Mar Theophilus, the Patriarch of Antioch – Oct 17 I First to use the word ‘Trinity’ in Christian Theology

Published by Jacob P Varghese on

Theophilos born, in a pagan family near Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in Mesopotamia, modern Antakya, modern Turkey, is a saint of the Syrian Church, sixth bishop of Antioch. A convert to Christianity, he was a prolific writer who was often quoted by later Christian writers.

He was an early clever Christian skeptic apologist, who studied prophetical books in order to question the Christian faith, but led him later on to embrace Christianity. Originally a philosopher in the eastern Roman Empire,he began to study the Scriptures with the intention of attacking the Christian faith but was soon converted. He is most famous for being the first to use the term ‘Trinity’, in Christian Theology. It is also noted for its development of the doctrine of the Logos (Word) as first enunciated in the Gospel of John and to express the word Triad when describing the relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Theophilus was educated in the Greek tradition, rhetoric and philosophy, became a Christian as an adult, after extended deliberation, rose to be bishop of Antioch and by AD 170 was elected bishop of Antioch, until 182. His parents had trained him idolatry, but as he got well versed in the works of the greatest masters of ancient philosophy, he went in search of truth. He succeeded Eros c. 169, and was succeeded by Maximus I c. 183. His discourse on faith, a theological perspective written to Autolycus to highlight the superiority of Christianity over other religions is very well known. Theophilus was among other great Apostolic Fathers and apologists of the second century, though his reputation is not as distinguished as some of his contemporaries.

His logical arguments dealing with Incarnation and The Trinity are noteworthy. Mar Theophilos endeavoured hard to resist the heresy of Marcion and to sustain the people in the True Faith.  Theophilus of Antioch undertook the role in persuading others of the truth of Christianity. The other most important among them are – the letter written against the heretical teachings of Hermogenes, the letter against Marcion and Catechetical writings.

The Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of Mar Theophilus on October 17.


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