Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Life and Works of Rufinus with Jerome's Apology Against Rufinus.: What led to the translation.
11. Some time ago, Macarius, a man of distinction from his faith, his learning, his noble birth and his personal life, had in hand a work against fatalism or, as it is called, Mathesis, 2839 and was spending much necessary and fruitful toil on its composition; but he could not decide many points, especially how to speak of the dispensations of divine Providence. He found the matter to be one of great difficulty. But in the visions of the night the Lord, he said, had shown him the appearance of a ship far off upon the sea coming towards him, which ship, when it entered the port, was to solve all the knotty points which had perplexed him. When he arose, he began anxiously to ponder the vision, and he found, as he said, that that was the very moment of my arrival; so that he forthwith made known to me the scope of his work, and his difficulties, and also the vision which he had seen. He proceeded to inquire what were the opinions of Origen, whom he understood to be the most renowned among the Greeks on the points in question, and begged that I would shortly explain his views on each of them in order. I at first could only say that the task was one of much difficulty: but I told him that that saintly man the Martyr Pamphilus had to some extent dealt with the question in a work of the kind he wished, that is in his Apology for Origen. Immediately he begged me to translate this work into Latin. I told him several times that I had no practice in this style of composition, and that my power of writing Latin had grown dull through the neglect of nearly thirty years. He, however, persevered in his request, begging earnestly that by any kind of words that might be possible, the things which he p. 440 longed to know should be placed within his reach. I did what he wished in the best language in my power; but this only inflamed him with greater desire for the full knowledge of the work itself from which, as he saw, the few translations which I had made had been taken. I tried to excuse myself; but he urged me with vehemence, taking God to witness of his earnest request to me not to refuse him the means which might assist him in doing a good work. It was only because he insisted so earnestly, and it seemed clear that his desire was according to the will of God, that I at length acquiesced, and made the translation.
This word originally meant simply learning. It was then applied in a special sense to mathematics. But the mathematici under the later Roman Empire became identified with astrologers.
Next: Pamphilus Apology for Origen.
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