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Fathers of the Church

Preface to the Translation of Origen's Commentary on Psalms 36, 37, and 38


In this preface Rufinus notes that Origen’s explanation of Psalms 36-38 is clear and simple commentary on Christian life, focused on the two aspects of conversion and progressive purification. Like the preface to the Sayings of Sextus, it is addressed directly to Apronianus and indirectly to a Christian lady known to him and Rufinus.


Tiranius Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 345-410) was a contemporary of St. Jerome and, like him, primarily a translator. Despite the controversy surrounding Origen’s thought, Rufinus was convinced of the basic orthodoxy and the importance for subsequent generations of the great Alexandrian theologian. He began translating Origen’s writings into Latin in 398 and continued this work until his death. The nine homilies on Psalms 36-38 were translated in 401.

by Rufinus in 401 | translated by William Henry Fremantle

The whole exposition of the thirty-sixth, thirty-seventh and thirty- eighth Psalms is ethical in its character, being designed to enforce more correct methods of life; and teaches at one time the way of conversion and repentance, at another that of purification and of progress. I have therefore thought it well to translate it into Latin for you, my dearest son Apronianus, having first arranged it in nine of the short sermons which are called in Greek Homilies, and incorporated it into one whole; and thus this discourse which in all its parts aims at the correction and the advancement of the moral life, is collected into a single volume. My translation will at all events be of use so far as to put the reader without effort in possession of the meaning of the author, which is here fully laid open, and to bring home to him the simplicity of life which he enjoins with clearness of thought and in simple words; and thus the voice of prophecy may reach not men alone but also god-fearing women, and lend subtlety to the minds of the simple. Yet I fear that pious lady, who is my daughter but your sister in Christ, may think that she owes me no thanks for my work if it brings her nothing but puzzling thoughts and thorny questions: for the human body could hardly hold together if divine providence had formed it of bones and muscles alone without blending with them the ease and grace of the softer tissues.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF II/III, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

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