|« Prev||Contents and Character of the Extant Works.||Next »|
IX.—Contents and Character of the Extant Works.
(a) The character of the Commentary on the Octateuch and the Books of Kings and Chronicles is indicated by the Title “εἰς τὰ ᾽άπορα τῆς θείας Γραφῆς κατ᾽ ᾽εκλογήν,” or “On selected difficulties in Holy Scripture.” These questions are treated, with occasional deflexions into allegory, from the historico-exegetical point of view of the Syrian School,107107 cf. Gieseler i. 209, who refers to Münter in Staüdlins Archiv. für Kirchengesch. i. 1. 13. of which Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia were distinguished representatives. On Diodorus Socrates108108 vi., 3. remarks, “he composed many works, relying on the bare letter of Scripture, and avoiding their speculative aspect.” This might be said of Diodorus’ great pupil too. Nevertheless, though generally following a line of interpretation in broad contrast with that of Origen, Theodoret quotes Origen as well as Diodore and Theodore of Mopsuestia as authorities. Of the 182 “questions” on Genesis and Exodus the following may be taken as specimens.
Question viii. “What spirit moved upon the waters?” Theodoret’s conclusion is that the wind is indicated.
Question x. “Why did the author add, ‘And God saw that it was good’?” To persuade the thankless not to find fault with what the divine judgment pronounces good.
Question xix. “To whom did God say ‘let us make man in our image and likeness’?” The reply, carefully elaborated, is that here is an indication of the Trinity.
Question xx. “What is meant by ‘image’?”
Here long extracts from Diodorus, Theodorus, and Origen are given.
Question xxiv. “Why did God plant paradise, when He intended straightway to drive out Adam thence?”
Question xl. “What is the meaning of the statement ‘The man is become as one of us’?” Theodoret thinks this is said ironically. God had forbidden Adam to take of the fruit of the tree of life, not because he grudged man immortal life, but to check the course of sin. So death is a means of cure, not a punishment.
Question xlvii. “Whom did Moses call sons of God?” A long argument replies, the sons of Seth.
Question lxxxi suggests an ingenious excuse for Jacob. “Did not Jacob lie when he said, I am Esau thy firstborn?” He had bought the precedence of primogeniture, and therefore spoke the truth when he called himself firstborn.
16Exodus. “Question xii. What is the meaning of the phrase ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart’?” This is answered at great length.
The information given in these notes, as we might call them, is theological, exegetic, and explanatory of peculiar terms, and is often of interest and value. On the fourteen Books of Questions and Answers Canon Venables,110110 Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 916. quoting Ceillier, remarks that the whole form a literary and historical commentary of great service for the right comprehension of the text, characterized by honesty and common sense, and seldom straining or evading the meaning to avoid dangerous conclusions.
The Psalmist, Theodoret observes,112112 In Ps. Ed. Migne 604, 605. in many places predicts the passion and resurrection of our Lord, and to attentive readers causes real delight by the variety of his prophesying. In view of some recent discussions concerning the authorship of certain Psalms it is interesting to find the enthusiast for orthodoxy in the 5th century writing “It has been contended by some critics that the Psalms are not all the work of David, but are to be ascribed in some cases to other writers. Accordingly, from the titles, some have been attributed to Idithum, some to Etham, some to the sons of Core, some to Asaph, by men who have learned from the Chronicles that these writers were prophets.113113 cf. 1 Chron. vi. 44., xv. 17, 19, and Art. Jeduthun in Dict. Bib. On this point I make no positive statement. What difference indeed does it make to me whether all the Psalms are David’s, or some were the composition of others, when it is clear that all were written by the active operation of the Holy Spirit?”
The importance of the commentary on the Psalms may be estimated by the fact that it is longer than all the catechetical commentary on the preceding Books combined.
The interpretation on the Canticles follows spiritual, as distinguished from literal, lines. The lover is Jesus Christ;—the bride, the Church. From the prologue it appears that Theodoret held all the Old Testament to have been re-written, under divine inspiration, by Ezra. This is regarded as the earliest of the exegetical works.
The original commentary on Isaiah has been lost. The only existing portions are passages collected from the Greek catenæ by Sirmond and edited in his edition, but the opinion has been entertained114114 Garnerius. Theod. Ed. Migne 1, 274. that these passages should be referred to Theodore of Mopsuestia who also commented on Isaiah, and who is sometimes confused with Theodoret by the compilers of the Greek catenæ.
