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Default PART I. -- PARENTAGE, BIRTH, AND EDUCATION. (diocese theology orthodox friend history)






At Antioch at the close of the fourth century there were living a
husband and wife, opulent and happy in the enjoyment of all the good
things of this life, one thing only excepted. They were childless.
Married at seven****, the young bride lived for several years in the
enjoyment of such pleasures as wealth and society could give. At the
age of twenty-three she was attacked by a painful disease in one of
her eyes, for which neither the books of older authorities nor later
physiological discoveries could suggest a remedy. One of her domestic
servants, compassionating her distress, informed her that the wife of
Pergamius, at that time in authority in the East, had been healed of a
similar ailment by Petrus, a famous Galatian solitary who was then
living in the upper story of a tomb in the neighbourhood, to which
access could only be obtained by climbing a ladder. The afflicted
lady, says the story which her son himself repeats, (1) hastened to
climb to the recluse's latticed cell, arrayed in all her customary
elaborate costume, with earrings, necklaces, and the rest of her
ornaments of gold, her silk robe blazing with embroidery, her face
smeared with red and white cosmetics, and her eyebrows and eyelids
artificially darkened. "Tell me," said the hermit, on beholding his
brilliant visitor, "tell me, my child, if some skilful painter were to
paint a portrait according to his art's strict rules and offer it for
exhibition, and then up were to come some dauber dashing off his
pictures on the spur of the moment, who should find fault with the
artistic picture, lengthen the lines of brows and lids, make the face
whiter and heighten the red of the cheeks, what would you say? Do you
not think the original painter would be hurt at this insult to his art
and these needless additions of an unskilled hand." These arguments,
we learn, led eventually to the improvement of the young Antiochene
gentlewoman both in piety and good taste and her eye is said to have
been restored to health by the imposition of the sign of the cross.
Not impossibly the discontinuance of the use of cosmetics may have
helped, if not caused, the cure.

Six years longer the husband and wife lived together a more religious
life, but still unblessed with children. Among the ascetic solitaries
whom the disappointed husband begged to aid him in his prayers was one
Macedonius, distinguished, from the simplicity of his diet, as "the
barley eater." In answer to his prayers, it was believed, a son was at
last granted to the pious pair. (2) The condition of the boon being
that the boy should be devoted to the divine service, he was
appropriately named at his birth "Theodoretus," or "Given by God." (3)
Of the exact date of this birth, productive of such important
consequences to the history and literature of the Church, no precise
knowledge is attainable. The less probable year is 386 as given by
Garnerius, (4) the more probable and now generally accepted year 393
follows the computation of Tillemont. (5)

While yet in his swaddling bands the little Theodoret began to receive
training appropriate to his high career, (1) and, as he himself tells
us, with the pardonable exaggeration of enthusiasm, was no sooner
weaned than he began to learn the apostolic teaching. Among his
earliest impressions were the lessons and exhortations of Peter of
Galatia, to whom his mother owed so much, and of Macedonius "the
barley eaters" who had helped to save the Antiochenes in the troubles
that arose about the statues. (2) Of the latter (3) Theodoret quotes
the earnest charges to a holy life, and in his modesty expresses his
sorrow that he had not profiled better by the solitary's solemn
entreaties. If however Macedonius was indeed quite ignorant of the
Scriptures, (4) it may have been well for the boy's education to have\0
been not wholly in his hands. It is not impossible that he may have
had a childish recollection of Chrysostom, who left Antioch in 398. To
Peter he used to pay a weekly visit, and records (5) how the holy man
would take him on his knees and feed him with bread and raisins. A
treasure long preserved in the household of Theodoret's parents was
half Peter's girdle, woven of coarse linen, which the old man had one
day wound round the loins of the boy. Frequently proved an unfailing
remedy in various cases of family ailment, its very reputation led to
its loss, for all the neighbours used to borrow it to cure their own
complaints, and at last an unkind or careless friend omitted to return
it. (6)

