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LIVES OF ILLUSTRIOUS MEN.
THIS Combined work of Jerome and Gennadius is unique and indispensable in the history of early Christian literature, giving as it does a chronological history in biographies of ecclesiastical literature to about the end of the fifth century.
For the period after the end of Eusebius' Church History it is of prime value.
I. TIME AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION, AND CHARACTER.
1. The work of Jerome was written at Bethlehem in 492. It contains 135 writers from Peter up to that date. In his preface Jerome limits the scope of his work to those who have written on Holy Scriptures, but in carrying out his plans he includes all who have written on theological topics; whether Orthodox or Heretic, Greek, Latin, Syriac, and even Jews and Heathen (Josephus, Philo, Seneca). The Syriac writers mentioned are however few. Gennadius apologizes for the scanty representation which they have in Jerome on the ground that the latter did not understand Syriac, and only knew of such as had been translated.
The motive of the work was, as the preface declares, to show the heretics how many and how excellent writers there were among the Christians. The direct occasion of the undertaking was the urgency of his friend Dexter, and his models were, first of all Suetonius, and then various Greek and Latin biographical works including the Brutus of Cicero.
Jerome expressly states in his preface that he had no predecessor in his work, but very properly acknowledges his indebtedness to the Church History of Eusebius, from whom he takes much verbatim. The first part of the work is taken almost entirely from Eusebius.
The whole work gives evidence of hasty construction (e.g., in failure to enumerate the works of well-known writers or in giving only selections from the list of their writings) but too much has been made of this, for in such work absolute exhaustiveness is all but impossible, and in the circumstances of those days, such a list of writers and their works is really remarkable. He apologizes in the preface for omitting such as are not known to him in his "out of the way corner of the earth." He has been accused of too great credulity, in accepting e.g., the letters of Paul to Seneca as genuine, but on the other hand he often shows himself both cautious (Hilary, Song of S.) and critical (Minutius Felix De Fato).
The work was composed with a practical purpose rather than a scientific one and kept in general well within that purpose - giving brief information about writers not generally known. This is perhaps why in writing of the better known writers like Cyprian he does not enumerate their works.
2. The work of Gennadius was written about 480 according to some, or 492 to 495 according to others. Ebert with the Benedictins and others before him, makes an almost conclusive argument in favor of the earlier date on the ground that Gennadius speaks of
Timotheus Aelurus who died in 477 as still living. This compels the rejection of the paragraph on Gennadius himself as by a later hand, but this should probably be done at any rate, on other grounds. The mss. suggest that Gennadius ended with John of Antioch, although an hypothesis of three editions before the year 500, of which perhaps two were by Gennadius, has grounds. The bulk of the work at least was composed about 480 (probably chapters 1-90) and the remainder added perhaps within a few years by Gennadius or more probably two other hands.
Gennadius' style is as bare and more irregular than Jerome's but he more frequently expresses a critical judgment and gives more interesting glimpses of his own-the semiPelagian-point of view. The work appears more original than Jerome's and as a whole hardly less valuable, though the period he covers is so much shorter.
1. The literature on Jerome is immense. The oftenest quoted general works are Zöckler, Hieronymus. Gotha, 1865 and Thierry, St. Férome Par. 1867. On Jerome in general the article by Freemantle in Smith and Wace Dict. of Christian Biography is the first for the English reader to turn to. Ceillier and other patrologies, while sufficiently full for their purpose, give very little special treatment to this work, Ebert (Gesch. chr.Lat.-Lit. Lpz. 1874) being a partial exception to this statement. The best literary sources are the prolegomena and notes to the various editions of the work itself. Much the same may be said of Gennadius though the relative importance of his catalogue among his writings gives that a larger proportionate attention. In English the article by Cazenove in Smith and Wace and in French the account in the Histoire litteraire de la France are the best generally accessible references.
2. Literature on the writers mentioned by Jerome and Gennadius. Any one who cares to follow up in English the study of any of the writers mentioned in the Lives of illustrious men will find tools therefor: 1. For the earlier writers to the time of Eusebius, Eusebius Church History tr. M'Giffert (N. Y. Chr. Lit. Co.) notes. 2. For the whole period: Smith and Wace Dict. of Christian Biography, 4 vols. and more accessible to most (though a cheap reprint of Smith and Wace is now threatened) Schaff. Church Hist. (N. Y. Scribners) where at the end of each volume an account is given of the chief writers of the period including admirable bibliographical reference.
Of course the best source is the works themselves: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Coxe, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers ed. Schaff and Wace. (N. Y. Christian Literature Co.) For further research the student is referred to the list of Patrologies and Bibliographies in the supplementary volume of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, to the bibliography of Ante-Nicene Fathers in the same volume, to Chevalier. Dict. des sources hist. and the memoranda by Sittl, in the Jahresberichte ü. d. fortschr. d. class. Alterthwiss. 1887 sq. 3. MANUSCRIpts.
The manuscripts of Jerome and Gennadius are numerous. The translator has seen 84 mss. of Jerome and 57 of Gennadius and has certain memoranda of at least 25 more and hints of still another score. It is certainly within bounds to say that there are more than 150 mss. of Jerome extant and not less than 100 of Gennadius.
The oldest of those examined (and all the oldest of which he could learn were seen) are at Rome, Verona, Vercelli, Montpellier, Paris, Munich and Vienna.
The editions of Jerome are relatively as numerous as the mss. The Illustrious men is included in almost all the editions of his collected works, in his collected "minor writ