Writings of Rufinus. Commentary on the Benedictions of the Twelve Patriarchs.

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Translated by The Hon. and Rev. William Henry Fremantle, M.A. Canon of Canterbury, Fellow and Tutor of Baliol College, Oxford.

Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London

Published in 1892 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

Preface to the Commentary on the Benedictions of the Twelve Patriarchs.

Rufinus had arrived with Melania, in Italy, in the spring of 397, after a stay in the East of some 25 years. They had visited Paulinus at Nola, and had been entertained by him with the highest honours. Melania probably remained in Campania, where she had property, engaged in family affairs; but Rufinus set out for Rome. He stopped, however, for some months at the monastery of Pinetum near Terracina, with his friend Urseius the Abbot.

His work on Jacob's Benedictions on his sons in Gen. xlix was occasioned by the following letter from Paulinus, who alludes to it in writing to Sulpicius Severus (Ep. xxviii). "I have written a short note to the Presbyter Rufinus, the companion of the saintly Melania in her spiritual journey, a truly holy and truly learned man, and one united with me on this account in the closest affection." The work itself, being an Exposition of Scripture, is not given, but only the Preface.

Paulinus to his brother Rufinus, all best wishes. [2772]

1. Even a short letter from one so likeminded as yourself is a great refreshment, like the dew which revives a thirsty field when the rivers are low. But while I confess that I have been refreshed by this letter which, though short, is still from you, and is sent by the servant of our common children, yet I have been troubled at hearing that all at once through the disquiet of your anxiety and the uncertainty caused by delay, you have determined that you must go to Rome. May the Lord grant you to receive joy in the Lord from what we are doing: so that, as now we share in your anxiety, so we may rejoice in your joy, and that we may still have some beginnings of hope that we may enjoy your presence, when you begin to see clearly your way and the will of the Lord concerning you.

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2. You are kind enough, with that affection which makes you love me as yourself, to desire that I should take up more seriously the study of Greek literature. I acknowledge the kindness which dictates this wish; but I am unable to give it effect, unless, through God's blessing on my earnest desires, I should have the happiness of your company for a longer time. How can I gain any proficiency in a foreign tongue in the absence of him who might teach me what I do not know? I think that, in the matter of the translation of St. Clement, [2773] besides the other defects of my abilities, you noticed this especially as showing the weakness caused by my want of practice, that where I had been unable to understand the words or to express them accurately, I have translated them according to my idea of their drift, or, to speak more truly, set down what I thought ought to be there. All the more therefore do I need that, through God's mercy, I may have your company in fuller measure; for that will be like wealth to the poor or like gathering the crumbs which fall from the rich man's table with the eager appetite of the bondman's heart.

3. At the moment when I was writing these words my eye fell upon a passage of Scripture, occurring in a portion which I had set down for reading, namely that in which Judah is blessed by Jacob; and I determined after a time to knock at the door of your mind, for which the Lord had given me this most timely occasion. I beg you, if you love me, or rather because you love me so greatly, to write and say how you understand this blessing of the Patriarchs; and, if there are some things in it which are worth knowing but hard to understand, impart to me also the knowledge of them; especially of that passage which says: "Binding his colt to the vine and his ass's [2774] colt to the haircloth." [2775] Tell me what is the colt and the ass's colt, and why his colt is to be bound to the vine, but the ass's colt to the hair cloth.

The answer of Rufinus forms the Preface to his Exposition of the Benedictions.

1. The more I excuse myself to you, and the more I assert that I am unable to respond to your inquiries, the more instant you become in your requests, and the harder become your demands: you treat me as you would an ox whose laziness you have discovered, and prick his flanks and back as he stops and turns back with goads of ever increasing sharpness. I must point out to you, therefore, that, even if I am able to bow my neck low so as just to drag the heavy yoke which you lay upon me, yet I have no chance of bursting at a rapid pace into the open and wide-spreading plains through a form of speech which flows at large and pours itself forth over far-extending space. Bear with me therefore if my resolution has been but tardily fulfilled, and if I come up only at a feeble pace to the point to which you call me.

2. You ask me how the passage in Genesis is to be understood in which Israel the father of the patriarchs is represented as predicting what he saw would happen to each of his sons, and says of Judah, amongst other things: "Binding his colt to the vine, and his ass's colt to the tendril of the vine." You write it "and his ass's colt to the haircloth" (cilicium); but in the Greek it stands: kai te heliki ton polon tes onou autou. The Greeks call by the name helika(twist) not the sprigs of the vine (as our copies have it) but those sickle-like shoots [2776] by which it supports itself on branches of trees or poles or the supports of the kind which I think the farmers call goatikins; [2777] so that the vine is made safe by these clinging shoots from all danger of falling, and the tendril can either become loaded with grapes or grow out in unfettered length. I think therefore that this very word (helici), like some others, must have been set down a long time ago in the Latin versions, and that it was afterwards supposed by unintelligent copyists that by helici, hair-cloth (cilicium) must be meant.

3. It is easy in this way to emend the mistakes of the translation; but it is not so easy to find out the meaning of the expression itself unless we take into consideration the whole passage. But the treatment of this passage would be placed in a fuller and clearer light if we could go back to the beginning of the whole of these Benedictions. But this implies no small amount of leisure and of time; or, to speak in a more Christian sense, it demands a mind illuminated by the Holy Spirit. My talent is but slight, and there are many demands on my time; and my friends are urging me to comply with their requests about Origen. [2778] But, so far as these circumstances admit, and so great a matter can be treated with brevity, I will state at once what appears to me the true meaning of this passage, for the love with which you bid me trust you in everything, and without prejudice to the judgment of others, who may have something better to say about it.


