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Contents:
  1. Theophilus of Antioch
  2. The Sacred Writings of Theophilus of Antioch
  3. Chapter 1. Autolycus an Idolater and Scorner of Christians.
  4. Theophilus, 7th Bishop of Antioch
  5. Topics Mentioning This Author

When there is rust on the mirror, it is not possible that a man's face be seen in the mirror; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man cannot behold God. Do you, therefore, show me yourself, whether you are not an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a robber, or a purloiner; whether you do not corrupt boys; whether you are not insolent, or a slanderer, or passionate, or envious, or proud, or supercilious; whether you are not a brawler, or covetous, or disobedient to parents; and whether you do not sell your children; for to those who do these things God is not manifest, unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity.

All these things, then, involve you in darkness, as when a filmy defluxion on the eyes prevents one from beholding the light of the sun: thus also do iniquities, 0 man, involve you in darkness, so that you cannot see God. You will say, then, to me, "Do you, who see God, explain to me the appearance of God. The appearance of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen by eyes of flesh. For in glory He is incomprehensible, in greatness unfathomable, in height inconceivable, in power incomparable, in wisdom unrivalled, in goodness inimitable, in kindness unutterable.

You will say, then, to me, "Is God angry? And He is without beginning, because He is unbegotten; and He is unchangeable, because He is immortal. And he is called God [ Qeos ] on account of His having placed [ teqeikenai ] all things on security afforded by Himself; and on account of [ qeein ], for qeein means running, and moving, and being active, and nourishing, and foreseeing, and governing, and making all things alive.

But he is Lord, because He rules over the universe; Father, because he is before all things; Fashioner and Maker, because He is creator and maker of the universe; the Highest, because of His being above all; and Almighty, because He Himself rules and embraces all. For the heights of heaven, and the depths of the abysses, and the ends of the earth, are in His hand, and there is no place of His rest. For the heavens are His work, the earth is His creation, the sea is His handiwork; man is His formation and His image; sun, moon, and stars are His elements, made for signs, and seasons, and days, and years, that they may serve and be slaves to man; and all things God has made out of things that were not into things that are, in order that through His works His greatness may be known and understood.

For as the soul in man is not seen, being invisible to men, but is perceived through the motion of the body, so God cannot indeed be seen by human eyes, but is beheld and perceived through His providence and works.

Theophilus of Antioch

For, in like manner, as any person, when he sees a ship on the sea rigged and in sail, and making for the harbour, will no doubt infer that there is a pilot in her who is steering her; so we must perceive that God is the governor [pilot] of the whole universe, though He be not visible to the eyes of the flesh, since He is incomprehensible. For if a man cannot look upon the sun, though it be a very small heavenly body, on account of its exceeding heat and power, how shall not a mortal man be much more unable to face the glory of God, which is unutterable?

For as the pomegranate, with the rind containing it, has within it many cells and compartments which are separated by tissues, and has also many seeds dwelling in it, so the whole creation is contained by the spirit of God, and the containing spirit is along with the creation contained by the hand of God. As, therefore, the seed of the pomegranate, dwelling inside, cannot see what is outside the rind, itself being within; so neither can man, who along with the whole creation is enclosed by the hand of God, behold God. Then again, an earthly king is believed to exist, even though he be not seen by all; for he is recognised by his laws and ordinances, and authorities, and forces, and statues; and are you unwilling that God should be recognised by His works and mighty deeds?


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Consider, O man, His works,--the timely rotation of the seasons, and the changes of temperature; the regular march of the stars; the well-ordered course of days and nights, and months, and years; the various beauty of seeds, and plants, and fruits; and the divers species of quadrupeds, and birds, and reptiles, and fishes, both of the rivers and of the sea; or consider the instinct implanted in these animals to beget and rear offspring, not for their own profit, but for the use of man; and the providence with which God provides nourishment for all flesh, or the subjection in which He has ordained that all things subserve mankind.

