Thomas Aquinas vs. Jerome

In the final battle of the first round(!), we return to Confusion Corner as two giants of the faith, Thomas Aquinas and Jerome, face off. Yes, that would be Tom and Jerry. Who knows what hijinks will ensue as such intellectual firepower is engaged in the Saintly Smackdown?

Yesterday, Juana Inés de la Cruz defeated Gabriel the Archangel 66% to 34% and will face Origen in the Saintly Sixteen.

Now, go finish out the Round of 32!

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas was a thirteenth-century scholar, priest, and philosopher who single-handedly established the way we think about theology and philosophy.

Thomas was born around 1225 to a wealthy family in Roccasecca, governed by Sicily. His father was a knight, and his mother was a wealthy Neapolitan. At the age of 5, Thomas began to study at the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, where his uncle was the abbot, but a local war soon put a stop to that. So, his parents packed him off to a university in Naples instead. There, he began to study Aristotle and encountered his first Dominicans. He found the Dominicans so intriguing that he decided to join them at the age of 19. This displeased his fancy family. So alarmed were they at his new vocation that his brothers kidnapped him and held him captive for a year at the family castle in an attempt to change his mind.

It didn’t work. Thomas spent the time teaching his sisters and writing sad letters to other Dominicans. His brothers even hired a prostitute to seduce him, but he remained devoted to the faith. Finally, his family gave up. Thomas joined the Dominicans in Paris in 1245 and set about studying and writing. When his teacher, Albertus Magnus, departed for Cologne in 1248 to set up a new university, Thomas tagged along. Thomas taught classes on the Bible and theology while writing what we now recognize as the foundations of Western philosophical thought. His work sought to bring the philosophy of Aristotle into conversation with the Christian faith, proving that there is no
contradiction between the natural world we can observe through reason and the God-breathed world we know through faith.

After a wide-ranging career of writing, preaching, and teaching, in 1273, Thomas suddenly stopped. In the middle of writing his influential tome, the Summa Theologica, Thomas had some sort of profound mystical ecstasy while celebrating mass. Whatever he experienced drove him to stop his writing entirely, and he died several months later.

He was canonized quickly and is the patron saint of teachers, academics, theologians, and those who make pencils and books.

Collect for Thomas Aquinas

Almighty God, who has enriched your Church with the singular learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas: Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars, and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Megan Castellan


The life of Jerome (born circa 342 CE) straddled a time of great transition and growth in the Christian church. And Jerome found himself in the middle of it.

Jerome spent years of his life in Rome, where he encountered the new official religion of the empire—Christianity. He experienced a conversion and was baptized by the bishop of Rome. Energized by this new faith, young Jerome set out for the city of Antioch. He continued his academic studies in the city and ascetic prayer and reflection in the desert. This time of education and formation brought him to Constantinople, where he studied at the feet of the great Eastern theologian Gregory of Nazianzus.

Shaped by his years of study and prayer, Jerome returned to Rome to participate in the 382 Council of Rome. His quick intellect caught the eye of Pope Damasus I, who invited Jerome to serve as his personal secretary. Under the eye of Damasus, Jerome was encouraged in his intellectual work, including beginning work on biblical translations. In Rome, Jerome made fast friends with many of the noble women of the church. Their association with Jerome was used to cast suspicion on the morals of this increasingly influential scholar and priest. While his enemies accused Jerome of inappropriate relationships, especially with Paula of Rome, modern scholars argue that these women were patrons of and possibly collaborators with Jerome.

