Theophilus of Alexandria and the Episcopal Ordination of Synesius of Cyrene

Kevin Wagner
Lecturer, University of Notre Dame, Sydney
& PhD Candidate, John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family
Melbourne VIC

Abstract: Extant works show that Theophilus was fiercely opposed to the Origenism of the Tall Brothers and their fellow monks. These same works also demonstrate that he was a competent and orthodox theologian. In peculiar contrast to the written proof of Theophilus’ anti-Origenism, Theophilus ordained Synesius of Cyrene who had openly declared heterodox views. Norman Russell, in his work Theophilus of Alexandria, declares that Theophilus was willing to ordain Synesius and appoint him as bishop of the Pentapolis so long as Synesius kept these heretical opinions private. Given the unusual nature of his ordination, Synesius’ relationship with Theophilus thus offers a useful perspective on the character, leadership style, and theology of the Patriarch of Alexandria.