Theophilus of Antioch

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There is also a Theophilus of Alexandria (c. 412CE).
Saint Theophilus of Antioch
TheophilusofAntioch.png
Theophilus of Antioch from the Nuremberg Chronicle
Apologist and Patriarch of Antioch
Died183-5
Venerated in Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Canonized Pre-congregation
Feast 13 October

Theophilus, Patriarch of Antioch [1] (Greek : Θεόφιλος ὁ Ἀντιοχεύς) succeeded Eros c. 169, and was succeeded by Maximus I c. 183, according to Henry Fynes Clinton, [2] but these dates are only approximations. His death probably occurred between 183 and 185. [3]

Patriarch of Antioch is a traditional title held by the Bishop of Antioch As the traditional "overseer" of the first gentile Christian community, the position has been of prime importance in the church from its earliest period. This diocese is one of the few for which the names of its bishops from the apostolic beginnings have been preserved. Today five churches use the title of Patriarch of Antioch: the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and the Maronite Church. Historically, there has also been a Latin Patriarch of Antioch.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Henry Fynes Clinton was an English classical scholar, chronologist and Member of Parliament.

Contents

We gather from his writings (the only remaining being his apology to Autolycus) that he was born a pagan, not far from the Tigris and Euphrates, and was led to embrace Christianity by studying the Holy Scriptures, especially the prophetical books. [4] He makes no reference to his office in his existing writings, nor is any other fact in his life recorded. Eusebius, however, speaks of the zeal which he and the other chief shepherds displayed in driving away the heretics who were attacking Christ's flock, with special mention of his work against Marcion. [5] He made contributions to the departments of Christian literature, polemics, exegetics, and apologetics. William Sanday [6] describes him as "one of the precursors of that group of writers who, from Irenaeus to Cyprian, not only break the obscurity which rests on the earliest history of the Church, but alike in the East and in the West carry it to the front in literary eminence, and distance all their heathen contemporaries".

Tigris river which flows from Turkey through Iraq and Syria

The Tigris is the eastern of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq and empties into the Persian Gulf.

Euphrates River in Asia

The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia. Originating in the Armenian Highlands, the Euphrates flows through Syria and Iraq to join the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab, which empties into the Persian Gulf.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is Christ, whose coming as the messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

Works

Eusebius and Jerome mention numerous works of Theophilus existing in their time. They are:

  1. the existing Apologia addressed to Autolycus;
  2. a work against the heresy of Hermogenes;
  3. against that of Marcion;
  4. some catechetical writings;
  5. Jerome [7] also mentions having read some commentaries on the gospel and on Proverbs, which bore Theophilus's name, but which he regarded as inconsistent with the elegance and style of his other works.

The Apology to Autolycus

The one undoubted extant work of Theophilus, the 7th Bishop of Antioch (c. 169–c. 183), is his Apology to Autolycus (Apologia ad Autolycum), a series of books defending Christianity written to a pagan friend.

The ostensible object of Ad Autolycum is to convince a pagan friend, Autolycus, a man of great learning and an earnest seeker after truth, of the divine authority of the Christian religion, while at the same time exhibiting the falsehood and absurdity of paganism. His arguments, drawn almost entirely from the Old Testament, with but very scanty references to the New Testament, are largely chronological. He makes the truth of Christianity depend on his demonstration that the books of the Old Testament were long anterior to the writings of the Greeks and were divinely inspired. Whatever truth the pagan authors contain he regards as borrowed from Moses and the prophets, who alone declare God's revelation to man. He contrasts the perfect consistency of the divine oracles, which he regards as a convincing proof of their inspiration, with the inconsistencies of the pagan philosophers. He contrasts the account of the creation of the universe and of man, on which, together with the history contained in the earlier chapters of Genesis, he comments at great length but with singularly little intelligence, with the statements of Plato, "reputed the wisest of all the Greeks", [8] of Aratus, who had the insight to assert that the earth was spherical, [9] and other Greek writers on whom he pours contempt as mere ignorant retailers of stolen goods. He supplies a series of dates, beginning with Adam and ending with Marcus Aurelius, who had died shortly before he wrote, thus dating this work to the years of the reign of Commodus, 180-92.

