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11. After the exposition of his faith, or rather his lack of knowledge, he passes on to another matter; and tries to make excuses for having turned the books Περὶ ᾽Αρχῶν into Latin. I will put down his words literally:
“I am told that objections have been raised against me because, forsooth, at the request of some of my brethren, I translated certain works of Origen from Greek into Latin. I suppose that every one sees that it is only through ill-will that this is made a matter of blame. For, if there is any offensive statement in the author, why is this to be twisted into a fault of the translator? I was asked to exhibit in Latin what stands written in the Greek text; and I did nothing more than fit Latin words to Greek ideas. If, therefore, there is anything to praise in these ideas, the praise does not belong to me: and similarly as to anything to which blame may attach.”
“I hear,” he says, “that thence dispute has arisen.”31113111 As above, the word for word rendering is given. How clever this is, to speak of it as a dispute, when it is really an accusation against him. “That I have, at the request of my brethren, translated certain things of Origen’s into Latin.” Yes, but what are these “certain things”? Have they no name? Are you silent? Then the bills of charge brought by the accusers will speak for you. “I suppose,” he says, “that every one understands that it is only through envy that these things are made matters of blame.” What envy? Are people envious of your eloquence? Or have you done what no other man has ever been able to do? Here am I, who have translated many works of Origen’s; yet, except you, no one shews envy towards me or calumniates me for it. “If there is any offensive statement in the author, why is it to be twisted into a fault of the translator? I was asked to exhibit in Latin what stands written in the Greek text; and I did nothing more than fit Latin words to Greek ideas. If, therefore, there is anything to praise in these ideas, the praise does not belong to me, and similarly as to anything to which blame may attach.” Can you be astonished that men think ill of you when you say of open blasphemies nothing more than, “If there are any offensive statements in the author”? What is said in those books is offensive to all men; and you stand alone in your doubt and in your complaint that this is “twisted into a fault of the translator,” when you have praised it in your Preface. ‘You were asked to turn it into Latin as it stood in the Greek text.’ I wish you had done what you pretend you were asked. You would not then be the object of any ill will. If you had kept faith as a translator, it would not have been necessary for me to counteract your false translation by my true one. You know in your own conscience what you added, what you subtracted, and what you altered on one side or the other at your discretion; and after this you have the audacity to tell us that what is good or evil is not to be attributed to you but to the author. You shew your sense of the ill will aroused against you by again toning down your words: and as if you were walking with your steps in the air or on the tops of the ears of corn, you say, “Whether there is praise or blame in these opinions.” You dare not defend him, but you do not choose to condemn him. Choose which of the two you please; the option is yours; if this which you have translated is good, praise it, if bad, condemn it. But he makes excuses, and weaves another artifice, He says:
“I admit that I put something of my own into the work: as I stated in my Preface, I used my own discretion in cutting out not a few passages; but only those as to which I had come to suspect that the thing had not been so stated by Origen himself, and the statement appeared to me in these cases to have been inserted by others, because in other places I had found the author state the same matter in a catholic sense.”31123112 See Rufinus’ position vindicated in his treatise on the corruption of Origen’s writings, translated in this volume.
What wonderful eloquence! Varied, too, with flowers of the Attic style. “Moreover also!”31133113 Quin immo etiam, the first words of the literally, “Yes, moreover also.” and “Things which came to me into suspicion!” I marvel that he should have dared to send such literary portents to Rome. One would think that the man’s tongue was in fetters, and bound with cords that cannot be disentangled, so that it could hardly break forth into human speech. However, I will return to the matter in hand.
11 (a). I wish to know who gave you permission to cut out a number of passages from the work you were translating? You were asked to turn a Greek book into Latin, not to correct it; to draw out another man’s words, not to write a book of your own. You confess, by the fact of pruning away so much, that you did not do what you were asked. And I wish that what you curtailed had all been the bad parts, and that you had not put in many things of your own which go to support what is bad. I will take an example, from which men may judge of the rest. In the first book of the Περὶ ᾽Αρχῶν where Origen had uttered that impious blasphemy, that the Son does not see the Father, you supply the reasons for this, as if in the name of the writer, and translate the note of Didymus, in which he makes a fruitless effort to defend another man’s error, trying to prove that Origen spoke rightly; but we, poor simple men, like the tame creatures spoken of by Ennius, can understand neither his wisdom nor that of his translator. Your Preface, which you allege in explanation, in which you flatter and praise me so highly shows you to be guilty of the most serious faults of translation. You say that you have cut out many things from the Greek, but you say nothing of what you have put in. Were the parts cut out good or bad? Bad, I suppose. Was what you kept good or bad? Good, I presume; for you could not translate the bad. Then I suppose you cut off what was bad and left what was good? Of course. But what you have translated can be shewn to be almost wholly bad. Whatever therefore in your translation I can shew to be bad, must be laid to your account, since you translated it as being good. It is a strange thing if you are to act like an unjust censor, who is himself guilty of the crime, and are allowed at your will to expel some from the Senate and keep others in it. But you say: “It was impossible to change everything. I only thought I might cut away what had been added by the heretics.” Very good. Then if you cut away all that you thought had been added by the heretics, all that you left belongs to the work which you were translating. Answer me then, are these good or bad? You could not translate what was bad, since once for all you had cut away what had been added by the heretics, that is, unless you thought it your duty to cut away the bad parts due to the heretics, while translating the errors of Origen himself unaltered into Latin. Tell me then, why you turned Origen’s heresies into Latin. Was it to expose the author of the evil, or to praise him? If your object is to expose him, why do you praise him in the Preface? If you praise him you are convicted of being a heretic. The only remaining hypothesis is that you published these things as being good. But if they are proved to be bad, then author and translator are involved in the same crime, and the Psalmist’s word is fulfilled:31143114 Ps. l. 18 “When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst unto him and hast been partaker with the adulterers.” It is needless to make a plain matter doubtful by arguing about it. As to what follows, let him answer whence this suspicion arose in his mind of these additions by heretics. “It was,” he says, “because I found the same things treated by this author in other places in a catholic sense.”
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