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but one metropolis in a large region, and contained the philosophy of the whole Patriarchate; but Syria abounded in wealthy and luxurious cities, the creation of the Seleucidæ, where the arts and the schools of Greece had full opportunities of cultivation. For a time too,-for the first two hundred years, as some think,-Alexandria was the only See as well as the only School of Egypt; while Syria was divided into small dioceses, each of which had at first an authority of its own, and which, even after the growth of the Patriarchal power, received their respective bishops, not from the See of Antioch, but from their own metropolitan. In Syria too the schools were private, a circumstance which would tend both to diversity in religious opinion, and incaution in the expression of it; but the sole catechetical school of Egypt was the organ of the Church, and its Bishop could banish Origen for speculations which developed and ripened with impunity in Syria.
But the immediate source of that fertility in heresy, which is the unhappy distinction of the Syrian Church, was its celebrated Exegetical School. The history of that school is summed up in the broad characteristic fact, on the one hand that it devoted itself to the literal and critical interpretation of Scripture, and on the other that it gave rise first to the Arian and then to the Nestorian heresy. In all ages of the Church, her teachers have shown a disinclination to confine themselves to the mere literal interpretation of Scripture. Her most subtle and powerful method of proof, whether in ancient or modern times, is the mystical sense, which is so frequently used in doctrinal controversy as on many occasions to supersede any other. In the early centuries we find this method of interpretation to be the very ground for receiving as revealed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Whether we betake ourselves to the Ante-nicene writers or the Nicene, certain texts will meet us, which do not obviously refer to that doctrine, yet are put forward as palmary proofs of it. On the other hand, if evidence be wanted of the connexion of heterodoxy and biblical criticism in that age, it is found in
the fact that, not long after their contemporaneous appearance in Syria, they are found combined in the person of Theodore of Heraclea, so called from the place both of his birth and his bishoprick, an able commentator and an active enemy of St. Athanasius, though a Thracian unconnected except by sympathy with the Patriarchate of Antioch. The case had been the same in a still earlier age ;—the Jews clung to the literal sense of the Old Testament and rejected the Gospel; the Christian Apologists proved its divinity by means of the allegorical. The formal connexion of this mode of interpretation with Christian theology is noticed by Porphyry, who speaks of Origen and others as borrowing it from heathen philosophy, both in explanation of the Old Testament and in defence of their own doctrine. It may almost be laid down as an historical fact that the mystical interpretation and orthodoxy will stand or fall together.
This is clearly seen, as regards the primitive theology, by a recent writer, in the course of a Dissertation upon St. Ephrem. After observing that Theodore of Heraclea, Eusebius, and Diodorus gave a systematic opposition to the mystical interpretation, which had a sort of sanction from Antiquity and the orthodox Church, he proceeds ; “ Ephrem is not as sober in his interpretations, nor could he be, since he was a zealous disciple of the orthodox faith. For all those who are most eminent in such sobriety were as far as possible removed from the faith of the Councils. .... On the other hand, all who retained the faith of the Church never entirely dispensed with the spiritual sense of the Scriptures. For the Councils watched over the orthodox faith ; nor was it safe in those ages, as we learn especially from the instance of Theodore of Mopsuestia, to desert the spiritual for an exclusive cultivation of the literal method. Moreover, the allegorical interpretation, even when the literal sense was not injured, was also preserved; because in those times, when both heretics and Jews in controversy were stubborn in their objections to Christian doctrine, maintaining that the Messiah was yet to come, or denying the abrogation of the Sabbath and ceremonial law, or ridiculing the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and especially that of Christ's Divine Nature, under such circumstances ecclesiastical writers found it to their purpose, in answer to such exceptions, violently to refer every part of Scripture by allegory to Christ and His Church ?.”