Old Testament First part of Christian Bibles based on the Hebrew Bible

The Old Testament is the first part of Christian Bibles, based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites believed by most Christians and religious Jews to be the sacred Word of God. The second part of the Christian Bible is the New Testament.

New Testament Second division of the Christian biblical canon

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.

Paganism non-Abrahamic religion, or modern religious movement such as nature worship

Paganism is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism. This was either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population, or because they were not milites Christi. Alternate terms in Christian texts for the same group were hellene, gentile, and heathen. Ritual sacrifice was an integral part of ancient Graeco-Roman religion and was regarded as an indication of whether a person was pagan or Christian.

Theophilus regards the Sibylline books that were still in Rome as authentic and inspired productions, quoting the Sibylline oracles (scholars dispute that these are the same) largely as declaring the same truths with the prophets. The omission by the Greeks of all mention of the Old Testament from which they draw all their wisdom, is ascribed to a self-chosen blindness in refusing to recognize the only God and in persecuting the followers of the only fountain of truth. [10] He can recognize in them no aspirations after the divine life, no earnest gropings after truth, no gleams of the all-illumining light. The pagan religion was a mere worship of idols, bearing the names of dead men. Almost the only point in which he will allow the pagan writers to be in harmony with revealed truth is in the doctrine of retribution and punishment after death for sins committed in life. [11] Theophilus's critical powers were not above his age. He adopts Herodotus's derivation [12] of θεός (theòs) from τίθημι (tithemi), since God set all things in order, comparing with it that of Plato [13] from θεεῖν (theein), because the Deity is ever in motion. [14] He asserts that Satan is called the dragon (Greek drakon) on account of his having revolted apodedrakenai from God, [15] and traces the Bacchanalian cry "Evoe" to the name of Eve as the first sinner. He discovers the reason of blood coagulating on the surface of the ground in the divine word to Cain, [16] the earth struck with terror refusing to drink it in. In addition, Theophilus misquotes Plato several times, [17] ranking Zopyrus among the Greeks, [18] and speaking of Pausanias as having only run a risk of starvation instead of being actually starved to death in the temple of Minerva.

Herodotus Ancient Greek historian

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his "inquiry" on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into an historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as "The Father of History", a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.

Bacchanalia Roman mystery cults of the wine god and seer Bacchus

The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus based on various ecstatic elements of the Greek Dionysia. They seem to have been popular and well-organised throughout the central and southern Italian peninsula. They were almost certainly associated with Rome's native cult of Liber, and probably arrived in Rome itself around 200 BC. However, like all mystery religions of the ancient world, very little is known of their rites.

Adam and Eve The first man and woman according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions

Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. It also provides the basis for the doctrines of the fall of man and original sin that are important beliefs in Christianity, although not held in Judaism or Islam.

Trinity

Theophilus's apology is most notable for being the earliest extant Christian work to use the word "Trinity" (Greek: τριάς trias), although it does not use the common formula of "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" to describe the Trinity. Rather, Theophilus himself puts it as "God, his Word (Logos) and his Wisdom (Sophia)," [19] perhaps following the early Christian practice of identifying the Holy Spirit as the Wisdom of God, as he seems to demonstrate in his interpretation of Psalm 33:6, [20] and which is also expressed in the works his contemporary, Irenaeus of Lyon, who commenting on that selfsame verse writes,

Irenaeus Bishop and saint

Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, now Izmir in Turkey, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp, the last known living connection with the Apostles, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power." Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. [21]

