Quotations by Saint Jerome

Insight and spirituality from Jerome's many letters and writings

St. Jerome in his cell
St. Jerome in his cell by Marinus van Reymerswaele, 1545. Public Domain; courtesy of Wikimedia

Best known for his Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), Saint Jerome was a prolific writer on many Church topics. He also wrote numerous letters to friends he met on his extensive travels. Through these various writings modern scholars have a fine window into Jerome's thoughts.

Here are some quotations from Saint Jerome.

  • Athletes as a rule are stronger than their backers; yet the weaker presses the stronger to put forth all his efforts.
    -- Letters
     
  • Beauty when unadorned is adorned the most.
    -- attributed
     
  • Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.
    -- attributed
     
  • Begin now to be what you will be hereafter.
    -- attributed
     
  • The charges we bring against others often come home to ourselves; we inveigh against faults which are as much ours as theirs; and so our eloquence ends by telling against ourselves.
    -- Letters
     
  • A clergyman who engages in business, and who rises from poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to a high position, avoid as you would the plague.
    -- Letters
     
  • Do not let your deeds belie your words, lest when you speak in church someone may say to himself, "Why do you not practice what you preach?"
    -- Letters
     
  • Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness?
    -- Letters
     
  • Even brute beasts and wandering birds do not fall into the same traps or nets twice.
    -- Letters
     
  • Every day we are changing, every day we are dying, and yet we fancy ourselves eternal.
    -- Letters
     
  • Everything must have in it a sharp seasoning of truth.
    -- Letters
     
  • The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
    -- Letters
     
  • The fact is that my native land is a prey to barbarism, that in it men's only God is their belly, that they live only for the present, and that the richer a man is the holier he is held to be.
    -- Letters
     
  • A fat paunch never breeds fine thoughts.
    -- Letters
     
  • For it is good to cleave to God, and to put our hopes in the Lord, so that, when we have exchanged this poor life for the kingdom of heaven, we may cry aloud: 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.' Assuredly, when we have found such wealth in heaven, we may well grieve to have sought after poor passing pleasures here on earth.
    -- Letters
     
  • A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept.
    -- Letters
     
  • The friendship that can cease has never been real.
    -- Letters
     
  • I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
    -- Commentary on Isaiah
     
  • If an offence come out of the truth, better it is that the offence come than the truth be concealed.
    -- attributed
     
  • If there is but little water in the stream, it is the fault, not of the channel, but of the source.
    -- Letters
     
  • It is easier to mend neglect than to quicken love.
    -- Letters
     
  • It is idle to play the lyre for an ass.
    -- Letters
     
  • It is no fault of Christianity that a hypocrite falls into sin.
    -- Letters
     
  • It is worse still to be ignorant of your ignorance.
    -- Letters
     
  • Let your daughter have first of all the book of Psalms for holiness of heart, and be instructed in the Proverbs of Solomon for her godly life.
    -- Letters
     
  • The line, often adopted by strong men in controversy, of justifying the means by the end.
    -- Letters. Here Jerome condemns the concept that would become a prominent theme in Niccolo Machiavelli's seminal work, The Prince, more than a thousand years later.
     
  • Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price.
    -- Letters
     
  • Neither Britain, a land fertile in tyrants, nor the people of Ireland, knew Moses and the prophets.
    -- Letters
     
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
    -- On the Epistle to the Ephesians
     
  • No athlete is crowned but in the sweat of his brow.
    -- Letters
     
  • No one cares to speak to an unwilling listener. An arrow never lodges in a stone: often it recoils upon the sender of it.
    -- Letters
     
  • The privileges of a few do not make common law.
    -- Exposition on Jonah
     
  • The scars of others should teach us caution.
    -- Letters
     
  • Small minds can never handle great themes.
    -- Letters
     
  • So we are told of the greatest orators of Greece that they seasoned the bombast of Asia with the salt of Athens and pruned their vines when they grew too fast. For they wished to fill the wine-press of eloquence not with the tendrils of mere words but with the rich grape-juice of good sense.
    -- Letters
     
  • Sometimes the character of the mistress is inferred from the dress of her maids.
    -- Letters
     
  • That clergyman soon becomes an object of contempt who being often asked out to dinner never refuses to go.
    -- Letters
     
  • The tired ox treads with a firmer step.
    -- Letters
     
  • An unstable pilot steers a leaking ship, and the blind is leading the blind straight to the pit. The ruler is like the ruled.
    -- Letters
     
  • When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.
    -- Letters
     
  • While truth is always bitter, pleasantness waits upon evildoing.
    -- Letters

If you know of any sources for Saint Jerome quotes, please contact me with the details.

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Snell, Melissa. "Quotations by Saint Jerome." ThoughtCo, Apr. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/quotations-by-saint-jerome-1789342. Snell, Melissa. (2016, April 29). Quotations by Saint Jerome. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/quotations-by-saint-jerome-1789342 Snell, Melissa. "Quotations by Saint Jerome." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/quotations-by-saint-jerome-1789342 (accessed December 15, 2017).