17. But let us consider what are the arguments by which he tries to prove that Origens writings have been corrupted by the heretics.
“Clement,” he says, “who was the disciple of the Apostles, and who succeeded the apostles both in the episcopate and in martyrdom, wrote the books which go by the name of Anagnorismus, that is, Recognitions. In these, though, speaking generally, the doctrine which is set forth in the name of the Apostle Peter is genuinely apostolical, yet in certain passages the doctrine of Eunomius is brought in such a way as that you would suppose Eunomius himself to be conducting the argument and asserting his view that the Son was created out of nothing.”
And, after a passage too long to reproduce, he adds:
“What then are we to think of these facts? Must we believe that an Apostolic man wrote heresy? or is it not more likely that men of perverse mind, wishing to gain support for their own doctrines, and win easier credit for them, introduced under the names of holy men views which they cannot be believed either to have held or to have written down?”
He tells us that Clement the presbyter of Alexandria also, who was a catholic man, writes at times in his works that the Son of God is created; and that Dionysius Bishop of Alexandria, a most learned man, in the four books in which he controverted the doctrines of Sabellius, lapses into the dogma of Arius. What he aims at by quoting these instances is not to shew that Churchmen and catholics have erred, but that their writings have been corrupted by heretics, and he closes the discussion with these words:
“And when we find in Origen a certain diversity of doctrine, just as we have found it in those of whom we have spoken above, will it not be sufficient for us to believe the same in his case which we believe or understand in the case of the catholic men whom we have passed in review? Will not the same defence hold good when the case is the same?”
If, I reply, we admit that everything in a book which is offensive is corruptly inserted by others, nothing will remain belonging to the author under whose name the book passes, but everything can be assigned to those by whom it is supposed to have been corrupted. But then it will not belong to them either, since we do not know who they were: and the result will be that every book belongs to everybody and nothing to any one in particular. In this confusion which this method of defence introduces, it will be impossible to convict Marcion of error, or Manichæus or Arius or Eunomius; because, as soon as we point out a statement of their unbelief, their disciples will answer that was not what the master wrote, but was corruptly inserted by his opponents. According to this principle, this very book of yours will not be yours nor mine. And as to this very book in which I am making reply to your accusations, whatever you find fault with in it will be held not be written by me but by you who now find fault with it. And further, while you assign everything to the heretics, there p. 511 will be nothing left which you can assign to churchmen as their own.
But you may ask, How is it then that in their books some false views occur? Well, if I answer that I do not know the parties whence these false views came, I must not be thought to have said that they are heretics. It is possible that they may have fallen into error unawares, or that the words bore a different meaning, or that they may have been gradually corrupted by unskilful copyists. It must be admitted that, before Arius arose in Alexandria as a demon of the south, things were said incautiously which cannot be defended against a malevolent criticism. But when glaring faults are exposed in Origen, you do not defend him but accuse others; you do not deny the faults, but summon up a host of criminals. If you were asked to name those who have been the companions of Origen in his heresies, it would be right enough to call in these others. But what you are now asked to tell us is whether those statements in the books of Origen are good or evil; and you say nothing, but bring in irrelevant matters, such as: This is what Clement says; this is an error of which Dionysius is found guilty; these are the words in which the bishop Athanasius defends the error of Dionysius; in a similar way the writings of the Apostle have been tampered with: and then, while the charge of heresy is fastened upon you, you say nothing in your own defence, but make confessions about me. I make no accusations, and am content with answering for myself. I am not what you try to prove me: whether you are what you are accused of being, is for you to consider. The fact that I am acquitted of blame does not prove me innocent nor the fact that you are accused prove you a criminal.