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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Retirement after Chalcedon, and Death.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

VI.—Retirement after Chalcedon, and Death.

Some doubt hangs over the question whether after his vindication at Chalcedon Theodoret resumed his labours at Cyrus, or occupied himself with literary work in the congenial seclusion of Nicerte. Garnerius makes it about the time of his quitting Chalcedon that Sporacius charged him with the duty of writing on the Heresies, 86 and if so his five books on this subject would seem to have constituted the first fruit of his comparative leisure. Sporacius 87 he styles his “Christ-loving Son,” and no doubt owed something to the aid of the influential “Comes domesticorum,” who was present at Chalcedon, when the question of his admission to the Council was being agitated. To this period has also been referred his commentary on the Octateuch. 88 On Dr. Newman’s statement that Theodoret made over the charge of his diocese to Hypatius (one of his chorepiscopi, who had been entrusted with his appeal to Pope Leo) and retired into his monastery, and there regaining the peace which he had enjoyed in youth, passed from the peace of the Church to the peace of eternity, Canon Venables 89 remarks that there is no authority for so pleasing a picture, and that Tillemont 90 contradicts it altogether. Garnerius quotes his congratulation to Sabinianus 91 on leaving Perrha as suggestive of what conduct he might have preferred.

It is at least certain that during this period he received a long and sympathetic letter from p. 12 Leo, from which it is clear that the Roman bishop reposed great confidence in him. 92 It is characteristic of one in whom the mere man was merged in the theologian and ecclesiastic that, as of the year of his birth, so of the year of his death, we have no specific information, and are compelled to form our conclusions on evidence which though valuable, is not overwhelming. Theodorus Lector, the composer of the Historia Tripartita, in the 6th century, states 93 that Theodoret prepared a sepulchral urn for the burial of the famous ascetic Jacobus; that he predeceased Jacobus; but that Jacobus was buried in it. 94 Evagrius 95 mentions Jacobus Syrus as still living when the Emperor Leo sent his Circular Letter to the bishops in 458, though then he must have been in extreme old age. And Gennadius, who lived not long after Theodoret, says that he died in the reign of Leo. The evidence is not strong. Theodoret may have died some years before Jacob. But Gennadius probably knew. On the whole we may conclude that there is some probability that Theodoret survived till 458; none that he lived longer. Like Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, to whom, in his isolation, Dean Stanley 96 compares him, Theodoret must have expired with the cry of “Peace, Peace,” in his heart, if not on his lips. Garnerius is careful to prove that he died in “the peace of the Church,” and appeals in support of this contention to the laudatory testimony of Popes Vigilius, Pelagius I., Pelagius II., and Gregory the Great. The peace of the Church, in the narrower sense, has not always been accorded to holy men and women who have assuredly departed this life in the faith and fear of their Lord. In its truer and holier connotation it coincides with a state in which we trust we may contemplate the godly old man of Cyrus, forgetting the storms that had beaten now and again on the life he was leaving behind him, and stepping quietly into the calm of the windless haven of souls,—the Peace not of man, but of God.



Præf. Hœret Fab.




Photius Cod. 204. The Octateuch comprises the first eight books of the Old Testament.


Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 916.


xv., 311.




Leo. Ep. cxx., and Migne Theod. iv. 1193. Chagrined at the decision of the Council that Constantinople was to enjoy honorary precedence next after old Rome and practical equality and independence, in that the metropolitans of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace were to be ordained by the patriarch of Constantinople, Leo manages to write to Theodoret, par parenthèse, of the Roman See as one “quam cœteris omnium Dominus statuit prœsidere.” If in “statuit” Leo had meant to refer to a Divine Providence overruling history, and in “prœsidere” to the fact that Rome was for many years the capital of the world, his remark would have been open to little objection. But he meant something quite different.


Collect. Book i. Ed. Migne p. 566.


There seems no authority for the statement of Garnerius (Hist. Theod. xiii) repeated in Smith’s Dict. Chris. Biog. that Jacobus and Theodoret shared it.


de Scrip. Ecc. 89.


Christian Institutions. Chap. xvi.

Next: The Condemnation of “the Three Chapters.”