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SIDIC Periodical XI - 1978/3
Daniel: Jewish and Christian Commentary (Pages 16 - 25)

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Daniel: Jewish influence on Jerome’s translation and commentary
Jan Smeets



As an introduction to the subject of Jewish influence on the Vulgate translation by Jerome and on his commentary on the Book of Daniel, we offer here an abstract of the book Jerome's Commentary on Daniel: A Study of Comparative Jewish and Christian Interpretations of the Hebrew Bible by Rabbi Dr. Jay Braverman (reviewed in this issue). His doctoral thesis, "Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition in Jerome's Commentary on Daniel" was used as one of the sources for the following article by Fr. Jan Smeets.

The relationship between the writings of the Church Fathers and rabbinic tradition has come under scholarly scrutiny for the past century. The Father most acquainted with Jewish biblical exegesis and traditions was Jerome (331-420 C.E.). During the last thirty-five years of his life he lived in Palestine and studied under several Jewish scholars. He often relied upon Hebrew authorities in his novel Latin translation of the Hebrew Scriptures later known as the Vulgate. Rabbinic influence is even more pronounced in the hundreds of Jewish traditions, referring to all aspects of biblical interpretation, which we find in his commentaries. These traditions are not limited to those current in his times but preserve the opinions of rabbis who lived centuries before him.

The most important influence which the Jews had upon Jerome was in impressing him with the authenticity of the Hebrew text of the Bible — the veritas hebraica or "Hebrew truth". Thus he broke with previous Christian tradition and based his Vulgate on the Hebrew text and not on the Septuagint or Vetus Latina. His respect for the veritas hebraica also influenced his attitude toward the canon of the Old Testament: any book, or even part of a book, that was not included in Hebrew Scripture should not be part of the Christian Bible. In his judgments concerning both the biblical text and canon he was also greatly influenced by his predecessor Origen.

Jerome's Commentary on Daniel was written in 407 after the establishment of his Vulgate text, near the end of his creative career. In it he cites sixteen Hebrew traditions. [Braverman's book] first traces these Hebrew traditions in both rabbinic and patristic literature. It then evaluates Jerome as a biblical exegete by showing his relationship to his predecessors and contemporaries and his influence on his successors. As a result of this study we are in a position to point out clearly how much Jerome relied on Jewish traditions quoted by previous Church Fathers, how much of Jewish tradition he knew directly and the extent of his own exegetical creativity in this area. One important aspect of this work is to analyze the Jewish sources cited by Jerome and compare them with extant rabbinic literature, pointing out variations and revealing earlier and later versions of the same tradition, wherever possible. Another aspect is to show the relationship of various patristic commentaries to each other with regard to common and contrasting traditions and interpretations.

Out of the sixteen Jewish traditions cited by Jerome, four have definite parallels in extant rabbinic literature. Two of the above have parallels both in Josephus and in extant patristic literature while two have not. In six of the remaining traditions we find that although Jerome's complete citations are not found in extant rabbinic literature, parts of them or closely related interpretations are today available to us. In five of the six cases we can credit Jerome with helping preserve partially "lost" Jewish traditions. The remaining six Hebrew traditions of Jerome have no parallels in extant rabbinic literature nor in Josephus nor patristic literature. Thus we can credit Jerome with the preservation of six more "lost" Jewish traditions.

In his Commentary on Daniel Jerome has cited far more Jewish traditions than any other Church Father, or than Josephus. A careful study of Jerome is invaluable in helping us appreciate accurately Jewish and Christian thought in the early centuries of the Christian Era. (JAY BRAVERMAN)

"Videmus enim plurimos Iudaeorum, ab infantia usque ad senectutem, semper discentes • • " (Origen, in Ep. ad Rom., Lib. II, 14).

To translate is, as we know, to betray. The degree of this betrayal depends on the point of view of the person making the judgment. However, the extent to which a translation "betrays" does not depend on its good or bad quality alone. It depends also on the interpretations inherent in all types of translation, biblical or otherwise.

It is a known fact that Jerome, who lacked an exhaustive knowledge of the Semitic languages, was influenced by certain traditional opinions common to the Jews of his time. This is in no way astonishing: the sixteen years that he consecrated to translating the Old Testament (the Vulgate)1 were spent at Bethlehem in a milieu where there were many Jews. He could have consulted the "Hebrews" directly or made use of written sources containing certain Jewish interpretations (the biblical commentaries of Origen come to mind here) to explain many passages of the Bible that seemed to him obscure. None among the Christians around him knew Hebrew.

We intend in this article to give some examples of the influence exercised by Midrash on his translation of Daniel and on his commentary on this book. Besides proving the existence of this influence, the examples will also show its complexity.

The Vulgate Translation of Daniel

There are two ancient Greek versions of the book of Daniel: one in the Septuagint,2 very different from the extant masoretic text, and the other done by Theodotion,3 which follows this text very closely. In the preface to his own translation Jerome stresses the preference that should be given to Theodotion: "The churches of the Savior do not read Daniel's prophecy in the Septuagint translation which is very far away from the 'truth' (i.e. the Hebrew-Aramaic text) and .. . was very rightly rejected . . ." (He can nevertheless use this "rejected" version when it suits him, at the expense of Theodotion.)

