Jerome, When Accused of Being Too Harsh Towards Heretics, Replied

jerome9You are indignant with me because I have merely silenced Jovinian and not instructed him. You, do I say? Nay, rather, they who grieve to hear him anathematized, and who impeach their own pretended orthodoxy by eulogizing in another the heresy which they hold themselves.1

I should have asked him, forsooth, to surrender peaceably! I had no right to disregard his struggles and to drag him against his will into the bonds of truth!2

I might use such language had the desire of victory induced me to say anything counter to the rule laid down in Scripture, and had I taken the line—so often adopted by strong men in controversy—of justifying the means by the result.

As it is, however, I have been an exponent of the apostle rather than a dogmatist on my own account; and my function has been simply that of a commentator.3

Anything, therefore, which seems a hard saying should be imputed to the writer expounded by me rather than to me the expounder; unless, indeed, he spoke otherwise than he is represented to have done, and I have by an unfair interpretation wrested the plain meaning of his words. If any one charges me with this disingenuousness let him prove his charge from the Scriptures themselves.4  — St. Jerome

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1Jerome means here that normally those most vocal in their defense of heresy are themselves usually adherents of heretical beliefs.
2Jerome was familiar with the genre of sarcasm and employs it here.
3Here Jerome appeals to his office as exegete and teacher of the Church.
4If there is any miscommunication, Jerome asserts, it is the fault of those on the other side of the issue. He has been clear as crystal and has Scripture on his side.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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