Writings of Rufinus. Apology in Defence of Himself.

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Translated by The Hon. and Rev. William Henry Fremantle, M.A. Canon of Canterbury, Fellow and Tutor of Baliol College, Oxford.

Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London

Published in 1892 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

Rufinus' Apology in Defence of Himself.

Sent to Anastasius, Bishop of the City of Rome.

This document was called forth by accusations against Rufinus made, soon after his accession, to Anastasius, who held the Roman see from 498 to 503. The authority of the Roman Popes at this time was not what it afterwards became, and it is improbable that Anastasius should have summoned Rufinus, as some suppose him to have done, from Aquileia, where he was living on confidential terms with the Bishop Chromatius, to come to Rome to answer a formal accusation or to be judged by him. But since Rome was the centre of information, a Christian would not wish to be ill-thought of by its Bishop. Those who accused Rufinus were the friends of Jerome at Rome, especially the noble widow Marcella and the Senator Pammachius. They had endeavoured to gain some condemnation of Rufinus from Siricius before his death in November 398; but Siricius befriended Rufinus ("his simplicity was imposed on," according to Jerome). [2807] On the election of Anastasius, however, in 399, they accused Rufinus of having, by his translation of Origen's Peri 'Archon introduced heresy into the Roman church. Jerome thus speaks of Marcella, Ep. cxxvii. 10. "She was the cause of the condemnation of the heretics: she brought witnesses who had been at a former time under their instruction, and thus imbued with error and heresy; she showed how many there were who had been deceived; she had the volumes of the Peri 'Archon brought in, and pointed out the alterations which the Scorpion [2808] had made in them: till at last letters were written, and that more than once, summoning the heretics to come and defend themselves, but they did not dare to come. So great was the force of conviction brought to bear on them that, to prevent their heresy being exposed in their presence, they chose to stay away and be condemned." From the letter of Anastasius to John of Jerusalem about Rufinus we gather that, while he strongly disapproved the translation of Origen, he left Rufinus himself to his own conscience, and did not care to know what had become of him. The letter of Rufinus, though called an Apology, bears no trace of being an answer to a summons or judgment of the Pontiff, but merely a reply to statements which were likely to prejudice him in the Pontiff's opinion. The year in which the Apology was written was 400 a.d.

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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 [2809] 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 divers opinions. Some of those whom I have read hold that the soul is infused together with the material body through the channel [2810] 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 offences among their brethren, and cause them to stumble, shall give account of it in the day of judgment.


[2807] Jerome Letter cxxvii. 9. [2808] The Scorpion is Jerome's name for Rufinus, especially after his death. He means that Rufinus had altered the too palpable expressions of heresy, so that the more subtle expressions of it might gain acceptance. [2809] Rufinus uses the word "parentes." Jerome in his Apology (ii, 2) scoffs at the notion that a man of Rufinus' age (about 55) could have parents living, and supposes that he is making a false suggestion by using the word in the sense in which it was vulgarly used--that of relations generally, as it is now used in French. [2810] Traducem, properly, the layer, by which the vine is propagated, and hence the medium through which life is communicated. This is the theory of the "traducianists" who thus made the soul to be derived from the parent by procreation. It is contrasted with that of the "creationists" who held that each soul was separately created, and infused into the child at the moment when life began.


The Letter of Anastasius, Bishop of the Church of Rome to John Bishop of Jerusalem Concerning the Character of Rufinus.

The letter of Anastasius to John of Jerusalem was written in the year 401; it is spoken of in Jerome's Apol. iii., c. 21, which was written in the first half of 402, as "the letter of last year." Jerome intimates in the same passage that it was only one of several letters of the same character which Anastasius wrote to the East. Rufinus had not seen it, and refused to believe its genuineness. But there seems to be no reason for doubting this. Anastasius had, at the earnest request of Theophilus of Alexandria, formally condemned Origenism. And Rufinus' translations of Origen's Peri 'Archon and of Pamphilus' Vindication of Origen, and his own book on the Falsification of Origen's works were taken at Rome as a defence of Origenism generally. Rufinus, however, appealed continually, and especially in his Apology to Anastasius, to the church of Jerusalem, where he had been ordained. "My faith," he says, "is that which is preached at Jerusalem." Anastasius, therefore, in condemning Origen would be understood as condemning Rufinus, and might also seem to condemn his Bishop John of Jerusalem. This will account for the fulsome praises with which the letter opens. John, moreover, had written "to consult" Anastasius about Rufinus, which probably implies some action in Rufinus' interest; but the fact that Jerome knew the contents of the letter and Rufinus did not seems to show that Bishop John had become more friendly with Jerome and less so with Rufinus.

