Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Theophilus
Theophilus (13), a Christian who discussed Christianity with Simon, a Jew, in a treatise published by a Gallic writer named EVAGRIUS in 5th cent. The title as given by Gennadius (de Vir. Ill. c. 51 is Altercatio Simonis Judaei et Theophili Christiani. This work lay hid till Zacagni, the Vatican Librarian, noticed it in 1698 in his Collect. Mon, pp. 51, 53, 324. It was printed by Migne (Patr. Lat. t. xx. c. 1165) and by Gebhardt and Harnack (Texte u. Untersuch. zur Gesch. der Altchrist. Lit. Bd. i. Hft. 3; Leipz. 1883), with exhaustive notes and dissertations. It has an important bearing on the controversy during patristic times between the church and Judaism. The disputants discuss various arguments against the deity of Christ drawn from O.T., Theophilus making a very liberal use of the mystical method of exposition. The Jew begins by objecting that Christ cannot be God because in Deuteronomy it is said "There is no other God beside Me," and Isaiah says, "I am the first and the last, and beside Me there is no God." Theophilus then defends his position from the conduct of Abraham towards the angel whom he worshipped at the oak of Mamre and from the Psalms. He quotes Is. vii. 14, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive." Simon replies that the virgin was the daughter of Jerusalem, whom Isaiah represents as despising Shalmanezer, while the angel who smote the Assyrians is the fulfilment of the prophecy contained in the name Emmanuel, since he was for them indeed "Nobiscum Deus." Theophilus retorts that the virgin daughter of Jerusalem had brought forth no son. The
difficulties of the Incarnation are then discussed, and Christ's descent from David maintained by Theophilus, who argues that conception by a virgin was no more difficult to God than bringing water out of a rock. Simon then raises the favourite difficulty of the Jews from 2nd cent. downwards, drawn from Deut. xxi. 23, "He that is hanged is accursed of God" [ARISTO PELLAEUS], which introduces the subject of Christ's passion, where Theophilus urges that Ps. xxii. describes all the circumstances of our Lord's sufferings. Harnack (l.c.) has a learned monograph on this, and discusses the Jewish controversy as it was maintained by the Fathers. He devotes 50 pages to stating the relation between the Altercatio and Tertullian's Tract. adv. Jud., Cyprian's Testimonia, Lactantius's Institutiones, and Justin's Dialogus cum Tryphone, and skilfully uses the Altercatio to determine the nature and contents of the similar 2nd-cent. work, Altercatio Jasonis et Papisci, which he considers the groundwork of the 5th-cent. document.