When a stripling Theodoret was blessed by the right hand of Aphraates
the monk, of whom he relates an anecdote in his Ecclesiastical
History, (7) and when his beard was just beginning to grow was also
blessed by the ascetic Zeno. (8) At this period he was already a
lector (9) and was therefore probably past the age of eigh****. By
this time his general education would be regarded as more or less
complete, and to these earlier years may be traced the acquaintance
which he shows with the writings of Homer, Thucydides, Plato,
Euripides, and other Greek classics. Lighter literature, too, will not
have been excluded from his reading, if we accept the genuineness of
the famous letter on the death of Cyril, (10) and may infer that the
dialogues of Lucian are more likely to have amused the leisure hours
of a lad at school and college than have intruded on the genuine piety
and marvellous industry of the Bishop of Cyrus.

Theodoret was familiar with Greek, Syriac, and Hebrew, but is said to
have been unacquainted with Latin. (11) Such I presume to be an
inference froth a passage in one of his works (12) in which he tells
us "The Romans indeed had poets, orators, and historians, and we are
informed by those who are skilled in both languages that their
reasonings are closer than the Greeks' and their sentences more
concise. In saying this I have not the least intention of disparaging
the Greek language which is in a sense mine, (13) or of making an
ungrateful return to it for my education, but I speak that I may to
some extent close the lips and lower the brows of those who make too
big a boasting about it, and may teach them not to ridicule a language
which is illuminated by the truth." But it is not clear from these
words that Theodoret had no acquaintance with Latin. His admiration
for orthodox Western theology as well as his natural literary and
social curiosity would lead him to learn it. In the Ecclesiastical
History (III. 16) there is a possible reference to Horace.

Theodoret's chief instructor in Theology was the great light of the
school of Antioch, Theodorus, known from the name of the see to which
he was appointed in 392, "Mopsuestia," or "the hearth of Mopsus," in
Cilicia Secunda. He also refers to his obligations

to Diodorus of Tarsus. (1) Accepting 393 as the date of his birth and
392 as that of Theodore's appointment to his see, it would seem that
the younger theologian must have been rather a reader than a hearer as
well of Theodore as of Diodore. But Theodore expounded Scripture in
many churches of the East. (2) The friendship of Theodoret for
Nestorius may have begun when the latter was a monk in the convent of
St. Euprepius at the gates of Antioch. It is recorded (3) that on one
occasion Theodore gave offence while preaching at Antioch by refusing
to give to the blessed Virgin the title qeotkos. He afterwards
retracted this refusal for the sake of peace. The original objection
and subsequent consent have a curious significance in view of the
subsequent careers of his two famous pupils. Of the school of Antioch
as distinguished from that of Alexandria it may be said broadly that
while the latter shewed a tendency to syntheticism and to unity of
conception, the former, under the influence of the Aristotelian
philosophy, favoured ****ytic processes. (4) And while the general
bent of the school of thinkers among whom Theodoret was brought up
inclined to a recognition of a distinction between the two natures in
the Person of Christ, there was much in the special teaching of its
great living authority which was not unlikely to lead to such division
of the Person as was afterwards attributed to Nestorins. (3) Such were
the influences under which Theodoret grew up.

On the death of his parents he at once distributed all the property
that he inherited from them, and embraced a life of poverty, (6)
retiring, at about the age of three and twenty, to Nicerte, a village
three miles from Apamea, and seventy-five from Antioch, in the
monastery of which he passed seven calm and happy years, occasionally
visiting neighbouring monasteries and perhaps during this period
paying the visit to Jerusalem which left an indelible impression on
his memory."With my own eyes," he writes, (7) "I have seen that
desolation. The prediction rang in my ears when I saw the fulfillment
before my eyes and I lauded and worshipped the truth." Of the peace of
Theodoret's earlier manhood Dr. Newman s says in a sentence less open
to criticism than another which shall be quoted further on, "There he
laid deep within him that foundation of faith and devotion, and
obtained that vivid apprehension of the world unseen and future which
lasted him as a secret spring of spiritual strength all through the
conflict and sufferings of the years that followed.''


