Jerome - Letters 70
Jerome thanks Magnus. a Roman orator, for his services in bringing a young man named Sebesius to apologize to him for some fault that he had committed. He then replies to a criticism of Magnus on his fondness, for making quotations from profane writers, a practice which he defends by the example of the fathers of the church and of the inspired penmen of scripture. He ends by hinting that the objection really comes not from Magnus himself but from Rufinus (here nicknamed Calpurnius Lanarius). The date of the letter is 397 a.d.
1. That our friend Sebesius has profited by your advice I have learned less from your letter than from his own penitence. And strange to say the pleasure which he has given me since his rebuke is greater than the pain he caused me from his previous waywardness. There has been indeed a conflict between indulgence in the father, and affection in the son; while the former is anxious to forget the past, the latter is eager to promise dutiful behaviour in the future. Accordingly you and I must equally rejoice, you because you have successfully put a pupil to the test, I because I have received a son again.
2. You ask me at the close of your letter why it is that sometimes in my writings I quote examples from secular literature and thus defile the whiteness of the church with the foulness of heathenism. I will now briefly answer your question. You would never have asked it, had not your mind been wholly taken up with Tully; you would never have asked it had you made it a practice instead of studying Volcatius2127 to read the holy scriptures and the commentators upon them. For who is there who does not know that both in Moses and in the prophets there are passages cited from Gentile books and that Solomon proposed questions to the philosophers of Tyre and answered others put to him by them.2128 In the commencement of the book of Proverbs he charges us to understand prudent maxims and shrewd adages, parables and obscure discourse, the words of the wise and their dark sayings;2129 all of which belong by right to the sphere of the dialectician and the philosopher. The Apostle Paul also, in writing to Titus, has used a line of the poet Epimenides: “The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.”2130 Half of which line was afterwards adopted by Callimachus. It is not surprising that a literal rendering of the words into Latin should fail to preserve the metre, seeing that Homer when translated into the same language is scarcely intelligible even in prose. In another epistle Paul quotes a line of Menander: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”2131 And when he is arguing with the Athenians upon the Areopagus he calls Aratus as a witness citing from him the words “For we are also his offspring;”2132 in Greek tou gar kai; geno" esmen, the close of a heroic verse. And as if this were not enough, that leader of the Christian army, that unvanquished pleader for the cause of Christ, skilfully turns a chance inscription into a proof of the faith.2133 For he had learned from the true David to wrench the sword of the enemy out of his hand and with his own blade to cut off the head of the arrogant Goliath.2134 He had read in Deuteronomy the command given by the voice of the Lord that when a captive woman had had her head shaved, her eyebrows and all her hair cut off, and her nails pared, she might then be taken to wife.2135 Is it surprising that I too, admiring the fairness of her form and the grace of her eloquence, desire to make that secular wisdom which is my captive and my handmaid, a matron of the true Israel? Or that shaving off and cutting away all in her that is dead whether this be idolatry, pleasure, error, or lust, I take her to myself clean and pure and beget by her servants for the Lord of Sabaoth? My efforts promote the advantage of Christ’s family, my so-called defilement with an alien increases the number of my fellow-servants. Hosea took a wife of whoredoms, Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and this harlot bore him a son called Jezreel or the seed of God.2136 Isaiah speaks of a sharp razor which shaves “the head of sinners and the hair of their feet;”2137 and Ezekiel shaves his head as a type of that Jerusalem which has been an harlot,2138 in sign that whatever in her is devoid of sense and life must be removed.
