Heere bigynniþ þe epyſtle of ſaynt Jerom preeſt of alle þe bokes of Goddis ſtorye.
Broþer Ambroſe, to me þi litel ȝiftis perfitli berynge, haþ brouȝt wiþ and riȝt ſwete lettres, þe whiche han ſhewid ſoþfaſtnes of now proued feiþ, fro þe bigynnyng of frenſhipes, and newe þingis of olde frenſhip. Verrei forſoþe þat frenſhip is, and þurȝ þe glew of Criſt cowplid, þe which not profit of famylier þing, not preſens oonli of bodies, not graſping and trecherous flateryng, but þe drede of God and þe ſtudies of Goddis ſcripturys ioynen. We han redde in olde ſtories, ſum men to han vyrounde prouynces, to han gon to new puplis, to han paſſid þe ſee, þat hem whom þei han knowun of bokis, myȝten ſeen verreli preſent. So Pictagorax to þe filoſofers of Memphus, ſo Plato to Egipte, and to Archite Tarentyne, and þilk brynk of Itali, þe which ſum tyme was ſeid Grete Grece, ful traueilouſli ȝede; þat he þat in Aþenys was a maiſter and myȝti, and whos doctrine þe ſtodies of Achademy perfitli ſowneden, wolde be maad a pilgrym and a diſciple, more wilnyng oþer mennus þingis ſhamfaſtli to lernen, þan his owne vnſhamfaſtli to prece forþ. Aftirward whil he purſueþ fleynge lettres as in al þe world, takun of ſee þeues and ſold, alſo to a ful cruel tiraunt pered, led cheytif, boundun, and þral. Neuerþelater for he was a filoſofre, he was more þan his bier. To Tite Lyuy, wellynge wiþ þe mylk welle of faire ſpeche, we han red, ſumme noble men to han comen fro þe vtmoſt coſtis of Spayne and of Fraunſe; and whom Rome drow not to his ſiȝt, o mannus fame fulli ledde. Þat age hadde a myracle vnherd, and to alle worldis to ben ofte worſhipid, þat þei, gon in ſo greet a cite, oþer þing wold ſechen wiþ oute þe cite. Apolony, or þat deuynour, or as þe comunte ſpekiþ, a filoſofer, as Pictagorax diſciplis tellen, ȝede into Perſes, paſſid Kaukaſoun, Albanus, Scitus, and Maſſegetos, ȝede þurȝ þe moſt plenteuows kyngdomes of Inde; and at þe end, þe brodeſt flode of Phiſon paſſid, come to Bragmanon, þat Hiearch ſittynge in þe golden trone, and drynkynge of þe welle of Tantali, among fewe diſciplis techynge of kynde, of maners, of courſe of daies and of ſterres, he myȝt heren; fro þens bi Elamytas, Babiloyns, Caldeos, Medos, Aſſyrios, Parþos, Syros, Phenices, Arabes, Paleſtyns, turned aȝen to Aliſawndre, ȝede to Eþiop, þat he myȝt ſe þe maiſtres of þe ſtudies, and þe moſt famows borde of þe ſonne in grauel. Þat man fonde ouer al þat he miȝte lerne, and þat euermore profitynge, euermore he myȝt be maad better þan hym ſilf. Vpon þis Philoſtratus wrote moſt fullich in eiȝt volumes.
What ſhal I ſpeke of men of þe world? ſiþ þe apoſtle Poul, þe veſſel of eleccoun and þe maiſter of Gentilis, þe which of conſcience of ſo greet a geſt in hym ſilf ſpak ſeiynge, "wheþer ſechen ȝe experyment of hym þat ſpekiþ in me Criſt," after Damaſk and Arabe enuyround, ȝede vp to Jeruſalem, þat he myȝt ſe Peter, and dwelte wiþ hym fiftene daies; bi þis forſoþe myſterie of ſeuene and eiȝt þe prechour of Gentilis to comyng was to be enformyd; and eftſones aftir fourtene ȝeer, takun to hym Barnaba and Tyto, expownede wiþ þe apoſtlis þe euangeli, leſt perauenture in veyn he ſhulde renne, or hadde ronnen. Þe dede of þe quyk vois haþ I not what of hidde inward worchyng, and into þe eris of þe diſciple fro þe mouþ of þe autour þe vois ouerȝotun ſtrengerli ſowneþ. Wherfor and Eſchyneus, whan he was exylid into Rodi, and was redde þilk oriſoun of Demoſtens, þat aȝens hym he hadde, wondrynge alle men and preiſynge, ſiȝynge ſeiþ, "what if þilk beeſt ȝe hadden herd tellinge his owne wordis!"
