Religion: The Irascible Hermit

The Western world, in its scholarly moments, remembers St. Jerome as the learned ascetic who translated the Old Testament into serviceable 4th century Latin—his Vulgate remains the official Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. Medieval and Renaissance artists (including Raphael, El Greco, Dürer and Van Dyck) have handed down a stock portrait of a calm and cadaverous holy man who has generally—following a popular legend—just removed a thorn from a grateful lion's paw. Scholars have long known better. In A Monument to St Jerome (Sheed & Ward; $4.50) nine Roman Catholic authorities...

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