3. Cyprian, a man renowned both for his eloquence and for his martyr’s death, was as-sailed—so Firmian tells us2139 —for having used in his treatise against Demetrius passages from the Prophets and the Apostles which the latter declared to be fabricated and made up, instead of passages from the philosophers and poets whose authority he, as a heathen, could not well gainsay. Celsus2140 and Porphyry2141 have written against us and have been ably answered, the former by Origen, the latter by Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris.2142 Origen wrote a treatise in eight books, the work of Methodius2143 extended to ten thousand lines while Eusebius2144 and Apollinaris2145 composed twenty-five and thirty volumes respectively. Read these and you will find that compared with them I am a mere tyro in learning, and that, as my wits have long lain fallow, I can barely recall as in a dream what I have learned as a boy. The emperor Julian2146 found time during his Parthian campaign to vomit forth seven books against Christ and, as so often happens in poetic legends, only wounded himself with his own sword. Were I to try to confute him with the doctrines of philosophers and stoics you would doubtless forbid me tostrike a mad dog with the club of Hercules It is true that he presently felt in battle the hand of our Nazarene or, as he used to call him, the Galilaean,2147 and that a spear-thrust in the vitals paid him due recompense for his foul calumnies. To prove the antiquity of the Jewish people Josephus2148 has written two books against Appio a grammarian of Alexandria; and in these he brings forward so many quotations from secular writers as to make me marvel how a Hebrew brought up from his childhood to read the sacred scriptures could also have perused the whole library of the Greeks. Need I speak of Philo2149 whom critics call the second or the Jewish Plato?
4. Let me now run through the list of our own writers. Did not Quadratus2150 a disciple of the apostles and bishop of the Athenian church deliver to the Emperor Hadrian (on the occasion of his visit to the Eleusinian mysteries) a treatise in defence of our religion. And so great was the admiration caused in everyone by his eminent ability that it stilled a most severe persecution. The philosopher Aristides,2151 a man of great eloquence, presented to the same Emperor an apology for the Christians composed of extracts from philosophic writers. His example was afterwards followed by Justin2152 another philosopher who delivered to Antoninus Plus and his sons2153 and to the senate a treatise Against the Gentiles, in which he defended the ignominy of the cross and preached the resurrection of Christ with all freedom. Need I speak of Melito2154 bishop of Sardis, of Apollinaris2155 chief-priest of the Church of Hierapolis, of Dionysius2156 bishop of the Corinthians, of Tatian,2157 of Bardesanes,2158 of Irenaeus2159 successor to the martyr Pothinus;2160 all of whom have in many volumes explained the uprisings of the several heresies and tracked them back, each to the philosophic source from which it flows. Pantaenus,2161 a philosopher of the Stoic school, was on account of his great reputation for learning sent by Demetrius bishop of Alexandria to India, to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there. Clement,2162 a presbyter of Alexandria, in my judgment the most learned of men, wrote eight books of Miscellanies2163 and as many of Outline Sketches,2164 a treatise against the Gentiles, and three volumes called the Pedagogue.Is there any want of learning in these, or are they not rather drawn from the very heart of philosophy? Imitating his example Origen2165 wrote ten books of Miscellanies, in which he compares together the opinions held respectively by Christians and by philosophers, and confirms all the dogmas of our religion by quotations from Plato and Aristotle, from Numenius2166 and Cornutus.2167 Miltiades2168 also wrote an excellent treatise against the Gentiles. Moreover Hippolytus2169 and a Roman senator named Apollonius2170 have each compiled apologetic works. The books of Julius Africanus2171 who wrote a history of his own times are still extant, as also are those of Theodore who was afterwards called Gregory,2172 a man endowed with apostolic miracles as well as with apostolic virtues. We still have the works of Dionysius2173 bishop of Alexandria, of Anatolius2174 chief priest of the church of Laodicea, of the presbyters Pamphilus,2175 Pierius,2176 Lucian,2177 Malchion;2178 of Eusebius2179 bishop of Csarea, Eustathius2180 of Antioch and Athanasius2181 of Alexandria; of Eusebius2182 of Emisa, of Triphyllius2183 of Cyprus, of Asterius2184 of Scythopolis, of the confessor Serapion,2185 of Titus2186 bishop of Bostra; and of the Cappadocians Basil,2187 Gregory,2188 and Amphilochius.2189 All these writers so frequently interweave in their books the doctrines and maxims of the philosophers that you might easily be at a loss which to admire most, their secular erudition or their knowledge of the scriptures.