Ne þis Y ſeye, þat þere be eny þing in me ſiche, þat oþer þou myȝtiſt of me here, or woldiſt lerne; but wheþer wiþ þi feruour and ſtudie of lernyng, alſo wiþ outen vs, ſhulde be proued bi hem ſilf; a wit able to be tauȝt and wiþ outen techer is preiſable. Not what þou fyndiſt, but what þou ſechiſt, we taken heed. Neſhe wax and liȝt to formen, ȝhe, if þe hondis of þe crafti man and of þe fourmer ceſen, neuerþeles wiþ ynne þoruȝ vertu is al what euere may be. Poul þe apoſtle at þe feet of Gamaliel glorieþ hym ſilf to haue lernyd þe lawe of Moyſes and þe prophetis, þat he, armed wiþ ſpirytual daartis, aftyrward myȝte ſeie triſtily, "forſoþe þe armes of our kniȝþode ben not fleiſhli, but myȝti þoruȝ God to þe diſtruccoun of holdis, þat we be deſtruyinge þouȝtis, and al heiȝnes reiſynge it ſilf aȝens þe kunnyng of God, and chatyuynge al vndirſtondyng for to obeiſhe to Criſt, and redi to vndirȝoken al inobeiſhaunce." To Tymoþe tauȝt in holi lettres fro childhode he wryteþ, and enorteþ þe ſtudie of leſſoun, leſt he leue of þe grace, þe which is ȝouun to hym bi impoſicoun of þe preſtis hond. To Tite he comaundide, among oþer vertues of a biſhop, whom in ſhort ſermoun he depeyntid, þat kunnyng alſo he leue not of ſcripturis, "holdynge," he ſeiþ, "þat ſermoun, þe which is aftir doctrine trewe ſermoun, þat he be myȝti to myche ſtyre in holſum doctryne, and þe wiþſeieris to wiþſtonde."
Holi forſoþe cherlhed to hym ſilf alone profiteþ; and as myche as he edifieþ of deſert of lijf þe chirche of Criſt, ſo myche he noieþ if to þe deſtruyers he wiþſtonde not. Malachie þe prophete, ȝhe, bi Malachye þe Lord, aſkiþ preſtis þe lawe; in ſo myche þe offis of þe preſte is, aſkid, to anſweren of þe lawe. And in Deutronomy we reden, "aſke þi fadre, and he ſhal telle þee; þi preſtis, and þei ſhal ſeie to þee." In þe pſalm forſoþe þe hundryd and eiȝtetene, "þi iuſtifiyngis were to me chauntable in þe place of my pilgrimage." And in þe diſcripcioun of þe riȝtwiſman, whan Dauid comparyſownede hym to a tree of lijf þat is in paradiſe, among oþer vertues þis he brouȝt forþ, "in þe lawe of þe Lord þe wil of hym, and in his lawe he ſhal þenk dai and nyȝt." Daniel in þe ende of þe moſt holi viſioun ſeiþ riȝtwiſe men to ſhyne as ſterrys, and vndirſtonders, þat is, tauȝt men, as þe fermament. Þou ſeeſt how myche þei ben atwyn, riȝtwiſe chirlehede and tauȝt ryȝtwiſneſſe. Oþer men to ſterres, oþer men to heuene ben compariſoned; al be it þat, aftir þe trewþe of Ebrew tung, eiþer may be vndurſtondun of lerned men. Þus we reden anentis hem, "þilk forſoþe þat weren tauȝt ſhulen ſhyne as þe ſhynyng of þe firmament, and þoo þat techen many men to rightwiſnes as ſterres into perpetuel eternytees." Whi is Poul ſeid þe veſſel of eleccoun? forſoþe for þe veſſel of þe lawe, and of holi ſcripture he was þe almery. Þe Faryſeus ben ſtonyed in þe doctryne of þe Lord, and wondren in Petre and Joon, how þei kunnen þe lawe, ſiþ lettres þei lerneden not. What euer forſoþe to oþer men excerſice and ech dai þenkynge in þe lawe was wont to ȝyuen, þat to hem þe Holi Goſt tolde, and after þat it is writin, "þei weren Goddis tauȝt men," þat is, able men to liȝtli be tauȝt of God. Twelue ȝeer þe Saueour hadde fulfillid, and in þe temple ſittynge, aſkynge of queſtiouns of þe lawe more techeþ, whil he prudentli demaundeþ. But perauenture we ſeyn chirl Petre, and cherl Joon, of whom eiþer myȝt ſeyn, "and if I be vnwiſe in word, neuerþelater not in kunnyng." Chirl Jon fiſſher is vntauȝt; and whens þat vois, Y prey, "In þe firſt was þe word, and þe word was anentys God, and God was þe word?" Logos in Grece many þingis ſignifieþ, for whi and word it is, and reſoun, and noumbre, and cheſoun of eech þing, bi þe which alle þingis ben þat ben; þe whiche echoon we vndurſtonden riȝtli in Criſt.
