Theophilus of Antioch:
The Life and Thought of a
Second-Century Bishop

  • Theophilus of Antioch is a second-century Syrian bishop, who sought to promote in three documents, collectively know as Ad Autolycum, a religion that is essentially a form of Jewish Christianity. My book defines Theophilus' rhetoric and identifies the focus of his theological system as it is exhibited in Ad Autolycum.
  • First, regarding Theophilus' rhetoric, his extant corpus suggests a Christianity without a need for a savior figure. Furthermore, while it may be presumed that the person of Christ is indispensable to even the earliest varieties of Christianity, there is no evidence in Ad Autolycum that either Jesus' incarnation or passion are of any importance to this bishop. While this feature makes Theophilus initially difficult to contextualize, a systemic-descriptive analysis of his rhetoric in Ad Autolycum has led me to the conclusion that this difficulty can be accounted for against the background of what I call his "protreptic theology."
  • Second, regarding Theophilus' focus, there is an inextricable correlation between moral law and salvation, which is unparalleled in early Christian thought. In other words, at the center of Ad Autolycum is a morality-based soteriology. Further, this bishop, unlike his predecessor, Ignatius, and contemporary, Irenaeus, does not engage in anti-Jewish polemic. Actually, his soteriology appears to justify comparison with that of Hellenistic Judaism. My book recommends that Theophilus' religion in Ad Autolycum be identified as Nomistic Christianity.
  • Bishop Theophilus of Antioch is an important figure not only for scholars of early church history, but for modern pluralistic religionists who seek an historical precedent in the early church to promote the work of interfaith trialogue, that is, the dialogue of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Theophilus' theology does not appear to circumvent nascent Jewish soteriological thought, and perhaps even lays an early foundation for the development of an Islamic Christology.
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