This combined work of Jerome and Gennadius is unique and indispensable in the history of early Christian literature, giving as it does a chronological history in biographies of ecclesiastical literature to about the end of the fifth century. For the period after the end of Eusebius' Church History it is of prime value.
I. The work of Jerome was written at Bethlehem in 492. It contains 135 writers from Peter up to that date. In his preface Jerome limits the scope of his work to those who have written on Holy Scriptures, but in carrying out his plans he includes all who have written on theological topics; whether Orthodox or Heretic, Greek, Latin, Syriac, and even Jews and Heathen (Josephus, Philo, Seneca). The Syriac writers mentioned are however few. Gennadius apologizes for the scanty representation which they have in Jerome on the ground that the latter did not understand Syriac, and only knew of such as had been translated.
The motive of the work was, as the preface declares, to show the heretics how many and how excellent writers there were among the Christians. The direct occasion of the undertaking was the urgency of his friend Dexter, and his models were first of all Suetonius, and then various Greek and Latin biographical works including the Brutus of Cicero.
Jerome expressly states in his preface that he had no predecessor in his work, but very properly acknowledges his indebtedness to the Church History of Eusebius, from whom he takes much verbatim. The first part of the work is taken almost entirely from Eusebius.
The whole work gives evidence of hasty construction (e.g., in failure to enumerate the works of well-known writers or in giving only selections from the list of their writings) but too much has been made of this for ill such work absolute exhaustiveness is all but impossible, and in the circumstances of those days, such a list of writers and their works is really remarkable. He apologizes in the preface for omitting such as are not known to him in his "Out of the way corner of the earth." He has been accused of too great credulity, in accepting e.g., the letters of Paul to Seneca as genuine, but on the other hand he often shows himself both cautious (Hilary, Song of S.) and critical (Minutius Felix De Fato).
The work was composed with a practical purpose rather than a scientific one and kept in general well within that purpose-giving brief information about writers not generally known. This is perhaps why in writings of the better known writers like Cyprian he does not enumerate their works.
2. The work of Gennadius was written about 430 according to some, or 492 to 495 according to others. Ebert with the Benedictins and others before him, makes an almost conclusive argument in favor of the earlier date on the ground that Gennadius speaks of Timotheus Aelurus who died in 477 as still living. This compels the rejection of the paragraph on Gennadius himself as by a later hand but this should probably be done at any rate, on other grounds. The mss. suggest that Gennadius ended with John of Antioch, although an hypothesis of three editions before the year 500, of which perhaps two were by Gennadius, has grounds. The bulk of the work at least was composed about 480 (probably chapters 1-90) and the remainder added perhaps within a few years by Gennadius or more probably two other hands.
Gennadius style is as bare and more irregular than Jerome's but he more frequently expresses a critical judgment and gives more interesting glimpses of his own-the semi-Pelagian-point of view. The work appears more original than Jerome's and as a whole hardly less valuable, though the period he covers is so much shorter.
I. The literature on Jerome is immense. The most often quoted general works are Zöckler, Hieronymus. Gotha, 1865 and Thierry, St. Jérome Par. 1867. On Jerome in general the article by Freemantle in Smith and Wace Dict. of Christian Biography is the first for the English reader to turn to. Ceillier and other patrologies, while sufficiently full for their purpose, give very little special treatment to this work, Ebert ( Gesch. chr.-Lat.-Lit. Lpz. 1874) being a partial exception to this statement. The best literary sources are the prolegomena and notes to the various editions of the work itself. Much the same may be said of Gennadius though the relative importance of his catalogue among his writings gives that a larger proportionate attention. In English the article by Cazenove in Smith and Wace and in French the account in the Histoire litteraire de la France are the best generally accessible references.
2. Literature on the writers mentioned by Jerome and Gennadius. Any one who cares to follow up in English the study of any of the writers mentioned in the Lives of illustrious men will find tools therefor: 1. For the earlier writers to the time of Eusebius, Eusebius Church History tr. M'Giffert (N. Y. Chr. Lit. Co.) notes. 2. For the whole period: Smith and Wace Dict. of Christian Biography, 4 vols. and more accessible to most (though a cheap reprint of Smith and Wace is now threatened) Schaff. Church Hist. (N. Y. Scribners) where at the end of each volume an account is given of the chief writers of the period including admirable bibliographical reference.
Of course the best source is the works themselves: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Coxe, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers ed. Schaff and Wace. (N. Y. Christian Literature Co.) For further research the student is referred to the list of Patrologies and Bibliographies in the supplementary volume of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, to the bibliography of Ante-Nicene Fathers in the same volume, to Chevalier. Dict. des sources hist. and the memoranda by Sittl, in the Jahresberichte ü. d. fortschr. d. class. Alterthwiss. 1887 sq.
