The Testament of Theodore the Studite
Source Used: Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents: A Complete Translation of the Surviving Founders’ Typika and Testaments edited by John Thomas and Angela Constantinides Hero with the assistance of Giles Constable. Published by
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection Washington, D.C. in five volumes as number 35 in the series Dumbarton Oaks Studies
© 2000 Dumbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University Washington, D.C. Printed in the United States of America
The Testament of Theodore the Studite
The Testament of our father, the holy, inspired confessor Theodore, the Studite superior, which
was read aloud before his final repose.
Since this wretched body of mine has fallen into a constant state of ill health and I am unable to
summon all of you—my sons, brothers, and fathers—at the time of my departure because the
monasteries are located in diverse places and especially because some of you have journeyed afar
on business, I have heeded the words of the sacred David, “I prepared myself and was not terrified” (Ps. 118 :60); and again, “My heart is ready” (Ps. 56 :7). Since the hour of my
passing out of this life has already arrived, I have hastened to draw up this Testament beforehand.
I thought that this was a fitting and sure method for you to hear my final utterance and discern
exactly what I believe and think, and what sort of person I leave as a superior to succeed me so that
you might thus enjoy harmony and peace in Christ—that peace which the Lord left to his holy
disciples and apostles as he was about to return to the heavens.
Therefore, I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—the holy and consubstantial
and primal Trinity, [in whose name] I was baptized and regenerated and perfected. I confess God
the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—the three are one with respect to divinity just as
conversely the one is three with respect to individual persons. For the Trinity is one God according to substance although it is divided by the distinction of persons. I also confess that one of the
Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ, came into the flesh out of immeasurable charity, that is to say for
the salvation of our race, having assumed the flesh from the holy and blameless Mother of God.
He was born of her womb in accordance with the law of nature save for human procreation as the
divine prophecy had foretold. This same Christ is dual [in nature], whole and complete in his
divinity so that that which he was suffered no change, and whole and complete in his humanity so
that that which he assumed lacked nothing. The same Christ is one in person as he is made manifest in two natures. So also he is manifest in two wills and two energies through which he acted in
accordance with both things divine and things human. [col. 1816]
In addition, I follow the six holy and ecumenical councils and reject every error of heretical association. I also follow the Second Council of Nicaea which was recently assembled against the
accusers of Christ. I accept and revere the sacred and holy images of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the
Mother of God, of the apostles, prophets, martyrs, and of all the holy and just. Moreover, I ask for
their undefiled intercessions to propitiate the Godhead. With faith and awe I embrace their all holy relics as full of divine grace.
I also accept every God-inspired book of the Old and New Testaments as well as the biographies
and divine writings of all the holy fathers, teachers, and ascetics. I say this on account of the
crazed Pamphilos who has come from the East attacking these holy people—I mean Mark, Isaiah,
Barsanouphios, Dorotheos, and Hesychios2—but not the Barsanouphios, Isaiah, and Dorotheos
who belonged to the fellowship of the headless ones3 and had the same number of horns as did the
ten-horned one,4 for these men were anathematized by the saintly Sophronios in his booklet.5
These last individuals are obviously different from those aforementioned men whom I accept as
part of the patristic tradition after having questioned the patriarch Tarasios,6 who recently held the
office of bishop [of Constantinople], and other trustworthy men, both natives and Easterners.
Moreover, the image of Barsanouphios was placed on the sacred altar covering of the Great Church
together with the holy fathers, Antony, Ephraem, and others.7 Also, I have found no impiety in
their teachings, but on the contrary, much of spiritual assistance. I will accept them until some
charge against them has been proven by a synodal inquiry. For, if these very men should appear
worthy of anathema or others whom they have led to heresy, may they be anathematized and
cursed, totally anathematized from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In addition, I acknowledge that the monastic life is lofty and exalted, even angelic, pure of
every sin on account of its perfect way of life. It is clear that the monastic life must be ordered
according to the ascetic rules of the holy Basil the Great and not by half measures so that some in
one place choose some rules and let others go. For, one cannot choose to lead this life lawfully in
some other fashion without the three revealed orders of the divine ladder.8 Nor is it possible to
own a slave or a domesticated animal of the female sex because this would be alien to the religious
profession and dangerous to souls.9 I have treated such things cursorily since there is not time to
explain them fully, but only to prevent some from holding an inferior opinion of me contrary to
what I truly think and believe. [col. 1817]
Concerning the Superior
Having treated of these points in this way, I shall speak in second place about the superior. Now as
the first one I leave the lord, my father as well as yours, the most holy recluse and father who is both a luminary and a teacher. This man has been set before both you and me in the Lord and is
established as the head even though he has removed himself to perfect his humility in solitude by
imitating Christ. Through his directions and prayer I trust that you will be saved, if indeed on your
part you show him attentive and ready obedience. Thereafter, elect someone by a common vote in
a godly fashion and in the manner which the fathers have established, for my desire is to support
whomever the community finds suitable.