1. Daniel 2:5, 8

When Nebuchadnezzar in the second year of his reign "had dreams and his spirit was troubled" (Dan. 2:1), he summoned the diviners of his kingdom to explain the dream. They protested but he insisted: "Milthah minni azda!" that is, I have decided the matter and promulgated it and I will that it should be carried out. The Aramaic verb azda (to be emitted, promulgated) is used in the Bible only in verses 5 and 8 (the same formula) of Daniel 2.4 The Septuagint had translated it: "apeste ap'emou to pragma" (the matter has departed from me). Theodotion is more precise: "ho logos apeste ap'emou" (the word has departed from me). The two Greek translations copy the formula, but change its meaning: "I have forgotten the thing", i.e. the dream.

Jerome follows Theodotion word for word and translates as he does: "Sermo recessit a me"5 (the wordhas departed from me). That Jerome also understood the formula in the sense of forgetting is already clear from his translation of verse 3 b: "et mente confusus, quid viderim ignoro" (and in the confusion of my mind, I do not know what I saw),6 while the meaning of the Aramaic and of the Greek (Th., LXX) is: "I am anxious to know the meaning of the dream."

As has been said, Jerome's translation of verses 5 and 8 conforms with the Septuagint and Theodotion, but do the two Greek versions originate in a midrashic interpretation of these verses? The Jews as they bent over the text of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in their synagogues remembered the anguish of another king after a dream. They were aware that Pharaoh's turmoil after the dream of the seven cows and the seven sheaves was described slightly differently in Genesis and in Daniel, and that this fact must have some meaning. Genesis Rabbah 89:5 has an explanation:

"And it came to pass in the morning that his [Pharaoh's] spirit was troubled" — wattipa'em (Gen. 41:8). Here we have wattipa'em, whereas elsewhere we read, "And his spirit was troubled"— wattithpa'em (Dan. 2:1). R. Judah explained: In the present case he merely wanted the interpretation, whereas there he wanted to know both the dream and its interpretation.7

Other solutions are offered, but R. Judah's is constant in Jewish tradition.8 Sa'adia Gaon (892-942) mentions it in connection with Daniel 2:1, Rashi (10401105) refers to it in his commentary on Genesis 41:8 and in that on Daniel 2:1, and finally, Ibn Ezra (1092- 1167)in that on Daniel 2:1. Moreover Sa'adia, Rashi and others up to R. Altschuler," in their commentaries on Daniel 2:5, all translate the Aramaic formula milthah minni azda — as do the Septuagint and Theodotion —by "I have forgotten the thing". Only Ibn Ezra interprets it to mean "it is a matter decided by me".

In quoting here a midrashic exegesis that conforms with the translation of the Septuagint and of Theodotion, transforming "I have decreed" into "I have forgotten", I make no claim that this exegesis was purely and simply at the origin of the translation." The link between them could be more tenuous, almost unconscious. It is certain, however, that when Jerome was translating after the Greek versions, he had no idea of this midrashic exegesis. If it influenced the Greek versions, we are here dealing with a midrash which got into Jerome's Vulgate only indirectly and unconsciously.

2. Daniel 11:30

Beyond the interpretations that stem from the many possible meanings a word may have, there are in the Vulgate real "targumisms". A first well-known instance is that of Daniel 11:30 where Jerome translates Kittim by Romani: "Et venient trieres et Romani . . ." (Some triremes and Romans will come). Here the Vulgate is in agreement not with Theodotion but with the Septuagint. Indeed, Jerome often seems dissatisfied when Theodotion is content to transcribe into Greek a word whose meaning he does not understand. In such instances he replaces Theodotion's Greek word with a Latin one of which the meaning is clear." This happens here. Jerome replaces the vague word Kittim," which Theodotion had simply transcribed, by Romani. This targumism is known to us through the ancient Jewish sources.

Daniel 11:30a takes up the ancient prophecy of Balaam against Asshur (Num. 24:24): "But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur . . ." This is paraphrased by the Targum Onkelos thus: "Troops will be assembled by the Romans"; by the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: "and they will go out from Liburnia 14 and from Italy in numerous troops and they will join the legions of Constantinople";" the Fragmentary Targum: "numerous troops will go forth in galleys 16 from the powerful province to join numerous legions of the Romans"; finally, the Targum Neofiti: "numerous troops with insolent tongues will go forth in galleys from the province of Italy .. . they will be joined by numerous legions (from Rome)". Inversely, the Romans are frequently referred to as Kittim in the Qumran documents.

The Vulgate translation of Numbers 24:24 parallels the translation of Daniel 11:30: "V enient in trieribus de Italia" (They will come in triremes [galleys] from Italy). We find a third identification of the Kittim with Italy or Rome in Ezekiel 27:6: Jerome makes the cabins of the great ships of Tyre come from "the islands of Italy" (de insulis Italiae). Here the Targum paraphrases "from the province of Apulia" (medinat Apulia). It is therefore certain that the translation of Kittim by Romani in Daniel 11:30a has its roots in a Jewish targumism. It is possible that in choosing this translation Jerome was influenced by the Septuagint. We could have left the matter there with Jerome's translation of Daniel 11:30a, had we not found in his commentary (Dan. 11:31) a strange note. "These words', he writes, "that we have interpreted as 'triremes and Romans' are, according to the Hebrews, to be understood as "'Italians" and Romans' (Itali et Romani). These Itali instead of trieres are surprising; all idea of a fleet has completely disappeared from the verse.

