.

Origen’s influence is evident in Jerome’s views relating to justification. Like Origen[3], he identifies the remission of sins being for only past sins.[4] Jerome also identifies being “in Christ” as being in all the virtues.
This is seen when he comments on Galatians 2:20a:

The one who once lived in the law, who persecuted the Church, does not live; but “Christ lives in him,” wisdom, strength, speech, peace, joy, and the other virtues. The one who does not have these cannot say, “But Christ lives in me.”[5]
Like Origen, Jerome also states that certain vices, if carried out by Christians, can exclude them from the kingdom of God.[6] When discussing the need to love our brothers and help those who are weak, Jerome asserts that we will all be judged by the Lord based on whether we support our brothers, and we will be judged to be either sinners or saints.[7]
However, also like Origen, Jerome emphatically champions forgiveness apart from works:

Through both [grace and peace], apart from the merit of works, our former sins have been   forgiven us and peace after pardon has been granted.[8]

In many other places, Jerome underscores the fact that without Christ, we could not be saved. In commentating on Galatians 3:10 he writes:

                For none of those others [just men], however much they became the very curse, liberated anyone from the curse, save only the Lord Jesus Christ, who by His own precious blood redeemed us from the curse of the law….[9]

            Unfortunately, my time is very limited and I need to stop here. Hopefully this is enough of a glance to see the storm that is brewing. Augustine will soon be arriving on the scene with some very different ideas. The plan is to read up on Augustine for the next two weeks and then write my extended paper the third week. I am excited to see what I uncover.


[1] Scheck, Thomas. St. Jerome’s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus, and Philemon. Univ. of Notre Dame P: 2010.  Page 49
[2] Which is unfortunately lost to us today
[3] Though this view seems to have been circulating prior to Origen since it is assumed throughout the Shepherd of Hermas
[4] St. Jerome 58
[5] Ibid 108
[6] See pp. 233-241. Jerome speaks using “we” implying that if even he should do such things, he would be excluded from the kingdom of heaven
[7] St. Jerome 258
[8] Ibid 58
[9] St. Jerome’s 133

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