Jerome - Letters 50
Domnio, a Roman (called in Letter XLV. “the Lot of our time”), had written to Jerome to tell him that an ignorant monk had been traducing his books “against Jovinian.” Jerome, in reply, sharply rebukes the folly of his critic and comments on the want of straightforwardness in his conduct. He concludes the letter with an emphatic restatement of his original position. Written in 394 a.d.
1. Your letter is full at once of affection and of complaining. The affection is your own, which prompts you unceasingly to warn me of impending danger, and which makes you on my behalf
Of safest things distrustful and afraid.1212
The complaining is of those who have no love for me, and seek an occasion against me in my sins. They speak against their brother, they slander their own mother’s son.1213 You write to me of these—nay, of one in particular—a lounger who is to be seen in the streets, at crossings, and in public places; a monk who is a noisy news-monger, clever only in detraction, and eager, in spite of the beam in his own eye, to remove the mote in his neighbor’s.1214 And you tell me that he preaches publicly against me, gnawing, rending, and tearing asunder with his fangs the books that I have written against Jovinian. You inform me, moreover, that this home-grown dialectician, this mainstay of the Plautine company, has read neither the “Categories” of Aristotle nor his treatise “On Interpretation,” nor his “Analytics,” nor yet the “Topics” of Cicero, but that, moving as he does only in uneducated circles, and frequenting no society but that of weak women, he ventures to construct illogical syllogisms and to unravel by subtle arguments what he is pleased to call my sophisms. How foolish I have been to suppose that without philosophy there can be no knowledge of these subjects; and to account it a more important part of composition to erase than to write! In vain have I perused the commentaries of Alexander; to no purpose has a skilled teacher used the “Introduction” of Porphyry to instruct me in logic; and—to make light of human learning—I have gained nothing at all by having Gregory of Nazianzum and Didymus as my catechists in the Holy Scriptures. My acquisition of Hebrew has been wasted labor; and so also has been the daily study which from my youth I have bestowed upon the Law and the Prophets, the Gospels and the Apostles.
2. Here we have a man who has reached perfection without a teacher, so as to be a vehicle of the spirit and a self-taught genius. He surpasses Cicero in eloquence, Aristotle in argument, Plato in discretion, Aristarchus in learning, Didymus, that man of brass, in the number of his books; and not only Didymus, but all the writers of his time in his knowledge of the Scriptures. It is reported that you have only to give him a theme and he is always ready—like Carneades1215 —to argue on this side or on that, for justice or against it. The world escaped a great danger, and civil actions and suits concerning succession were saved from a yawning gulf on the day when, despising the bar, he transferred himself to the Church. For, had he been unwilling, who could ever have been proved innocent? And, if he once began to reckon the points of the case upon his fingers, and to spread his syllogistic nets, what criminal would his pleading have failed to save? Had he but stamped his foot, or fixed his eyes, or knitted his brow, or moved his hand, or twirled his beard, he would at once have thrown dust in the eyes of the jury. No wonder that such a complete Latinist and so profound a master of eloquence overcomes poor me, who—as I have been some time1216 away (from Rome), and without opportunities for speaking Latin—am half a Greek if not altogether a barbarian. No wonder, I say, that he overcomes me when his eloquence has crushed Jovinian in person. Good Jesus! what! even Jovinian that great and clever man! So clever, indeed, that no one can understand his writings, and that when he sings it is only for himself—and for the muses!
