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Diodore of Tarsus

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Diodore of Tarsus
Denomination Christian (Nicene)
Senior posting
See Tarsus
Title Bishop of Tarsus
Period in office 378-390
Religious career
Priestly ordination 360
Date of birth unknown
Place of birth Antioch
Date of death 390
Place of death Tarsus

Diodore of Tarsus (Greek Διόδωρος) (d. ca. 390) was a Christian bishop, a monastic reformer, and a theologian.[1] A strong supporter of the orthodoxy of Nicaea, Diodore played a pivotal role in the Council of Constantinople and opposed the anti-Christian policies of Julian the Apostate. Diodore founded one of the most influential centers of Christian thought in the early church, and many of his students became notable theologians in their own right.

Early life

Diodore was born into a noble family in the area of Antioch. He received a classic philosophical education at the school of Athens, and very quickly after his education entered into the monastic life.[2] During this period, Diodore's work focused on philosophical treatises and opposing Emperor Julian's attempts to restore paganism in the empire. When an Arian named Leontius was made bishop of Antioch, Diodore and his friend Flavian (who later was himself appointed as bishop of Antioch) organized those who followed the Nicene orthodoxy outside the walls of the city for worship. Those services are seen as the beginning of antiphonal singing in the church, a practice that became widespread among Christians.[3]

During his time at the monastery in Antioch, Diodore came under the tutelage of Meletius, a theologian opposed to the Arian tendencies of the era and a strong support of the Nicene factions of the church. In 360, the church in Antioch split into factions, having two Nicene and two Arian bishops. Meletius was one of the Nicene bishops of Antioch in 360, and it was he that ordained Diodore as a priest. Diodore, in turn, was a strong supporter not only of the Nicene cause but of Meletius.


During his priesthood, Diodore founded a monastery and catechetical school near the city of Antioch. It was through this school that Diodore became the mentor of the controversial theologian and liturgist Theodore of Mopsuestia, but also of the legendary homileticist John Chrysostom.[4] This school would give rise to the unique Antiochene perspectives on both biblical interpretation and Christology known as the Antiochene School.[5] Ultimately, taken to the extreme, the perspective set out for this school by Diodore led to the teachings of Nestorius, which were first condemned at the First Council of Ephesus in 431.

It was his role as the head of the Antiochene School which led to Diodore's exile in 372. Banished to Armenia by Emperor Valens, Diodore encountered a fellow supporter of the Nicene faction, Basil of Caesarea, during his exile.[6] When Diodore returned from exile following the death of the emperor in 378, Basil was serving as the archbishop (or patriarch) of Caesarea, and he appointed Diodore as the bishop of Tarsus.


As bishop of the see of Tarsus, Diodore continued to speak out for the Nicene understanding of the relationship between the human and the divine in the person of Jesus Christ. He actively opposed both the Arianism and the Apollinarianism of his day (Arius taught that Jesus Christ was not fully divine, Apollinaris of Laodicea that he was not fully human).

Diodore played key roles in both the local Council of Antioch in 379 and the ecumenical First Council of Constantinople in 381. When their mentor Meletius died in 381, Diodore recommended his friend Flavian as his successor, thus prolonging the division in the Antiochene church.[7]


The Christology of Diodore was condemned as heretical by later generations, most explicitely at a local synod in Constantinople in 499 which described Diodore's views as Nestorian.[8] Certainly a similarly negative view of Diodore was held by Cyril of Alexandria. However, in his own generation Diodore was seen as someone who supported the orthodoxy of Nicaea, and in his official decree ratifying the actions of the First Council of Constantinople, Emperor Theodosius I described Diodore as a "champion of the faith."[9]

The specifics of Diodore's theology are difficult to reconstruct, as all that remains of his works are fragments of uncertain provenance.[10] Much of Diodore's theology has been inferred from the later statements of his students and the intellectual heirs of the Antiochene School.

Like many other theologians affiliated with the Antiochene School, Diodore appears to have been a Christian universalist. Under the concept of Apocatastasis, which is to believe that all people would eventually receive salvation. Saloman, Bishop of Bassorah, clearly proclaimed the salvation of all men and cited the opinions of both Diodore and Theodore of Mopsuestia in support of the view.[11] Regarding divine punishment Diodore wrote:

For the wicked there are punishments, not perpetual, however, lest the immortality prepared for them should be a disadvantage, but they are to be purified for a brief period according to the amount of malice in their works. They shall therefore suffer punishment for a short space, but immortal blessedness having no end awaits them, the penalties to be inflicted for their many and grave sins are very far surpassed by the magnitude of the mercy to be showed them. The resurrection, therefore, is regarded as a blessing not only to the good, but also to the evil.[12]

Diodore believed that God's mercy would punish the wicked less than their sins deserved, inasmuch as his mercy gave the good more than they deserved and he denied that God would bestow immortality for the purpose of prolonging or perpetuating suffering.[12]

See also


Template:Eastern Christianity Portal

  1. "Diodorus of Tarsus". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  2. Julian, Letters, 55.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "Flavian I of Antioch". Available online, retrieved November 28, 2007.
  4. Rowan A Greer, "Diodore of Tarsus," in The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. Everett Ferguson, second edition (New York:Garland Publishing, 1997).
  5. Frederick W Norris, "Antioch" in The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. Everett Ferguson, second edition (New York:Garland Publishing, 1997).
  6. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Diodorus of Tarsus".
  7. Norris, "Antioch".
  8. J.N.D. Kelley, Early Christian Doctrines, revised ed., (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1978) p. 302.
  9. Kelley, 302.
  10. Parry, Ken and David Melling (editors). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-631-23203-6
  11. Rev. J. M. Austin. "Brief History of Universalism". Ca. 1855.
  12. 12.0 12.1 J.W. Hanson. Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine Of The Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years. "[ Chapter 18 Additional Authorities]". Boston and Chicago Universalist Publishing House. 1899.

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