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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: To Theoctistus, Bishop of Berœa.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

CXXXIV. To Theoctistus, Bishop of Berœa. 1965

Our Saviour, Lawgiver, and Lord, was once asked, “What is the first commandment?” His reply was “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And He added “This is the first commandment: and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Then He said further “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 1966

He then who keeps these, according to the definition of the Lord, plainly fulfils the Law; and he who transgresses them is guilty of p. 305 transgressing the whole Law. Let us then examine, before the exact and righteous tribunal of our conscience, whether we have fulfilled the divine commandments. Now the first is kept by him who guards the faith given by God in its integrity, who abominates its assailants as enemies of the truth and hates heartily all those who hate the beloved; and the second by him who most highly esteems the care of his neighbour and who, not only in prosperity but also in apparent misfortunes, observes the laws of friendship. They, on the other hand, who look after their own safety, as they suppose, who on its account make little of the laws of friendship and take no heed of their friends when assaulted and attacked, are reckoned to belong to the number of the wicked and of them that are without. The Lord of all requires better things at the hands of His disciples. “Love” He says “your enemies, for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? for the sinners and the publicans do this.” 1967 I, however, have not received even such kindness as publicans receive. Publicans, do I say? I have not even received the consolation given to murderers and wizards in their dungeons. If every one had imitated this cruelty, nothing else would have been left then for me in my life time but to be wasted by want, and, at my death, instead of being committed to a tomb, to be made meat 1968 for dogs and wild beasts. But I have found support in those who care nought for this present life, but await the enjoyment of everlasting blessings, and these furnish me with manifold consolation. But the loving Lord “caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment.” 1969 But the wicked shall perish. 1970 The falsehood of the new heresy has been proscribed, and the truth of the divine Gospels is publicly proclaimed. I for my part exclaim with the blessed David, “Blessed be the Lord God who only doeth wondrous things, and blessed be His glorious name: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; amen and amen.” 1971



This letter marks the change in the condition of affairs which followed on the death of Theodosius on July 29, 450, and the accession of Pulcheria and Marcian. Eutyches was exiled, the eunuch Chrysaphius banished and executed, and Theodoret recalled. It may be placed in the autumn of 450 or early in 451. The earlier letter (xxxii) to Theoctistus claims on behalf of Celestinianus a kindness which Theodoret in his then hour of need had failed to receive.


Matt. xxii. 36-40


cf. Matt. 5:44, 46 instead of τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε; the text has τί πλέον ποιεῖτε


The use of the somewhat rare and poetical word Βορά suggests a possible allusion to several well known passages in the dramatists; e.g. Æsch. Pr. 583, Soph. Ant. 30 and Eur. Phœn. 1603.


Ps. 75:8, 9Psalm lxxv. 8 and 9


Psa. 37.20Psalm xxxvii. 20


Ps. 72:18, 19Ps. 72:18, 19

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