Jerome eventually made his way to Bethlehem, where he divided his time between a cave next to the grotto of the Nativity and a monastery that he established with Paula. Jerome spent 30 years working on his translation of scripture, weighing in on the theological controversies of the day, and pastoring pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Jerome translated the Bible from Latin into “common language” (vulgar/Vulgate). The Vulgate quickly became the primary Bible of the Christian church in the West. More than a thousand years later, the Council of Trent would uphold the Vulgate as the official Bible used by the church. For a millennium, the only Bible known to most Western Christians was the work of Jerome, and other translations for centuries after would lean on the patterns set by Jerome’s translation. He died on September 30, 420, and was laid to rest under the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

Collect for Jerome

O God, who gave us the holy Scriptures as a light to shine upon our path: Grant us, after the example of your servant Jerome, so to learn of you according to your holy Word, that we may find the Light that shines more and more to the perfect day; even Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.

David Hansen

UPDATE: The Supreme Executive Committee noticed several irregularities with this very close competition. At one point in the evening of the voting, the SEC noticed that someone had cast 30 votes for Thomas Aquinas, so 30 votes were added to Jerome. In the final hours of the vote, several people cast multiple votes for both Thomas and Jerome, but the net influence was that there were more pro-Jerome cheaters than pro-Thomas cheaters.

In our current system, the post announcing the next day's vote goes live at 7:55 a.m., and when we published the next day's post, the very close vote resulted in a declared win by Thomas with a margin of just one vote. However, in the next five minutes, because the polls technically close at 8:00 a.m., several more votes were cast. At 8:00 when the vote officially ended, there was an exact tie in reported votes. However, as we said above, there had been some cheating, the net of which was more illilict votes in favor of Jerome. After reviewing everything today, the SEC added one vote to Thomas Aquinas, so that he is shown as the winner, and this was both the correct original result AND the correct result after removing the fraudulent votes.

This was all exacerbated by the fact that this was, apart from a few cheaters (casting around 60 votes for Thomas and around 70 votes for Jerome) the closest match in Lent Madness history.

We apologize for the confusion. Both Scott and Tim were occupied all day in meetings. Believe it or not, we haven't figured out how to turn Lent Madness into a full-time job. Still, you can be confident that Thomas Aquinas did in fact win this match-up by the narrowest of margins. Please cast one vote and one vote only; when you vote repeatedly, it creates an unfair advantage, it makes more work for the SEC, and it can cause confusion with the Lent Madness public.


Thomas Aquinas: Carlo Crivelli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Jerome: Domenico Ghirlandaio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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148 comments on “Thomas Aquinas vs. Jerome”

  1. Once again I am straying from the limerick form at the muse’s behest. This saintly tribute should properly be sung to the tune “Home on the Range” (accompanied by a 4th century steel guitar).

    Jerome, saintly Jerome
    With his beard so abundant and gray:
    He can be overheard
    Searching for the right word
    To translate his next limerick today!

    1. Oh John, I was afraid you had left us there for a couple of weeks; so glad you're back. And how appropriate that you have taken Kansas' song for this week's offering. The Other Madness in March, that Tim and Scott were so vaguely aware of, is in full swing and the University of Kansas, where basketball is a religion, plays Providence on Friday--at which time most activities in Kansas will cease and the entire state will hold its breath.

  2. Ouch. Another tough one. I admire Aquinas (and his Eucharistic hymns are among my favorites), but Jerome gets my vote today. Our blogger doesn't mention it, but Jerome had a reputation for being truly vicious in disputation, to the point where in today's lingo we would say he "had no filter". If a vituperative old crank can be reckoned a saint and a Doctor of the Church, there's hope for the rest of us!

  3. As Jerome is the patron saint of librarians and I am a retired librarian this was an easy decision for me. Jerome is also well known for his belief that the knowledge of the Scripture was the riches of Christ and the ignorance of the Scripture was ignorance of Christ.

  4. I voted for Thomas because I studied his thought in college as part of my major. I have to say that Jerome is a worthy choice also.

  5. How interesting that Jerome's translation was meant to put the words of the bible into the common language--at the time!--but a thousand years and more later, the church was fighting to prevent the bible from being put into any other common language.

  6. I thought Jerome’s bible was from Hebrew and Greek into Latin? And that Latin bible was called the Vulgate?

    1. You’re right. The common language of the day, that is, the language that the greatest number of people had in common — was Latin.

