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A letter from Hedybia (late 4th century)



Translated letter: 

1. How can one be complete and how should a widow live who is without children?
2. What is the meaning of what is written in Matthew: “Moreover, I say to you: I will not drink from the fruit of this vine until that day, whereby I shall drink it at last with you in the kingdom of my father”?
3. Why do the evangelists tell different versions of the resurrection and the appearance of the Lord and why does Matthew say that the lord rose on the eve of the Sabbath while the first day of the Sabbath was shining and Mark recalled that his resurrection occurred in the morning of another day?
4. How can Matthew say that Mary Magdalene saw the Lord arise on the eve of the Sabbath when John the Evangelist says that she was weeping next to his grave on the morning of the Sabbath?
5. How did Mary Magdalene, according to Matthew, on the eve of the Sabbath with another Mary, bowed at the feet of the Savior, according to John, on the first morning of the Sabbath, hear from the Lord, “Do not touch me; for I have not yet ascended to my father”?
6. How did Peter and John, amid a crowd of soldiers on guard, freely enter the grave with no one to bar their entrance?
7. How can it be that Matthew and Mark write that the apostles were commanded, through the women, to precede the Savior to Galilee and see him there, when Luke and John recall that he was seen by the apostles in Jerusalem?
8. What does the following passage in Matthew mean? “Jesus, crying with a loud voice, cast out his spirit. And the veil of the temple was cut into two parts from top to bottom, the earth shook, the rocks were split, the graves were opened, many bodies of saints that were sleeping rose up again and leaving the graves after his resurrection, came to the holy city and appeared to many.”
9. How is it that according to John, the Savior breathes the Holy Spirit into the apostles while according to Luke, he says that he would send for them after his ascension?
10. What does it mean when the apostle Paul discusses with the Romans, “What therefore do we say? Can it be that there is iniquity in God? Perish the thought” and the rest?
11. In his second letter to the Corinthians, what does the apostle mean when he writes: “To some, we are the smell of death leading to death and to others we are the smell of life leading to life. And who is so qualified for these things”?
12. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, what does he mean when he writes: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you in all ways and may your unharmed spirit and soul and body be preserved without complaint for the arrival of our Lord, Jesus Christ”?(1)

Original letter: 

1. Quomodo perfectus esse quis possit et quomodo uiuere debeat uidua, quae sine liberis derelicta est.
2. Quid sit, quod in Matheo scriptum est: d i c o a u t e m uobis: non bibam a modo de hoc genimine uitis usque in diem ilium, quo illud bibam uo- biscum nouum in regno patris mei [Matth.26:29]
3. Quae causa sit, ut de resurrectione et apparitione domini euangelistae diuersa narrauerint, et cur dicente Matheo, quod uespere sabbati inlucescente in una sabbati dominus resurrexerit, Mar¬cus mane eum alterius diei adserat resurrexisse [cf.Matth.28:1, Mark 16:1-2].
4. Quomodo iuxta Matheum uespere sabbati Maria Magda¬lene uidit dominum resurgentem et Iohannes euangelista refert mane una sabbati eam iuxta sepulchrum flere ? [cf.Matth.28:1,9, John 20:1, 11]
5. Quomodo iuxta Matheum Maria Magdalene uespere sabbati cum altera Maria aduoluta pedibus saluatoris secundum Iohannem mane una sabbati audit a domino: noli me tangere; necdum enim ascendi ad patrem meum? [cf.Matth.28:1,9; John 20:1, 11; John 20:1, 17]
6. Quomodo custodiente militum turba Petrus et Iohannes libere ingressi sunt sepulchrum nullo prohibente custodum? [cf.John 20:6-10]
7. Quomodo Matheus scribit et Marcus, quod mandatum sit apostolis per mulieres, ut praccederent saluatorem in Galilaeam et ibi eum uiderent, Lucas autem et Iohannes in Hierusalem eum ab apostolis uisum esse commemorant? [cf.Matth.28, Mark 16]
8. Quid sit, quod in Matheo legimus: monumenta aperta sunt et multa corpora sanctorum, qui dormierant, surrexerunt et exeuntes de monumentis post resurrectionem eius uenerunt in sanctam ciuitatem et apparuerunt multis.[Matth.27:52-53]
9. Quomodo saluator secundum Iohannem insufflat spiritum sanctum apostolis et secundum Lucam post ascensionem missurum esse se dicit? [cf. John 20:22; cf.Luke24:49 and Acts 1:4-8]
10. Quid significet illud, quod apostolus Paulus disputat ad Romanos scribens: quid ergo dicemus? numquid iniquitas apud deum? absit et reliqua. [Rom.9:14]
11. Quid sit, quod apostolus scribit in secunda ad Corinthios: aliis odor mortis ad mortem et aliis odor uitae ad uitam et ad haec quis tam idoneus? [2Cor.2:16]
12. Quid sit, quod scribit in epistula ad Thessalonicenses prima: ipse autem deus pacis sanctificet uos per omnia et integer spiritus uester et anima et corpus sine querela in aduentum domini nostri Iesu Christi seruetur. [1Thess.5:23]

Historical context: 

Hedybia sent these twelve questions about disparities in the gospels to Jerome. We know the questions only from his answers which include them. Whatever else might have been in the letter she sent to him is lost.

Scholarly notes: 

1. The translation was provided by Amy Oh.

Printed source: 

Sancti Eusebii Hieronvmi Epistulae, ed. Isidorus Hilberg, 3 v. (New York: Johnson, 1970, repr.1910-18), ep.120, 2.470-72.


late 4th century