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.

This poll is no longer accepting votes

6823 votes


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. To me, Jerome's translating the Bible into "common language" trumps all. I am so happy not to have to learn a foreign language to read the word of God. We have a weekly prayer service I lead where we discuss a reading, usually from the New Testament. Couldn't do that without Jerome. Thanks, pal!

    1. I have since learned that Jerome actually translated the Bible into Latin, so no help there. However, I will cover myself by saying that he began the practice of creating Bible translations into the "common language," providing a precedent for later translators to give us Bibles in English, French, Hawaiian, Native American languages, etc. So thanks, again, Jerome!

      1. He translated intentionally into common or Vulgar Latin instead of Classical Latin, so the Scriptures would be in the language of the common people.

  2. Saint Thomas is a great mind of our faith, whose writings I endeavored to understand in my youth. He pops up in fiction and cinema regularly too, as a sort of Catholic touchstone and to demonstrate the intellect of a heroic character. Although Americans aren’t a naturally philosophical people, and our public discourse has devolved to shouting and cynicism, emoticons and vulgarity, we should honor a Founding Father of theology and well expressed argument. Thomas for me.

  3. Another coin toss. All honor to St. Jerome for his translation of the Bible. I studied Hebrew and Greek at Perkins so that I could do my own translations for my exegesis papers. Nevertheless I voted for St. Thomas because he is the head trip’s head trip. Also, the channels of revelation of Godself to us are scripture, tradition, and reason in the Anglican tradition. As an Episcopalian, I like that.

    1. Go Mustangs!

      [I was an undergrad and my major was at Meadows but I was fortunate to live next to Perkins in Martin Hall.]

  4. As we are focusing on St Thomas Aquinas ’ 7 Deadly Sins & 7 Saintly Virtues for Lent Christian Formation today’s vote was easier than choosing Tom over Jerry. I am grateful to Jerome for his Biblical translation, since the only Latin I know is from word etymology or medical terminology, I imagine the originals reading like a prescription story..

  5. voted for Thomas -
    reason#1 have always had a hard time trying to justify my belief to others that "there is no contradiction between the natural world we can observe through reason and the God-breathed world we know through faith".
    Reason#2 in reading Megan's post (and, being not familiar with saints and their lives, unfortunately) I interpreted Thomas' death several months later after having a 'profound mystical ectasy', or what ever he experienced as relating to the death of my Dad. He was a devout Catholic (my Mom raised Baptist!!) and shortly after her death his cancer returned. He chose, I felt, a form of suicide (forbidden in the Catholic religion). "I just want to be with your Mother" he told me many times. He refused everything but pain med and died within months. I know he is with God, so I have no angst or lasing regrets about that. It justifys to me Thomas' "mystical ectasy" of choosing to die (at least that is how I choose to think of it) and my Dad's refusal of food and medicine. I hope God answers my call when needed.
    Must say I loved Jerome 'having no filter' as Julianne said. Love curmudgeons!!!!

  6. I voted for Thomas Aquinas because of this line: "there is no contradiction between the natural world we can observe through reason and the God-breathed world we know by faith."

  7. This was the hardest vote so far, two great contributors to Christian understanding, one through analysis and the other through translation. I had to go with Thomas as patron of educators, but with much respect to Jerome.

  8. Another tidbit about Jerome. This one is for the cat people out there:

    In "The Golden Legend", c. 1260, Jacobus de Voragine tells a story of Jerome helping a lion with a thorn stuck in its paw (a Christian riff on the fable of Androcles and the lion). So Jerome was a (big) cat guy – another point in his favor. This is also why he is often depicted in art with a lion at his feet.

  9. Evolution Weekend ( just passed, it would be appropriate to vote for Thomas - but as a biblical storyteller, I had to choose Jerome the nasty. God used his talents, not his personality.

  10. Tough decision today. I would happily vote for either. Jerome wrestled with anger all his life and worked with women. Thomas sought to bring science and faith together and is the patron of books - perhaps I should buy some more in his honour. In the end self-interest swung my vote to Thomas, in the hope that he will bless my own dabbling in theological research.

  11. My vote is for Aquinas, in part for the Eucharistic hymns others mention (though I'm not a great fan of his theology of transubstantiation), but more for the recognition, in his late life vision, that all he had written about God was "so much straw." His humble openness to the God who is beyond his capacity to explain is the deepest theological work.

  12. Illuminating comments today as per always on these two heavyweights. At present the voting is a near tie, with Jerome slightly behind. That is why he is getting my vote. Okay, along with the translation, seeming support for women's intellectual agency, and the story about the lion.

  13. With great respect for the Lenten committee, having followed Lent Madness for several years now, it feels like this idea of "quirky" pairings of saints in the first round has gone from an occasional joke to a near requirement. Eagerness to have "Felix vs. Oscar" or "Tom vs. Jerry" seems to be heavily influencing the bracket formation at this point - it's almost all made up of either popular heavy-hitters like Queen Emma and Kateri Tekakwitha, or these "amusing duos". It's starting to feel like less-famous saints don't have much chance of getting on the bracket unless their names are suitable for a punny pairing. I hope that's not unfair of me! I just want to see a broad variety of lesser-known saintly candidates, chosen for more than the humor quotient of their names...

