Theodore of Mopsuestia
(c. 350 - 428

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THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA, b. at Antioch about 350; d. at Mopsuestia, in Cilicia secunda, 423 or 429; one of the chief leaders of the Antiochian school of theology. As a preparation for a juridical career, he studied philosophy and rhetoric under the famous Libanius, but at the same time he made the acquaintance of Chrysostom; and the religious enthusiasm of the latter induced him to devote his life to Christian philosophy and asceticism. Soon after, however, he repented of the change, and meditated a return to his former occupation; but the reproaches and admonitions of his friend finally decided him (see Chrysostom: Ad Theod. lapsum). His biblical studies he made under Diodorus the presbyter, afterwards bishop of Tarsus: indeed, his whole character as a theologian was modelled by Diodorus. He was ordained a presbyter in the Church of Antioch, and as a teacher in the school he soon acquired a great reputation. John, afterwards bishop of Antioch, Theodoret, and perhaps, also, Nestorius, were among his pupils. In 392 he was elected bishop of Mopsuestia; and in 394 he was present at a synod in Constantinople, where the emperor, Theodosius I., is said to have been very much impressed by his preaching. Throughout the whole Eastern Church his name had a great weight: even Cyril of Alexandria, to whom he sent his Commentary on Job, felt the greatest esteem for him. Nor did the attitude he assumed in the Pelagian controversy in any way impair his authority. It was not until the outbreak of the Nestorian controversy, and the clash between the christology of the Antiochian school and that of the Alexandrian school, that his name came into bad odor; but he died just as the controversy began.

Theodore was a very prolific writer. A great number of his works were devoted to the interpretation of Scripture. He wrote commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, the Prophets, Job, the four Gospels, the Acts, and the Pauline Epistles; but, unfortunately, only his Commentary on the Minor Prophets which, however, is very instructive with respect to his exegetical method has come down to us in its original Greek text. A Latin Commentary on the minor Pauline Epistles, which Pitra has published under the name of Hilary of Poitiers, is now generally considered as belonging to Theodore; and extracts of his other commentaries have been collected by Wegnern, A. Mai, and Fritzsche, from the catenae. Under the influence of the Alexandrian school, the mystico-allegorical interpretation of Scripture prevailed throughout the Greek Church, more especially the christological interpretation of the Old Testament, totally neglecting the organical connection and all historical relations. In opposition to this method of exegesis, Theodore, following the track of Eusebius of Emesa and Diodorus of Tarsus, placed a simple, direct interpretation, based on the given historical conditions; not that he, for instance, denied the idea of prophecy, but he confined its application within very narrow limits, outside of which he ascribed to it only a typical designation. Thus he referred all the messianic Psalms, with the exception of three, to Zerubbabel and Hezekiah, and denied altogether that the Old Testament knew any thing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as forming the Trinity. Equally free was his treatment of the canon. He distinguished between historical, prophetical, and pedagogical books; and the last group (Job, the Solomonic writings) he criticised without reserve. The Canticles he rejected altogether, and spoke of with great contempt.

It took some time before the Pelagian controversy, which originated in the West, reached the East, and at first it made no deep impression there. Nevertheless, there came a moment when Theodore felt compelled to snake an open attack on the Augustinian doctrine of hereditary sin; and he wrote his book Against those who say that man falls by nature, and not by sentence. The book itself has perished: but Marius Mercator has preserved some fragments of it in Latin translation; and Photius, who had read it, gives a summary of its contents. It was directed against Augustine, but addressed to Jerome. The latter is very plainly indicated by allusions to his translation of the Bible, his journey to the East, etc.; and the circumstance that he had spread the new heresy in Syria; by writing books in its defence was the very cause of Theodore’s interference. Theodore absolutely rejects such propositions as these, that man, originally created good and immortal, became bad and mortal by Adam’s sin; that sin now has its origin in human nature, and not in the will of man; that newly born infants are tainted by sin, and must obtain forgiveness by baptism, and eating the Lord’s Supper; that marriage and generation are the evil results of an evil nature, etc. According to Marius Mercator and Photius, he even went so far as to assert that man was created mortal by God, and that the doctrine of death as a punishment of sin is a mere fiction invented for the purpose of sharpening man’s hatred of sin. In his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans he expresses himself very cautiously on this point; and, though he does not directly deviate from the Pauline doctrine of the relation between sin and death, he evidently considered the history of the human race so closely connected with the general development of the world, that death became to his eyes a necessary and indispensable transition in human existence. At a later date, Julian of Eclanum, and other Pelagians who were expelled from Italy, found refuge with him. It is therefore a mistake to say, that at a provincial council he took part in the condemnation of Pelagianism.

The exegetical principle of Theodore, as well as the position he took in the Pelagian contro-


versy, gives a preliminary idea of his christological views. While presbyter of Antioch, he wrote fifteen books on the incarnation, and a special work against Eunomius. Thirty years later on, as bishop of Mopsuestia, he wrote a work against Apollinaris. These books have perished, with the exception of a few fragments; but we know that he was the true representative of the speculative theology of the Antiochian school, and that, in contradistinction to the Alexandrian school, he emphasized in his christology the completeness of the human nature of Christ, and its indelible difference from his divine nature. It was, however, not he, but Nestorius, who was destined to carry this view to its last consequences, and fight for it in the world. At the Council of Ephesus (431) no one dared to attack Theodore directly; and, though open attacks were made upon him shortly after by Marius Mercator and Rabulas of Edessa, it took more than a century before the Alexandrian theologians succeeded in weaning the Eastern Church from its great teacher, and branding his name with the stamp of heresy.

