Why does Jerome not cite the Vulgate of the Pericope adulterae?

Jerome’s remarks on the story of the adulterous woman in his tract Against the Pelagians (415) are sometimes cited as evidence for its existence at the time of his revision of the gospels in 384. In an earlier post though, I pointed out that Against the Pelagians was written some thirty years after the Vulgate gospels and hence probably cannot be considered evidence for the state of the text in the early 380’s, at the time of Jerome’s Vulgate project.

The question remains of course whether Jerome was looking back to this earlier time. In light of this possibility, it is noteworthy that Jerome does not cite the Vulgate text in his remarks to the Pelagians. Consider:

Against the Pelagians (CCSL 80) Vulgate (R. Weber)
At Iesus inclinus digito scribebat in terra (v. 6)

Qui sine peccato est uestrum, primus mittat super eam lapidem (v. 7)

Vbi sunt? Nemo te condemnauit? Quae ait: Nullus, Domine. Responditque ei Iesus: neque ego te condemno. Vade, et amodo noli peccare. (vv. 10-11)

Iesus autem inclinans se deorsum digito scribebat in terra (v. 6)

qui sine peccato est vestrum primus in illam lapidem mittat (v. 7)

ubi sunt nemo te condemnavit quae dixit nemo Domine dixit autem Iesus nec ego te condemnabo vade et amplius iam noli peccare (vv. 10-11)

Clearly Jerome’s three citations of the pericope adulterae in Adversus Pelagianos attest some significant discrepancies in comparison with the Vulgate. The differences in vv. 10-11 seem hardest to explain. After all, it seems odd that Jerome would default to a different form of the woman’s two-word response, “No one, Lord,” or the memorable pronouncement, “Neither do I condemn you,” even if he were paraphrasing or citing from memory.

4 thoughts on “Why does Jerome not cite the Vulgate of the Pericope adulterae?

  1. One should bear in mind that much of Against Pelagians is framed as a dialogue, and Jerome may have wished to add to the verisimilitude of it by refraining from quoting his own translation-work. At least, it would be worth checking elsewhere in Against Pelagians to see if this is done throughout the work, or only where the PA is involved.

    • Hi James,

      I appreciate your insightful reminder to consider the context of Jerome’s statements in assessing his biblical citations, with which I completely agree. Also, your point is well-taken that a more thorough study of the citations in AP is necessary before drawing any firm conclusions on the text used by Jerome. Thanks for pointing this out!


      • 415
        Jerome on anamartêtosneed all support he could get (real or imaginary). See Ep133.
        Also for some J increasing critical of his own early efforts.

        • Thanks for the pointer to Jerome’s comments on αναμαρτητος in Epistle 133.

          I confess that I do not find much in the way of self-criticism in Jerome, even of his earlier opinions, though I do find him conveniently distancing himself from positions and associations as they fall out of favor. But perhaps my view of Jerome is unfairly cynical.

What do you think?