35. What wonder is there then that he should tear me to pieces, being as I am of no account; or that he should wound Ambrose, or find fault with Hilary, Lactantius and Didymus? I must not greatly grieve over any injury of my own in the fact that he has attempted to do my work of translating over again, when he is only treating me with the same contempt with which he has treated the Seventy translators. But this emendation of the Seventy, what are we to think of it? Is it not evident, how greatly the grounds for the heathens unbelief have been increased by this proceeding? For they take notice of what is going on amongst us. They know that our law has been amended, or at least changed; and do you suppose they do not say among themselves, “These people are wandering at random, they have no fixed truth among them, for you see how they make amendments and corrections in their laws whenever they please,” and indeed it is evident that there must have been previous error where amendment has supervened, and that things which undergo change at the hand of man cannot possibly be divine. This has been the present which you have made us with your excess of wisdom, that we are all judged even by the heathen as lacking in wisdom. I reject the wisdom which Peter and Paul did not teach. I will have nothing to do with a truth which the Apostles have not approved. These are your own words: 2988 “The ears of simple men among the Latins ought not after four hundred years to be molested by the sound of new doctrines.” Now you are yourself saying: “Every one has been under a mistake who thought that Susanna had afforded an example of chastity to both the married and the unmarried. It is not true. And every one who thought that the boy Daniel was filled with the Holy Spirit and convicted the adulterous old men, was under a mistake. That also was not true. And every congregation throughout the universe, whether of those who are in the body or of those who have departed to be with the Lord, even though they were holy martyrs or confessors, all who have sung the Hymn of the three children have been in error, and have sung what is false. Now therefore after four hundred years the truth of the law comes forth for us, it has been bought with money from the Synagogue. When the world has grown old and all things are hastening to their end, let us change the inscriptions upon the tombs of the ancients, so that it may be known by those who had read the story otherwise, that it was not a gourd 2989 but an ivy plant under whose shade Jonah rested; and that, when our legislator pleases, it will no longer be the shade of ivy but of some other plant.
Jer. Letter lxxxiv. c. 8.476:2989
This change of the gourd for the ivy forms the groundwork of a curious story told by Augustine, to which no doubt Rufinus here alludes. See Ep. civ, 5 of the collection of Jeromes letters. Augustin Letter lxxi.