Skip to main content

Rufinus of Aquileia

RUFINUS OF AQUILEIA

Fourth-century monk, translator, and ecclesiastical writer; b. Concordia, near Aquileia, 345; d. Messina, Sicily, 410. sidonius apollinaris called him Turranius Rufinus (Epist. 2.9.5), but jerome named him Tyrannius (Contra Ruf. 1.1), obviously utilizing Acts 19.9 in a pejorative sense, just as Rufinus referred to Jerome's Hebrew teacher, Rabbi Bar-anina, as Barabbas (Apol. contra Hier. 2.15, 38). In the controversy between Jerome and Rufinus over the accusations of Origenism, history sided with Jerome, and it is only in recent times that the tarnish is being removed from the reputation of Rufinus.

Life. Rufinus made elementary studies in his native Concordia, and his parents, who were Christians, sent him, at age 15, to Rome, where he was associated with Jerome in school. He returned to Aquileia (c. 369), became a catechumen under the direction of Chromatius, future bishop of Aquileia, and was baptized c. 370 (Apol. contra Hier. 1.4). Jerome joined him and a group of ascetics in Aquileia under the guidance of the bishop until 372, when the circle dispersed for some unknown reason. Rufinus left for Egypt, met melania the elder, and suffered in the persecution that followed the death of atha nasius (May 373). He settled in Alexandria for six years, and after an interval, for two years more; during this time he studied the Scriptures and the works of Origen under didymus the blind and gregory of nazianzus and visited the desert fathers, such as Macarius, Isidore, and Pambo (Jer., Epist. 4.2; 5.2; Ruf. Apol. contra Hier. 2.15).

In 381 he was in Jerusalem where he founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives in association with Melania the Elder, was ordained a priest by Bishop John, and entered amicable relations with Jerome and Paula, who had settled at Bethlehem c. 386 (Apol. contra Hier. 2.11).

Quarrel over Origen. In 393 epiphanius of sala mis sent an emissary named Atarbius to Palestine to induce the bishops to condemn Origenism. Badly received by Bp. john of jerusalem and Rufinus, Atarbius was welcomed at Bethlehem, and from a fervent admirer of origen, Jerome became an avid opponent of the Alexandrian's teaching. His attitude resulted in enmity between himself and both John of Jerusalem and Rufinus, and this quarrel was enlarged by a visit of Epiphanius. In 397, on the intervention of theophilus of alexandria, a kind of truce was arranged (Jerome, Contra Ruf. 3.33; Epist. 81.1), and Rufinus departed for the West with a collection of manuscripts of the Greek ecclesiastical writers.

Sojourn in Italy. Rufinus stopped for a time at the monastery of Pinetum near Terracina and translated a compilation of the rule of St. basil for the monks there. In Rome he was asked by a monk named Marcarius to translate the first book of the Apolog ia written by pamphilus for Origen and Origen's De principiis. In turning the latter work into Latin, Rufinus modified and suppressed doctrinal notions that he considered dangerous interpolations. In his preface he claimed he was following the example and procedure of Jerome, who had translated some of Origen's homilies (Pref. Periarchon ). Jerome was informed of this preface before the work itself was published and wrote a private letter of protest to Rufinus (Epist. 81 ), but Jerome's friends in Italy did not give it to Rufinus. Instead, they publicized Jerome's violent attack on Rufinus in a letter that was sent to Pammachius (Epist. 84).

Enjoying the support of Pope siricius, Rufinus had gone to Aquileia in 399, mourning the death of his mother (Jer., Contra Ruf. 2.2). He sent an Apologia to Pope Anastasius and replied to Jerome's attacks with his Apologia contra Hieronymum. Later, acceding to the counsel of Bp. chromatius of aquileia, he preserved silence on the issue despite the fact that until his death he was constantly the victim of Jerome's defamation.

He spent the last decade of his life in literary activities, particularly in translating Greek ecclesiastical works into Latin. In 407 he fled to Rome before the Gothic invasions, then to the monastery of Pinetum (Terracina), and finally, with melania the younger and Pinian, to Sicily, where he died in 410. Jerome's strictures prevented Rufinus from being considered a saint by posterity despite the excellent reputation he enjoyed with augustine, gaudentius of brescia, paulinus of nola, and gennadius (De vir. illus. 17). Le Nain de Tillemont controverted the poor opinion of Rufinus expressed by the 18th-century Bollandist J. Stilting, insisting that Rufinus gave evidence of an upright life and that, though not a great theologian, he was of inestimable service to the development of asceticism and theology in the West.