This practice served as a way to express Christian doctrine in a way that is more relatable to contemporary viewsto ideas found in Greek philosophy or Hellenistic Judaism in which such concepts as Nous (Mind), Logos (Word, Reason) and Sophia (Wisdom) were common. As the Patripassionist heresies arose, however, the formula of "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" became more prominently featured, as such beliefs denied the persons of the Economy (an earlier developed term for the Trinity). As Theophilus does not appear to be introducing the word Trinity in novel fashion, it is probable that the word was in use before this time. [22] The context for his use of the word Trinity is commentary on the successive work of the creation weeks (Genesis chapters 1-3), where Theophilus expresses the Trinity as follows:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.

Theophilus [23]

The concept of intermediate divine beings was common to Platonism and certain Jewish sects. In Proverbs 8 Wisdom (as feminine consort) is described as God's Counsellor and Workmistress, who dwelt beside Him before the creation of the world.

Conditional immortality and resurrection

Ad Autolycum 1:13, 2:27 illustrate Theophilus' belief in conditional immortality and judgment at the future resurrection. [24]

References to the Old and New Testaments

The theology of Theophilus was rooted in Jewish ideas and the Hebrew scriptures. Theophilus's quotation from the Old Testament scripture is copious, drawing largely from the Pentateuch and to a smaller extent from the other historical books. His references to Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Jeremiah are also numerous, and he quotes from Ezekiel, Hosea and other minor prophets. His direct evidence respecting the canon of the New Testament does not go much beyond a few precepts from the Sermon on the Mount, [25] a possible quotation from Luke 18:27, [26] and quotations from Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy. More important is a distinct citation from the opening of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-3), mentioning the evangelist by name, as one of the inspired men by whom the Holy Scriptures were written [27] The use of a metaphor found in 2 Peter 1:19 bears on the date of that epistle. According to Eusebius, Theophilus quoted the Book of Revelation in his work against Hermogenes; a very precarious allusion has been seen in ii. 28, cf. Revelation 12:3, 7, etc. A full index of these and other possible references to the Old and New Testament is given by Otto. [28]

Although Theophilus cites the opening of the Gospel of St. John (1:1), he does not go on to speak of the incarnation of the Word and his (Jesus's) atoning sacrificial death. While Theophilus makes no mention of the name of Jesus or use the word Christ or the phrase Son of God, he identifies the Logos as the Son of God in his second letter, when he writes,

For the divine writing itself teaches us that Adam said that he had heard the voice. But what else is this voice but the Word of God, who is also His Son? Not as the poets and writers of myths talk of the sons of gods begotten from intercourse [with women], but as truth expounds, the Word, that always exists, residing within the heart of God. For before anything came into being He had Him as a counsellor, being His own mind and thought. But when God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word, uttered, the first-born of all creation, not Himself being emptied of the Word [Reason], but having begotten Reason, and always conversing with His Reason. And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him. Then he says, "The Word was God; all things came into existence through Him; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence." The Word, then, being God, and being naturally produced from God, whenever the Father of the universe wills, He sends Him to any place; and He, coming, is both heard and seen, being sent by Him, and is found in a place. [29]

Meaning of term Christian

Theophilus explains the meaning of the term Christian as follows:

And about your laughing at me and calling me Christian, you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first anointed? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God.

Theophilus [30]

Chronology

In his third book Theophilus presents a detailed chronology “from the foundation of the world" to emperor Marcus Aurelius. [31] This begins with the Biblical first man Adam through to emperor Marcus Aurelius. Theophilus lived in the reign of this emperor. The chronology puts the creation of the world at about 5529 BC: "All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5,698 years." [32] He uses this chronology to prove that Moses and the other Hebrew prophets preceded the philosophers. The leading chronological epochs correspond to the Old Testament prophets.

