Recently I posted remarks from Luther and Calvin on Jerome's view on the term "bishop" as it relates to the primacy of the Roman church. Both Luther and Calvin cite Jerome as holding the terms "bishop" and "presbyter" were synonymous. Luther and Calvin admit Jerome held that among the bishops in the early church one was picked as a type of leader in a particular location. The Reformers highlight the fact (particularly Luther) that for Jerome, Rome's bishop does not hold supremacy over the other bishops in other locations. Luther: "Indeed [Jerome] says that the bishop of Gubbio, a small town not far from Rome, is equal to the bishop of Rome himself." Calvin: "For from the corrupted signification of the word this evil has resulted, that, as if all the presbyters were not colleagues, called to the same office, one of them, under the pretext of a new appellation, usurped dominion over the others." Luther was so convinced of the importance of Jerome's view that he actually republished a letter from Jerome. For the Reformers, Jerome's words stood as a testimony that the claims of Roman Papal rule over the universal church were fraudulent.
Jerome as Cited by Modern Roman Catholic Apologists
I searched around a bit to see how some of Rome's modern apologists have understood Jerome's statements from the two sources Luther and Calvin utilized (this isn't any sort of comprehensive investigation, but represents what I tracked down in about thirty minutes, I'm sure many other snippets could be brought forth).
One blogger refers to Calvin's citation of Jerome as an attempt to make Jerome hold "some sort of proto-Baptist or proto-Presbyterian in ecclesiology." Rather than exegete the statements in question, other statements from Jerome are put forth showing Jerome gave Rome preeminence and accepted Rome's decisions as authoritative. Calvin's view of Jerome is said to be "a half-truth or a selective truth" and "a little better than a falsehood." Calvin's understanding of Jerome is ultimately said to be the result of espousing sola scriptura: anyone holding to sola scriptua must come up with ways to deny the Roman church as having binding final authority over all of Christendom, even reinterpreting Church fathers like Jerome. The "other" Jerome being put forth by Rome's apologists is based on letters Jerome wrote to Pope Damasus. Jerome is cited as follows:
1. Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, “woven from the top throughout,” since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover “the sealed fountain” and “the garden inclosed,” I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul. I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ. The wide space of sea and land that lies between us cannot deter me from searching for “the pearl of great price.” “Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” Evil children have squandered their patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact. The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold; but here the seed corn is choked in the furrows and nothing grows but darnel or oats. In the West the Sun of righteousness is even now rising; in the East, Lucifer, who fell from heaven, has once more set his throne above the stars. . . .From a forum posting comes an alleged excerpt from Robert Sungenis (which certainly sounds like Mr. Sungenis... I was unable though to locate the source):
2. Yet, though your greatness terrifies me, your kindness attracts me. From the priest I demand the safe-keeping of the victim, from the shepherd the protection due to the sheep. Away with all that is overweening; let the state of Roman majesty withdraw. 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. . . . He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist.
(Letter XV. To Pope Damasus; NPNF 2, Vol. VI)
The untiring foe follows me closely, and the assaults that I suffer in the desert are severer than ever. For the Arian frenzy raves, and the powers of the world support it. The church is rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its own. The influence of the monks is of long standing, and it is directed against me. I meantime keep crying: “He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.” Meletius, Vitalis, and Paulinus all profess to cleave to you, and I could believe the assertion if it were made by one of them only. As it is, either two of them or else all three are guilty of falsehood. Therefore I implore your blessedness, by our Lord’s cross and passion, those necessary glories of our faith, as you hold an apostolic office, to give an apostolic decision. Only tell me by letter with whom I am to communicate in Syria, . . .
(Letter XVI. To Pope Damasus, 2; NPNF 2, Vol. VI)
St. Jerome (342-420 A.D.) "Wherever a bishop may be whether at Rome or at Eugubium, at Constantinople or at Rhegium, at Alexandria or at Thanis, he is of the same worth...for all of them are the successors of the apostles." R. Sungenis: This is the best quote they could find to deny the papacy?! Not only does it not deny the papacy, it actually supports it, since it makes it quite clear that the bishops are successers of the Apostles! Yet Horton and White have gone on record denying that there is a succession from the Apostles. And notice that Jerome makes no statement against the papacy itself. How could he? His letters and books are filled with allegiance and obedience to the papacy! This again just shows the desperation of Horton and White. If they were smart, they would stop basing their critiques of the Catholic Church on the Fathers, for every time they make such attempts, they only show us how faithful the Fathers were to the Catholic Church. Until if and when Horton or White finds a statement in any Church Father which says: "I deny the papacy," or "I deny that the pope is the successor of Peter and that he has full reign over the Church," or something to that effect, then they simply don't have a leg to stand on, and they only show how shoddy their scholarship really is.Often it seems the quotes cited by Luther and Calvin are passed over by Rome's modern apologists in favor of presenting snippets from Jerome's letters to Damasus or other selections. Quotes from Jerome identifying Peter as "the rock" or head of the Roman church appear to be enough for Rome's modern apologists. For instance, in their web page Origins of Peter as Pope, Catholic Answers provides two quotes from Jerome. The first quote presents Peter as leading the Apostles. The underlying assumption implied is that Peter is head of the entire church. This is then supported by a snippet from letter XV :
"‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division" (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]).Patrick Madrid cites Jerome calling Rome "the See of Peter" (Epistle 15, to Pope Damasus).
