Rufinus’ Preface to the Translation of Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.
Addressed to Heraclius at Aquileia about a.d. 407.
My intention was to press the shore of the quiet land in the little bark in which I was sailing, and to draw out a few little fishes from the pools of Greece: but you have compelled me, brother Heraclius, to give my sails to the wind and go forth into the deep sea; you persuade me to leave the work which lay before me in the translation of the homilies written by the Man of Adamant1 Or man of steel: (it might also be translated, The indomitable); a name given to Origen, an account of the greatness of his labours. It is said by Westcott (Dict. of Xtn. Biog. “Origen”) to have been adopted by Origen himself, and to form part of his real name. in his old age, and to open to you the fifteen volumes in which he discussed the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. In these books, while he aims at representing the Apostle’s thoughts, he is carried away into a sea of such depth that one who follows him into it may well be afraid of being drowned in the greatness of his thoughts as in the vastness of the waves. Then also you do not consider this, that my breath is but scanty for filling a grand trumpet of eloquence like his. And beyond all these difficulties is this, that the books themselves have been interpolated. In almost all the libraries (I grant that no one can tell how it happened) some of the volumes are absent from the body of the work; and to supply these, and to restore the continuity of the work in the Latin version is beyond my talent, but would be, as you must know when you make your demand, a special gift of God. You add, however, so that nothing may be wanting to the labour I am undertaking, that I had better abbreviate this whole body of fifteen volumes, which in the Greek reaches to the length of forty thousand lines or more, and bring it within moderate compass. Your injunctions are hard indeed, and might be thought to be imposed by one who did not care to consider what the burden of such a work must be. I will, however, attempt it, hoping that through your prayers, and the favour of the Lord, what seems impossible to man may become possible. But we will now, if you please, listen to the Preface which Origen himself prefixes to the work on which he was entering.