We have seen how the Targums in their paraphrase of Numbers 24:24 all mention "troops" (of Italy or of Liburnia) and, at the same time, Rome (or Constantinople). Only the Targum Neofiti mentions galleys. One wonders, therefore, if in his commentary (Dan. 11:31) Jerome is not alluding precisely to this union of the "Italians" and Romans that is found in the targumic paraphrases. However, I do not think that we must conclude from this that Jerome had access to the Targums. He was so proud of his erudition, above all where Hebrew was concerned, that he would certainly have mentioned the fact with complacency. It is more likely that he knew another Jewish source where troops of Italians and Romans were together.

3. Daniel 12:2

A second targumism is found in the Vulgate of Daniel 12:2. At the conclusion of his prophecy on the end of time Daniel wrote: "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Jerome surprisingly translates "shame and everlasting contempt" by "in opprobrium ut videant semper" (for shame that they may see always).

What then do the wicked see? Without doubt Jerome thought that they would see themselves in eternal shame. In the Hebrew text the word corresponding to "contempt" is dera'on, which is found again in the Bible only in Isaiah 66:24. A glance at Jerome's translation of this verse shows that he translates dera'on almost in the same way: "egredientur et videbunt cadavera virorum, qui praevaricati sunt in me . . . et erunt usque ad satietatem visionis" (they will go out and see the bodies of the men who have rebelled against me . . . and these will satiate their eyes). At the end of his book, Isaiah (66:24) like Daniel (12:2) speaks of a new age. Alluding to the passage of the Red Sea by Israel when escaping from slavery, Exodus 14:30 concludes: ". . . and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore." Isaiah picks up this verse and ends his description by: "And they shall go forth and look on the dead bodies of the men that have rebelled against me; . . . and they shall be an abhorrence (dera'on) to all flesh." This is a real biblical midrash on Exodus 14:30.

In his translation of Daniel 12:2, Jerome is influenced neither by Theodotion nor by the Septuagint, both of whom translate literally, which proves that the literal meaning of the word dera'on was known to them. However, for his translation of Isaiah 66:24, Jerome took the Septuagint as a model; it translates the end of the verse by "kai esontai eis horasin pasei sarki" (and they shall be a spectacle for all flesh). Another reading is found in the edition of the Hexapla by F. Field:" "and they shall be eis hikanon horan" (to see sufficiently). This variant is a true parallel to the usque ad satietatem visionis of Jerome.

What then is the source of this translation of "contempt" by "the spectacle" or the "satiating spectacle"? It is the Targum again! It divides the Hebrew term dera'on into two words which are current: dei and ra'on. The word ra'on was regarded as a noun derived from the verb ra'ah (to see), meaning spectacle, vision; and dei as the construct-state from the adverb dai (sufficient).

Let us now quote the targumic paraphrase of Isaiah 66:24: "and they will go out to see the corpses of the men who rebelled against my will . . . and they will be [judged, these impious ones in gehenna, until the just say of them:"] enough / have we / seen!" 19 It suffices to go through the explanations of this verse in the midrashic tradition to find interpretations which match the targumic paraphrase perfectly. The following is an example. R. Judah explains the words of the psalmist "on every side the wicked prowl" (Ps. 12:8) thus: "This means that the wicked will prowl around the just. When the just leave the garden of Eden to see the sufferings of the evil-doers in gehenna, they will rejoice, as Scripture says: 'and they shall go forth . . " (Is. 66:24).2° This text corresponds with the Targum to Isaiah and with the Vulgate of this verse.

R. Nehemiah does not accept the opinion of R. Judah. He believes that the sinners and not the just will go out: "When the wicked go up from gehenna to contemplate the just seated in the happiness of the garden of Eden, they will wince with jealousy against them, as Scripture says: 'the wicked man sees it and is angry. . . .' (Ps. 112: 10)."1 Jerome's translation of the word dera'on in Daniel 12:2 corresponds here with the interpretation of R. Nehemiah: the wicked will awake "in opprobrium, ut videant semper (in opprobrium, so that they will see always)".

In these two instances then (Is. 66:24 and Dan. 12:2), where Jerome translates the word dera'on according to targumic tradition, we can conclude what were the two rabbinical opinions on the "relations" between the just in the garden of Eden and the wicked in gehenna. Like a good exegete Jerome gives no hint either in his commentary on Isaiah or in that on Daniel of the problem posed by the Hebrew word dera'on. This means that he has no suspicions: for Isaiah 66:24 he gets out of the difficulty with the help of the translation of the Septuagint (or more likely, perhaps, of the variant mentioned by F. Field22), and for Daniel 12:2 he relies on its translation of Isaiah 66:24. These two translations in their turn were introduced into the Vulgate without Jerome being aware of their Jewish origin.

