Theophylact (Greek: Θεοφύλακτος, Bulgarian:
Теофилакт; around 1055–after 1107) was a Greek archbishop
Ohrid and commentator on the Bible.
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Theophylact was born in the mid-11th century at Euripus (Chalcis) in
Euboea, at the time part of the
Byzantine Empire (now Greece). He
became a deacon at Constantinople, attained a high reputation as a
scholar, and became the tutor of Constantine Ducas, son of the Emperor
Michael VII, for whom he wrote The Education of Princes. In ca. 1078
he moved to Bulgaria where he became the archbishop of Achrida (modern
Ohrid was one of the capital cities of Bulgaria that had been
re-conquered by the Byzantines sixty years earlier. In this demanding
position in a conquered territory on the outskirts of the Byzantine
Empire, he conscientiously and energetically carried out his pastoral
duties over the course of the next twenty years. Although a Byzantine
by upbringing and outlook, he was a diligent archpastor of the
Bulgarian Church, defending its interests and autonomy (i.e. its
independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople). He acted
vigorously to protect his archbishopric from the teachings of the
Bogomils (considered heretics by the Orthodox Church).
He won the respect and love of the Bulgarian people who witnessed his
labors on their behalf.
In his Letters he complains much about the rude manners of the
Bulgarians, and he sought to be relieved of his office, but apparently
without success. "His letters from
Ohrid are a valuable source for the
economic, social, and political history of Bulgaria as well as
Byzantine prosopography. They are filled with conventional complaints
concerning Theophylact's 'barbarian' surroundings, whereas in fact he
was deeply involved in local cultural development, producing an
encomium of 15 martyrs of Tiberioupolis and a vita of Clement of
Ohrid." He also wrote (in his Letters) accounts of how the constant
wars between the
Byzantine Empire and the Pechenegs,
Normans had destroyed most of the food of the land and caused many
people to flee to the forests from the towns.
In the 11th century, archbishop Theophylact of
Ohrid wrote the
following about Pechenegs: "Their advance is like a strike of a
lightning, the retreat is both tough and light: It is tough because of
the war trophies that they carry, and light since it is so fast. […]
They rob other countries since they do not have their own. Peaceful
life is a misfortune for them, they are happy when they have a pretext
for war. [..] Their number is countless."
His death took place after 1107.
The present day
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Eastern Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece,
and Russia consider him to be a saint, and commemorate him on December
31 as Theophylact of
Ohrid (Теофилакт Охридски).
Titlepage of a 16th-century
Latin translation of Theophylact's bible
His commentaries on the Gospels, Acts, the
Pauline epistles and the
Minor prophets are founded on those of Chrysostom, but deserve the
considerable place they hold in exegetical literature for their
appositeness, sobriety, accuracy and judiciousness. His other extant
works include 530 letters and various homilies and orations, the Life
of Clement of
Ohrid known as Comprehensive, and other minor pieces. A
careful edition of nearly all his writings, in Greek and Latin, with a
preliminary dissertation, was published by JFBM de Rossi (4 vols.
fol., Venice). The edition was reprinted by J.-P. Migne in the
Patrologia Graeca vols. 123-6 (1869).
St Thomas Aquinas, the celebrated western Christian theologian,
included parts of Theophylact's writings in his Catena Aurea, which is
a collection of commentary on the four
Gospels by the Church Fathers.
In the early 16th century, his Scripture commentaries had an important
influence on the Novum Testamentum and Annotationes of Desiderius
Erasmus, though Erasmus mistakenly referred to him as "Vulgarius" in
early editions of his New Testament. Theophylact's commentaries on the
Gospels were published in the original Greek in Rome in 1542, and had
been published in
Latin by both Catholic (Porsena) and Protestant
(Oecolampadius) translators in the 1520s. Contemporary translations of
Theophylact's commentaries are available in modern Greek, Russian,
Serbian, Bulgarian, and Romanian, reflecting the wide influence of his
exegetical work within the Orthodox Church, and beyond. A twentieth
century Bishop of Ohrid, Nikolai Velimirovic, wrote that Theophylact's
"commentaries on the Four
Gospels and other books of the New Testament
... are the finest works of their sort after St. John Chrysostom, and
are read to this day with great benefit."
The first English translation (and the first in any modern Western
European language) of Theophylact's commentaries on the New Testament,
The Explanation of the Gospels, is available from
Work is underway to complete the English translation of his
commentaries on the Book of Acts and the Epistles.
The Epistles of Galatians and Ephesians have now been published
(2012–2013), and translation is underway for Corinthians and
^ Chisholm 1911.
^ Dimitri Obolensky, Six Byzantine Portraits, Oxford, Clarendon Press,
1988, pp. 34-82.
^ The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991,
Vol. 3. p. 2068
^ The Prologue From Ochrid, Bp. Nikolai Velimirovic, Lazarica Press,
Birmingham, England, 1985, Vol. 4, p. 393. 
^ Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue from Ochrid: Lives of the
Saints and Homilies for Every Day in the Year, trans. from the Serbian
by Mother Maria (Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1986), p.393. via
Chrystom Press web site
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Theophylact".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Marcella Carolina Labruna, Teofilatto di Ocrida e la riforma del
sistema scolastico a Bisanzio nell'XI sec., Valdinoto, 2, 2006
Karl Krumbacher, Byzantinische Litteraturgeschichte (2nd ed. 1897)
pp. 132, 463.
John Julian Norwich. Byzantium: The Decline and Fall. New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1996.
Margaret Mullett, Theophylact of Ochrid: Reading the Letters of a
Byzantine Archbishop, Aldershot, Ashgate Variorum, 1997.
E.-S. Kiapidou (ed.), Θεοφύλακτος Αχρίδος,
Μαρτύριο των Δεκαπέντε Μαρτύρων της
Τιβεριούπολης, [Κeimena Byzantines Logotechnias 8],
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Theophylact of Ohrid.
Chrysostom Press (Publisher of Bl. Theophylact's Commentaries on the
Theophylact of Ohrid. Bibles commentaries (in Russian)
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church titles
John III of Ohrid
Archbishop of Ohrid
Leo II Mung
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