Those who hold that the Gospels were written in the: Matthew-Mark-Luke-John order, often quote Jerome as their source. But an examination of Jerome’s writings does not support their stand.
As the language in the Roman Empire gradually changed from Greek to Latin, many Latin translations of the Scriptures were made. They often contained errors, interpolations and discrepancies. So in 383 Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome to revise the Latin translations with the help of the original Greek. Damasus wished for a standardised Latin (Vulgate) edition which could be used by all Christians.
The Gospels were originally written on scrolls. When they were later bound together in book-form they were bound in various sequences. In the West, the Matthew-John-Mark-Luke order, based on the honour due to the authors, was popular. But in the East Jerome found that liturgically the Matthew-Luke-Mark-John order was in use. This was in the order of being composed. But in bibles the Matthew- Mark- Luke-John sequence was widely in use. This was in accordance with the order of their publication as stated by Clement of Alexandria. When Jerome sent his revised work to Damasus in 384, he explained in his covering letter that he had adopted the eastern biblical custom. He didn’t allude to any dispute regarding the sequence of publication.
In his Prologue to the four Gospels, Jerome wrote:
First of all is Matthew, a publican with the name of Levi, who published a gospel in Judea in the Hebrew speech. ….
Second was Mark, interpreter of the apostle Peter and first bishop of the church of Alexandria. ….
Third was Luke, … he put together the volume in the regions of Achaia and Boeotia, …
Last was John, …
[Note that Jerome gave their order of publication, not of composure. There is nothing special about this. In the modern world, books are described and referenced according to their date of publication, not by the date the author completed his writing].
De Viris Illustribus
In 392 Jerome published On Illustrious Men. In its introduction, he explained that he was setting out: all those who have published any memorable writing on the Holy Scriptures.
He listed 135 individuals with a chapter allocated to each. In four chapters, Jerome included information about the Gospels and extracts from these are as follows.
Chapter 1. Peter the Apostle.
He [Peter] wrote two epistles which are called Catholic, the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him. Then too the Gospel according to Mark, who was his disciple and interpreter, is ascribed to him.
Chapter 3. Matthew the Apostle.
Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and previously a publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek, though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, a city of Syria. Who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his account or in the person of the Lord the Saviour quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son’ and ‘for he shall be called a Nazarene.’
Chapter 7. Luke
Luke, an Antiochene physician … a follower of Paul … wrote a gospel … He also published another excellent volume which is known by the title Acts of Apostles, …
Chapter 8. Mark
Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter wrote a short gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome embodying what he had heard Peter tell. When Peter had heard this, he approved it and published it to the churches to be read by his authority as Clemens in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes and Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, record.
Peter also mentions this Mark in his first epistle, figuratively indicating Rome under the name of Babylon She who is in Babylon elect together with you salutes you and so does Mark my son. So, taking the gospel which he himself composed, he went to Egypt and first preaching Christ at Alexandria he formed a church so admirable in doctrine and continence of living that he constrained all followers of Christ to his example.
Philo most learned of the Jews seeing the first church at Alexandria still Jewish in a degree, wrote a book on their manner of life as something creditable to his nation telling how, as Luke says, the believers had all things in common at Jerusalem, so he recorded that he saw was done at Alexandria, under the learned Mark. He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.
Nothing in Jerome’s writings contradicts The Clementine Gospel Tradition.
Ad Hebidiam, Epistula 120, 11 (406/7)
An extract from this letter reads:
[Note: This remark by Jerome confirms that Peter did not speak good Greek].
[G 321] This Version 9/06/2015