But now, my father and brother, whoever you are, before God and his chosen angels I entrust all
the community in Christ to you so that you may receive it. But, how should you accept? In what
grand manner should you guide them? In what fashion should you guard them? As the lambs of
Christ! As your own dear limbs! Cherish and respect them, loving each one of them with an equal
measure of charity since each man cherishes the limbs of his body equally.10 Open your heart in
sympathy, welcome them all in mercy. Nurse them, reform them, make them perfect in the Lord.
Sharpen your understanding with prudence; rouse your will with courage; make your heart steadfast in faith and hope. Lead them forward in every good work. Defend them against spiritual
enemies. Shield them, regulate them. Introduce them to the place of virtue. Distribute shares in the
land of tranquility. Therefore, I give you these rules which of necessity you ought to uphold.
Rules for the Superior
1. Therefore, save for grave necessity, you shall not alter at all the constitution and rule which you
have received from my lowliness.
2. You shall not possess anything of this world nor store up anything for yourself as your own, not
even one piece of silver.
3. You shall not divide your soul and heart by attachments and cares other than for those whom
God has entrusted to you and I have handed over, those who have become your spiritual sons and
brothers. You shall not use the things of your monastery for those who were at one time yours
according to the flesh—either for your relatives or friends or associates. Neither in life nor after
death shall you do this for these aforementioned people—neither according to the requirements of
charity nor the rules of heredity. For you are not from those of the world so that you have to share
with those of the world. But if some should cross over from the life of society to our order, then
you should take thought for them in imitation of the holy fathers.
4. You shall not possess a slave either for your own use or for your monastery or for the fields
since man was created in the image of God. This institution has been allowed only to those in
worldly life just as marriage is. It is necessary for you rather to dedicate yourself spiritually as a
slave to your brothers of the same spirit, [col. 1820] even though when appearing in public you are
reckoned their lord and teacher.
5. For necessary duties you shall not have an animal from among those of the female race since
you have renounced completely the female sex. You shall not have one either in the monastery or
in the fields as no one of our holy fathers did nor does nature herself allow it.
6. You shall not ride on horses or mules when not necessary; rather you shall travel by foot in imitation of Christ. If it should be necessary, however, let your beast of burden be a colt.
7. You shall always be vigilant that all things in the community be held in common and be indivisible and that nothing be owned on the part of any individual, not even a needle. Your body and
your soul, nothing else, should be divided up for all your spiritual children and brothers in the
impartiality of love.
8. As a fugitive from the world and from marriage, you should have no part of adopting those of
the world as brothers or engaging in spiritual relationships11 with them since such practices are
not found in the fathers, or if they have been found, then only rarely so that they do not constitute
9. You shall not dine with women other than your mother according to the flesh and your sister,
whether these be women in religious life or lay persons. I do not permit this unless some pressure
or necessity should require it as the holy fathers warn.
10. You should not go out frequently or roam about unnecessarily, leaving your own flock. For, it
is desirable that you have time to spend with the flock and be able to save these sheep endowed
with reason, but most wily and given to straying.
11. You shall always be on your guard to teach catechism three times a week in the evening either
by your own agency or through another of your children since this is the salutary tradition of the
12. You should not grant what they call the little habit and after that the great one, for the habit like
baptism is one according to the usages of the fathers.
13. You should not transgress the laws and canons of the holy fathers, above all those of the holy
and great Basil. Whatever you do or say, you should do it in accord with the testimony of the
Scriptures or of patristic custom without violating the command of God.
14. You shall not leave your flock and transfer to another one or return to an office without the
approval of your own community.
15. You shall not have a friendship with a woman in religious life nor enter into a women’s monastery. Nor shall you speak alone with a nun or a woman of the world unless necessity at some
time compels you and then with two persons from either party present since one person is easily
influenced as they say.
16. You shall not open the door of the monastery for any woman at all to enter unless it is absolutely necessary. If you are able to meet discreetly, this opportunity should not be rejected.
17. You shall not make for yourself a lodging or a secular house for your spiritual children in
which there are women and go there frequently. [col. 1821] Rather you shall choose to attend to
your temporary and essential needs at the home of pious men.
