I was having a discussion with someone who insisted that one of the major reasons I thought that Augustine objected to Jerome's translation of the Septuagint was completely not true. He argued that the primary reason was more trivial (imo).

I answered this question on Christianity.SE, however, since one of the other members completely disagrees I was hoping for verification or a different opinion. To sum up my answer there if you do not want to read it is that Augustine did not want Jerome to use the Hebrew texts instead of the Greek because there were differences. Jerome argued back that the Hebrew was more reliable to the actual 'ancients.' Augustine came back again saying that the Greek is too wide spread and there may be divisions in the Church if some followed the Hebrew while others followed the Greek because there are significant differences.

My opponent in this argument did not agree with me that Augustine was willing to have Scripture less accurate to the 'ancients' for the sake of church unity.

Is my evaluation reasonably correct or am I wrong, in which case, what was the major objections?

I realize that this might be off topic but considering that these two men were arguing about the Biblical texts of the time I figured it was close enough.

  • Probably both wrong. Augustine did not read Greek, he had Latin bible.
    – user1985
    Mar 6, 2013 at 19:37
  • Hi fredsbend! I like the question, but I'd like it even more if it summarized the material you put in your answer on Christianity. Basically, the question is a lot of "inside baseball" and I think it needs to be sharpened to focus on the actual translation issue that Jerome and Augustine were in disagreement over. As it is, it's too hard to answer. Mar 6, 2013 at 23:27
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    @jonE okay, I will try to find some time for that in the next few days.
    – user2055
    Mar 6, 2013 at 23:30
  • It looks like I may need to chime in here, just haven't had the time. But this is a fascinating bit of history - I've had the privilege of reading the letters Augustine and Jerome wrote back and forth (all free online of course).
    – Dan
    Mar 8, 2013 at 23:28

1 Answer 1


Augustine believed that 1) the Septuagint was superior to all other translations, including Jerome's translation of the Hebrew Bible; 2) Augustine was concerned over the unity between the Latin and the Greek churches and 3) was also concerned people might leave the church after hearing a translation that differed from that which they have been accustomed to hear for generations. I think that Augustine thought the first reason was more important: he believed the church preferred the Septuagint and that its words, where they differed from the Hebrew, were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The following is a passage from the City of God (about 410) which Augustine argues the the Septuagint was superior. It was written after his correspondence with Jerome:

City of God, Book 18, Chapter 43

For while there were other interpreters who translated these sacred oracles out of the Hebrew tongue into Greek, as Aquila, Symmathus, and Theodotion, and also that translation which, as the name of the author is unknown, is quoted as the fifth edition, yet the Church has received this Septuagint translation just as if it were the only one; and it has been used by the Greek Christian people, most of whom are not aware that there is any other. From this translation there has also been made a translation in the Latin tongue, which the Latin churches use. Our times, however, have enjoyed the advantage of the presbyter Jerome, a man most learned, and skilled in all three languages, who translated these same Scriptures into the Latin speech, not from the Greek, but from the Hebrew. But although the Jews acknowledge this very learned labor of his to be faithful, while they contend that the Septuagint translators have erred in many places, still the churches of Christ judge that no one should be preferred to the authority of so many men, chosen for this very great work by Eleazar, who was then high priest; for even if there had not appeared in them one spirit, without doubt divine, and the seventy learned men had, after the manner of men, compared together the words of their translation, that what pleased them all might stand, no single translator ought to be preferred to them; but since so great a sign of divinity has appeared in them, certainly, if any other translator of their Scriptures from the Hebrew into any other tongue is faithful, in that case he agrees with these seventy translators, and if he is not found to agree with them, then we ought to believe that the prophetic gift is with them. For the same Spirit who was in the prophets when they spoke these things was also in the seventy men when they translated them, so that assuredly they could also say something else, just as if the prophet himself had said both, because it would be the same Spirit who said both; and could say the same thing differently, so that, although the words were not the same, yet the same meaning should shine forth to those of good understanding; and could omit or add something, so that even by this it might be shown that there was in that work not human bondage, which the translator owed to the words, but rather divine power, which filled and ruled the mind of the translator.

Source: Correspondence of Augustine and Jerome concerning the Latin Translation of the Bible

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    "Augustine believed that the Septuagint was superior to all other translation" - I believe what he actually said in City of God was that the two deserved equal weight.
    – user33515
    Jan 5, 2018 at 3:52

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