Theophilus of Antioch

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THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH

Second-century bishop and Christian apologist (fl.180); b. in the region of the Euphrates (Ad Autol. 2.24). Theophilus received an education in rhetoric and philosophy, became a Christian convert, and rose to be bishop of Antioch. He wrote tracts against marcion and against Hermogenes, catechetical lectures (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 4.24), commentaries on Proverbs and the Gospels (Jerome, De viris illustribus 25), a historical work (known only from his own references), and a harmony of the Gospels (Jerome, Ep. 121.6, 15). F. loofs attempted to identify portions of Irenaeus's Adversus haereses as extracts from the work against Marcion, but his thesis has met with little acceptance.

The only surviving work is an Apology, a treatise in three books addressed to Autolycus, which Eusebius called elementary. The archetype of this is the 11th-century Codex Marcianus 496, from which two other MSS are directly descended. The sole precise evidence for dating is a reference (3.27) to the death of Marcus Aurelius (March 17, 180). A mention of persecution (3.30) may refer to the Scillitan martyrs (July 17, 180). Of the three books, loosely linked by their address to Autolycus (of whom nothing is known), each could stand separately, for they include repetition of much polemic and ethical teaching. The first book is akin to a diatribe and in a conversational way counters anti-Christian objections. It treats of the nature of God, who is manifested in his works, of the immorality of the pagan gods, the absurdities of idolatry, and of the meaning of the name Christian. It uses homely examples to prove the possibility of resurrection.

The second book is theologically the most interesting. It contains a literal exegesis of Genesis; the author expounds a doctrine of Creation and then argues for the superiority of Genesis as a chronological record. In the third book, which is more disjointed, he again cites examples of the contradictions and immoral teachings of Greek poets, refutes false accusations against Christian morality by citing ethical precepts from the Old and New Testaments, and ends with a long chronological disquisition to support Christianity by the argument from antiquity.

Theophilus says that he was converted by a study of the Prophets (1.14). It seems as though he had been obliged to interpret Christianity with little guidance except from the Scriptures, and thus produced a strange amalgam of Hellenistic and Jewish thought. He is the first known writer to use the term Trinity (τριάς) of the Godhead, though he used it of God, Logos, and Wisdom (2.15). The Holy Spirit is the medium of revelation and as such is identified with Logos and Wisdom (2.10), and as the breath of God sustaining the whole of creation (1.7), like the Stoic anima mundi. The names of Jesus and Christ are never mentioned. The Logos is the Son, but Theophilus uses the Stoic term ένδιάθετος for God's intelligence immanent before Creation, distinct from the Logos uttered (i.e., προφορικóς) to create (2.10), which also in the person of God spoke to Adam (2.22). The human soul is not created either mortal or immortal, but is capable of becoming either by the exercise of its free will.

Although Theophilus depended upon the Old Testament, he was the first writer who explicitly stated the inspiration of the New. For him the evangelists are ΘεΟφόρητοι, divinely inspired, on a par with the Prophets (2.22); the Gospels are a holy word; the Pauline Epistles, a divine word (3.1314). Although he enjoyed a considerable popularity with later Christian writers, his pretentious style with its frigid rhetoric, his confused rationalism, the occasional ineptitude of his arguments, his failure to understand properly either the Christian faith or the Hellenistic philosophies that he attacks prevent his being considered a writer of the first rank. Historically, however, he is of importance for his development of the doctrine of the Logos.

Bibliography: theophilus of antioch, Trois livres, tr. j. sender, ed. g. bardy (Sources Chrétiennes 20; 1948). f. loofs, Theophilus von Antioch (Texte und Untersuchengen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur (Berlin 1882) 46.2; 1930). r. m. grant, Harvard Theological Review (Cambridge, Mass. 1908) 40 (1947) 227256. b. altaner, Patrology, tr. h. graef from 5th German ed. (New York 1960) 131133. j. quasten, Patrology, 3v. (Westminster, Md. 1950) 1:236242.

[m. whittaker]

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