[2772] Salutem, a word implying well-being generally as well as health. [2773] That is, the Recognitions. See the Preface to Rufinus' Translation in this volume, with the explanatory note prefixed to it. [2774] Gen. xlix. ii [2775] This is a mistaken reading (though said by Vallarsi to be accepted by both Ambrose and Augustin), Cilicium for heliki. Rufinus adopts the latter. "Binding his ass's colt to the tendril of the vine." [2776] The word in the text rucinnulos is unknown in Latin. The most likely conjecture as to the right reading is ruscarias quibus (that is ruscarias falculas--sickles for weeding out butcher's broom, as mentioned by Cato and Varro). [2777] Capreolos. Properly little goats, thus used for the props, the fork of which resembled the horns of the goat. The word is also used for the tendrils of the vine, and is by some derived from capio. [2778] That is about the translation of the Peri 'Archon. See the Preface to this further on.

Preface to Book II.

Rufinus, as we see by his Preface to the former book, considered it unsatisfactory to expound the Blessing upon Judah apart from those on his brethren. Paulinus therefore, taking the occasion of their common friend Cerealis' journey to Rome, sends the following letter to induce Rufinus to expound the remaining Benedictions.

Paulinus to his brother Rufinus, all good wishes.

1. Although our son Cerealis declared to me that it was uncertain whether, in returning as he now does to St. Peter, [2779] he would be able to visit you, yet it appears to me that it would be blamable in me and vexatious to you were I not to write to you by him in whom you have a part as well as I. It seems to me preferable to lose some letter paper by his not visiting you rather than to lose credit with you as I think I should do by his visiting you without it: and therefore I have entrusted this letter, I will not say to chance, but to faith: for I believe that the Lord will direct to you the way both of our son and of my letter; since to those who long for good all will turn to good; and indeed he longs for you as you ought to be longed for by one who understands the good he may gain from your society. I believe that this longing of his in a good matter will not be lost, according to his faith and piety: and therefore I have confidence that he will reach you and abide with you, and that I shall see the saving help of the Lord doubled towards you, since in him you will have the accession of a good son and pupil and assistant, and he will find in you a father and teacher of all good things given to him from the Lord, who will add to the efficacy and power of his prayers the strength of spiritual grace. As to myself, though I have the assurance that when you return to the East you will be unwilling to depart without visiting me, yet my sins make me fear that the daughter of Babylon, may turn you away from me. I pray therefore with earnest longings to the Lord that he would give me not according to my deserts but according to my desire and may direct your course to me in the way of peace; for such as do not walk in that way are reprobate and condemned and incapable of truly longing for your presence.

2. But now for the business part of my letter. I charge you, with the importunity, with which I am in the habit of knocking at your door even in the middle of the night, being driven by fear of a refusal to the modest attitude of a supplicant, to show me kindness once more, and to expound the Benedictions on the twelve Patriarchs. You have already made a beginning with the prophecy relating to Judah, and have given, according to the precept, a threefold interpretation of it. I now beg you to expound the prophecy as it relates to each of the sons of Judah: so that I may myself become possessed of the truth by your means, and may also gain through your help the favor and the praise which will accrue to me; for I shall thus be able to make answer to those who have thought well to consult me on the difficulties of this passage of Scripture not with foolish words drawn from my own understanding but with divine truth flowing from your inspiration.

Rufinus, though at this time busy with his larger works, the translations of Pamphilus' defence of Origen, and Origen's Peri 'Archon, and, though about to set out for Rome, lost no time in composing the work which Paulinus demanded, and sent it him with the following letter.

Rufinus to His Brother Paulinus, the Man of God, with All Good Wishes.

1. Though our common son Cerealis did not visit me, he felt what pain he would cause me if he delayed my reception of your letter, and forwarded it to me. In reading it I felt, as usual, a continual increase in my yearning towards you: but I found towards its close a request from which I have frequently begged you to excuse me--I mean the request which you make that I should write something in answer to your questions as to the interpretation of passages of Scripture. I thought that I should lead you to desist from these questions by the writings I have once and again sent you, which have given evidence of my ignorance and of the roughness of my speech.

2. But since you still are not weary of commanding me, I have at once, to the best of my powers, added to what I had written at your desire on the Benediction of Judah the comments on the remaining eleven patriarchs. I acted like the man in the parable of the two sons. I thought that I should thus best fulfil the father's will: and though when he ordered me to go into the vineyard I had said I will not go, yet after a while I went. If, as I grant, there is some rashness in the fact that with so little capacity we attempt such a great task, I would say, with submission to you, that this must be most justly imputed to you, since, through your excessive love for me you do not see that my measure of knowledge, as of other virtues, is but slight. I wrote this work in the days of Lent, while I was staying in the monastery of Pinetum, and I wrote it for you. But I found it impossible to conceal this poor work from the brethren who were there: and they, considering that a thing which had been honoured by your approval must be of great importance, extorted from me the permission to copy it for themselves. Thus, while you demand from me food for yourself you give refreshment to others also. Farewell, and be in peace, my most loving brother, most true worshipper of God, and an Israelite in whom there is no guile. I entreat you who are so full of the grace of God to hold me still in remembrance.


[2779] That is to Rome.

Translation of Pamphilus' Defence of Origen.

Written at Pinetum a.d. 397.

While Rufinus was staying at Pinetum, a Christian named Macarius [2780] sought his advice and assistance. He was engaged in a controversy with the Mathematici, a class of men who had deserted the scientific studies from which they took their name, and had turned to astrology and a belief in Fatalism. Macarius, having heard of Origen's greatness in the region of Christian speculation, earnestly desired some knowledge of his writings: but was unable to attain it through ignorance of Greek. He declared to Rufinus that he had had a dream in which he saw a ship laden with Eastern merchandize arriving in Italy, and that it was declared to him that this ship would contain the means of attaining the knowledge he desired. The coming of Rufinus seemed to him the fulfilment of his dream, and he earnestly besought him to impart to him some of the treasures of his Greek learning, and especially to translate for him Origen's great speculative work, the Peri 'Archon, that is On First Principles. [2781] Rufinus hesitated, knowing that there was a strong prejudice against Origen, and that he was looked on, especially in the West, as a heretic, though his writings were little known there. He yielded, however, to the solicitations of Macarius: but to guard against the imputation of heresy, he undertook three preliminary works. First, he translated the Apology of the Martyr Pamphilus for Origen; secondly, he wrote a short treatise on the Adulteration by heretics of the works of Origen; and, thirdly, in translating the Peri 'Archon he prefixed to it an elaborate Preface in justification of his course in translating the work. All these documents became the subject of vehement controversy which found its expression in the letter of Jerome to his friends at Rome, and the Apologies of Rufinus and Jerome translated in this volume.