Thes þingis tauȝte Plato knewe not; þes þingis Demoſteynes þe fayre ſpeker wiſte not; "I ſhal leſe," he ſeiþ, "þe wiſdom of wiſe men, and þe prudence of prudent men Y ſhal reprouen." Verreye wiſdom ſhal ſpil þe fals wiſdom, and al be it þat þe foli of prechyng be in þe cros, neuerþelater Poul ſpekiþ wiſdom among perfit men; wiſdom forſoþe not of þis world, þe which is deſtruyed, ne of princes of þis world; but he ſpekiþ wiſdom of God in myſterie hid, þat God bifore ordeynede bifore worldis. Þe wiſdom of God Criſt is; "Criſt forſoþe is þe vertu of God and þe wiſdom of God." Þis wiſdom is in myſterie hid, and of þe which þe title of þe nynþe ſalm is bifore notid, "for þe hid þingis of þe ſone," in þe whiche ben alle þe treſoures of wiſdom and of þe kunnyng of God hid; and he þat was in myſterie hid, is bifore ordeyned bifore þe worldis; bifore ordeyned forſoþe and bifore figuryd in lawe and prophetis. Wherfore and prophetis weren clepid ſeers, for þei ſeien hym, whom oþer men ſeien not. "Abraham ſawȝ þe day of hym, and he was glad." Heuenes weren openyd to Ezechiel, þe which weren cloſid to þe ſynful puple. "Opene," ſeiþ Dauid, "myn eiȝen, and I ſhal biholde þe merueilis of þi lawe." Þe lawe forſoþe is ſpiritual, and nede it is openynge, þat it be vndirſtondun, and wiþ opyn face we biholden þe glorie of God. Þe book in þe Apocalipis is ſhewid ſeelid wiþ ſeuene ſeelis, which if þou ȝyue to a man kunnynge letteres þat he rede, he ſhal anſwere þee, I may not, it is forſoþe ſeelid. How feel to dai wenen hem to han knowun letteres, holden þe ſeelid book, and mown not openen, but if he vnlowke, þat haþ þe keye of Dauyd, "þe which openeþ and no man cloſiþ, cloſiþ and no man openeþ." In þe Dedis of þe Apoſtlis þe holi geldyng, ȝhe, þe holi man, ſo forſoþ hym nemneþ holi writ, whan he ſhulde rede Iſaye þe prophete, is aſkid of Philip, "weneſt þou, wheþer þou vndirſtondiſt þingis þat þou redeſt?" and he anſweride, "how may I, but ony man had tauȝte me." I þat among ſpeke of my ſilf, am not holier þan þis geldyng, ne more ſtudious, þe which from Eþiope, þat is, fro þe vttermoſt cooſtis of þe world, come to þe temple, forſoke þe kyngis halle, and was ſo greet a louer of Goddis kunnyng and lawe, þat in a chare wold reden holy lettres; and ȝit whan he ſhulde hold þe boke, and þe wordis of þe Lord ſhulde conſeyue in his þenkyng, wiþ tunge ſhulde turne, wiþ lippis ſhulde ſpeke, vnknewe hym whom in þe book unwitynge he worſhipide. Philip com and ſhewide hym Jheſu, þe which cloſed ſatte pryue in þe lettere. O meruelous vertu of þe doctour! þe ſame our bileuede þe geldyng, is baptiſid, feiþful and holi, and a maiſter is maad of a diſciple; more fonde in þe deſert welle of þe chirche, þan in þe goldun temple of þe ſynagoge. Þes þingis of me ſhortli ben fulli writun.
Forſoþe þe epiſtles ſtreytnes ſuffryd not lenger þis to ben outſtrayed, þat þow myȝteſt vnderſtonde þee not mown entre in holi ſcriptures wiþ outen a forgoer and ſhewynge þe ſtye. I holde my pees of gramariens and retorikis, filoferis, geometrers, logiſſians, muſiſſians, aſtronomers, aſtrologerys, fiſiſſians, whos ſciens is ynewȝ, or ful profitable, to deedli men, and in þre partis it is diuidid, in doctrine, reſoun, and vſe. I ſhal com to þe leſſe craftys, and which not oonly wiþ tung, but wiþ honde ben mynyſtrid; erþe tilyers, maſouns, ſmyþes of metallis, and hewers of trees, alſo wulle graiþers and fullers, and oþer þat forgen dyuerſe purtynauncis to howſis, and fowle litle werkis, mowe not be, wiþ outen a techer, þat þat þei coueyten. Lechis bihoten þat þat is of lechis, forgers treten forgeable þingis; þe craft oneli of ſcripturys is þe which alle chalengen to hem paſemel. "We writen paſemel poyet ſawes, of tauȝt and of untauȝt." Þis craft of ſcripturys þe olde chaterynge damme, þis þe dotid olde man, þis þe ſofiſtre ful of wordis, þis alle preſumen, to-teren, techen or þei lernen. Oþer, wiþ þe brow born down, weiynge greet wordis, among ȝong wymmen philoſofien of holi lettres. Oþer lernen of wymmen þat is ſhame þat þat þei techen men; and wheþer þis be litle, wiþ a maner liȝtnes of wordis, ȝee and hardynes, ſhewen out to oþer, þat þei vndurſtonden not. I holde my pees of lijk to me, þe which þouȝ perauenture comen after ſeculer lettris to holi ſcripturis, and wiþ a feir ſermoun deliten þe eeris of þe puple, what euere þei ſeiyn, þei wenen it be þe lawe of God, ne þei dedeynen to know what þe prophetis, what þe apoſtlis feleden; but to her owne cenſe ſhapen vncouenable witneſſe, as þouȝ it were greet, and not vicyous maner of ſeiyng, to depraue ſentenſis, and to drawe at þer wil holi writ repugnynge. As þouȝ we had not red þe bokys drawun out of Omere, and of Virgile, and not ſo alſo and Maronem we mowe ſeyn criſten wiþ outen Criſt, for he wroot, "Now turneþ aȝen and þe mayden, turnun aȝen Saturnus rewmes, nowe þe newe kynrede is ſent down fro þe heiȝe heuene," and þe fadre ſpekinge to þe ſone, "ſone, my ſtrengþes, my greet power aloon;" and after, þe wordis of þe Sauyour in þe cros, "ſiche þingis he ȝaue hauynge mynde, and ficchid he dwelt." Childiſhe ben þes þingis, and like to þe pley of childeren pleiynge in þe ſercle, to teche þat þou knowiſt not; ȝhe, and þat I ſpeke wiþ indignacoun, foli is þat not forſoþe to knowe þat þou knowiſt not.
