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.: The Book of Hebrew Questions.
22. In the Preface to his book on Hebrew Questions, after many other remarks, he says:
“I say nothing of Origen. His name (if I may compare small things to great) is even more than my own the object of ill will, because though following the common version in his Homilies which were spoken to common people, yet in his Tomes, that is, in his fuller discussion of Scripture, he yields to the Hebrew as the truth, and though surrounded by his own forces occasionally seeks the foreign tongue as his ally. I will only say this about him, that I should gladly have his knowledge of the Scriptures even if accompanied with all the ill-will which clings to his name, and that I do not care a straw for these shades and spectral ghosts whose nature is said to be to chatter in dark corners and be a terror to babies.”
I really can no longer wonder or complain of his unfriendly dealings with me since he has not spared such men, such great men. For another man whom he tears to pieces is Ambrose that Bishop of sacred memory. In what manner, and with what disparagement he attacks him, I will show in a similar way from one of his Prefaces, in which, nevertheless, he praises Origen. It is the Preface to Origens homilies on Luke addressed to Paula and Eustochium.
A few days ago you told me that you had read some commentaries on Matthew and Luke, of which one was equally dull in perception and expression, the other frivolous in expression, sleepy in sense. Accordingly, you requested me to translate without such trifling, our Adamantius 39 homilies on Luke, just as they are found in the original Greek: I replied that it was an irksome task and a mental torment to write, as Cicero phrases it, with another mans heart, not ones own: but yet I will undertake it as your requests reach no higher than this. The demand which the sainted Blæsia once made at Rome, that I should translate into our language his twenty-five volumes on Matthew, five on Luke and thirty-two on John is beyond my powers, my leisure and my energy. You see what weight your influence and wishes have with me. I have laid aside for a time my books on Hebrew Questions to use my energies which your judgment holds fruitful in translating these commentaries which, good or bad, are his work, and not mine: especially as I hear on the left of me the raven—that ominous bird—croaking and mocking in an extraordinary way at the colours of p. 470 all the other birds, because of his own utter blackness. And so, before he change his note, I confess that these treatises are Origens recreation no less than dice are a boys: very different are the serious pursuits of his manhood and of his old age. If my proposal meet with your approbation, if I am still able to undertake the task, and if the Lord grant me opportunity to translate them into Latin, so that I may complete the work I have now deferred, you will then be able to see, aye, and all who speak Latin will learn through you, the mass of valuable knowledge of which they have hitherto been ignorant, but which they have now begun to acquire. Besides this I have arranged to send you shortly the commentaries on Matthew of that eloquent man Hilarius, and of the blessed martyr Victorinus, which, different as their style may be, one spirit has enabled them to write: these will give you some idea of the study which our Latins also have in former days bestowed upon the Holy Scriptures.
Next: Jerome's attack upon Ambrose.
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