ANTIOCH SCHOOL—a term that refers to a group of exegetes and theologians who worked in the second half of the third century to the first half of the fifth century, and who used in biblical exegesis a literal and historical interpretation of the text (called the Antioch exegetical school). In Christology they accepted the schematic of Logos-Anthropos (Λογος-’Ανθρωπος). In philosophy they called upon the principles of Aristotle’s system.
The writers of the Antioch school never established a formal didactic institution such as, for example, the catechetical school in Alexandria (although it would seen from Eusebius’ description that there was such a school—HE VII 29). The Antioch writers, however, were characterized by their shared methodological, philosophical, and theological principles. There were two periods in the history of the school: the first period from 270 to 360 AD, and the second from 360 to the end of the first half of the fifth century, but although the year 270 (or 290) is regarded as the beginning of their work, some representatives of the Antioch school worked at the end of the second century. These included Bishop Theophilus (Eusebius, HE IV 24) and Serapion (Eusebius, HE V 19; Socrates Scholastic, HE III 7) whose work was primarily apologetical. One work of Theophilus has been preserved, Ad Autolycum (PG 6, 1024–1168). Serapion’s extant writings include On the gospel under the name of Peter and fragments of letters on Montanism and Docetism that are cited by Eusebius. A third writer who worked in Antioch before 270 who is mentioned is Paul of Samosata (d. around 272) who was Bishop of Antioch from 260. He wrote on the Holy Trinity and the nature of Christ. He was condemned by a synod in 268 for errors concerning the Trinity (he proclaimed a so-called dynamic monarchianism that emphasized God’s unity and became the source of Arianism). We can reconstruct his views from the Synodal Letters (Eusebius, HE VII 30) written at the conclusion of the synod.
Lucian of Samosata (d. 312) is regarded as the true founder of the Antioch school. He was a student of Paul and he began to work around 270. With the help of Dorothy he corrected the text of the Septuagint as it was accepted in Antioch and Constantinople. He also initiated the exegetical biblical studies for which the school would later be famous. In Christology he was a representative of subordinationism (the followers of this theory referred to Platonic ideas and saw in the Son of God only a “reflection” of the Father and a mediator—‘υπηρετης [hyperetes]— between the Father and creation). Therefore scholars think that, like Paul, Lucian prepared the ground for later Arianism. Lucian had many disciples who were called collucionites (Theodoretus, HE I 5) including Arius (d. 336) and disciples of Arius—Eusebius of Nicomedia (d. around 324), Theogenis of Nicea (d. around 342) and Asterius Sophist (the author of a commentary on the Books of Sacred Scriptures, a treatise on the Sabellianism of Marcelus of Ancyra and a dogmatic treatise called Syntagmation). Other disciples of Lucian (according to Photius) were Leontius of Antioch, Anthony of Tarsus, Menophantes of Ephesus, Nominius, Eudoxius, and Alexander. Eustace (around 230–327) was a contemporary of Lucian and an eminent writer active in Antioch. He was the author of a treatise on the soul of which some fragments have been preserved by John Damascene (PG 96(2), 2037–2041 A).
The second period in the history of the Antioch school (starting around 360) began with the work of Diodorus of Tarsus (around 300–393) who had studied philosophy in Athens and then studied theology in Antioch. Cyril of Alexandria regarded him as the founder of Nestorianism (which held that the Word-Logos was not born together with the body but dwelt in it); in biblical exegesis he continued the work of Lucian of Samosata and developed his method. He wrote a commentary on the entire Sacred Scriptures. Only fragments of his writings have been preserved (PG 33, 1561–1628). Diodorus’s disciples continued his work—Theodore of Mopsuestia (around 352–428), and John Chrysostom (around 350–407). Theodore was regarded as the most eminent representative of the exegetical school and was the author of commentaries on almost all the books of the Bible and of works on liturgy, discipline, and theology (PG 66, 124–632 and 728–785). John Chrysostom is famous as the author of homilies that were most often exegetical in character (including exegesis of the Book of Genesis) and also dogmatics. He also wrote catecheses for special occasions and letters (his works fill 18 volumes, PL 47–64). Theodoret of Cyrus (around 393 to around 466) also continued the tradition of the Antioch school and was also its last representative. He was educated together with Nestorius and was the author of several works, including a theological work Eranistes (PG 83, 27–336) in the form of dialogues on the dual nature of Christ, apologetical treatises (Treatment for the diseases of Hellenism—‘Ελληνικων θεραπευτικη παθηματων [Hellenikon therapeutike pathematon]—PG 83, 783—1152), historical works (History of the Church-PG 82, 882–1280, and Outline of the history of heresy—‘Αιρετικης κακομυθιας ’Επιτομη [Haeretikes kakomythias Epitome]—PG 83, 335–556), and numerous exegetical and polemical works. He supported Nestorius in his controversy with Cyril of Alexandria.