3. Pray, my dear father, warn this man not to hold language contrary to his profession, and not to undo with his words the chastity which he professes by his garb. Whether he elects to be a virgin or a married celibate—and the choice must rest with himself—he must not compare wives with virgins, for that would be to have striven in vain against Jovinian’s eloquence. He likes, I am told, to visit the cells of widows and virgins, and to lecture them with his brows knit on sacred literature. What is it that he teaches these poor women in the privacy of their own chambers? Is it to feel assured that virgins are no better than wives? Is it to make the most of the flower of their age, to eat and drink, to frequent the baths, to live in luxury, and not to disdain the use of perfumes? Or does he preach to them chastity, fasting, and neglect of their persons? No doubt the precepts that he inculcates are full of virtue. But if so, let him admit publicly what he says privately. Or, if his private teaching is the same as his public, he should keep aloof altogether from the society of girls. He is a young man—a monk, and in his own eyes an eloquent one (do not pearls fall from his lips, and are not his elegant phrases sprinkled with comic salt and humor?)—I am surprised, therefore, that he can without a blush frequent noblemen’s houses, pay constant visits to married ladies, make our religion a subject of contention, distort the faith of Christ by misapplying words, and—in addition to all this—detract from one who is his brother in the Lord. He may, however, have supposed me to be in error (for “in many things we offend all,” and “if any man offend not in word he perfect man”1217 ). In that case he should have written to convict me or to question me, the course taken by Pammachius, a man of high attainments and position. To this latter I defended myself as best I could, and in a lengthy letter explained the exact sense of my words. He might at least have copied the diffidence which led you to extract and arrange such passages as seemed to give offence; asking me for corrections or explanations, and not supposing me so mad that in one and the same book I should write for marriage and against it.
4. Let him spare himself, let him spare me, let him spare the Christian name. Let him realize his position as a monk, not by talking and arguing, but by holding his peace and sitting still. Let him read the words of Jeremiah: “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.”1218 Or if he has really the right to apply the censor’s rod to all writers, and fancies himself a man of learning because he alone understands Jovinian (you know the proverb: Balbus best knows what Balbus means); yet, as Atilius1219 reminds us, “we are not all writers.” Jovinian himself—an unlettered man of letters if ever there was one—will with most justice proclaim the fact to him. “That the bishops condemn me,” he says, “is not reason but treason. I want no answers from nobodies, who, while they have authority to put me down, have not the wit to teach me. Let one write against me who has a tongue that I can understand, and whom to vanquish will be to vanquish all).
"‘I know full well: believe me, I have felt
The hero’s force when rising o’er his shield
(He hurls his whizzing spear.‘1220
(He is strong in argument, intricate and tenacious, one to fight with his head down. Often has he cried out against me in the streets from late one night till early the next. He is a well-built man, and his thews are those of an athlete. Secretly I believe him to be a follower of my teaching. He never blushes or stops to weigh his words: his only aim is to speak as loud as possible. So famous is he for his eloquence that his sayings are held up as models to our curly-headed youngsters.1221 How often, when I have met him at meetings, has he aroused my wrath and put me into a passion! How often has he spat upon me, and then departed spat upon! But these are vulgar methods, and any of my followers can use them. I appeal to books, to those memorials which must be handed down to posterity. Let us speak by our writings, that the silent reader may judge between us; and that, as I have a flock of disciples, he may have one also—flatterers and parasites worthy of the Gnatho and Phormio1222 who is their master.”