The Commentary on Daniel

In an article on Jerome's commentary on Daniel (henceforth referred to as HI Daniel)," Jean Lataix (= A. Loisy) wrote at the end of the last century: "The commentaries (of Jerome) on the Old Testament are like a) a summary of Origen and other ecclesiastical writers, to which is added b) a more or less literal explanation of the sacred text translated directly from Hebrew, c) interpreted from the Christian point of view though not disregarding current Jewish opinions."24 This description is an excellent summary of the method used by Jerome in his commentaries.

In HI Daniel, Jerome, according to his custom, takes into account Jewish traditions and quotes explicitly sixteen times the Hebraei or Iudei as sources of an opinion. In addition, there are other occasions where Jerome's explanation recalls parallel passages in Jewish literature. Given the great number of these instances which show Jewish influence on HI Danie1,25 we shall examine only a few characteristic examples illustrating the different types of influence.

1. Jewish interpretations received from Origen

In Daniel 1:3-4 and 6:4, Jerome remarks: "The Hebrews think that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were eunuchs and that thus Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled: 'and some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king' (Is. 39:7) 26 . . . unless this is contradicted by what follows it: 'young men without any bodily defect'." 27 This opinion had long been known to Jerome. He had already used it as an argument in his Adversus Jovinianum, written in 393: "The Hebrews (themselves) even today consider Daniel and the three young men to have been eunuchs because of the divine judgment uttered by Isaiah to Hezekiah: `Some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs . . .' They reason thus: if Daniel and his three companions were chosen from the royal line, and if Scripture had foretold that there would be eunuchs of royal blood, it must have been they" (Adv. Joy. L.I. 4 25; P.L. 23. 244 B). Twelve years earlier, in 381, Jerome had translated fourteen homilies of Origen in which the latter had written: "Daniel, who was handed over to the master of eunuchs at the same time as Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael (Dan. 1:3,6), was castrated . . . How can mention now be made of the 'sons of Daniel' (Ez. 14:14,18) since according to Jewish tradition he was castrated?" (in Ez. Hom. IV) 28

The bringing together of Daniel 1:3-4 and Isaiah 39:7 which gave rise to this exegesis is easy to understand as Jerome has explained above. This tradition is widespread in rabbinic literature. It is found in Sanhedrin 93b in connection with Daniel 1:4: "youths without blemish, handsome, . . ." The Talmud, as does Jerome, quotes Isaiah 39:7: 'Some of your own sons . . . shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.' What is meant by eunuchs? Ray said: men really castrated. R. Hanina said: it is because in their time idolatry was completely `cut out' (of Israel), as Scripture says: '(walking in the midst of the fire) and they are not hurt' (Dan. 3:25)." Before giving the opinion of Ray and of R. Hanina, the Talmud mentions that of R. Hama bar Hanania which explains Daniel 1:4 as follows: "'adolescents without any corporal defect . . .', that is, they had not even the scar of a pinprick . . . [therefore still less the scar of castration]." 29 It is clear that in his commentary on Daniel, Jerome accepts Ray's point of view, but he makes one reservation with reference to the argument of R. Hama bar Hanania: "Provided this opinion does not contradict the following: 'young men without any bodily defect' " (HI Dan. 1:3-4).

Flavius Josephus 30 also mentions the tradition of the emasculation of certain sons of King Hezekiah with reference to Isaiah 39:7, but he remains vague: "certain among them" could be Daniel, Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael, but also many others.

Jerome returns a second time to this tradition in HI Daniel 6:4. The ministers and the satraps want Daniel's head; he is too high in the favor of Darius the Mede. They look for some accusation to bring against him. According to the commentary: "this was why the princes and the satraps sought to accuse Daniel 'ex latere regis' (at the side of the king)." This ex latere regis is a mistranslation. It is not found in Theodotion, the Septuagint, any fragment of the Vetus Latina or in the Vulgate itself. Above all, it is unknown to Jewish tradition. It can be understood only through the Latin: the ex latere regni of the Vulgate 31 is a literal copying (calque) which has no meaning in Latin and calls for the correction ex latere regis. This variant from the commentary found its way during the centuries into the Vulgate itself.

It is curious that Jerome attaches the Jewish exegesis concerning the castration of the young Hebrews precisely to the formula ex latere regis. The Hebrews, he writes, imagine something strange here: "the side of the king" is the queen or his concubines, and the other women who sleep at his side. It was in this matter that a complaint was sought so that Daniel could be accused of a fault commited by word, touch, gesture or message. "But they could find no grounds for suspicion" (Dan. 6:5) because he was a eunuch and hence could not be accused of culpable relationships. Jerome considers this explanation "a fable" and himself understands the formula simply as follows: they did not find Daniel guilty of any fault against the king's interest.

