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Rufinus Tyrannius

Writer and translator, b. about 345, probably at Concordia in Italy (Jerome, Ep. ii, 2); d. in Sicily about 410

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Rufinus Tyrannius, better known as RUFINUS OFAQUILEIA, b. about 345, probably at Concordia in Italy (Jerome, Ep. ii, 2); d. in Sicily about 410.Though both his parents were of the Christian Faith, he was not baptized till he was about twenty-five years old at Aquileia, where he lived for a short time as a monk. During this period he probably composed his “Exposition of the Creed“. Soon after his baptism he went to Egypt, probably in the company of Melania; he there spent six years among the hermits, and from them imbibed his love of Origen. Afterwards he settled in Palestine, and lived in a monastery on the Mount of Olives with companions who dwelled in cells built at his expense, for he was a wealthy man. He later paid a second visit to Egypt which lasted about two years. His friendship with St. Jerome, begun at Aquileia if not earlier, was broken by the Origenist controversy in Palestine stirred up by St. Epiphathus (see Origen and Origenism), but the two were subsequently reconciled. In 397 he returned to Italy in the company of Melania. On his arrival there he composed a commentary on the “Benedictions of the Patriarchs”, and began his labors as a translator of Origen with a Latin version of Pamphilus’s “Apology for Origen” (see Saint Pamphilus of Caesarea), to which he affixed by way of epilogue a short but historically valuable treatise “The Adulteration of the Works of Origen by Heretics”. This was followed by a translation of Origen’s “De principiis”. As the original is no longer extant, Rufinus’s concept of his office as a translator, though prudent at the time, is aggravating to posterity. Assuming extensive falsification by heretics, he omitted and rectified, endeavoring however to make his rectifications from what Origen had said elsewhere. He also indiscreetly, if not with malicious intent, lauded St. Jerome’s earlier zeal for Origen. This led to a fresh outbreak of the Origenist controversy and a final estrangement from St. Jerome. St. Jerome attacked Rufinus, who replied with an “Apology” in two books. It was in connection with this controversy that he wrote his short “Apology to Pope Anastasius”. Rufinus translated other writings of Origen besides those already named: some treatises of St. Basil and of Gregory of Nazianzus, the “Recognitions of Clement”, the “Sayings” or “Ring of Xystus”, some short tracts of Evagrius Ponticus, and Eusebius’s “Church History”; to this last he added two books, bringing the narrative down to his own times. For the question whether the “Historia monachorum” was an original work or a translation see Monasticism. II. Eastern Monasticism Before Chalcedon (A.D. 451). The best edition of the works of Rufinus is that of Vallarsi (Verona, 1745). It contains Fontanini’s “Vita Rufini”, which is still a great authority. This edition has been reprinted by Migne in P.L., XXI. Unfortunately, it does not contain the translations, and what is of more importance, the prefaces to the translations: these must be sought in the works of Origen, St. Basil etc. The translation of Eusebius’s “Church History”, together with the continuation, has been recently published in the Berlin edition of the Greek Christian writers of the first three centuries. The most important of Rufinus’s writings, including the aforesaid prefaces, have been translated in the third volume of Wace and Schaff’s “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers”.


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