In his Preface to Judith, Jerome writes:

Apud Hebraeos liber Judith inter apocrypha legitur: cujus auctoritas ad roboranda illa quae in contentionem veniunt, minus idonea judicatur.

I, with an atrociously minimal knowledge of Latin, would translate this thus:

Among the Hebrews, the book of Judith is counted among the Apocrypha: the authority of which, for confirmation on matters which come into dispute, is judged less than sufficient.

However, another translator translates it thus:

Among the Jews, the book of Judith is considered among the apocrypha; its warrant for affirming those [apocryphal texts] which have come into dispute is deemed less than sufficient

Which doesn't make sense to me in the slightest.

Have I captured the sense, or am I completely mistaken?

Thanks in advance.

  • I would say you're both correct! Your translations both capture the meaning of the text. Your translation is a bit more literal. In addition, you have chosen to read illa as "matters", while the other translator has chosen "those [apocryphal texts]". Either choice can be valid depending on the context (illa is like a pronoun, to be filled in based on context).
    – Cerberus
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 0:16
  • Thanks! However, I'm confused as to the referents in the other translation. In mine, Judith is not definitive or authoritative enough to settle doctrinal matters (as I take Jerome to be saying the Jews hold), whereas the other translation appears to be saying Judith has "no warrant for affirming" the Apocryphal texts. Can we really both be right? Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


It appears abundantly clear to me that you have correctly captured the sense and that the translation you cited is mistaken in identifying apocrypha as the antecedent of illa.

Three brief reasons I can think of:

  1. Such restrictive relative clauses as id quod or illa quae need not--and most often do not--refer to a previously introduced antecedent.

  2. Most important, it makes no sense if illa refers to apocrypha. What does it even mean to be "suitable for establishing contentious apocryphal texts"? Presumably the author means something like, "suitable for establishing the non-apocryphal status of certain texts that are judged to be apocryphal," but that too is problematic. Judith isn't used to establish other apocryphal texts: it would presumably be used to confirm doctrines.

  3. Finally, every reference I can find to the text adopts this interpretation. I found, for instance, an old Compendium of Theology that says the following:

    ...Ex solis enim libris canonicis auctoritatem ecclesiasticorum dogmatum confirmandam veteres censuerunt, sicut testimonia supra allegata sunt. Solius canonicae Scripturae auctoritas idonea judicata fuit ad roboranda illa, quae in contentionem veniunt; reliquos vero libros quos Cyprianus ecclesiasticos, Hieronymus apocryphos nominat, legi quidem voluerunt in ecclesia ad aedificationem plebis non ad auctoritatem ecclesiarum dogmatum confirmandam.

    Here, it is clear that the "things that come into contention" are putative ecclesiastical doctrines--not putative apocryphal works.

  • Excellent summary/research. Thanks! Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 16:08
  • Does this Compendium assert that Jerome is saying this judgement is made by the Church? Isn't it referring to the judgement of the Jews ("Apud Hebraeos .. legitur .. judicatur")? Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 16:11
  • I reworded slightly: the bolded part says, "Only the authority of canonical scripture was judged fit for establishing matters that come into contention, but as for the rest of the books, which Cyprian calls "ecclesiastical" and Jerome calls "apocryphal," certain people wanted them to be read in the church for the edification of the people, but not in order to establish the authority of churches' dogmas."
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 16:28
  • Yes, but according to Jerome, the 'judging fit for establishing matters' refers to the Jews' opinion on Judith, does it not. Anywho, probably irrelevant to the answer/question. Thanks again. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 16:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.