The interpretation of the "side of the king" as his wife recalls Eve created from Adam's side. Moreover, a midrash on 2 Samuel 16:13 and Psalm 38:18 links the tselah (side) of the first verse to Bathsheba: "Shimei followed at the same pace to the side of the mountain insulting David." This means that Shimei reminded him of "what happened with the side (tselah)",32 that is, as the midrash explains immediately afterward, with Bathsheba. On the other hand, the Midrash Megillah mentions how the enemies of the young Jews at the court of Nebuchadnezzar accused them of sexual crimes:

"Esther called for Hathach" (Esth. 4:5). Hathach is Daniel. Why is he called Hathach? Because he had cut off [vb. hatak] 33 his masculinity in the days of the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, he and his companions . . . The enemies of Israel had calumniated them saying . . . : Those Jews whom you brought are prostituting themselves with the king's servants and with the ministers' wives! As soon as Daniel and his companions heard this they castrated themselves [vb. hatak] because it is said: "Thus says the Lord: `To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths . .(Is. 56:4).

At that moment Nebuchadnezzar, boiling with anger, ordered them to be brought to him. Then they said: My Lord, far be it from us to do such a thing because God has forbidden Israel to commit adultery and to prostitute itself. It is written: "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14). They showed him that they had been castrated and the king was pleased. This is why Daniel was called Hathach.34

The tradition identifying Hathach, the eunuch of the royal palace, with Daniel is quite widespread. It is found in the Targum to Esther 4:5 which, however, changes the play on words: Daniel is called Hathach "because it was according to the word of his mouth that the affairs of the kingdom were settled (vb. hatak)" (see Dan. 6:2). Esther Rabbah VIII. 4 adds: "Our teachers there [in Babylon] say that Hathach is the same as Daniel, and because he was cut down (hatkuhu) from his greatness [by Ahasuerus] they called him Hathach."

As we have seen above, it was through Origen that Jerome knew about the tradition of Daniel's castration and that of his three companions. Jerome was not the only one familiar with Jewish exegesis, some of which was quite well known to the Christian world well before his time thanks above all to Origen. Moreover, Jerome gives the impression of having no explicit knowledge of the tradition of the Midrash Megillah on the auto-emasculation of the four young men. He simply refers to the tradition that they were castrated. But the mention by Jerome of sexual crimes of which Nebuchadnezzar accused them could well be a trace of the Midrash Megillah. In each instance it is precisely the castration which defeats the machination of the ministers.

As for the "curious interpretation" of ex latere in the sense of "the woman", Jerome must have known it by hear-say. He attached it arbitrarily to the expression ex latere regis of the commentary, a translation unknown to Jewish tradition.

2. Reference to traditions now lost

In HI Daniel 11:12-13, Jerome notes: "The Hebrews seek to understand why Daniel and the three children did not enter the king's presence with the other wise men and yet were included in the sentence of death passed upon them. They explain it by saying that at the moment when the king promised riches, presents and supreme honor, the Jews would not present themselves for fear of seeming to covet out of ambition the riches and honors of the Chaldeans; or rather (aut certe), that the Chaldeans themselves with their glory and their knowledge went in alone, hoping to receive favors alone. But afterwards they wanted as companions in danger those whom they had rejected when they hoped for success."

The opinion here attributed by Jerome to the Jews has indeed a midrashic "flavor", but there is no trace in rabbinic literature of the problem mentioned by Jerome. It is therefore possible that Jerome in his commentary on Daniel 2:12-13 was witnessing to an ancient Jewish tradition which was later lost. There are similar instances elsewhere in Jerome's commentaries.

To judge by the Latin of the pericope it would seem that Jerome wished slightly to modify the Jewish tradition. The aut certe (or rather) probably gives us his own thought on the subject.

3. Direct dependence on Jewish sources

Daniel 7:7a reads: "I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrible and dreadful and exceedingly strong." Jewish and Christian exegetes thought that this referred to the Roman empire. In his commentary, Jerome expresses surprise that this verse, after having attributed the lioness,35 the bear and the leopard to three empires [Babylonian, Medean and Persian, and Greek], does not compare the Roman empire to any animal. "Perhaps the reason for the silence of Scripture on the beast is to make it terrifying, so that we shall imagine all that is most ferocious and apply it to the Romans. The Hebrews consider that what is not mentioned here is expressed in the psalms: `the boar from the forest ravages it [the land of Israel] and all that move in the field feed on it' (Ps. 80 [Vulg. 79] : 13)."

There is no difficulty in finding in rabbinic literature the tradition mentioned here by Jerome. It suffices to look in the Midrash on Psalm 80: 14:36

"And four great beasts came up from the sea" (Dan. 7:3). R. Phinehas and R. Hilkiah taught in the name of R. Simon: Why did not the prophet 37 Daniel give the name of the beast which stands for the fourth kingdom? Because Moses and Asaph had already done so. For Moses, in saying "And the boar, because he parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, but cheweth not the cud, he is unclean unto you" (Lev. 11:7), meant: Like the boar which displays its cloven hoof, as if to say "I am clean," 38 so wicked Esau " displays himself so openly on the seats of justice that the legal tricks whereby he robs, steals, and plunders appear to be just proceedings. And likewise Asaph named the fourth beast in saying: "The boar out of the wood doth ravage it."

The two rabbis then recount the perverse action of a Roman governor who one day had some people executed for witchcraft, adultery and murder, saying at the same time to his assessor that he himself had committed these three offences in one night. The rabbis add immediately: "Of him it is said: 'The boar out of the wood doth ravage .. 40

The identification of the Roman empire with the boar (pig) is ancient and very frequent in rabbinic literature." L. Ginzberg writes in Legends of the Jews (Vol. 5, p. 294, note 162) that it originates in the emblem carried by the Roman legion 42 stationed in Palestine, which was a boar.

