Chapter XI.—Question agitated in Egypt, as to whether God has a Corporeal Form. Thep. 406 ophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, and the Books of Origen.
A question was at this period agitated in Egypt, which had been propounded a short time previously, namely, whether it is right to believe that God is anthropomorphic. 1599 Because they laid hold of the sacred words with simplicity and without any questioning, most of the monks of that part of the world were of this opinion; and supposed that God possessed eyes, a face, and hands, and other members of the bodily organization. But those who searched into the hidden meaning of the terms of Scripture held the opposite; and they maintained that those who denied the incorporeality of God were guilty of blasphemy. This later opinion was espoused by Theophilus, and preached by him in the church; and in the epistle 1600 which, according to custom, he wrote respecting the celebration of the passover, he took occasion to state that God ought to be regarded as incorporeal, as alien to a human form. When it was signified to the Egyptian monks that Theophilus had broached these sentiments, they went to Alexandria, assembled the people together in one place, excited a tumult, and determined upon slaying the bishop as an impious man. Theophilus, however, presented himself to the insurgents forthwith, and said to them, “When I look upon you, it is as if I beheld the face of God.” This address sufficiently mollified the men; yielding their wrath, they replied, “Wherefore, then, if you really hold orthodox doctrines, do you not denounce the books of Origen; since those who read them are led into such opinions?” “Such has long been my intention,” replied he, “and I shall do as you advise; for I blame not less than you do, all those who follow the doctrines of Origen.” By these means he deluded the brethren, and broke up the sedition.
Soc. vi. 7.406:1600
This epistle is no longer extant; it is alluded to by Cassianus in his Collatio, x. 2; Opp. i. p. 821, 822.