(c) The epistles of St. Paul, among which Theodoret reckons the Epistle to the Hebrews, are the only portions of the New Testament on which we possess our author’s commentaries. On them the late Bishop Lightfoot writes, “Theodoret’s commentaries on St. Paul are superior to his other exegetical writings, and have been assigned the palm over all patristic expositions of Scripture. See Schröckh xviii. p. 398. sqq., Simon, p. 314 sqq. Rosenmüller iv. p. 93 sqq., and the monograph of Richter, de Theodoreto Epist. Paulin, interprete (Lips. 1822.) For appreciation, terseness of expression and good sense, they are perhaps unsurpassed, and, if the absence of faults were a just standard of merit, they would deserve the first place; but they have little claim to originality, and he who has read Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia will find scarcely anything in Theodoret which he has not seen before. It is right to add however that Theodoret modestly disclaims any such merit. In his preface he apologises for attempting to interpret St. Paul after two such men who are ‘luminaries of the world:’ and he professes nothing more than to gather his stores ‘from the blessed fathers.’ In these expressions he alludes doubtless to Chrysostom and Theodore.”116116 Lightfoot. Epist. Gal. ed. 1866, p. 226.
As a specimen of the mode of treatment of a crucial passage, of interest in view of the writer’s relations to the Nestorian and Eutychian controversies, the notes on I. Cor. xv. 27, 28 may be quoted. “This is a passage which Arians and Eunomians have been wont to be constantly adducing with the notion that they are thereby belittling the dignity of the only-begotten. They ought to have perceived that the divine apostle has written nothing in this passage about the Godhead of the only-begotten. He is exhorting us to believe in the resurrection of the flesh, and endeavours to prove the resurrection of the flesh by the resurrection of the Lord. It is obvious that like is conformed to like. On this account he calls Him ‘the first fruits of them that have fallen asleep,’ and styles Him 17 ‘Man,’ and by comparison with Adam proves that by Him the general resurrection will come to pass, with the object of persuading objectors, by shewing the resurrection of one of like nature, to believe that all mankind will share His resurrection. It must therefore be recognised that the natures of the Lord are two: and that divine Scripture names Him sometimes from the human, and sometimes from the divine. If it speaks of God, it does not deny the manhood: if it mentions man it at the same time confesses the Godhead. It is impossible always to speak of Him in terms of sublimity, on account of the nature which He received from us, for if even when lowly terms are employed some men deny the assumption of the flesh, clearly still more would have been found infected with this unsoundness, had no lowly terms been used. What then is the meaning of ‘then is subjected’? This expression is applicable to sovereigns exercising sovereignty now, for if He then is subjected He is not yet subjected. So they are all in error who blaspheme and try to make subject Him who has not yet submitted to the limits of subjection. We must wait, and learn the mode of the subjection. But we have gone through long discussions on these points in our contests with them. It is enough now to indicate briefly the Apostle’s aim. He is writing to the Corinthians who have only just been set free from the fables of heathendom. Their fables are full of violence and iniquity. Not to name others, and pollute my lips, they worship parricide gods, and say that sons revolted against their fathers, drove them from their realm, and seized their sovereignty. So after saying great things of Christ, in that He shall destroy all rule and authority and power, and shall put an end to death, and hath subdued all things under his feet; lest starting from those fables of theirs they should expect Him to treat His father like the Dæmons whom they adore; after mentioning, as was necessary, the subjugation of all things the apostle adds ‘The Son Himself shall be subject to Him that did put all things under Him.’ For not only shall He not subject the Father to Himself, but shall Himself accept the subjection becoming to a son. So the divine apostle, suspecting the mischief arising from the pagan mythology, uses expressions of lowliness because such terms are helpful. But let objectors tell us the form of that subjection. If they are willing to consider the truth, He shewed obedience when He was made man, and wrought out our salvation. How then shall He then be subjected, and how shall He then deliver the kingdom to God the Father? If the case be viewed in this way, it will appear that God the Father does not hold the kingdom now. So full of absurdity are their arguments. But He makes what is ours His own, since we are called His body, and He is called our Head. ‘He took our iniquities and bore our diseases.’117117 Is. liii. 4 So He says in the Psalm ‘my God, my God, look upon me, why hast Thou forsaken me. The words of my transgressions are far from my health.’118118 Ps. xxii. 1 And yet He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. But a mouth is made of our nature, in that He was made the first fruits of the nature. So He appropriates our frequent disobedience and the then subjection, and, when we are subjected after our delivery from corruption He is said to be subjected. What follows leads us on to this sense. For after the words ‘then shall the son be subject to Him that did put all things under Him,’ the Apostle adds ‘that God may be all in all.’ He is everywhere now in accordance with His essence, for His nature is uncircumscribed, as says the divine apostle, ‘in Him we live and move and have our being.’119119 Acts xvii. 28 But, as regards His good pleasure, He is not in all, for ‘the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in his mercy.’120120 Ps. cxlvii. 11 But in these He is not wholly. For no one is pure of uncleanness, and In thy sight shall no man living be justified121121 Psalm cxliii. 2 and ‘If thou Lord shouldst mark iniquities O Lord who shall stand?’ Therefore the Lord taketh pleasure wherein they do right and taketh not pleasure wherein they err. But in the life to come where corruption ceases and immortality is given passions have no place; and after these have been quite driven out no kind of sin is committed for the future. Thus hereafter God shall be all in all, when all have been released from sin and turned to Him and are incapable of any inclination to the worse. And what in this place the divine Apostle has said of God in another passage he has laid down of Christ. His words are these. ‘Where there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian…but Christ is all and in all.’122122 Coloss. iii. 11 He would not have applied to the Son what is attributable to the Father had he not of divine grace learnt that He is of equal honour with Him.’123123 Theodor. Ed. Migne iii. 271. Seqq.