It is noteworthy too that there is in rabbinic literature an explanation similar to Jerome's hypothesis, that is, that if the fourth beast of the vision in Daniel 7 has no name it is because it was perhaps still more terrifying than the wildest animal imaginable. Leviticus Rabbah XIII. 5 quotes Daniel 7:7a and continues: "The swine alludes to Seir [Edom, i.e. Rome]. . . . R. Johanan said: . . . it [i.e. the swine] is on a par [in ferocity] with the three others put together. R. Simeon b. Lakish said: It is even more than that." He then explains Ezekiel 21:14: "Prophecy therefore, son of man, . . . and let the sword come down twice, yea thrice" by saying that the terror inspired by Rome will be six-fold ("the three-fold sword" doubled).

I would consider this to be simply a coincidence between the exegesis of Jerome and that of the rabbis. This exegesis is based on logical reasoning although R. Simeon argues from a scriptural text. Such instances of coincidence ought to serve as a warning: every resemblance in the writings of Jerome should not be taken for Jewish exegesis.

4. An ambiguous parallel

Jerome's commentary on the angel Gabriel's prophecy of the seven weeks of years, Daniel 9:24-27, is the fullest in the book. Jerome begins by stressing the terms "your people and your holy city" (vs. 24a). He writes: "The angel Gabriel' speaks in the name of God when he says [to Daniel]: it is not God's people, but your people; it is not the Holy City of God, but your holy city, as you yourself say! There is something similar in Exodus when God says to Moses: 'Go down; for your people, . . . have corrupted themselves' (Ex. 32:7a), that is, not my people because they have abandoned me." This explanation immediately recalls the paraphrase 43 in which Jerome comments on the formula of verse 26 et non erit ejus (and it shall not belong to him): "The people who deny him shall no longer be his people." (We will speak of this paraphrase at the end of the expose.) Such interpretations are not at all surprising in a patristic context.

What is surprising is that there exists a series of midrashic commentaries which connect the interpretation "it is your people and not mine" not to Daniel 9:24 but to the Lord's reproach to Moses (Ex. 32:7) which Jerome cites in his commentary. These midrashic explanations are much longer than the dry, cutting paraphrase that resumes all Jerome's commentary on this verse. We witness a kind of diplomatic negotiation between the Lord and Moses, leader of the chosen people. Here is an example. The people, aware that Moses was delaying his descent from the mountain where the Lord had spoken the ten Words to him, urged Aaron to make a golden calf (Ex. 32:1-7).

. . . when they made the Golden Calf and God was vexed with them, Moses came to placate Him, but He renounced them saying "they are not My people," for it says, "For thy people hath dealt corruptly" (Ex. 32:7). God then stripped" them, as it says, "And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments from Mount Horeb" (Ex. 32:6). But Moses said "They are Thy people and Thou canst not deny them," as it says, "Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people?" (Ex. 32:11). "Thou must become reconciled to them, for they are Thy children." Immediately, God became reconciled, for it says, "And the Lord repented of the evil . . ." (Ex. 32: 14).45

Different nuances can be perceived in these midrashic commentaries on Exodus 32:7, but they all concur on the essential. Sometimes Moses comes out of this painful situation with a laconic self-possession which makes him reason like a Kafka:

Moses said to the Lord: "Didst Thou not say thus unto me: `Go, get thee down; for thy people . . . have dealt corruptly' (Ex. 32:7)? Well, if [thou sayest] 'thy people have sinned', not 'My people', then it is my people that have sinned, and not Thy people; then Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people? (Ex. 32:11)."46

If Jerome's commentary echoes a Jewish exegesis, Jerome says nothing of it. The difference between the two resides in the fact that the Jewish exegesis speaks of one moment only when the Lord was angry with his people; Jerome has a theological thesis according to which the Lord repudiated Israel his people in favor of the Christians." The tenor of the two explanations is consequently very different.

We have seen that Jerome finishes his commentary on Daniel 9:26-27 by a description (containing elements from Jerome himself) of "what the Hebrews think of this pericope". Jerome arrives at his presentation of Hebrew tradition only after a long expose on the opinions of Christian writers. He begins by quoting Julius the African, quotes Eusebius Pamphilius twice, then Hippolytus and Appolinarius of Laodicea; summarizes Clement of Alexandria and ends his review of Christian writers with a quotation from Tertullian. He then gives an outline of Jewish tradition ut sensus manifestior fiat (so that the meaning of the pericope may be made clearer).

Reflection of Jewish-Christian polemics

In this resume, immediately after his own explanation of the formula et non erit ejus (vs. 26), Jerome adds that of the Jews: ". . . or, as they [the Jews] put it: he will not posses the empire which he thought he was going to keep." The paraphrase does indeed evoke a Jewish interpretation. It seems opposed to the Christian conviction of the universal power of Jesus the Messiah, such as described in Matthew 28:18, for example: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." However, it is not found in either ancient or medieval Jewish sources.

