It is Said that on a Recent Occasion Where the Letters of Theophilus Exposing the Errors of Origen were Read, Our Friend Stopped his Ears, and Along with all Present Pronounced a Distinct Condemnation Upon the Author of So Much Evil; and that He Said that up to that Moment He had Never Known that Origen had Written Anything So Wrong. I Say Nothing against This: I do not Make the Observation which Perhaps Another Might Make, that it was Impossible for Him to be Ignorant of that which He had Himself Translated, and an Apology for which by a Heretic He had Published under the Name of a Martyr, Whose Defence Also He had Undertaken in his Own Book; as to which I Shall have Some Adverse Remarks to Make Later on if I have Time to Write Them. I Only Make one Observation which Does not Admit of Contradiction. If it is Possible that He Should have Misunderstood what He Translated, Why is it not Possible that I Should have Been Ignorant of the Book Peri 'Archon which I had not Before Read, and that I Should have Only Read those Homilies which I Translated, and in which He Himself Testifies that There is Nothing Wrong? but If, Contrary to his Expressed Opinion, He Now Finds Fault with Me for those Things for which He Before had Given Me Praise, He Will be in a Strait Between Two; Either He Praised Me, Believing Me to be a Heretic but Confessing that He Shared My Opinion; or Else, if He Praised Me Before as Orthodox, his Present Accusations Come to Nothing, and are Due to Sheer Malice. But Perhaps it was Only as My Friend that He Formerly was Silent About My Errors, and Now that He is Angry with Me Brings to Light what He had Concealed. CThis Abandonment of Friendship Gives no Claim to My Confidence; and Open Enmity Brings with it the Suspicion of Falsehood. Still I Will be Bold Enough to Go to Meet Him, and to Ask what Heretical Doctrine I have Expressed, So that I May Either, Like Him, Express My Regret and Swear that I Never Knew the Bad Doctrines of Origen, and that his Infidelity Has Now for the First Time Been Made Known to Me by the Pope Theophilus; or that I May at Least Prove that My Opinions were Sound and that He, as his Habit Is, had not Understood Them. It is Impossible that in My Commentaries on the Ephesians which I Hear He Makes the Ground of his Accusation, I Should have Spoken Both Rightly and Wrongly; that from the Same Fountain Should have Proceeded Both Sweet Water and Bitter; and that Whereas Throughout the Work I Condemned those who Believe that Souls have Been Created Out of Angels, I Should Suddenly have Forgotten Myself and have Defended the Opinion which I Condemned Before. He Can Hardly Raise an Objection to Me on the Score of Folly, Since He Has Proclaimed Me in his Works as a Man of the Highest Culture and Eloquence; Otherwise Such Silly Verbosity as He Imputes is the Part, one Would Think, of a Pettifogger and a Babbler Rather than of an Eloquent Man. What is the Point of his Written Accusations I do not Know, for it is Only Report of Them, not the Writings, which Has Reached Me; And, as the Apostle Tells us it is a Foolish Thing to Beat the Air. However, I must Answer in the Uncertainty Till the Certainty Reaches Me: and I Will Begin by Teaching My Rival in My Old Age a Lesson which I Learned in Youth, that There are Many Forms of Speech, and That, According to the Subject Matter not Only the Sentences but the Words Also of Writings Vary. CFor Instance, Chrysippus and Antipater Occupy Themselves with Thorny Questions: Demosthenes and Æschines Speak with the Voice of Thunder against Each Other; Lysias and Isocrates have an Easy and Pleasing Style. There is a Wonderful Difference in These Writers, Though Each of them is Perfect in his Own Line. Again: Read the Book of Tully to Herennius; Read his Rhetoricians; Or, Since He Tells us that These Books Fell from his Hands in a Merely Inchoate and Unfinished Condition, Look through his Three Books on the Orator, in which He Introduces a Discussion Between Crassus and Antony, the Most Eloquent Orators of that Day; and a Fourth Book Called the Orator which He Wrote to Brutus when Already an Old Man; and You Will Realize that History, Oratory, Dialogue, Epistolary Writing, and Commentaries, Have, Each of Them, their Special Style. We have to do Now with Commentaries. In those which I Wrote Upon the Ephesians I Only Followed Origen and Didymus and Apollinarius, (Whose Doctrines are Very Different one from Another) So Far as was Consistent with the Sincerity of My Faith: for what is the Function of a Commentary? it is to Interpret Another Man's Words, to Put into Plain Language what He Has Expressed Obscurely. Consequently, it Enumerates the Opinions of Many Persons, and