W. Müller, "THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA," Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 4. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.2325-26.

Primary Sources

On-line Resource  Alphonse Mingana [1881-1937], Woodbrooke Studies. Christian Documents in Syraic, Arabic, and Garshuni, edited and translated with Critical Apparatus, Vol. 5: Commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Nicene CreedAlphonse Mingana [1881-1937], Woodbrooke Studies. Christian Documents in Syraic, Arabic, and Garshuni, edited and translated with Critical Apparatus, Vol. 5: Commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Nicene Creed. Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons Limited, 1932. Hbk. pp.240. View in PDF format pdf [This material is in the Public Domain]
Book or monograph A. Migana, "The Commentary of Theodore of Mopseustia on the Lord's Prayer and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist," Woodbrooke Studies, Vol. 6. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933.

Secondary Sources

Book or monograph Joanne McWilliam Dewart, The Theology of Grace of Theodore of Mopsuestia. Studies in Christian Antiquity. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1971. Pbk. ISBN: 0813205239. pp.160.
Book or monograph Rowan A. Greer, Theodore of Mopsuestia: Exegete and Theologian. London : Faith Press, 1961. pp.173.
Article in Journal or Book Camillus Hay, "The Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia," Australian Biblical Review 9 (1961): 43–45.
Article in Journal or Book Robert C. Hill, "His Master's Voice: Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Psalms," Heythrop Journal 45.1 (January 2004): 40-53.
Article in Journal or Book Frederick G. McLeod, "Theodore of Mopsuestia Revisited," Theological Studies 61.3 (2000): 447-480.
Article in Journal or Book Frederick G. McCleod, "The Christological Ramifications of Theodore of Mopsuestia's Understanding of Baptism and the Eucharist," Journal of Early Christian Studies 10.1 (2002): 37-75.
Article in Journal or Book J.L. McKenzie, "The Commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on John 1:46-51," Theological Studies14 (1953): 73-84.
Article in Journal or Book K. McNamara, "The Problem of Theodore of Mopsuestia," Irish Theological Quarterly 24 (1957): 175-84.
Book or monograph Richard A. Norris, Manhood and Christ: A Study in the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia. London: Oxford University Press, 1963. pp.xv + 274.
Article in Journal or Book J. Quasten, "The Liturgical Mysticism of Theodore of Mopsuestia," Theological Studies 15 (1954): 431-39.
Book or monograph Hugh M. Riley, Christian Initiation: A Comparative Study of the Interpretation of the Baptismal Liturgy in the Mystagogical Writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1974. ISBN: 081320531X.
Article in Journal or Book J.S. Romanides, "Highlights in the Debate Over Theodore of Mopsuestia's Christology and Some Suggestions for a Fresh Approach," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 5.2 (1959s): 140-85.
Article in Journal or Book Francis A. Sullivan, "Some Reactions to Devreese's New Study of Theodore of Mopsueste," Theological Studies 12 (1951): 197-207.
Article in Journal or Book Francis A. Sullivan, "Further Notes on Theod. Mops (Reply to J.L. McKenzie)," Theological Studies 20 (1959): 264-79.
Book or monograph Francis A. Sullivan, The Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia. Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1956.
Article in Journal or Book Francis A. Sullivan, "Further Notes on Theodore of Mopsuestia," Theological Studies 20 (1959): 264-279.
On-line Resource Dudley Tyng, "Theodore of Mopsuestia as an Interpreter of the Old Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature 50 (1931): 298-303.View in PDF format pdf
Article in Journal or Book R.P. Vaggione, "Some Neglected Fragments of Theodore of Mopsuestia's 'Contra Eunomium'," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., Vol. 30 (1980): 403-470.
Article in Journal or Book A. Vööbus, "Regarding the Theological Anthropology of Theodore of Mopsuestia," Church History, Vol. 33 (1964): 115-124.
Article in Journal or Book Maurice F. Wiles, "Theodore of Mopsuestia as Representative of the Antiochene School." P.R. Ackroyd & C.F. Evans, eds. The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 1. From Beginnings to Jerome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Hbk. ISBN: 0521074185. pp.489-509.
Article in Journal or Book Dimitri Zaharopoulos, "Theodore of Mopsuestia's Critical Methods in Old Testament Study," Dissertation Abstracts 26 (1965): 2901-02.
Article in Journal or Book Dimitri Zaharopoulos, "Theodore of Mopsuestia: Views on Prophetic Inspiration," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 23.1 (1978): 42-52.
Book or monograph Dimitri Z. Zaharopoulos, Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Bible. Theological Inquiries. New York: Paulist, 1989. Pbk. ISBN: 0809130912. pp.223.


Book or monograph R.A. Greer, Theodore of Mopsuestia: Exegete and Theologian. London: Fauth, 1961,

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