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theologians of the fifth century, and of the interpretation most commonly attached by them
to controverted passages. The other writings of Theodoret, in the editions of his works, are usually arranged in nearly the following order :
1. “Ecclesiastical History, in five books." It was written before the death of Theodosius the younger; for, in book v., chapter 36, Theodoret speaks of him as then reigning. Theodosius died July 29th, 450, and the history was probably completed the same year. It comprises a period of 105 years, namely, from A. D. 324, when Constantine the Great, having become master of the East, began to oppose the Arian heresy, which had then but recently arisen, to A. D. 429, or, according to some authors, A. D. 428; so that part of this history may be called the narrative of Theodoret's own times. It was intended to be supplementary to the ecclesiastical history of Socrates and Sozomen, both of which were written about the
The author also designed it as a continuation of the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius ; for he takes up the chain of events from the very point at which Eusebius broke off. Many important events, which are omitted by Socrates and Sozomen, and which would not otherwise have been transmitted to posterity, are recorded by Theodoret; he has preserved many particulars relative to the life of Athanasius, and of the Eastern bishops, and particularly those concerning Melitius, Flavian, and Eusebius of Samosata ; and he thus throws light on various circumstances, which, but for him, would have created much doubt and obscurity in our knowledge of the history of this period. It is also by means of this history that we now possess some of the most important documents of the fourth century, such as synodical epistles, and the original letters of Arius, of emperors, and of other celebrated persons. The crying evil in the history of Theodoret is, the total omission of all chronology, and even of chronological order. Among the anachronisms and errors contained in it, may be specified the following:- Theodoret makes Eusebius of Nicomedia the successor of Alexander, bishop of Constantinople, whereas Eusebius succeeded Paul (book i. chap 16). He places the election of St. Ambrose at the commencement of the reign of Valentinian, although it took place ten years after the accession of that emperor (book iv. chap. 5). He places the sedition of Antioch after the massa
cre of Thessalonica ; but the sedition occurred A. D. 388, and the massacre not till A. D. 390 (book iv. chap. 5). He also confounds the siege of Nisibis by the Persians in the year 350, with another siege which took place A. D. 359. These errors, however, do not affect the intrinsic value of the work. This history is, according to the learned Photius, superior to those of Socrates and Sozomen, being written in a style more consonant with the subject, and containing little that is superfluous.
2. The history entitled “Philotheus” is a record of the lives of about thirty anchorites, with some of whom Theodoret was personally acquainted. It chiefly consists in an account of the almost incredible austerities which they practised, and of the miracles which they wrought. Several cases, even of women, are adduced, who sequestered themselves from the world, and lived in a state of perpetual bodily mortification. He instances in particular an interview he had with two women who lived in the most rigid solitude within a narrow cell, but who, out of respect for his sacerdotal office, permitted him to enter: he found them loaded with chains, which the strongest men could scarcely have borne; and one of them was literally bowed down upon the ground beneath the weight, and unable to move: their existence was passed in this state.
The most remarkable memoir in this work is that of St. Simeon Stylites, originally a peasant of Cilicia, who fixed his abode on the top of a pillar upwards of thirty-six cubits in height. The life, however, which he led upon this exalted pinnacle, was by no means an idle one, for he delivered public exhortations twice a day, and, according to report, performed the most extraordinary miracles, so that those who were diseased went to him, and were healed. He adjudged differences, and performed all the functions of a judge. He had much influence in the transactions of public affairs, and frequently wrote to the emperor, and to persons in authority. It was by him also that the affairs of the church were regulated, that the future success of any enterprise was determined, and that the arguments of Pagans, Jews, and heretics were confuted. The style in which this history is written may almost be called bombastical ; and the author, by way of giving dignity to his subject, frequently compares his heroes to the patriarchs and prophets of old. Yet this history cannot but be pronounced useful; for the men of whom it treats occupy a very prominent place in the records of those periods in which they lived. They held the highest place in the esteem and veneration of the public, and were not unfrequently called from their solitary and comfortless cells to the head of the largest and most important dioceses.