The manuscripts of Jerome and Gennadius are numerous. The translator has seen 84 mss. of Jerome and 57 of Gennadius and has certain memoranda of at least 25 more and hints of still another score. It is certainly within bounds to say that there are more than 150 mss. of Jerome extant and not less than 100 of Gennadius.
The oldest of those examined (and all the oldest of which he could learn were seen) are at Rome, Verona, Vercelli, Montpellier, Paris, Munich and Vienna.
The editions of Jerome are relatively as numerous as the mss. The Illustrious men is included in almost all the editions of his collected works, in his collected "minor writings" and in many of the editions of his epistles (most of the editions in fact from 1468 to about 1530)
It is several times printed separately or with Gennadius or other catalogues. The editions of Gennadius are less numerous but he is often united with Jerome in the editions of Jerome's collected works, and generally in the separate editions.
The following list of editions is printed as illustrative. It does not pretend to be complete, but is simply a list of such as have been personally examined by the translator up to date; s. l. et a (6) + 390 ff, 62, 11.; s. l. et a. (1468?) 223ff, 2 col. 50 11.; Rome 1468. P. de Max; (Compluti?) 1470; Rome 1470; Mogunt 1470; s. l. et a. (Augsb. Zainer 1470); s. l. et a. 1470, 4º 23 11: s. a. "JA. RV" 1471?; Rome 1479; Parma 1480; Ven. 1488; Basil 1489; Ven. 1490; Basil 1492 Norimb. 1495; s. l. 1496?; Basil 1497; Eyons, 1508; Paris 1512; Lyons 1513; Lyons 1518 Basil 1525 Lyons 1526 (Erasmus); Basil 1526 (Erasm) Basil 1529 Lyons 1530 Paris 1534; Frankfort 1549; Bas. 1553; Bas. 1565; Rome 1565; Rome 1576 Colon 1580: Paris 1609; Helmst 1611-12 Cologne 1616; Frf. ; Antw. 1639 Frf. 1684; Paris 1706 (Martianay & Pouget); Helmst. 1700; Hamb. 1718; Veron. 1734-42 (Vallarsi); repr. 1766-72; Florence 1791; Paris 1865 (Migne); Lpz. 1879 (Herding) Turin 1875, 1877, 1885 (Jerome only).
Andreas, Erasmus, Victorinus, Graevius, Martianay, Miraeus, Fabricius, Cyprian are among the earlier editors but Erasmus is facile princeps in popularity of reprint. The edition of Vallarsi in 1734-42 was a decided advance toward a critical text. Various editors before him had made use of various mss. especially the "Corbeiensis" or "Sangermanensis" but secondarily mss. at Wulfenbüttel, Munich, the Bodleian, Nürnberg, "Sigbergensis," "Gemblacensis," "Marcianus" and others. Vallarsi founded his edition largely on a Verona ms. (still there) on the "Corbeiensis" so much used and praised before (now Paris Lat. 12161 "St Crucis" one at Lucca of the 9th century and more or less on mss. employed by previous editors. This edition has remained the standard and is the one adopted for the Migne edition.
The most recent edition which pretends to a critical character is that of Herding (Lpz. 1879 The editions by Tamietti are simply school editions of Jerome only, and make no pretensions to a critical text. The edition of Herding is founded on a transcript of Vat. Reg. 2077, 7th century; Bamberg 677, 11th century; Bern, 11 cent. and a much mutilated Nürnberg ms. of the 14th century. But it appears that the transcript of Vaticanus only covered the Jerome and a few scanty readings from Gennadius and the same is true of the collation made for this editor later from the Paris ms. (Corbeiensis).
Sittl, (Jahresber; u. class. Alterthumsw. 1888. 2 p. 243) says that the edition "without the preface which contains a collation of Codex Corbeiensis would be worthless." This is a little strong, for the readings he gives from Vaticanus have a decided value in default of other sources for its readings and his strict following of this often produces a correct reading against Vallarsi who was naturally inclined to follow Veronensis and Corbeiensis both of which were probably a good deal manipulated after they left the hand of Gennadius. The collation of Corbeiensis besides excluding Gennadius is not over exact and some of the most effaced pages seem to have been given up entirely by the collator.
