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Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus 1.9-10


In a long letter he wrote to his associates Pammachius and Marcella in 401, Jerome struck at first a defensive and then an offensive stance in the ongoing Origenist controversy that had embroiled the episcopate of Jerusalem since the early 390s. Jerome’s old friend Tyrannius Rufinus had emerged as a prominent intellectual and founding leader among the monks on the Mount of Olives during the same time as Jerome was settling into his own monastic base at Bethlehem. During an episode of intense theological dispute, Jerome in his orthodoxy grew increasingly annoyed and outraged by Rufinus’ support for John the bishop of Jerusalem, his translation of writings by Origen, and his characterization of Jerome as a sympathizer. After learning of an apology by Rufinus that was circulating in Aquileia and Rome, Jerome immediately responded with his own bitter polemic. In this passage, Jerome discusses the literary activity of Pamphilus, the martyr and giant of Caesarean scholarship. Here Jerome impugns the integrity of Rufinus on the grounds that he had misrepresented the authorship of the Apology for Origen.


(9) Quid tibi animi fuisse dicam, amice simplicissime? Tene potuisse haeretici hominis libro martyris nomen imponere, et ignaros, sub auctoritate testis Christi, Origenis facere defensores? Pro eruditione qua polles et inclytus συγγραφεὺς in Occidente laudaris, ita ut coryphaeum te omnes tuae partis nominent, non reor te ignorasse Eusebii σύνταγμα, et Pamphilum martyrem nihil omnino operis condidisse. Ipse enim Eusebius, amator et praeco et contubernalis Pamphili, tres libros scripsit elegantissimos vitam Pamphili continentes, in quibus cum cetera miris laudibus praedicaret humilitatemque eius ferret in caelum, etiam hoc in tertio libro addidit, “Quis studiosorum amicus non fuit Pamphili? Si quos videbat ad victum necessariis indigere, praebebat large quae poterat. Scripturas quoque sanctas non ad legendum tantum, sed et ad habendum tribuebat promptissime, nec solum viris, sed et feminis quas vidisset lectioni deditas. Unde et multos codices praeparabat, ut, cum necessitas poposcisset, volentibus largiretur. Et ipse quidem proprii operis nihil omnino scripsit, exceptis epistulis quas ad amicos forte mittebat, in tantum se humilitatem deiecerat. Veterum autem scriptorum tractatus legebat studiosissime et in eorum meditatione iugiter versabatur.”(10) Defensor Origenis et laudator Pamphili dicit Pamphilum nihil omnino scripsisse, nec proprii quidquam condidisse sermonis; et hoc dicit iam Pamphilo martyrio coronato, ne habeas suffugium post editos ab Eusebio libros hoc Pamphilum conscripsisse.1

Textual Note

Ed. Migne 1883 with ref. to Lardet 1982


(9) Shall I say what your intention was, my most simple-minded friend? Surely you could not have placed the name of a marytr (sc. Pamphilus) on the book of a heretic (sc. Origen) and thus, under the guarantee of Christ’s witness, made uninformed men the defenders of Origen? Considering the learning for which you are renowned and praised in the West as an illustrious littérateur, to the extent that all men in your party call you their leader, I will not suppose that you do not know Eusebius’ catalog and the fact that the martyr Pamphilus never wrote a single book. Indeed Eusebius himself, the lover and herald and companion of Pamphilus, wrote three most eloquent books containing the Life of Pamphilus. In these he commends his various qualities with extraordinary praises and extols his humility to the sky, and even added this in his third book: “Who among those dedicated to study was not a friend of Pamphilus? If he saw anyone lacking the necessities for their sustenance, he generously provided them what he could. He used to grant them eagerly the Holy Scriptures not only to read but even to keep, not only to men but also to women whom he saw indulging in reading. For that reason he prepared many copies, so that he could grant them to those who wanted as need demanded. He himself however wrote no work of his own at all besides the letters he sometimes sent to friends, so low did he humiliate himself. But the treatises of ancient writers he read with the greatest diligence, and he was constantly occupied with meditating on them.”(10) The one who defends Origen and praises Pamphilus says that Pamphilus wrote nothing at all and composed no text; and he says this when Pamphilus had already received the crown of martyrdom, to deprive you of the loophole in claiming that Pamphilus wrote this work after the publication of Eusebius’ books.2

Translation Note

Adapted from Fremantle 1892 with ref. to Lardet 1983

Works Cited

  • 1 Jerome, S. Eusebii Hieronymi Stridonis presbyteri opera omnia, ... tomus secundus, ed. J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series Latina 23 (Paris: Garnier, 1883), ch: 1.9-10, col: 422a-423a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 Jerome and Rufinus, Life and Works of Rufinus, with Jerome’s Apology against Rufinus, in Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, & Rufinus: Historical Writings, ed. Henry Wace and Philip Schaff, trans. W. H. Fremantle, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. 2nd Series 3 (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1892), 403–541Link to Zotero Bibliographic RecordLink to Worldcat Bibliographic record

Additional Bibliography

  • Jerome, S. Hieronymi presbyteri opera III.1: contra Rufinum, ed. Pierre Lardet, Corpus Christianorum, series Latina 79 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1982), p: 8-9.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • Jerome, Saint Jérôme: Apologie contre Rufin, trans. Pierre Lardet, Sources chrétiennes 303 (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1983)Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome; His Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York and London: Harper & Row / Duckworth, 1975), p: 243-258.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • Elizabeth A. Clark, The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate, repr. Princeton 2016 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992)Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

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How to Cite This Entry

Joseph L. Rife, “Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus 1.9-10,” in Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, entry published October 19, 2022,


Joseph L. Rife, “Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus 1.9-10.” In Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, edited by Joseph L. Rife., edited by Joseph L. Rife. Caesarea City and Port Exploration Project, 2022. Entry published October 19, 2022.

About this Entry

Entry Title: Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus 1.9-10

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Joseph L. Rife, general editor, Vanderbilt University
  • Joseph L. Rife, editor, Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia
  • David A. Michelson, Daniel L. Schwartz, and William L. Potter, technical editor, “Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus 1.9-10
  • Joseph L. Rife, entry contributor, “Jerome, Apology Against Rufinus 1.9-10

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  • TEI encoding by William L. Potter
  • Electronic text added by Joseph L. Rife
  • Testimonia identified by Joseph L. Rife
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