The School of Antioch appears to have risen in the middle of the third century; but there is no evidence to determine whether it was a local institution, or, as is more probable, a discipline or method characteristic of the Syrian Church. Dorotheus is one of its earliest teachers; he is known as a Hebrew scholar, as well as a commentator on the sacred text, and he was the master of Eusebius of Cæsarea. Lucian, the friend of the notorious Paul of Samosata, and for three successive Episcopates after him a seceder from the Church, though afterwards a martyrin it, was the editor of a new edi. tion of the Septuagint, and master of the chief original teachers of Arianism. Eusebius of Cæsarea, Asterius called the Sophist, and Eusebius of Emesa, Arians of the Nicene period, and Diodorus, a zealous opponent of Arianism, but the Master of Theodore of Mopsuestia, have all a place in the Exegetical School. St. Chrysostom and Theodoret, both Syrians, and the former the pupil of Diodorus, adopted the literal interpretation, though preserved from its abuse. But the principal doctor of the School was the master of Nestorius, that Theodore, who has just been mentioned, and who with his writings, and with the writings of Theodoret against St. Cyril, and the letter written by Ibas of Edessa to Maris, was condemned by the fifth Ecumenical Council. Ibas translated into Syriac, and Maris into Persian, the books of Theodore and Diodorus '; and in so doing they became the immediate instruments of the formation of the great Nestorian school and Church in farther Asia.
As many as ten thousand tracts of Theodore are said in this way to have been introduced to the knowledge of the Christians of Mesopotamia, Adiabene, Babylonia, and the
2 Lengerke, de Ephr. S. pp. 78–80.
neighbouring countries. He was called by those Churches absolutely “the Interpreter,” and it eventually became the very profession of the Nestorian communion to follow him as such. “The doctrine of all our Eastern Churches,” says the Council under the patriarch Marabas, “is founded on the Creed of Nicæa; but in the exposition of the Scriptures we follow St. Theodore.” “We must by all means remain firm to the commentaries of the great Commentator,” says the Council under Sabarjesus; “whoso shall in any manner op
0.0 mshame in any manner oma pose them, or think otherwise, be he anathema 4.” No one since the beginning of Christianity, except Origen and St. Augustine, has had such great influence on his brethren as Theodore 5.
The original Syrian school had possessed very marked characteristics, which it did not lose when it passed into a new country and into strange tongues. Its comments on Scripture seem to have been clear, natural, methodical, apposite, and logically exact. “In all Western Aramæa,” says Lengerke, that is, in Syria, “there was but one mode of treating whether exegetics or doctrine, the practical 0,” Thus Eusebius of Cæsarea, whether as a disputant or a commentator, is confessedly a writer of sense and judgment, and he belongs historically to the Syrian school, though he does not go so far as to exclude the mystical interpretation or to deny the verbal inspiration of Scripture. Again, we see in St. Chrysostom a direct, straightforward treatment of the sacred text, and a pointed application of it to things and persons; and Theodoret abounds in modes of thinking and reasoning which without any great impropriety may be called English. Again, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, though he does not abstain from allegory, shows the character of his school by the great stress he lays upon the study of Scripture, and, I may add, by the peculiar clearness and neatness of his style, which will be appreciated by a modern reader.
It would have been well, had the genius of the Syrian theology been ever in the safe keeping of men such as St. Cyril, St. Chrysostom, and Theodoret; but in Theodore of Mopsuestia, nay in Diodorus before him, it developed into those errors, of which Paul of Samosata had been the omen on its rise. As its attention was chiefly directed to the examination of the Scriptures, in its interpretation of the Scriptures was its heretical temper discovered ; and though allegory can be made an instrument of evading Scripture doctrine, criticism may more readily be turned to the destruction of doctrine and Scripture together. Bent on ascertaining the literal sense, Theodore was naturally led to the Hebrew text instead of the Septuagint, and thence to Jewish commentators. Jewish commentators naturally suggested events and objects short of evangelical as the fulfilment of the prophetical announcements, and, when it was possible, an ethical sense instead of a prophetical. The eighth chapter of Proverbs ceased to bear a Christian meaning, because, as Theodore maintained, the writer of the book had received the gift, not of prophecy, but of wisdom. The Canticles must be interpreted literally; and then it was but an easy, or rather a necessary step, to exclude the book from the Canon. The book of Job too professed to be historical; yet what was it really but a Gentile drama ? He also gave up the books of Chronicles and Ezra, and, strange to say, the Epistle of St. James, though it was contained in the Peschito Version of his Church. He denied that Psalms xxii. and lxix. applied to our Lord; rather he limited the Messianic passages of the whole book to four; of which the eighth Psalm was one, and the forty-fifth another. The rest he explained of Hezekiah and Zerubbabel, without denying that they might be accommodated to an evangelical sense?. He explained St. Thomas's words, “ My Lord and my God," as a joyful exclamation; and our Lord's, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost," as an anticipation of the day of Pentecost. As might be expected, he denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture. Also, he held
7 Lengerke, de Ephræm Syr. pp. 73–75.