Rufinus of Aquileia

Rufinus of Aquileia (344-411), also known as Tyrannius Rufinus, was a monk, historian, and theologian.   Around 370, he was living in a monastic community in Aquileia, Italy, when he met Saint Jerome.  In about 372, Rufinus followed Jerome to the eastern Mediterranean, where he studied in Alexandria, Egypt, under Didymus the Blind for some time.  During this time, he became friends with Macarius the elder and other ascetics in the desert. He later moved to Jerusalem, where he gathered together a number of monks to form a new monastery on the Mount of Olives, devoting himself to the study of Greek theology.  When Jerome came to Bethlehem in 386, the friendship formed at Aquileia was renewed.

In 394, however, Epiphanius of Salamis visited Jerusalem and made attacks upon the doctrines of Origen.  This resulted in a quarrel between Rufinus and Jerome as both Jerome and Rufinus had previously been great admirers of Origen’s work, but in light of Epiphanius’ criticism of Origen, Jerome felt that Rufinus was not fierce enough in attacking the works of Origen.  In 397 Rufinus left for Rome and found that the theological controversies of the East were the cause much interest there.  He then published a Latin translation of the De Principiis written by Origen.  In the preface, he referred to Jerome as an admirer of Origen, who had already translated some of Origen’s works. This allusion annoyed Jerome, who was exceedingly sensitive as to his reputation for orthodoxy.  This resulted in a pamphlet war, with Rufinus’ Against Jerome and Jerome’s Against Rufinus.

When Alaric I, the first King of the Visigoths, pillaged Rome in 410, Rufinus fled to Sicily, where he died in 411.

Quotes from Rufinus of Aquileia:

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Apology to Anastasius, Bishop of Rome (Written 400 A.D.):

“1. It has been brought to my knowledge that certain persons, in the course of a controversy which they have been raising in your Holiness’ jurisdiction on matters of faith or on other points, have made mention of my name. I venture to believe that your Holiness, who have been trained from your infancy in the strict principles of the Church, has refused to listen to any calumnies which may have been directed against an absent person, and one who has been favourably known to you as united with you in the faith and love of God. Nevertheless, since I hear it reported that my reputation has been attacked, I have thought it right to make my position clear to your Holiness in writing. It was impossible for me to do this in person. I have just returned to my family after an absence of nearly 30 years; and it would have been harsh and almost inhuman to come away again so soon from those whom I had been so late in revisiting. The labour also of my long journey has left me too weak to begin the journey again. My object in this letter is not to remove some stain of suspicion from your mind, which I regard as a holy place, as a kind of divine sanctuary which does not admit any evil thing. Rather, I desire that the confession I am about to make to you may be like a stick placed in your hands to drive away any envious persons who may be barking like dogs against me.

2. My faith, indeed, was sufficiently proved when the heretics persecuted me. I was at that time sojourning in the church of Alexandria, and underwent imprisonment and exile which was then the penalty of faithfulness; yet for the sake of any who may wish to put my faith to the test, or to hear and learn what it is I will declare it. I believe that the Trinity is of one nature and godhead, of one and the same power and substance; so that between the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost there is no diversity at all, except that the one is the Father, the second the Son, and the third the Holy Ghost. There is a Trinity of real and living Persons, a unity of nature and substance.

3. I also confess that the Son of God has in these last days been born of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit: that he has taken upon him our natural human flesh and soul; that in this he suffered and was buried and rose again from the dead; that the flesh in which he rose was that same flesh which had been laid in the sepulchre; and that in this same flesh, together with the soul, he ascended into heaven after his resurrection: from whence we look for his coming to judge the quick and the dead.

4. But, further, as to the resurrection of our own flesh, I believe that it will be in its integrity and perfection; it will be this very flesh in which we now live. We do not hold, as is slanderously reported by some men, that another flesh will rise instead of this; but this very flesh, without the loss of a single member, without the cutting off of any single part of the body; none whatever of all its properties will be absent except its corruptibility. It is this which is promised by the holy Apostle concerning the body: It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. This is the doctrine which has been handed down to me by those from whom I received holy baptism in the Church of Aquileia; and I think that it is the same which the Apostolic See has by long usage handed down and taught.

5. I affirm, moreover, a judgment to come, in which judgment every man is to receive the due meed of his bodily life, according to that which he has done, whether good or evil. And, if in the case of men the reward is to be according to their works, how much more will this be so in the case of the devil, who is the universal cause of sin? Of the devil himself our belief is that which is written in the Gospel, namely, that both he and all his angels, will receive as their portion the eternal fire, and with him those who do his works, that is, who become the accusers of their brethren. If then any one denies that the devil is to be subjected to the eternal fires, may he have his part with him in the eternal fire, so that he may know by experience the fact which he now denies.

6. I am next informed that some stir has been made on the question of the nature of the soul. Whether complaints on a matter of this kind ought to be entertained instead of being put aside, you must yourself decide. If, however, you desire to know my opinion on the subject, I will state it frankly. I have read a great many writers on this question, and I find that they express various opinions. Some of those whom I have read hold that the soul is infused together with the material body through the channel of the human seed; and of this they give such proofs as they can. I think that this was the opinion of Tertullian or Lactantius among the Latins, perhaps also of a few others. Others assert that God is every day making new souls, and infusing them into the bodies which have been framed in the womb; while others again believe that the souls were all made long ago, when God made all things of nothing, and that all that he now does is to plant out each soul in its body as it seems good to him. This is the opinion of Origen, and of some others of the Greeks. For myself, I declare in the presence of God that, after reading each of these opinions, I am up to the present moment unable to hold any of them as certain and absolute; the determination of the truth in this question I leave to God and to any to whom it shall please him to reveal it. My profession on this point is therefore, first, that these several opinions are those which I have found in books, but, secondly, that I as yet remain in ignorance on the subject, except so far as this, that the Church delivers it as an article of faith that God is the creator of souls as well as of bodies.

