I would be interested in readers' reactions to St. Jerome's use of Jesus' comment on the prayer shawls. Matthew 23 records Jesus' comment about the pharisees:
- 5. They make their phylacteries (boxes with Scripture verses) wide and the tassels on their garments long.
6. they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
7. they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
Jesus didn't say that the tassels themselves were bad. The tassels were commanded to be worn in Deuteronomy 22:12 ("Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear."
) Rather, Jesus focused on teaching humility, and he viewed the pharisees as having pride in a place of prominence.I would like to ask
people's views about St. Jerome's observation on this topic. He wrote in a letter to Brother Anthony about this: "Iudaicus populus primas sibi cathedras et salutationes in foro uindicans deputato antea in stillam situlae gentili populo succedente deletes est.
My best guess is that this says: "The gentile people, who were assigned previously to a drop in the bucket, succeeded the Jewish people, who claimed first place in the seats and greetings in the squares, and which is deleted."
The full passage in Jerome's letter runs as follows:
While the disciples were disputing concerning precedence our Lord, the teacher of humility, took a little child and said: “Except ye be converted and become as little children ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” And lest He should seem to preach more than he practised, He fulfilled His own precept in His life. For He washed His disciples’ feet, he received the traitor with a kiss, He conversed with the woman of Samaria, He spoke of the kingdom of heaven with Mary at His feet, and when He rose again from the dead He showed Himself first to some poor women. Pride is opposed to humility, and through it Satan lost his eminence as an archangel.
The Jewish people perished in their pride, for while they claimed the chief seats and salutations in the market place, (Matthew 23:6-7) they were superseded by the Gentiles, who had before been counted as “a drop of a bucket.” (Isaiah 40:15) Two poor fishermen, Peter and James, were sent to confute the sophists and the wise men of the world. As the Scripture says: “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.” Think, brother, what a sin it must be which has God for its opponent. In the Gospel the Pharisee is rejected because of his pride, and the publican is accepted because of his humility.
Another translation says:
For, while they claimed that they deserved the most important seats and greetings in the market place, the Gentiles, who used to be considered “a drop in a bucket,” displaced them.However, wouldn't you say that "succeed" is a much better translation for St. Jerome's word succedente, than supersede or displace?
In any case, let's get down to what St. Jerome meant.
St. Jerome learned Hebrew from Jewish Christians who he described in a positive way. He mentioned those who were still following Moses' laws, which would have included the tassels. And he translated the Old Testament from Hebrew, rather than use the Greek LXX. So he is not particularly prejudiced.
Further, the context of the passage seems to be that he is making practical observations about the results of pride. Besides that, he obviously cannot mean that the Jewish people "perished" or were "deleted" in a literal sense, because many of them were still around when he wrote. On a sidenote, I find the mention of a people being "deleted" confusing as it comes from Jerome who was sympathetic to Jewish Christians. Bishop Epiphanius came from a Jewish background and was St. Jerome's mentor.
In any case, doesn't St. Jerome mean that the gentile people have succeeded to the position formerly held by the Jewish people. Namely, while the lowly gentiles were previously assigned to be just a drop in God's spiritual community, they now generally fill the leading roles in the Church?Drops of stars in God's bucket.