Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Origen/Origen De Principiis/III/Chapter 1

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Origen, Origen De Principiis, III
by Origen, translated by Frederick Crombie
Chapter 1
156191Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Origen, Origen De Principiis, III — Chapter 1Frederick CrombieOrigen

Book III.

Preface of Rufinus.

Reader, remember me in your prayers, that we too may deserve to be made emulators of the spirit.  The two former books on The Principles I translated not only at your instance, but even under pressure from you during the days of Lent;[1] but as you, my devout brother Macarius, were not only living near me during that time, but had more leisure at your command than now, so I also worked the harder; whereas I have been longer in explaining these two latter books, seeing you came less frequently from a distant extremity of the city to urge on my labour.  Now if you remember what I warned you of in my former preface,—that certain persons would be indignant, if they did not hear that we spoke some evil of Origen,—that, I imagine, you have forthwith experienced, has come to pass.  But if those demons[2] who excite the tongues of men to slander were so infuriated by that work, in which he had not as yet fully unveiled their secret proceedings, what, think you, will be the case in this, in which he will expose all those dark and hidden ways, by which they creep into the hearts of men, and deceive weak and unstable souls?  You will immediately see all things thrown into confusion, seditions stirred up, clamours raised throughout the whole city, and that individual summoned to receive sentence of condemnation who endeavoured to dispel the diabolical darkness of ignorance by means of the light of the Gospel lamp.[3]  Let such things, however, be lightly esteemed by him who is desirous of being trained in divine learning, while retaining in its integrity the rule of the Catholic faith.[4]  I think it necessary, however, to remind you that the principle observed in the former books has been observed also in these, viz., not to translate what appeared contrary to Origen’s other opinions, and to our own belief, but to pass by such passages as being interpolated and forged by others.  But if he has appeared to give expression to any novelties regarding rational creatures (on which subject the essence of our faith does not depend), for the sake of discussion and of adding to our knowledge, when perhaps it was necessary for us to answer in such an order some heretical opinions, I have not omitted to mention these either in the present or preceding books, unless when he wished to repeat in the following books what he had already stated in the previous ones, when I have thought it convenient, for the sake of brevity, to curtail some of these repetitions.  Should any one, however, peruse these passages from a desire to enlarge his knowledge, and not to raise captious objections, he will do better to have them expounded by persons of skill.  For it is an absurdity to have the fictions of poetry and the ridiculous plays of comedy[5] interpreted by grammarians, and to suppose that without a master and an interpreter any one is able to learn those things which are spoken either of God or of the heavenly virtues, and of the whole universe of things, in which some deplorable error either of pagan philosophers or of heretics is confuted; and the result of which is, that men would rather rashly and ignorantly condemn things that are difficult and obscure, than ascertain their meaning by diligence and study.

  1. Diebus quadragesimæ.
  2. Dæmones.
  3. Evangelicæ lucernæ lumine diabolicas ignorantiæ tenebras.
  4. Salvâ fidei Catholicæ regula.  [This remonstrance of Rufinus deserves candid notice.  He reduces the liberties he took with his author to two heads:  (1) omitting what Origen himself contradicts, and (2) what was interpolated by those who thus vented their own heresies under a great name.  “To our own belief,” may mean what is contrary to the faith, as reduced to technical formula, at Nicæa; i.e., Salva regula fidei.  Note examples in the parallel columns following.]
  5. Comœdiarum ridiculas fabulas.