18. You shall not have an adolescent disciple in your cell out of affection, but you shall be served
by various brothers and by a person above suspicion.
19. You shall not possess very distinctive and expensive clothing besides the priestly vestments.
Rather, you shall put on humble clothes and shoes in imitation of the fathers.
20. You shall not spend lavishly either for your own lifestyle or for the reception of guests. This
will distract you since it belongs to a life devoted to pleasure.
21. You shall not store up gold in your monastery, but you should share your abundance of whatever sort with those in need at the portal of your court as the holy fathers did.
22. You shall not take charge of the treasury room nor assume the cares of stewardship, but let
your key be the greatest care of souls, of loosing and binding according to the Scriptures (cf. Matt.
16:19). You shall entrust the gold and other necessities to the stewards, the cellarers, and as seems
appropriate to each service, all under your manifest authority. Together with the foremost brothers, you can take an account of each administration and transfer the offices to whichever person
23. You shall not place the person of any other man, eminent and powerful according to the present
age, ahead of that which benefits the community. Nor shall you shrink from laying down your life
even to the point of bloodshed in guarding these godly laws and commands.
24. You shall not make or do anything according to your own opinion whether regarding a spiritual or a physical matter of any kind. First, you should not act without the advice and prayer of
your lord and father; second, without the advice of those who are foremost in knowledge and
prudence regarding the issue in question. For there is need of one advisor or perhaps two, three, or
more as the fathers have instructed us and as we have discussed in detail.
All these commands and whatever else you have received, you shall guard and observe that you
may do well and prosper in the Lord. Far be it from [me] to say or even think of the opposite.
Rules for the Brothers
[25.] Now it is time for you, my children and brothers, to hear my most pitiful voice. Accept the
lord your superior as you all selected him.12 It is not possible for anyone in any way to choose any
other life for himself other than that which is laid down. This is a bond of the Lord. Looking upon
him with respect and honor, embrace him as my successor. Just as you did with me, so with him
too observe the rule of obedience and do not think less of him because he has been recently
appointed in the Lord. Nor should you expect anything more than the gifts which were given to
him by the Holy Spirit. It is sufficient that he maintain that which was laid down by my humility.
Love me, my children, and keep my commandments (cf. John 14:15). Keep peace among yourselves, [col. 1824] and marching in a heavenly fashion, preserve your angelic profession inviolate.
[26.] Hating the world, do not return to the works of the world. Having been loosed from the
bonds of physical attachments, do not be bound again to the affections of the flesh. Having denied
all pleasures and perishable things of the present life, do not depart from your struggle with obedience through negligence and become the sport of demons.
[27.] Stick to the race of obedience until the end so that you will “obtain the unfading crown of
righteousness” (cf. I Pet. 5:4 and II Tim. 4:8). Led by humility, you should always deny your own
will and pattern yourselves only after the judgments of your superior. If you keep in mind these
things and if you should guard them to the end, you will be blessed. For the chorus of martyrs will
receive you. Wearing crowns in the kingdom of heaven, you will enjoy the eternal blessings.
So farewell now, my children. I set out on a journey with no return, a journey which all those of
old have traveled and on which you will set out in a short while after carrying out the duties of life.
I do not know, my brothers, where I am going or what judgment awaits me or which place will
receive me. For I have not completed a single good work before God. Rather I am responsible for
every sin. But still, I rejoice and am glad that I am going from the world to heaven, from darkness
to light, from slavery to freedom, from temporary lodging to true abode, from strange and alien
lands—for I am a sojourner and a stranger as all my fathers were (cf. Ps. 38 :12)—to my very
own country. Still more boldly I will declare that I return to my Master, to my Lord and my God
whom my spirit has loved, whom I have acknowledged as Father, even if I have not served him as
a son. I have possessed him before all else, even if I have not served him as a noble slave. Raving,
I have spoken these things, but I have said them for you so that you will take heart and pray for my
salvation. If I achieve it, see, I give you my word before the truth that I will not be silent, but shall
boldly beseech my Lord and Master for you all that you shall flourish, be saved, and multiply. I
expect to see, receive, and embrace each and every one of you as you depart from the world. For
I have such faith that, since you have observed his commands, his goodness just as he did here will
also preserve you in the coming age for the same purpose: to sing the praises of his all-holy power.
My children, remember my humble words. Keep the advice I have given in Christ Jesus our Lord
in whom is glory and power forever and ever, Amen.
Being sixty-seven years old, our all-holy father and great confessor Theodore went to sleep in the
month of November, the eleventh day, a Sunday, at the sixth hour, the fifth indiction, the year 6335
[A.M., = 826 A.D.].