Jerome vs. John Patteson

February 24, 2012
Tim Schenck

Today's matchup is a battle between two learned gentlemen separated by 14 centuries. While both were great linguists, one sat around translating Scripture and became a hermit (Jerome) while the other went to New Zealand to become a bishop and martyr (Patteson). So, would you rather be a hermit or a martyr? Or a martyred hermit for that matter?

In recent action, Joan of Arc trounced Lancelot Andrewes (62% to 38%). Check out the updated bracket.

Jerome (c.347-420) was the most famous biblical scholar of ancient Christianity. The Latin version of the Bible known as the Vulgate (from the Latin vulgata, meaning “common”), translated from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, was mostly the fruit of his work. It brought to an end the great differences between various Latin biblical texts that were circulating in the late 4th century. His writings also included biblical commentaries, which offered a variety of linguistic and topographical information to interpret the scriptures; attacks against the heresies of Arianism, Pelagianism, and Origenism; and letters that advocated extreme asceticism.

Rome is where Jerome lived as a student and was baptized as a Christian. He became a hermit (i.e., someone who retreats for religious reasons into a solitary life) for a period of four or five years in the Syrian desert. Leaving behind that solitude, he was later ordained a priest and became secretary to Pope Damasus from 382 to 384. During those same years, at the Pope’s request, Jerome revised the existing translations of the four gospels.

Finally, in 386, Jerome settled in Bethlehem, belonging to a monastery and devoting himself to a life of study. There he continued his work, begun in Rome, producing numerous biblical translations. After his death, these would be collected into a single Bible, the Vulgate, probably in the 6th century. For more than a thousand years, the Vulgate was the definitive biblical text of Western Christianity.

Collect for Jerome: O Lord, O God of truth, your Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant Jerome, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit will overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, will transform us according to your righteous will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Neil Alan Willard

John Patteson (1 April 1827 – 20 September 1871) was the elder son of Sir John Patteson the judge, by his second wife, Frances Duke Coleridge. He was educated at a private school in Devon and then at Eton. He was a good student and sportsman. He was also deeply religious. In 1845 he went to Oxford where he was influenced by the Oxford Movement. He studied briefly in Germany. There he became competent in Hebrew and Arabic and showed his outstanding flair for languages. Ordained deacon in 1853 and priest the following year, he offered himself to Bishop Selwyn for work in Melanesia. He arrived in New Zealand in 1855. Two years later he was put in charge of the Melanesian Mission. He founded a college on Norfolk Island for native boys, toured the islands on the ship Southern Cross, and learned more than twenty of the local languages.

On 24 February 1861 Patteson was ordained as the first Bishop of Melanesia.

Travel in Melanesia was always risky, and Patteson’s life was often in danger. His health suffered in the 1860s. On 20 September 1871 Patteson was murdered on the island of Nukapu. Joseph Atkin and Stephen Taroaniara, who accompanied Patteson, died a week later of wounds received at the time. It was widely believed that Patteson’s death was in retaliation for the “slave” trading, but this is by no means certain. Patteson’s death did however ensure more rigorous regulations on labour trading, and gave strong impetus in England to the missionary work of the church.

Collect for John Patteson: God of the southern isles and seas, we remember with thanksgiving your servant John Patteson, whose life was taken by those 
for whom he would freely have given it; grant us the same courage in extending your gospel 
and readiness to share our life with others, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Bosco Peters


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53 comments on “Jerome vs. John Patteson”

  1. Looking at the image of Jerome you can't help but wonder: what did he have written on his palm? Ixnay on the Book of Judas?

  2. For you cat lovers, don't forget that iconographically, Jerome is accompanied by his faithful lion, who was grateful to Jerome for having pulled the agonizing thorn out of his paw. The best picture I know of him is by Colantonio in the Museum of Naples, pulling out the thorn, with his cardinal's hat on the desk of his very messy study - and a mouse with a piece of cheese in a hole behind his chair. What's not to love?

  3. I'm in the "voting for the underdog" category today. Although I admire Jerome, I can empathize (somewhat) for John Patteson. When working among folks who may not want you around, following the Lord wherever he leads can be daunting.