Writings. A translator rather than an original writer, Rufinus apparently began his literary career with his defense of the orthodoxy of Origen in De adulteratione librorum Origenis, adding as an appendix a translation of the Apologia of Pamphilus. He sustained the thesis that the unacceptable doctrinal passages in Origen were interpolations introduced by Origen's adversaries or by heretics. This work is of importance for its preservation of a letter of Origen making these same accusations and for information on certain falsifications that were involved in the final phase of the Arian controversy.

In 400 Rufinus sent an Apologia ad Anastasium papam from Aquileia, in which he defended himself against accusations brought to the pope by Jerome's friends. After a brief profession of faith in the Trinity, Rufinus stated his belief in the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, which were crucial arguments in the Origenistic controversy. As for the origin of the soul, he submitted that the learned were still uncertain. He disclaimed either praise or blame for opinions of Origen, since his involvement was merely as a translator. Besides, in his translation he had tried to eliminate everything that might be considered contrary to the faith. In an apparent recognition of this writing, Pope Anastasius wrote to Bp. John of Jerusalem expressing disdain for Rufinus (Epist. ad Joh. Hier. ).

Jerome and Origen. Rufinus used the same arguments concerning his translation of Origen in his Apologia contra Hieronymum in two books, written c. 40l, in which he supplied a devastating confrontation of Jerome's assertions in his Epistola 84 with Jerome's previous writings. To justify himself as an anti-Origenist from the beginning, Jerome had referred to his own commentaries on Ecclesiastes and Ephesians as an indication of his true attitude with regard to Origen. Rufinus took him at his word and cited several passages from the Commentary on Ephesians to prove that Jerome had followed Origen even in his doctrine on the preexistence of souls and on the final restoration of all things. Jerome said he had praised Origen only a few times for his scriptural exegesis and not for his doctrine. Rufinus cited a dozen passages in which Jerome praised Origen without distinction and, following Eusebius, had attributed the campaign against Origen by Bishop Demetrius and other adversaries to envy. In several parts of his Apologia Rufinus extended his polemic to an attack on the person of Jerome, accusing him of having translated the Scriptures directly from the Hebrew texts and of continuing to teach the pagan authors despite his promise several years earlier (Jer., Epist. 22.30) to abandon them completely. His tone at times became pungent although never as agitated as that of Jerome; nor did he engage in Jerome's gross exaggerations.

The Apostles' Creed. At the invitation of a Bishop Laurentius in 404, Rufinus wrote a commentary on the Creed (Commentarius in symbolum Apostolorum ), which, according to Gennadius, achieved great popularity. The work was based on similar treatises by cyril of jerusalem and gregory of nyssa and betrays ideas derived from Origen. In particular he held that the soul of Christ served as mediator between the Logos and His human body and conceived of Christ's redemptive action as a deception of the devil who had destroyed Christ's body, believing thus to be able to conquer him, but who was himself conquered through this action by the divinity of the Savior. Rufinus's work is important since it also contains the Latin text of the Roman Creed along with that of Aquileia and a canon of the Scriptures.

Exegesis. At the invitation of Paulinus of Nola, Rufinus, while staying at the monastery of Pinetum (Terracina) in 408 wrote a commentary on the Benedictions of the Patriarchs (De benedictionibus patriarcharum; cf. Genesis ch. 49). The first book contains a commentary on the Benediction of Juda (Gn 49.911), and the second is a commentary on the Benedictions of the other Patriarchs. Faithful to the Origenian canon, Rufinus gave a threefold explanation of each benediction: the literal, the typological, and the moral or psychological. In his typology he referred each Biblical passage to a happening in the life of Christ or the primitive Church; and in his moral exegesis he saw in each Biblical passage the war in the soul between good and bad.