      1. I looked this one up, being equally bewildered. Apparently some texts, in particular the Gospels, and fragments of other writings, were already in Latin, but ‘old’ Latin. And Jerome went back to the Greek in revising them into the common Latin of the day. The rest of the Bible he translated from Greek or Hebrew. (My infallible(?!) source: Wikipedia.)

        1. The “old Latin” scripture translations are, confusingly enough, not in Old Latin, but are basically the same language Jerome was using (though for the most part the style is much less good.). Jerome’s innovation was to do the whole Bible from start to finish, consulting Hebrew for the Old Testament (for which he was criticized at the time)—producing not only a *complete* Bible, but *also* one that was consistent in its translation policy and language use throughout, and had considered a variety of original sources.
          I believe it acquired the name “vulgate” later, not because it was in the “vulgar” language, but because it eventually became the common/normal/usual (“vulgar”) version of the Bible.

    2. Yes, came here to say that. Hebrew, Aramaic, demotic ("people's) Greek, all put into Latin, the closest to a common tongue at the time, & the Vulgate is in simple & beautiful Latin. So definitely Jerome for me.

  7. As much as I love Thomas Aquinas, Jerome is the patron saint of librarians. Choice made.

  8. Though I voted for Jerome, I raise my Tom & Jerry cocktail to these 2 giants of Christian thought

  9. Had to go for St. Thomas. My husband grew up in a Dominican parish and went to Providence College.

  10. My vote is for Jerome. He did not allow the naysayers of the time to keep him from respecting and working with women.
    It also seems to me that Thomas stands on the shoulders of Jerome whose Bible translation must have been a basis of Thomas’s study.

  11. Very tough decision today. Thomas's "Pange Lingua" is one of the most profound expressions of the Eucharist. In chant, it is among the most beaytiful and moving.

  12. Aquinas and Jerome, those most Catholic of contenders for the Golden Halo.

    Aquinas, the great theologian of the medieval era, that Eucharistic adorer to whom we owe the present liturgy of Corpus Christi. *Tantum ergo*, *O salutaris hostia*, and *Panis angelicus*, all of these are excerpts taken from longer hymns he composed for the feast, among which are included *Lauda Sion salvatorem* and *Adoro te devote*.

    Aquinas, theologian par excellence, first to be raised to the ranks of the Latin Doctors after the original quartet of Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great. Aquinas, whose method of philosophizing and theologizing would set the standard for generations of Catholics to come, who proposes not one, but *five* ways to reason for the existence of God.

    Jerome, the man of three languages, that curmudgeonly old master who translated the Old Testament directly from the Hebrew into the Latin, who begged to be released from the vice of anger that plagued him all his life.

    Jerome, ferocious defender of Mary’s perpetual virginity against Helvidius (“You have set on fire the temple of the Lord's body, you have defiled the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit from which you are determined to make a team of four brethren and a heap of sisters come forth. … Pray tell me, who, before you appeared, was acquainted with this blasphemy? Who thought the theory worth two-pence? You have gained your desire, and have become notorious by crime.”).

    Jerome, reverent confessor of papal primacy (“My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the Ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.”).

    Aquinas and Jerome, whose works were laid side by side on the altar during the Council of Trent, that cornerstone of the Counter-Reformation — the *Summa theologiae*, the gold standard for systematic theology and the philosophy of natural law; and the Vulgate translation of the Bible, hallowed by a thousand years of use in all churches subject to Rome, the only translation ever given the approval of an ecumenical council (“…the same sacred and holy Synod […] ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.”)

    Who then shall I choose? Reverence for the fathers compels me cast for Jerome, on whose translation Aquinas was nourished in his faith.

    1. P.S. Aquinas would surely shy away from the Golden Halo anyway — in one of his mystical experiences, Christ spoke to him from the cross saying “You have written well of me Thomas, what reward would you have?” The friar’s reply is one that would have put Solomon himself to shame: “Domine, non nisi te”.