  4. Another thing about Jerome is that he had a vibrant letter-writing ministry through which he corresponded with several interconnected families in Rome. Much of this work was spiritual and theological material for the matriarchs, Paula and Eustochia. Jerome gives them suggestions on how to conduct themselves, watch out for unscrupulous clergy, and advice on the (quite thorough) education of their daughters.

    In short, this Church Father is one of our better sources for understanding the lives of the Church Mothers for whom we have little surviving material.

  5. Being a recovered alcoholic who has spent the last 37 years who's mission has been proactive rather than scholarly my heart has to go with John Patterson.

    1. Well, most of those languages Bishop Patteson knew were unknown outside of the isolated Melonesian locales in the time of Jerome. Jerome's linguistic gift gave him the ability to make sense of the scriptures and, more importantly, the motivation to sit to the work of translation. Go, Jerome!

  6. Wasn't it Jerome who couldn't imagine Paul could call a woman 'apostle,' and so re-named Junia, Junius? (Romans 16:7) I'll take Patteson, thanks.

  7. I was initially inclined to go with Jerome, but then noticed in the painting how badly he seems to be boring the guy sitting across from him at the table. For that matter, Jerome himself appears to be contemplating slitting his own wrists. The patron saint of seminarians perhaps?

  8. Oh, John Patteson gets my vote today - because he went where God called him, irregardless of dangers. A model of faithfulness!

  9. I was also initially inclined to vote for Jerome, the more so because of the lion, but then read Jerome's teachings on women and on sexuality in general, and have decided to go with Patteson, whose dedication and courage I admire.

  10. If this were a game of football, I'd be called "neutral" today. Still making up my mind. Will check back for persuasive comments as the day goes on. Anyone know if Patteson's mother was related to THE Coleridges? Samuel's father was a Vicar. Might make a difference.

  11. I'm having voter's remorse again today. Tomorrow I'll vote later in the day
    after reading more comments.

  12. Jerome had a cantakerous personality. "Meaner and grumpier than a junkyard dog" gets it right. His work was saintly but his behavior often wasn't. I'll go with Patteson.

  13. I guess I'm attracted the word guys rather than the action guys (Joan falls into the latter because guys has become a mostly gender-neutral word; if you don't buy that, the cross-dressing should suffice!) So Jerome it is -- who looks as if he's going to win today by a bigger margin the Andrewes lost yesterday.

  14. Aww, come on Bosco! Push a bit harder for Patteson!

    For a start, "slave"-trading definitely does not need those scare-quotes. Not only was Melanesia being decimated by real, genuine slave-trading, but Patteson was a relentless crusader against this slave trade - unlike, well, pretty much any other white people in the Pacific.

    One can read more about the Pacific slave trade and John Patteson's role in combating it at

    It takes somebody pretty amazing for a missionary to get such good press in a blog devoted mainly to socialist theory and skepticism.

  15. I know of no biographical material that does not say Jerome was a very difficult person to be around... despite that I vote for Jerome. Was reading the Vulgate this morning in the Divine Office for Lent which has been my practice for +50 years and was just amazed at the clarity of expression in Jerome's work. What many folks do not realize is that the KJV was heavily dependent in following Jerome in translation difficulties. For instance in Genesis 1:26 which the KJV uses "dominion" it is following Jerome but Jerome meant the word as a cognate of "Dominius" = remember creation belongs to the "Lord" not to humans.

  16. Despite knowing that Jerome was a desert father, I voted for John Patteson because he loved sports and because he was (if I read the bio correctly as referenced above) the great nephew of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Plus, there should be a few upsets, no?

    These are tough decisions and ones that I am perhaps taking a bit too seriously. Anyhow....what fun!

  17. St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians.
    Be kind to your favorite librarian! Vote for Jerome!

  18. Ack...going for the underdog again. Patteson was a crusader against the slave trade. While Jerome was a great scholar to whom we owe much, hermits have never held much appeal for me. Patterson, for me, better exemplifies the Great Commission. Besides, everytime I hear "St Jerome", I think of Ghostbusters...