Jerome - Theological Writings

Theological Writings

Practically all of Jerome's productions in the field of dogma have a more or less vehemently polemical character, and are directed against assailants of the orthodox doctrines. Even the translation of the treatise of Didymus the Blind on the Holy Spirit into Latin (begun in Rome 384, completed at Bethlehem) shows an apologetic tendency against the Arians and Pneumatomachoi. The same is true of his version of Origen's De principiis (ca. 399), intended to supersede the inaccurate translation by Rufinus. The more strictly polemical writings cover every period of his life. During the sojourns at Antioch and Constantinople he was mainly occupied with the Arian controversy, and especially with the schisms centering around Meletius of Antioch and Lucifer Calaritanus. Two letters to Pope Damasus (15 and 16) complain of the conduct of both parties at Antioch, the Meletians and Paulinians, who had tried to draw him into their controversy over the application of the terms ousia and hypostasis to the Trinity. At the same time or a little later (379) he composed his Liber Contra Luciferianos, in which he cleverly uses the dialogue form to combat the tenets of that faction, particularly their rejection of baptism by heretics.

In Rome (ca. 383) he wrote a passionate counterblast against the teaching of Helvidius, in defense of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary and of the superiority of the single over the married state. An opponent of a somewhat similar nature was Jovinianus, with whom he came into conflict in 392 (Adversus Jovinianum, Against Jovinianus) and the defense of this work addressed to his friend Pammachius, numbered 48 in the letters). Once more he defended the ordinary Catholic practices of piety and his own ascetic ethics in 406 against the Gallic presbyter Vigilantius, who opposed the cultus of martyrs and relics, the vow of poverty, and clerical celibacy. Meanwhile the controversy with John II of Jerusalem and Rufinus concerning the orthodoxy of Origen occurred. To this period belong some of his most passionate and most comprehensive polemical works: the Contra Joannem Hierosolymitanum (398 or 399); the two closely connected Apologiae contra Rufinum (402); and the "last word" written a few months later, the Liber tertius seu ultima responsio adversus scripta Rufini. The last of his polemical works is the skilfully composed Dialogus contra Pelagianos (415).

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