Letter LXII. To Tranquillinus.
Tranquillinus, one of Jeromes Roman friends, had written (1) to tell him of the stand that Oceanus was making against the Origenists at Rome, and (2) to ask whether any parts of Origens works might be studied with safety and profit. Jerome welcomes the tidings about Oceanus and answers the question of Tranquillinus in the affirmative. He classes Origen with Tertullian, Apollinaris and others whose works continued to be read in spite of their heresies. Written in 396 or 397 a.d.
1. Though I formerly doubted the fact, I have now proved that the links which bind spirit to spirit are stronger than any physical bond. For you, my reverend friend, cling to me with all your soul, and I am united to you by the love of Christ. I speak simply and sincerely to your spotless heart: the very paper on which you write, the very letters which you have formed—voiceless though they are—inspire in me a sense of your affection.
2. You tell me that many have been deceived by the mistaken teaching of Origen, and that that saintly man, my son Oceanus, is doing battle with their madness. I grieve to think that simple folk have been thrown off their balance, but I am rejoiced to know that one so learned as Oceanus is doing his best to set them right again. Moreover you ask me, insignificant though I am, for an opinion as to the advisability of reading Origens works. Are we, you say, to reject him altogether with our brother Faustinus, or are we, as others tell us, to read him in part? My opinion is that we should sometimes read him for his learning just as we read Tertullian, Novatus, Arnobius, Apollinarius and some other church writers both Greek and Latin, and that we should select what is good and avoid what is bad in their writings according to the words of the Apostle, “Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.” 1910 Those, however, who are led by some perversity in their dispositions to conceive for him too much fondness or too much aversion seem to me to lie under the p. 134 curse of the Prophet:—“Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” 1911 For while the ability of his teaching must not lead us to embrace his wrong opinions, the wrongness of his opinions should not cause us altogether to reject the useful commentaries which he has published on the holy scriptures. But if his admirers and his detractors are bent on having a tug of war one against the other, and if, seeking no mean and observing no moderation, they must either approve or disapprove his works indiscriminately, I would choose rather to be a pious boor than a learned blasphemer. Our reverend brother, Tatian the deacon, heartily salutes you.
1 Th. v. 21.134:1911
Is. v. 20.