Says, Some Interpret the Passage in this Sense, Some in That; the one Try to Support their Opinion and Understanding of it by Such and Such Evidence or Reasons: So that the Wise Reader, after Reading These Different Explanations, and Having Many Brought Before his Mind for Acceptance or Rejection, May Judge which is the Truest, And, Like a Good Banker, May Reject the Money of Spurious Mintage. Is the Commentator to be Held Responsible for all These Different Interpretations, and all These Mutually Contradicting Opinions Because He Puts Down the Expositions Given by Many in the Single Work on which He is Commenting? I Suppose that when You were a Boy You Read the Commentaries of Asper Upon virgil and Sallust, those of Vulcatius Upon Cicero's Orations, of victorinus Upon his Dialogues and Upon the Comedies of Terence, and Also those of My Master Donatus on virgil, and of Others on Other Writers Such as Plautus, Lucretius, Flaccus, Persius and Lucan. Will You Find Fault with those who have Commented on These Writers Because they have not Held to a Single Explanation, but Enumerate their Own views and those of Others on the Same Passage? CI Say Nothing of the Greeks, Since You Boast of Your Knowledge of Them, Even to the Extent of Saying That, in Attaching Yourself to Foreign Literature, You have Forgotten Your Own Language. I am Afraid That, According to the Old Proverbs, I Might be Like the Pig Teaching Minerva, and the Man Carrying Fagots into the Wood. I Only Wonder That, Being as You are the Aristarchus of Our Time, You Should have Shewn Ignorance of These Matters which Every Boy Knows. It Is, no Doubt, from Your Mind Being Fixed on the Meaning of what You Write, but Partly Also from Your Being So Sharp-Sighted for the Manufacture of Calumnies against Me, that You Despise the Precepts of Grammarians and Orators, that You Make no Attempt to Set Straight Words which have Got Transposed when the Sentence Has Become Complicated, or to Avoid Some Harsh Collocation of Consonants, or to Escape from a Style Full of Gaps. It Would be Ridiculous to Point to one or Two Wounds when the Whole Body is Enfeebled and Broken. I Will not Select Portions for Criticism; it is for Him to Select any Portion which is Free from Faults. He must have Been Ignorant Even of the Socratic Saying: "Know Thyself. "
14. It is said that on a recent occasion where the letters of Theophilus exposing the errors of Origen were read, our friend stopped his ears, and along with all present pronounced a distinct condemnation upon the author of so much evil; and that he said that up to that moment he had never known that Origen had written anything so wrong. I say nothing against this: I do not make the observation which perhaps another might make, that it was impossible for him to be ignorant of that which he had himself translated, and an apology for which by a heretic he had published under the name of a martyr, whose defence also he had undertaken in his own book; as to which I shall have some adverse remarks to make later on if I have time to write them. I only make one observation which does not admit of contradiction. If it is possible that he should have misunderstood what he translated, why is it not possible that I should have been ignorant of the book Peri 'Archon which I had not before read, and that I should have only read those Homilies which I translated, and in which he himself testifies that there is nothing wrong? But if, contrary to his expressed opinion, he now finds fault with me for those things for which he before had given me praise, he will be in a strait between two; either he praised me, believing me to be a heretic but confessing that he shared my opinion; or else, if he praised me before as orthodox, his present accusations come to nothing, and are due to sheer malice. But perhaps it was only as my friend that he formerly was silent about my errors, and now that he is angry with me brings to light what he had concealed. c15. This abandonment of friendship gives no claim to my confidence; and open enmity brings with it the suspicion of falsehood. Still I will be bold enough to go to meet him, and to ask what heretical doctrine I have expressed, so that I may either, like him, express my regret and swear that I never knew the bad doctrines of Origen, and that his infidelity has now for the first time been made known to me by the Pope Theophilus; or that I may at least prove that my opinions were sound and that he, as his habit is, had not understood them. It is impossible that in my Commentaries on the Ephesians which I hear he makes the ground of his accusation, I should have spoken both rightly and wrongly; that from the same fountain should