5. I will pass on to Latin writers. Can anything be more learned or more pointed than the style of Tertullian?2190 His Apology and his books Against the Gentiles contain all the wisdom of the world. Minucius Felix2191 a pleader in the Roman courts has ransacked all heathen literature to adorn the pages of his Octavius and of his treatise Against the astrologers (unless indeed this latter is falsely ascribed to him). Arnobius2192 has published seven books against the Gentiles, and his pupil Lactantius2193 as many, besides two volumes, one on Anger and the other on the creative activity of God. If you read any of these you will find in them an epitome of Cicero’s dialogues. The Martyr Victorinus2194 though as a writer deficient in learning is not deficient in the wish to use what learning he has. Then there is Cyprian.2195 With what terseness, with what knowledge of all history, with what splendid rhetoric and argument has he touched the theme that idols are no Gods! Hilary2196 too, a confessor and bishop of my own day, has imitated Quintilian’s twelvebooks both in number and in style, and has also shewn his ability as a writer in his short treatise against Dioscorus the physician. In the reign of Constantine the presbyter Juvencus2197 set forth in verse the story of our Lord and Saviour, and did not shrink from forcing into metre the majestic phrases of the Gospel. Of other writers dead and living I say nothing. Their aim and their ability are evident to all who read them.2198
6. You must not adopt the mistaken opinion, that while in dealing with the Gentiles one may appeal to their literature in all other discussions one ought to ignore it; for almost all the books of all these writers—except those who like Epicurus2199 are no scholars—are extremely full of erudition and philosophy. I incline indeed to fancy—the thought comes into my head as I dictate—that you yourself know quite well what has always been thepractice of the learned in this matter. I believe that in putting this question to me you are only the mouthpiece of another who by reason of his love for the histories of Sallust might well be called Calpurnius Lanarius.2200 Please beg of him not to envy eaters their teeth because he is toothless himself, and not to make light of the eyes of gazelles because he is himself a mole. Here as you see there is abundant material for discussion, but I havealready filled the limits at my disposal.
Lucinius was a wealthy Spaniard of Btica who in conformity with the ascetic ideas of his time had made a vow of continence with his wife Theodora. Being much interested in the study of scripture he proposed to visit Bethlehem, and in a.d. 397 sent several scribes thither to transcribe for him Jerome’s principal writings. To these on their return home Jerome now entrusts the following letter. In it he encourages Lucinius to fulfil his purpose of coming to Bethlehem, describes the books Which he is sending to him, and answers two questions relating to ecclesiastical usage. He also sends him some trilling presents.
Shortly after receiving the letter (written in 398 a.d.) Lucinius died and Jerome wrote to Theodora to console her for her loss (letter LXXV.
1. Your letter which has suddenly arrived was not expected by me, and coming in an unlooked for way it has helped to rouse me from my torpor by the glad tidings which it conveys. I hasten to embrace with the arms of love one whom my eyes have never seen, and silently say to myself:—‘“oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I flee away and be at rest.”’2201 Then would I find him “whom my soul loveth.”2202 In you the Lord’s words are now truly fulfilled: “many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham.”2203 In those days the faith of my Lucinius was foreshadowed in Cornelius, “centurion of the band called the Italian band.”2204 And when the apostle Paul writes to the Romans: “whensoever I take my journey into Spain I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you;”2205 he shews by the tale of his previous successes what he looked to gain from that province.2206 Laying in a short time the foundation of the gospel “from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum,”2207 he enters Rome in bonds, that he may free those who are in the bonds of error and superstition. Two years he dwells in his own hired house2208 that he may give to us the house eternal which is spoken of in both the testaments.2209 The apostle, the fisher of men,2210 has cast forth his net, and, among countless kinds of fish, has landed you like a magnificent gilt-bream. You have left behind you the bitter waves, the salt tides, the mountain-fissures; you have despised Leviathan who reigns in the waters.2211 Your aim is to seek the wilderness with Jesus and to sing the prophet’s song: “my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”2212 or, as he sings in another place, “lo, then would I wander far off and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”2213 Since you have left Sodom and are hastening to the mountains, I beseech you with a father’s affection not to look behind you. Your hands have grasped the handle of the plough,2214 the hem of the Saviour’s garment,2215 and His locks wet with the dew of night;2216 do not let them go. Do not come down from the housetop of virtue to seek for the clothes which you wore of old, nor return home from the field.2217 Do not like Lot set your heart on the plain or upon the pleasant gardens;2218 for these are watered not, as the holy land, from heaven but by Jordan’s muddy stream made salt by contact with the Dead Sea.
