RUFINUS, TYRANNIUS, presbyter and theologian, was born at or near Aquileia at the head of the Adriatic, probably between 340 an 345. In early manhood he entered the cloister as a catechumen, receiving baptism about 370. About the same time a visit of Jerome to Aquileia led to a close friendship between the two, and shortly after Jerome's departure for the East Rufinus also was drawn thither (in 372 or 373) by his interest in its theology and monasticism. He first settled in Egypt, hearing the lectures of Didymus, the Origenistic head of the catechetical school at Alexandria, and also cultivating friendly relations with Macarius the elder and other ascetics in the desert. In Egypt, if not even before leaving Italy, he had become intimately acquainted with Melania, a wealthy and devout Roman widow; and when she removed to Palestine, taking with her a number of clergy and monks on whom the persecutions of the Arian Valens had borne heavily, Rufinus (about 378) followed her. While his patroness lived in a convent of her own. in Jerusalem, Rufinus, at her expense, gathered together a number of monks in a monastery on the Mount of Olives, devoting himself at the same time to the study of Greek theology. This combination of the contemplative life and the life of learning had already developed in the Egyptian monasteries. When Jerome came to Bethlehem in 386, the friendship formed at Aquileia was renewed. Another of the intimates of Rufinus- was John, bishop of Jerusalem, and formerly a Nitrian monk, by whom he was ordained to the priesthood in 390. In 394, in consequence of the attack upon the doctrines of Origen made by Epiphanius of Salamis during a visit to Jerusalem, a fierce quarrel broke out, which found Rufinus and Jerome on different sides; and, though three years afterwards a formal reconciliation was brought about between Jerome and John, the breach between Jerome and Rufinus remained unhealed.
In the autumn of 397 Rufinus embarked for Rome, where, finding that the theological controversies of the East were exciting much interest and curiosity, he published a Latin translation of the Apology of Pamphilus for Origen, and also (398-99) a somewhat free rendering of the irtpi &pxn> (or De Principiis) of that author himself. In the preface to the latter work he referred to Jerome as an admirer of Origen, and as having already translated some of his works with modifications of ambiguous doctrinal expressions. This allusion annoyed Jerome, who was exceedingly sensitive as to his reputation for orthodoxy, and the consequence was a bitter pamphlet war, very wonderful to the modern onlooker, who finds it difficult to see anything discreditable in the accusation against a biblical scholar that he had once thought well of Origen, or in the countercharge against a translator that he had avowedly exercised editorial functions as well. At the instigation of Theophilus of Alexandria, Anastasius (pope 398- 402) summoned Rufinus from Aquileia to Rome to vindicate his orthodoxy; but he excused himself from a personal attendance in a written Apologia pro fide sua. The pope in his reply expressly condemned Origen, but left the question of Rufinus's orthodoxy to his own conscience. He was, however, regarded with suspicion in orthodox circles (cf. the Decretum Gelassii, 20) in spite of his services to Christian literature. In 408 we find Rufinus at the monastery of Pinetum (in the Campagna?); thence he was driven by the arrival of Alaric to Sicily, being accompanied by Melania in his flight. In Sicily he was engaged in translating the Homilies of Origen when he died in 410.
The original works of Rufinus are^-(l) De Adulteratione Librorum Origenis an appendix to his translation of the Apology of Pamphilus, and intended to show that many of the features in Origen's teaching which were then held to be objectionable arise from interpolations and falsifications of the genuine text; (2) De Benedictionibus XII Patriarcharum Libri II an exposition of Gen. xlix. ; (3) Apologia s. Invectivarum in Hieronymum Libri II; (4) Apologia pro Fide Sua ad Anastasiunt Pontificem; (5) Historia Eremitica consisting of the lives of thirty-three monks of the Nitrian desert ; 1 (6) Expositio Symboli, a commentary on the creed of Aquileia comparing it with that of Rome, which is valuable for its evidence as to church teaching in the 4th century. The Historiae Ecclesiasticae Libri XI of Rufinus consist partly of a free translation of Eusebius (10 books in 9) and partly of a continuation (bks. x. and xi.) down to the death of Theodosius the Great. The other translations of Rufinus are (l) the Instituta Monachorum and some of the Homilies of Basil: (2) the Apology of Pamphilus, referred to above; (3) Origen's Principia; (4) Origen's Homilies (Gen.-Kings,also Cant, and Rom.) ;(s) Opusctila of Gregory of Nazianzus; (6) the Sententiae of Sixtus, an unknown Greek philosopher; (7) the Sententiae of Evagrius; (8) the Clementine Recognitions (the only form in which that work is now extant); (9) the Canon Paschalis of Anatolius Alexandrinus. We can hardly overestimate the influence which Rufinus exerted on Western theologians by thus putting the great Greek fathers into the Latin tongue. D. Vallarsi's uncompleted edition of Rufinus (vol. i. fol., Verona, 1745) contains the De Benedictionibus , the Apologies, the 1 On this work see Dom Butler in Texts and Studies, vi. i. pp. 10 ff.
Expositio Symboli, the Historia Eremitica and the two original books of the Hist. Eccl. See also Migne, Patrol, (vol. xxi. of the Latin series). For the translations, see the various editions of Origen, Eusebius, etc.
See W. H. Freemantle in Diet. Chr. Biog. iv. 555-60; A. Ebert, Allg. Gesch. d. Lilt. d. Mittelalters im Aberuuande, i. 321-27 (Leipzig, 1889); G. Kriiger in Hauck-Herzog's Real-encyk.fur prot. Theol., where there is a full bibliography.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)