1. The kind words of approval that you have addressed, my dear Bishop, to your brother Bishop, is a fresh mark of your long tried affection. It is a high commendation which you confer upon me, a most lavish recognition of my services. I thank you for this proof of your love; and, following you at a distance in my littleness, I bring the tribute of my words to honour the splendour of your holiness and those virtues which the Lord has conferred upon you. You excel all others so far, the splendour of your praise shines forth so conspicuously, that no words which I can use can equal your deserts. Yet your glory excites in me such admiration that I cannot turn away from the attempt to describe it, even though I can never do so adequately. And, first, the praise which you have bestowed on me out of the serene heaven of your great spirit forms part of your own glory: for it is the majesty of your episcopate, shining forth like the sun upon the opposite quarter of the world, which has reflected its own brightness upon us. And you give me your friendship unreservedly; you do not weigh me in the balance of criticism. If it is right for you to praise me, must not your praise be echoed back to you? I beg you therefore, for your own sake no less than mine, that you will not praise me any more to my face. I ask this for two reasons: if the praise is undeserved it must excite in your brother-bishop a sense of pain; if it is true, it must make him blush.

2. Let me come to the subject of your letter. Rufinus, about whom you have done me the honour to ask my advice, must bring his conscience to the bar of the divine majesty. It is for him to see how he can approve himself to God as maintaining his true allegiance to him.

3. As for Origen, whose writings he has translated into our language, I have neither formerly known, nor do I now seek to know either who he was or what expression he may have given to his thought. But as to the feeling left by this matter on my own mind I should be glad to speak with your holiness for a moment. The impression which I have received is this,--and it has been brought out clearly by the reading of parts of Origen's works by the people of our City, and by the sort of mist of blindness which it threw over them,--that his object was to disintegrate our faith, which is that of the Apostles, and has been confirmed by the traditions of the fathers, by leading us into tortuous paths.

4. I want to know what is the meaning of the translation of this work into the Roman tongue. If the translator intends by it to put the author in the wrong, and to denounce to the world his execrable deeds, well and good. In that case he will expose to well-merited hatred one who has long laboured under the adverse weight of public opinion. But if by translating all these evil things he means to give his assent to them, and in that sense gives them to the world to read, then the edifice which he has reared at the expense of so much labour serves for nothing else than to make the guilt the act of his own will, and to give the sanction of his unlooked for support to the overthrow of all that is of prime importance in the true faith as held by Catholic Christians from the time of the Apostles till now.

5. Far be such teaching from the catholic system of the Church of Rome. It can never by any possibility come to pass that we should accept as reasonable things which we condemn as matters of law and right. We have, therefore, the assurance that Christ our God, whose providence reaches over the whole world, bestows his approval on us when we say that it is wholly impossible for us to admit doctrines which defile the church, which subvert its well tried moral system, which offend the ears of all who are witnesses of our doings and lay the ground for strife and anger and dissensions. This was the motive which led me to write my letter to Venerius [2811] our brother in the Episcopate, the character of which, written as it was in my weakness but with great care and diligence, you will realize by what I now subjoin: "Whence, then, he who translated the work has gained and preserves this assurance of innocence I am not greatly troubled to know: it fills me with no vain alarm. I certainly shall omit nothing which may enable me to guard the faith of the Gospel amongst my own people, and to warn, as far as in me lies, those who form part of my body, in whatever part of the world they live, not to allow any translation of profane authors to creep in and spring up amongst them, which will seek to unsettle the mind of devout men by spreading its own darkness among them. Moreover, I cannot pass over in silence an event which has given me great pleasure, the decree issued by our Emperors, [2812] by which every one who serves God is warned against the reading of Origen, and all who are convicted of reading his impious works are condemned by the imperial judgment." In these words my formal sentence was pronounced.

6. You are troubled by the complaint which people make as to our treatment of Rufinus, so that you pursue certain persons [2813] with vague suspicions. But I will meet this feeling of yours with an instance taken from holy writ, namely, where it is said: "Man seeth not as God seeth; for God looketh upon the heart, but man upon the countenance." Therefore, my dearly beloved brother, put away all your prejudice. Weigh the conduct of Rufinus in your own unbiassed judgment; ask yourself whether he has not translated Origen's words into Latin and approved them, and whether a man who gives his encouragement to vicious acts committed by another differs at all from the guilty party. In any case I beg you to be assured of this, that he is so completely separate from all part or lot with us, that I neither know nor wish to know either what he is doing or where he is living. I have only to add that it is for him to consider where he may obtain absolution.


[2811] Appointed bishop of Milan in 400, in succession to Simplicianus. [2812] Arcadius and Honorius. [2813] Probably the friends of Jerome at Rome, Pammachius and Marcella.

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