Rufinus of Aquileia on the Canon

Rufinus of Aquileia (340-410) was a friend of Jerome, and, like Jerome, he departed from Italy to live in the East. For many years he lived in monasteries in Egypt and in Palestine, acquiring the learning of the Eastern churches. Towards the end of his life he returned to Italy and occupied himself in translating works of the earlier Greek Fathers into Latin. His Exposition of the Creed was an original work, but it shows the influence of the Greek church (and of Jerome) in several places. In his discussion of the canon, reproduced below, he follows the Greek Fathers and Jerome in excluding the Apocrypha from the canon of Scripture.

From his Exposition of the Creed (about A.D. 400) 1

36. Hic igitur Spiritus Sanctus est qui in veteri Testamento Legem et Prophetas, in novo Evangelia et Apostolos inspiravit. Unde et Apostolos dicit: omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata utilis est ad docendum. Et ideo quae sunt Novi ac Veteris Testamenti volumina, quae secundum majorum traditionem per ipsum Spiritum Sanctum inspirata creduntur, et ecclesiis Christi tradita, competens videtur hoc in loco evidenti numero, sicut ex patrum monumentis accepimus, designare.

36. [I say] then it was the Holy Spirit who in the Old Testament inspired the Law and the Prophets, and in the New the Gospels and the Epistles. For which reason the apostle also says, “All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for instruction.” And therefore it seems proper in this place to specify by a distinct enumeration, from the records of the fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which, in accordance with the tradition of our ancestors, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and handed down to the churches of Christ.

37. Itaque Veteris Testamenti, omnium primo Moysi quinque libri sunt traditi, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium. Post haec Jesus Nave, et Judicum simul cum Ruth. Quatuor post haec Regnorum libri quos Hebraei duos numerant; Paralipomenon, qui Dierum dicitur liber; et Esdrae duo, qui apud illos singuli computantur, et Hester. Prophetarum vero Esaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel et Daniel: praeterea duodecim Prophetarum liber unus. Job quoque et Psalmi David singuli sunt libri. Salomonis vero tres ecclesiis traditi, Proverbia, Ecclesiastes, Cantica Canticorum. In his concluserunt numerum librorum Veteris Testamenti.

Novi vero quatuor Evangelia, Matthaei, Marci, Lucae, et Joannis. Actus Apostolorum quos describit Lucas. Pauli apostoli epistolae quatuordecim. Petri apostoli duae. Jacobi fratris Domini et apostoli una. Judae una. Joannis tres. Apocalypsis Joannis.

Haec sunt quae patres intra Canonem concluserunt, et ex quibus fidei nostrae assertiones constare voluerunt.

37. Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; then Joshua the son of Nun; the book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings, 2 which the Hebrews reckon two; Paralipomenon, 3 which is called the book of Days [Chronicles], and two books of Ezra, 4 which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the Twelve [minor] Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. These comprise the books of the Old Testament.

Of the New Testament there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles, which was written by Luke; fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, two of the apostle Peter, one of James, the brother of the Lord and an apostle, one of Jude, three of John, and the Revelation of John.

These are the books which the fathers have included in the canon; on which they would have us establish the declarations of our faith.

38. Sciendum tamen est quod et alii libri sunt qui non Canonici sed Ecclesiastici a majoribus appellati sunt, id est Sapientia, quae dicitur Salomonis, et alia Sapientia, quae dicitur filii Sirach, qui liber apud Latinos hoc ipso generali vocabulo Ecclesiasticus appellatur; quo vocabulo non auctor libelli, sed scripturae qualitas cognominata est. Ejusdem vero ordinis libellus Tobiae et Judith: et Machabaeorum libri.

In Novo vero Testamento libellus qui dicitur Pastoris sive Hermas, qui appellatur Duae viae vel Judicium Petri. Quae omnia legi quidem in ecclesiis voluerunt, non tamen proferri ad auctoritatem ex his fidei confirmandam. Caeteras vero Scripturas Apocryphas nominarunt, quas in Ecclesiis legi noluerunt.

Haec nobis a patribus tradita sunt, quae (ut dixi) opportunum visum est hoc in loco designare, ad instructionem eorum qui prima sibi ecclesiae ac fidei elementa suscipiunt, ut sciant, ex quibus sibi fontibus verbi Dei haurienda sint pocula.

38. But it should also be known that there are other books which are called not "canonical" but "ecclesiastical" by the ancients: 5 that is, the Wisdom attributed to Solomon, and another Wisdom attributed to the son of Sirach, which the Latins called by the title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book but its character. To the same class belong the book of Tobit and the book of Judith, and the books of Maccabees.

With the New Testament there is the book which is called the Shepherd of Hermas, and that which is called The Two Ways 6 and the Judgment of Peter. 7 They were willing to have all these read in the churches but not brought forward for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they named "apocrypha," 8 which they would not have read in the churches.

These are what the fathers have handed down to us, which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place, for the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the Word of God they should draw for drinking.


1. The Latin text here is according to Westcott (after Migne); the English translation is based upon that of Charles A. Heurtley (in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, vol. 3), which I have revised for greater accuracy in a few places. —M.D.M.

2. That is, what we call First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings.

3. First and Second Chronicles were called Paralipomenon "Omissions" in the Septuagint because the books supplied information which was omitted in First and Second Kings; but they were called Dierum "Days" in the Latin churches, after the custom of the Jews.

4. That is, Ezra and Nehemiah.

5. Or, by "most." Lat. a majoribus.

6. A section of the Epistle of Barnabas.

7. Probably referring to the Apocalypse of Peter.

8. Here "apocrypha" is used not in the modern Protestant sense but as a designation for heretical books.