A Byzantine exegesis of Paul in the “depth of the sea”

The following interesting passage can be found in a work by the Venerable Bede 1:

The same apostle (Paul) said, “a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea’ (2 Cor. 11:25).  I have heard certain men assert that Theodore of blessed memory, a very learned man and once archbishop of the English people, expounded the saying thus: that there was in Cyzicus a certain very deep pit, dug for the punishment of criminals, which on account of its immense depth was called the depth of the sea.  It was the filth and darkness of this which Paul bore, amongst other things, for Christ.

Theodore was a Greek from Tarsus, who happened to be in Rome in 667 AD at the moment when a Saxon archbishop-elect of Canterbury had died while in Rome to get his pallium. Pope Vitalian was open to eastern influence, and promptly appointed this 67-year old man (d. 690) as archbishop.  His episcopate was a considerable success, he increased the status of the clergy, reorganised the diocese, and Bede says of him that he was the first archbishop whom the whole English church willingly obeyed.  This in turn helped to foster English political and cultural unity.  He brought knowledge of Latin and Greek to Dark Ages England, and interesting snippets like this from a part of the ancient world where the darkness had yet to fall.

1. Liber Quaestionum, Patrologia Latina 93, cols. 456D-457A.  The reference comes to me from Henry Mayr-Harting, The coming of Christianity to anglo-saxon England (1972), repr. 1977, p.207, n. 58 (on p.312).