Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

32. The School of Antioch:
Theodore of Mopsuestia

We turn from Syriac-speaking (east) Syria to Greek-speaking (west) Syria. I begin with Theodore of Mopsuestia as a connecting link geographically and linguistically between the different parts of Syria.

Theodore was a presbyter in Antioch before becoming bishop of Mopsuestia in 392. He delivered sixteen Catechetical Homilies in Greek that survive only in a Syriac translation.1 If preached while he was in Antioch, they belong before 392; but if in Mopsuestia, then any time before his death in 428 is possible. The majority opinion seems to be for Antioch,2 but some contend for Mopsuestia and the later date.3 I place the discussion of his information before that of John Chrysostom not out of conviction for an earlier date but because of his connections with Syria (discussed in the last chapter) — his work was preserved in Syriac, and it was the Syriac-speaking Church

1. The Syriac translation was made shortly after his death, but survives only in a fourteenthcentury manuscript. I use the English translation of A. Mingana in Woodbrooke Studies, vols. 5 and 6 (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, 1932, 1933), which contains the Syriac text as well. See also the translation and study in Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Slough: St. Paul, 1971); the study by Hugh M. Riley, Christian Initiation, Studies in Christian Antiquity 17 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1974); the study of the anointings in Baby Varghese, Les onctions baptismales dans la tradition syrienne, Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium 512 (Louvain: Peeters, 1989), pp. 92–104; and the survey of the theology and liturgy of baptism in Theodore by Raymond Burnish, The Meaning of Baptism: A Comparison of the Teaching and Practice of the Fourth Century with the Present Day (London: Alcuin Club/SPCK, 1985), pp. 49–77.

2. R. Tonneau and R. Devreesse, eds., Les Homélies Catéchétiques de Théodore de Mopsuestia, Studi e Testi 145 (Vatican City: Apostolic Library, 1949), p. xvi, date the homilies between 381 and 392 in Antioch; pp. xxviii–xxxii of the introduction discuss baptism. Victor Saxer, Les rites de l’initiation chrétienne du IIe au VIe siècle: Esquisse historique et signification d’après leur principaux témoins (Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, 1988), p. 267, places the homilies in Antioch before 392.

3. Hans Lietzmann, Die Liturgie des Theodor von Mopsuestia (Berlin, 1933), p. 3; accepted by Riley, Christian Initiation, p. 16.

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