(d. c. 390)

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Jerome (c. 347—420)


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(d. c.390),

monk. Born at Nisibis (Nysaybia) in Mesopotamia, he was the only son of wealthy parents who wished him to marry, but he ran away to join some Syrian hermits in the desert near Khalkis. Having heard of his father's death, he returned home against his abbot's will to comfort his mother and collect his legacy to found a monastery. He joined a caravan for the hazardous journey, but it was attacked by Bedouin who carried off Malchus and a young woman beyond the Euphrates. For some time he lived among these Nomads, working as a shepherd and goatherd, living on dates, cheese, and milk.

His master wanted him to improve his status by marriage: in Bedouin tradition an unmarried man was not a full man but one who had to live in dependence on another, sharing his tent. The lady chosen was his fellow-captive, already married to another, but she was ready to accept the new plan. But Malchus, conscious of his monastic vows, refused. All he would accept was for them to live together in perfect continence under the appearance of marriage. This was agreed, but he later said: ‘I loved this woman as a sister, but never quite trusted her as a sister.’

Eventually they decided to run away together: he to his monastery, she to her husband. They took food in goatskins, which they inflated to float across the Euphrates and hid in a cave. Their master and his companion caught up with them but were killed by a lioness. Malchus and his lady mounted the camels and escaped to safety through Edessa. The lady never found her husband, but settled down to live near Malchus and died at a great age. He first rejoined his hermits at Khalkis, but ended his days at Maronia, where he met Jerome who wrote the semi-fictional Life on which this notice is based. This Life was soon translated into Greek and Syriac (35 manuscripts of it survive in the Vatican Library alone). A verse Life by Reginald of Canterbury is based on Jerome's work. Feast in the West: 21 October; in the East: 20, 26 March, 16 April.

Jerome's Life in AA.SS. Oct. IX (1869), 59–69, and in P.L., xxiii. 55–62;Reginald of Canterbury's Life in Classical Bulletin (1946), 31–60;D. Attwater, Saints of the East (1963), 55–8;Bibl. SS., viii. 585–7;J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome (1975).

Subjects: Christianity.

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