On the meaning of the passage about them that are baptized for the dead it is curious to 18find only one interpretation curtly proffered in apparent unconsciousness of any other being known or possible. Theodoret’s words are “He, says the apostle, who is baptized is buried with the Lord, that as he has been sharer in the death so he may be sharer in the resurrection. But if the body is dead and does not rise why then is he baptized?” The dead for which a man is baptized seems to be regarded as his own dead body i.e., dead in trespasses and sin and subject to corruption.124124 Here Theodoret agrees in the main with Chrysostom and Theophylact, vide Reff. in Alford ad loc.
(d) Of the historical works, (i) the Ecclesiastical History needs less description, in that a translation in extenso is given in the text. Its style and spirit speak for themselves. Photius125125 “Unquestionably the right view of this controverted passage is that of the Greek Fathers, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, and others. In reading their comments it is quite clear that they found no more difficulty in St. Paul’s elliptical use of the Greek υπέρ than we do in Shakespeare’s use of the English ‘for.’ They did not hesitate in their homilies to expound that the phrase ‘for the dead’ meant ‘with an interest in the resurrection of the dead,’ or that ‘for’ by itself meant even so much as ‘in expectation of the resurrection.’ Speaker’s Commentary, iii. 373. well describes it as “clear, lofty, and concise.”
Gibbon,126126 Chap. xxi. n. referring to the three ecclesiastical historians of this period speaks of “Socrates, the more curious Sozomen, and the learned Theodoret.” Of learning, industry, and veracity the proofs are patent in the book itself. The chief fault of the work is its want of chronological arrangement.127127 Ceillier (x. 42) repeats the charge of distinct errors in chronology in (a) the statement that Arius died in 325 instead of in 336; (b) the extension of the exile of Athanasius by four months; (c) the election of Ambrose at the beginning of the reign of Valentinian, instead of ten years later; (d) the troubles at Antioch placed after instead of before those at Thessalonica; (e) the siege of Nisibis in 350 confounded with that of 359. As to (a) the truth is that Theodoret is guilty rather of vagueness than of a misstatement. (Vide I. capp. xiii, xiv.) The objection to (b) the two years and four months exile of Athanasius is due to Valerius (obs. Ecc. i). Canon Bright (Dict. Christ. Biog. i. 187) agrees with Theodoret (cf. Newman Hist. Tracts xii and Hefele, Conciliengesch. i. 467.) In (c) Theodoret is vague, in (d) wrong. According to Valerius Volagesus, and not Jacobus, was bishop of Nisibis in 350. A minor shortcoming is what may be called a lack of perspective; a fulness of detail is sometimes conceded to mere episode and parenthesis, while characters and events of high and crucial importance would scarcely be known to be so, were we dependent for our estimation of them on Theodoret alone. Valesius inclines to the opinion that his opening words about supplying things omitted128128 τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἱστορίας τὰ παραλειπόμενα refer to Socrates and Sozomen, and compares him in his composition of a history after those writers (there is just a possibility that he might have completed the parallel by referring to a third predecessor—Rufinus) to St. John filling up the gaps left by the synoptists.129129 Valesii annotationes—Theod: Migne III. 1522. Valesius is the Latinized form of Henri de Valois, French historiographer royal, who edited Ammianus Marcellinus and the Greek Ecclesiastical historians. He died in 1692. But this view is open to question. Theodoret names no previous writers but Eusebius. A special importance attaches to his account of such events and persons as his local knowledge enables him to give with completeness of detail, as for instance, all that relates to Antioch and its bishops. Garnerius is of opinion that the work might with propriety be entitled A History of the Arian Heresy; all other matter introduced he views as merely episodic.130130 Theod. Ed. Migne. V. 282. He also quotes the letter131131 Ep. XXXIV. of Gregory the great in which the Roman bishop states that “the apostolic see refuses to receive the History of ‘Sozomenus’ (sic) inasmuch as it abounds with lies, and praises Theodore of Mopsuestia, maintaining that he was up to the day of his death, a great Doctor.” “Sozomen” is supposed to be a slip of the pen, or of the memory, for “Theodoret.” But, if this be so, “multa mentitur” is an unfair description of the errors of the historian. Fallible he was, and exhibits failure in accuracy, especially in chronology, but his truthfulness of aim is plain.132132 “Baronius obviously approves of Gregory’s remark about Theodoret’s lies, that is his errors in the order of events, and out of Book iv. produces no less than fifteen blunders, to say nothing of those in iii and v.” Garner. loc. cit. 280, 281.
