Theodore of Mopsuestia and Those Heretics
Theodore is was the Bishop of Mopsuestia in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, a town in the vicinity of Antioch. He was a fellow student of the much more famous Chrysostom. He is a good representative of the interpretive method that Antioch is known for, more historical/grammatical/literal and less allegorical like their Alexandrian counterparts. He is (in)famous for his association with Nestorianism. Nestorianism’s namesake, Nestorius, was his pupil and became Archbishop of Constantinople in the year Theodore died. It was after Theodore’s death that Nestorius was condemned and Theodore with him.
Yesterday I ended my break from teaching at church and began a series on the Gospel of John. Much of my reading includes modern commentaries but I’m also using IVP’s Ancient Christian Commenary on Scripture, as well as Theodore of Mopsuestia’s full commentary on this gospel, also published by IVP. Unfortunately for this one, I can’t (yet) have the fun of translating it myself. Except for fragments, the original (Greek) is lost and the text only survives in a Syriac translation. In the meantime however, this handy translation exists. It is a bit pricey but I guess you have to expect that from a book that won’t have much popular appeal. So far I’ve enjoyed reading it.
I wanted to read Theodore’s commentary in particular because my reading of Nestorius’ Bazaar and some other modern historical works led me to wonder if their condemnation was uncalled for (of course this thought is not new to me). The so-called “Nestorian” church, or as some of them would prefer, the Church of the East, or the Assyrian Church of the East et al. (not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox) are apparently at the moment seeking reconciliation with the west. Since many Christian groups (including the broader group I generally find myself attached to) shamefully seem to be more interested in finding enemies than friends, this whole line of study appeals to me.
If you are interested in doing some of this reading yourself, I can recommend the following books:
- A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500 by Samuel Hugh Moffett. Definitely the book to start with.
- The Church of the East: Apostolic & Orthodox by Mar Bawai Soro.
I was thinking that I had recommended these before but I can’t seem to find the post. Anyway, here they are again if I have :)
You might recall that I was planning on talking about Theophilus of Antioch. This is still the case. I am actually preparing a copy of his apology and will start chatting about him as well when that is done. On the one hand, I don’t expect that to take long but I’m about to start a few weeks of serious overtime at work, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get much done at all. We’ll see.
In the meantime, pick up some good books and get some reading done.