3. “Eranistes, or Polymorphus," a work which derives its name from its being designed to combat error under the many forms or shapes imparted to it by different heresies. Two
persons are introduced as conversing on the subject : the one proposes questions and starts objections, the other defends the true faith. The doctrines mainly advocated in these dialogues may be briefly stated as follows :-Jesus Christ is both man and God. The human and the Divine nature are united in one person, yet these two natures subsist without mixture or confusion. At the end of the dialogues is a synopsis of the arguments previously advanced, arranged in the scholastic form ; the dialogues themselves are written in an easy and familiar strain, and are intended for general readers. The style of the whole work is clear and logical. The objections of the opponent are well and fairly propounded, and the arguments brought against them, though not always very convincing, may yet be said, on the whole, to give indications of strong reasoning powers.
4. Another work “on Heresies.” This treatise gives a detailed account of the errors held by various heresiarchs and sects. Four volumes, one devoted to these descriptions, arranged not chronologically, but, as it were, in classes according to the subject. In the fourth volume there are some very severe strictures against Nestorius ; but their authenticity is doubted. Theodoret drew his materials for the compilation of this history from the most esteemed writers ; and he cites St. Justin, St. Irenæus, St. Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius of Palestine, and several others as his authorities. A fifth volume is annexed, containing a clear and eloquent statement of the doctrines of the church as opposed to those of heretics.
5. “A Series of Ten Discourses on Providence," which have been pronounced the finest productions on the subject that have been handed down from antiquity. The first of these discourses treats on natural theology, constantly referring the sceptic to the works of God, to the sun, moon, and stars, which he has made. It seems probable that these were sermons prepared by Theodoret for the benefit of some particular congregation ; but the power of analogical reasoning which they exhibit, as well as the brilliant eloquence of the style, render them permanently valuable.
6. “Twelve Discourses on the Cure of Pagan Errors,” a work in which the classical erudition of Theodoret is more fully displayed than in any other. He here quotes upwards of a hundred writers. The style is very elaborate ; the author evidently endeavoured to imitate that of Plato. These discourses were suggested by the public disputations which he frequently held with heretics of different denominations.
7. “ Discourse on Charity.” This is considered to have been intended as the conclusion of the work entitled “ Philotheus,” which has been already mentioned. It extols the love and charity exhibited by those who suffered for the faith.
8. “ Sermon upon St. John.”
9. “ Confutation of St. Cyril's Twelve Chapters.” It must be observed, that Theodoret does not here combat any of the doctrines received as orthodox, but that he merely attacks the mode in which these doctrines are enunciated by St. Cyril.
10. Fragments of a book against St. Cyril.
11. “ The Letters of Theodoret.” These were very pumerous ; they are generally arranged in the following order :
1. “Letter to Sporatius," which, however, is rather a fragment of the treatise on heresies.
2. “Letter to John, bishop of Germanica.” 3. “Some Letters written during the Time of the Council of Ephesus.”
4. “Some Letters written in the Time of negotiating the Peace.”
5. “Letters written after the Peace."
All these letters are divisible into two classes ; those which relate to his disputes with the bishops of Egypt, and which are all more or less imbued with the acrimony of party spirit ; and, secondly, the friendly and familiar letters which, though likewise very frequently of a polemical nature, relate chiefly to his own private affairs. These letters give an insight into the character and motives of Theodoret. They serve to prove the blamelessness of his course of life, and the piety, charity, and true humility of his spirit. He seems to have excelled particularly in the epistolary style of writing; and his letters have been described as being just what letters ought to be, “short, plain, neat, courteous, elegant, full of matter, wit, and holiness."
The first collection of Theodoret's writings was printed at Cologne in 1573. An excellent edition of his works was published as early as 1642 at Paris, by Sirmond, in four volumes, folio, to which Garnier, in 1684, added a fifth volume, containing the letters and discourses of Theodoret, with long dissertations by the editor. An edition from this recension was published at Halle, A. D. 1769-74, by Nonselt, and this is the most recent edition which we possess of Theodoret's entire works.
Although it is evident, even from the above enumeration, that Theodoret was a voluminous writer, yet all his works have not been mentioned, many of them having been lost. The following is a list of those which are no longer extant :
Commentary on Isaiah.
Several Treatises against the Arians, Apollinarists, Marcionists, and Jews.
An Answer to the Questions of the Persian Magi.
Apology for Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, and for Theodorus, bishop of Mopsuestia.
The following works are attributed to Theodoret, though not upon the best authority :Preface
upon the Psalms. Fragments of a Commentary upon the Psalms. Five Sermons in Praise of St. Chrysostom.