It is leueful to ſe, þat þe ſtorie of Geneſis be ful knowin, in þe which of þe creature of þe world, of þe bigynnyng of mankynde, of þe deuyſioun of þe erþe, of þe confuſioun of tungis and of folkis, and of deſcendyng of þe folk of Ebrew vnto Egipt, and vnto þe goyng out is writun. Exodus is open wiþ þe ten plagis, wiþ þe ten heſtis, wiþ myſtik, and wiþ Goddis preceptis. Preſt is þe book of Leuy, in þe which alle ſacrifyces, ȝhe, and almoſt alle ſilablis, and þe cloþis of Aron, and þe hole ordre of Leuy, enſpiren heuenli ſacramentis. Numeri forſoþe, wheþer þei conteynen not þe myſteries of al þe hole craft of noumbrarie, and of prophecie of Balaam, and of þe two and fourti manſiouns þurȝ wildernes? Deutronomy forſoþe þe ſecounde lawe, and þe prefiguracoun of þe lawe of þe euangelie, haþ he not ſo þilk þingis, þat ben raþer, þat neuerþeles alle þingis ben newe of þe olde? Hider to Moyſes, hider to Pentateuchon, þat is, þe fyue bokis, wiþ þe which fyue wordis þe apoſtle glorieþ hym ſilf wilne to ſpeke in þe chirche. Job, þe ſawmpler of pacience, þe which wheþir not myſteries wiþ his word knytteþ? In proos he bigynneþ, in verſe he goþ forþe, in word a fote, þat is, in meke word, he is endid; and he determyneþ alle þe lawes of dialatik, in propoſicoun, aſſumpcoun, confirmacioun, concluſioun. Ech wordis in it ben ful of wittis; and, þat I holde my pees of oþer, þe reſurreccoun of bodies ſo profecieþ, þat no man of þat, oþere more open, or more ſlyly, myȝt wryte. "I wote," he ſeiþ, "þat my forbier lyueþ, and in þe laſt dai Y am to aryſe fro þe erþe; and eftſones I ſhal be enuyround wiþ my fel, and in my flehs Y ſhal ſe God, my Saueour, whom Y my ſilf am to ſe, and myn eiȝen ben to biholden, and noon oþere. Þis is myn hope put vp into my boſum." Y ſhal com to Jheſu of Naue, þe which beriþ þe figure of þe Lord, not oonli in geſtis, but alſo in name. He paſſiþ Jordan, þe rewmes of enemyes turneþ vpſedoun, he deuydeþ þe erþe to þe puple ouercomer, and bi alle cytees, villagis, hillis, and flodis, rennynge watres, and þe nyȝ cooſtis he diſcriuede of þe chirche, and of þe heuenli Jeruſalem þe ſpiritual rewmes. In þe book of Juges how feel princes of þe puple, ſo feel figurys þere ben. Ruþ Moabites fulfilliþ þe prophecie of Yſaie ſeiynge, "Lord, ſende out þe lomb, þe lordſhiper of erþe, fro þe ſtoon of deſert to þe mownt of þe dowȝter of Syon." Samuel ſhewiþ þe old lawe don awey in Heli deed, and in þe ſlaȝter of Saul. Forſoþe in Sadok and Dauid ben witneſſid þe ſacramentis of þe new preſþod, and of new empyre. Malachym, þat is, þe þrid and þe ferþe book of Kynges, diſcryueþ þe rewme of Juda, and þe rewme of Iſrael, fro Salomon to Jecony, and fro Jeroboam, ſone of Nabaþ, vnto Oſee, þe which was led into Aſyries. If þow biholdiſt þe ſtorye, þe wordis ben ſymple; if in þe lettres þow biholdiſt þe preuey witt, þe fewneſſe of þe chirche, and þe batails of eretikis aȝens þe chirche, ben told. Þe twelue prophetis, togidre artid into þe narewnes of o volym, myche oþere þan ſowneþ in þe lettre bifore figuren. Oſee often nemneþ Effraym, Samary, Joſeph, Jezrael, and þe fornycary wijf, and þe ſonis of fornycacoun, and þe auowtres cloſid in þe bed of þe huſbond to ſetten myche tyme wydow, and vndir þe mornyng cloþ of þe huſbond to abide þe comyng aȝen to hir. Joel, þe ſone