John Emerson of Idiocentrism has alerted me to a webpage presenting the correspondence of Augustine and Jerome concerning the Latin translation of the Bible: three letters from the former, one from the latter, and an excerpt from Book 18 of Augustine’s City of God. Jerome slaps Augustine down pretty effectively:

… you ask why a former translation which I made of some of the canonical books was carefully marked with asterisks and obelisks, whereas I afterwards published a translation without these. You must pardon my saying that you seem to me not to understand the matter: for the former translation is from the Septuagint; and wherever obelisks are placed, they are designed to indicate that the Seventy have said more than is found in the Hebrew. But the asterisks indicate what has been added by Origen from the version of Theodotion. In that version I was translating from the Greek: but in the later version, translating from the Hebrew itself, I have expressed what I understood it to mean, being careful to preserve rather the exact sense than the order of the words. I am surprised that you do not read the books of the Seventy translators in the genuine form in which they were originally given to the world, but as they have been corrected, or rather corrupted, by Origen, with his obelisks and asterisks [...]. Do you wish to be a true admirer and partisan of the Seventy translators? Then do not read what you find under the asterisks; rather erase them from the volumes, that you may approve yourself indeed a follower of the ancients. If, however, you do this, you will be compelled to find fault with all the libraries of the Churches; for you will scarcely find more than one manuscript here and there which has not these interpolations.


  1. Asterix and Obelix, none the less!

  2. Slap down? Jerome was good for that. He was notorious for it. Someone told him once that considering his foul disposition and the way he treated people, it was a good thing he had translated the Bible to balance all that wickedness in his nature. You have to be some kind of a son-of-a-bitch to need to translate the Bible to get into heaven.

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