The Apology of Pamphilus for Origen forms the sixth book of a work undertaken by him in connexion with Eusebius of Cæsarea, the Church Historian. Pamphilus was a great collector of books, and a learned man, but Eusebius was the chief writer. Pamphilus was put to death in the last persecution, that under Galerius; and Eusebius having at a later time fallen under suspicion of Arianism, it was attempted by those who disliked Origen, to dissociate Pamphilus from all connexion with the work. There seems however no reason to doubt, notwithstanding Jerome's violent protestations, that Pamphilus was associated with Eusebius throughout the work, and that he actually wrote the sixth book. The translation of this Apology was made first, and sent out with a Preface which runs as follows:

You have been moved by your desire to know the truth, Macarius, who are "a man greatly beloved," [2782] to make a request of me, which will bring you the blessing attached to the knowledge of the truth; but it will win for me the greatest indignation on the part of those who consider themselves aggrieved whenever any one does not think evil of Origen. It is true that it is not my opinion about him that you have asked for, but that of the holy martyr Pamphilus; and you have requested to have the book which he is said to have written in his defence in Greek translated for you into Latin: nevertheless I do not doubt that there will be some who will think themselves aggrieved if I say anything in his defence even in the words of another man. I beg them to do nothing in the spirit of presumption and of prejudice; and, since we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, not to refuse to hear the truth spoken, lest haply they should do wrong through ignorance. Let them consider that to wound the consciences of their weaker brethren by false accusations is to sin against Christ; and therefore let them not lend their ears to the accusers, nor seek an account of another man's faith from a third party, especially when an opportunity is given them for gaining personal and direct knowledge, and the substance and quality of each man's faith is to be known by his own confession. For so the Scripture says: [2783] "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation": and: [2784] "By his words shall each man be justified, and by his word shall he be condemned." The opinions of Origen in the various parts of Scripture are clearly set forth in the present work: as to the cause of our finding certain places in which he contradicts himself, an explanation will be offered in the short document subjoined. [2785] But as for myself, I hold that which has been handed down to us from the holy fathers, namely, that the Holy Trinity is coeternal, and of a single nature, virtue and substance; that the Son of God in these last times has been made man, has suffered for our transgressions and rose again from the dead in the very flesh in which he suffered, and thereby imparted the hope of the resurrection to the whole race of mankind. When we speak of the resurrection of the flesh, we do so, not with any subterfuges, as is slanderously reported by certain persons; we believe that it is this very flesh in which we are now living which will rise again, not one kind of flesh instead of another, nor another body than the body of this flesh. When we speak of the body rising we do so in the words of the apostle; for he himself made use of this word: and when we speak of the flesh, our confession is that of the Creed. It is an absurd invention of maliciousness to think that the human body is different from the flesh. However, whether we speak of that which is to rise, according to the common faith, as the flesh, or, according to the Apostle, as the body, this we must believe, that according to the clear statement of the Apostle, that which shall rise shall rise in power and in glory; it will rise an incorruptible and a spiritual body: for "corruption cannot inherit incorruption." We must maintain this preŽminence of the body, or flesh, which is to be: but, with this proviso, we must hold that the resurrection of the flesh is perfect and entire; we must on the one hand maintain the identity of the flesh, while on the other we must not detract from the dignity and glory of the incorruptible and spiritual body. For so the Scripture speaks. This is what is preached by the reverend Bishop John at Jerusalem; this we with him both confess and hold. If any one either believes or teaches otherwise, or insinuates that we believe differently from the exposition of our faith, let him be anathema. Let this then be taken as a record of our belief by any who desire to know it. Whatever we read and whatever we do is in accordance with this account of our faith; we follow the words of the Apostle, [2786] "proving all things, holding fast that which is good, avoiding every form of evil." [2787] "And as many as walk by this rule, peace be upon them and upon the Israel of God."


[2780] See the account in Rufinus' Apology I. 11. [2781] The word may also mean On beginnings, or On Principalities and Powers: these ideas being connected together in the speculation of the Alexandrian theology. [2782] Daniel x. 11, ix. 23. The name Macarius means Blessed. [2783] Rom. x. 10 [2784] Matt. xii. 37 [2785] See the Epilogue, infra. [2786] 1 Thess. v. 21, 22 [2787] Gal. vi. 16 .

Rufinus's Epilogue to Pamphilus the Martyr's Apology for Origen


The Book Concerning the Adulteration of the Works of Origen.

Addressed to Macarius at Pinetum a.d. 397.

The next work was sent out at the same time with Pamphilus' Apology. Rufinus believed that Origen's works had been adulterated by heretics so as to turn his assertions into support of their own opinions. He therefore, in his translation of the Peri 'Archon, altered many things which had a heterodox meaning as found in the ordinary mss. of Origen, so as to make the work consistent with itself and with the orthodox views expressed in other parts of Origen's writings. How far this process was legitimate or honest must be judged from a perusal of the controversy which followed; but it should be borne in mind, first, that the standard of literary exactness and conscientiousness was not the same in those days as in ours; secondly, that when everything depended on copyists there was room for infinite variations in the copies, whether through negligence, ignorance or fraud; thirdly, that the principles adopted by Rufinus were precisely those acknowledged by his great opponent Jerome, in his Treatise De Optimo Genere Interpretandi, and his Letter to Vigilantius (Letters lxvi and lxi).