Patristic Citations

The silence regarding his Apology in the East is remarkable; we fail to find the work mentioned or quoted by Greek writers before the time of Eusebius. Several passages in the works of Irenaeus show an undoubted relationship to passages in one small section of the Apologia, [33] but Harnack thinks it probable that the quotations, limited to two chapters, are not taken from the Apologia, but from Theophilus's work against Marcion [34] In the West there are a few references to the Autolycus. It is quoted by Lactantius [35] under the title Liber de Temporibus ad Autolycum. There is a passage first cited by Maranus in Novatian [36] which shows great similarity to the language of Theophilus. [37] In the next century the book is mentioned by Gennadius [38] as "tres libelli de fide." He found them attributed to Theophilus of Alexandria, but the disparity of style caused him to question the authorship.

Editions

Jacques Paul Migne's Patrologia Graeca , [39] and a small edition (Cambridge 1852) by W. G. Humphry. Johann Carl Theodor von Otto's edition in the Corpus apologetarum christianorum saeculi secundi vol. ii. (Jena, 1861) is by far the most complete and useful. English translations by Joseph Betty (Oxford 1722), W. B. Flower (London, 1860), Marcus Dods (Clark's Ante-Nicene Library), and Robert M. Grant (Clarendon Press, 1970).

This article uses text from A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies by Henry Wace.

Notes

  1. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History iv. 20; Jerome Ep. ad Algas. quaest. 6.
  2. Fasti Romani
  3. John Lightfoot, S. Ignatius, vol. ii. p. 166.
  4. Apologia ad Autolycum i. 14, ii. 24.
  5. Ecclesiastical History iv. 24.
  6. Studia Biblica, p. 90.
  7. On Illustrious Men Ch. 25
  8. iii. 15, 16.
  9. ii. 32, iii. 2.
  10. iii. 30 and following.
  11. ii. 37, 38.
  12. ii. 52;
  13. Cratylus 397C.
  14. Apologia i. 4.
  15. ii. 28.
  16. Genesis 4:10-12.
  17. iii. 6, 16.
  18. iii. 26.
  19. Theophilus of Antioch. "Book II.15". Apologia ad Autolycum. Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus (in Greek and Latin). 6. Ὡσαύτως καὶ αἱ τρεῖς ἡμέραι τῶν φωστήρων γεγονυῖαι τύποι εἰσίν τῆς Τριάδος, τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦ Λόγου αὐτοῦ, καὶ τῆς Σοφίας αὐτοῦ.
  20. Theophilus, To Autolycus, 1.7
  21. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 5
  22. Afterwards the term "Trinity" appears in Tertullian, for the first time, in Latin, as trinitas (Tertullian, De Pudicitia chapter 21. See McManners, Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. p. 50.) (McManners, Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, p. 53.)
  23. Theophilus, Apologia ad Autolycum, Book II, Chapter 15
  24. Rick Rogers Theophilus of Antioch: the life and thought of a second-century bishop p57
  25. iii. 13, 14.
  26. ii. 13.
  27. ii. 22.
  28. Corp. Apol. Christ. ii. 353-355.
  29. Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.22; see also 2.10
  30. Theophilus, Apologia ad Autolycum, Book I, Chapter 12
  31. Theophilus, Apologia ad Autolycum, Book III Chapters 24-27
  32. Theophilus, Apologia ad Autolycum, Book III Chapters 28
  33. Iren. v. 23, 1; Autol. ii. 25 init.: Iren. iv. 38, 1, iii. 23, 6; Autol. ii. 25: Iren. iii. 23, 6; Autol. ii. 25, 26.
  34. cf. Möhler, Patr. p. 286; Otto, Corp. Apol. II. viii. p. 357; Donaldson, History of Christian Literature iii, 66.
  35. Divinarum Institutionum i. 23.
  36. de Trin. c. 2.
  37. ad Autol. i. 3.
  38. c. 34.
  39. t. vi. col. 1023-1168.
Titles of the Great Christian Church
Preceded by
Eros
Patriarch of Antioch
169–182
Succeeded by
Maximus I

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