Cyrus or Cyrrhus was a town of the district of Syria called after it
Cyrestica. The capital of Cyrestica was Gindarus, which Strabo
describes (9) as being in his time a natural nest of robbers. Cyrus
lies on a branch of the river OEnoparas, now Aphreen, and the site is
still known as Koros. A tradition has long obtained that it received
the name of Cyrus from the Jews in honour of their great benefactor,
but this is more than doubtful. The form Cyrus may have arisen from a
confusion with a Cyrus in Susiana. (10) The Cyrestica is a fertile
plain lying between the spurs of the Alma Dagh and the Euphrates,
irrigated by three streams and blessed with a rich soil. The diocese,
which was subject to the Metropolitan of Hierapolis, contained some
six**** hundred square miles n and eight hundred distinct parishes
each with its church. (12) But Cyrus itself was a wretched little
place (13) scantily inhabited. Before it was beautified by the
munificence of Theodoret it contained no buildings of any dignity or
grace. The people of the town as well as of the diocese seem to have
been poor in orthodoxy as well as in pocket, and the rich soil of the
district grew a plentiful crop of the tares of Arianism, Marcionism,
Eunomianism and Judaism. (14) Such was the diocese to which Theodoret,
in spite of his honest nolo episcopari, (15) was consecrated at about
the age of thirty, A.D. 423. Of the cir***stances of this consecration
we have no evidence. Garnerius conjectures that he must have been
ordained deacon by Alexander who succeeded Porphyrius at Antioch. He
was probably appointed, if not consecrated, to succeed Isidorus at
Cyrus, by Theodotus the successor of Alexander on the patriarchal
throne of Antioch. In this diocese certainly for five and twenty
years, perhaps for five and thirty, with occasional intervals he
worked night and day with unflagging patience and perseverance for the
good of the people committed to his care, and in the cause of his
Master and of the truth. The ecclesiastic of these early

times is sometimes imagined to have been a morose and ungenial
ascetic, wasting his energies in unprofitable hair-splitting, and
taking little or no interest in the every day needs of his
contemporaries. In marked contrast with this imaginary bishop stands
out the kindly figure of the real bishop of Cyrus, as the modest
statements and hints supplied by his own letters enable us to recall
him. As an administrator and man of business he was munificent and
efficient. Stripped, as we have already learnt, of his family property
by his own act and will, he must have been dependent in his diocese on
the revenues of his see. From these, which cannot have been small, he
was able to spend large sums on public works. Cyrus was adorned with
porticoes, with two great bridges, with baths, and with an aqueduct,
all at Theodoret's expense. (1) On assuming the administration of his
diocese he took measures, he tells us, (2) to secure for Cyrus "the
necessary arts," and from these three words we need not hesitate to
infer that architects, engineers, masons, sculptors, and carpenters,
would be attracted "from all quarters" to the bishop's important
works. And for this increased population it is interesting to note
that Theodoret provided competent practitioners in medicine and
surgery, in which it would seem he was not himself unskilled. (3) His
keen interest in the temporal needs of his people is shown by the
efforts he made to obtain relief for them from the cruel pressure of
exorbitant taxation. (4) So unendurable was the tale of imposts under
which they groaned that in many cases they were deserting their farms
and the country, and he earnestly appeals to the empress Pulcheria and
to his friend Anatolius to help them. (5) The tender sympathy felt by
him for all those afflicted in body and estate, as well as in mind, is
shown in his letters on behalf of Celestinianus, or Celestiacus, a
gentleman of position at Carthage, who had suffered cruelly during the
attack of the Vandals, (6) and in the admirable and touching letters
of consolation addressed to survivors on the deaths of relatives. That
these should have been religiously preserved need excite no surprise.
(7) Of the terms on which he lived with his neighbours we can form
some idea from the justifiable boast contained in his letter to Nomus.
In the quarter of a century of his episcopate, he writes, he never
appeared in court either as prosecutor or defendant; his clergy
followed his admirable example; he never took an ool or a garment
from any one; not one of his household ever received so much as a loaf
or an egg; he could not bear to think that he had any property beyond
his few poor clothes. (8) Yet he was always ready to give where he
would not receive, and in addition to all the diocesan and literary
work which he conscientiously performed, he spent more time than he
could well afford in all sorts of extra diocesan business which his
position thrust in his way.

