Friday, August 29, 2008

Chaldean Truth

This post is designed merely to help people locate Jerome’s phrase “Chaldean truth”. I spent about twenty minutes Googling it in every variation I could think of (e.g. “Chaldee verity” etc.), all in vain. Finally, I noticed that I had already cited it in a paper I wrote several months ago.

As readers of Jerome will know, he speaks constantly of the Hebrew truth (Hebraica veritas) as his rallying cry to return to the original language of the OT. He does the same for the NT, speaking of the “Greek truth” in his preface to the Gospels (cf. Stuttgart Vulgate, ed. Weber, p. 1515, line 4), but Greek is not so often associated with Jerome because he did so little work on the NT compared with the OT. Scholars have, in fact, failed to find traces of his revision activity in the NT outside of the Gospels; the rest of the NT was revised, but by an anonymous editor, whom some modern scholars identify as Rufinus the Syrian (not Rufinus of Aquileia).

Since part of the Bible is written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew, Jerome naturally does not apply the phrase Hebraica veritas to this portion. Here is his Commentary on Daniel 5:11; the lemma is underlined.

Est vir in regno tuo qui spiritum deorum sanctorum habet in se. Praeter Symmachum, qui chaldaicam veritatem secutus est, ceteri ‘spiritum Dei’ interpretati sunt.

Jerome says that Symmachus alone among Greek translators follows the “Chaldean truth” by using the plural “gods” rather than the singular “God.”

At any rate, my interest in this comment is in the phrase chaldaica veritas. I hope that if anyone wants to find Jerome’s statement about it, this post will make it easier to locate.