My object in the translation from Greek into Latin of the holy martyr Pamphilus' Apology for Origen, which I have given in the preceding volume according to my ability and the requirements of the matter, is this: I wish you to know through full information that the rule of faith which has been set forth above in his writings is that which we must embrace and hold; for it is clearly shown that the Catholic opinion is contained in them all. Nevertheless you have to allow that there are found in his books certain things not only different from this but in certain cases even repugnant to it; things which our canons of truth do not sanction, and which we can neither receive nor approve. As to the cause of this an opinion has reached me which has been widely entertained, and which I wish to be fully known by you and by those who desire to know what is true, since it is possible also that some who have before been actuated by the love of fault-finding may acquiesce in the truth and reason of the matter when they have it set before them; for some seem determined to believe anything in the world to be true rather than that which withdraws from them the occasions of fault-finding. It must, I think, be felt to be wholly impossible that a man so learned and so wise, a man whom even his accusers may well admit to have been neither foolish nor insane, should have written what is contrary and repugnant to himself and his own opinions. But even suppose that this could in some way have happened; suppose, as some perhaps have said, that in the decline of life he might have forgotten what he had written in his early days, and have made assertions at variance with his former opinions; how are we to deal with the fact that we sometimes find in the very same passages, and, as I may say, almost in successive sentences, clauses inserted expressive of contrary opinions? Can we believe that in the same work and in the same book, and even sometimes, as I have said, in the following paragraph, a man could have forgotten his own views? For example that, when he had said just before that no passage in all the Scripture could be found in which the Holy Spirit was spoken of as made or created, he could have immediately added that the Holy Spirit had been made along with the rest of the creatures? or again, that the same man who clearly states that the Father and the Son are of one substance, or as it is called in Greek Homoousion, could in the next sentence say that He was of another substance, and was a created being, when he had but a little before described him as born of the very nature of God the Father? Or again in the matter of the resurrection of the flesh, could he who so clearly declared that it was the nature of the flesh which ascended with the Word of God into heaven, and there appeared to the celestial Powers, presenting a new image of himself for them to worship, could he, I ask you, possibly turn round and say that this flesh was not to be saved? Such things could not happen even in the case of a man who had taken leave of his senses and was not sound in the brain. How, therefore, this came to pass, I will point out with all possible brevity. The heretics are capable of any violence, they have no remorse and no scruples: this we are forced to recognize by the audacities of which they have been frequently convicted. And, just as their father the devil has from the beginning made it his object to falsify the words of God and twist them from their true meaning, and subtilely to interpolate among them his own poisonous ideas, so he has left these successors of his the same art as their inheritance. Accordingly, when God had said to Adam, "You shall eat of all the trees of the garden;" he, when he wished to deceive Eve interpolated a single syllable, by which he reduced within the narrowest bounds God's liberality in permitting all the fruits to be eaten. He said: "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?" and thus by suggesting the complaint that God's command was severe, he more easily persuaded her to transgress the precept. The heretics have followed the example of their father, the craft of their teacher. Whenever they found in any of the renowned writers of old days a discussion of those things which pertain to the glory of God so full and faithful that every believer could gain profit and instruction from it, they have not scrupled to infuse into their writings the poisonous taint of their own false doctrines; this they have done, either by inserting things which the writers had not said or by changing by interpolation what they had said, so that their own poisonous heresy might more easily be asserted and authorized by passing under the name of all the church writers of the greatest learning and renown; they meant it to appear that well-known and orthodox men had held as they did. We hold the clearest proofs of this in the case of the Greek writers and this adulteration of books is to be found in the case of many of the ancients; but it will suffice to adduce the testimony of a few, so that it may be more easily understood what has befallen the writings of Origen.

Clement, the disciple of the Apostles, who was bishop of the Roman church next to the Apostles, was a martyr, wrote the work which is called in the Greek 'Anagnorismos, or in Latin, The Recognition. [2788] In these books he sets forth again and again in the name of the Apostle Peter a doctrine which appears to be truly apostolical: yet in certain passages the heresy of Eunomius is so brought in that you would imagine that you were listening to an argument of Eunomius himself, asserting that the Son of God was created out of no existing elements. Then again that other method of falsification is introduced, by which it is made to appear that the nature of the devil and of other demons has not resulted from the wickedness of their will and purpose, but from an exceptional and separate quality of their creation, although he in all other places had taught that every reasonable creature was endowed with the faculty of free will. There are also some other things inserted into his books which the church's creed does not admit. I ask, then, what we are to think of these things? Are we to believe that an apostolic man, nay, almost an apostle (since he writes the things which the apostles speak), one to whom the apostle Paul bore his testimony in the words, "With Clement and others, my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life" was the writer of words which contradict the book of life? or are we to say, as we have said before, that perverse men, in order to gain authority for their own heresies by the use of the names of holy men, and so procure their readier acceptance, interpolated these things which it is impossible to believe that the true authors either thought or wrote?

Again, the other Clement, the presbyter of Alexandria, and the teacher of that church, in almost all his books describes the three Persons as having one and the same glory and eternity: and yet we sometimes find in his books passages in which he speaks of the Son as a creature of God. Is it credible that so great a man as he, so orthodox in all points, and so learned, either held opinions mutually contradictory, or left in writing views concerning God which it is an impiety, I will not say to believe, but even to listen to?

Once more, Dionysius the Bishop of Alexandria, was a most learned maintainer of the church's faith, and in passages without end defended the unity and eternity of the Trinity, so earnestly that some persons of less insight imagine that he held the views of Sabellius; yet in the books which he wrote against the heresy of Sabellius, there are things inserted of such a character that the Arians endeavour to shield themselves under his authority, and on this account the holy Bishop Athanasius felt himself compelled to write an apology for his work, because he was assured that he could not have held strange opinions or have written things in which he contradicted himself, but felt sure that these things had been interpreted by ill disposed men.