2. Many begin but few persevere to the end. “They which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the crown.”2219 But of us on the other hand it is said: “So run that ye may obtain.”2220 Our master of the games is not grudging; he does not give the palm to one and disgrace another. His wish is that all his athletes may alike win garlands. My soul rejoices, yet the very greatness of my joy makes me feel sad. Like Ruth2221 when I try to speak I burst into tears. Zacchus, the convert of an hour, is accounted worthy to receive the Saviour as his guest.2222 Martha and Mary make ready a feast and then welcome the Lord to it.2223 A harlot washes His feet with her tears and against His burial anoints His body with the ointment of good works.2224 Simon the leper invites the Master with His disciples and is not refused.2225 To Abraham it is said: “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”2226 He leaves Chaldaea, he leaves Mesopotamia; he seeks what he knows not, not to lose Him whom he has found. He does not deem it possible to keep both his country and his Lord; even at that early day he is already fulfilling the prophet David’s words: “I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”2227 He is called “a Hebrew,” in Greek perath", a passer-over, for not content with present excellence but forgetting those things which are behind he reaches forth to that which is before.2228 He makes his own the words of the psalmist: “they shall go from strength to strength.”2229 Thus his name has a mystic meaning and he has opened for you a way to seek not your own things but those of another. You too must leave your home as he did, and must take for your parents, brothers, and relations only those who are linked to you in Christ. “Whosoever,” He says, “shall do the will of my father …the sameis my brother and sister and mother.”2230
3. You have with you one who was once your partner in the flesh but is now your partner in the spirit; once your wife but nowyour sister; once a woman but now a man; once an inferior but now an equal.2231 Under the same yoke as you she hastens toward thesame heavenly kingdom.
A too careful management of one’s income, a too near calculation of one’s expenses—these are habits not easily laid aside. Yet to escapethe Egyptian woman Joseph had to leave hisgarment with her.2232 And the young man whofollowed Jesus having a linen cloth cast about him, when he was assailed by the servants hadto throw away his earthly covering and to flee naked.2233 Elijah also when he was carried upin a chariot of fire to heaven left his mantle of sheepskin on earth.2234 Elisha used for sacrifice the oxen and the yokes which hitherto he had employed in his work.2235 We read in Ecclesiasticus: “he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith.”2236 As long as we are occupied with the things of the world, as long as our soul is fettered with possessions andrevenues, we cannot think freely of God. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”2237 “Ye cannot,” the Lord says, “serve God and Mammon.”2238 Now the laying aside of money is for those who are beginners in the way, not for those who are made perfect. Heathens like Antisthenes2239 and Crates2240 the Theban have done as much before now. But to offer one’s self to God, this is the mark of Christians and apostles. These like the widow out of their penury cast their two mites into the treasury, and giving all that they have to the Lord are counted worthy to hear his words: “ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”2241
4. You can see for yourself why I mention these things; without expressly saying it I am inviting you to take up your abode at the holy places. Your abundance has supported the want of many that some day their riches may abound to supply your want;2242 you have made to yourself “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”2243 Such conduct deserves praise and merits to be compared with the virtue of apostolic times. Then, as you know, believers sold their possessions and brought the prices of them and laid them down at the apostles’ feet:2244 a symbolic act designed to shew that men must trample on covetousness. But the Lord yearns for believers’ souls more than for their riches. We read in the Proverbs: “the ransom of a man’s soul are his own riches.”2245 We may, indeed, take a man’s own riches to be those which do not come from some one else, or from plunder; according to the precept: “honour God with thy just labours.”2246 But the sense is better if we understand a man’s “own riches” to be those hidden treasures which no thief can steal and no robber wrest from him.2247