5. It is no difficult matter, my dear Domnio, to chatter at street corners or in apothecaries’ shops and to pass judgment on the world. “So-and-so has made a good speech, so-and-so a bad one; this man knows the Scriptures, that one is crazy; this man talks glibly, that never says a word at all.” But who considers him worthy thus to judge every one? To make an outcry against a man in every street, and to heap, not definite charges, but vague imputations, on his head, is nothing. Any buffoon or litigiously disposed person can do as much. Let him put forth his hand, put pen to paper, and bestir himself; let him write books and prove in them all he can. Let him give me a chance of replying to his eloquence. I can return bite for bite, if I like; when hurt myself, I can fix my teeth in my opponent. I too have had a liberal education. As Juvenal says, “I also have often withdrawn my hand from the ferule.”1223 Of me, too, it may be said in the words of Horace, “Flee from him; he has hay on his horn.”1224 But I prefer to be a disciple of Him who says, “I gave my back to the smiters …I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”1225 When He was reviled He reviled not again.1226 After the buffeting, the cross, the scourge, the blasphemies, at the very last He prayed for His crucifiers, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”1227 I, too, pardon the error of a brother. He has been deceived, I feel sure, by the art of the devil. Among the women he was held clever and eloquent; but, when my poor writings reached Rome, dreading me as a rival, he tried to rob me of my laurels. No man on earth, he resolved, should please his eloquent self, unless such as commanded respect rather than sought it, and showed themselves men to be feared more than favored. A man of consummate address, he desired, like an old soldier, with one stroke of the sword to strike down both his enemies,1228 and to make clear to every one that, whatever view he might take, Scripture was always with him. Well, he must condescend to send me his account of the matter, and to correct my indiscreet language, not by censure but by instruction. If he tries to do this, he will find that what seems forcible on a lounge is not equally forcible in court; and that it is one thing to discuss the doctrines of the divine law amid the spindles and work-baskets of girls and another to argue concerning them among men of education. As it is, without hesitation or shame, he raises again and again the noisy shout, “Jerome condemns marriage,” and, whilst he constantly moves among women with child, crying infants, and marriage-beds, he suppresses the words of the apostle just to cover me—poor me—with odium. However, when he comes by and by to write books and to grapple with me at close quarters, then he will feel it, then he will stick fast; Epicurus and Aristippus1229 will not be near him then; the swineherds1230 will not come to his aid; the prolific sow1231 will not so much as grunt. For I also may say, with Turnus:
Father, I too can launch a forceful spear,
And when I strike blood follows from the wound.1232
But if he refuses to write, and fancies that abuse is as effective as criticism, then, in spite of all the lands and seas and peoples which lie between us, he must hear at least the echo of my cry, “I do not condemn marriage,” “I do not condemn wedlock.” Indeed—and this I say to make my meaning quite clear to him—I should like every one to take a wife who, because they get frightened in the night, cannot manage to sleep alone.1233
A coolness had arisen between these two bishops in connection with the Origenistic controversy, which at this time was at its height. Epiphanius had openly charged Jn with being an Origenist, and had also uncanonically conferred priests’ orders on Jerome’s brother Paulinian, in order that the monastery at Bethlehem might henceforth be entirely independent of John. Naturally, John resented this conduct and showed his resentment. The present letter is a kind of half-apology made by Epiphanius for what he had done, and like all such, it only seems to have made matters worse. The controversy is fully detailed in the treatise “Against Jn of Jerusalem” in this volume, esp. §11–14.
An interesting paragraph (§9) narrates how Epiphanius destroyed at Anablatha a church-curtain on which was depicted “a likeness of Christ or of some saint”—an early instance of the iconoclastic spirit.
Originally written in Greek, the letter was (by the writer’s request) rendered into Latin by Jerome. Its date is 394 a.d.To the lord bishop and dearly beloved brother, John, Epiphanius sends greeting.
1. It surely becomes us, dearly beloved, not to abuse our rank as clergy, so as to make it an occasion of pride, but by diligently keeping and observing God’s commandments, to be in reality what in name we profess to be. For, if the Holy Scriptures say, “Their lots shall not profit them,”1234 what pride in our clerical position1235 will be able to avail us who sin not only in thought and feeling, but in speech? I have heard, of course, that you are incensed against me, that you are angry, and that you threaten to write about me—not merely to particular places and provinces, but to the uttermost ends of the earth. Where is that fear of God which should make us tremble with the trembling spoken of by the Lord—“Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”?1236 Not that I greatly care for your writing what you please. For Isaiah tells us1237 of letters written on papyrus and cast upon the waters—missives soon carried away by time and tide. I have done you no harm, I