This opinion we have been led to form by the force of the facts themselves, in the case of these very reverend men and doctors of the church; we have found it impossible, I say, to believe that those reverend men who again and again have supported the church's belief should in particular points have held opinions contradictory to themselves. As to Origen, however, in whom, as I have said above, are to be found, as in those others, certain diversities of statement, it will not be sufficient to think precisely as we think or feel about those who enjoy an established reputation for orthodoxy; nor could a similar charge be met by a similar excuse, were it not that its validity is shown by words and writings of his own in which he makes this fact the subject of earnest complaint. What he had to suffer while still living in the flesh, while still having feeling and sight, from the corruption of his books and treatises, or from counterfeit versions of them, we may learn clearly from his own letter which he wrote to certain intimate friends at Alexandria; and by this you will see how it comes to pass that some things which are self-contradictory are found in his writings. [2789]

"Some of those persons who take a pleasure in accusing their neighbours, bring against us and our teaching the charge of blasphemy, though from us they have never heard anything of the kind. Let them take heed to themselves how they refuse to mark that solemn injunction which says that [2790] `Revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God,' when they declare that I hold that the father of wickedness and perdition, and of those who are cast forth from the kingdom of God, that is the devil, is to be saved, a thing which no man can say even if he has taken leave of his senses and is manifestly insane. Yet it is no wonder, I think, if my teaching is falsified by my adversaries, and is corrupted and adulterated in the same manner as the epistle of Paul the Apostle. Certain men, as we know, compiled a false epistle under the name of Paul, so that they might trouble the Thessalonians as if the day of the Lord were nigh at hand, and thus beguile them. It is on account of that false epistle that he wrote these words in the second epistle to the Thessalonians: [2791] `We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter as sent from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man beguile you in any wise.' It is something of the same kind, I perceive, which is happening to us also. A certain promoter of heresy, after a discussion which had been held between us in the presence of many persons, and notes of it had been taken, procured the document from those who had written out the notes, and added or struck out whatever he chose, and changed things as he thought right, and published it abroad as if it were my work, but pointing in triumphant scorn at the expressions which he had himself inserted. The brethren in Palestine, indignant at this, sent a man to me at Athens to obtain from me an authentic copy of the work. Up to that time I had never even read it over again or revised it: it had been so completely neglected and thrown aside that it could hardly be found. Nevertheless, I sent it: and,--God is witness that I am speaking the truth,--when I met the man himself who had adulterated the work, and took him to task for having done so, he answered, as if he were giving me satisfaction: "I did it because I wished to improve that treatise and to purge away its faults." What kind of a purging was this that he applied to my dissertation? such a purging as Marcion or his successor Apelles after him gave to the Gospels and to the writings of the Apostle. They subverted the true text of Scripture; and this man similarly first took away the true statements which I had made, and then inserted what was false to furnish grounds for accusation against me. But, though those who have dared to do this are impious and heretical men, yet those who give credence to such accusations against us shall not escape the judgment of God. There are others also, not a few, who have done this through a wish to throw confusion into the churches. Lately, a certain heretic who had seen me at Ephesus and had refused to meet me, and had not opened his mouth in my presence, but for some reason or other had avoided doing so, afterwards composed a dissertation according to his own fancy, partly mine, partly his own, and sent it to his disciples in various places: I know that it reached those who were in Rome, and I doubt not that it reached others also. He was behaving in the same reckless way at Antioch also before I came there: and the dissertation which he brought with him came into the hands of many of our friends. But when I arrived, I took him to task in the presence of many persons, and, when he persisted, with a complete absence of shame, in the impudent defence of his forgery, I demanded that the book should be brought in amongst us, so that my mode of speech might be recognized by the brethren, who of course knew the points on which I am accustomed to insist and the method of teaching which I employ. He did not, however, venture to bring in the book, and his assertions were refuted by them all and he himself was convicted of forgery, and thus the brethren were taught a lesson not to give ear to such accusations. If then any one is willing to trust me at all--I speak as in the sight of God--let him believe what I say about the things which are falsely inserted in my letter. But if any man refuses to believe me, and chooses to speak evil of me, it is not to me that he does the injury: he will himself be arraigned as a false witness before God, since he is either bearing false witness against his neighbour, or giving credit to those who bear it."

Such are the complaints which he made while still living, and while he was still able to detect the corruptions and falsifications which had been made in his books. There is another letter of his, in which I remember to have read a complaint of the falsifying of his writings; but I have not a copy of it at hand, otherwise I could add to those which I have quoted a second testimony in favour of his good faith and veracity direct from himself. But I think that I have said enough to satisfy those who listen to what is said, not in the interest of strife and detraction, but in that of a love of truth. I have shown and proved in the case of the saintly men of whom I have made mention, and of whose orthodoxy is no question, that, where the tenor of a book is presumably right, anything which is found in it contrary to the faith of the church is more properly believed to have been inserted by heretics than to have been written by the author: and I cannot think it an absurd demand that the same thing should be believed in the case of Origen, not only because the argument is similar but because of the witness given by himself in the complaints which I have brought out from his writings: otherwise we must believe that, like a silly or insane person, he has written in contradiction to himself.

As to the possibility that the heretics may have acted in the violent manner supposed, such wickedness may easily be believed of them. They have given a specimen of it, which makes it credible in the present case, in the fact that they have been unable to keep off their impious hands even from the sacred words of the Gospel. Any one who has a mind to see how they have acted in the case of the Acts of the Apostles or their Epistles, how they have befouled them and gnawed them away, how they have defiled them in every kind of way, sometimes adding words which expressed their impious doctrine, sometimes taking out the opposing truths, will understand it most fully if he will read the books of Tertullian written against Marcion. It is no great thing that they should have corrupted the writings of Origen when they have dared to corrupt the sayings of God our Saviour. It is true that some persons may withhold their assent from what I am saying on the ground of the difference of the heresies; since it was one kind of heresy the partisans of which corrupted the Gospels, but it is another which is aimed at in these passages which, as we assert, have been inserted in the works of Origen. Let those who have such doubts consider that, as in all the saints dwells the one spirit of God (for the Apostle says, [2792] "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets," and again, [2793] "We all have been made to drink of that one spirit"); so also in all the heretics dwells the one spirit of the devil, who teaches them all and at all times the same or similar wickedness.

