Theodoret (θεοδώρητος ; also THEODORITUS) was one of the most eminent ecclesiastics of the 5th century. He was born of reputable, wealthy, and pious people at Antioch in 386 (Garnier) or 393 (Tillemont, Memoires, 20:869). His mother was especially devout, and susceptible to the influence of a number of hermit monks, one of whom had relieved her of an apparently incurable affection of the eyes, and another of whom announced to her, after thirteen years of sterile wedlock, that she should give birth to a son. In obedience to their directions, Theodoret was dedicated to the service of God. At the age of seven years he entered the monastery presided over by St. Euprepius, near Antioch; and there he remained for twenty years engaged in theological study. The works of Diodormus of Tarsus, Chrysostom, and Theodore of Mopsuestia formed his mind, and it appears that the latter was the chief of his actual teachers. In time he was appointed lector in Antioch, and afterwards deacon; and in the latter office he acquired such reputation that he was, against his will (Ep. 81), consecrated to the bishopric, 420 or 423.
The diocese entrusted to his care had for its seat the impoverished town of Cyrus, or Cyrrhus, the capital of the Syrian district of Cyrrhestia, two days journey to the westward of Antioch, and it included eight hundred parishes. His life as bishop was exemplary, and characterized by charity, public spirit, thorough unselfishness, successful guidance of his clergy, and great zeal for the faith. Though great numbers of Arians, Macedonians, and especially Marcionites were found in his diocese, he succeeded by 449 in regaining them all to the Church. He reports the baptism of no less than ten thousand Marcionites alone. These labors he prosecuted often at imminent risk to his life, and always without invoking the aid of the temporal power.
The quiet tenor of Theodoret's life was interrupted by the Nestorian controversy, whose progress and results embittered his later career. Garnier states (in Life of Theodoret, 5, 350) that Nestorius had been Theodoret's fellow-pupil in the monastery of St. Euprepius, and charges the latter with holding, in fact, the views which caused the ruin of the former representative of the Antiochian school. It appears, however, that Theodoret was concerned rather to resist the intolerance of Cyril of Alexandria and combat his errors, opposite to those of Nestorius, than to advocate the views of the latter. With his school, he opposed the unification of the two natures in Christ, and taught that the Logos had assumed, but had not become, flesh. He denied that God had been crucified, and thereby implied that God had not been born, and that the term θεοτκόος could not, in any proper sense, be applied to Mary. It was, of course, impossible that while holding such views he should become an avowed antagonist of Nestorius. In 430 Theodoret addressed a letter to the monks of Syria and surrounding countries in which he charges Cyril with having promulgated Apollinarism, Arianism, and other similar errors in the twelve Capitula. In 431, at the Synod of Ephesus, he urged delay in the transaction of business until the Eastern bishops could arrive; and when that advice was disregarded, he united with those bishops in a synod which condemned the proceedings of the council and deposed Cyril. He also headed, with John of Antioch, the delegation which the Orientals sent to the emperor with their confession of faith, whose rejection closed the series of incidents connected with the Ephesian synod. After his return from that mission, Theodoret wrote five books on the incarnation (Πενταλόγιον Ε᾿νανθρωπώσεως), with the intent of setting forth his views and exposing the heretical tendency of Cyril's tenets and the unjust conduct of his party in the proceedings at Ephesus. Of this work only a few fragments remain, which are derived from the Latin version of Marius Mercator, a bigoted adherent of Cyrillian views. He also wrote a work in defense of the memory of his master, Theodore of Mopsuestia, against the charge of having originated Nestorianism (see Hardouin, Act. Cone. 3, 106 sq.). He was however, induced to yield to the pressure brought to bear by John of Antioch on the opponents of the policy of the emperor, and to acknowledge the orthodoxy of Cyril. He also submitted, under protest; to the deposition bf Nestorius. But when the Nestorians were treated with extreme severity in 435, he renounced the idea of peace, and once more stood forth the decided opponent of Cyril.