of Phatuel, diſcryueþ þe lond of þe twelue lynagis waſtid þurȝ þe wort worm, bruk, locuſte, þurȝ ruſt waſtynge; and after þe outturnyng of þe raþer puple, þe Holi Goſt ſhed out vpon þe ſeruauntis of God and hond maydenes, þat is, vpon an hundrid and twenty names of bileuers, and þe ſunne ſhynynge like a reynbow held oute in þe comune etyng place of Syon, þe whiche hundrid and twenti, fro oon vnto fyftene, arawe and bi encrees aryſynge, maken oute þe noumbre of þe fyftene grees, þe whiche in þe Sawter ben myſtili conteyned. Amos, ſhepherd and cherl, and wel knowynge þe beries of buſſhis, may not be openyd in fewe wordes. Who forſoþe worþili may ſhew out þe þre and foure wickidneſſis of Damaſk, of Gaze, of Tyry, of Ydume, of þe ſones of Amon, and of Moab, and, in þe ſeuenþ and eiȝte degre, of Juda and of Iſrael? Þis ſpekiþ to þe fatt kien, þat ben in þe mownt of Samarie, and witneſſiþ þe more hows and þe leſſe to fallen. He ſeeþ þe maker of þe locuſt, and þe Lord ſtondynge vpon þe dawbed wal and þe adamauntyn, and þe appel croke drawynge tourmentis to ſynful men, and hunger in þe erþe, not hunger of bred, ne þriſt of water, but of heryng of þe word of God. Abdias, þat is as myche to ſeie as þe ſeruaunt of þe Lord, ful þundreþ aȝens Edom, and þe blodi and erþli broþer; alſo þe euermore enemye of þe broþer Jacob, he ſmytiþ wiþ a gooſtli dart. Jonas, þe mooſt fayre culuer, in his ſhipbreche bifore figurynge þe paſſioun of þe Lord, clepiþ aȝen þe world to penaunce, and, vndir name of Nynyue, telliþ helþe to Gentils. Micheas of Moraſchym, þe wiþeire of Criſt, telliþ þe waſtyng of a dowȝter of a priue þef, and he ſettiþ biſegyng aȝens hire, for ſhe ſmote þe cheke bone of þe iuge of Iſrael. Naum, coumfortour of þe world, blameþ þe citee of blodis, and after his turnyng awey ſpekiþ, "Loo, vpon þe hillis þe fete of þe euangeliſynge and tellynge pees." Abacuc, a ſtrong wriſteler and a ſharp, ſtondiþ vpon his waard, and ficcheþ a weie of grees vpon þe ſtrengþe, þat Crijſt in cros he biholde, and ſeie, "Þe glorie of hym coueride heuenes, and of hys preiſyng ful is þe erþe; his ſhynyng ſhal be as liȝt, and hornes in his hondis, þere his ſtrengþe is hid." Sophonyas, þe wayter and þe knower of þe priuetees of þe Lord, heriþ a cry fro þe ȝaat of fiſſhes, and ȝellynge fro þe ſecound, and contricoun fro litle hillis; he telliþ alſo þe crie of weilynge to þe dwellers of Pile; for al þe puple of Chanaan helde his pees togidre, and echon ben diſparpulid, þat weren inlappid wiþ ſiluer. Aggeus, ſolempne and glad, þe whiche ſewe in teres þat he repe in ioy, edifieþ þe temple diſtruyed, and lediþ in God þe fadre ſpekinge, "Ȝit and a litle while and Y ſhal moue to gider heuene and erþe, þe ſee and þe drye, and I ſhal moue al folk, and þe deſyred ſhal com to al folk." Zachary, mynde of his Lord, manyfold in profeſie, Jheſus cloþid wiþ fowle cloþes, and þe ſtoon of ſeuene eiȝen, and þe goldun candilſtik wiþ as feel lanternes as eiȝen, and two olyues fro þe left ſyde of þe lawmpe he biholdiþ, and fro þe riȝt ſide; þat after þe reed horſis ſpecked whiþ, and ſcatered plowes of fowre horſis of Effraym, and þe hors of Jeruſalem, he prophecie þe pore kyng, and preche þe kyng ſittynge vpon þe colt, ſone of þe ſhe aſſe vſed to ȝok. Malachi, apertlich and in þe ende of alle prophetis, of