Theology (Gr. θεός, God, and λσγος discourse), the science which treats of God and divine things. The name theologos was given by the Greeks to the authors of theogonies (as Orpheus and Hesiod), and to those who wrote poems fas Empedocles) or philosophical treatises (as Pherecydes) on divine things and the origin of things through the gods. A distinction was early made, as by Varro, between " mythical theology," a knowledge of the myths and legends concerning the. deities in the classic poets; "physical theology," the investigations of philosophers on the origin of the world; and "civil theology," a knowledge of public worship. The ecclesiastical writers of the 3d and 4th centuries used the word, but applied it only to doctrinal treatises on the nature of the Godhead, or on the Trinity. Somewhat later the term was used by Theodoret, Maximus, and others, of the aggregate doctrines of the Bible, but its most common signification remained the doctrine of God. Abe-lard was the first to apply the term to the entire science of the Christian religion, which signification it has since retained.
With regard to the sources from which theology derives its contents, it is common to divide it into natural or philosophical theology, which confines itself to the development of the religious ideas resting on rational arguments only, and positive or revealed theology, which sets forth and systematizes the doctrines of the Scriptures and of the church. Revealed theology or Biblical theology is occupied solely with the investigation and representation of the doctrines contained in the Bible. A distinction is made between theoretical theology or dogmatics and practical theology or ethics. Theology, viewed as the whole of religious science, is commonly regarded as consisting of four main branches, historical, exegetical, systematic, and practical or moral theology. These are again variously subdivided, and several auxiliary sciences are connected with them. Thus historical theology embraces the history of the church, of Christian doctrines, of heresies, of councils, etc. To exegetical theology belong the interpretation (exegesis) of the Bible; hermeneutics, the science which teaches the right principles to be observed in interpreting the Bible; criticism, which investigates and tries to establish the genuine original text; the introduction to the Bible, which discusses the time when and place where each book of the Bible originated, its authenticity, and kindred questions.
Systematic theology, also called merely theology, comprises the system of Christian doctrines (dogmatics); the system of Christian ethics; symbolics, the comparative statement of the doctrines of the several religious denominations, etc. Practical theology includes homilet-ics, catechetics, liturgies, ecclesiastical law, etc. Polemics and apologetics, which are also often treated as separate branches of theology, belong to several of the above four principal divisions at the same time. - Until the time of Abelard little attention was paid to comprehending theology in its totality, and to establishing the connection of the branches with each other. Although nearly all the theologians of the middle ages whose writings are extant belonged to the same church, yet they were divided into two fundamentally different schools,'the scholastics and mystics. The theologians of the churches which grew out of the reformation of the 16th century followed, in their treatment of theologv, either the scholastics or mys-tics, though the name of the former was discarded both by their Protestant and Roman Catholic followers.
A new era in tha history of theology was inaugurated by the philosophy of Kant, who fully developed and systematized a new theory of Christian theology, commonly called rationalism, which more or less made the belief in a religious doctrine dependent on its demonstrability by reason. This view gained the ascendancy in several Protestant churches. Its opponents, who defended the Bible as the absolute rule of faith, were called supranatu-ralists, and the subsequent history of theology is a contest not yet ended between these two systems. The chief arena of this controversy has been Germany; but it has had little or no influence over Roman Catholic schools. It has also been attempted to build up theological systems in opposition to Christianity, such as deism and pantheism. - In Roman Catholic schools, theology is divided into dogmatic and moral. Dogmatic theology, considered in its various methods of exposition and demonstration, is termed positive theology when it bases its proofs on Scripture and tradition. Moral theology treats of divine and human law as the rule of our actions.
It aims at determining the true sense of the decalogue and the gospel precepts, discusses virtues and vices, examines the principles of justice and the foundations of injustice, points out what is needful and unlawful, and teaches all Christians their respective obligations in all states, conditions, and offices. Moral theologians are often called casuists, from their treating ex prqfesso of " cases of conscience." Scholastic theology is that peculiar method introduced into the schools during the 11th and 12th centuries. It reduced all doctrinal matters into one body, so coor-dinating them that one question explained and completed another, binding them into a connected and systematic whole; it observed in its every demonstration the strict process of syllogistic reasoning, making use of the admitted principles of metaphysics, and thus conciliating faith with reason, and religion with philosophy. - Valuable systematic works, giving a survey of the entire field of Christian theology, have been published by President Dwight, Dr. J. Pye Smith, Prof. Hodge (" Systematic Theology," 3 vols. 8vo, Kew York. 1872-3), and others, and useful encyclopaedic manuals by Hagenbach, Pelt, and Staudenmaier. THEOPHRASTUS, a Greek philosopher, born at Eresus, in the island of Lesbos, about 372 B. C, died about 287. His original name was Tyrtamus, and he was surnamed Theophrastus probably for his eloquence.
He studied at Athens under Plato and Aristotle, and succeeded the latter at the lyceum. The number of his pupils from all parts of Greece was at one time 2,000. His influence on public affairs excited a party spirit against him, and being brought before the Areopagus on a charge of impiety, he pleaded his own cause, and was acquitted. After this he taught in tranquillity till 305, when Sophocles, son of Amphiclides, carried a law which prohibited all philosophers, under pain of death, from giving any public instruction without the permission of the state. Theophrastus left Athens; but in the next year the law was abolished, and he returned. He wrote works on politics, laws, legislators, and oratory, which are lost, and "A Dissertation on the Senses and the Imagination," a work on "Metaphysics," "Characters," and two works on botany, " The History of Plants " and " The Causes of Plants," which are extant in whole or in part. The book of " Characters" consists of 30 sketches of the general vices of humanity as developed in individuals.
His extant works were first printed with those of Aristotle (Venice, 1495 - '8); the best edition is Wimmer's (Leipsic, 1854, and Paris, 1866). His " Characters " were translated into French and prefixed to his own by La Bruyere (1688), and into English, among others, by Francis Howell (London, 1824).