(ii) The Religious History, several times referred to in the Ecclesiastical History, and therefore an earlier composition, contains the lives of thirty-three famous ascetics, of whom three were women. The “curious intellectual problem”133133 Canon Venables Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 918. of the readiness with which Theodoret, a disciple of the “prosaic and critical” school of Antioch, accepts and repeats marvellous tales of the miracles of his contemporary hermits, has been invested with fresh interest in our own time by the apparent sympathy and similar belief of Dr. Newman, who asks “What made him drink in with such relish what we reject with such disgust? Was it that, at least, some miracles were brought home so absolutely to his sensible experience that he had no reason for doubting the others which came to him second-hand? This certainly will explain what to most of us is sure to seem the stupid credulity of so well-read, so intellectual an author.”134134 Historical Sketches iii. 314. Cardinal Newman evidently implies that the evidence was irresistible, even to a keen and trained intelligence. Probably in many cases the explanation is to be found, as has been already suggested in the remarks on Theodoret’s birth, in the ready acceptance of the current views of the age and place as to cause and effect. Theodoret believed in the marvels of his monks. Matthew Hale believed in 19witchcraft. Neither, that is, was some centuries removed from his own age. Neither need be accused of stupid credulity. The enthusiasm which led him to reckon on finding the noble army of martyrs a very present help in time of trouble because he had a little bottle of their oil, probably that burned at their graves, slung over his bed; and his assurance that the old cloak of Jacobus, folded for his pillow, was a more than adamantine bulwark against the wiles of the devil, indicate no more than an exaggerated reliance on the power of material memorials to affect the imagination.135135 Theod. Ed. Migne. iii. 1244. Schröckh. xviii. 362. And it is curious to remark that with all this acceptance of the cures effected by ascetics, Theodoret made a provision of medical skill for his flock at Cyrus.136136 Ep. CXV.
(e) The works reckoned as theological, as distinct from the controversial, are three: (i) The twelve discourses entitled ῾Ελληνικῶν θεραπευτικὴ παθημάτων, or “Græcarum affectionum curatio, seu evangelicæ veritatis ex gentilium philospohia cognitio.’ They contain an elaborate apology for Christian philosophy, with a refutation of the attacks of paganism against the doctrines of the gospel, and may have been designed, as Garnerius conjectures, to serve as an antidote against whatever might still survive of the influence of Julian and his writings. Here we see at once our author’s “genius and erudition” (Mosheim). In these orations he exhibits a wide acquaintance with Greek literature, and we find cited, or referred to, among other writers, Homer, Hesiod, Alcman, Theognis, Xenophanes, Pindar, Heraclitus, Zeno, Parmenides, Empedocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and Porphyry. Homer and Plato are largely quoted. Basnage,137137 Histoire de l’Église. II. 1225. Jacques de Beauval Basnage †1723. indeed, contested their genuineness, but without weakening their position among Theodoret’s accepted works. They have seemed to some to encourage undue honour to and invocation of saints and martyrs138138 Schröckh Kirchengesch., Vol. xviii. 410. but their author seems to anticipate later exaggeration of their reverence by the distinction, “We ascribe Godhead to nothing visible. Them that have been distinguished in virtue we honour as excellent men, but we worship none but the God and Father of all, His Word, and the Holy Spirit.”139139 Græc. Cur. Aff. Ed. Migne 754. (ii). The Discourses against paganism were followed by ten on Divine Providence, a work justly eulogized as exhibiting Theodoret’s literary power in its highest form. Of it Garnerius, who is by no means disposed to bestow indiscriminate laudation on the writer, remarks that nothing was ever published on this subject more eloquent or more admirable, either by Theodoret, or by any other.140140 “On y voit toute la beauté du gènie de Théodoret; du choix dans les pensées, de la noblesse dans les expressions, de l’élégance et de la netteté dans le style, de la suite et de la force dans les raisonnements.” Ceillier x. 88 (Remi Ceillier †1761. His “Histoire Générale des auteurs sacrés” was published in Paris 1729–1763.) The discourses may not improbably have been delivered in public at Antioch, and have been the occasion of the enthusiastic admiration described as shewn by the patriarch John.141141 Ep. lxxxiii. In them he presses the argument of the divine guidance of the world from the constitution of the visible creation, and specially of the body of man. The preacher draws many illustrations from the animal world and shews himself to be an intelligent observer. The pursuit of righteousness is proved not to be vain, even though the achieved result is not seen until the resurrection, and it is argued that from the beginning God has not cared for one chosen race alone but for all mankind. The crowning evidence of divine providence is in the incarnation. “I have taught you”—so the great orations conclude—“the universal providence of God. You behold His unfathomable loving kindness;—His boundless mercy; cease then to strive against Him that made you; learn to do honour to your benefactor, and requite his mighty benefits with grateful utterance. Offer to God the sacrifice of praise; defile not your tongue with blasphemy, but make it the instrument of worship for which it was designed. Such divine dispensations as are plain, reverence; about such as are hidden make no ado, but wait for knowledge in the time to come. When we shall put off the senses, then we shall win perfect knowledge. Imitate not Adam who dared to pluck the forbidden fruit; lay not hold of hidden things, but leave the knowledge of them to their own fit season. Obey the words of the wise man—say not What is this? For what purpose is this! ‘For all things were made for good.’142142 cf. Ecclus. xxxix. 27 Gathering then from every source occasion for praise, and mingling one melody, offer it with me to the Creator, the giver of good, and Christ the Saviour, our very God. To them be glory and worship and honour for endless age on age. Amen.”
