Fathers of the Church

Letter XCIX. to Claudianus the Antigrapharius

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) This letter to an imperial magistrate shows Theodoret trying to build a network of support for himself and for Christian orthodoxy against his Monophysite enemies.

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 c. 449 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

Although you have not yet met me, I think that your excellency is aware of the open calumnies that have been published against me, for you have often heard me preaching in church, when I have proclaimed the Lord Jesus, and have pointed out the properties alike of the Godhead and of the manhood; for we do not divide one Son into two, but, worshipping the Only- begotten, point out the distinction between flesh and Godhead. This, indeed, is I think confessed even by the Arians, who do not call the flesh Godhead, nor address the Godhead as flesh. Holy Scripture clearly teaches us both natures. Nevertheless, though I have ever thus spoken, certain men are uttering lying words against me. But I rely on my conscience and have as witness to my teaching Him who looks into the hearts. So, as the prophet says, I regard the contrivances of calumny as "a spider's web." I await the great judgment which needs no words, but makes manifest what in the meanwhile is unknown.

I send this by the very religious bishops, thinking it worth while to salute your excellency by them and to remind you of your promise. For attacked as I am I do not cease to go a-hunting, for I know that even the sacred apostles in the midst of the assaults made upon them did not cease to ply the net of the spirit.

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.