have inflicted no injury upon you, I have extorted nothing from you by violence. My action concerned a monastery whose inmates were foreigners in no way subject to your provincial jurisdiction. Moreover their regard for my insignificance and for the letters which I frequently addressed to them had commenced to produce a feeling of dislike to communion with you. Feeling, therefore, that too great strictness or scrupulosity on my part might have the effect of alienating them from the Church with its ancient faith, I ordained one of the brothers deacon, and after he had ministered as such, admitted him to the priesthood. You should, I think, have been grateful to me for this, knowing, as you surely must, that it is the fear of God which has compelled me to act in this way, and particularly when you recollect that God’s priesthood is everywhere the same, and that I have simply made provision for the wants of the Church. For, although each individual bishop of the Church has under him churches which are placed in his charge, and although no man may stretch himself beyond his measure,1238 yet the love of Christ, which is without dissimulation,1239 is set up as an example to us all; and we must consider not so much the thing done as the time and place, the mode and motive, of doing it. I saw that the monastery contained a large number of reverend brothers, and that the reverend presbyters, Jerome and Vincent, through modesty and humility, were unwilling to offer the sacrifices permitted to their rank, and to labor in that part of their calling which ministers more than any other to the salvation of Christians. I knew, moreover, that you could not find or lay hands on this servant of God1240 who had several times fled from you simply because he was reluctant to undertake the onerous duties of the priesthood, and that no other bishop could easily find him. Accordingly, I was a good deal surprised when, by the ordering of God, he came to me with the deacons of the monastery and others of the brethren, to make satisfaction to me for some grievance or other which I had against them. While, therefore, the Collect1241 was being celebrated in the church of the villa which adjoins our monastery—he being quite ignorant and wholly unsuspicious of my purpose—I gave orders to a number of deacons to seize him and to stop his mouth, lest in his eagerness to free himself he might adjure me in the name of Christ. First of all, then, I ordained him deacon, setting before him the fear of God, and forcing him to minister; for he made a hard struggle against it, crying out that he was unworthy, and protesting that this heavy burden was beyond his strength. It was with difficulty, then, that I overcame his reluctance, persuading him as well as I could with passages from Scripture, and setting before him the commandments of God. And when he had ministered in the offering of the holy sacrifices, once more with great difficulty I closed his mouth and ordained him presbyter. Then, using the same arguments as before, I induced him to sit in the place set apart for the presbyters. After this I wrote to the reverend presbyters and other brothers of the monastery, chiding them for not having written to me about him. For a year before I had heard many of them complain that they had no one to celebrate for them the sacraments of the Lord. All then agreed in asking him to undertake the duty, pointing out how great his usefulness would be to the community of the monastery. I blamed them for omitting to write to me and to propose that I should ordain him, when the opportunity was given to them to do so.
2. All this I have done, as I said just now, relying on that Christian love which you, I feel sure, cherish towards my insignificance; not to mention the fact that I held the ordination in a monastery, and not within the limits of your jurisdiction. How truly blessed is the mildness and complacency of the bishops of (my own) Cyprus, as well as their simplicity, though to your refinement and discrimination it appears deserving only of God’s pity! For many bishops in communion with me have ordained presbyters in my province whom I had been unable to capture, and have sent to me deacons and subdeacons1242 whom I have been glad to receive. I myself, too, have urged the bishop Philo of blessed memory, and the reverend Theoprepus, to make provision for the Church of Christ by ordaining presbyters in those churches of Cyprus which, although they were accounted to belong to my see, happened to be close to them, and this for the reason that my province was large and straggling. But for my part I have never ordained deaconesses nor sent them into the provinces of others,1243 nor have I done anything to rend the Church. Why, then, have you thought fit to be so angry and indignant with me for that work of God which I have wrought for the edification of the brethren, and not for their destruction?1244 Moreover, I have been much surprised at the assertion which you have made to my clergy, that you sent me a message by that reverend presbyter, the abbot Gregory, that I was to ordain no one, and that I promised to comply, saying, “Am I a stripling, or do I not know the canons?” By God’s word I am telling you the truth when I say that I know and have heard nothing of all this, and that I have not the slightest recollection of using any language of the sort. As, however, I have had misgivings, lest possibly, being only a man, I may have forgotten this among so many other matters, I have made inquiry of the reverend Gregory, and of the presbyter Zeno, who is with him. Of these, the abbot Gregory replies that he knows nothing whatever about the matter, while Zeno says that the presbyter Rufinus, in the course of some desultory remarks, spoke these words. “Will the reverend bishop, think you, venture to ordain any persons?” but that the conversation went no further. I, Epiphanius, however, have never either received the message or answered it. Do not, then, dearly beloved, allow your anger to overcome you or your indignation to get the better of you, lest, you should disquiet yourself in vain; and lest you should be thought to be putting forward this grievance only to get scope for tendencies of another kind,1245 and thus to have sought out an occasion of sinning. It is to avoid this that the prophet prays to the Lord, saying: “Turn not aside my heart to words of wickedness, to making excuses for my sins.”1246