(iii) The Discourse on Divine Love. This love, says Theodoret, is the source of the holy life of the ascetics. For his own part he would not accept the kingdom of heaven without it, or with it, were such a thing possible, shrink from the pains of hell. It was 20really love, he says, which led to Peter’s denial; he need not have denied if he could have borne to keep aloof, but love goaded him to be near his Lord.
(f.) The controversial works are
(i.) The “Eranistes,” or Dialogues, of which the translation is included in the text. They contain a complete refutation of the Eutychian position, and the quotations in them are in several cases valuable as giving portions of the writing of Fathers not elsewhere preserved. They are supposed to have been written shortly after the death of Cyril in 444, and are intended at once to vindicate Theodoret’s own orthodoxy, and to expose the errors of the party protected by Dioscorus.
(ii.) The Hæreticarum Fabularum Compendium, (Αἱρετικῆς κακομυσιας ἐπιτομή) was composed at the request of Sporacius, one of the representatives of Marcian at Chalcedon, and is, as its title indicates, an account of past or present heresies. It is divided into five Books, which treat of the following heretics.
I. Simon Magus, Menander, Saturnilus,143143 Σατορνεῖλος or Σατορνῖλος in Hippolytus, Epiphanius, and Theodoret; but Σατορνῖνος (Saturninus) in Irenæus and Eusebius. Basilides, Isidorus, Carpocrates, Epiphanes, Prodicus, Valentinus, Secundus, Marcus the Wizard, the Ascodruti,144144 A Galatian sect. Jerome has “Ascodrobi,” Epiphanius (Hær. 416) identifies “Tascodrugitæ,” with Cataphrygians or Montanists, and says they were so called from the habit of putting their finger to their nose when praying. the Colorbasii, the Barbelioti,145145 In Epiphanius (i. 85, B) Barbelitæ. Barbelo was a mythologic personage; — The sect gnostic. the Ophites, the Cainites, the Antitacti, the Perati, Monoimus, Hermogenes, Tatianus, Severus, Bardesanes, Harmonius, Florinus, Cerdo, Marcion, Apelles, Potitus, Prepo, and Manes.
II. The Ebionites, the Nazarenes, Cerinthus, Artemon, Theodotus, the Melchisedeciani, the Elkesites, Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, Marcellus, Photinus.
III. The Nicolaitans, the Montanists, Noetus of Smyrna, the Tessarescædecatites (i.e. Quartodecimani) Novatus, Nepos.
IV. Arius, Eudoxius, Eunomius, Aetius, the Psathyriani, the Macedoniani, the Donatists, the Meletians, Appollinarius, the Audiani, the Messaliani, Nestorius, Eutyches.
V. The last book is an “Epitome of the Divine Decrees.”
This catalogue, it has been remarked, does not include Origenism and Pelagianism.146146 Ceillier x. 84. But though Theodoret did not sympathize with Origen’s school of scriptural interpretation, there was no reason why he should damn him as unsound in the faith. And the controversy between Jerome and Rufinus as to Origen was a distinctively western controversy. So was Pelagianism a western heresy, with which Theodoret was not brought into immediate contact.
