p. 501 Prefaces to the Commentaries on the Minor Prophets.
For the order and date of writing of these Commentaries see the Preface to Amos, Book iii., and the note there.
This Commentary was dedicated to Pammachius, a.d. 406 (sixth consulate of Arcadius—Preface to Amos, Book iii. The Preface to Book i. is chiefly taken up with a discussion on Hoseas “wife of whoredoms.” He takes the story as allegorical; it cannot be literal, for “God commands nothing but what is honourable, nor does he, by bidding men do disgraceful things, make that conduct honourable which is disgraceful.” Jerome then describes, as in former Prefaces, the chief Greek commentators, of whom Apollinaris and Origen had written very shortly on Hosea, Pierius at great length, but to little purpose; and says that he had himself obtained from Didymus of Alexandria that he should complete the Commentary of Origen. He had himself often judged independently, though with little knowledge of Hebrew, but he had been in earnest, while most scholars were “more concerned for their bellies than their hearts, and thought themselves learned if in the doctors waiting rooms they could disparage other mens works.”
In the Preface to Book ii. Jerome complains of his detractors, and appeals from the present favour of high-placed men to the posthumous authority of sound ability.
In Book iii. he claims Pammachius as his defender, though he fears the judgment of his great learning.
This Commentary also is addressed to Pammachius, a.d. 406. It is in one book. It gives the order of the Twelve Prophets adopted by the LXX. and the Hebrew respectively, the Hebrew order being that now in use. It also gives the etymological meaning of their names.
In three books, addressed also to Pammachius, a.d. 406 (Preface to Amos, Book iii.). The Preface to Book i. merely gives a description of Tekoa, Amos birthplace. That to Book ii. speaks of old age, with its advantages for self-control and its trials in various infirmities, such as phlegm, dim eyesight, loosened teeth, colic, and gout. That to Book iii. contains the passage several times referred to for the order of these Commentaries, which is as follows:
We have not discussed them in regular sequence from the first to the ninth, as they are read, but as we have been able, and in accordance with requests made to us. Nahum, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, 5440 I first addressed to Paula and Eustochium, her daughter, who are never weary; I next dedicated two books on Habakkuk to Chromatius, bishop of Aquileia; I then proceeded to explain, at your command, Pammachius, and after a long interval of silence, Obadiah and Jonah. 5441 In the 5442 present year, which bears in the calendar the name of the sixth consulate of Arcadius Augustus and Anitius Probus, I interpreted Malachi for Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse, and Minervius and Alexander, monks of that city. Unable to refuse your request I immediately went back to the beginning of the volume, and expounded Hosea, Joel, and Amos. A severe sickness followed, and I showed my rashness in resuming the dictation of this work too hastily; and, whereas others hesitate to write and frequently correct their work, I entrusted mine to the fortune which attends those who employ a secretary, and hazarded my reputation for ability and orthodoxy; for, as I have often testified, I cannot endure the toil of writing with my own hand; and, in expounding the Holy Scriptures, what we want is not a polished style and oratorical flourishes, but learning and simple truth.
Addressed to Pammachius a.d. 403. The Preface records how in early youth (some thirty years before), he had attempted an allegorical commentary of Obadiah, of which he was now ashamed, though it has lately been praised by a youth of similar years.
This was addressed to Chromatius, 5443 but belongs to the year 395. It is said in the Preface to be three years after the commentary on Micah, Nahum, etc. The Preface merely touches on the various places of Scripture in which Jonah is named.
Addressed to Paula and Eustochium. a.d. 392. It is in two books. In the Preface to Book ii., Jerome vindicates himself against the charge of making mere compilations from Origen. He confesses, however, his great admiration for him. “What they consider a reproach,” he says, “I regard as the highest praise, since I desire to imitate him who, I doubt not, is acceptable to all wise men, and to you.”
Also to Paula and Eustochium, a.d. 392. The Preface contains little of importance. Jerome mentions that the village of Elkosh, Nahums birthplace, was pointed out to him by a guide in Galilee.
Addressed to Chromatius, a.d. 392. The commentary is in two books. The Preface to Book i. is long, but merely describes the contents of the book. That to Book ii. mentions among his adversaries, “The Serpent, and Sardanapalus, whose character is worse than his p. 502 name”—expressions which have been referred to Rufinus; but the enmity between Jerome and Rufinus had not broken out in 392.
Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, a.d. 392. In the Preface Jerome defends himself for writing for women, bringing many examples from Scripture and from classical writers to show the capacity of women.
Also to Paula and Eustochium, a.d. 392. The preface merely describes the occasion of the book, but says that Haggais prophecy was contemporary with the reign of Tarquinius Superbus (b.c. 535–510).
Addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse, a.d. 406, in three books, and sent, “in the closing days of autumn, by the monk, Sisinnius, who had been sent with presents for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and was hastening to Egypt on a similar errand.” The Prefaces to the three books mention these facts, but have nothing in them of note which has not been said before.
Addressed, a.d. 406, to Minervius and Alexander, presbyters of the diocese of Toulouse. The Jews, the Preface says, believe Malachi to be a name for Ezra. Origen and his followers believe that (according to his name) he was an angel. But we reject this view altogether, lest we be compelled to accept the doctrine of the fall of souls from heaven.
These four and Habakkuk are mentioned in the De Vir. Ill. (a.d. 492), and were written about that date, Jonah three years after, but Obadiah probably not till 403. The rest are fixed to the Sixth Consulate of Arcadius, 406.501:5441
But see Preface to Jonah, which is addressed to Chromatius.501:5442
The year a.d. 406.501:5443
Chromatius is named in this Preface distinctly. But see Preface to Amos, Book iii., which says that the Commentaries to Obadiah and Jonah were written at the request of Pammachius.