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Fathers of the Church

Letter CIX. 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. (Quasten) In this second letter to Eusebius (cf. letter LXXXII) he again defends himself against charges of heresy, clarifying his position concerning the two natures of Christ.

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. Among these, most or all of XCII-CIX were sent with a group of Antiochene bishops who had gone to Constantinople to defend themselves and especially Theodoret against charges of heresy.

by Theodoret in Unknown | translated by Blomfield Jackson

Many are the devices secretly plotted against me, and through me patched up against the faith of apostles. I am however comforted by the sufferings of the Saints, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and men famous in the churches in the word of Grace; and besides these by the promises of our God and Saviour, for in this present life He has promised us nothing pleasant or delightful, but rather trouble, toil, and peril, and attacks of enemies. "In the world," He says, "ye shall have tribulation," and "if they have persecuted me they will also persecute you," and "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub how much more shall they call them of his household," and "The time cometh when whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service," and "Straight is the gate and narrow the way which leadeth unto life," and "When they persecute you in this city flee you into another," and I might quote all similar passages. The divine Apostle too speaks in the same strain. "Yea and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, but evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." These words give me the greatest comfort in this distress. As the calumnies uttered against me have probably reached your holiness's ears, I beseech your holiness to give no credence to the lies of my slanderers. I am not aware of ever having taught anyone up to the present time to believe in two sons. I have been taught to believe in one only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word made man. But I know the distinction between flesh and Godhead, and regard as impious all who divide our one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons, as well as those who, travelling in an opposite direction, call the Godhead and manhood of the master Christ one nature. For these exaggerations stand opposed to one another, while between them lies the way of the doctrines of the Gospel, beautified by the footprints of prophets and apostles, and of all who after them have been conspicuous for the gift of teaching. I was anxious to adduce their opinions, and to point out how they bear witness in favour of my own, but I want more words than a letter allows room for, wherefore I have written summarily what I have been taught about the incarnation of the only begotten; I send my statement to your godly excellency. I have written not with the object of teaching others, but of making my defence against the accusations brought against me, and of explaining my sentiments to those who are ignorant of them. After your holiness has read what I have written, if you find it in conformity with the apostolic doctrines, I hope you will confirm my opinion by what you reply—if, on the contrary, anything that I have said jars with the divine teaching, I request to be told of it by your holiness. For, though I have spent much time in teaching, I still need one to teach me. "We know," says the divine Apostle "in part," and again he says, "If any man think that he knoweth anything he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." So I hope that I may hear the truth from your holiness, and that you may also give heed to the calm of the Church, and fight for the divine doctrines. It is for their sakes that the very godly bishops, making light of the difficulties of the journey, and of the winter, have set out for the imperial city, in the endeavour to bring about some end to the storm. Send them I pray you, on their way with your prayers and with your prayers too strengthen me.

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.