I do not find this surprising. The interpretation seems to arise from a discussion between Jews and Christians rather than from an exegesis traditional in Judaism. The Jews claim that Jerome's paraphrase is not grammatically convincing; the biblical formula can easily be understood in another sense. Moreover, the Jews have never held the risen Jesus of Nazareth to be the "anointed" (mashialp) of Daniel 9:26, as Christian exegesis has done. The formula ut illi dicunt (as they say) does not therefore introduce a Jewish exegesis here but refers to an ancient discussion between Jews and Christians.


If we draw up a balance sheet of the explanations given above, a rather complex picture results. There are instances where the Vulgate evokes a midrashic background because Jerome bases his translation on ancient Greek versions. Thus the translation "I have forgotten" the dream (Dan. 2:5,8), which is based on an interpretation of Theodotion, recalls (without Jerome's being aware of it) the midrash on Nebuchadnezzar's forgetting the dream. The translation of Kittim by Romani (Dan. 11:30) and that of dera'on by ut videant semper (Dan. 12:2) reveal a targumic influence, itself probably also due to the intermediary of Greek versions (Septuagint or others).

In his commentary on Daniel, Jerome sometimes borrows a Jewish interpretation from other Christian writers. That, for example, of the castration of Daniel and his three companions (HI Dan. 1:3-4) is from the writings of Origen. Jerome can also be a precious witness to a midrash that has now disappeared from Jewish sources, such as in HI Daniel 2:12-13 where he mentions a problem that the Jews resolved by stressing the virtuous modesty of the four young men.

Three examples prove direct dependence of Jerome on his Jewish sources: 1) his identification of the fourth beast of the vision (HI Dan 7:7) with the boar of Psalm 80:13; 2) when he writes that the Jews interpret the expression ex latere (at the side of) as the wife, though he appears to know this tradition only vaguely by hearsay; 3) when he states that the Jews wish "the triremes" and "the Romans" to be understood as "Italians" and Romans. This last interpretation proves a certain dependence on the Targums to Numbers 24:34, but it is difficult to be more specific.

The explanation of Exodus 32:7 given by Jerome in HI Daniel 9:24ff. has many parallels but Jerome does not quote any Jewish source. Is it because he does not bother to refer to the Jews? Has he borrowed his explanation from another Christian writer? Or are we dealing with a simple coincidence? We do not know. Finally, certain interpretations that Jerome attributes to the Jews have no connection with traditional midrash.

There is an example of this in HI Daniel 11:26. The interpretation "he shall not possess the empire which he thought he was going to keep" is not a traditional exegesis in Judaism; it is more probably a trace of a discussion between Jews and Christians.

The limits placed on this article do not allow a longer treatment of the problem of Jewish influence in Jerome's Vulgate and in his commentary on Daniel. Let me conclude by stressing Jerome's habit of consulting the biblical interpretations given by the Jews of his time. It at least proves that a Christian can find great profit in the Jewish explanations when seeking to deepen his understanding of the divine Word.

Father Jan Smeets o.s.b. is a member of the Benedictine community in Rome which is preparing a critical edition of the Latin Vulgate of Jerome. Most of the books of the Old Testament have already been dealt with and published by the Vatican Polyglot Press. Father Smeets's research deals specifically with the influence of Jewish tradition on Jerome's translation.

