Original Research

Jerome’s letter 108 to Eustochium: Contemporary biography in service of ascetic ideology?

Johanna C. Lamprecht
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4503 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4503 | © 2017 Johanna C. Lamprecht | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 January 2017 | Published: 28 June 2017

About the author(s)

Johanna C. Lamprecht, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Epistula (Letter) 108, one of the longest of Jerome’s letters, was written in 404 AD to console Eustochium for the loss of her mother Paula. Scholars have referred to this letter as a lengthy epitaphium with hagiographic features, a eulogistic tribute, a biographical eulogy of Paula, a laudatio funebris, a travelogue, a memoir, a metaphorical account of Paula’s pilgrimage through life, a piece of ascetic propaganda and a textual basis for a Bethlehem-centred cult of Paula the ascetic martyr-saint. The aim of this article is to analyse and comment on Jerome’s letter as an example of the genre of Graeco-Roman biography, containing various features of ancient βίοι. While Jerome cast the letter ostensibly as a consolatio for Eustochium, it turned out to be a commemoration of Paula, his patron, devoted disciple and monastic companion. The article will ultimately investigate whether this letter was written to sub-serve a higher motive of Jerome, the chief architect of 4th-century asceticism.

Keywords

Asceticism; ascetic ideology; encomium; epitaphium; laudatio funebris; biographical eulogy of Paula; Eustochium; Jerome

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Crossref Citations

1. Paula and Jerome: towards a theology of Late Antique pilgrimage
Giselle Bader
International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church  vol: 18  issue: 4  first page: 344  year: 2018  
doi: 10.1080/1474225X.2018.1535869