Collection of Letters: Detail
Micah, on which I now wish to compose/dictate commentaries, is third in order of the twelve prophets according to Septuagint translators, sixth according to Hebrew truth, following the prophet Jonah which follows Obadiah, so Amos is third and Joel second after Hosea, who comes first. Therefore, placed as if in the heart of the book, it should contain profound mysteries, and the word of God which always descends to the prophets, descends on Micah also, which is translated humility. On Micah of Moresheth, which still today is a city of Palestine near Eleutheropolis, by no means a large village. Moresheth in our language is heir. Beautifully, thus, humility which is special among the virtues is born in the hope of the lord's inheritance. Humility is not, however, what comes from an awareness of sins, but what is set among the virtues, as it is said: "humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and so that he may exalt you in the time of his coming: [1Peter 5:6] and "who humble themselves will be exalted" [Luke 18:14] and "the heart of a man is raised before grief and humbled before glory" [cf.Prov.18:16]. Whence the lord says "Learn from me that I am gentle and humble of heart" Matth.11:29]. As with us names are votive, as if in augury of the virtue, by grace of the word; nouns of victory, chaste, pious, upright, become proper names, as with the Greeks “sophron” [prudent] and “eusebes” [pious], so with Hebrews, Micah and Obadiah, and Zechariah, and other similar, are given by parents to their children from the name of the virtues.
Book II: We always answer the envious, since envy does not cease, and the beginnings of our books put down the curses of the jealous who pronounce to all that, sterile and barren of speech, I write nonsense and though I do not know how to speak, I can not be silent. So I beseech you, o Paula and Eustochium, close your ears to this kind of barking and helping my "infancy" [inability to speak] as they say, with your prayers, obtain for me from the apostle the opening of my mouth so that it can be adapted to speaking of scriptures: "the lord will give the word to those who preach with great strength" [Ps.67:12]. But I warn the fat bulls who surround me to be quiet and stop cursing lest they come to know their curses which come forth later to do harm.
For what they say, that I compile volumes of Origen and defile the writings of the old unfittingly, which they think is a violent curse but which I take as great praise since I wish to imitate him who, I do not doubt, pleases you and other knowledgeable people. For if it is a crime to pass on the blessings of the Greeks, let them accuse Ennius and Maro [Virgil], Plautus, Caecilius [Statius] and Terence, and also Tully [Cicero] and other eloquent men, who translated/transmitted not only lines, but many chapters and very long books and whole narratives. Our Hilary is also guilty of theft because he gave meaning to thousands of lines of the foresaid Origen on forty psalms. I much prefer to imitate the negligence of all of these rather than the obscure diligence of the others. But it is now time to hammer another book on Micah and to crush the reborn heads of the hydra with a prophetic “ropalo” [Grk. cudgel].
Michaeas, in quem nunc commentarios dictare cupio, in ordine duodecim prophetarum, secundum Septuaginta interpretes tertius est, secundum Hebraicam veritatem sextus, et sequitur Ionam prophetam, qui succedit Abdiae, atque ita fit ut tertius sit Amos, et Ioel secundus post Osee, qui apud omnes primus est. Ergo quasi in corde voluminis positus, debet profunda continere mysteria, et sermo Dei, qui semper descendit ad prophetas, descendit ad Michaeam quoque, qui interpretatur humilitas; ad Michaeam de Morasthi, qui usque hodie iuxta Eleutheropolim urbem Palaestinae haud grandis est viculus. Morasthi autem in lingua nostra heredem sonat. Pulchre igitur humilitas, quae inter virtutes vel praecipua est, spe hereditatis Dominicae nascitur. Humilitas autem non illa quae venit de conscientia peccatorum, sed quae inter virtutes ponitur, iuxta quam dicitur: Humiliamini sub potenti manu Dei, ut vos exaltet in tempore visitationis, et: Qui se humiliat, exaltabitur, et: Ante contritionem elevatur cor viri, et ante gloriam humiliatur. Unde et Dominus: Discite, inquit, a me, quia mitis sum et humilis corde. Quomodo ergo apud nos votiva, et quasi ob virtutis auspicium ponuntur vocabula, verbi gratia: victoris, casti, pii, probi, et apud Graecos sophron [Greek] vocatur, et eusebes [Greek], et appellativa nomina vertuntur in propria, sic apud Hebraeos et Michaeas, et Abdias et Zacharias ceteraque his similia, ex virtutum vocabulo liberis a parentibus imponuntur.
Book II: Semper invidis respondemus, quia non cessat invidia, et librorum nostrorum exordia, aemulorum maledicta confutant, qui vulgo iactant, me sterilis ieiunique sermonis quasdam ineptias scribere, et cum loqui nesciam, tacere non posse. Itaque obsecro vos, o Paula et Eustochium, ut ad huiuscemodi latratus claudatis aures, et infantiam, ut dicunt, meam orationibus adiuvantes, impetretis mihi iuxta apostolum adapertionem oris mei, ut de scripturis loquenti adaptari possit: Dominus dabit verbum evangelizantibus virtute multa. Moneo autem tauros pingues, qui circumdederunt me, ut quiescant et desinant maledicere, malefacta ne noscant sua, quae proferentur post, si pergent laedere. Nam quod dicunt, Origenis me volumina compilare, et contaminari non decere veterum scripta, quod illi maledictum vehemens esse existimant, eandem laudem ego maximam duco, cum illum imitari volo, quem cunctis prudentibus, et vobis placere non dubito. Si enim criminis est Graecorum benedicta transferre, accusentur Ennius et Maro, Plautus, Caecilius et Terentius, Tullius quoque et ceteri eloquentes viri, qui non solum versus, sed multa capita et longissimos libros ac fabulas integras transtulerunt. Sed et Hilarius noster furti reus sit, quod in psalmos quadraginta ferme millia versuum supradicti Origenis ad sensum verterit. Quorum omnium aemulari exopto neglegentiam, potius quam istorum obscuram diligentiam. Verum iam tempus est alterum in Michaeam librum cudere, et renascentia hydrae capita ropalo [Greek] contundere prophetali.
Micah is among the earliest commentaries on the twelve minor prophets Jerome did at the request of Paula and Eustochium, doing them not in the order in which they are found in the old testament but in the order they were requested, as he explains in the third book on Amos addressed to Pammachius (CCSL76, 300). But even in the prologue to Joel, Jerome remembers Paula's role, offering Pammachius "what we promised your holy and venerable relative, Paula, take it as her pious heir" (CCSL 76, 160). In the prologue to book I of Micah, Jerome explains the meanings of Hebrew names, in book II, he defends himself from the attacks of his enemies, for drawing on Origen whom he expects Paula and Eustochium to appreciate.
Commentariorum in Michaeam Prophetam, Prologus, CCSL 76, 421, liber II, CCSL 76, 473