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.: Difference between seeing and knowing.
18. This is the chief passage which those who were sent from the East to lay snares for me tried to brand as heretical, not only by perversely misunderstanding it, but by falsifying the words. But I could see nothing to suspect in it, as also in several similar passages of the writer I was translating, nor did I think that there was any reason to leave it out, since there was nothing said in it as to a comparison of the Son with the Father, but the question related to the nature of the Deity itself, whether in any sense the word visibility could be applied to it. Origen was answering, as I have said before, the heretics who assert that God is visible because they say that he is corporeal, the faculty of sight being a property of the body; for which reason the Valentinian heretics, of whom I spoke above, declare that the Father begat and the Son was begotten in a bodily and visible sense. He therefore shrank, I presume, from the word Seeing as a suspicious term, and says that it is better, when the question turns upon the nature of the Deity, that is, upon the relation of the Father and the Son, to use the word which the Lord himself definitely chose, when he said: “No man knoweth the Son save the Father, neither doth any know the Father save the Son.” He thought that all occasion which might be given to the aforesaid heresies would be shut out if, in speaking of the nature of the Deity he used the word Knowledge rather than Vision. Vision might seem to afford the heretics some support. The word Knowledge on the other hand preserves the true relation of Father and Son in one nature never to be set apart; and this is specially confirmed by the authoritative language of the Gospel. Origen thought also that this mode of speaking would ensure that the Anthropomorphites should never in any way hear God spoken of as visible. It did not seem to me right that this reasoning, since it made no difference between the persons of the Trinity, should be completely thrown on one side, though indeed there were some words in the Greek, which perhaps were somewhat incautiously used, and which I thought it well to avoid using. I will suppose that readers may hesitate in their judgment whether or not even so, it is an argument which can be employed with effect against the aforesaid heresies. I will even grant that those who are practised in judging of words and their sense in matters of this kind and who, besides being experts, are God-fearing men, men who do nothing through strife or vain glory, whose mind is equally free from envy and favour and prejudice may say that the point p. 444 is of little value either for edification or for the combating of heresy; even so, is it not competent for them to pass it over and to leave it aside as not valid for the repulse of our adversaries? Suppose it to be superfluous, does that make it criminous? How can we count as a criminal passage one which asserts the equality of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit in this point of invisibility? I do not think that any one can really think so. I say any one: for there is no evidence that anything contained in my writings is offensive in the eyes of my accusers; for, if they had thought so, they would have set down my words as they stood in my translation.
Next: The Translation interpolated by Eusebius of Cremona.
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