With the accession of Dioscurus as the successor of Cyvril, Theodoret's position became more unfavorable. He opposed Eutychianism, as Cyril's doctrine now came to be called, with inflexible energy; and the new patriarch, in 448, procured an order which forbade him, as a mischief- maker, to pass beyond his diocese. Theodoret defended himself in several letters addressed to prominent personages (Ep. 79-82), and wrote repeatedly also to Dioscurus; but the latter responded with publicly anathematizing the troublesome bishop, and finally with causing him to be deposed, in 449, by a decree of the "Robber Synod" of Ephesus. Theodoret now invoked the assistance of the see of Rome, which was readily granted by Leo I; and he also applied to other Occidental bishops (Ep. 119). In the meantime he had been sent to the monastery of Apamea, where he was subjected to rigorous treatment until the emperor Theodosius died, in 450, and Pulcheria, with her husband, Marcian, ascended the throne. The imperial policy now changed, and the deposed bishops were set at liberty. Theodoret appeared before the ecumenical synod of Chalcedon in 451 as the accuser of Dioscurus and as a petitioner for the restoration of his bishopric. In this synod he found himself charged with being a Nestorian, and was prevented from making any explanation of his views until he consented to pronounce an anathema on Nestorius. He was thereupon unanimously restored (Hardouin, Cone. 2, 496). This action has been very generally condemned by students of history as the one blot upon an otherwise spotless career; but there are not wanting apologists to defend even this (see Smith, Dict. of Biog. and Mythol s.v. "Theodoret"). It would undoubtedly have been more creditable to him to have resisted the clamor of his enemies at that time. He left the synod with a crusty "farewell," and returned to his bishopric, where he died in 457. The Eutychians anathematized his memory at their synods of 499 and 512, and his name was involved in the controversy of the Three Chapters. SEE CHAPTERS, THE THREE.
Theodoret was the author of many works in exegesis, history, polemics, and dogmatics, the exegetical being of chief consequence. He was generally free from the disposition to allegorize, and had a taste for simple and literal exposition. His method is partly expository, partly apologetic and controversial. On the historical books of the Old Test. he rather discusses difficult passages than presents a continuous commentary. He treated the first eight books, and also Kings and Chronicles, on the plan of simply stating and meeting the difficulties they present to the thoughtful mind, without entering into a consecutive commentary of the several books; but upon other books he wrote expositions in the usual form. His commentaries on Psalms, Canticles, and Isaiah exist no longer save in fragmentary extracts. He wrote also on the remaining prophets, the Apocryphal book Baruch, and the Pauline epistles; and Schröckh preferred Theodoret's commentary on the latter to all others, though it is very defective as regards the statement of the doctrinal contents of the several books. The apologetical work ῾Ελληνικῶν θεραπευτική Παθημάτων, etc., was intended to exhibit the confirmations of Christian truth contained in Grecian philosophy, and affords evidence of the author's varied learning, as do also his ten discourses on Providence. His dogmatico-polemical works are, a censure of Cyril's twelve heads of anathematizaration : — Franistes, seu Polymorphus, containing three treatises in defense of the Antiochian Christology, and directed against Eutyches, in 447, one year before the condemnation of that heretic at Constantinople: —a compendium of heretical fables, whose statements are evidently inexact and very superficial; this work contains so harsh a judgment of Nestorius as to lead Garnier to deny its authenticity: twenty-seven books against Eutychianism, an abstract of which is supplied by Photius (Bibl. Cod. 46). The historical works are two in number. A History of the Church, in five books, extending from 325 to 429, which serves to complement Socrates and Sozomen: —and a very much inferior Φιλόθεος ῾Ιστορία, or Religiosa Historia, which contains the lives of thirty celebrated hermits, and is rather the work of a credulous ascetic than of a learned theologian.
There are only two complete editions of Theodoret's works, the first by the Jesuits Sirmond and Garnier (Paris, 1642-84), in five volumes. The last volume was added after Garnier's death by Hardouin. The other edition, by Schulze and Nosselt (Halle, 1769-74, 5 vols. in 10 pts. 5vo), is based on the former, and contains all that is good, while it corrects much that is faulty in its predecessor. For an account of editions of separate works, see Hoffmann, Lex. Bibl. Script. Graec.
See Garnier, Dissertationes, in vol. 5 of Schulze's ed.; Tillenont, Mensoires, vol. 14; Cave, Hist. Lit. s.v. "423," p. 405 fol. ed. Basil.; Fabricius, Bibl. Graeca, 7:429; 8:277; Schulze, De Vita et Scriptis Theod. Dissert. prefixed to vol. 1 of his edition; Neander, Gesch. d. christl. Rel. u. Kirche, vol. 2 passim; Schröckh, Christl. Kirchengesch. 18:365 sq.; Oudin, Comment. de Scriptor. Eccl. Smith, Dict. of Biog. and Mythol. s.v.; Herzog, Real Encyklop. s.v.