The fourth book is obviously the most important, as treating of heresies of which the writer would have contemporary knowledge. And special interest has attached to the chapter on Nestorius, who is condemned not merely for erroneous opinion on the incarnation and person of Christ, but as a timeserver and pretender, seeking rather to be thought, than to be, a Christian. Garnerius indeed doubts the genuineness of the chapter, and Schulze, in defending it, points out the similarity of its line of argument to that employed in the treatise “against Nestorius,” which is very generally regarded as spurious. It may have been added after Chalcedon, when the writer had been forced into the denunciation of his old friend. But the expressions used alike of the incarnation and of Nestorius seem somewhat in contrast with other writings of Theodoret. Schröckh147147 xviii. 416. inclines to the view in which Ceillier concurs, that this damning account of Nestorius was really written by his old champion, and accounts for the harshness of condemnation by the influence of the clamours of Chalcedon and the induration which old age sometimes brings on tender spirits. It can only be said that if this is Theodoret, it is Theodoret at his worst.
The heads of the Epitome of Divine Decrees are the following twenty-nine: Of the Father; of the Son; of the Holy Ghost; of Creation; of Matter; of Æons; of Angels; of Dæmons; of Man; of Providence; of the Incarnation of the Saviour; that the Lord took a body; that He took a soul as well as His body; that the human nature which He took was perfect; that He raised the nature which He took; that He is good and just; that He gave the Old and the New Testament; of Baptism; of Resurrection; of Judgment; of Promises; of the Second Advent (᾽Επιφάνεια) of the Saviour; of Antichrist; of Virginity; of Marriage; of Second Marriage; of Fornication; of Repentance; of Abstinence.
The short chapter on the Incarnation has a special value in view of the author’s connection with the Nestorian Controversy. “It is worth while,” he writes in it, “to exhibit what we hold concerning the Incarnation, for this exposition proclaims more clearly 21the providence of the God of all. In his forged fables Valentinus maintained a distinction between the only-begotten and the Word, and further between the Christ within the pleroma and Jesus, and also the Christ who is without. He said that Jesus became man, by putting on the Christ that is without, and assuming a body of the substance of the soul; and that He made a passage only through the Virgin, having assumed nothing of the nature of man. Basilides in like manner distinguished between the only-begotten, the Word and the Wisdom. Cerdon, on the other hand, Marcion, and Manes, said that the Christ appeared as man, though he had nothing human. Cerinthus maintained that Jesus was generated of Joseph and Mary after the common manner of men, but that the Christ came down from on high on Jesus. The Ebionites, the Theodotians, the Artemonians, and Photinians said that the Christ was bare man born of the Virgin. Arius and Eunomius taught that He assumed a body, but that the Godhead discharged the function of the soul. Apollinarius held that the body of the Saviour had a soul,148148 ἔμψυχον but had not the reasonable soul; for, according to his views, intelligence was superfluous, God the Word being present. I have stated the opinions taught by the majority of heresies with the wish of making plain the truth taught by the church. Now the church makes no distinction between (τὸν αὐτὸν ὀνομαζει) the Son, the only begotten, God the Word, the Lord the Saviour, and Jesus Christ. ‘Son,’ ‘only begotten,’ ‘God the Word,’ and ‘Lord,’ He was called before the Incarnation; and is so called also after the Incarnation; but after the Incarnation the same (Lord) was called Jesus Christ, deriving the titles from the facts. ‘Jesus’ is interpreted to mean the Saviour, whereof Gabriel is witness in his words to the Virgin ‘Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.’149149 Matt. i. 21 But He was styled ‘Christ’ on account of the unction of the Spirit. So the Psalmist David says ‘Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’150150 Ps. xlv. 7 And through the Prophet Isaiah the Lord Himself says ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me.’151151 Is. lxi. 1 Thus the Lord Himself taught us to understand the prophecy, for when He had come into the synagogue, and opened the book of the Prophets, He read the passage quoted, and said to those present ‘This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears.’152152 Luke iv. 21 The great Peter, too, preached in terms harmonious with the prophets, for in his explanation of the mystery to Cornelius he said ‘That word ye know which was published throughout all Judæa, and began from Galilee after the Baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost and with power.’153153 Acts x. 37, 38 Hence it is clear that He is called Christ on account of the unction of the spirit. But he was anointed not as God, but as man. And as in His human nature He was anointed, after the Incarnation He was called also ‘Christ.’ But yet there is no distinction between God the Word and the Christ, for God the Word incarnate was named Christ Jesus. And He was incarnate that He might renew the nature corrupted by sin. The reason of His taking all the nature which had sinned was that He might heal all. For He did not take the nature of the body using it as a veil of His Godhead, according to the wild teaching of Arius and Eunomius; for it had been easy for Him even without a body to be made visible as He was seen of old by Abraham, Jacob and the rest of the saints. But he wished the very nature that had been worsted to beat down the enemy and win the victory. For this reason He took both a body and a reasonable soul. For Holy Scripture does not divide man in a threefold division, but states that this living being consists of a body and a soul.154154 cf. note on pp. 132 and 194. For God after forming the body out of the dust breathed into it the soul and shewed it to be two natures not three. And the same Lord in the Gospels says, ‘Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul,’155155 Matt. x. 28 and many similar passages may be found in divine Scripture. And that He did not assume man’s nature in its perfection, contriving it as a veil for His Godhead, according to the heretics’ fables, but achieving victory by means of the first fruits for the whole race, is truly witnessed and accurately taught by the divine apostle, for in His Epistle to the Romans, when unveiling the mystery of the Incarnation, he writes ‘Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that is to come.’156156 Rom. v. 12, 13, 14