The Antioch writers had great influence on the school in Edessa, mainly by way of Cyrus (Qiyore), who in the fourth and fifth centuries introduced Syrian translations of the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia to the school.
One of the greatest achievements of the Antioch school was that they developed a method of exegetical investigation of a historical and philological character. This method was introduced by Lucian of Samosata, and developed by Diodorus, Theodore, John Chrysostom, and Theodoret. The method was a reaction to the allegorical mode of interpretation of Sacred Scripture represented by the writers of Alexandria (starting from Origen). The representatives of the Antioch school agreed that allegory is not an appropriate or legitimate tool for interpreting the Bible, although they did not reject it completely. Over allegory they preferred “insight” (so-called θεωρια [theoria]) which was the ability to perceive along with the historical facts presented in the text the spiritual reality to which the facts were intended to point. The conditions for making a proper “insight” in the meaning of the interpreted text were: (1) that we must hold to the literal meaning of the text of Sacred Scripture; (2) that there must be a real agreement between the historical fact and the spiritual object connected with it; (3) we must grasp these two objects (the historical and spiritual) at the same time but in different ways. In exegesis the Antioch writers also used typology which they conceived in a strict sense (as a technique for showing agreement between the Old Testament and New Testament; the events and persons of the Old Testament were “types”, that is, they announced the events and persons of the New Testament). John Chrysostom formulated a classical definition of a type: “a prophecy expressed in terms of things—‘η δια πραγματων […] προφητεια [he dia pragmaton … propheteia]” [De poenitentia homiliae, 6, 4, PG 49 (2), 320).
For the representatives of the Antioch school the Sacred Scriptures were the fundamental source of our knowledge of God and creation (the world and man), while exegesis was the only proper way to understand these questions. In argumentation, however, they also looked to philosophy (esp. to Aristotle; they accepted the Aristotelian conception of substance and man). God was for them primarily an object of faith, but they also searched for rational arguments for God’s existence and appealed to the contingent character of the world and the teleology of the processes that occur in the world (e.g. Diodorus, according to Photius, Bibliotheca, Cod. 223). Beginning from Theophilus, the Antioch writers started a tradition of speculative commentaries on the Book of Genesis (so-called commentaries on the work of the sex days—In Hexaëmeron, where they tried to define precisely the concept of creation; they conceived it as God’s creation ex nihilo (which set the Christian Creator apart from the Platonic “maker” who produced the world out of matter).
We can reconstruct the views of the representatives of the Antioch school on the world and man on the basis of the writings of Theodore and John Chrysostom, whose views in this are considered to be representative of the whole school (e.g., John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae, 3 and Ad populum Antiochiae homiliae, 11). They distinguished two kinds of creatures: visible things and invisible things. Man occupies the central position between them. He is the only being in the universe composed of two elements—the soul (ψυχη [psyche], πνευμα [pneuma]) and the body (σωμα [soma]); the Antiochians did not accept Origen’s view that the soul pre-existed; they held that the soul began to exist simultaneously with the body. Man was created according to the image and likeness of God and so he possesses a free will with which he can rule the world (just as God rules the universe) and he can choose between good and evil; when man lived in Paradise he possessed perfect wisdom and freedom directed only to good, and man was not subject to death (by death they understood the separation of soul from body which destroys man’s ontological unity); as the result of disobedience (sin) man, however, lost the state of original grace (the fall); he became mortal and his will became weak (and could be swayed to evil). The “new man”—Logos-Christ, who was incarnated into a man to perform the work of salvation, can heal the sick will (redeem man from sin).
The doctrine of the infected will would play an essential role in discussions on the nature of Christ in the fourth and fifth century. The representatives of the Antioch school would recall the meaning of the historical Jesus and would state—contrary to the Alexandrian theologians who thought that Christ merely took up human flesh (Λογος—Σαρξ [Logos-Sarx])—that the Second Divine Person, the Logos, is incarnated into a complete man (Λογος-’Ανθρωπος [Logos-Anthropos]), taking not only a body but also a human soul (Homiliae catecheticae, 5, 10–14). In agreement with the decrees of the First Nicean Council, the Antioch theologians accepted the consubstantiality (‘ομουσιος [homoousios]) of the Divine Persons, Diodorus was an ardent defender of the Nicene Creed.
J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Lo 1950, 19775 (Początki doktryny chrześcijańskiej [Beginnings of Christian doctrine], Wwa 1988, 66–67, 226–237); J. H. Strawley, ERE I 584–593; A. van Roey, New Catholic Encyclopedia, San Francisco 1967, I 627–628; M. Simonetti, DPAC I 241–243.
Anna Z. Zmorzanka