Theodoret (c. 393-460) was born in Antioch of Syria. He received an extensive education at an early age. After serving as a lector, he withdrew to a monastery in 416. In 416 he was appointed bishop of Cyrus, an important city in Syria northwest of Aleppo. During his long episcopate, he dealt with many ecclesiastical, social, and political matters. Theodoret cared for his diocese of over 800 parishes, building many churches, bridges, porticos, and aqueducts. During his time as bishop of Cyrus, Theodoret dealt with many pagans and heretics in his diocese.
Toward the end of the 430s, Theodoret became involved in the Nestorian controversy. He placed himself on the side of Antioch and Nestorius in the debate between Alexandrian and Antiochene Christology. This would take up much of his time and energy until the Council of Chalcedon (451), when he was restored to his bishopric after being deposed at the “Robber Synod” of Ephesus (449). There is some doubt whether Theodoret actually resumed his position at Cyrus or spent the rest of his days in seclusion at Nicerte. Either way, his literary work continued to consume a good portion of his life. Theodoret was a prolific and influential theologian in the Greek church; however, because he was posthumously condemned by the Second Council of Constantinople (553), some of his works are lost today.
Theodoret was a skilled exegete of the Bible who wrote many commentaries, sermons, dogmatic works, and polemic works. In De Divina Providentia (CPG 6211), a collection of 10 sermons, he argued for the control of Divine Providence in the world. When Cyril of Alexandria leveled twelve anathemas against him, he responded with his own lengthy defense (CPG 6214). He attacked Monophysite teachings of Eutyches in his Eranistes (CPG 6217), showing that the divinity of Christ is unchangeable, unmixed with his humanity, and incapable of suffering.
Sometime between 449 and 459 Theodoret completed his Ecclesiastical History (CPG 6222), which spanned 5 volumes and was arranged around the reigns of the emperors. His history began in 324 with the Arian Controversy and ended in 429 with the beginning of the Nestorian Controversy. While he specifically named only Eusebius of Caesarea as a source, he appears to have used Socrates and Sozomen, whose histories cover roughly the same time period. However, Theodoret supplied numerous additional details from unknown sources. For this reason, his history is valued today as a witness to fourth and fifth century church history.
His Ecclesiastical History takes a strong apologetic and anti-heretical (mainly anti-Arian) tone. The overall theme is a history of salvation directed by God’s presence. Theodoret had two major faults: chronological inaccuracy and an uncritical use of his sources. He often arranged documents and sources one after the other with no commentary between. His history also shows a lack of perspective. Numerous characters and events of importance are given little or no space in Theodoret’s account.
|Incipit:||Ζωγράφοι μὲν σανίσι καὶ τοίχοις τὰς παλαιὰς ἐγγράφοντες ἱστορίας|
|Earliest ms:||Codex Bodleian Auct. E4, 18, 11th century.|
|Early editions:||Sirmond, Greek and Latin (Paris 1642).
Dissertations of J. Garnier added to Sirmond’s work (1684).
John Lewis Schulze, Greek and Latin (Halle 1774).
Migne (Paris 1860).
|Early versions:||Excerpts of Theodoret in Latin appear in the Historia Tripartita of Cassiodorus/Epiphanius (CSEL 71, 1952).
Paulus Manutius, Latin (Rome 1556).
J. Birckman, Latin (Cologne 1573).
|Most recent Greek edition:||Greek: L. Parmentier, F. Scheidweiler, and G.C. Hansen, Theodoretus Cyri, Kirchengeschichte, 3rd ed., GCS, vol. 19, (Berlin 1998).|
|English translation:||B. Jackson, “The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret,” in NPNF2, Vol. 3 (New York, 1892), pp. 33-159. A revised translation by Kevin Knight is available online here.|
Cavalcanti, E. “Theodoret of Cyrrhus.” In Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity. Edited by Angelo Di Berardino. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2014, p. 749-752.
Drobner, Hubertus R. “Theodoret of Cyrus.” The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 2007, p. 472-478.
Ettlinger, Gerard H. “Theodoret of Cyrus.” In Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Edited by Everett Ferguson. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1990, p. 889-890.
Rohrbacher, David. The Historians of Late Antiquity. London: Routledge, 2002. p. 126-124.
Created by OT 2-18-17
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