There may, however, be some to whom the instances we have given have less persuasive force because they have to do with Greek writers; and therefore, although it is a Greek writer for whom I am pleading, yet, since it is the Latin tongue which is, so to speak, entrusted with the argument, and they are Latin people before whom you have earnestly begged me to plead the cause of these men, and to show what wounds they suffer by the calumnious renderings of their works, it will be satisfactory to show that things of the same kind have happened to Latin as well as Greek writers, and that men approved for their saintly character have had a storm of calumny raised against them by the falsification of their works. I will recount things of still recent memory, so that nothing may be lacking to the manifest credibility of my contention, and its truth may lie open for all to see.

Hilary Bishop of Pictavium [2794] was a believer in the Catholic doctrine, and wrote a very complete work of instruction with the view of bringing back from their error those who had subscribed the faithless creed of Ariminum. [2795] This book fell into the hands of his adversaries and ill wishers, whether, as some said, by bribing his secretary, or by no matter what other cause. He knew nothing of this: but the book was so falsified by them, the saintly man being all the while entirely unconscious of it, that, when his enemies began to accuse him of heresy in the episcopal assembly, as holding what they knew they had corruptly inserted in his manuscript, he himself demanded the production of his book as evidence of his faith. It was brought from his house, and was found to be full of matter which he repudiated: but it caused him to be excommunicated and to be excluded from the meeting of the synod. In this case, however, though the crime was one of unexampled wickedness, the man who was the victim of it was alive, and present in the flesh; and the hostile faction could be convicted and brought to punishment, when their tricks became known and their machinations were exposed. A remedy was applied through statements, explanations, and similar things: for living men can take action on their own behalf, the dead can refute no accusations under which they labour.

Take another case. The whole collection of the letters of the martyr Cyprian is usually found in a single manuscript. Into this collection certain heretics who held a blasphemous doctrine about the Holy Spirit inserted a treatise of Tertullian on the Trinity, which was faultily expressed though he is himself an upholder of our faith: and from the copies thus made they wrote out a number of others; these they distributed through the whole of the vast city of Constantinople at a very low price: men were attracted by this cheapness and readily bought up the documents full of hidden snares of which they knew nothing; and thus the heretics found means of gaining credit for their impious doctrines through the authority of a great name. It happened, however, that, shortly after the publication, there were found there some of our catholic brothers who were able to expose this wicked fabrication, and recalled as many as they could reach from the entanglements of error. In this they partly succeeded. But there were a great many in those parts who remained convinced that the saintly martyr Cyprian held the belief which had been erroneously expressed by Tertullian.

I will add one other instance of the falsification of a document. It is one of recent memory, though it is an example of the primeval subtlety, and it surpasses all the stories of the ancients.

Bishop Damasus, at the time when a consultation was held in the matter of the reconciling of the followers of Apollinarius to the church, [2796] desired to have a document setting forth the faith of the church, which should be subscribed by those who wished to be reconciled. The compiling of this document he entrusted to a certain friend of his, a presbyter and a highly accomplished man, [2797] who usually acted for him in matters of this kind. When he came to compose the document, he found it necessary, in speaking of the Incarnation of our Lord, to apply to him the expression "Homo Dominicus." The Apollinarists [2798] took offence at this expression, and began to impugn it as a novelty. The writer of the document thereupon undertook to defend himself, and to confute the objectors by the authority of ancient Catholic writers; and he happened to show to one of those who complained of the novelty of the expression a book of the bishop Athanasius in which the word which was under discussion occurred. The man to whom this evidence was offered appeared to be convinced, and asked that the manuscript should be lent to him so that he might convince the rest who from their ignorance were still maintaining their objections. When he had got the manuscript into his hands he devised a perfectly new method of falsification. He first erased the passage in which the expression occurred, and then wrote in again the same words which he had erased. He returned the paper, and it was accepted without question. The controversy about this expression again arose; the manuscript was brought forward: the expression in question was found in it, but in a position where there had been an erasure: and the man who had brought forward such a manuscript lost all authority, since the erasure seemed to be the proof of malpractice and falsification. However, in this case as in one which I mentioned before, it was a living man who was thus treated by a living man, and he at once did all in his power to lay bare the iniquitous fraud which had been committed, and to remove the stain of this nefarious act from the man who was innocent and had done no evil of the kind, and to attach it to the real author of the deed, so that it should completely overwhelm him with infamy.

Since, then, Origen in his letter complains with his own voice that he has suffered such things at the hands of the heretics who wished him ill, and similar things have happened in the case of many other orthodox men among both the dead and the living, and since in the cases adduced, men's writings are proved to have been tampered with in a similar way: what determined obstinacy is this, which refuses to admit the same excuse when the case is the same, and, when the circumstances are parallel, assigns to one party the allowance due to respect, but to another infamy due to a criminal. The truth must be told, and must not lie hid at this point; for it is impossible for any man really to judge so unjustly as to form different opinions on cases which are similar. The fact is that the prompters of Origen's accusers are men who make long controversial discourses in the churches, [2799] and even write books the whole matter of which is borrowed from him, and who wish to deter men of simple mind from reading him, for fear that their plagiarisms should become widely known, though, indeed, their appropriations would be no reproach to them if they were not ungrateful to their master.