5. As for my poor works which from no merits of theirs but simply from your own kindness you say that you desire to have; I have given them to your servants to transcribe, I have seen the paper-copies made by them, and I have repeatedly ordered them to correct them by a diligent comparison with the originals. For so many are the pilgrims passing to and fro that I have been unable to read so many volumes. They have found me also troubled by a long illness from which this Lent I am slowly recovering as they are leaving me. If then you find errors or omissions which interfere with the sense, these you must impute not to me but to your own servants; they are due to the ignorance or carelessness of the copyists, who write down not what they find but what they take to be the meaning, and do but expose their own mistakes when they try to correct those of others. It is a false rumour which has reached you to the effect that I have translated the books of Josephus2248 and the volumes of the holy men Papias2249 and Polycarp.2250 I have neither the leisure nor the ability to preserve the charm of these masterpieces in another tongue. Of Origen2251 and Didymus2252 I have translated a few things, to set before my countrymen some specimens of Greek teaching. The canon of the Hebrew verity2253 —except the octoteuch2254 which I have at present in hand—I have placed at the disposal of your slaves and copyists. Doubtless you already possess the version from the septuagint2255 which many years ago I diligently revised for the use of students. The new testament I have restored to the authoritative form of the Greek original.2256 For as the true text of the old testament can only be tested by a reference to the Hebrew, so the true text of the new requires for its decision an appeal to the Greek.
6. You ask me whether you ought to fast on the Sabbath2257 and to receive the eucharist daily according to the custom—as currently reported—of the churches of Rome and Spain.2258 Both these points have been treated by the eloquent Hippolytus,2259 and several writers have collected passages from different authors bearing upon them. The best advice that I can give you is this. Church-traditions—especially when they do not run counter to the faith—are to be observed in the form in which previous generations have handed them down; and the use of one church is not to be annulled because it is contrary to that of another.2260 As regards fasting, I wish that we could practise it without intermission as—according to the Ac of the Apostles2261 —Paul did and the believers with him even in the season of Pentecost and on the Lord’s Day. They are not to be accused of manichism, for carnal food ought not to be preferred before spiritual. As regards the holy eucharist you may receive it at all times2262 without qualm of conscience or disapproval from me. You may listen to the psalmist’s words:—“O taste and see that the Lord is good;”2263 you may sing as he does:—“my heart poureth forth a good word.”2264 But do not mistake my meaning. You are not to fast on feast-days, neither are you to abstain on the week days in Pentecost.2265 In such matters each province may follow its own inclinations, and the traditions which have been handed down should be regarded as apostolic laws.
7. You send me two small cloaks and a sheepskin mantle from your wardrobe and ask me to wear them myself or to give them to the poor. In return I send to you and your sister2266 in the Lord four small haircloths suitable to your religious profession and to your daily needs, for they are the mark of poverty and the outward witness of a continual penitence. To these I have added a manuscript containing Isaiah’s ten most obscure visions which I have lately elucidated with a critical commentary. When you look upon these trifles call to mind the friend in whom you delight and hasten the voyage which you have for a time deferred. And because “the way of man is not in himself” but it is the Lord that “directeth his steps;”2267 if any hindrance should interfere—I hope none may—to prevent you from coming, I pray that distance may not sever those united in affection and that I may find my Lucinius present in absence through an interchange of letters.
Vitalis had asked Jerome “Is Scripture credible when it tells us that Solomon and Ahaz became fathers at the age of eleven?” The difficulty had previously occurred to Jerome himself (Letter XXXVI. 10, whence perhaps Vitalis took it) and in this letter he suggests several ways in which it may be met. He is quite prepared, if necessary, to accept the alleged fact on the grounds that “there are many things in Scripture which sound incredible and yet are true” and that “nature cannot resist the Lord of nature” (§2). He is disposed, however, to regard the question as trivial and of no importance. The date of the letter is 398 a.d.