"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails" (Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).
Steve Ray cites letter XV and XVI and states:
Mark Bonocore says "Jerome (c. 390) speaks of Rome as the "chair of Peter" and the "Apostolic chair," and states that Peter held the episcopal chair for twenty-five years at Rome (Epistle 15 and se Vir Illust I, 1)." He also cites Jerome stating, "'But,' you [Jovinian] will say, 'it was on Peter that the Church was founded' [Matt. 16:18]. Well... one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division" (Against Jovinian 1:26 [AD 393])".
The dilemma is obvious. On the one hand, Protestant-cited-Jerome speaks of an equality among bishops in different locations. On the other hand, Roman-Catholic-cited-Jerome speaks of Roman authority in some sense.
I think it's fairly clear from Jerome's writings that he did identify the pope in Rome with the chair of Peter, and at times also referred to Peter as the rock upon which the church is built. For Jerome, the bishop in Rome was certainly the successor of Peter. But elsewhere Jerome also identifies Christ as the rock upon which the church was built. William Webster points out:
Jerome states that while Christ is the ultimate foundation of the Church, the other apostles share this status with him in a secondary sense- the Church is built upon their teaching. He states that all the apostles are what Peter was. They have all been given the keys and the all share equal authority. All lawful bishops are successors of the apostles. The Church is built upon Peter, it is built upon the apostles. While the bishop of Rome does sit upon the chair of Peter, this is not an exclusive possession of the bishop of Rome, as we saw in the use of this term by Cyprian and Opatus of Milevis:The paradigm Webster puts forth harmonizes Jerome's letters quite easily. It can consistently and harmoniously interpret any of the "Roman Catholic" Jerome quotes and the "Protestant" Jerome quotes. This of course means that Luther and Calvin did not misquote Jerome. Consider the following comments:
"This mountain is in the house of the Lord, which the prophet sighs after, saying, 'One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,' (Ps. xxvii.4), and concerning which Paul writes to Timothy, 'But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Tim. iii.15). This house is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, as imitators of Christ. Of this house, Jerusalem, the Psalmist cries out saying, 'They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Sion; he shall not be moved for ever that dwelleth in Jerusalem. Mountains are round about it; and the Lord is round about His people' (Ps. cxxiv.1). Whence also upon one of the mountains Christ founds the Church, and says to him, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Commentary on Isaiah ii.2. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Comentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), p. 111-112].
" 'You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church.' Just as Christ himself gave light to the apostles, in order that they might be called the light of the world, so other names were derived from the Lord: for example, Simon, who believed in the rock, Christ, was given the name 'Peter.' And in accordance with the metaphor of the rock, Jesus rightly said to him: 'I shall build my Church upon you. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'" [Commentary on Matthew III, 16:18, M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col. 121-122].
"'Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.'...For if those who are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ himself being the cornerstone-in whom the whole building has been joined together into a temple holy in the Lord, in whom the Ephesians are built into a temple of God in the spirit: if this is so, then there is one God of one building and temple which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Now if a universal building is joined together and is growing into a temple holy in the Lord, then we must strive with every effort to become the sorts of stones about which it is written: 'holy stones are rolled upon the earth.'"[on Ephesians II.20, M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col. 506-507]
"Though, he says, the Lord had with Him the apostles Peter and John; and they saw Him transfigured on the mount, and upon them the foundation of the Church is placed..."[Commentary on Galatians I.11. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), pp. 116-117]
Source: William Webster The Matthew 16 Controversy (Battle Ground: Christian Resources, 1999), pp. 69-70.
J. N. D. Kelly: Particularly interesting is his view that in the apostolic age the terms ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ were synonymous, each church being governed by a committee of coequal presbyters. The emergence of the episcopate proper, he argues (much to the embarrassment of Catholics down the centuries), was due, not to any ordinance of the Lord, but to ecclesiastical custom, with the object of excluding divisions. J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 147
Philip Schaff: [Jerome] recognizes in the Roman bishop the successor of Peter, but advocates elsewhere the equal rights of the bishops, and in fact derives even the episcopal office, not from direct divine institution, but from the usage of the church and from the presidency in the presbyterium. He can therefore be cited as a witness, at most, for a primacy of honor, not for a supremacy of jurisdiction. [Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol. 3 (Massachusetts: Hendrikson Publishers, Inc., 2002), p. 305]