þe caſtyng out of Iſrael and þe clepyng of Gentilis ſeiþ, "Wil is not to me in ȝow, ſeiþ þe Lord of ooſtis, and ȝift ſhal I not take of ȝoure honde; fro þe ſunne aryſyng vnto þe goyng down greet is my name in Gentilis, and a clene offryng is ſacrified, and offrid to my name in alle places." Yſaie, Jeremye, Ezechiel, and Danyel, who may oþer vndirſtond or expown? Of whom þe firſt is not ſeyn to me to weuen prophecie, but euangelie. Þe ſecounde knyttiþ þe note ȝerde, and þe pot a fier fro þe face of þe norþ, and þe leparde ſpuylide his colours, and þe foure fold abice in dyuerſe metres. Þe þrid haþ bigynnyngis and ende wiþ ſo feel derkneſſis enuolued, þat, as anentis þe Ebrewis, þilk partis wiþ þe bigynnyng of Geneſis ſhulde not be rad bifore þretti wynter. Þe ferþe forſoþe, þe which and þe laſte among þe foure prophetis, knower of tymes, a louer of ſtories of al þe world, feer bifore telliþ þe ſtoon before kit of þe hil wiþ outen hondis, and al rewmes ſubuertynge, wiþ a clere ſermoun. Dauid, oure Symphonydes, Pyndarie, and Alcheus, Flaccus, and Catullus, and Serenus, precheþ Criſt wiþ þe harp, and in þe ten cordid ſawtri arereþ vp þe ariſer fro helle. Salomon, þe peſible and þe ful loued of þe Lord, mendiþ maneres, techiþ kynde, ioyneþ Criſt and þe chirche, and þe ſwete bryde ſong ſingiþ of þe holi brydalis. Heſter, in figure of þe chirche, delyueriþ þe puple fro peril, and, Aman, þat is as myche to ſey as wyckidnes, ſlawn, ſhe ſendiþ partis of þe feeſt, and a ſolempne day into þe after geten. Perlipomynon, þat is, þe book of þe olde inſtrument, recapitulatour, word bregger, is ſuche and ſo myche, þat who ſo euere wiþ outen it wole prowdli take to hym kunnynge of ſcriptures, ſcorne he hym ſilf; forſoþe be alle names o rewe, and ioynters of wordis, outlaft ſtories in þe boke of Kyngis ben towched, and queſtiouns vnnoumbrable of þe euaungelye ben maad open. Eſdras and Neemy, helper, þat is to ſey, and coumfortour fro þe Lord, ben artyd in o volume, enſtoren þe temple, þe walles of þe citee maken out, and al þat congregacoun of þe puple aȝengoynge into her cuntre, and þe diſcripcoun of preſtis, of deknes, of Iſrael, and of men takun fro heþenes to þe ryte of Jewis, and þe deuydid werkis of walles and of toures bi ſinguler meynes, bryngen forþ oþer þyng in þe rynde, and in þe mergh oþer þing wiþholden. Seeſt þow me for þe loue of ſcripturys rauyſhid to haue paſſid þe maner of a piſtle, and ȝit not haue fillid þat I wolde? We han herd oonlich, what we mowe know, what coueyten, and forſoþe þat we mowe ſey, "my ſoule coueytide to deſire þi juſtyfyyngis in al tyme." Forþermore þat of Socrates is fulfyllid in vs, "þis oonli Y knowe þat Y knowe not." I ſhal towche and ſhortly þe newe teſtament. Maþew, Mark, Luke, and Joon, þe foure hors plowes of þe Lord, and þe verrey cherubyn, þat is to ſey, plente of kunnyng, þoruȝ out al þe bodi ben iȝed, ſparklis ſhynen out, liȝtes hidir and þidir rennen, han riȝt feet and ſtreychynge into heiȝe, rigges feþered, and holden hem to gidre ouer al fleynge, and to hem ſiluen ben þurȝ out pleitid, and as a wheel wiþ ynne a wheel ben turned, and gon whidre euer þe breeþ of þe Holi Gooſt hem perfitly lediþ. Poul þe apoſtle writiþ to ſeuene chirches; þe eiȝt forſoþe to Ebrewis of ſumme men out of þe noumbre is put. Tymoþe he enfourmeþ, and