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Did St. Jerome Make a Pun in the Bible?

St. Jerome’s most esteemed contribution to the Christian religion was his primary work in the translation of the Bible, leading to the creation of Vulgate. Also known for his puns, we can see his wit reflected in the pun he made in one of the most famous stories in the Book of Genesis. 

In the well-known story of the forbidden fruit-induced fall of man, it’s revealed that St. Jerome included a play on words that brought different depictions to what we generally know as the forbidden bruit. 

Who is Saint Jerome?

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, who we now know at St. Jerome, was born in Stridon, Dalmatia, referred to as Croatia or Slovenia in current times, in 342 AD. (Source: Catholic Online

St. Jerome learned Latin and Greek from the teachings of his instructor, Aelius Donatos, an esteemed Roman grammarian. There is only a little information about his childhood except for the assumption that both his parents were Christian. (Source: Catholic Online

To study grammar, philosophy, and rhetoric, St. Jerome moved to Rome, where he then proceeded to fall into a pleasure-seeking life. He mainly pursued women, and even if he knew his actions were wrong, he didn’t change immediately. Often, St. Jerome would go to crypts in Rome and think about suffering in hell. (Source: Catholic Online

During 366, St. Jerome solidified his decision to become a Christian with the influence of his Christian friend, Bonosus. Not long after, Pope Liberius baptized him. With Bonosus by his side, St. Jerome traveled to Tier to acquire ecclesiastical training to pursue his interests in theology. (Source: Catholic Online

He continued to travel and make companions, eventually ending up in Antioch, where he began producing Concerning the Seven Beatings; soon, he developed an illness that induced visions that made his relationship with God closer. (Source: Catholic Online

A few years later, he was ordained as a priest and assigned as the secretary of Pope Damasus. During his time as a secretary, he promoted the concept of asceticism, facing many controversies with his wit and attitude. (Source: Catholic Online

St. Jerome continued to travel, settling in Bethlehem, where he and his followers established a monastery. He continued to devote most of his life to translating scriptures from Hebrew and Old Latin. (Source: Catholic Online

The Evil Apple

The fruit that the first woman and man ate from the Tree of Knowledge was never depicted to be an apple in the Book of Genesis. But how is it that now, there is a common belief that the fruit that led to man’s downfall was an apple?

When Pope Damasus commissioned St. Jerome to translate the Bible written in Greek and Bible to the more spoken Latin Language, St. Jerome became the most significant scholar of scripture. St. Jerome spent an estimated 15 years translating the Bible, leading to the creation of Vulgate, a commonly used Bible translation in Latin. (Source: Alateia)

When St. Jerome translated the Bible in the 4th century, the Latin term malus meant two different things. It can either mean apple or evil. And although St. Jerome had numerous terms of fruit for his translation, St. Jerome picked the Latin term for apple as it denotes two relevant meanings. It’s not surprising as St. Jerome was well known not only for his attitude but also for his interest in puns. (Source: Alateia)

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