As a shepherd of souls he was unceasing in his efforts to win heathen,
heretics and Jews to the true faith. His diocese, when he assumed its
government, was a very hotbed of heresy. (9) Nevertheless in the
famous letter to Leo (10) he could boast that not a tare was left to
spoil the crop. His fame as a preacher was great and wide, and makes
us the more regret that of the discourses which in turn roused,
cheered, and blamed, so little should survive. The eloquence, so to
say, of his extant writings, gives indications of the force of spoken
utterances not less marked by learning and literary skill. Two of his
letters give vivid pictures of the enthusiasm of oriental auditories
in Antioch, once so populous and so keen in theological interest,
where now, amid a people numbering only about a fiftieth part of their
predecessors of the fifth century, there is not a single church. We
see the patriarch John in a frenzy of gladness at Theodoret's sermons,
clapping his hands and springing again and again from his chair; (11)
we see the heads of the congregation receiving the bishop of Cyrus
with frantic delight as he came down from the pulpit, flinging their
arms round him, kissing now his head, now his breast, now his hands,
now his knees, and hear them exclaiming, "This is the Voice of the
Apostle!" (12) But Theodoret had to encounter sometimes the fury of
opposition. Again and again in his campaign against heretics and
unbelievers he was stoned, wounded, and brought nigh unto death. (13)
"He from whom no secrets are hid knows all the bruises my body has
received, aimed at me by ill-named heretics, and what fights I have
fought in most of the cities of the East against Jews, heretics, and
heathen." (14)


Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, was bound by ties of close
friendship both to Theodoret and to John, patriarch of Antioch. In
August, 430, the western bishops, under the presidency of the Pope
Celestine, assembled in council at Rome, condemned Nestorius, and
threatened him with excommunication. Shortly afterwards a council of
Orientals at Alexandria, summoned by Cyril, endorsed this condemnation
and despatched it to Constantinople. Then John received from Celestine
and Cyril letters announcing their common action. When the couriers
conveying these communications reached Antioch they found John
surrounded by Theodoret and other bishops who were assembled possibly
for the ordination of Macarius, the new bishop of Laodicea. John took
counsel with his brother bishops, and a letter was despatched in their
common name to Nestorius, exhorting him to accept the term qeotokos,
round which the whole war waged; pointing out the sense in which it
could not but be accepted by every loyal Christian, and imploring him
not to embroil Christendom for a word. This letter has been generally
attributed to Theodoret. But while the conciliatory sage of Cyrus was
endeavouring to formulate an Eirenicon, the ardent Egyptian made peace
almost impossible by the publication of his famous anathematisms. John
and his friends were distressed at the apparent unorthodoxy of Cyril's
condemnation of Nestorius, and asked Theodoret to refute Cyril. (1)
The strong language employed in Letter CL. conveys an idea of the heat
of the enthusiasm with which Theodoret cutered on the task, and his
profound conviction that Cyril, in blind zeal against imaginary error
on the part of Nestorius, was himself falling headlong into the
Apollinarian pit. An eager war of words now waged over Nestorius
between Cyril and Theodoret, each denouncing the other for supposed
heresy on the subject of the incarnation; and, with deep respect for
the learning and motives of Theodoret, we may probably find a solution
of much that he said and did in the fact that he misunderstood
Nestorius as completely as he did Cyril. (2) Cyril, nursed in the
synthetic principles of the Alexandrian school, could see only the
unity of the two natures in the one Person. To him, to distinguish, as
the ****ysis of Theodoret distinguished, between God the Word and
Christ the Man, was to come perilously near a recognition of two
Christs, keeping up as it were a mutual dialogue of speech and action.
But Cyril's unqualified assertion that there is one Christ, and that
Christ is God, really gave no ground for the accusation that to him
the manhood was an unreality. Yet he and Theodoret were substantially
at one. Theodoret's failure to apprehend Cyril's drift was no doubt
due less to any want of intelligence on the part of the Syrian than to
the overbearing bitterness of the fierce Egyptian.