Tite; Philomon he preieþ for þe ſeruaunt fugitife, vpon þe whiche I wene beter to be ſtil, þan to few þingis write. Þe Actes of þe Apoſtlis forſoþe nakid ſtorye ſemen to ſownen, and to weuen þe childhood of þe waxynge chirche; and for we knowen þe wryter of hem Luke to ben a phiſiſian, whos preyſyng is in þe euangelie, we taken hede þere wiþ alle his wordis to ben medecyn of þe langwiſſynge ſoule. James, Petre, Joon, Jude, ſeuene epiſtlis maden as wel miſtik as redi, and ſhort togidre, and long; ſhort in wordis, long in ſentencis, þat he be ſeldom, þat not wexeþ blynd in þe redyng of hem. Þe Apocalips of Joon ſo fele haþ ſacramentis, how fele wordis. Litle Y haue ſeid, and for þe deſert of þe volym, al þe preyſyng is þe lower; in euery wordis manyfold vnderſtondyngis ſitten hid. I prey þee, dere broþer, among þeſe þingis to lyuen, þeſe þingis to þenken, noon oþre þingis to knowun, and no þing ellis to ſechen. Semeþ it not to þee now here in erþis a dwellyng place of heuenli kyngdom? I wole not, þat þou be offendid in holi ſcripturis þurȝ ſymplenes, and as þurȝ foulnes of wordis, þe whiche, or þurȝ þe vice of þe vndoers, or of verrey purpoſe, ben ſo ſpokun, þat þe liȝtloker þei myȝten enfourme a churliſhe cumpany; and þat in oon and þe ſame ſentence oþer wiſe þe tauȝt, oþre wiſe þe vntauȝt myȝten fele. I am not ſo luſtſum and dul, þat I ſhulde bihote þes þingis me to know, and þe fruytis of hem to gadere in þe erþe, whos rotis ben ficchid in heuene; but I knowelech to wiln, but I profeſſe me to enforſe, I profer me to þe ſitter; forſakynge mayſter Y bihote a leder, "to þe aſker me ȝyueþ, to þe knocker me openeþ, þe ſeker fyndiþ;" lerne we in erþis whos nyng to vs dwelliþ in heuene. I ſhal take þee wiþ met hondis aȝens oþre, and þat I heelde out ſum what vncouenably þat be of þe bolnyng of Ermagore, what euer þou ſhulde ſeek wiþ þee, I ſhal enforſe to kunne.
Thou haſt here þe mooſt louyd broþer of þee Euſebi, þe which dowblid to me þe grace of þi lettres, tellynge þe honeſtee of þi maners, þe diſpiſyng of þe world, þe feiþ of frenſhip, þe loue of Criſt; for prudence and fayrnes of ſpeche alſo wiþ outen hym þilke epiſtle tolde bifore. Hye, Y preye þee, and þe corde of þe boot dwellynge in þe ſee raþer kut of, þan vnbynd; no man to renounſe þe world, wel may ſelle þingis þat he haþ diſpiſid for to ſelle. What euer into þi coſtagis of þin þow takeſt, cownte it for wynnyng; in olde maner it is ſeid, to an auerowſe man lackiþ, as wel þat þat he haþ, as þat þat he haþ not; to hym þat bileueþ al þe world of richeſſis is, forſoþe, an vnfeiþful man, ȝhe, nediþ an half peny. So lyue we, as no þing hauynge and alle þingis holdynge in poſſeſſioun; lyuelod and cloþing ben richeſſis of criſten men. If þow haſt in þi power þi þing, ſelle; if þow haſt not, caſt a wey; to hym þat takiþ a wey þi coote, þe mantil is to be laft. And but þow euermore makynge aȝen moru fro moru, and drawynge day fro day, ſleȝli fote bi fote þow ſille þi litle poſſeſſiouns, haþ not Criſt wherof his pore men he fede? Al he haþ ȝyuen to God, þat offride hym ſilf. Þe apoſtlis oonli forſoken þe boot and þe nettis; þe widwe putte two mytis into þe treſorye of God, and it is put bifore þe richeſſis of Creſſi. Liȝtli he diſpiſiþ alle þingis, þe whiche hym ſilf euermore þenkiþ to be to dien.
