Friday, July 6, 2012

Jerome's Preface to Tobit, Again

I've commented on Jerome's Preface to Tobit before, and I've mentioned that I'm working on something dealing with his translations of Tobit and Judith (see also here).

I've still got some unresolved issues with some parts of Jerome's preface.

Here's the text:
Cromatio et Heliodoro episcopis Hieronymus in Domino salutem. Mirari non desino exactionis uestrae instantiam. Exigitis enim, ut librum chaldeo sermone conscriptum ad latinum stilum traham, librum utique Tobiae, quem Hebraei de catalogo diuinarum Scripturarum secantes, his quae Agiografa memorant manciparunt. Feci satis desiderio uestro, non tamen meo studio. Arguunt enim nos Hebraeorum studia et inputant nobis, contra suum canonem latinis auribus ista transferre. Sed melius esse iudicans Pharisaeorum displicere iudicio et episcoporum iussionibus deseruire, institi ut potui, et quia uicina est Chaldeorum lingua sermoni hebraico, utriusque linguae peritissimum loquacem repperiens, unius diei laborem arripui et quicquid ille mihi hebraicis uerbis expressit, haec ego accito notario, sermonibus latinis exposui. Orationibus uestris mercedem huius operis conpensabo, cum gratum uobis didicero me quod iubere estis dignati conplesse. explicit prologus

The most interesting sentence here is this one: Arguunt enim nos Hebraeorum studia et inputant nobis, contra suum canonem latinis auribus ista transferre. Or, at least, it's the most complicated sentence, both in terms of syntax and meaning.

What is the subject of the sentence? I know of three translations of this preface that are widely available. One by Leslie Cahoon appears in the commentary on Tobit by Carey Moore in the Anchor (Yale) Bible series (1996), p. 62. There the sentence is translated: 
For they [i.e., the Hebrews] insist and accuse us of translating those studies of the Hebrews for Latin ears against their own canon.
Here, the subject seems to be assumed from previous discussion, not the previous sentence, but the one before that, where the "Hebrews" cut Tobit out of the catalogue of divine scriptures. So studia Hebraeorum is then the object of transferre, and ista would have the function of an adjective rather than a pronoun: "those studies of the Hebrews".

Another translation is offered by Vincent T. M. Skemp in his published dissertation, The Vulgate of Tobit Compared with Other Ancient Witnesses (SBL, 2000), 15-16.
For the works of the Jews argue against us, and they accuse us of translating them [= studia, "works"] for Latin ears contrary to their canon.
Skemp takes studia Hebraeorum as the subject of the verbs and ista as the object of transferre

The third translation that I know of is the one by Kevin P. Edgecomb available online at multiple places (e.g., here). 
For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon.
This translation is more-or-less on par with Skemp's.

One further interpretation of this sentence worth noting is the one by Johann Gamberoni, Die Auslegung des Buches Tobias (1969), who does not present a full-fledged translation but does imply that the subject of our sentence is "learned Jews" (gelehrten Juden), which I assume is his interpretation of studia Hebraeorum (p. 75). It doesn't seem to me that that will work.

Against Cahoon and Gamberoni's interpretation, it seems to me that Skemp and Edgecomb are correct to take studia Hebraeorum as the subject of the two main verbs, arguunt and inputant. But what does it mean that "studies" or "works" or perhaps "zeal" accuses Jerome?

Let me offer an interpretation. Maybe Jerome is saying that the study that he himself has put in to learning Hebrew and rabbinic interpretation is now being put to bad use in translating the Book of Tobit, a non-canonical document. He labored for years to learn the Hebrew language and related matters in order to understand better the Bible, but all of this study also allows him to translate documents that really do not deserve the honor. And so the study that he has made of Hebrew now accuses him. In this case, studia Hebraeorum could be translated "studies of Hebrew things" or "zeal for Hebrew matters" or some such.

Of what does it accuse him? Of translating them =  "studies of Hebrew things". What does this mean? Jerome is making available to Latin ears all the knowledge that it took him so long to acquire, again, in this case improperly (because Tobit is not in the catalogue of divine scriptures). He is transferring his study of Hebrew things for Latin ears.

The reason this is bad is because it is against their own canon (contra suum canonem). Whose canon? The reflexive adjective suum should refer to the subject of the sentence. But in this case the subject is impersonal, studia (unless Cahoon's translation above is correct, or that of Gamberoni, which seems unlikely to me). I haven't research Jerome's use of this adjective, but I wonder if it would conform to classical standards. In any case, I just want to put out a suggestion that what Jerome means is that his translation is against the canon of the Latins. After all, in Jerome's mind, the canon of the Latins should be equivalent to the Jewish canon. 

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