For instance, one of these men, [2800] who thinks that a necessity is laid upon him, [2801] like that of preaching the Gospel, to speak evil of Origen among all nations and tongues, declared in a vast assembly of Christian hearers that he had read six thousand of his works. Surely, if his object in reading these were, as he is in the habit of asserting, only to acquaint himself with Origen's faults, ten or twenty or at most thirty of these works would have sufficed for the purpose. But to read six thousand books is no longer wishing to know the man, but giving up almost one's whole life to his teaching and researches. On what ground then can his words be worthy of credit when he blames men who have only read quite a few of these books while their rule of faith is kept sacred and their piety unimpaired.

What has been said may suffice to show what opinion we ought to form of the books of Origen. I think that every one who has at heart the interests of truth, not of controversy, may easily assent to the well-proved statements I have made. But if any man perseveres in his contentiousness, we have no such custom. [2802] It is a settled custom among us, when we read him, to hold fast that which is good, according to the apostolic injunction. If we find in these books anything discrepant to the Catholic faith, we suspect that it has been inserted by the heretics, and consider it as alien from his opinion as it is from our faith. If, however, this is a mistake of ours, we run, as I think, no danger from such an error; for we ourselves, through God's help, continue unharmed by avoiding what we hold in suspicion and condemn: and further we shall not be accounted accusers of our brethren before God (you will remember that the accusing of the brethren is the special work of the devil, and that he received the name of devil [2803] from his being a slanderer). Moreover, we thus escape the sentence pronounced on evil speakers, which separates those who are such from the kingdom of God.


[2788] Rufinus was deceived as was the whole world until the revival of learning, in believing this fabrication to be the work of Clement. It is really a romance in the form of an autobiography of Clement, supposed to be addressed to James of Jerusalem; and was written probably in Asia Minor or Syria about a.d. 200. See Article "Clementine Literature" in Dict. of Ch. Biog. [2789] The letter is headed "On the adulteration and corruption of his books; from the 4th book of the letters of Origen: a letter written to certain familiar friends at Alexandria." [2790] 1 Cor. vi. 10 [2791] 2 Thess. ii. 1-3 [2792] 1 Cor. xiv. 32 [2793] 1 Cor. xii. 13 [2794] Poictiers. [2795] There seem to be no means of throwing light upon this story. Hilary was not at the council of Ariminum, but at that of Seleucia, held the same year (359). On his return to Gaul in 361 he endeavoured, in various meetings of bishops to reunite with the Homoousians those who had subscribed the creed of Ariminum. (See Art. on Hilary Pictav. in Dict. of Christ. Biography.) It may have been in one of these meetings that this scene occurred. [2796] This was in 382, the year after the Council of Constantinople. Jerome had come from Constantinople to Rome with the Eastern Bishops Epiphanius of Salamis in Cyprus and Paulinus of Antioch. His position at Rome is described in the words of his letter (cxxiii) to Ageruchia, c. 10. "I was assisting Damasus in matters of ecclesiastical literature, and answering the questions discussed in the Councils of the East and the West." [2797] Jerome. [2798] Apollinaris, in his reaction from Arianism, held that the Godhead supplied the place of the human soul in Christ. Hence their objection to this expression. [2799] This is believed to refer to Epiphanius, whose anti-Origenistic sermon at Jerusalem in the year 394 greatly irritated the Bishops John and Rufinus. See Jerome Ep. li, and "Against John of Jerusalem," c. 14. [2800] Epiphanius. [2801] 1 Cor. ix. 16 [2802] Adapted from 1 Cor. xi. 16 [2803] Diabolos (diabolus) from diaballo to slander. .

Preface to the Translations of Origen's Books Peri 'Archon

Addressed to Macarius, at Pinetum, a.d. 397.

The Translation of the two first Books of the Peri 'Archon was issued soon after, or contemporaneously with the Apology of Pamphilus. The Preface to them was intended to remove prejudices by showing that Jerome (who though not named is clearly described) had been Rufinus' precursor in translating Origen. The compliments paid to Jerome were no doubt sincere: but the use made of his previous action can hardly be justified. Rufinus knew well that Jerome's view of Origen had to some extent altered, that a disagreeable controversy had sprung up at Jerusalem about him, in which he and Jerome had taken opposite sides: and that the animosity aroused by this had with the greatest difficulty been allayed, and a reconciliation effected at the moment when he had quitted Palestine. This Preface with the Translation of the Peri 'Archon was the most immediate cause of the violent controversy and the final estrangement between Rufinus and Jerome.