In the Epistle of Cyril to Celestinus and the Commonitorium datum Posidonio158158 Mansi. T. IV. 1012 Seqq. Migne Pat. LXXVII. 85. Cyril shows what sense he wishes to fix on the utterances of Nestorius. “The faith, or rather the ‘cacodoxy’ of Nestorius, has this force; he says that God the Word, prescient that he who was to be born of the Holy Virgin would be holy and great, therefore chose him and arranged that he should be generated of the Virgin without a husband and conferred on him the privilege of being called by His own names, and raised him so that even though after the incarnation he is called the only begotten Word of God, he is said to have been made man because He was always with him as with a holy man born of the Virgin. And as He was with the prophets so, says Nestorius, was He by a greater conjunction (συνάφεια). On this account Nestorius always shrinks from using the word union (ἔνωσις) and speaks of ‘conjunction,’ as of some one without, and, as He says to Joshua ‘as I was with Moses so will I be with thee.’159159 Jos. i. 5 But, to conceal his impiety, Nestorius says that He was with him from the womb. Wherefore he does not say that Christ was very God, but that Christ was so called of God’s good pleasure; and, if he was called Lord, so again Nestorius understands him to be Lord because the divine Word conceded him the boon of being so named. Nor does he say as we do that the Son of God died and rose again on our behalf. The man died and the man rose, and this has nothing to do with God the Word. And in the mysteries what lies (i.e. on the Holy Table) (τὸ προκείμενον) is a man’s body; but we believe that it is flesh of the Word, having power to quicken because it is made flesh and blood of the Word that quickeneth all things.”
Nestorius was not unnaturally indignant at this misrepresentation of his words, and complains of Cyril for leaving out important clauses and introducing additions of his own.160160 Gieseler Vol. I. p. 231. Cyril succeeded in pressing upon Celestinus the idea that Nestorius, who had vigorously opposed the Pelagians, was really in sympathy with them, and so secured the condemnation of his opponent at Rome and at Alexandria, and published twelve anathemas to complete his own vindication. These were answered by Theodoret on behalf of the eastern church in 431. In 433 formal peace was made, so far as the theological, as apart from the personal, dispute was concerned, by the acceptance by both John of Antioch and Cyril of the formula, slightly modified, which Theodoret himself had drawn up at Ephesus two years before.161161 Gieseler i. 235. It is as follows: “We confess our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, to be perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and body, begotten before the ages of the Father, as touching His godhead, and in the last days on account of us and our salvation (born) of the Virgin Mary as touching His manhood; that He is of one substance with the Father as touching His godhead, of one substance with us as touching His manhood; for there is made an union of two natures; wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this meaning of the unconfounded union we confess the holy Virgin to be ‘θεοτόκος’ on account of God the Word being made flesh and becoming man, and of this conception uniting to Himself the temple taken of her. We acknowledge that theologians use the words of evangelists and apostles about the Lord some in common, as of one person, and some distinctively, as of two natures, and deliver the divine as touching the Godhead of the Christ, and the lowly as touching His manhood.”162162 Synod. c. 17. Mansi V. p. 773.
This is substantially what Theodoret says again and again. This satisfied Cyril. This would probably have been accepted by Nestorius too.163163 In Walch’s Hist. Ketz. V. 778, there is a good summary of Nestorius’ views: he thinks the dispute a mere logomachy. So also Luther, and after him Basnage, Dupin, Jablonski. Vide reff. in Gieseler i. 236. What then was it, apart from the odium theologicum, which kept Nestorius and Cyril apart? Below the apparent special pleading and word-jugglery on the surface of the controversy lay the principle that in the Christ God and man were one; the essence of the atonement or reconciliation lying in the complete union of the human and the divine in the one Person; the “I” in the “I am” of the Temple and the “I thirst” of the Cross being really the same. “God and man is one Christ.” The position which the Cyrillians viewed with alarm was a reduction of this unity to a mere partnership or alliance;—God dwelling in Jesus of Nazareth as He dwells in all good men, only to a greater degree;—the eternal Word being in close contact with the son of Mary (συνάφεια). So, whatever may have been the unhappy faction-fights with which the main issue was confused there was in truth a great crisis, a great question for decision; was Jesus of Nazareth an unique personality, 23or only one more in the goodly fellowship of prophets? Was He God, or was He not? There can be little doubt as to the answer Nestorius would have given. There can be none as to that of Theodoret. But on the part of Cyril there was the quite mistaken conviction that Theodoret was practically contending for two Christs. On the other hand Theodoret erroneously identified Cyril with the confusion of the substance and practical patripassianism which he scathes in the “Eranistes,” and which the common sense of Christendom has condemned in Eutyches.