have proceeded both sweet water and bitter; and that whereas throughout the work I condemned those who believe that souls have been created out of angels, I should suddenly have forgotten myself and have defended the opinion which I condemned before. He can hardly raise an objection to me on the score of folly, since he has proclaimed me in his works as a man of the highest culture and eloquence; otherwise such silly verbosity as he imputes is the part, one would think, of a pettifogger and a babbler rather than of an eloquent man. What is the point of his written accusations I do not know, for it is only report of them, not the writings, which has reached me; and, as the Apostle tells us it is a foolish thing to beat the air. However, I must answer in the uncertainty till the certainty reaches me: and I will begin by teaching my rival in my old age a lesson which I learned in youth, that there are many forms of speech, and that, according to the subject matter not only the sentences but the words also of writings vary. c16. For instance, Chrysippus and Antipater occupy themselves with thorny questions: Demosthenes and Æschines speak with the voice of thunder against each other; Lysias and Isocrates have an easy and pleasing style. There is a wonderful difference in these writers, though each of them is perfect in his own line. Again: read the book of Tully To Herennius; read his Rhetoricians; or, since he tells us that these books fell from his hands in a merely inchoate and unfinished condition, look through his three books On the orator, in which he introduces a discussion between Crassus and Antony, the most eloquent orators of that day; and a fourth book called The Orator which he wrote to Brutus when already an old man; and you will realize that History, Oratory, Dialogue, Epistolary writing, and Commentaries, have, each of them, their special style. We have to do now with Commentaries. In those which I wrote upon the Ephesians I only followed Origen and Didymus and Apollinarius, (whose doctrines are very different one from another) so far as was consistent with the sincerity of my faith: for what is the function of a Commentary? It is to interpret another man's words, to put into plain language what he has expressed obscurely. Consequently, it enumerates the opinions of many persons, and says, Some interpret the passage in this sense, some in that; the one try to support their opinion and understanding of it by such and such evidence or reasons: so that the wise reader, after reading these different explanations, and having many brought before his mind for acceptance or rejection, may judge which is the truest, and, like a good banker, may reject the money of spurious mintage. Is the commentator to be held responsible for all these different interpretations, and all these mutually contradicting opinions because he puts down the expositions given by many in the single work on which he is commenting? I suppose that when you were a boy you read the commentaries of Asper upon Virgil and Sallust, those of Vulcatius upon Cicero's Orations, of Victorinus upon his Dialogues and upon the Comedies of Terence, and also those of my master Donatus on Virgil, and of others on other writers such as Plautus, Lucretius, Flaccus, Persius and Lucan. Will you find fault with those who have commented on these writers because they have not held to a single explanation, but enumerate their own views and those of others on the same passage? c17. I say nothing of the Greeks, since you boast of your knowledge of them, even to the extent of saying that, in attaching yourself to foreign literature, you have forgotten your own language. I am afraid that, according to the old proverbs, I might be like the pig teaching Minerva, and the man carrying fagots into the wood. I only wonder that, being as you are the Aristarchus of our time, you should have shewn ignorance of these matters which every boy knows. It is, no doubt, from your mind being fixed on the meaning of what you write, but partly also from your being so sharp-sighted for the manufacture of calumnies against me, that you despise the precepts of Grammarians and orators, that you make no attempt to set straight words which have got transposed when the sentence has become complicated, or to avoid some harsh collocation of consonants, or to escape from a style full of gaps. It would be ridiculous to point to one or two wounds when the whole body is enfeebled and broken. I will not select portions for criticism; it is for him to select any portion which is free from faults. He must have been ignorant even of the Socratic saying: "Know thyself."To steer the ship the untaught landsman fears;