      1. The SEC, it seems to me, thrives on being ‘over the top’! Don’t encourage them by complaining!

    1. The SEC has indulged in garish pairings
      to chase ratings that for Christians are red herrings
      when instead our clothing should be rent
      during a pious and chocolate-free Lent
      and now the faithful all need to regain our bearings.

  14. As a librarian, I absolutely must cast my vote for St. Jerome, patron saint of librarians and libraries (as well as archivists, translators, and encyclopedists).

    "You pray: You speak to the Bridegroom. You read: He speaks to you..." - St. Jerome

  15. I love that we have two scholars in this matchup so that the “action vs. intellect/contemplation” situation that so often presents on Lent Madness cannot be a factor!

    I’m voting for Thomas because of his championing of "there is no contradiction between the natural world we can observe through reason and the God-breathed world we know by faith.” We’ve desperately needed that attitude throughout history and never more than now.

    I had no idea that Thomas had such a colorful youth – thank you, Megan Castellan!

    I will not, however, be crushed if Jerome is today’s winner. I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for him because he was such a grouch – he could be the patron saint of curmudgeons. Also because of the many paintings of him with the lion from whose paw according to the story he removed a thorn, in which the lion looks rather like he stuck around and became an affectionate companion.

    Speaking of paintings, Lent Madness’ image of Jerome, a 1480 fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio, is beloved by scholars of material culture because it shows so much “stuff” that would be in a Renaissance scholar’s study. Note especially the object directly below Jerome’s right hand. Those are reading glasses. Simple magnifying glasses that corrected for presbyopia were developed in Italy sometime in the late 13th century.

  16. Tough one today. Jerome's disposition was less than saintly, but IMHO scholasticism ruined Western Christianity.

  17. There's a small error in the Jerome report: he didn't translate the bible from Latin, he translated it into Latin from Hebrew and Greek.

  18. I think that so much of our problems in the western church is that we went down the dead-end street of logic when we seek God. There are theologians in other Christian bodies, but they seem to always begin and end with mystery.

  19. I do enjoy meeting people who are responsible for how I think (Aquinas) or how I study my Bible (Origen). No better example of Resurrection power in operation!
    But I did not vote for Aquinas. I’ve never been a fan of Jerome; I have zero patience for holy people who have a vicious streak. And, Jerome’s reputation for his foul disposition lingers through the ages. But Paula and he were most excellent collaborators… and Jerome’s work put the Bible into the hands of people.
    And I’m feeling sentimental about a visiting the Holy Land, while at the Church of the nativity in Bethlehem. Visiting a little chapel room - a carved out cave. Someone said, “this is where St. Jerome spent years translating Scripture.” I still get chills thinking about it.
    I voted St Jerome today.

  20. Today you went from the ridiculous (an angel versus a human being) to the sublime - two really heavy-hitters, both of whom contributed greatly to the church. I had to do an eeny-meemy-miny-mo before I cast my vote for Thomas.

  21. Two big time church thinkers are neck and neck. For no reason known to me at this moment, I voted for Thomas.

  22. Correction to your post on Jerome: he worked to translate the more ancient Hebrew version of the Old Testament into Latin instead of using the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (better known as the Greek Septuagint) as his source for translating the OT into Latin. He did use the Septuagint for his translation of the Psalms to Latin. His work to revise the Latin texts of the New Testament wasn't technically a "translation" of the NT, but an effort to update the Latin NT by referencing as many copies of New Testament writings that he could access in the original languages so as to provide the most literally correct reading and understanding of the texts. The letters between Jerome and Augustine of Hippo "hashing out" the obscure meanings of ancient Hebrew and Greek are both enlightening and rather amusing at times because these two great minds had little patience with each other, but could find no one else of equal academic prowess to argue with about such matters.

  23. Correction to your post on 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 Aquinas was instrumental in systematizing the great body of work written by Augustine of Hippo, who, according to Jerome, "established anew the ancient faith." It was Augustine of Hippo whose writings influenced the development of Western Philosophy and Western Christianity that formed the foundation of church theology for the first 1500 years of Western Christianity. It is upon this foundation that Thomas Aquinas stands - he did not "single-handedly established the way we think about theology and philosophy.' Indeed, in response to the mystical experience at the altar that you reference, he said "all that I have written is straw." and his Summa Theologica was never completed.

  24. While we are all in favour of studying science and theology together, and recognizing modern science as an accurate description of God’s good Creation, we have found that Greek (Aristotelian) understandings of science have been an obstacle to getting good science into good Christian heads. The ‘intelligent design’ arguments have roots in Greek thought. And that’s all Thomas’s fault, so I’m going to support Jerome. Besides, lions, Paula, and an equally difficult-to-harness temper!