The School of Antioch: Diodore of Tarsus
Now we come to the man who is considered to be the true founder of the School of Antioch, Diodore of Tarsus (c. 330–c. 390). As mentioned before, Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom were two of his most famous pupils. Chrysostom is still held as a saint in Western Christianity, so we will begin with a short historical anecdote that illuminates both the relationship that he had with his teacher, and the strength of Diodore’s Christian character from his perspective (as retold in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Diodore):
Diodorus came to Antioch in 386 or later, when St. Chrysostom was already a priest. In a sermon he spoke of Chrysostom as a St. John the Baptist, the Voice of the Church, the Rod of Moses. Next day Chrysostom ascended the pulpit and declared that when the people had applauded, he had groaned; it was Diodorus, his father, who was John the Baptist, the Antiochenes could bear witness how he had lived without possessions, having his food from alms, and persevering in prayer and preaching; like the Baptist he had taught on the other side of the river, often he had been imprisoned--nay, he had been often beheaded, at least in will, for the Faith. In another sermon he likens Diodorus to the martyrs: "See his mortified limbs, his face, having the form of a man, but the expression of an Angel!" (Chapman)
It is apparent that Chrysostom viewed Diodore as an exemplary model of selfless Christian life and practice. Such a view appears to have been widely held of Diodore during his lifetime and was certainly one of the reasons why he “was one of the leading figures at the Council of Constantinople (381)” where the current form of the Nicene creed was established (Greer, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, page 331). The Nicene creed, of course, is one the most significant pronouncements of orthodox Christian belief, and is held to by virtually every branch of Christianity. His prominent position at the council was surely due to his reputation as a champion of the faith:
Diodore courageously defended Christ’s divinity against Julian the Apostate, the Roman emperor who attempted to revive paganism, and in his lifetime was regarded as a pillar of orthodoxy. Later critics detected anticipations of Nestorianism in his teaching, and, as a result, his works, apart from some meagre fragments, have perished. (Kelly)
So, although he was regarded as a “pillar of orthodoxy” and a staunch defender of the faith during his lifetime, later controversies (unrelated to his views on universal restoration) resulted in the loss of many of his works. Nevertheless, the meager fragments of his work that do remain leave no doubt as to his position. Consider his words:
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. (Diodore in Assemani’s Bibliotheca Orientalis cited by Allin p. 137 and Hanson p. 256)
Diodore makes it undeniably clear that the punishments of the wicked have an end and that they are designed for their purification, not for divine vengeance. It is indisputable that he is referring to the complete redemption of truly terrible people who have many grave sins, not merely to Christians. Diodore also rightly observes that the punishment that will be experienced will be proportional to the “amount of malice in their works,” or as Scripture puts it, “according to their deeds” (Romans 2:6, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Colossians 3:25, Psalm 62:12, Revelation 20:12 etc.) This proportional corrective punishment will result in the destruction of their wickedness so that they are made entirely pure and righteous, and thereby experience “immortal blessedness having no end.” There are no wicked people in God’s heavenly kingdom because those who were wicked are wicked no longer as a result of God’s righteous, cleansing judgment.
Not only is punishment finite, Diodore is also convinced that it only occurs for a “short space.” Although this is not entirely clear to me from Scripture (since the terms used to describe punishment are of undefined duration), Diodore’s thinking is, at least, reasonable. It did, after all, only take a brief encounter with Christ to change Saul of Tarsus from a murderous persecutor of Christians to one of His most devoted disciples. An encounter with the living God, Diodore seems to reason, is so transformative that it will not take long for even the most evil to repent.
Furthermore, he is basing his understanding of the short duration of corrective punishment on the goodness and mercy of God. Since God “so loved the world,” the resurrection of all mankind must be a blessing to all mankind, both the good and the evil. Because “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13), and because “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20), he rationally infers that the penalties suffered by the wicked will be “very far surpassed by the magnitude of the mercy to be showed them.”
Diodore’s understanding of God’s character as purely good, and his conviction that he truly loves us, his creatures, is deeply biblical and drives his belief in the final restoration of all people to God. Such convictions inspired very many in the early church, as we will continue to demonstrate.
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Citations and Notes
Allin, Thomas. Universalism Asserted: as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture. 4th ed., Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row., 1891. https://books.google.com/books?id=1Vx9Ew8XOKIC&pg=PA137&dq=allin+For+the+wicked+there+are+punishments,+not+perpetual&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi3sob_i9zgAhWOtp4KHe8ICl0Q6AEIMDAB#v=onepage&q=allin%20For%20the%20wicked%20there%20are%20punishments%2C%20not%20perpetual&f=false
Chapman, John. "Diodorus of Tarsus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 25 Feb. 2019. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05008a.htm
Greer, Rowan A. “Encyclopedia of Early Christianity.” Edited by Everett Ferguson, Google Books. https://books.google.com/books?id=oUFFAQAAQBAJ&pg=PR18&lpg=PR18&dq=Rowan+A+Greer,+%22Diodore+of+Tarsus,%22&source=bl&ots=in6_qYwIUM&sig=-NcZwoLb5npth98UYbNzFufWpZI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjglK-dsZ3cAhVMlFQKHcybDwMQ6AEwBXoECAMQAQ#v=snippet&q=Diodore%20of%20Tarsus&f=false
Hanson, John Wesley. Universalism: the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years, with Authorities and Extracts. Universalist Publishing House, 1899. https://books.google.com/books/about/Universalism_the_Prevailing_Doctrine_of.html?id=fzARAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=snippet&q=%20be%20inflicted%20for%20their%20many%20and%20grave%20sins%20are%20very%20far%20surpassed%20by%20the%20magnitude%20&f=false
Kelly, John N.D. “Patristic Literature.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 12 Apr. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/patristic-literature/The-post-Nicene-period#ref235487. (Note: the citation software I used pulled John Kelly as the author but this information was not given in the Encyclopedia article itself, so I’m not certain about it.)