Theodoret

, an illustrious writer of the church, was born at Antioch about the year 386, of parents who were both pious and opulent. His birth has been represented as accompanied with miracles before and after, according to his own account, in his “Religious History;” in which he gravely informs us, that it was by the prayers of a religious man, called Macedonius, that God granted his motirer to conceive a son, and bring him into the world. When the holy anchorite promised her this blessing, she engaged herself on her part to devote him to God; and accordingly called him Theodoretus, which signifies either given by God, or devoted to God. To promote this latter design, he was sent at seven years of age to a monastery, where he learned the sciences, theology, and devotion. He had for his masters Theodore of Mopsuestia, and St. John Chrysostom, and made under them a very uncommon progress. His learning and piety becoming known to the bishops of Antioch, they admitted him into holy orders; yet he did not upon that account change either his habitation or manner of living, but endeavoured to reconcile the exercises of a religious life with tha function of a clergyman. ' After the death of his parents, he distributed his whole inheritance to the poor, and reserved nothing to himself. The bishopric of Cyrus becoming vacant about the year 420, the bishop of Antioch ordained Theodoret against his will, | and sent him to govern that dumb. Cyrus was a city of Syria, in the province of Euphratesia, an unpleasant and barren country, but very populous. The inhabitants commonly spake the Syriac to;ig.e, Tew of them understanding Greek; they were almost all poor, rude, and barbarous; many of them were engaged in profane superbtitions, or in such gross errors as shewed them to be rather Heathens than Christians. The learning and worth of Theodoret, which were really very great, seemed to qualify him for a better see; yet he remained in this, and discharged all the offices of a good bishop and good man. He was afterwards engaged in the Nestorian dispute, very much against his will; but at length retired to his see, spent his life in composing books, and in acts of piety and charity, and died there in the year 457, aged seventy and upwards. He wrote “Commentaries upon the Holy Scriptures” an “Ecclesiastical History” a “Religious Histor\ T” containing the lives and praises of thirty monks, and several other things, which are still extant.

Great encomiums have been bestowed upon this writer, particularly by Dupin, who asserts that “Of all the fathers who have composed works of different kinds, Theodoret is one of those who has succeeded the very best in every kind. Some have been excellent writers in matters of controversy, but bad interpreters of Scripture; others have been good historians, but bad divines; some have had good success in morality, who have had no skill in doctrinal points; those who have applied themselves to confute Paganism by their own principles and authors, have usually Lad little knowledge in the mysteries of our religion; and lastly, it is very rare for those. who have addicted themselves to works of piety to be good critics. Theodoret had all these qualities; and it may be said, that he has equally deserved the name of a good interpreter, divine, historian, writer in controversy, apologist for religion, and author of works of piety. But he hath principally excelled in his compositions on Holy Scripture, and has outdone almost all other commentators, according to the judgment of the learned Phqtius. His style, says that able critic, is veryproper for a commentary; for he explains, in just and significant terms, whatsoever is obscure and difficult in the text, and render* the mind more fit to read and understand it by the elegance of his style. He never wearies his reader with long digressions, but on the contrary labours | to instruct him clearly, neatly, and methodically, in every thing that seems hard. He never departs from the purity and elegance of the Attic dialect, unless when he is obliged to speak of abstruse matters, to which the ears are not accustomed: for it is certain that he passes over nothing that needs explication; and it is almost impossible to find any interpreter who unfolds all manner of difficulties better, and teaves fewer things obscure. We may find many others who write elegantly and explain clearly, but we shall find few who have forgotten nothing which needed illustration, without being too diffuse, and without running out into digressions, at least such as are not absolutely necessary to clear the matter in hand. Yet this is what Theodoret has observed throughout his commentaries, in. which he hath opened the text admirably well by his accurate inquiries.” Other writers, however, have not expressed so high an opinion of Theodoret. Beausobre, in his History of the Manichees, says that “Theodoret is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable of the fathers. He is learned; he reasons well, especially in his dialogues against the Greek heresies of his times: he is a good literal interpreter of the Scriptures. I cannot help admiring his prudence and moderation, when I consider that he ended his Ecclesiastical History at the time when the Nestorian quarrels, in which he was so deeply interested, began. But, I fear, his zeal against heretics imposed upon him almost as much, as his admiration for the heroes of the ascetic life, with whom he was charmed. Monasteries have undoubtedly sent forth great men into the world, but these disciples of the monks contracted there in their youth a superstitious disposition, which is hardly ever thrown off; and the weak side of this able man seems to have been an excessive credulity.” In truth, Theodoret surpasses all other writers in admiration of monastic institutions, and is credulous beyond measure in subjects of that nature. Yet he was undoubtedly one of the most learned and best men in the Eastern church. His pacific conduct displeased the bigots, during the Nestorian and Eutychian controversies, and because he inclined to healing methods, he was condemned at one of the synods, and was not without difficulty reinstated. “His works,” says Milner, “are large, on a variety of subjects; but they speak not for him equally with his life; and it will be sufficient to say, that his theology, with a stronger mixture of superstitioiij was of the | same kind as that of Chrysostom. But his spirit was humble, heavenly, charitable; and he seems to have walked in the iaith, hope, and love of the gospel, a shining ornament in a dark age and country.

The works of Theodoret were published in Greek and Latin, by father Sirmond, at Paris, 164-2, in 4 vols. folio; a work not of much pecuniary value unless when joined with a fifth, which the Jesuit Gamier added, in 1684, consisting of other pieces, which had never been printed before, of supposititious pieces, learned dissertation*, and an account of the life, principles, and writings of Theodoret. A new edition has since been published by Schultze, Halae, 1768 74, in 5 vols. 4to, or in 10 vols. 8vo. The “Ecclesiastical History” of Theodoret, which is divided into five books, is a kind of supplement to Socrates and Sozomen, as being written after theirs, about the year 450. It begins where Eusebius leaves off, at the rise of the Arian heresy in 322, and ends with 427, before the beginning of the Nestorian heresy. It has been translated and published by Valesius, with Eusebius and the other ecclesiastical historians, and republished with additional notes, by Reading, at London, 1720, in 3 vols. folio. 1

1

Dupin.—Cave, vol. I.—Saxii Onomast.