      “Lord, nothing except yourself.”

  13. We live by the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters in the Midwest. All the sisters there are such wonderful women, I had to vote for St. Thomas Aquinas.

    1. What I would give to live by a motherhouse of sisters. How special for you to see their comings and goings.

  14. Jerome. For the Bible in the vernacular. Although the icon for Thomas is amazing: the pages in that book are gorgeously rendered.

    1. Also voting for my old friend Jerome. Rumer Godden wrote a lovely children’s book, Jerome and the Lion, and that is what came to mind today. I love Jerome for his love of the Bible, and for the women he allowed into his scholarly world.

  15. Voting for Jerome, the patron saint of librarians, today. Either one is worthy. I agree with the person who said that pitting these two against each other should be higher level in the bracket pairings.

  16. At last, a 4th century saint whose life is well documented and whose story doesn't involve implausible miracles. (I hope.) Old curmudgeon that he was. Jerome would have been in anger management counseling most of his waking hours if he was living in the present day.

    Still undecided, though.

  17. I come from a family full of librarians and teachers, two noble callings under attack here in Texas. Another hard decision. Perhaps I'll follow the 11 disciples and cast lots (or eeny-meeny-miney-mo).

    1. " sought to bring the philosophy of Aristotle into conversation with the Christian faith, proving that there is no
      contradiction between the natural world we can observe through reason and the God-breathed world we know through faith."
      I will choose Thomas in celebration of my daughter the scientist and my son-in-love the Methodist pastor.

      1. Lane Johnson, for a man of his time, Thomas Aquinas was well ahead of it, acknowledging both science and faith as important to our lives. By the way, I liked your epithet for your son-in-law. I always refer to the wonderful women who married my sons as my daughters(in-law).

  18. Both saints up today are more than worthy. I voted for Thomas Aquinas because I want to read more of the blogger who wrote this:
    “ Thomas taught classes on the Bible and theology while writing what we now recognize as the foundations of Western philosophical thought. His work sought to bring the philosophy of Aristotle into conversation with the Christian faith, proving that there is no contradiction between the natural world we can observe through reason and the God-breathed world we know through faith.“

  19. I am unable to vote for either of these candidates because of their anti-Judaism. I realize how widespread this is over the past two thousand years; however, I think it is especially objectional in the case of theologians interpreting the meaning of Christ Jesus and Christianity.

    1. Alas, Paul, that fire-breathing Pharisee, laid down the basic framework for hatred of "the Jews." I'd like to think that if Paul could see the legacy of some of his constructions he would write some thoughtful and passionate, if tortuous, letters to us.

      1. Methinks anti-Semitism was not only a Pauline construct - I believe that the Gospel of John also contributed mightily to that gross injustice.

        1. Paul's letters pre-date the gospels, but certainly bad translations that "the Jews" killed Jesus have polluted Christian thinking.

  20. Jerome made the word of God available in a common language. Thomas undoubtable brought structure to way Christianity was presented to those in positions of power in the emerging church, but I vote for Jerome who gave us the words of God, not the theology of learned men.

  21. Since there is no woman to vote for, a collaborator with women is next best. Jerome gets my vote. But then, I generally seem to vote for the underdog.

  22. As we move steadfastly through our 2022 Lenten Journey, I'd like to announce my bracket was busted sometime last week and continues to explode on an alarmingly regular basis. More importantly, the deep pleasure this exercise infuses into my days (as has been the case over many years) makes these "humblings" an absolute delight. For today's adventure in ego adjustment, I voted for Jerome. No one is more surprised than me that I did. Be well all.

    1. Lent Madness has been an annual delight for me as well. My mug collection goes back to Bonhoeffer. But how sad I am to have missed out on Julian of Norwich’s tea cup(that people were encouraged to use as a cat food bowl).