3. This also I have been surprised to hear, that certain persons who are in the habit of carrying tales backwards and forwards, and of always adding something fresh to what they have heard, to stir up grievances and disputes between brothers, have succeeded in disquieting you by saying that, when I offer sacrifices to God, I am wont to say this prayer on your behalf: “Grant, O Lord, to Jn grace to believe aright.” Do not suppose me so untutored as to be capable of saying this so openly. To tell you the simple truth, my dearest brother, although I continually use this prayer mentally, I have never confided it to the ears of others, lest I should seem to dishonor you. But when I repeat the prayers required by the ritual of the mysteries, then I say on behalf of all and of you as well as others, “Guard him, that he may preach the truth,” or at least this, “Do Thou, O Lord, grant him Thine aid, and guard him, that he may preach the word of truth,” as occasion offers itself for the words, and as the turn comes for the particular prayer. Wherefore I beseech you, dearly beloved, and, casting myself down at your feet, I entreat you to grant to me and to yourself this one prayer, that you would save yourself, as it is written, “from an untoward generation.”1247 Withdraw, dearly beloved, from the heresy of Origen and from all heresies. For I see that all your indignation has been roused against me simply because I have told you that you ought not to eulogize one who is the spiritual father of Arius, and the root and parent of all heresies. And when I appealed to you not to go astray, and warned you of the consequences, you traversed my words, and reduced me to tears and sadness; and not me only, but many other Catholics who were present.1248 This I take to be the origin of your indignation and of your passion on the present occasion. On this account you threaten to send out letters against me, and to circulate your version of the matter in all directions;1249 and thus, while with a view to defending your heresy you kindle men’s passions against me, you break through the charity which I have shown towards you, and act with so little discretion that you make me regret that I have held communion with you, and that I have by so doing upheld the erroneous opinions of Origen.
4. I speak plainly. To use the language of Scripture, I do not spare to pluck out my own eye if it cause me to offend, nor to cut off my hand and my foot if they cause me to do so.1250 And you must be treated in the same way whether you are my eyes, or my hands, or my feet. For what Catholic, what Christian who adorns his faith with good works, can hear with calmness Origen’s teaching and counsel, or believe in his extraordinary preaching? “The Son,” he tells us, “cannot see the Father, and the Holy Spirit cannot see the Son.” These words occur in his book “On First Principles;” thus we read, and thus Origen has spoken. “For as it is unsuitable to say that the Son can see the Father, it is consequently unsuitable to suppose that the Spirit can see the Son.”1251 Can any one, moreover, brook Origen’s assertion that men’s souls were once angels in heaven, and that having sinned in the upper world, they have been cast down into this, and have been confined in bodies as in barrows or tombs, to pay the penalty for their former sins; and that the bodies of believers are not temples of Christ,1252 but prisons of the condemned? Again, he tampers with the true meaning of the narrative by a false use of allegory, multiplying words without limit; and undermines the faith of the simple by the most varied arguments. Now he maintains that souls, in Greek the “cool things,” from a word meaning to be cool,1253 are so called because in coming down from the heavenly places to the lower world they have lost their former heat;1254 and now, that our bodies are called by the Greeks chains, from a word meaning chain,1255 or else (on the analogy of our own Latin word) “things fallen,”1256 because our souls have fallen from heaven; and that the other word for body which the abundance of the Greek idiom supplies1257 is by many taken to mean a funeral monument,1258 because the soul is shut up within it in the same way as the corpses of the dead are shut up in tombs and barrows. If this doctrine is true what becomes of our faith? Where is the preaching of the resurrection? Where is the teaching of the apostles, which lasts on to this day in the churches of Christ? Where is the blessing to Adam, and to his seed, and to Noah and his sons? “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”1259 According to Origen, these words must be a curse and not a blessing; for he turns angels into human souls, compelling them to leave the place of highest rank and to come down