Theodore of Mopsuestia: Rationalizing Hermeneutics and Theology

Aryeh Kofsky, Serge Ruzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One of the salient features of the so-called Antiochene School or tradition is its penchant for a type of historical-grammatical and literal-critical exegesis of the Old Testament that may be branded rationalistic hermeneutics. In this study we focus on Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 350–428), the illustrious representative of the Antiochene tradition, later extolled in the East Syrian church as “The Inter-preter” (ܡܦܫܩܢܐ) – highlighting the implications of his underlying rationalism for both Old and New Testament hermeneutics. Theodore’s rationalism goes hand in hand with a low Christology, which, responding to the contemporaneous chal-lenges of the late fourth and early fifth centuries, especially Arianism and Apolli-narianism, emphasized Christ’s humanity. This will be another focus of our study.Theodore’s master, Diodore of Tarsus, the Antiochene school’s first promi-nent figure and perhaps its true founder, was a disciple of Eusebius of Emesa, a native of Edessa (c. 300),1 who was distinguished by the literalist tendency of his exegesis.2 In Diodore, in turn, we find some precedents for Theodore’s principal stance of loose-union Christology. For Diodore, the incarnation is reduced to an indwelling of the Logos: The Logos assumed flesh but did not become flesh. Christ is thus perceived as two persons, whose loose union is described in typically An-tiochene terms as “assumption,” “clothing” or “indwelling.”Notwithstanding Diodore’s use of Greek terminology and theological polem-ics, the basic underlying incarnational concept of the “assumed man” and the indwelling Logos, with its emphasis on Christ’s humanity and the devaluation and relativization of his divinity, do not seem all that different from the earlier crude Christology of Aphrahat.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRationalization in Religions
Subtitle of host publicationJudaism, Christianity and Islam
EditorsYohanan Friedmann, Christoph Markschies
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic) 9783110446395, 9783110437348
ISBN (Print) 9783110444506
StatePublished - 2018


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