Preface to Translation of Origen on St. Luke.
Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, a.d. 388.
A few days ago you told me that you had read some commentaries on Matthew and Luke, of which one was equally dull in perception and expression, the other frivolous in expression, sleepy in sense. Accordingly you requested me to translate, without regarding such rubbish, our Adamantius thirty-nine “homilies” on Luke, just as they are found in the original Greek; I replied that it was an irksome task and a mental torment to write, as Cicero phrases it, with another mans heart 5418 not ones own; but yet I will undertake it, as your requests reach no higher than this. The demand which the sainted Blesilla once made, at Rome, that I should translate into our language his twenty-five volumes on Matthew, five on Luke, and thirty-two on John is beyond my powers, my leisure, and my energy. You see what weight your influence and wishes have with me. I have laid aside for a time my books on Hebrew Questions because you think my labour will not be in vain, and turn to the translation of these commentaries, which, good or bad, are his work and not mine. I do this all the more readily because I hear on the left of me the raven—that ominous bird—croaking and mocking in all extraordinary way at the colours of all the other birds, though he himself is nothing if not a bird of gloom. And so, before he change his note, I confess that in these treatises Origen is like a boy amusing himself with the dice-box; there is a wide difference between his mature efforts and the serious studies of his old age. If my proposal meet with your approbation, if I am still able to undertake the task, and if the Lord grant me opportunity to translate them into Latin after completing the work I have now deferred, you will then be able to see—aye, and all who speak Latin will learn through you—how much good they knew not, and how much they have now begun to know. Besides this, I have arranged to send you shortly the Commentaries of Hilary, that master of eloquence, and of the blessed martyr Victorinus, on the Gospel of Matthew. Their style is different, but the grace of the Spirit which wrought in them is one. These will give you some idea of the study which our Latins also have, in former days, bestowed upon the Holy Scriptures.