Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Incipit prologus Tobiae

St. Jerome (ca. 347-420 AD) translated the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit from Aramaic into Latin during the first decade of the fifth century. Here follows my English translation of Jerome's preface to his version of Tobit. It is based on the Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate (ed. R. Weber, 4th edition, 1994, p. 676).
Jerome to Cromatius and Heliodorus, bishops, greetings in the Lord.
I do not cease to marvel at the urgency of your demand. For you demand that I bring into Latin style a book composed in Chaldean speech, namely, the book of Tobit, which the Hebrews, excising [it] from the catalogue of divine Scriptures, transfer to those which they term Agiografa. I have satisfied your desire, but not with my own enthusiasm (studium). For Hebrew studies (Hebraeorum studia) accuse us and charge us with transferring them for Latin ears contrary to their own canon. But considering (iudicans) it better to displease the opinion (iudicium) of Pharisees and to be subject to the commands of bishops, I have done as well as I can, and because the language of the Chaldeans is close to Hebrew speech, finding a speaker expert in both languages, I set aside (arripui, lit. “seized”) the labor of a single day and whatever he expressed to me in Hebrew words, these things I related in Latin speech to the scribe that I had summoned.
I will consider your utterances (or “prayers”; orationes) the wages for this work, when I will have learned that I have completed in a manner pleasing to you what you saw fit to command.

Explicit prologus

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