In my book, The Scholar’s Challenge, Jerome, the author of the Vulgate Bible, traveled through two of the most important cities at the time of Christ searching for information with which to complete his work. Antioch was a city of one hundred thousand people. Antiochenes were as likely to speak Greek or Aramaic as Latin. It had been losing population for a century or more, and it needed constant restoration as a result of the seismic disturbances the area frequently felt. Two great colonnaded streets intersected Antioch’s center, and a granite artery connected it to the port of Seleucia where the fleets of Rome harbored. Numerous aqueducts, bearing the names of Caesars, supplied water to a seemingly unlimited number of baths.
Antioch was the center of early Gentile conversion activities. Of all the Christian centers, it stood supreme. For Christians, it was one of the three most important cities in the Eastern Roman Empire, together with Constantinople and Alexandria.
South of Antioch the port city of Caesarea was a garden spot well irrigated by aqueducts and drainage canals. It was a great place to study. It held the second finest public library in the world, second only to Alexandria. Origen collected many theological books for his school in Caesarea. He also wrote thousands of books himself, which he donated to the library in his will. Eusebius, the Father of Church History, and a prolific writer in his own right, added another collection to the library. As the bishop of Caesarea for almost twenty-five years and as adviser to the emperor Constantine for twenty of those years, Eusebius had ample opportunity to collect the books he loved so much.
While Alexandria held more books than Caesarea, the Christian library in Caesarea included Eusebius’s ten volumes on the history of the Christian church from New Testament times to just before the Council of Nicaea. There was no comparable work in Christendom. The second work, by Origen, attempted to find the true wording of the Old Testament by comparing six versions of these Scriptures virtually word for word. This work, called the Hexapla, had never been copied because of its size; it could only be found in the Caesarean library. Jerome spent a considerable amount of time here studying. More on this may be found in The Scholar’s Challenge.