4. Bishop of Antioch, in the latter part of the second century of our era, and the author of one of the early apologies for Christianity which have come down to us.
The common opinion concerning his time, derived from Eusebius, Jerome, and Nicephorus, has been elaborately canvassed by Dodwell and others, whose arguments are fully examined, and satisfactorily answered by Cave (Hist. Litt. s. a. 168
), and Harless (ad Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vii. p. 102).
In the eighth (Heron. Chron. s. a. 2184
) or tenth (Euseb. Chron. s. a. 2186 ;
Syncoll. p. 352d.) year of Marcus Antoninus (A. D. 168/9 or 170/1), he succeeded Eros in the see of Antioch, of which he was the sixth bishop (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.20
; Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 25
), or, including S. Peter, the seventh (Hieron. Algas.
vol. iii. p. 318; Niceph. Chron.
p. 417c.) ; and he held that office for thirteen years, that is, till A. D. 181 or 183 (Niceph. l.c.
). Having been originally a heathen 1
, as he tells us himself (Ad Autolyc.
i. p. 78), he was converted to Christianity by the study of the sacred Scriptures.
The Three Books to Autolycus
Besides other religious works, Theophilus wrote an apology for the Christian faith, in the form of a letter to a friend, named Autolycus, who was still a heathen, but a man of extensive reading and great learning, and an earnest lover of truth (Theoph. ad Autolyc. 1.
p. 69b., iii. pp. 119, a., 127, b., 138, d.).
This work must have been written, or, at least, finished, shortly before the death of Theophilus, for there is an allusion towards the close of it, which fixes the composition of that part after the death of Marcus Antoninus, in A. D. 180; and, according to the preceding testimonies, Theophilus did not live later than A. D. 183, or perhaps than A. D. 181.
The work is cited by various titles, either simply πρὸς Αὐτόλυκον βιβλία γ́
, or with the addition περὶ τῆς τῶν Χριστιανῶν πίστεως
, or, as Eusebius has it (H. E.
4.24), τρία τὰ πρὸς αὐτόλυκον στοιχειώδη συγγράμματα
, implying that the object of the work was to teach Autolycus the elements of Christian truth; and again, in a MS. in the Paris library, the title is given with an addition which states the object of the work to be, to prove " that the divine oracles in our possession are more ancient and more true than the statements of Egyptian and all other historians."
It is quoted by Lactantius (2.23), by the title of De Temporibus,
and it is mentioned by Gennadius (33) who erroneously ascribes it to Theophilus of Alexandria.
The work shows much leaning and more simplicity of mind; in its general structure, it resembles the works of Justin Martyr and the other early apologists ; but it contains a more detailed examination of the evidence for Christianity derived both from Scripture and from history. Some of the arguments are fanciful, not to say puerile, in the extreme; for example, he interprets ἐν ἀρχῇ
, in Genesis 1.1, as meaning by Christ.
He indulges much in allegorical interpretations : thus, the three days, preceding the creation of the sun and moon, are typical of the Trinity of God and his Word and his Wisdom; a passage, by the way, which is believed to contain the earliest instance of the use of the word Trinity in the writings of The Fathers.
The work, however, contains much valuable latter; and its style is clear and good.
The three books of Theophilus to Autolycus were first published in the collection of the monks Antonius and Maximus, entitled Sententiarum sive Capitum, Theologicorum praecipue, ex sacris et profanis libris, Tomi tres,
and containing, besides the work of Theophilus, the Centuriae
of Maximus, and the Oratio ad Graecos
of Tatian, edited by Conrad Gesner, Tiguri, 1546, fol.: again with the Latin version of Conrad Clauser, in the collections of the Scriptores Sacri,
published in 1555 and 155), fol. (see Hoffmann, Lex. Bibliogr.
) : with the editions of Justin Martyr, 1615, 1636, 1686, 1712, 1747, fol. : with notes by Fronto Ducaeus, in the Auctuar. Biblioth. Patrum,
Paris, 1624, fol.: with a revised text and notes, by John Fell, bishop of Oxford, Oxon. 1684, 12mo.: the most complete edition is that of Jo. Christoph. Wolf, Hamb. 1724, 8vo.
It has been translated into English by Joseph Betty, Oxf. 1722, 8vo.
It has been translated into German by G. C. Hosmann, Hamb, 1729, 8vo.
Theophilus was the author of several other works, which were extant in the times of Eusebius and Jerome (Euseb. Chron. Arm. l.c. ;
Hieron. Chron. l.c.
; Sync. l.c.
) Among there, were works against the heresies of Marcion and Hermogenes, in the latter of which the Apocalypse was quoted. (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.24
; Hieron. de Vir. Illust. 25.
) Jerome also mentions a Commentary on the Gospels, which seems to have been a sort of harmony, and of which he made use in his own Commentaries, but which he thinks not equal in style to the other works of Theophilus. (V. I l.c.; Praef. in Matt.; Algas.
vol. iii. p. 318.)
Commentary on various passages of the Gospels
There are still extant, in Latin only, under the name of Theophilus, four books of allegorical commentaries on various passages of the Gospels, which the best critics pronounce to be undoubtedly an original Latin work, of a period much subsequent to the time of Theophilus, although very probably his commentary may have been used in its compilation.
This commentary is published in the Bibliothecae Patrum, Paris, 1575, 1598, 1609, 1654, Colon. 1618, Ludg. 1677.
Eusebius further mentions certain catechetical works by him (καὶ ἕτερα δέ τινα κατηχητικὰ αὐτοῦ βιβλία
, H. E.
4.24; breves elegantesque tractatus ad aedificationem ecclesiae pertinentes,
Hieron. V. I. l.c.
Commentaries on Proverbs
) refers to his Commentaries on the Proverbs,
in connection with his Commentaries on the Gospels,
and with the same qualification as to their style.
Cave, Hist. Litt. s. a. 168,
pp. 69-71 ; Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vii. pp. 101-106 ; Lardner, Credibility ;
Mosheim, Eccles. Hist.
vol. i. p. 155, Engl. ed.; Clinton, Fasti Rom. s. aa. 171, 181.