Fathers of the Church

Letter LXXXII. to Eusebius, Bishop of Ancyra

Description

Theodoret’s letters are a mine of information for the history of the fifth century, of the author’s life and of the history of dogma in general. This large correspondence is distinguished for its unpretentious learning, felicitous diction and perfect grace of style. Most important are those letters that, like the present, take part in the theological controversies of the time, and so are valuable sources for the history of the Eastern Church. (Quasten) Here he defends himself to a fellow bishop against Monophysite charges that he divides the one Christ into “two sons,” human and divine.

Provenance

Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393-466), the wise and zealous bishop of Cyrus, a small town near Antioch, was the last great theologian of the school of Antioch. Although he first considered Alexandrian Christology dangerous, and refused to condemn Nestorius until the Council of Chalcedon, his commitment to the correct doctrine of the Incarnation should not be questioned. As late as the 14th century more than 500 of his letters were extant, of which we still have 232. Letters LXXIX-CXI date from 448 and 449, and chronicle the growing agitation in the Eastern Church during the Monophysite crisis, including the slanders that led to Theodoret’s illegitimate deposition at the “Robber-Council” of Ephesus in 449.

by Theodoret in c. 448 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

I had hoped at this time to hear frequently from your holiness. Suffering as I do under charges which are plain calumny I stand in need of brotherly consolation. For they who are now renewing the heresy of Marcion, Valentinus, Manes, and of the other Docetae, annoyed at my publicly pillorying their heresy, have endeavoured to deceive the imperial ears, by calling me a heretic and falsely accusing me of dividing into two sons our one Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Word made man. Their utterances did not meet with the success that they expected. A despatch was therefore written to the right honourable and glorious commander and consul, containing indeed no accusation of heresy, but certain other charges no less unfounded. They alleged that I was endeavouring to assemble frequent synods at Antioch; that certain persons thereupon took umbrage; that for this reason I ought to desist from these proceedings and manage the churches entrusted to my charge. When this communication was shewn me I caught at the sentence as an opportunity of good. For in the first place I gained the rest I so much longed for; furthermore I trust in the wiping out of the stains of the many errors I have committed, on account of the wrong devised against me by the enemies of truth. Even in this present life our supreme Ruler very plainly shews us what care He takes of them that suffer wrong. While I have been remaining at rest, prisoned within the boundaries of my own country; while throughout the East all men have been distressed and have been bitterly lamenting though compelled to silence by the terror that has fallen on them (for what has befallen me has stricken terror into the hearts of all) the Lord has stooped from heaven, has convicted my calumniators of their falsehood, and laid bare their impious intent. They armed even Alexandria against me and by means of their worthy instruments are dinning into all men's ears that I am preaching two sons instead of one.

I, on the contrary, am so far from holding this abominable opinion, that, on finding some of the holy fathers of the Nicene Council opposing in their treatises the madness of Arius and forced in their struggle against their opponents to make too marked a distinction, I have objected, and refused to admit such distinction, for I know how the exigencies of the distinction result in exaggeration.

And lest any one should suppose that I am speaking as I do through fear, let any one who likes get hold of my ancient writings written before the Council of Ephesus, and those written after it twelve years ago. For by God's grace I interpreted all the Prophets and the Psalms and the Apostles: I wrote long ago against the Arians, the Macedonians, the sophistry of Apollinarius and the madness of Marcion: and in every one of my books by God's grace the mind of the Church shines clear. Moreover I have written a book on the Mysteries, another on Providence, another on the Questions of the Magi, a life of the Saints, and besides these, not to name every one in detail, many more.

I have enumerated them not for ambition's sake, but to challenge my accusers and my judges to put any of my writings they may choose to the test. They will find that by God's grace I hold no other opinion than just that which I have received from holy Scripture.

When, then, your holiness has heard this from me, I beg you to inform the ignorant and to persuade the unbridled tongues that revile me and all who are deceived by them, not to believe what they have heard of me from my calumniators. Beg them to believe rather the Lawgiver when he exclaims "Men shall not receive a false report." Ask them to wait till the facts are proved.

My prayer is that the churches may enjoy a calm and that this long and painful storm may vanish away. But if the multitude of our sins suffer not this to come to pass; if for their sakes we are delivered to the sifter; we pray that we may share the perils undergone for the faith, in order that since we have not the confidence that comes from this life, at least for guarding the faith in its integrity we may meet with pity and pardon in the day of the appearance of the Lord. And for this we beseech your holiness to join us in our prayers.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF II/III, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.