Pope Theophilus of Alexandria
|Theophilus of Alexandria|
Theophilus and the Serapeum
|Honored in||Coptic Orthodox Church|
He was a Coptic Pope at a time of conflict between the newly dominant Christians and the pagan establishment in Alexandria, each supported by a segment of the Alexandrian populace. Edward Gibbon described him as "...the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue, a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood."
In 391, Theophilus (according to Rufinus and Sozomen) discovered a hidden pagan temple. He and his followers mockingly displayed the pagan artifacts to the public which offended the pagans enough to provoke an attack on the Christians. The Christian faction counter-attacked, forcing the pagans to retreat to the Serapeum. A letter was sent by the emperor that Theophilus should grant the offending pagans pardon, but destroy the temple; according to Socrates Scholasticus, a contemporary of his, the latter aspect (the destruction of the temple) was added as a result of heavy solicitation for it by Theophilus.
Scholasticus goes on to state that:
|“||Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost ... he caused the Mithraeum to be cleaned out... Then he destroyed the Serapeum... and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. ... the heathen temples... were therefore razed to the ground, and the images of their gods molten into pots and other convenient utensils for the use of the Alexandrian church||”|
—Socrates Scholasticus, The Ecclesiastical History
The destruction of the Serapeum was seen by many ancient and modern authors as representative of the triumph of Christianity over other religions. According to John of Nikiu in the 7th century, when the philosopher Hypatia was lynched and flayed by a mob of Alexandrian Coptic monks, they acclaimed Theophilus's nephew and successor Cyril as "the new Theophilus, for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city".
Theophilus turned on the followers of Origen after having supported them for a time. He switch his view of God from the incorporeal view of God held by Origen to the anthropomorphic view held by many local monks who were hostile to his pastoral letter of 399.
On July 10th in the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Synaxarion, there is a commemoration for the 10,000 monks slain on the orders of Pope Theophilus in his paranoid campaign against perceived Origenism and the Four Tall Brethren. His nephew and successor Cyril is recognized as a saint throughout all of Christendom.
Surviving works 
- Correspondence with St. Jerome, Pope Anastasius I and Pope Innocent I
- Tract against Chrysostom
- Homily on the Crucifixion and the Good Thief
- Homilies translated by St. Jerome (preserved in Migne)
- Other homilies survive only in Coptic and Ge'ez translations.
In popular culture 
Theophilus appears in the novel Flow Down Like Silver, Hypatia of Alexandria by Ki Longfellow.
The lunar crater Theophilus was named after him, as part of a group of three lunar craters named after Christian Orthodox saints from Alexandria.
Further reading 
- Charles, R. H., The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu: Translated from Zotenberg's Ethiopic Text, 1916. Reprinted 2007. Evolution Publishing.
- Russell, N., Theophilus of Alexandria (London, Routledge, 2006) (The Early Church Fathers).
- Polański, T., "The Three Young Men in the Furnace and the Art of Ecphrasis in the Coptic Sermon by Theophilus of Alexandria," Studies in Ancient Art and Civilisation, 10 (2007), 79–100.
- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, New York: The Modern Library, n.d., v. 2, p. 57 et seq.
- Socrates Scholasticus, The Ecclesiastical History, 16
- Chronicle of John of Nikiu
- J.N.D. Kelly, Golden Mouth, New York, Cornell University Press, pp. 191–193
- "Theophilos (385–412)". Official web site of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
- "Theophilos". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 03-08-2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Theophilus of Alexandria|
- Bede's Library: Theophilus
- New Advent Entry: Theophilus
- Christian Classics Ethereal Library: Theophilus
- Order of the Magnificat: St. Cyril
- Cyril of Alexandria
- Nestorian Theology
- John of Nikiu, Chronicle: the lynching of Hypatia
- Socrates and Sozumenos Ecclesiastical Histories ch. vii
|Pope of Alexandria