In his typological interpretation Rufinus reflected an ancient exegetical tradition, which he could have taken from works on the same subject by Hippolytus and Ambrose, as well as from oral sources. For his moral considerations in which he described the slow ascent of the soul from the baseness of sin to the heights of sanctity, Rufinus was mainly dependent on material found in the homilies of Origen.

Among his original works is a continuation of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, covering events between 324 and 395; Rufinus's continuation was weak in information and system but was used widely by later historians.

Translator. It is in his translations that Rufinus contributed most to the theological formation of the West, particularly in his renderings of Origen's works. He translated the Periarchon in 398; four books of the Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles in 410; ten books of the commentary on Romans (c. 404); 16 homilies on Genesis, 13 on Exodus, 16 on Leviticus, 26 on Joshua, nine on Judges (403404); 28 on Numbers (410); and nine on Psalms 36, 37, 38 (398).

Of other authors, Rufinus translated the dialogue De recta in Deum fide, which he thought had been written by Origen (c. 400); book 1 of the Apologia of Pamphilus for Origen (398); the Sententiae of the Pythagorean Sextus, whom he confounded with Pope Sixtus II (400); the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitiones (406); two rules of Basil of Caesarea and eight of his homilies (397400); nine homilies of Gregory Nazianzus (399400); the Historia monachorum (404), which for a long time was considered on original work by Rufinus; and, finally, the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in nine books (402403). It is uncertain whether he had also translated parts of Flavius Josephus; and the Sententiae of evagrius ponticus, which he may have translated, are lost.

Rufinus's work as a translator has been greatly criticized by modern philologists because of the excessive liberty in his renderings when they are compared with the Greek originals. But in antiquity, translation was considered a kind of paraphrase, leaving great liberty to the translator, while an absolutely literal translation was inconceivable. As regards his corrections of doctrine in the Periarchon and other works of Origen, Rufinus stated frankly that his desire was to make Origen known to the Latins in such fashion that he could be useful and not dangerous to their faith, as well as that a certain prudence was imposed upon him by controversy.

At a moment when knowledge of Greek was becoming rare in the West, the translations of Rufinus as well as those of Jerome had the great merit of familiarizing the Latins with certain great works of Greek Christianity, which would otherwise have remained unknown to them. The best sign of the usefulness of these translations is furnished by the popularity that they enjoyed in the Middle Ages.

Several works were falsely attributed to Rufinus; among them, a commentary on 75 Psalms of David, which is actually a medieval composition; commentaries on Osee, Joel, and Amos, which are works of julian of eclanum; a Liber de fide, probably by Rufinus the Syrian; and a Libellus de fide, a life of St. Eugenia, and Dicta de fide.

Bibliography: Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v. (Paris 187890) v. 21; Opera omnia, ed. m. simonetti (Corpus Christianorum 20; 1961), with bibliog; Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 42, 51 (1953), Pseudo Clementines; A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed, ed. and tr. j. n. d. kelly (Ancient Christian Writers 20; 1955); Apologia, ed. and tr. m. simoneti (Alba 1957). h. chadwick, ed., The Sentences of Sextus (Cambridge, Eng. 1959); Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1959) 1042. f. x. murphy, Rufinus of Aquileia (Washington 1945); Revue des études augustiniennes 2 (1956) 7991, and Paulinus of Nola; Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 9:9192. h. lietzmann, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. suppl. 1.1 (1914) 119396. m. villain, Nouvelle revue théologique 64 (1937) 533, 139161, monk and student; Revue des sciences religieuses 32 (1944) 129156, creed; 33 (1946) 164210, Church history. m. simonetti, Rivista di cultura classica e medinevale 4 (1962) 344, benedictions; "Note rufiniane," ibid. 2 (1960) 140172, 307325. h. hope, Studi P. Ubaldi (Milan 1937) 133150, tr. m. wagner, Rufinus the Translator (Catholic University of America, Patristic Studies 73; 1945). g. bardy, Recherches sur l'histoire du texte et des versiones latines du De principiis d'Origène (Paris 1923); a. vacant et al., ed. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris 190350) 14.1:153160. f. cavallera, Saint Jérôme, 2 v. (Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense 1, 2; 1922).

[m. simonetti]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Rufinus of Aquileia." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Rufinus of Aquileia." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rufinus-aquileia

"Rufinus of Aquileia." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rufinus-aquileia

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.