On the other hand Theodoret's loyal love for Nestorius led him to give
his friend credit for meaning what he himself meant. While he was
driven to contemplate the doctrines of Cyril in their most dangerous
exaggeration, he shrank from seeing how the Nestorian counter
statement might be dangerously exaggerated. Theodoret, as Dr. Bright
remarks, (3) "uses a good deal of language which ism prima facie
Nestorian; his objections are pervaded by an ignoratio clenchi, and
his language is repeatedly illogical and inconsistent; but he and
Cyril were essentially nearer to each other in belief than at the time
they would have admitted, for Theodoret virtually owns the personal
oneness and explains the phrase 'God assumed man' by 'He assumed
manhood.'" Cyril "in his letter to Euoptius earnestly disclaims both
forms of Apollinarianism -- the notion of a mindless manhood in Christ
and the notion of a body formed out of Godhead. In his reply (on Art
iv.) he admits the language appropriate to each nature."

Probably both the Egyptian and the Syrian would have found no
difficulty in subscribing the language of out own judicious divine; "a
kind of mutual commutation there is whereby those concrete names, God
and Man, when we speak of Christ, do take interchangeably one
another's room, so that for truth of speech it skilleth not whether we
say that the Son of God hath created the world and the Son of Man by
his death hath saved it or else that the Son of Man did create, and
the Son of God died to save the world. Howbeit, as oft as we attribute
to God what the manhood of Christ claimeth, or to man what his Deity
hath right unto, we understand by the name of God and the name of Man
neither the one nor the other nature, but the whole person of Christ,
in whom both natures are. When the Apostle saith of the Jews that they
crucified the Lord of Glory, and when the Son of Man being on earth
affirmeth that the Son of Man was in heaven at

the same instant, there is in these two speeches that mutual
circulation before mentioned. In the one there is attributed to God or
the Lord of Glory death, whereof divine nature is not capable; in the
other ubiquity unto man, which human nature admitteth not. Therefore
by the Lord of Glory we must needs understand the whole person of
Christ, who being Lord of Glory, was indeed crucified, but not in that
nature for which he is termed the Lord of Glory. In like manner by the
Son of Man the whole person of Christ must necessarily be meant, who
being man upon earth, filled heaven with his glorious presence, but
not according to that nature for which the title of Man is given him.
Without this caution the Fathers whose belief was divine and their
meaning most sound, shall seem in their writing one to deny what
another constantly doth affirm. Theodoret disputeth with great
earnestness that God cannot be said to suffer. But he thereby meaneth
Christ's divine nature against Apollinarius, which held even Deity.
itself passible. Cyril on the other side against Nestorius as much
contendeth that whosoever will deny very God to have suffered death
doth forsake the faith. Which notwithstanding to hold were heresy, if
the name of God in this assertion did not import as it doth the person
of Christ, who being verily God suffered death, but in the flesh, and
not in that substance for which the name of God is given him." (1)

As to the part played by Theodoret throughout the whole controversy we
may conclude that though he had to own himself beaten intellectually,
yet the honours of the moral victory remain with him rather than with
his illustrious opponent. Not for the last time in the history of the
Church a great duel of dialectic issued in a conclusion wherein of the
champion who was driven to say, "I was wrong," the congregation of the
faithful has yet perforce felt that he was right.