1. Quoted according to the Stuttgart edition, second impression 1975.
2. Hereafter abbreviated as LXX. For further information on Greek versions of the Old Testament see: H.B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, Cambridge 1914, pp. 28-58; S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study, Oxford 1968, pp. 74-99.
3. Abbreviated as Th.
4. It is found several times in the Talmud where it can have the sense of "to forget" (Ned. 41a and Rashi's commentary), but also "to decree" (B. Mezia 116b). M. Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, New York: Pardes, 1950, Vol. I, pp. 36-37, gives azda under two headings.
5. It was already the translation of the Vetus Latina (E. Ranke, Par Palimpsestorum Wirceburgensium, Vindobonae 1887, p. 378).
6. The commentary on Dan. 2:5 speaks in the same vein.
7. The Midrash Rabbah will be cited according to the edition of Soncino Press, London, third impression 1961. (The division of the current Hebrew editions is generally different from that of the Soncino.)
8. See Tanhuma, "Miketz" 2 (at the beginning); Yalk. Shim. II. 1060.
9. Medieval and later commentators are quoted according to Mikra'ot Gedolot, Jerusalem 1961.
10. R. David Altschuler wrote two commentaries on the Hagiographa and on the prophets, entitled Mezudat Ziyyon and Mezudat David, which were published in 1775 by his son Hillel.
11. Nebuchadnezzar's insistence (vs. 5) on knowing "the dream and its interpretation" would suggest more or less the sense of "forgetting" but also the midrashic explanation of R. Judah.
12. I found six cases.
13. In the Bible, Kittim designates first of all the Cypriots and secondly the peoples of the Mediterranean basin.
14. Part of ancient Illyrium.
15. The new Rome.
16. Galleys: literally "ships from Liburnia", that is, light ships. See A. Diez Macho, Neophyti 1, Madrid: Ntimeros 1974, Vol. IV, p. 448, note 7.
17. F. Field, Origenis Hexaplorum . . . fragmenta, Oxonii, 1885, Vol. 2, p. 566; see J. Ziegler, Isaias, Gottingen, 1939, p. 370. Cyprian and Tertullian also translate them according to the LXX or "the other reading".
18. [ ] Insertion by the targumist.
19. The exclamation expresses satisfaction: "This spectacle satisfies us", it fulfills our desires.
20. Lev. R. XXXII. 1; cf. Eccles. R. VII. 14 § 3. Quoted by Rashi on Eccles. 7:14; Ps. 12:8 in Midrash on the Psalms, ed. W. Braude, New Haven 1959, Vol. 1, pp. 173-174; Ps. 149:6 in Braude, Vol. 2, p. 385.
21. Lev. R. XXXII. 1; cf. Yalk. Shim. II. 659. Some midrashim similar to those we have quoted may be at the origin of certain New Testament texts such as the parable of Lazarus: the evil rich man sees Lazarus happy in the bosom of Abraham. The blessed in the book of Revelation exalt the Lord when they see the destruction of Babylon (Rev. 18:21 - 19:5ff).
22. See note 17.
23. As found in C.C. (Corpus Christianorum) LXXV A; also found in P.L. (Patrologia Latina) XXV, 491-581. Dating from around 407, it is one of Jerome's last commentaries.
24. J. Lataix, "Le commentaire de Saint Jerome sur Daniel", Revue d'Histoire et de Littgrature Religieuses Vol. II (1897), p. 164; the division of the quotation has been added.
25. There is a thesis on the topic: Jay Braverman, "Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition in Jerome's Commentary on Daniel," New York: Yeshiva University 1970. From this well-conducted study I profited greatly. [Editor's note: This research has now been published: Jay Braverman, Jerome's Commentary on Daniel. Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1978.]
26. Or 2 Kings 20:18. On the tradition, see Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia 1968) Vol. VI, p. 368, note 88; p. 415, note 78.
27. The phrase in the commentary "si autem - David" is a parenthesis by Jerome. The edition of C.C. should indicate this, as does the P.L. XXV, 496 B. Since this was not done, the text by Glorie does not make sense.
28. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Leipzig), Origines Vol. VIII,
p. 366 No. 5; P.L. XXV. 725-726.
29. See also Sanh. 93a (middle). R. Johanan and others: Daniel and his companions return to Eretz Israel and "beget sons and daughters"; Yalk. Shim. II. 570, 1060 3; J. Shabb. VI hal. 9: they were castrated but "were cured".
30. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Books IX-XI (Loeb Classical Library Vol. VI), London: Heinemann 1937, X, 186; ibid. X, 33.
31. According to the better MSS; see the Stuttgart edition.
32. Midrash on Ps. 3:1 (Braude, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 53); cf. Sanh. 107a; Yalk. Shim. II. 151, 734. Tsilathi can signify "my wife" in talmudic and modern Hebrew. In the Greek Fathers we find pleura (side) used in the sense of "spouse": G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Oxford 1961, p. 1092a. Also, in the Latin Fathers, latus cf. A. Blaise, Dictionnaire Latin-Francais des Auteurs Chretiens, Strasbourg 1954, p. 489a.
33. Play on words: Hathach — hatak.
34. Midr. Meg. in Semitic Studies in Memory of Rev. Dr. Alexander Kohut, Berlin: Calvary, 1897, p. 176. The text is also found in Eisenstein, Otsar ha-Midrashim, New York 1915, p. 606. Cf. Meg. 15a (middle); B. Batra 4a (middle); Yalk. Shim. II. 1056.
35. Translation from the Vulgate, influenced by Th. and the LXX which had translated le-aina (lioness) in place of "lion".
36. Braude, Vol. II, p. 51.
37. Note the name of "prophet" given to Daniel.
38. Cf. Lev 11:3. Recall Jewish abhorrence of the hazir, the "unclean" pig.
39. Another pejorative name for Rome; see Ginzberg, op. cit., Vol. V, p. 372, note 425; p. 272, note 19.
40. Braude, Vol. II, pp. 51-52.
41. Cf. Lev. R. XIII. 5. Parallels which do not mention Dan. 7:7: Gen. R. LXV. 1; Lev. R. XIII. 5; Midr. on Ps. 120:6 (Braude, Vol. II, p. 293); Av. de R. Nathan XXXIV, text A.
42. Which legion?
43. At the end of the commentary on Dan. 9:24-27, in the description of the Hebrew tradition, C.C. p. 887, r. 581-582: P.L. XXV, 552 B. In C.C. the phrase populus qui eum negaturus erit should have been printed in Roman letters; it is not a biblical quotation but a commentary which very early slipped into the text itself of the Vulgate. We have seen another case of this type in Dan. 6:4: ex latere regis.
44. Translation of the reflexive by the passive, which in turn signifies: God stripped.
45. Ex. R. XLVI. 4; cf. XLI. 7, XLII. 3, 6; Num. R. II. 15; Deut. R. I. 2; Eccles. R. VI. 9; Yalk. Shim. I. 852, II. 445; Pes. R. Kah. 128b; Pirk. R. Eliezer c. XLV.
46. Ex. R. XLIII. 7.
47. As is well known, this claim can scarcely be justified by the New Testament.


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