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Published Date: April 22, 2022

Published Date: April 22, 2022

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Women in Scripture and Mission: Paula of Rome

En Español

A mother of five who was widowed in her early 30’s, Paula joined a study with other wealthy widows in Rome, where she became a Christian. Here she met Jerome and decided to devote herself to a monastic life. Leaving Rome to tour the holy lands, she was accompanied by her daughter Eustochium who joined her in monastic life. In Bethlehem she established three monasteries, one for men run by Jerome, one for women which she ran, and one for tourists where the proceeds helped sustain their work. The women in her monasteries became experts in the ancient languages and worked to duplicate ancient texts so that contents would be preserved for centuries. She retained a superior knowledge of the ancient languages, and Jerome said her Hebrew far surpassed his own.1

Though Paula was completely convinced of the ascetic value of self-denial to more fully experience God, she did not limit her spiritual life to inward ascetism alone. Jerome writes that her commitment to the poor was so extreme that she impoverished herself and her family’s riches to care for the destitute. She then used her aristocratic influence by begging for resources to care for the sick, impoverished, and those in need.2

When the Pope asked Jerome to begin a new Latin translation of the Bible, she convinced him of the necessity. To ensure the project was successful, she sought out and paid for the rare books and transcripts needed for the translation from her own wealth. As Jerome translated, she and her daughter, Eustochium, edited the entire work. Not one of their edits was rejected. Further, the mother-daughter team were solely responsible for the translation of the Psalms. The teamwork of Paula, Jerome, and Eustochium produced the longest lasting translation of all time, the Latin Vulgate, used for over 1000 years.

To learn more about Paula, see: “Single But Never Alone,” in Mutuality by Mimi Haddad.

Paula of Rome” in Know Your Mothers by Kimberly Dickson.

To learn more about women Bible translators, see: “Correcting Caricatures: Women in Bible Translation,” by Mimi Haddad.

Notes

  1. Jerome, “Paula, Jerome’s Letter CVIII To Eustochium, Memorials of Her Mother, Paula,” in In Her Own Words: Women’s Writings in the History of Christian Thought, ed. Amy Oden (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 73.
     
  2. Jerome, “Paula, Jerome’s Letter CVIII,” 70.