Chapter XXIV.—Theophilus Bishop of Antioch.
1. Of Theophilus, 1266 whom we have mentioned as bishop of the church of Antioch, 1267 three elementary works addressed to Autolycus are extant; also another writing entitled Against the Heresy of Hermogenes, 1268 in which he makes use of testimonies from the Apocalypse of John, and finally certain other catechetical books. 1269
2. And as the heretics, no less then than at other times, were like tares, destroying the pure harvest of apostolic teaching, the pastors of the churches everywhere hastened to restrain them as wild beasts from the fold of Christ, at one time by admonitions and exhortations to the brethren, at another time by contending more openly against them in oral discussions and refutations, and again by correcting their opinions with most accurate proofs in written works.
3. And that Theophilus also, with the others, contended against them, is manifest from a certain discourse of no common merit written by him against Marcion. 1270 This work too, with the others of which we have spoken, has been preserved to the present day.
Maximinus, 1271 the seventh from the apostles, succeeded him as bishop of the church of Antioch.
Eusebius is the only Eastern writer of the early centuries to mention Theophilus and his writings. Among the Latin Fathers, Lactantius and Gennadius refer to his work, ad Autolycum; and Jerome devotes chap. 25 of his de vir. ill. to him. Beyond this there is no direct mention of Theophilus, or of his works, during the early centuries (except that of Malalas, which will be referred to below). Eusebius here calls Theophilus bishop of Antioch, and in chap. 20 makes him the sixth bishop, as does also Jerome in his de vir. ill. chap. 25. But in his epistle, ad Algas. (Migne, Ep. 121), Jerome calls him the seventh bishop of Antioch, beginning his reckoning with the apostle Peter. Eusebius, in his Chron., puts the accession of Theophilus into the ninth year of Marcus Aurelius (169); and this may be at least approximately correct. The accession of his successor Maximus is put into the seventeenth year (177); but this date is at least four years too early, for his work, ad Autolycum, quotes from a work in which the death of Marcus Aurelius (who died in 180) was mentioned, and hence cannot have been written before 181 or 182. We know that his successor, Maximus, became bishop sometime between 189 and 192, and hence Theophilus died between 181 and that time. We have only Eusebius words (Jerome simply repeats Eusebius statement) for the fact that Theophilus was bishop of Antioch (his extant works do not mention the fact, nor do those who quote from his writings), but there is no good ground for doubting the truth of the report. We know nothing more about his life.
In addition to the works mentioned in this chapter, Jerome (de vir. ill.) refers to Commentaries upon the Gospel and the book of Proverbs, in the following words: Legi sub nomine ejus in Evangelium et in Proverbia Salomonis Commentarios qui mihi cum superiorum voluminum elegantia et phrasi non videntur congruere. The commentary upon the Gospel is referred to by Jerome again in the preface to his own commentary on Matthew; and in his epistle, ad Algasiam, he speaks of a harmony of the four Gospels, by Theophilus (qui quatuor Evangelistarum in unum opus dicta compingens), which may have been identical with the commentary, or may have formed a basis for it. This commentary is mentioned by none of the Fathers before or after Jerome; and Jerome himself expresses doubts as to its genuineness, or at least he does not think that its style compares with that of the other works ascribed to Theophilus. Whether the commentary was genuine or not we have no means of deciding, for it is no longer extant. There is in existence a Latin commentary on the Gospels in four books, which bears the name of Theophilus, and is published in Ottos Corpus Apol. Vol. VIII. p. 278–324. This was universally regarded as a spurious work until Zahn, in 1883 (in his Forschungen zur Gesch. des N. T. Canons, Theil II.) made an elaborate effort to prove it a genuine work of Theophilus of Antioch. Harnack, however, in his Texte und Unters. I. 4, p. 97–175, has shown conclusively that Zahn is mistaken, and that the extant commentary is nothing better than a Post-Nicene compilation from the works of various Latin Fathers. Zahn, in his reply to Harnack (Forschungen, Theil III. Beilage 3), still maintains that the Commentary is a genuine work of Theophilus, with large interpolations, but there is no adequate ground for such a theory; and it has found few, if any, supporters. We must conclude, then, that if Theophilus did write such a commentary, it is no longer extant.
The three books addressed to Autolycus (a heathen friend otherwise unknown to us) are still extant in three Mediæval mss. and have been frequently published both in the original and in translation. The best edition of the original is that of Otto (Corp. Apol. Vol. VIII.); English translation by Dods, in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II. p. 85–121. The work is an apology, designed to exhibit the falsehood of idolatry and the truth of Christianity. The author was a learned writer, well acquainted with Greek philosophy; and his literary style is of a high order. He acknowledges no good in the Greek philosophers, except what they have taken from the Old Testament writers. The genuineness of the work has been attacked, but without sufficient reason.
From Book II. chap. 30 of his ad Autol. we learn that Theophilus had written also a work On History. No such work is extant, nor is it mentioned by Eusebius or any other Father. Malalas, however, cites a number of times “The chronologist Theophilus,” and it is possible that he used this lost historical work. It is possible, on the other hand, that he refers to some other unknown Theophilus (see Harnack, Texte und Unters. I. 1, p. 291).202:1267
In chap. 20, above.202:1268
This work against Hermogenes is no longer extant. Harnack (p. 294 ff.) gives strong grounds for supposing that it was the common source from which Tertullian, in his work ad Hermogenem, Hippolytus, in his Phil. VIII. 10 and X. 24, and Clement of Alexandria, in his Proph. Selections, 56, all drew. If this be true, as seems probable, the Hermogenes attacked by these various writers is one man, and his chief heresy, as we learn from Tertullian and Hippolytus, was that God did not create the world out of nothing, but only formed it out of matter which, like himself, was eternally existent.202:1269
These catechetical works (τινα κατηχητικὰ βιβλία), which were extant in the time of Eusebius, are now lost. They are mentioned by none of the Fathers except Jerome, who speaks of alii breves elegantesque tractatus ad ædificationem Ecclesiæ pertinentes as extant in his time. We know nothing more of their nature than is thus told us by Jerome.202:1270
This work, which is also now lost, is mentioned by no other Father except Jerome, who puts it first in his list of Theophilus writings, but does not characterize it in any way, though he says it was extant in his time. Irenæus, in four passages of his great work, exhibits striking parallels to Bk. II. chap. 25 of Theophilus ad Autol., which have led to the assumption that he knew the latter work. Harnack, however, on account of the shortness of time which elapsed between the composition of the ad Autol. and Irenæus work, and also on account of the nature of the resemblances between the parallel passages, thinks it improbable that Irenæus used the ad Autol., and concludes that he was acquainted rather with Theophilus work against Marcion, a conclusion which accords best with the facts known to us.202:1271
Here, and in Bk. V. chap. 19, §1, Eusebius gives this bishops name as Maximinus. In the Chron. we find Μ€ξιμος, and in Jeromes version Maximus, though one ms. of the latter gives Maximinus. According to the Chron. he became bishop in 177, and was succeeded by Serapion in 190. As remarked in note 1, above, the former date is incorrect, for Theophilus must have lived at least as late as 181 or 182. We cannot reach certainty in regard to the date either of his accession or of his death; but if Eusebius statement (in Bk. V. chap. 19), that Serapion was bishop while Commodus was still emperor, is to be believed (see further, Bk. V. chap. 19, note 1), Maximinus must have died at least as early as 192, which gives us for his episcopate some part of the period from 181 to 192. We know no particulars in regard to the life of Maximinus.