Consider, too, the flowing of sweet fountains and never-failing rivers, and the seasonable supply of dews, and showers, and rains; the manifold movement of the heavenly bodies, the morning star rising and heralding the approach of the perfect luminary; and the constellation of Pleiades, and Orion, and Arcturus, and the orbit of the other stars that circle through the heavens, all of which the manifold wisdom of God has called by names of their own. He is God alone who made light out of darkness, and brought forth light from His treasures, and formed the chambers of the south wind, and the treasure-houses of the deep, and the bounds of the seas, and the treasuries of snows and hail-storms, collecting the waters in the storehouses of the deep, and the darkness in His treasures, and bringing forth the sweet, and desirable, and pleasant light out of His treasures; "who causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: He maketh lightnings for the rain;" who sends forth His thunder to terrify, and foretells by the lightning the peal of the thunder, that no soul may faint with the sudden shock; and who so moderates the violence of the lightning as it flashes out of heaven, that it does not consume the earth; for, if the lightning were allowed all its power, it would burn up the earth; and were the thunder allowed all its power, it would overthrow all the works that are therein.

This is my God, the Lord of all, who alone stretched out the heaven, and established the breadth of the earth under it; who stirs the deep recesses of the sea, and makes its waves roar; who rules its power, and stills the tumult of its waves; who founded the earth upon the waters, and gave a spirit to nourish it; whose breath giveth light to the whole, who, if He withdraw His breath, the whole will utterly fail. By Him you speak, O man; His breath you breathe yet Him you know not. And this is your condition, because of the blindness of your soul, and the hardness of your heart.

The Sacred Writings of Theophilus of Antioch

But, if you will, you may be healed. Entrust yourself to the Physician, and He will couch the eyes of your soul and of your heart. Who is the Physician? God, who heals and makes alive through His word and wisdom. God by His own word and wisdom made all things; for "by His word were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. By His wisdom God founded the earth; and by knowledge He prepared the heavens; and by understanding were the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the clouds poured out their dews.

If thou perceivest these things, O man, living chastely, and holily, and righteously, thou canst see God. But before all let faith and the fear of God have rule in thy heart, and then shalt thou understand these things. When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have.

But you do not believe that the dead are raised. When the resurrection shall take place, then you will believe, whether you will or no; and your faith shah be reckoned for unbelief, unless you believe now.


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And why do you not believe? Do you not know that faith is the leading principle in all matters? For what husbandman can reap, unless he first trust his seed to the earth? Or who can cross the sea, unless he first entrust himself to the boat and the pilot? And what sick person can be healed, unless first he trust himself to the care of the physician? And what art or knowledge can any one learn, unless he first apply and entrust himself to the teacher?

If, then, the husbandman trusts the earth, and the sailor the boat, and the sick the physician, will you not place confidence in God, even when you hold so many pledges at His hand? For first He created you out of nothing, and brought you into existence for if your father was not, nor your mother, much more were you yourself at one time not in being , and formed you out of a small and moist substance, even out of the least drop, which at one time had itself no being; and God introduced you into this life. Moreover, you believe that the images made by men are gods, and do great things; and can you not believe that the God who made you is able also to make you afterwards?

And, indeed, the names of those whom you say you worship, are the names of dead men. And these, too, who and what kind of men were they?

Is not Saturn found to be a cannibal, destroying and devouring his own children? And if you name his son Jupiter, hear also his deeds and conduct--first, how he was suckled by a goat on Mount Ida, and having slain it, according to the myths, and flayed it, he made himself a coat of the hide. And his other deeds,--his incest, and adultery, and lust,-- will be better recounted by Homer and the rest of the poets. Why should I further speak of his sons? How Hercules burnt himself; and about the drunk and raging Bacchus; and of Apollo fearing and fleeing from Achilles, and falling in love with Daphne, and being unaware of the fate of Hyacinthus; and of Venus wounded, and of Mars, the pest of mortals; and of the ichor flowing from the so-called gods.

And these, indeed, are the milder kinds of legends; since the god who is called Osiris is found to have been tom limb from limb, whose mysteries are celebrated annually, as if he had perished, and were being found, and sought for limb by limb. For neither is it known whether he perished, nor is it shown whether he is found.

Chapter 1. Autolycus an Idolater and Scorner of Christians.

