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E00686: Jerome's novelistic Life of *Malchus (monk of Maronia, Syria, ob. c. 380s, S00463) describes his adventures and captivity, and emphasises his chastity. Written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine) in the early 390s.

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posted on 2015-09-03, 00:00 authored by robert
Jerome, Life of Malchus


In the preface (ch. 1) Jerome presents his Life of Malchus as a preparatory work before writing a large historical narrative (he never wrote it). He claims that he heard the story from Malchus himself when he lived as a hermit in Maronia, in the Syrian desert of Chalkis (ch. 2). The story is put into the mouth of Malchus and told in the first person singular. It briefly mentions his early monastic life at the desert of Chalkis (ch. 3), his desire to change the monastery, travel to his homeland, attack by brigands, captivity, slavery (chs. 4-5), and a forced marriage with a slave-woman, in which Malchus managed to keep his chastity (ch. 6). Then it presents Malchus' longing for a life in monastic community, his and his wife's adventurous escape through the desert, and his return to his old monastery (chs. 8-10). It ends with a praise of chastity (ch. 11).

Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Malchus, monk in Maronia, ob. c. 380s : S00463

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Bethlehem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Jerome wrote the Life of Malchus at about the same time as the Life of Hilarion, in the early 390s.


The life presents Malchus as a monastic hero who managed to keep his chastity in difficult conditions, but he can hardly be considered a saint. When he was young he abandoned his monastery not heeding the advice of his abbot, and only later started to long for life in a monastic community. Yet even then he did not hold any special power from God, perform miracles or have visions. In spite of its biographical form, this short life seems closer to the stories which can be found in the apophthegmata than to the Life of a saint. Unlike the Life of Hilarion it does not aim to foster or even accompany a cult. The reader learns nothing about the tomb of Malchus and actually remains unsure whether he is still alive or dead.


Editions and translations: Gray, C., Jerome, Vita Malchi: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Morales, E.M., and Leclerc, P., Jérôme, Trois vies de moines (Paul, Malchus, Hilarion) (Sources chrétienns 508; Paris: Cerf, 2007). Further reading: Weingarten, S., The Saint's Saints: Hagiography and Geography in Jerome (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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