I am aware that a great many of our brethren were incited by their longing for Scriptural knowledge to demand from various men who were versed in Greek literature that they would give the works of Origen to men who used the Latin tongue, and thus make him a Roman. Among these was that brother and associate of mine to whom this request was made by bishop Damasus, and who when he translated the two homilies on the Song of Songs from Greek into Latin prefixed to the work a preface [2804] so full of beauty and so magnificent that he awoke in every one the desire of reading Origen and eagerly investigating his works. He said that to the soul of that great man the words might well be applied: [2805] "The King has brought me into his chamber": and he declared that Origen in his other books had surpassed all other men, but in this had surpassed himself. What he promises in this Preface is, indeed, that he will give to Roman ears not only these books but many others of Origen. But I find that he is so enamoured of his own style that he pursues a still more ambitious object, namely, that he should be the creator of the book, not merely its translator. I am then following out a task begun by him and commended by his example; but it is out of my power to set forth the words of this great man with a force and an eloquence like his: and I have therefore to fear that it may happen through my fault that the man whom he justly commends as a teacher of the church both in knowledge and in wisdom second only to the Apostles may be thought to have a far lower rank through my poverty of language. When I reflected on this I was inclined to keep silence, and not to assent to the brethren who were constantly adjuring me to make the translation. But your influence is such, my most faithful brother Macarius, that even the consciousness of my unfitness is not sufficient to make me resist. I have therefore yielded to your importunity though it was against my resolution, so that I might no longer be exposed to the demands of a severe taskmaster; but I have done so on this condition and on this understanding, that in making the translation I should follow as far as possible the method of my predecessors, and especially of him of whom I have already made mention. He, after translating into Latin above seventy of the books of Origen which he called Homiletics, and also a certain number of the "Tomes," proceeded to purge and pare away in his translation all the causes of stumbling which are to be found in the Greek works; and this he did in such a way that the Latin reader will find nothing in them which jars with our faith. In his steps, therefore, I follow, not, indeed, with the power of eloquence which is his, but, as far as may be, in his rules and method, that is, taking care not to promulgate those things which are found in the books of Origen to be discrepant and contradictory to one another. The cause of these variations I have set forth very fully for your information in the Apology which Pamphilus wrote for the books of Origen, to which I have appended a very short treatise [2806] showing by proofs which seem to me quite clear that his books have been in very many cases falsified by heretical and ill-disposed persons. This is especially the case with the books which you now require me to translate, namely, the Peri 'Archon, which may be rendered either Concerning First Principles or Concerning Principalities. These books are in truth, apart from these questions, exceedingly obscure and difficult; for in them he discusses matters over which the philosophers have spent their whole lives without any result. But our Christian thinker has done all that lay in his power to turn to purposes of sound religion the belief in a creator and the order of the created world which they had made subservient to their false religion. Wherever therefore I have found in his books anything contrary to the truth concerning the Trinity which he has in other places spoken of in a strictly orthodox sense, I have either omitted it as a foreign and not genuine expression or set it down in terms agreeing with the rule of faith which we find him constantly assenting to. There are things, no doubt, which he has developed in somewhat obscure language, wishing to pass rapidly over them, and as addressing those who have experience and knowledge of such matters; in these cases I have made the passage plain by adding words which I had read in other books of his where the matter was more fully treated. I have done this in the interest of clearness: but I have put in nothing of my own; I have only given him back his own words, though taken from other passages. I have explained this in the Preface, so that those who calumniate us should not think that they had found in this fresh material for their charges. But let them take heed what they are about in their perversity and contentiousness. As for me, I have not undertaken this laborious task (in which I trust that God will be my helper in answer to your prayers) for the sake of shutting the mouths of calumnious men, but with the view of supplying material for the increase of real knowledge to those who desired it. This only I require of every man who undertakes to copy out these books or to read them, in the sight of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and adjure him by our faith in the coming kingdom, by the assurance of the resurrection of the dead, by the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels (even as he trusts that he shall not possess as his eternal inheritance that place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and where their fire will not be quenched and their worm will not die) that he should neither add nor take away, that he should neither insert nor change, anything in that which is written but that he should compare his copy with that from which it is copied and correct it critically letter for letter, and that he should not keep by him a copy which has not received correction or criticism, lest, if his copy is not thus distinct, the difficulty of the meaning may beget a still greater obscurity in the mind of the readers.


[2804] Translated among Jerome's works in this Series. [2805] Cant. i. 4 [2806] See the Translation in this Volume. .

Preface to Book III. of the Peri 'Archon

Rufinus had now come to Rome. The translation of B. III. and IV. had been made probably at Pinetum early in 398. He was already aware of the strong feelings aroused by his Translation of B. I. and II., and he complains that parts of his work were obtained by Jerome's friends while still uncorrected, and used to his discredit (Apol. i, 18-21, ii, 44); but he continued the work, prefixing to it the following Preface as his justification.

Reader, remember me in your sacred moments of prayer, that I may be a worthy follower of the Spirit. It was you, Macarius, by whose instigation, I might say by whose compulsion, I translated the two first books of the Peri 'Archon. I did it during Lent; and at that time your near presence, my Christian brother, and your fuller leisure, forced me also into fuller diligence. But now that you are living at the opposite end of Rome from me, and my taskmaster pays his visits more seldom, I have taken longer in unfolding the sense of the two last books. You will remember that in my former preface I gave you warning that some people would be full of indignation when they found that I had no harm to say of Origen: and this, as I think you have found, has not been long in coming to pass. But if those demons who excite men's tongues to evil speaking, have been already set on fire by that first part of the work, though in it the author had not yet fully laid bare their devices, what will be the effect of this second part, in which he is going to disclose all the secret labyrinths through which they creep into the hearts of men and deceive the hearts of the weak and the frail? You will see disorder springing up on all sides, and party spirit will be raised, and an outcry will spread all through the town, and Origen will be summoned to the bar and condemned for his attempt to dispel the darkness of ignorance by the light of the Gospel's lamp. But all this will matter very little to those who are endeavouring to hold fast the sound form of the catholic faith while exercising their minds in the study of divine things.

I think it necessary, however, to remind you of the principle which I acted upon in reference to the former books, and which I have observed in the present case also, namely, not to set down in my translation things evidently contradictory to our belief and to the author's opinions as elsewhere expressed, but to pass them over as not genuine but inserted by others. On the other hand I have not, either in the former books or in these, omitted the novel opinions which he has expressed about the formation of the reasonable creation, considering that it is not in such things that the faith mainly consists, but that what he is aiming at is merely knowledge and the exercise of the faculties, and that possibly there may be certain heresies which may have to be answered in this way. Only, in cases where he may have chosen to repeat in these later books what he had said before in the earlier, I have thought it expedient to cut out certain portions for the sake of brevity.

Those whose object in reading these books is to gain knowledge, not to disparage their author, would do well to seek the aid of men more skilled than themselves in interpreting them. For it is an absurd thing to get grammarians to explain to us the fictions of the poets' writings and the laughable stories of the comedians, and yet to think that books which speak of God and the celestial powers, and the whole universe, and which discuss all the errors of pagan philosophy and of heretical pravity are things which any one can understand without a teacher to explain them. In this way it comes to pass that men prefer to remain in ignorance and to pronounce rash judgments on things which are difficult and obscure rather than to gain an understanding of them by diligent study.

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