Theodoret of Cyr

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THEODORET OF CYR

Antiochean theologian, bishop, and controversial Church Father; b. Antioch, c. 393; d. before 466. His rich Christian family gave Theodoret a thorough education in classic culture, literature, and philosophy. Influenced by monastic asceticism, he became a lector at Antioch but decided only after the death of his parents to become a monk at Apamea. Consecrated bishop of Cyr in 423, he continued his ascetical practices while caring for his diocese and devoted himself successfully to the conversion of pagans, Jews, Arians, and Marcionites.

Career. At the start of the difficulties over nestori anism, he became the champion of the Antiocheans, disputed the 12 anathemas of St. cyril of alexandria as tinged with apollinarianism, and refused to condemn Nestorius at the Council of ephesus in 431. He did accept the Act of Union between Cyril and john of antioch in 433, and he is credited with being responsible for both the creedal formula employed there and the acquiescence of his metropolitan, Alexander of Mabbugh. Faithful to his friends, Theodoret found himself in a difficult position when accused of Nestorian leanings. As an opponent of the Cyrillian theology he was condemned by the supporters of eutyches and dioscorus of Alexandria at the Robber Synod of Ephesus (449) and exiled by Theodosius II to his monastery at Apamea. On appeal to Pope leo i, in which he acknowledged adherence to the Christology of Leo's Tome to Flavian, he was restored to his see by the Emperor Marcian and at chalcedon (451), after anathematizing Nestorius, was proclaimed an "orthodox father."

In the evolution of his doctrine, he contributed to the clarification of Christological teaching, but while he condemned "those who divide one unique Savior Jesus Christ in two, and those who say that the divinity of our Master and His humanity are one sole nature" (Ep. 119), he considered the peril of monophysitism greater than that of nestorianism (Ep. 144) and refused to accept the communication of idioms. He did affirm, however, that the Word had assumed a complete human nature and operations in order to guarantee man's salvation. His activities after 451 are unknown.

The Monophysite Bishop philoxenus of mabbugh

(d. c. 523) caused Theodoret's name to be removed from the diptychs at Cyr; and although the Nestorian Sergius II restored it, at the Council of constantinople ii in 553 Theodoret's writings against St. Cyril and the Council of Ephesus and his person were condemned as one of the three chapters. Among scholars there is still disagreement over the fundamental orthodoxy of his Christology.

Writings. In 450 Theodoret estimated that he had composed 35 works (Ep. 145; cf. Ep. 116). Although he spoke Syriac, he wrote in Greek in a rapid but correct style. Despite his inclination to erudition, he is less original in his profound thought than in his scholarly popularizations. Authoritative as an exegete, he takes a position midway between the historical literalness of theodore of mopsuestia and a purely spiritual exegesis, and he has left continuous commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles, the Psalms, Isaias, Daniel, and the Prophets. In his commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul, he attempts to discover the author's purpose (skopos ). After 453 he dealt with the Octateuch and Kings in Quaestiones et Responsiones but returned to commentary form for the Book of Chronicles.

Apologist. Theodoret mentions two books now lost, Against the Persian Magicians and Against the Jews, the latter connected with his polemical writings Against the Greeks (pagans). His Graecorum affectionium curatio (Cure of the Pagan Evils), composed before 423, resembles the traditional apologetic but is an original synthesis with contemporary, realistic application. Theodoret aims to cure minds of their prejudices and lead them from Hellenism to the Gospel with the aid of 350 citations of profane authors, which he found in part in the writings of clement of alexandria and eusebius of caesarea, and in the florilegia. His ten Discourses on Providence were delivered in Antioch probably in 436.

