Thursday, 1 October 2009

observo somnia

As a young man, Jerome had collected an extensive personal library of pagan literary works, which he believed conflicted with his Christian faith. This conflict surfaced in a dream in which, brought before the Throne of Judgment, he was told that he was a follower of Cicero rather than Christ. After being subjected to innumerable lashes, Jerome swore that he would never read such worldly books again. It is said that when he awakened his back bore the marks of the lash. Later Jerome dreamed about his own death, as well as about having the supernatural power to fly (a common dream theme, though Jerome might not have been aware of just how common it was).

It was perhaps these dream experiences that led Saint Jerome to mistranslate the Hebrew word for witchcraft, anan, as "observing dreams" (in Latin, observo somnia) when commissioned to translate the Bible by Pope Damasus L Anan appears ten times in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament), but Jerome translates it as "observing dreams" only three times, in such statements as, "you shall not practice augury nor observe dreams," which more accurately reads, "you shall not practice augury or witchcraft." These simple changes, which made the Bible appear to discourage attending to one's dreams, significantly altered the course of how dreams were viewed for centuries.

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