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v2.1 Reference

History of the Church

Translated by Philip R Amidon, SJ
Rufinus of Aquileia's History of the Church, published in 402 or 403, is a translation and continuation of that of Eusebius of Caesarea. Eusebius's history tells the story of Christianity from its beginning down to the year 325; Rufinus carries the story forward to , the year of the death of Theodosius I. Rufinus demonstrates both a superb understanding of Eusebius's text and a tendency to translate it freely or even to misrepresent it when he judges that it does not do justice to the unity of faith and order which he is convinced is an essential element of the church's constitution. He excises and rewrites passages liberally, but he retains in his translation Eusebius's revolutionary citation of sources, a historiographical method which would eventually prove so fruitful in the literature of the Latin church.

Despite the changes he felt he had to make in his translation, he was deeply influenced by Eusebius's original when he composed his continuation. Just as Eusebius begins with a statement of Christian faith and a demonstration of its existence beyond the bounds of the Roman empire, continues with the story of its mission, persecution, divisions, and salvation despite its deprivation and suffering, and concludes with its secure establishment by the devout emperor Constantine, so Rufinus continues the story with the statement of faith of the Council of Nicaea, the account of its spread outside the Roman empire, the divisions and persecutions it suffered in his own time, and finally the victory over paganism of the orthodox emperor Theodosius.

Rufinus's history was an immediate success. It was the first Latin Christian history, and as such it exerted great influence over his own generation and for a thousand years thereafter when the general ignorance of Greek in the Latin church made Eusebius's original practically unavailable to it.

About the Author

Philip R. Amidon, SJ is adjunct assistant professor at Creighton University

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