lower, as though God were unable through the action of His blessing to grant souls to the human race, had the angels not sinned, and as though for every birth on earth there must be a fall in heaven. We are to give up, then, the teaching of apostles and prophets, of the law, and of our Lord and Saviour Himself, in spite of His language loud as thunder in the gospel. Origen, on the other hand, commands and urges—not to say binds—his disciples not to pray to ascend into heaven, lest sinning once more worse than they had sinned on earth they should be hurled down into the world again. Such foolish and insane notions he generally confirms by distorting the sense of the Scriptures and making them mean what they do not mean at all. He quotes this passage from the Psalms: “Before thou didst humble me by reason of my wickedness, I went wrong;”1260 and this, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul;”1261 this also, “Bring my soul out of prison;”1262 and this, “I will make confession unto the Lord in the land of the living,”1263 although there can be no doubt that the meaning of the divine Scripture is different from the interpretation by which he unfairly wrests it to the support of his own heresy. This way of acting is common to the Manichaeans, the Gnostics, the Ebionites, the Marcionites, and the votaries of the other eighty heresies,1264 all of whom draw their proofs from the pure well of the Scriptures, not, however, interpreting it in the sense in which it is written, but trying to make the simple language of the Church’s writers accord with their own wishes.
5. Of one position which he strives to maintain I hardly know whether it calls for my tears or my laughter. This wonderful doctor presumes to teach that the devil will once more be what he at one time was, that he will return to his former dignity and rise again to the kingdom of heaven. Oh horror! that a man should be so frantic and foolish as to hold that Jn the Baptist, Peter, the apostle and evangelist John, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest of the prophets, are made co-heirs of the devil in the kingdom of heaven! I pass over his idle explanation of the coats of skins,1265 and say nothing of the efforts and arguments he has used to induce us to believe that these coats of skins represent human bodies. Among many other things, he says this: “Was God a tanner or a saddler, that He should prepare the hides of animals, and should stitch from them coats of skins for Adam and Eve?” “It is clear,” he goes on, “that he is speaking of human bodies.” If this is so, how is it that before the coats of skins, and the disobedience, and the fall from paradise, Adam speaks not in an allegory, but literally, thus: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;”1266 or what is the ground of the divine narrative, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman”1267 for him? Or what bodies can Adam and Eve have covered with fig-leaves after eating of the forbidden tree?1268 Who can patiently listen to the perilous arguments of Origen when he denies the resurrection of this flesh, as he most clearly does in his book of explanations of the first psalm and in many other places? Or who can tolerate him when he gives us a paradise in the third heaven, and transfers that which the Scripture mentions from earth to the heavenly places, and when he explains allegorically all the trees which are mentioned in Genesis, saying in effect that the trees are angelic potencies, a sense which the true drift of the passage does not admit? For the divine Scripture has not said, “God put down Adam and Eve upon the earth,” but “He drove them out of the paradise, and made them dwell over against the paradise.”1269 He does not say “under the paradise.” “He placed …cherubims and a flaming sword …to keep the way of1270 the tree of life.”1271 He says nothing about an ascent to it. “And a river went out of Eden.”1272 He does not say “went down from Eden.” “It was parted and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison …and the name of the second is Gihon.”1273 I myself have seen the waters of Gihon, have seen them with my bodily eyes. It is this Gihon to which Jeremiah points when he says, “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt to drink the muddy water of Gihon?”1274 I have drunk also from the great river Euphrates, not spiritual but actual water, such as you can touch with your hand and imbibe with your mouth. But where there are rivers which admit of being seen and of being drunk, it follows that there also there will be fig-trees and other trees; and it is of these that the Lord says, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.”1275 They are like other trees and timber, just as the rivers are like other rivers and waters. But if the water is visible and real, then the fig-tree and the rest of the timber must be real also, and Adam and Eve must have been originally formed with real and not phantasmal bodies, and not, as Origen would have us believe, have afterwards received them on account of their sin. But, you say, “we read that Saint Paul was caught up to the third heaven, into paradise.”1276 You explain the words rightly: “When he mentions the third heaven, and then adds the word paradise, he shows that heaven is in one place and paradise in another.” Must not every one reject and despise such special pleading as that by which Origen says of the waters that are above the firmament1277 that they are not waters, but heroic beings of angelic power,1278 and again of the waters that are over the earth—that is, below the firmament—that they are potencies1279 of the contrary sort—that is, demons? If so, why do we read in the account of the deluge that the windows of heaven were opened, and that the waters of the deluge prevailed? in consequence of which the fountains of the deep were opened, and the whole earth was covered with the waters.1280
