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Home > Fathers of the Church > Dialogues (Theodoret) > Prologue

Dialogues (Prologue)

The Eranistes or Polymorphus of the Blessed Theodoretus, Bishop of Cyrus.

Some men, distinguished neither by family nor education, and without any of the honourable notoriety that comes of an upright life, are ambitious of achieving fame by wicked ways. Of these was the famous Alexander, the coppersmith, a man of no sort of distinction at all—no nobility of birth, no eloquence of speech, who never led a political party nor an army in the field; who never played the man in fight, but plied from day to day his ignominious craft, and won fame for nothing but his mad violence against Saint Paul.

Shimei, again, an obscure person of servile rank, has become very renowned for his audacious attack on the holy David.

It is said too that the originator of the Manichæan heresy was a mere whipping-block of a slave, and, from love of notoriety, composed his execrable and superstitious writings.

The same line of conduct is pursued by many now, who after turning their backs on the honourable glory of virtue on account of the toil to be undergone ere it be won, purchase to themselves the notoriety that comes of shame and disgrace. For through eagerness to pose as champions of new doctrines they pick up and get together the impiety of many heresies, and compile this heresy of death.

Now I will endeavour briefly to dispute with them, with the double object of curing them, if I can, of their unsoundness, and of giving a word of warning to the whole.

I call my work Eranistes, or Polymorphus, for, after getting together from many unhappy sources their baleful doctrines, they produce their patchwork and incongruous conceit. For to call our Lord Christ God only is the way of Simon, of Cerdo, of Marcion, and of others who share this abominable opinion.

The acknowledgment of His birth from a Virgin, but coupled with the assertion that this birth was merely a process of transition, and that God the Word took nothing of the Virgin's nature, is stolen from Valentinus and Bardesanes and the adherents of their fables.

To call the godhead and the manhood of the Lord Christ one nature is the error filched from the follies of Apollinarius.

Again the attribution of capacity of suffering to the divinity of the Christ is a theft from the blasphemy of Arius and Eunomius. Thus the main principle of their teaching is like beggars' gabardines— a cento of ill-matched rags.

So I call this work Eranistes or Polymorphus. I shall write it in the form of a dialogue with questions and answers, propositions, solutions, and antitheses, and all else that a dialogue ought to have. I shall not insert the names of the questioners and respondents in the body of the dialogue as did the wise Greeks of old, but I shall write them at the side at the beginning of the paragraphs. They, indeed, put their writings in the hands of readers highly and variously educated, and to whom literature was life. I, on the contrary, wish the reading of what I write, and the discovery of whatever good it may give, to be an easy task, even to the illiterate. This I think will be facilitated if the characters of the interlocutors are plainly shown by their names in the margin, so the disputant who argues on behalf of the decrees is called Orthodoxos, and his opponent Eranistes. A man who is fed by the charity of many we commonly call Beggar; a man who knows how to get money together we call a Chrematistes. So we have given our disputant this name from his character and pursuits.

I beg that all those into whose hands my book may fall will lay aside all preconceived opinion and put the truth to the test. For clearness' sake I will divide my book into three dialogues. The first will contain the contention that the Godhead of the only-begotten Son is immutable. The second will by God's help show that the union of the Godhead and the manhood of the Lord Christ is without confusion. The third will contend for the impassibility of the divinity of our saviour. After these three disputations we will subjoin several others as it were to complete them, giving formal proof under each head, and making it perfectly plain that the apostles' doctrine is preserved by us.

About this page

Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/27030.htm>.

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