Dogmatic Writings. Early in 431, at the request of John of Antioch, Theodoret wrote a Refutation of the 12 Anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria, which, although condemned in 553, seems to be preserved in the Letter of Cyril to Evoptius (Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum 1:6: 107146). His Pentalogos (or five books against St. Cyril) is lost, except for Greek and Latin fragments, though it was described by photius (Bibl. cod. 46). Two tracts, On the Trinity and On the Incarnation of the Savior, preserved under Cyril's name have been restored to Theodoret by A. ehrhard and identified with his De theologia S. Trinitatis et de oeconomia, which was written against Apollinarianism before 430 and possibly revised in 432. His writings Against the Arians, the Eunomians, Macedonians, Apollinaris and Marcionites and his Expositio rectae fidei, preserved under the name of Justin Martyr, have been reclaimed for him by T. Lebon, while his Quaestiones et Responsiones ad Orthodoxos were restored by Papadopoulos-Kerameus in 1895. The book he mentions as There Is but One Son after the Incarnation (Epp. 16.109, 130) has been identified by E. Schwartz (Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum 1: 1: 6.3) and M. Richard (Recherches des sciences religieuse 14:3461). Only fragments quoted at the Robber Synod of Ephesus in 449 remain of his Defense of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, written after 438; there is no trace of his Liber Mysticius or of his De Virginitate.

The Eranistes (Beggar), written c. 447, is a dialogue between a Monophysite (presumably the heretic Eutyches) and an orthodox champion; in it there are 238 citations from 88 different patristic works. It is most important for the explanation of his doctrinal views, and it caused great excitement among his opponents.

Historical Writings. Between 444 and 449 Theodoret composed his Historia religiosa (philothea ), or lives of the monks of Syria, completed with a Discourse on Charity. In his Church History, written during his exile in 449, he continues the Hist. Eccl. of Eusebius from 323 to 428, utilizing a rich documentation culled from the same sources as those of socrates the historian and sozomen; but because of apologetical tendencies, he employs questionable historical opinions and critical views. Toward 453 Theodoret composed a Haereticarum fabularum compendium, a synopsis of all heresies down to Eutyches, describing in excellent brevity the variations of error with orthodox doctrine. zachary the rhetor cites a History of Chalcedon as written by Theodoret, but there is no trace of it; and the Libellus contra Nestorium ad Sporacium is not his.

Sermons and Letters. Only fragments of his sermons have been preserved in the acts of contemporary councils and by Photius (Bibl. cod. 273). The panegyric On the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is not an authentic work. Of his correspondence, 232 letters have been preserved; they display deep personal interests despite their stylistic formality. Those written between 447 and 451 are doctrinal in subject matter, particularly his letter to Pope Leo I (Ep. 113); there are 36 of his letters inserted in conciliar acts.

It is now evident that Theodoret's doctrinal opinions developed in the course of controversy. The condemnation of his writings against Cyril and Ephesus as cited in extracts at Constantinople II was confirmed by Pope vigilius prout sonant as quotedleaving his good faith unquestioned. In at least 12 letters to officials at Constantinople Theodoret himself protested against the calumny charging him with "dividing the One Son of God into two Sons" (Epp. 9296, 99101, 103, 104, 106,107).

Bibliography: Patrologia Graeca v. 8084. o. bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur (Freiburg 191332) 4:219247. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster Md. 1950) 3:536554. b. altaner, Patrology (New York 1960) 295297. e. venables, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, ed. w. smith and h. wace (London 187787) 4:904919. h. g. opitz, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. 5A:2 (1934) 17911801. g. bardy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, a. vacant et al., ed. 15 v. (Paris 190350) 15.1:299325. y. azema, Théodoret de Cyr d'après sa correspondance (Paris 1952). p. canivet, Histoire d'une entreprise apologétique au V e siècle (Paris 1958); "Théodoret et le monachisme syrien ," Théologie de la vie monastique (Paris 1961) 241282. t. camelot, Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. a. grillmeier and h. bacht, (Wurzburg 195154) 1:232242. i. ortiz de urbina, ibid. 400409. m. richard, Revue des sciences philsophiques et théologiques 24 (1935) 83106; 25 (1936) 459481; Mélanges de science religieuse 3 (1946) 147156. e. honigmann, Patristic Studies (Studi e Testi 173; 1953).

[p. canivet]

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