6. Oh! the madness and folly of those who have forsaken the teaching of the book of Proverbs, “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother,”1281 and have turned to error, and say to the fool that he shall be their leader, and do not despise the foolish things which are said by the foolish man, even as the scripture bears witness, “The foolish man speaketh foolishly, and his heart understandeth vanity.”1282 I beseech you, dearly beloved, and by the love which I feel towards you, I implore you—as though it were my own members on which I would have pity1283 —by word and letter to fulfil that which is written, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?”1284 Origen’s words are the words of an enemy, hateful and repugnant to God and to His saints; and not only those which I have quoted, but countless others. For it is not now my intention to argue against all his opinions. Origen has not lived in my day, nor has he robbed me. I have not conceived a dislike to him nor quarrelled with him because of an inheritance or of any worldly matter; but—to speak plainly—I grieve, and grieve bitterly, to see numbers of my brothers, and of those in particular who show the most promise, and have reached the highest rank in the sacred ministry,1285 deceived by his persuasive arguments, and made by his most perverse teaching the food of the devil, whereby the saying is fulfilled: “He derides every stronghold, and his fare is choice, and he hath gathered captives as the sand.”1286 But may God free you, my brother, and the holy people of Christ which is intrusted to you, and all the brothers who are with you, and especially the presbyter Rufinus, from the heresy of Origen, and other heresies, and from the perdition to which they lead. For, if for one word or for two opposed to the faith many heresies have been rejected by the Church, how much more shall he be held a heretic who has contrived such perverse interpretations and such mischievous doctrines to destroy the faith, and has in fact declared himself the enemy of the Church! For, among other wicked things, he has presumed to say this, too, that Adam lost the image of God, although Scripture nowhere declares that he did. Were it so, never would all the creatures in the world be subject to Adam’s seed—that is, to the entire human race; yet, in the words of the apostle, everything “is tamed and hath been tamed of mankind.”1287 For never would all things be subjected to men if men had not—together with their authority over all—the image of God. But the divine Scripture conjoins and associates with this the grace of the blessing which was conferred upon Adam and upon the generations which descended from him. No one can by twisting the meaning of words presume to say that this grace of God was given to one only, and that he alone was made in the image of God (he and his wife, that is, for while he was formed of clay she was made of one of his ribs), but that those who were subsequently conceived in the womb and not born as was Adam did not possess God’s image, for the Scripture immediately subjoins the following statement: “And Adam lived two hundred and thirty years,1288 and knew Eve his wife, and she bare him a son in his image and after his likeness, and called his name Seth.”1289 And again, in the tenth generation, two thousand two hundred and forty-two years afterwards,1290 God, to vindicate His own image and to show that the grace which He had given to men still continued in them, gives the following commandment: “Flesh …with the blood thereof shall ye not eat. And surely your blood will I require at the hand of every man that sheddeth it; for in the image of God have I made man.”1291 From Noah to Abraham ten generations passed away,1292 and from Abraham’s time to David’s, fourteen more,1293 and these twenty-four generations make up, taken together, two thousand one hundred and seventeen years.1294 Yet the Holy Spirit in the thirty-ninth1295 psalm, while lamenting that all men walk in a vain show, and that they are subject to sins, speaks thus: “For all that every man walk eth in the image.”1296 Also after David’s time, in the reign of Solomon his son, we read a somewhat similar reference to the divine likeness. For in the book of Wisdom, which is inscribed with his name, Solomon says: “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own eternity.”1297 And again, about eleven hundred and eleven years afterwards, we read in the New Testament that men have not lost the image of God. For James, an apostle and brother of the Lord, whom I have mentioned above—that we may not be entangled in the snares of Origen—teaches us that man does possess God’s image and likeness. For, after a somewhat discursive account of the human tongue, he has gone on to say of it: “It is an unruly evil …therewith bless we God, even the Father and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.”1298 Paul, too, the “chosen vessel,”1299 who in his preaching has fully maintained the doctrine of the gospel, instructs us that man is made in the image and after the likeness of God. “A man,” he says, “ought not to wear long hair, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.”1300 He speaks of “the image” simply, but explains the nature of the likeness by the word “glory.”
