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The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians$

Ronald E. Heine

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199245512

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199245517.001.0001

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(p.273) Appendix A Selections from Jerome's Epistles 33, 61, and 84

(p.273) Appendix A Selections from Jerome's Epistles 33, 61, and 84

The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians

Ronald E. Heine

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Contains translations of selections taken from Jerome's letters 33, 61, and 84. In the first selection, Jerome includes Origen's commentary on Ephesians in a list he gives of Origen's writings on the New Testament. In the second and third selections, Jerome refers to his own commentary on Ephesians as proof that, while he admires Origen's Biblical interpretation, he has never embraced those doctrines of Origen considered heretical.

Epistle 33.4, to Paula1

You will ask why I have mentioned Varro and the man of bronze of the Greeks.2 To come to our own Adamantius3 and man of bronze, of course, who put so much work into his commentaries on the Holy Scriptures that he has quite rightly been referred to as made of steel, would you like to know how many written works he has left behind? The following titles will show you . . . On the New Testament: 25 books on Matthew, 32 books on John, 1 book of scholia on certain parts of John, 15 books on Luke, 15 books on the apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans, 15 books on the epistle to the Galatians,4 3 books on the epistle to the Ephesians, 1 book on the epistle to the Philippians, 2 books on the epistle to the Colossians, 3 books on the first epistle to the Thessalonians, 1 book on the second epistle to the Thessalonians, 1 book on the epistle to Titus, 1 book on the epistle to Philemon . . .

Epistle 61.2, to Vigilantius5

Origen is a heretic. What has that to do with me? I do not deny that he is heretical on a great many points. He has erred on the resurrection of the body; he has erred on the state of souls; he has erred on the repentance of the devil; and, even more serious than these points, he has testified that the Seraphim are the Son and the Holy Spirit. If I were not to admit that he has erred and were not to anathematize these errors daily, I would be a partner in his error. For we must not accept his good points in such a way that we are also compelled to defend his bad ones. But at the same time, he has interpreted the Scriptures well in many places. He has explained obscure passages in the prophets and has revealed tremendous mysteries in the (p.274) New Testament as well as in the Old. Am I, then, to be censured if I have translated what is good in him and have either omitted or corrected or passed over in silence what is bad, so that through my work Latin readers may have what is good in him and be ignorant of what is bad? . . . Am I not permitted to reject and condemn perverse teachings because I have often condemned them? Read my books on the epistle to the Ephesians, read my other works, especially my commentaries on Ecclesiastes, and you will clearly see that never, from the time I was a youth, has anyone's authority so frightened me that I have acquiesced in the depravity of heresy.6

Epistle 84.2, to Pammachius and Oceanus7

They throw in my face the question why I have sometimes praised Origen. If I am not mistaken, there are two passages. One is the little preface to Damasus in the homilies on the Song of Songs and the other is the prologue in the book of Hebrew Names. What is said there about Church doctrine? Is there anything about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or about the resurrection of the flesh, or about the state and substance of the soul? I praised his plain interpretation and his teaching in plain speech. My praise included nothing concerning his faith and nothing concerning his doctrines. The moral level alone is discussed and the cloud of the allegory is dispersed by his clear exposition. I have praised the commentator not the innovator, his genius not his faith, the philosopher not the apostle. But if they want to know my opinion concerning Origen let them read my commentaries on Ecclesiastes, let them open my three books on the epistle to the Ephesians and they will perceive that I have always opposed his doctrines.8 For what kind of stupidity is it to praise someone's teaching in such a way that you also follow his blasphemy? . . . We must not detract from the good points of our opponents if they possess something worthy, nor must we praise the defects of our friends. Each case must be judged on the merit of the facts and not of the persons. Lucilius is assailed because his rhythm is disorderly but his cunning and charm are praised nevertheless.


(1) Translated from I. Hilberg (ed)., Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae, part 1, Epistulae 1–70, CSEL 54 (Vienna, 1996), 255–7.

(2) In 33.1 Jerome refers to someone the Greeks admired as their man of bronze but does not name him.

(3) Cf. Eusebius, HE 6.14.10.

(4) This number is probably incorrect for Galatians, since in the preface to his Commentary on Galatians Jerome mentions everything that Origen had written on the epistle and says that Origen wrote a commentary of 5 books on Galatians (PL 26.369–70, Vall.).

(5) This selection and the next are translated in NPNF, 2nd ser. vi.131–2; 176. I have followed this translation but have revised it in accordance with the more recent critical text of I. Hilberg in CSEL 54 and 55 and in accordance with modern English usage.

(6) See Rufinus, Apol. 1. 22.

(7) See n. 5 above.

(8) See Rufinus, Apol. 1. 22; 2. 28.