And why should I speak of Atys mutilated, or of Adonis wandering in the wood, and wounded by a boar while hunting; or of AEsculapius struck by a thunderbolt; or of the fugitive Serapis chased from Sinope to Alexandria; or of the Scythian Diana, herself, too, a fugitive, and a homicide, and a huntress, and a passionate lover of Endymion? Now, it is not we who publish these things, but your own writers and poets. Why should I further recount the multitude of animals worshipped by the Egyptians, both reptiles, and cattle, and wild beasts, and birds and river-fishes; and even wash-pots and disgraceful noises?

We also learn from Eusebius, that Theophilus succeeded to the bishopric in the 8 th year of the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, which would have been about A. There is some disagreement as to when Theophilus died, some sources saying his episcopate lasted 13 years until A. D, others indicating his episcopate lasted 21 years until his death in A.

Saint Theophilus was apparently a prolific writer, and Eusebius, Saint Jerome, and others mention his numerous works against the prevailing heresies of the day. It would be 1 or 2 decades later before we find in the North African writer Tertullian's writings, the Latin equivalent "Trinitas" for the first time.


  • To Autolycus, Book I.
  • Author:Theophilus of Antioch;
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Eusebius mentions other writings of his, a work against the heresy of Hermogenes, another against Marcion, and a few books for the instruction and edification of the faithful. Of all these works, there remain but the fragments of the Commentaries cited by St. Some believe that Theophilus' Apology was written in response to a published work against Christianity written by Autolycus, but, Theophilus himself indicates in his work, that what he writes is in response to disparaging remarks Autolycus made to him in conversation.

Indeed, at the very beginning of his Apology, Theophilus wrote:. A fluent tongue and an elegant style afford pleasure and such praise as vainglory delights in, to wretched men who have been corrupted in mind; the lover of truth does not give heed to ornamented speeches, but examines the real matter of the speech, what it is, and what kind it is. Since, then, my friend, you have assailed me with empty words, boasting of your gods of wood and stone, hammered and cast, carved and graven, which neither see nor hear, for they are idols, and the works of men's hands; and since, besides, you call me a Christian, as if this were a damning name to bear, I, for my part, avow that I am a Christian, and bear this name beloved of God, hoping to be serviceable to God.

For it is not the case, as you suppose, that the name of God is hard to bear; but possibly you entertain this opinion of God, because you are yourself yet unserviceable to Him.

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Book 1, Chapter 1. Theophilus is severe, yet also gentle is his dealings with his antagonistic friend, and his contempt with the pagan heathenism is apparent, and he even repudiates Plato and Socrates, and stressed his maxim, "The world by wisdom knew not God. The three books are not however, as one might suppose, one work, but, were three distinct works which were joined together.

This was done because there is a very real connection between the three books, in that all three are addressed to the same person, Autolycus, and all three deal with almost the same topics. The first book has 14 chapters, and is a response to Autolycus who had asked Theophilus to show him his God, had praised the pagan gods, and had mocked the name Christian.

Theophilus explains the nature of God who is invisible to the eyes, but, who's presence is known to us:. You will say, then, to me, "Do you, who see God, explain to me the appearance of God. The appearance of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen by eyes of flesh.

Theophilus, 7th Bishop of Antioch

For in glory He is incomprehensible, in greatness unfathomable, in height inconceivable, in power incomparable, in wisdom unrivaled, in goodness inimitable, in kindness unutterable. You will say, then, to me, "Is God angry? Book 1, Chapter 3. Theophilus goes on to explain in the first book, that we can only contemplate God when we are clothed in incorruptibility.

He then denounces the pagan gods, the worship of the emperors and extols the Christians:. Wherefore I will rather honor the king [than your gods], not, indeed, worshiping him, but praying for him.

Topics Mentioning This Author

But God, the living and true God, I worship, knowing that the king is made by Him. You will say, then, to me, "Why do you not worship the king? For in a kind of way his government is committed to him by God: as He will not have those called kings whom He has appointed under Himself; for "king" is his title, and it is not lawful for another to use it; so neither is it lawful for any to be worshiped but God only.