Collection of Letters: Detail
A few days ago you said you read some commentaries on Matthew and Luke, in which one was dull in sense and words, another played in words but slept in meanings. So you asked me, scorning such trifles, to translate at least 39 homilies of our Adamantus [Origen] from Greek — a troublesome thing and like a stomach pain, as Tully [Cicero] says, to write what is not one's own. Which however I shall do now, since you do not ask for anything more exalted. Indeed what holy Blesilla pressed me for some time ago at Rome, that I would transmit 26 of his volumes on Matthew and 5 on Luke and 32 on John in our language, you see that I have not the strength or leisure or labor for. Behold how much power your authority and will have over me!
I have put aside for a short while the books of Hebrew Questions, in order to dictate not my own but another's things, whatever they are, a profitable work in your judgment, especially since I hear croaking on my left the divining crow, laughing in an amazing way at the colors of other birds when he is completely dark. So I confess, before he might object, that Origen plays in these treatises like a boy. His mature works and the serious works of his old age are something else. Which if it were pleasing, if I could, if the Lord gave me leave and I finished the previous work I have put aside, I would turn into Latin. Then you could see, or rather through you the Roman language would know, how much good [matter] it did not know and now began to know. I have determined to send you also in a few days the commentaries of that most eloquent man Hilary and the holy martyr Victorinus which they produced on Matthew in different words but with one grace of the Spirit, so you will not be unaware of how much study/zeal of holy scriptures there has been among our people.
Ante paucos dies quorundam in Matthaeum et Lucam commentarios vos legisse dixistis, e quibus alter et sensibus hebes esset et verbis, alter in verbis luderet, in sententiis dormitaret. Quamobrem petistis, ut contemptis istiusmodi nugis saltem triginta et novem Adamantii nostri in Lucam omelias, sicut in graeco habentur, interpreter -- molestam rem et tormento similem alieno, ut ait Tullius, stomacho et non suo scribere; quam tamen idcirco nunc faciam, quia sublimiora non poscitis. Siquidem illud quod olim Romae sancta Blaesilla efflagitaverat, ut viginti sex tomos illius in Matthaeum et quinque alios in Lucam et triginta duos in Iohannem nostrae linguae traderem, nec virium mearum nec otii nec laboris esse perspicitis. En quantum apud me et auctoritas vestra et voluntas valet! Praetermisi paululum Hebraicarum Quaestionum libros, ut ad arbitrium vestrum lucrativi operis haec, qualiacunque sunt, non mea, sed aliena dictarem, praesertim cum a sinistro oscinem corvum audiam crocitantem, et mirum in modum de cunctarum avium ridere coloribus, cum totus ipse tenebrosus sit. Fateor itaque, antequam ille obiciat, in his Origenem tractatibus quasi puerum talis ludere. Alia sunt virilia eius et senectutis seria; quae si libuerit, si potuero, si Dominus, ut in latinum sermonem vertam, dederit commeatum et praetermissum prius opus explevero, tunc videre poteritis, immo per vos Romana lingua cognoscet, quantum boni et ante nescierit et scire nunc coeperit. Praeterea commentarios viri eloquentissimi Hilarii et beati martyris Victorini, quos in Matthaeo diverso sermone, sed una gratia Spiritus ediderunt, post paucos dies ad vos mittere disposui, ne ignoretis, quantum in nostris quoque hominibus sanctarum scripturarum quondam studium fuerit.
Jerome sends his translations of Origen's Homilies on Luke to Paula and Eustochium who had asked him for them, complaining about the inadequacy of the available commentary, which Rufinus points out was by Ambrose, see J.N.D. Kelly, Jerome, His Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 144. Kelly suggests that Jerome really wrote this "to give vent to his spite against Ambrose," 153.
Origenes Werke, Die Homelien zu Lukas in der Ubersetzung des Hieronymus und Die Griechischen Reste der Homilien und des Lukas-Kommentars, ed. Max Rauer (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1959)