Jerome and Augustine

By Sean Finnegan

Jerome’s Life (347-419) 

  • actual name: Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus 
  • excellent Latin education, highly intelligent 
  • learned Greek and Hebrew 
  • lived as a hermit in the Syrian desert  
  • 382-385 served as secretary to Pope Damasus I, bishop of Rome 

Jerome’s Asceticism  

  • believed everyone should be celibate 
  • worked a lot with wealthy widows from the senatorial class and their daughters 
  • thought the only benefit from marriage was the production of more virgins 
  • after Paula’s daughter Blaesilla died, he moved to Bethlehem 
  • spent his time engaging in controversies by letter, translating the Bible and other literature into Latin, and writing commentaries on scripture 

Jerome’s Writings 

  • though deeply influenced by classical literature, especially Cicero, he advocated only reading the Bible and Christian literature 
  • worked on the Vulgate (382-405) 
  • became the dominant Latin Bible for the Roman Catholic Church from 600 onwards, though in Jerome’s day many still preferred a translation of the Septuagint (including Augustine) 
  • translated Origen’s On First Principles, Pachomius’ Rule, and Eusebius’ Historical Chronicle into Latin 
  • Lives of Illustrious Men provides short biographies of many early Christians 
  • Commentaries on many books of the Bible 

Augustine’s Early Life (354-430) 

  • grew up in North Africa with a Christian mother, Monica, and a pagan father, Patrick 
  • had an excellent education in Carthage 
  • particularly influenced by Cicero’s dialogues, especially his Hortensius 
  • became a teacher of rhetoric in Rome then Milan 

Augustine’s Sexual Life 

  • stealing pears as a teenager 
  • “I was burning to find satisfaction… I ran wild in the shadowy jungle of erotic adventures.” (Confessions 2.1.1)1 
  • At Carthage, he said, “all around me hissed a cauldron of illicit loves” (Confessions 3.1.1) 
  • took a concubine from a lower class and lived with her for 13 years and had a son with her, Adeodatus 
  • his mother convinced him to send his concubine away so he could be eligible to marry a well-born woman 
  • couldn’t live chastely in the interval and took another concubine 

Augustine’s Journey to Christianity 

  • had encountered the scriptures but said they “seemed to me unworthy in comparison with the dignity of Cicero” (Confessions 3.5.9) 
  • became a Manichaean for 9 years 
  • believed in Astrology for a long while 
  • found great satisfaction in Neo-Platonism, especially the writings of Plotinus and Porphyry 
  • checked out Bishop Ambrose just to listen to his rhetoric and was impressed 
  • heard a voice saying, “pick up and read [tolle, lege]” and opened to Romans 13.13-14 
  • 387 Ambrose baptized Augustine and Adeodatus 

Augustine’s Bishopric (395-430) 

  • became bishop of Hippo Regius and served for 35 years 
  • preached regularly, held court twice a week, counselled people 
  • engaged in many controversies with Manichaeans, Donatists, Pelagians, and pagans. 

Augustine’s Writings 

  • wrote approximately five million words 
  • Confessions: an autobiography 
  • City of God: responds to Alaric’s sack of Rome in 410 as well as lays out extensive interpretation of the Bible and key doctrines 
  • On the Trinity: defended the Trinity and explained it philosophically 
  • Also many letters, commentaries, and treatises  

Augustine’s Thought 

  • original sin passed down a corrupted nature incapable of doing good 
  • God predestined the elect to be saved 
  • the elect go to heaven to live eternally 
  • the damned go to hell to be tormented eternally 

Augustine’s Influence 

  • probably the most influential Christian of the first millennium 
  • codified Catholic doctrine that held sway throughout the Middle Ages 
  • Martin Luther was himself and Augustinian monk and the Reformation was largely a return to Augustinian Christianity  


  • Jerome and Augustine were influential Christians who shaped Christianity in the fifth century. 
  • Both received excellent educations and voluntarily chose ascetic, celibate lifestyles. 
  • Both were influenced by Origen, especially his allegorical hermeneutic.  
  • Jerome's translation of the Bible into Latin from Hebrew and Greek--the Vulgate--became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. 
  • Augustine had a fraught and lengthy battle with lust that eventually led him to celibacy. 
  • Augustine was a Manichean, a believer in astrologer, and a Neo-Platonist before he became a Christian. 
  • Augustine battled Manicheans, Donatists, Pelagians, and Pagans throughout his career. 
  • He advocated original sin, infant baptism, eternal life in heaven, eternal torment in hell, predestination of the elect, and celibate clergy. 
  • More than anyone else in the first thousand years, Augustine's thought influenced Roman Catholic doctrine. 
  • To a degree, the Reformation itself was a return to Augustinian Christianity. 
LHIM Weekly Bible Teachings
LHIM Weekly Bible Teachings
Jerome and Augustine

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