Th' untrain'd attendant dares not give the sick

The drastic southernwood. The healing drug

The leech alone prescribes. Th' artificer

Alone the tools can wield. But poetry

Train'd or untrain'd we all at random write. [3029]

Possibly he will swear that he has never learned to read and write; I can easily believe that without an oath. Or perhaps he will take refuge in what the Apostle says of himself: "Though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge." But his reason for saying this is plain. He had been trained in Hebrew learning and brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, whom, though he had attained apostolic rank, he was not ashamed to call his master; and he thought Greek eloquence of no account, or at all events, in his humility, he would not parade his knowledge of it. So that [3030] his preaching should stand not in the persuasive wisdom of words but in the power of the things signified.' He despised other men's riches since he was rich in his own. Still it was not to an illiterate man who stumbled in every sentence that Festus cried, as he stood before his judgment seat:

"Paul thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." [3031] You who can hardly do more than mutter in Latin, and who rather creep like a tortoise than walk, ought either to write in Greek, so that among those who are ignorant of Greek you may pass for one who knows a foreign tongue; or else, if you attempt to write Latin, you should first have a grammar-master, and flinch from the ferule, and begin again as an old scholar among children to learn the art of speaking. Even if a man is bursting with the wealth of Croesus and Darius, letters will not follow the money-bag. They are the companions of toil and of labour, the associates of the fasting not of the full-fed, of self-mastery not of self-indulgence. [3032] It is told of Demosthenes that he consumed more oil than wine, and that no workman ever shortened his nights as he did. He for the sake of enunciating the single letter Rho was willing to take a dog as his teacher; and yet you make it a crime in me that I took a man to teach me the Hebrew letters. This is the sort of wisdom which makes men remain unlearned: they do not choose to learn what they do not know. They forget the words of Horace:

Why through false shame do I choose ignorance,

Rather than seek to learn?

That Book of Wisdom also which is read to us as the work of Solomon says: [3033] "Into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is subject to sin. For the Holy Spirit of discipline [3034] will flee deceit and remove from thoughts which are without understanding." The case is different with those who only wish to be read by the vulgar, and do not care how they may offend the ears of the learned; and they despise the utterance of the poet which brands the forwardness of noisy ignorance.

'Twas you, I think, whose ignorance in the streets

Murder'd the wretched strain with creaking reed.

If you want such things, there are plenty of curly-pated fellows in every school who will sing you snatches of doggrel from Miletus; or you may go to the exhibition of the Bessi [3035] and see people shaking with laughter at the Pig's Testament, or at any jesters' entertainment where silly things of this kind are run after. There is not a day but you may see the dressed-up clown in the streets whacking the buttocks of some blockhead, or half-pulling out people's teeth with the scorpion which he twists round for them to bite. We need not wonder if the books of know-nothings find plenty of readers.


[3028] A native of Samothrace who died at Cyprus b.c. 157. He was tutor to the children of Ptolemy Philometor, and was renowned as a rhetorician and a critic.

[3029] Horace Ep. ii, 1, 114-7.

[3030] 1 Corinthians 2:4. "Not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Rev. Ver.

[3031] Acts 26:24

[3032] Jerome often accuses Rufinus of self-indulgence. See esp. Letter cxxv, c. 18.

[3033] Wisd. of Sol. i. 4, 5

[3034] Eruditionis.

[3035] A tribe of Thrace; probably troupes of them came to exhibit in Rome.

13 i am told further
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