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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:
Life and Works of Rufinus with Jerome's Apology Against Rufinus.: You taunt me with boasting of my eloquence. Will you boast of your illiteracy?

Early Church Fathers  Index     

6. I will follow the order of your letter, and subjoin your very words as you spoke them. “I admit, that, as you say, I praised your eloquence in my Preface; and I would praise it again now were it not that contrary to the advice of your Tully, you make it hateful by excessive boastfulness.” Where have I boasted of my eloquence? I did not even accept willingly the praise which you bestowed on it. Perhaps your reason for saying this is that you do not wish, yourself, to be flattered by public praise given in guile. Rest assured you shall be accused openly; you reject one who would praise you; you shall have experience of one who openly arraigns you. I was not so foolish as to criticize your illiterate style; no one can expose it to condemnation so strongly as you do whenever you write. I only wished to show your fellow-disciples who shared your lack of literary training what progress you had made during your thirty years in the East, an illiterate writer, who takes impudence for eloquence, and universal evil speaking a sign of a good conscience. I am not going to administer the ferule; I do not assume, as you put it, to apply the strokes of the leather thong to teach an aged pupil his letters. But the fact is your eloquence and teaching is so sparkling that we mere tract-writers cannot bear it, and you dazzle our eyes with the acuteness of your talents to such an extent that we must all seem to be envious of you; and we must really join in the attempt to suppress you, for, if once you obtain the primacy among us as a writer, and stand on the summit of the rhetorical arch, all of us who profess to know anything will not be allowed to mutter a word. I am, according to you, a philosopher and an orator, grammarian, dialectician, one who knows Hebrew, Greek and Latin, a ‘trilingual’ man. On this estimate, you also will be ‘bilingual,’ who know enough Latin and Greek to make the Greek think you a Latin scholar and the Latin a Greek: and the bishop Epiphanius will be a ‘pentaglossic 3168 man’ since he speaks in five languages against you and your favorite. 3169 But I wonder at the rashness which made you dare to say to one so accomplished as you profess to think me: “You, whose accomplishments give you so many watchful eyes, how can you be pardoned if you go wrong? How can you fail to be buried in the silence of a never ending shame?” When I read this, and reflected that I must somewhere or other have made a slip in my words (for 3170 “if any man does not go wrong in word, the same is a perfect man”) and was expecting that he was about to expose some of my faults; all of a sudden I came upon the words: “Two days before the carrier of this letter set out your declamation against me was put into my hands.” What became then of those threats of yours, and of your words: “How can you be pardoned if you go wrong? How can you fail to be covered with the silence of a never ending shame?” Yet perhaps, notwithstanding the shortness of the time, you were able to put this in order; or else you were intending to hire in one of the learned sort, who would expect to find in my works the ornaments and gems of an eloquence like yours. You wrote before this: “Accept the document which I send which you wished to buy at a great price;” but now you speak with the pretence of humility. “I intended to follow your example; but, since the messenger who was returning to you was hurrying back again I thought it better to write shortly to you than at greater length to others.” In the meantime you boldly take pleasure in your illiteracy. Indeed you once confessed it, declaring that ‘it was superfluous to notice a few faults of style, when it was acknowledged that there were faults in every part.’ I will not therefore find fault with you for putting down that a document was acquired when you meant that it was bought; though acquiring is said of things like in kind, whereas buying implies the p. 523 counting out of money: nor for such a sentence as “as he who was returning to you was hurrying back again” which is a redundancy worthy of the poorest style of diction. I will only reply to the arguments, and will convict you, not of solæcisms and barbarisms, but of falsehood, cunning and impudence.



Five tongued.


Amasium, sweetheart; namely, Origen.


Jas. iii. 2

Next: You wish first to praise, then to amend me, but both with fisticuffs; and make it impossible for me to keep silence.

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