(g) To Nicephorus Callistus in the 15th century five hundred of Theodoret’s letters were known,164164 Ecc. Hist. xiv. 54. and he is eloquent in their praise. Now, the collection, including several by other writers, comprises only one hundred and eighty one. The value of their contributions to the history of the times as well as of their writer will be evident on their study. The order in which they are published is preserved in the translation for the sake of reference. A chronological order would have obvious advantages, but this in many cases could only be conjectural. Where the indications of time are fairly plain the probable date is suggested in a note. The letters are divided into (a) dogmatic, (b) consolatory, (c) festal, (d) commendatory, (e) congratulatory, (f) commenting on passing events. Of them Schulze writes “Nihil eo in genere scribendi perfectius; nam quæ sunt epistolarum virtutes, brevitas, perspicuitas, elegantia, urbanitas, modestia, observantia decori, et ingeniosa prudensque ac erudita simplicitas, in epistolis Theodoreti admirabiliter ita elucent ut scribentibus exempla esse possint.” “They not only” says Schröckh,165165 xviii. 427. “vindicate the admiration of Nicephorus, but are specially attractive on account of their exhibition of the writer’s simplicity, modesty, and love of peace.”
From the study of these letters “we rise,” writes Canon Venables,166166 Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 918. “with a heightened estimate of Theodoret himself, his intellectual power, his theological precision, his warm-hearted affection for his friends, and the Christian virtues with which, notwithstanding some weaknesses and an occasional bitterness for which, however distressing, his persecutions offered some palliation, his character was adorned.”
The reputation of Theodoret in the Church is a growing reputation, and the practical canonization which he has won in the heart of Christendom is a testimony to the power and worth of character and conduct. Though never officially dignified by a higher ecclesiastical title than “Beatus” he is yet to Marcellinus “Episcopus sanctus Cyri”167167 Marc. 466. Ceiller x. 25. and to Photius168168 Cod. xxiv., p. 527. “divinus vir.” His earnest, sometimes bitter, conflict with the great intellect and strong will of Cyril, and apparent discomfiture in the war which raged, often with dire confusion, up and down the long lines of definition, have not succeeded in robbing him of one of the highest places among the Fathers of whom the Church is proudest. He exhibits, each in a lofty and conspicuous form, all the qualities which mark a great and good churchman. His theological writings would have won high fame in a recluse. His administration of his diocese, as we learn it from his modest letters, would have gained him the character of an excellent bishop, even had he been no scholar. His temper in controversy, though occasionally breaking out into the fiery heat of the oriental, is for the most part in happy contrast with that of his opponents. His devotion to his duty is undeniable, and his industry astonishing. It is impossible not to feel as we read his writings that he is no self-seeker arguing for victory. He believes that the fate of the Church rests on the fidelity of Christians to the Nicene Confession, and in his championship of this creed, and his opposition to all that seems to him to threaten its adulteration or defeat, he knows no awe of prince or court. Owning but one Lord, he is true through evil and good report to Him, and his figure stands out large, bright, and gracious across the centuries, against a background of intrigue and controversy sometimes very dark, as of a patient and faithful soldier and servant of Christ.169169 La vie sainte et édifiante que Théodoret mena dès sa première jeunesse; les travaux apostoliques dont il honora son épiscopat; son zèle pour la conversion des ennemis de l’église; les persecutions qu’il souffrait pour le nom de Jésus Christ; son amour pour la solitude, pour la pauvreté et pour les pauvres; l’esprit de charité qu’il a fait paraitre dans toutes les occasions; la généreuse liberté dans la confession de la vérité; sa profonde humilité qui parait dans tous ses écrits; le succès dont Dieu bénit ses soins et ses mouvements pour le salut des hommes, l’ont rendu venerable dans l’église. Les anciens l’ont qualifié saint, et apellé un homme divin; mais la qualité qu’ils lui donnent ordinairement c’est celle de bienheureux.” Ceillier. x. 25. If his shortcomings were those of his own age,—and in an age of virulent strife and of denial of all mercy to opponents his memory rises as a comparative monument of moderation,—his graces were the graces of all the ages.170170 cf. Schröckh xviii. 356. Were it customary, or even possible, in our own church and time to maintain the ancient custom of reciting before the Holy Table the names approved as of good men and true in the past history of the Holy Society, in the long catalogue of the faithful departed for whom worshippers bless the name of their common Lord, a place must indubitably be kept for Theodoretus, bishop of Cyrus.
|« Prev||Contents and Character of the Extant Works.||Next »|