1. A contemporary and friend of St. Jerome, who gives him a section in his treatise De Viris Illustribus
Jerome informs us that “Sophronius, a man of distinguished learning, wrote the Praises of Bethlehem
) while yet a boy, and lately composed an excellent work, De Subversione Serapis
”; that is, on the destruction of the temple of Serapis at Rome, in A. D. 389 or 390 (see Clinton, Fast. Rom. s. a. 389
Translations of Jerome into Greek
Jerome also informs us that Sophronius “translated into Greek, in an elegant style, my works, De Virginitate ad Eustochium
and Vita Hilarionis monachi
; also the Psalter and the Prophets, which we translated from Hebrew into Latin.” Now, since the Catalogue of Jerome was written in A. D. 392, the date of Sophronius is clearly determined by this passage. We have no information respecting his country or condition in life.
In the year 1539, Erasmus published at Basel, from what he calls an ancient and corrected MS., a Greek version of the Catalogue of Jerome, purporting to be made by Sophronius.
This publication has ever since been a literary stumbling-block. Soon after its appearance there were not wanting persons who accused Erasmus of fabricating the version from motives of vanity.
Isaac Vossius (ad S. Ignatii Epist. ad Smyrn.
p. 257), while professing to reject this imputation, but solely on the faith of Erasmus's veracity ("nisi Erasmus haec diceret, multum de ejus fide dubitarem
"), strongly contends, on the ground of the badness of the Greek, and on other internal evidence, that Erasmus had been imposed upon by a modern forgery. Stephanus le Moyne (ad Var. Sac.
p. 418) replies to the charge against Erasmus by asserting that there are MSS. older than the one used by him, and that the version is quoted by earlier writers; but he does not say where these MSS. and quotations are to be found. Fabricius and Cave defend the genuineness of the version, chiefly on the following ground, which appears decisive, that many articles of Suidas are in the very words of this Greek version.
It is true that Suidas does not quote Sophronius by name, any more than he does Jerome; but, if the antiquity of the version be established, there is no reason to ascribe it to any other person than Sophromius.
The somewhat remarkable circumstance, that Clinton mentions the translation as the work of Sophronius, without intimating, either in his account of the Catalogue of Jerome, or in his notice of Sophronius, that its genuineness has been questioned, may be taken, we presume, as a proof of its decided genuineness, in the opinion of that great scholar (Fast. Rom. s. aa. 392, 393
Besides the separate edition of it by Erasmus, the version of Sophronius is contained in the Paris (1623)
and Frankfort (1684) editions of the works of Jerome
; and in the Bibliotheca Ecclesiastica of Fabricius (Hamb. 1718) it is printed with Jerome's original, and the passages of Eusebius, which were Jerome's chief authorities, in parallel columns.
To this same Sophronius Fabricius and others ascribe the work in defence of Basil against Eunomius
(ὐπὲρ Βασιλείου κατὰ Εὐνομίου
), which is very briefly noticed by Photius (Bibl.
There is another small work ascribed to him by Erasmus, which professes to be a Greek version of Jerome's Epistola ad Paulam et Eustochium de Adsumtione Mariae Virginis
, but it is most probable that both the Latin epistle and the Greek version belong to an age later than that of Jerome and Sophronius.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. ix. pp. 158-161 ; Cave, Script. Eccles. Hist. Litt. s. a.,
390, p. 285, ed. Basil.; Vossius, de Hist. Graec.
p. 306, ed. Westermann.