An early translation of Jerome's work into Greek was made by Sophronius and used by Photius. A translation purporting to be his is given by Erasmus. There has been a good deal of controversy over this, some even accusing Erasmus of having forged it entire. It is an open question with a general tendency to give Erasmus the benefit of the doubt. The present translator while holding his judgment ready to be corrected by the finding of a ms, or other evidence, inclines to reject in toto, regarding it as for the most part translated by Erasmus from some South German or Swiss ms., or, if that be not certain, at least that the translation is too little established to be of any use for textual purposes. There is a modern translation of select words of Jerome in French by Matougues. The chief sources for comparison used by the translator have been Sophronius (or Erasmus) Matougues, M'Giffert's Eusebius for the first part of Jerome where he takes so liberally from Eusebius, and scattered selections here and there in Ceillier, Smith and Wace, Dict. and other literary-historical works.
1. Text. It was proposed at first to make the translation from the text of Herding. This, and all editions, gave so little basis for scientific certainty in regard to various readings that a cursory examination of mss. was made. At the suggestion of Professor O. von Gebhardt of Berlin the examination was made as thorough and systematic as possible with definite reference to a new edition. The translator hoped to finish and publish the new text before the translation was needed for this series, but classification of the mss. proved unexpectedly intricate and the question of the Greek translation so difficult that publication has been delayed. The material has however been gathered, analyzed, sifted and arranged sufficiently to give reasonable certainty as to the body of the work and a tolerably reliable judgment on most of the important variations.
While anxious not to claim too much for his material and unwilling to give a final expression of judgment on disputed readings, until his table of mss. is perfected, he ventures to think that for substantial purposes of translation, if not for the nicer ones of a new text, the material and method which he has made use of will be substantially conclusive.
The following translation has been made first from the text of Herding and then corrected from the manuscripts in all places where the evidence was clearly against the edition. In places where the evidence is fairly conclusive the change has been made and a brief statement of evidence given in the notes. When the evidence is really doubtful the reading has been allowed to stand Wit]l evidence generally given.
The materials of evidence used are 1. eight mss. collated entire by the translator A. Parisinus (Corbeiensis or Sangermanensis 7 cent.) T. Vaticanus Reg., 7 cent.; 25 Veronensis, 8 cent.; 30 Vercellensis 8 cent.; 31 Monspessalanensis 8 or 9 cent.; a Monacensis 8 cent.; e Vindobonensis 8 or 9; H. Parisinus 10 or 9.
2. Occasional support from readings gathered by him from other mss., chiefly 10 Cassenatensis 9 cent.; 21 Florentinus, 11 cent.; 32 Toletanus 13 cent.; 40 Guelferbyrtinus, 10? cent.
3. Readings from mss. mentioned by other editors.
4. The various editions, but mainly confined to Vallarsi and Herding in Jerome, Fabricius and Herding in Gennadius.
The translator has examined nearly 90 mss. and secured more or less readings from nearly all with reference to an exact table. The readings of several are extensive enough to have pretty nearly the value of full collations. Quotations are occasionally made from these (e.g. from 10, 31, 29, 32, 40, etc.) but practically quotations from the eight mentioned mss. cover the evidence and without a table more would rather obscure than otherwise.
There is no opportunity here to discuss the relative value of these used. It may be said however that they are the oldest mss., and include pretty much all the oldest. Though age itself is by no means conclusive, the fact that they certainly represent several independent groups males it safe to say that a consensus of seven against one or even six against any two (with certain reservations) or in the case of Gennadius of 5 against 2 is conclusive for a reading. As a matter of fact against many readings of Herding and even of Vallarsi, are arranged all these mss., and against some nearly all or even every ms. seen, e.g. Her. p. 73 d. 12 reads morti dari with Migne-Fabricius but all these mss. have mutandam and so 91. 22 "seven" for "eight." On p. 161.7. Her. omits Asyncritus against mss. and all modern eds., so 44. 3. "Ponti," 51.7 "ut quidem putant;" 77. 25. "firmare" and a score of other places.
Of course this is not enough evidence or discussion for a critical scholastic text but for the practical illustrative purpose n hand will serve. Any evidence which does not give a well digested genealogy of mss. and the evidence for their classification must be reckoned as incomplete,-all that the above evidence can claim to do, is to give the translator's judgment respecting the readings and illustrative evidence, but it is not probable that the completed table will alter many (if any) of these readings which are given in view of a tentative table which will likely prove final.
The Translation itself. The plan of this work includes (a) a translation, in which the translator's has tried to give a fair representation of the text in a not too ragged form but has failed to improve on the original. The works were written as science rather than literature and have many facts but no style. The translator has therefore aimed rather at representing these facts than at producing a piece of polite literature. (b) Notes are subjoined including, first the brief biographical data which every one wants first to orient himself by, secondly textual notes, and thirdly, occasional explanatory notes.