The end is well known. Theodosius summoned the bishops to Ephesus at
the Pentecost of 431. There arrived Cyril with fifty supporters early
in June; there arrived Theodoret with his Metropolitan Alexander of
Hierapolis, in advance of the rest of the Orientals. The Cyrillians
were vainly entreated to wait for John of Antioch and his party, and
opened the Council without them. When they arrived they would not join
the Council, and set up their own "Conciliabulum" apart. Under the hot
Levantine sun of July and August the two parties denounced one another
on the one side for not accepting the condemnation of Nestorius, which
the Cyrillians had passed in the beginning of their proceedings, on
the other for the informality and injustice of the condemnation. Then
deputies from the Orientals, of whom Theodoret was one, hurried to
Constantinople, but were allowed to proceed no further than Chalcedon.

a vivid impression of the zeal, pigour and industry of the writer, as
well as of the extraordinary literary readiness which could pour out
letter after letter, memorial after memorial, amid all the excitement
of controversy, the weariness of travel, the sojourning in strange and
uncomfortable quarters, and the tension of anxiety as to an uncertain

Though Nestorius was deposed his friends protested that they would
continue true to him, and Theodoret was one of the synod held at
Tarsus, and of another at Antioch, in which the protest against
Cyril's action was renewed. But the oriental bishops were now
themselves undergoing a process of scission, (3) John of Antioch and
Acacius of Beroea heading the peacemakers who were anxious to come to
terms with Cyril, while Alexander of Hierapolis led the
irreconcilables. Intellectually Theodoret shrank from concession, but
his moral instincts were all in favour of peace. He himself drew up a
declaration of faith which was presented by Paul of Emesa to Cyril,
which Cyril accepted. But still true to his friend, Theodoret refused
to accept the deposition of Nestorius and his individual condemnation,
and it was not till several years had elapsed that, moved less by the
threat of exile and forfeiture, as the imperial penalty for refusing
to accept the position, than by the en-treaties of his beloved flock
and of his favourite ascetic solitaries that he would not leave them,
Theodoret found means of attaching a meaning to the current anathemas
on Nestorianism, not, as he said, on Nestorius, which allowed him to
submit. He even entered into friendly correspondence with Cyril. (4)
But the truce was hollow. Cyril was indignant to find that Theodoret
still maintained his old opinions. At last the protracted quarrel was
ended by Cyril s death m June, 444. On the famous letter over which so
many battles of criticism have been fought we have already spoken. If
it was really written by Theodoret, to which opinion my own view
inclines, (1) there is no reason why we should damn it as "a coarse
and ferocious invective." If genuine, it was clearly a piece of grim
pleasantry dashed off in a moment of excitement to a personal friend,
and never intended for the publicity which has drawn such severe blame
upon its writer.

But though the death of Cyril might appear to bring relief to the
Church and Empire as well as to his individual opponents, it was by no
means a ground of unmixed gratification to Theodoret. (2) Dioscorus,
who succeeded to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, however Theodoret in
the language of conventional courtesy may speak of the new bishop's
humble mindedness, (3) inherited none of the good qualities of Cyril
and most of his faults. Theod-oret, naturally viewed with suspicion
and dislike as the friend and supporter of Nestorius, gave additional
ground for ill-will and hostility by action which brought him into
individual conflict with Dioscorus. He accepted the synodical letters
issued at Constantinople at the time of Proclus, and so seemed to
lower the dignity of the apostolic sees of Antioch and Alexandria; (4)
he also warmly resented the tyrannical treatment of his friend
Irenaeus, bishop of Tyre. (5) Irenaeus had indeed in the earlier days
of his banishment to Petra after his first condemnation in 435
attacked Theodoret for not being thoroughly Nestorian, but Theodoret
was able to claim Irenaeus as not objecting to the crucial term
qeotokos, (6) reasonably understood, and accepted him as
unquestionably orthodox. When therefore Dioscorus, the Archimandrite
Eutyches, and his godson the eunuch Chrysaphius attacked Domnus for
consecrating Irenaeus to the Metropolitan see of Tyre, Theodoret
indignantly protested and counselled Domnus as to how he had best
reply. (7) But Dioscorus and his party had now the ear, and guided the
fingers, of the imperial weakling at Constantinople, and the
deposition of Irenaeus (Feb. 17, 448) was followed after a year's
successful intrigues by the autograph edict of Theodosius confining
Theodoret within the limits of his own diocese as a vexatious and
turbulent busybody.
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