7. Instead of the three proofs from Holy Scripture which you said would satisfy you if I could produce them, behold I have given you seven. Who, then, will put up with the follies of Origen? I will not use a severer word and so make myself like him or his followers, who presume at the peril of their soul to assert dogmatically whatever first comes into their head, and to dictate to God, whereas they ought either to pray to Him or to learn the truth from Him. For some of them say that the image of God which Adam had previously received was lost when he sinned. Others surmise that the body which the Son of God was destined to take of Mary was the image of the Creator. Some identify this image with the soul, others with sensation, others with virtue. These make it baptism, those assert that it is in virtue of God’s image that man exercises universal sway. Like drunkards in their cups, they ejaculate now this, now that, when they ought rather to have avoided so serious a risk, and to have obtained salvation by simple faith, not denying the words of God. To God they ought to have left the sure and exact knowledge of His own gift, and of the particular way in which He has created men in His image and after His likeness. Forsaking this course, they have involved themselves in many subtle questions, and through these they have been plunged into the mire of sin. But we, dearly beloved, believe the words of the Lord, and know that God’s image remains in all men, and we leave it to Him to know in what respect man is created in His image. And let no one be deceived by that passage in the epistle of John, which some readers fail to understand, where he says: “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall See Him as He is.”1301 For this refers to the glory which is then to be revealed1302 to His saints; just as also in another place we read the words “from glory to glory,”1303 of which glory the saints have even in this world received an earnest and a small portion. At their head stands Moses, whose face shone exceedingly, and was bright with the brightness of the sun.1304 Next to him comes Elijah, who was caught up into heaven in a chariot of fire,1305 and did not feel the effects of the flame. Stephen, too, when he was being stoned, had the face of an angel visible to all.1306 And this which we have verified in a few cases is to be understood of all, that what is written may be fulfilled. “Every one that sanctifieth himself shall be numbered among the blessed.” For, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”1307
8. These things being so, dearly beloved, keep watch over your own soul and cease to murmur against me. For the divine Scripture says: “Neither murmur ye [one against another1308 ] as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of serpents.”1309 Rather give way to the truth and love me who love both you and the truth. And may the God of peace, according to His mercy, grant to us that Satan may be bruised under the feet of Christians,1310 and that every occasion of evil may be shunned, so that the bond of love and peace may not be rent asunder between us, or the preaching of the right faith be anywise hindered.
9. Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect,1311 after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered.1312 It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort—opposed as they are to our religion—shall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A than of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offence1313 unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge. Beware of Palladius of Galatia—a man once dear to me, but who now sorely needs God’s pity—for he preaches and teaches the heresy of Origen; and see to it that he does not seduce any of those who are intrusted to your keeping into the perverse ways of his erroneous doctrine. I pray that you may fare well in the Lord.
Jerome - Letters 50