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20. Well then; he says, “Give me an instance in which I have so praised him as to defend his system of belief.” You have no right to ask this, I reply; yet I will follow where you lead. There is a certain writing of his 2968 in which he gives a short catalogue of the works which Varro wrote for the Latins, and of those which Origen wrote in Greek for the Christians. In this he says:

Antiquity marvels at Marcus Terentius Varro because of the countless books which he wrote for Latin readers; and Greek writers are extravagant in their praise of their man of brass, because he has written more works than one of us could so much as copy. But since Latin ears would find a list of Greek writers tiresome, I shall confine myself to the Latin Varro. I shall try to shew that we of to-day are sleeping the sleep of Epimenides and devoting to the amassing of riches the energy which our predecessors gave to sound if secular learning.

Varro’s writings include forty-five books of antiquities, four concerning the life of the Roman people.

But why, you ask me, have I thus mentioned Varro and the man of brass? Simply to bring to your notice our Christian man of brass, or, rather, man of adamant—Origen, I mean—whose zeal for the study of Scripture has fairly earned for him this latter name. Would you learn what monuments of his genius he has left us? The following list exhibits them. His writings comprise thirteen books on Genesis, two books of Mystical Homilies, notes on Exodus, notes on Leviticus…also p. 469 single books, four books on First Principles, two books on the Resurrection, two dialogues on the same subject.

And, after enumerating all his works as if making an exact index, he added what follows:

“So you see the labours of this one man have surpassed those of all previous writers both Greek and Latin. Who has ever managed to read all that he has written? Yet what reward have his exertions brought him? He stands condemned by his bishop, Demetrius, only the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phœnicia, and Achaia dissenting. Imperial Rome consents to his condemnation, and even convenes a senate to censure him, not—as the rabid hounds who now pursue him cry—because of the novelty or heterodoxy of his doctrines, but because men could not tolerate the incomparable eloquence and knowledge, which, when once he opened his lips, made others seem dumb.

I have written the above quickly and incautiously, by the light of a poor lantern. You will see why, if you think of those who to-day represent Epicurus and Aristippus.



Letter xxxiii.

Next: Contrast of Jerome's earlier and later attitude towards Origen.