7. Now as to another matter. I am told that objections have been raised against me because, forsooth, at the request of some of my brethren, I translated certain works of Origen from Greek into Latin. I suppose that every one sees that it is only through ill will that this is made a matter of blame. For, if there is any offensive statement in the author, why is this to be twisted into a fault of the translator? I was asked to exhibit in Latin what stands written in the Greek text; and I did nothing more than fit the Latin words to the Greek ideas. If, therefore, there is anything to praise in these ideas, the praise does not belong to me; and similarly as to anything to which blame may attach. I admit that I put something of my own into the work; as I stated in my Preface, I used my own discretion in cutting out not a few passages; but only those as to which I had come to suspect that the thing had not been so stated by Origen himself; and the statement appeared to me in these cases to have been inserted by others, because in other places I had found the author state the matter in a catholic sense. I entreat you therefore, holy, venerable and saintly father, not to permit a storm of ill will to be raised against me because of this, nor to sanction the employment of partisanship and of calumny— weapons which ought never to be used in the Church of God. Where can simple faith and innocence be safe if they are not protected in the Church? I am not a defender or a champion of Origen; nor am I the first who has translated his works. Others before me had done the very same thing, and I did it, the last of many, at the request of my brethren. If an order is to be given that such translations are not to be made, such an order holds good for the future, not the past; but if those are to be blamed who have made these translations before any such order was given, the blame must begin with those who took the first step.

8. As for me, I declare in Christ’s name that I never held, nor ever will hold, any other faith but that which I have set forth above, that is, the faith which is held by the Church of Rome, by that of Alexandria, and by my own church of Aquileia; and which is also preached at Jerusalem; and if there is any one who believes otherwise, whoever he may be, let him be Anathema. But those who through mere ill will and malice engender dissensions and offenses among their brethren, and cause them to stumble, shall give account of it in the day of judgment.”

-Apology to Anastasius, Bishop of Rome (Written 400 A.D.)

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Commentary on the Apostles' Creed (Written ca 407-409):

“But before I begin to discuss the meaning of the words, I think it well to mention that in different Churches some additions are found in this article. This is not the case, however, in the Church of the city of Rome; the reason being, as I suppose, that, on the one hand, no heresy has had its origin there, and, on the other, that the ancient custom is there kept up, that those who are going to be baptized should rehearse the Creed publicly, that is, in the audience of the people; the consequence of which is that the ears of those who are already believers will not admit the addition of a single word.”

-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 3 (Written ca 407-409).

 

“He is born by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin. Here a chaste ear and a pure mind is required. For you must understand that now a temple has been built within the secret recesses of a Virgin’s womb for Him of Whom erewhile you learned that He was born ineffably of the Father. And just as in the sanctification of the Holy Ghost no thought of imperfection is to be admitted, so in the Virgin-birth no defilement is to be imagined. For this birth was a new birth given to this world, and rightly new. For He Who is the only Son in heaven is by consequence the only Son on earth, and was uniquely born, born as no other ever was or can be.”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 9 (Written ca 407-409).

 

 

“The Prophet Ezekiel too had predicted the miraculous manner of that birth, calling Mary figuratively the Gate of the Lord, the gate, namely, through which the Lord entered the world. For he says, The gate which looks towards the East shall be closed, and shall not be opened, and no one shall pass through it, because the Lord God of Israel shall pass through it, and it shall be closed. What could be said with such evident reference to the inviolate preservation of the Virgin’s condition? That Gate of Virginity was closed; through it the Lord God of Israel entered; through it He came forth from the Virgin’s womb into this world; and the Virgin-state being preserved inviolate, the gate of the Virgin remained closed forever.”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 9 (Written ca 407-409).

 

 

“Hear, therefore, how the Apostle would teach us obedience by the Cross of Christ: Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. As, then, a consummate master teaches both by example and precept, so Christ taught the obedience, which good men are to render even at the cost of death, by Himself first dying in rendering it.”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 15 (Written ca 407-409).


“It is written that when the side of Jesus was pierced ‘He shed thereout blood and water.’ This has a mystical meaning. For Himself had said, ‘Out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ . . . Yet it might be understood also as prefiguring the twofold grace of baptism, one that which is given by the baptism of water, the other that which is sought through martyrdom in the outpouring of blood, for both are called baptism.”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 23 (Written ca 407-409).


“When, therefore, the true Lord Jesus Christ shall come, He will sit and set up his throne of judgment. As also He says in the Gospel, He shall separate the sheep from the goats, that is, the righteous from the unrighteous; as the Apostle writes, We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every man may receive the awards due to the body, according as he has done, whether they be good or evil. Moreover, the judgment will be not only for deeds, but for thoughts also, as the same Apostle says, Their thoughts mutually accusing or else excusing one another, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men.”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 34 (Written ca 407-409).

“This is that holy Church which is without spot or wrinkle. For many others have gathered together Churches, as Marcion, and Valentinus, and Ebion, and Manichæus, and Arius, and all the other heretics. . . But of this Church which keeps the faith of Christ entire, hear what the Holy Spirit says in the Canticles, ‘My dove is one; the perfect one of her mother is one.’”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 39 (Written ca 407-409).

 

“the person who rehearses the Creed, making the sign of the cross upon his forehead, while he says the word, that each believer may know that his flesh, if he have kept it clean from sin, will be a vessel of honour, useful to the Lord, prepared for every good work; but, if defiled by sins, that it will be a vessel of wrath destined to destruction.”
-Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 43 (Written ca 407-409).


Translated by W.H. Fremantle. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.)

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