Saint Theophilus of Antioch was an early apologist for the Christian faith, who died in about the year 181. Born in what is now Turkey, he originally began to address the faith with an eye to destroying it, and, with this in mind, began a study of the Holy Scriptures, particularly the prophetic works. Instead of arming him with the tools he needed to dismantle the Christian religion, he became convinced of its truth and was converted from paganism. Some of his writing remains, with other texts alluded to by Eusebius and others. He is the first philosopher on record to use the word "triad" (trinity) to describe Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which he named "God, His Word (Logos), and His wisdom (Sophia.) He was the Patriarch of Antioch after Eros and was succeeded by Maximus in about 181-183.
Theophilus became a vigorous defender of the faith and speaks of his zealous condemnation of the heretic Marcion, who believed that Jesus was the savior sent by God, but he rejected the Hebrew God and the Old Testament. Marcion's beliefs were similar to the Gnostics in their dualistic nature. Marcion's writings are not extant but his philosophy can be deduced from Tertulian's Adversus Marcionum, written in about 202 A.D.
During the time of Theophilus, there were a great number of books about Christianity that were in circulation, both spurious and those that would later be recognized in the official canon, and he would have had access to these. The final canon of the Bible was not established during his lifetime, although an interim Bible, the Muratorian Canon, was compiled in 170 A.D., about 10 years before Theophilus died. This canon wasn't complete, however, lacking Hebrews, James and 3 John, around which there was much discussion. The Hebrew scriptures (the "Old Testament") were already established, with very little controversy, if any, on their legitimacy and place in the Canon.
It wasn't until 363 at the Council of Laodicea, that the Canon of scripture was firmly established as the Old Testament (with Apocrypha), and the 27 New Testament books. This collection was affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D., and again in the Council of Carthage in 397.
Meditating on the life of Theophilus brings home the fact that Christ's church was not dependent upon the written scriptures alone, as it lived and thrived and grew for 330 years before "the Bible" was established. Yes, there were many books in circulation and certain of these books were permitted to be read in the churches, but "the Holy Bible," as such, did not exist. Our tradition grew out of the instructions and teaching that Jesus had left with the apostles,who, at Jesus' command, then went out and spread the good news, and the traditions that we keep today. This combination of tradition and sacred scripture is known as the "deposit of the faith,"
The Bible is only one part of what was passed down to us, therefore to rely upon the Bible alone is to sit on a stool with one leg, and I marvel at those who broke away from Christ's church to start something else. Christ said that His church would stand forever and that even the gates of hell could not withstand it.
Matthew 28: 18-20
With regard to the writings and the selections that were accepted into the Bible, it may appear to some that these were the workings of human beings, but Jesus promised that his disciples would be prompted, informed, and led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathed upon them, and the Holy Spirit also descended on them at Pentacost. When I remember that Jesus is Lord, I have no problem accepting the divine inspiration of our scriptures, our tradition, and our faith and that the Truth of our faith never grows cold, as Jesus promised He would be with us until the end of time.
Theophilus "got in on the ground floor" of the Christian movement and, like many others, was initially a skeptic that sought to discredit our Lord and his Church, but the weight of the evidence of Truth was too great. Once one becomes convinced that Jesus is God, one must naturally accept his commandments, His promises and His church. To do otherwise is to deny that He is God.
Silver Rose Parnell
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BIOGRAPHY ON CATHOLIC ONLINE
LINKS TO TEXTS OF THE WRITINGS OF THEOPHILUS
INFORMATION ON THE CONSTRUCT OF THE HOLY BIBLE
BIOGRAPHY OF THEOPHILUS ON WIKIPEDIA
THE DEPOSIT OF FAITH
WHICH CAME FIRST - THE CHURCH OR THE NEW TESTAMENT
SYNOD OF LAODICEA