Evangelus had sent Jerome an anonymous treatise in which Melchisedek was indentified with the Holy Ghost, and had asked him what he thought of the theory. Jerome in his reply repudiates the idea as absurd and insists that Melchisedek was a real man, possibly, as the Jews said, Shem the eldest son of Noah. The date of the letter iS 398 a.d.
Rufinus, a Roman Presbyter (to be carefully distinguished from Rufinus of Aquileia and Rufinus the Syrian), had written to Jerome for an explanation of the judgment of Solomon (1R 3,16–28). This Jerome gives at length, treating the narrative as a parable and making the false and true mothers types of the Synagogue and the Church. The date of the letter is 398 a.d.
Theodora the wife of the learned Spaniard Lucinius (for whom see Letter LXXI). had recently lost her husband, a bereavement which suggested the present letter. In it Jerome recounts the many virtues of Lucinius and especially his zeal in resisting the gnostic heresy of Marcus which during his life was prevalent in Spain. The date of the letter is 399 a.d.
1. So overpowered am I by the sad intelligence of the falling asleep of the holy and by me deeply revered Lucinius that I am scarcely able to dictate even a short letter. I do not, it is true, lament his fate, for I know that he has passed to better things: like Moses he can say: “I will now turn aside and see this great sight.”2268 but I am tormented with regret that I was not allowed to look upon the face of one, who was likely, as I believed, in a short time to come hither. True indeed is the prophetic warning concerning the doom of death that it divides brothers,2269 and with harsh and cruel hand sunders those whose names are linked together in the bonds of love. But we have this consolation that it is slain by the word of the Lord. For it is said: “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction,” and in the next verse: “An east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up.”2270 For, as Isaiah says, “there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots”:2271 and He says Himself in the Song of Songs, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley.”2272 Our rose is the destruction of death, and died that death itself might die in His dying. But, when it is said that He is to be brought “from the wilderness,” the virgin’s womb is indicated, which without sexual intercourse or impregnation has given to us God in the form of an infant able to quench by the glow of the Holy Spirit the fountains of lust and to sing in the words of the psalm: “as in a dry and pathless and waterless land, so have I appeared unto thee in the sanctuary.”2273 Thus when we have to face the hard and cruel necessity of death, we are upheld by this consolation, that we shall shortly see again those whose absence we now mourn. For their end is not called death but a slumber and a falling asleep. Wherefore also the blessed apostle forbids us to sorrow concerning them which are asleep,2274 telling us to believe that those whom we know to sleep now may hereafter be roused from their sleep, and when their slumber is ended may watch once more with the saints and sing with the angels:—“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men of good will.”2275 In heaven where there is no sin, there is glory and perpetual praise and unwearied singing; but on earth where sedition reigns, and war and discord hold sway, peace must be gained by prayer, and it is to be found not among all but only among men of good will, who pay heed to the apostolic salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”2276 For “His abode is in peace and His dwelling place is in Zion,”2277 that is, on a watch-tower,2278 on a height of doctrines and of virtues, in the soul of the believer; for the angel of this latter daily beholds the face of God,2279 and contemplates with unveiled face the glory of God.