I haue takun deſired epiſtlis of my man Deſiderie, þe which, þurȝ a maner bifore kunnynge of þingis þat ben to com, wiþ Danyel is fallun þe name of hym, preiynge, þat I ſhulde take to þe erys of ourne þe fyue bokis of Moyſes tranſlatid fro Ebrewe ſpeche into Latyn tung. Certeyn a perylous werk, open to þe berkyngis of backbyters, þat ſeyn me to forgen new þingis for olde into þe ſtranglyng of þe ſeuenti interpretours, ſo wit as wyn prouing; ſiþ Y ful oft haue witneſſid me to offre in þe tabernacle of God for a liȝt porcoun þingis þat I may, ne þe richeſſis of an oþre man to be defowlid wiþ þe porenes of oþre. Þe which þing þat I ſhulde dore don, me ſtyryde þe ſtudie of Orygen, þe which to olde tranſlacioun mengide þe tranſlacoun of Theodocioun, wiþ aſtericho, þat is, wiþ þe ſigne of a ſterre, whan he makiþ clere þe þingis þat weren to litle, and wiþ obelo, þat is, wiþ ſigne of an arow, whan he any waſt þing diſtroieþ and ſcrapiþ a wey, al his werk markynge; and mooſt þo þingis þe whiche þe autoryte of þe apoſtlis and of þe euangeliſtis openyde; in þe which many þingis we reden of þe olde teſtament, þe whiche ben not had in oure bokis; as is þat, "fro Egipt I clepid my ſone;" and, "for he ſhal be clepid Nazare;" and, "men ſhal ſeen, in whom þei han pungid;" and, "flodis ſhal flowe of his womb quyk watres;" and, "þingis þat neþer eiȝe ſeiȝ, ne eere herde, ne in to þe herte of man ſtiede, þat God greiþid to hem þat hym louen;" and many oþre þingis, þe whiche deſyren propre ordre. Aſke we þanne hem, where þes þingis ben wrytun; and whanne þei mown not ſeye, of þe bokis of Ebrewe brynge we forþe. Þe firſt witnes is in Oſee, þe ſecounde in Yſaye, þe þrid in Zacharye, þe ferþe in Prouerbis, þe fifte as wel in Yſaye; þe whiche many men vnknowynge folwen þe deceyuyngis of ſcripturys, whos autor is vnknowun, and ſetten bifore, Spanyſhe ſonges vpon deed men, or of noreſſes vpon þer children, autentik bokis. Þe cauſe of þe errour is not myn to expown. Jewis ſeyn, þat it is don wiþ wiſe counſel, leſt Pþolome herier of o God, alſo as anentis þe Ebrewis ſhulde of take dowble Godhede; þe whiche mooſt þerfor þei diden, for he was knowen to falle into þe techyng of Plato. Wherfore wher euere holi wrytt witneſſiþ ony holi þing of þe Fadre, and þe Sone, and þe Holy Gooſt, or oþre wyſe þei vndiden, or algatis helden þer pees, þat þei myȝten do aſeþ to þe kyng, and þat þei opened not þe priuete of þe bileue. And I not who, þe firſt auctour, þurȝ his leſyng maad out ſeuenti ſellis at Alyſawndre, in þe whiche þei deuydide þe ſame þingis ſhulde wryte; ſiþ Areſteus, of þe ſame Pþolome chefe counſeylour, and keper of bokis, and myche tyme aftir Joſaphus, not ſuche þinge tolden, but wryten hem, gadrid to gider in o chirche, to han ſpokin togider, and not to haue prophecied. It is anoþer to be a prophet, and an oþer to ben an vndoer of langage; þere þe ſpiryt ſeiþ bifore þingis þat ben to comen, here teching and plente of wordis, þingis þat he vndurſtondiþ tranſlateþ. But perauenture Tullyus is to be wenyd enblowid wiþ þe ſpirit of retorik, to haue tranſlatid þe boke þat is ſeid Economyk of Zenofontes, and þe boke þat is ſeid þe Pictagore of Plato, and þe boke þat is ſeid Proþeſifontes of Demoſtynes; oþer þe Holi Goſt wenyde witneſſis of þe ſame bokis oþre wiſe bi þe ſeuenti vndoers of tungis, oþre wiſe bi þe apoſtlis, þat þat þei helden þer pees, þes han liȝid to ben writun. What þanne? dampne we þe olde? nay, but after þe ſtudies of þe raþer men, in þe hous of þe Lord we traueilen þat þat we may. Þei han undon ſcripturis before þe coming of Criſt; and þat þat þei wiſten not, þei han ſpokin wiþ doutous ſentence, we after þe paſſioun and þe reſurreccoun of hym not oonli profeſie, but ſtorye wrytun. Oþre weys forſoþe þingis ſeen, oþer wiſe þingis herd ben told; þat we beter vndirſtonden, beter we tellen. Here þan, þou enemye, herkyn, þow backbiter; I dampe not, I reprehende not þe ſeuenti, but truſtily I putte bifore þe apoſtlis to alle þo; bi þe mowþe of þeſe to me Criſt ſowneþ, whom before þe prophetis amonge ſpiritual ȝiftis Y rede ſett, amonge þe which þe vndoers of tungis holden fulli þe laſt degre. Wherto art þou tourmentid wiþ enuy? what ſteriſt þow vnwiſe mennus willis aȝens me? if where Y ſeme to þee erre in þe tranſlating, aſke þe Ebrewis, conſeil þe mayſtrys of dyuerſe citees; þat þei han of Criſt, þi bokis han not. It is anoþer, if þe witneſſis vſurped of þe apoſtlis after proueden aȝen hem ſeluen, and þe Latyn ſaumplers ben more amendid þan Grekis, Grekis þan Ebrews. But þes aȝenus þe enuyows. Now, ful dere Deſidery, I preye þee, for þat þou haſt maad me to vndergon ſo greet werk, and to take þe bigynnyng of Geneſis, helpe þow wiþ preiers, þat I mowe þurȝ þe ſame ſpyryt, þurȝ which þe bokis ben wrytun, tranſlaten hem into Latyn ſermown.
Here endiþ þe Prologis.