Rufinus on his Translation of Origen's Commentary on Romans

I came across an interesting quote from Rufinus at the conclusion of his Latin translation of Origen’s commentary on Romans. He says,

They say to me; When you write these things, in which are found many pieces the composition or which is due to yourself, you should place your own name in the title, and let it run thus: The books of Rufinus’ commentary on (for instance) the Epistle to the Romans;’ for so, they say, in the case of profane writers, the name in the title is not that of the Greek author who is translated but of the Latin author who translates him. But all this complaisance, by which the works are ascribed to me, is caused not by love to me but by hatred to the author. I am much more observant of my conscience than of my reputation; it may be apparent that I have added some things to supply what was wanting; and that I have abbreviated what was too lengthy; but to steal the title from the man who laid the foundations on which the building has been reared is what I cannot think right. It must be, I grant, in the discretion of the reader, when he has examined the work, to ascribe the work to any one he thinks right; but my intention has been not to seek the applause of students but the good of those who wish to be edified1.

I find it interesting that it seems that works that had been translated the translators name was put as the author. I have little to no knowledge of translation practices of this time period but it does seem at least on some level that this was practiced.

Also, quite different from a modern day translation of a work is the adding/subtracting of material. Rufinus is adamant to state that he will not put his name as author on the document but he does find the liberty to add to what he thought Origen was lacking and to summarize parts that were too long.

Interestingly enough, he does not do the same to his translation of Recognition of Clement the Bishop of Rome. He takes a different approach from the Origen translation and says,

…to judge by the ordinary rule, I shall have labor upon labor. In this case I will do what my friends desire, I will put my own name in the title of the work, though I shall have that of the author also. It shall be called Rufinus’s Clement.

  1. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, Etc. (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. William Henry Fremantle; vol. 3; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 3566.  ↩︎

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