2. Wherefore, though you are already running in the way, I urge a willing horse, as the saying goes, and implore you, while you regret in your Lucinius a true brother, to rejoice as well that he now reigns with Christ. For, as it is written in the book of Wisdom, he was “taken away lest that wickedness should alter his understanding …for his soul pleased the Lord …and he …in a short time fulfilled a long time.”2280 We may with more right weep for ourselves that we stand daily in conflict with our sins, that we are stained with vices, that we receive wounds, and that we must give account for every idle word.2281 Victorious now and free from care he looks down upon you from on high and supports you in your struggle, nay more, he prepares for you a place near to himself; for his love and affection towards you are still the same as when, disregarding his claim on you as a husband, he resolved to treat you even on earth as a sister, or indeed I may say as a brother, for difference of sex while essential to marriage is not so to a continent tie. And since even in the flesh, if we are born again in Christ, we are no longer Greek and Barbarian, bond and free, male and female, but are all one in Him,2282 how much more true will this be when this corruptible has put on incorruption and when this mortal has put on immortality.2283 “In the resurrection,” the Lord tells us, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels …in heaven.”2284 Now when it is said that they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels in heaven, there is no taking away of a natural and real body but only an indication of the greatness of the glory to come. For the words are not “they shall be angels” but “they shall be as the angels”: thus while likeness to the angels is promised identity with them is refused. “They shall be,” Christ tells us, “as the angels,” that is like the angels; therefore they will not cease to be human. Glorious indeed they shall be, and graced with angelic splendour, but they will still be human; the apostle Paul will still be Paul, Mary will still be Mary. Then shall confusion overtake that heresy2285 which holds out great but vague promises only that it may take away hopes which are at once modest and certain.
3. And now that I have once mentioned the word “heresy,” where can I find a trumpet loud enough to proclaim the eloquence of our dear Lucinius, who, when the filthy heresy of Basilides2286 raged in Spain and like a pestilence ravaged the provinces between the Pyrenees and the ocean, upheld in all its purity the faith of the church and altogether refused to embrace Armagil, Barbelon, Abraxas, Balsamum, and the absurd Leusibora. Such are the portentous names which, to excite the minds of unlearned men and weak women, they pretend to draw from Hebrew sources, terrifying the simple by barbarous combinations which they admire the more the less they understand them.2287 The growth of this heresy is described for us by Irenaeus, bishop of the church of Lyons, a man of the apostolic times, who was a disciple of Papias the hearer of the evangelist John. He informs us that a certain Mark,2288 of the stock of the gnostic Basilides, came in the first instance to Gaul, that he contaminated with his teaching those parts of the country which are watered by the Rhone and the Garonne, and that in particular he misled by his errors high-born women; to whom he promised certain secret mysteries and whose affection he enlisted by magic arts and hidden indulgence in unlawful intercourse. Irenaeus goes on to say that subsequently Mc crossed the Pyrenees and occupied Spain, making it his object to seek out the houses of the wealthy, and in these especially the women, concerning whom we are told that they are “led away with divers lusts, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”2289 All this he wrote about three hundred years ago2290 in the extremely learned and eloquent books which he composed under the title Against all heresies.
4. From these facts you in your wisdom will realize how worthy of praise our dear Lucinius shewed himself when he shut his ears that he might not have to hear the judgement passed upon blood shedders,2291 and dispersed all his substance and gave to the poor that his righteousness might endure for ever.2292 And not satisfied with bestowing his bounty upon his own country, he sent to the churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria gold enough to alleviate the want of large numbers. But while many will admire and extol in him this liberality, I for my part will rather praise him for his zeal and diligence in the study of the scriptures. With what eagerness he asked for my poor works! He actually sent six copyists (for in this province there dearth of scribes who understand Latin) to copy for him all that I have ever dictated from my youth until the present time. The honour was not of course paid to me who am but a little child, the least of all Christians, living in the rocks near Bethlehem because I know myself a sinner; but to Christ who is honoured in his servants2293 and who makes this promise to them, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”2294
5. Therefore, my beloved daughter, regard this letter as the epitaph which love prompts me to write upon your husband, and if there is any spiritual work of which you think me to be capable, boldly command me to undertake it: that so ages to come may know that He who says of Himself in Isaiah, “He hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me,”2295 has with His sharp arrow so wounded two men severed by an immense interval of sea and land, that, although they know each other not in the flesh, they are knit together in love in the spirit.
May you be kept holy both in body and spirit by the Samaritan—that is, saviour and keeper—of whom it is said in the psalm, “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”2296 May the watcher and the holy one who came down to Daniel2297 come also to you, that you too may be able to say, “I sleep but my heart waketh.”2298
Jerome - Letters 70