Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rabbi Joseph on Origen’s Book and Jerome

In David Kimhi: The Man and the Commentaries by Frank Ephraim Talmage (Harvard, 1975), we read the following assessment of Origen’s Book and Jerome’s Vulgate from R. Joseph Kimhi (1105-1170; father of David):
[Jerome’s text was based on] the Book of Origen, the most ancient and authoritative [text and the one] from which your text was translated. Everything is dependent upon it. For it was dictated by the prophets, and Jerome the translator relied upon it, translated from it, and trusted it, with the exception of a few words which he did not understand or which were contrary to his belief and which he altered, changing the root of the faith to wormwood (pp. 87-8).
This is an interesting text, and I want to look into it more. I would not think this “Book of Origen” could be the Hexapla since that book had long disappeared. But could it refer to another Greek text still in circulation that was associated with Origen’s textual work? Perhaps. Or is it somehow an historical evaluation that claims Jerome based his work on Origen’s Hexapla? I don’t know. Still, the assessment that Jerome based his Vulgate on this book is an overstatement, since the Vulgate appears to go its own way regularly, even if it did make some use of Origen’s work.

HT: Twitter


  1. What evidence do you have that the Hexapla had disappeared by the 11th century? A lot of ancient mss have been lost since the manuscript era ended, how much more so in the preceding centuries as the Catholics conquered Iberia and the Muslims Asia Minor. But why would Qimhi be writing about Hieronymus?

    1. Thanks, Daniel. That's basically consensus at this point. Remember, most scholars don't even believe that the entire Hexapla would have been copied once let alone multiple times to reach Qimhi. It probably stayed at the library in Caesarea until that library was no more in the seventh century. I'm all ears if you have evidence we don't know about.

      In the context of the monograph, Talmage is describing the Jewish polemic against Christians who thought they were reading the "Hebrew" with Jerome. Joseph and David were trying to cast shade on Jerome by stating that he was dependent on the Book of Origen. The next step is to track down the source, which I have not done yet.

      Thanks for chiming in.