23. As regards our reverend friend p. 531 Epiphanius, this is strange shuffling of yours, when you say that it was impossible for him to have written against you after his giving you the kiss and joining with you in prayer. It is as if you were to contend that he would not be dead if a short time before he had been alive, or as if it were not equally certain that he had first reproved you and then, after the kiss of peace, excommunicated you. “They went out from us,” it is said, 3184 “but they were not of us; otherwise they would no doubt have continued with us.” The apostle bids us avoid a heretic after first and second admonition: of course this implies that he was a member of the flock of the church before he was avoided or condemned. I confess I cannot restrain my laughter when, at the prompting of some clever person, you strike up a hymn in honour of Epiphanius. Why, this is the silly old man, the anthropomorphite, this is the man who boasted in your presence of the six thousand books of Origen that he had read, who thinks himself entrusted with the preaching of the Gospel against Origen among all nations in their own tongue who will not let others read Origen for fear they should discover what he has stolen from him. Read what he has written, and the letter, or rather letters, one of which I will adduce as a testimonial to your orthodoxy, so that it may be seen how worthy he is of your present praise. 3185 “May God set you free, my brother, and the holy people of Christ which is entrusted to you, and all the brethren who are with you, and especially the Presbyter Rufinus, from the heresy of Origen, and all other heresies, and from the perdition which they bring. For if many heresies have been condemned by the Church on account of one word or of two, which are contrary to the faith, how much more must that man be counted a heretic who has invented so many perverse things, so many false doctrines! He stands forth as the enemy of God and of the church.” This is the testimony which this saintly man bears to you. This is the garland of praise which he gives you to parade in. Thus runs the letter which your golden coins extracted from the chamber of our brother Eusebius, so that you might calumniate the translator of it, and might fix upon me the guilt of a most manifest crime—that of rendering a Greek word as dearest which ought to have been honourable! But what is all this to you who can control all events by your prudent methods, and can trim your path between different possibilities, first saying, if you can find any one to believe you, that neither Anastasius nor Epiphanius ever wrote a line against you; and, secondly, when their actual letters cry out against you, and break down your audacious effrontery, despising the judgment of them both, and say it does not matter to you whether they wrote or not, since it was impossible for them to write against an innocent and an absent man.
Then again, you have no right to speak evil of that saintly man, as you do when you say “that it may be seen that he gave me peace with his words and his kiss, but kept evil and deceit in his heart”—for this is your reasoning, and it is thus that you defend yourself. That this is the letter of Epiphanius and that it is hostile to you, all the world knows: and that it came in its genuine form into your hands we can prove; and it is therefore an astounding shame or rather utter shamelessness in you to deny what you cannot doubt to be true. What! Is Epiphanius to be befouled with the imputation that he gave you the sign of peace but had deceit in his heart? Is it not much truer to believe that he first admonished you because he wished to save you from error and bring you back to the right way; and that therefore he did not reject your Judas kiss, wishing to break down by his forbearance the betrayer of the faith,—but that afterwards when he found that all his toil was fruitless, and that the leopard could not change its spots nor the Ethiopian his skin, he proclaimed in his letter what had before been only a suspicion in his mind?
1 John ii. 19531:3185
From Epiphanius letter to John, Bishop of Jerusalem, translated by Jerome (Jer. Ep. 51 c. 6).