The 30th September is our festival. On this day, the Christian Church celebrates the feast of Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translators. In turn, this date later became associated with translators. The International Federation of Translators officially designated the 30th September International Translation Day in 1991, although this date has for a long time been recognised by many as ‘our’ day.
Not only is Saint Jerome the patron saint of translators but also the patron saint of archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, school children, students and… archaeologists. Jerome – Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus – was born c. 347 in Stridon not far from today’s Ljubljana. Although initially sceptical of the Catholic Church, Jerome later converted and grew in stature becoming a Doctor of the Church (there are only 33).
As well as making it into the history books for his scholarly work for the church, he is much admired by translators and Bible scholars alike for his contribution to Bible translation and translation theory and practice. In order to reliably master his language skills, Jerome moved to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to improve his Hebrew after which he completed several translations from the Hebrew Bible.
Up to that point the Koine Greek Septuagint was regarded as the authoritative source text rather than the Hebrew original. Jerome’s re-workings, revisions and translations led to the production of Jerome’s Vulgate. For him, a reliable source text was of great importance. So highly valued and cherished was this translation of the Bible, that it became the official Latin version of the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Jerome had finally left his mark.
Saint Jerome is also known for his humility, which can be a great example to all fellow translators. He was well aware of his inadequacies and weaknesses and is known to have often held up his hands and pleaded ignorance and admitted to being at fault which led him to regularly return to his translations in order to amend, revise and correct them.
Saint Jerome, patron saint of translators, archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, school children, students and archaeologists passed away in Bethlehem, on the 30th September 420. His work on translation paved the way for all the translators that followed him. Without him, translation would no doubt look very, very different. To mark Saint Jerome’s Day, we celebrate our own profession and the work of our fellow colleagues. Happy Translation Day!