1. A Commentary on the Benedictions of the 12 Patriarchs. This short work was composed at the monastery of Pinetum near Terracina during Lent in the year 398, at the request of Paulinus of Nola. Rufinus had stayed with Paulinus on his first arrival with Melania in Italy (Paulinus. Ep. xxix, 12.) and Paulinus wrote to him (417) after he had gone to Pinetum begging him to give an explanation of the blessing of Jacob in Judah. Rufinus, though not replying for a time, sent his exposition, and afterwards, on a second request from Paulinus, added the exposition of the rest of the blessings in the Patriarchs, like the son in the parable (as he explains in a graceful letter prefixed to the work) who said “I go not,” but afterwards repented and went.
The exposition is well written and clear; but it is not in itself of much value. The text on which he comments is very faulty: for instance, in the Blessing of Reuben, instead of the words “the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power,” it has “durus conversatione, et durus, temerarius.” When Rufinus adheres to the plain interpretation of the passage his comments are sensible and clear; but he soon passes to the mystic sense: Reuben is Gods first-born people, the Jews, and the couch which he defiles is the law of the Old Testament; and the moral interpretation is grounded on the supposed meaning of Reuben, “the Son who is seen,” that is the visible, carnal man, who breaks through the law. So, in Judahs “binding his foal to the vine,” the explanation given as he says, by the Jews, that the vines will be so plentiful that they are used even for tying up the young colts, is dismissed. The foal is the Christian Church the offspring of Israel which is Gods ass, and is bound to Christ the true vine.
5. Ecclesiastical History in Two Books, being a continuation of the History of Eusebius translated by Rufinus into Latin. This work was composed at Aquileia at the p. 411 request of the Bishop, Chromatius. The date is probably 401, since in the Preface Rufinus says that he had been requested to translate Eusebius at the time when Alaric was invading Italy. This must allude to the first of Alarics invasions, in 400, since the second invasion (402) would have been marked by some word such as “Iterum,” and at the 3d in 408 Chromatius had already died. The history does not attempt to give more than the chief events, and these are told with little sense of proportion, the Council of Ariminum occupying about 20 lines, while the story of the right arm of Arsenius which Athanasius was accused of cutting off takes up five times that space. Some documents of great importance, however, are given, such as the canons of Nicæa, and the Creed as it issued from the council. But there is much credulity, as shown in the account of the Discovery of the True Cross by Helena mother of Constantine, and the stories of the death of Arius and the attempted rebuilding of the Jewish Temple under Julian. Rufinus has none of the critical power needed for a true historian. We may add that all that is valuable in his history is incorporated into the works of Socrates (translated in Vol. iii. of this Series). See especially B. ii, c. 1.
6. The History of the Monks which is a description of the Egyptian Solitaries appears to have no mark of its date: But it was, no doubt, composed at Aquileia between 398 and 409, probably in the later part of that period. It was written in the name of Petronius Bishop of Bologna, and records his experiences, which he says he had been often requested by the monks of Mt. Olivet to commit to writing. It is full of strange stories like those in Jeromes Lives of the Hermits Hilarion and Malchus. 2770 There is often a verbal resemblance between this book and the Lausiac History of Palladius; indeed, they at times record the same adventures (compare the story of the crocodiles, Ruf. Hist. Mon. xxxiii. 6 with Pall. Hist. Laus. cl., where even the same prayers and texts are put into the mouths of the two narrators.) But it is probable that in these cases Palladius is indebted to Rufinus.
8. The Prefaces to the Books of Origen, translated by Rufinus, and to the Apology of Pamphilus for Origen, together with the Book on the Adulteration of Origens Writings are given in this volume (420–427). That to the Περὶ ᾽Αρχῶν (427) is the document on which the great controversy between Jerome and Rufinus turns. That to Numbers gives personal details of importance, while the Peroration to the Ep. to the Romans exhibits the method used in translating. The Preface and Epilogue to the work of Pamphilus are of great importance in connexion with the controversy between Jerome and Rufinus.
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