St Jerome, patron saint of translators - feast day 30 September

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (c.342-420) was a scholar and linguist who is famous in the history of translation for introducing the concept of "sense-for-sense", not "word-for-word". Today it is widely accepted that translation aims to reproduce the meaning of the source text in the language into which it is being translated, rather than replacing each word individually in a process of dictionary lookup. Born in a Christian family in Dalmatia, Eusebius studied in Rome and Trier, before a period spent at a hermitage in the Syrian desert. He was ordained a priest, and after study at Constantinople returned to Rome, where he became secretary to Pope Damasus. The Pope commissioned a Latin translation of the Bible for which Jerome brought to bear his education and scholarly approach, producing the "Vulgate" Bible, based partly on a revision of earlier Latin translations, partly retranslation from Hebrew where he felt these translations were inadequate. Jerome produced a huge number of translations, but it seems he was hot-tempered and had made enemies with satirical attacks on fellow clergy and an abrupt manner. In 385 he was banned from Rome. Jerome's scholarly approach and focus on the reader lies behind much of today's thinking about translation.


Saint Jerome in his study

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (right)


St Jerome in the desert

Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden,

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (left)


Legend has it that St Jerome took a thorn out of a lion's paw, and the lion accompanied him for the rest of his life. Many paintings show St Jerome with the lion.

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