Paris, Moullins

NESTORIUS of Constantinople: (c. 321; abp Const. 428; dep. 431; d.? 451) Over-emphasizes DISTINCTION of natures (phuseis): asks how characteristics of humanity can be attributed to divinity. How does God suffer, weep, and die? Mary is Mother of Christ, not God-Bearer.

CYRIL of Alexandria: (patr. Alex, 412; d. 444) Emphasizes UNITY of Christ: “two different natures (phuseis) come together to form a [hypostatic] unity [kat hypostasin], and from both arose one Christ, one Son ... Mary is God-Bearer.

(Theotokos does not technically mean Mother of Godtiktein is the Greek verb that describes the act of going into labor and giving birth.  Mary is the One Who gives birth to God)






Nestorius, who had been condemned in a council at Rome on 11 August 430, asked the emperor Theodosius II to summon this council. The emperor therefore decided to summon it together with his co-emperor Valentinian III and with the agreement of Pope Celestine I. Theodosius’s letter of 19 November 430 requested all those who had been summoned to be present at Ephesus on 7 June 431, the feast of Pentecost.

On 22 June, however,

     before the arrival either of the Roman legates or the eastern bishops led by John of Antioch,

     Cyril of Alexandria began the council.

     Nestorius was summoned three times but did not come.

     His teaching was examined and judgment passed upon it, which 197 bishops subscribed at once and others later accepted.

Shortly afterwards John of Antioch and the easterners arrived: they refused communion with Cyril and set up another council. The Roman legates (the bishops Arcadius and Projectus and the priest Philip), on arriving, joined Cyril and confirmed the sentence against Nestorius. Then the council in its fifth session on 17 July excommunicated John and his party.

The documents of the Cyrilline council, the only one which is ecumenical, are included below and are as follows.

1. The central dogmatic act of the council is its judgment about whether the second letter of Cyril to Nestorius, or Nestorius’s second letter to Cyril, was in conformity with the Nicene creed which was recited at the opening of the council’s proceedings.

     Cyril’s letter was declared by the fathers to be in agreement with Nicaea,

     Nestorius’s was condemned

Both are here printed. Mention is made of Cyril’s letter in the definition of Chalcedon.

2. The 12 anathemas and the preceding explanatory letter, which had been produced by Cyril and the synod of Alexandria in 430 and sent to Nestorius, were read at Ephesus and included in the proceedings.

3. The decision about Nestorius.

4. The letter of the council advising all the bishops, clergy and people about the condemnation of John of Antioch; and some paragraphs dealing with the discipline of the Nestorian party.

5. A decree on the faith, approved in the sixth session on 22 July, which confirmed the Nicene creed, ordered adherence to that alone and forbade the production of new creeds.

6. A definition against the Messalians.

7. A decree about the autonomy of the church of Cyprus.

Both councils sent legates to the emperor Theodosius, who approved neither and sent the bishops away. Nestorius had already been given permission to revisit his monastery at Antioch, and on 25 October 431 Maximianus was ordained patriarch at Constantinople. The decrees of the council were approved by Pope Sixtus III shortly after his own ordination on 31 July 432.

The reconciliation between the Cyrilline party and the eastern bishops was not easy. In the end, on 23 April 433, Cyril and John of Antioch made peace. John’s profession of faith was accepted by Cyril and became the doctrinal formula of union. It is included here, together with Cyril’s letter in which he at some length praises John’s profession and accepts it, adding to it some explanation about his own expressions; this letter is mentioned in the definition of Chalcedon. Shortly afterwards, probably in 436, Nestorius was definitely sent into exile by the emperor .

   Cross, F. L. ; Livingstone, Elizabeth A.: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005

[NESTORIAN] CHURCH of the EAST (or Assyrian Church of the East). It is frequently, but misleadingly, referred to as the Nestorian Church; its Christology, which is strictly Antiochene, developed largely from that of Theodore of Mopsuestia rather than from that of Nestorius. Official formulations of the 6th and 7th cent. sometimes speak of ‘two natures, two qnōmē (corresponding to Gk. hypostasis) and one prosopon’ in the incarnate Christ, thus differing from the Chalcedonian Definition which posits a single hypostasis.

The Church in Mesopotamia (approximately modern Iraq) lay outside the Roman Empire and took no part in the great Councils, although the Creed and Canons of the first Council of Nicaea (325), affirming the full Divinity of Christ, were formally accepted at the Synod of Seleucia in 410. The Council of Ephesus (431), and in particular the title of Theotokos for the BVM, is rejected, while ambivalent attitudes have been held towards the Chalcedonian Definition, owing to a different understanding of the term hypostasis. The doctrinal position of the Church of the East was largely based on the Antiochene theology of the School of Nisibis, inherited from the ‘Persian School’ at Edessa (closed in 489) and propagated by Barsumas, Bp. of Nisibis. Their most important theologian was Babai the Great (d. 628), author of the Book of the Union (sc. of the Godhead and Manhood in Christ).

By the end of Sassanian rule in Iran (651) Christians constituted an important religious minority in the country, with the seat of the Catholicos-Patriarch at Seleucia Ktesiphon on the R. Tigris, and about ten metropolitan sees. In the 4th–5th cent. there was intermittent persecution (usually in times of war with the Roman Empire); later there were individual martyrdoms of several high-born converts from Zoroastrianism. One such convert was the energetic Catholicos Mar Aba I (540–52), admired (under the name of Patrikios) by Cosmos Indicopleustes. A monastic revival in the mid 6th cent., initiated by Abraham of Kashkar (d. c.580) on Mt. Izla (near Nisibis), led to a large number of new monastic foundations in the course of the next few centuries; many of these are described by Thomas of Marga in his Book of Governors (or Superiors). Monastic writers include Sahdona, Isaac of Nineveh, John Saba, and Joseph the Seer (8th cent.). By the early 7th cent. missionaries from the Church of the East had reached India (see Malabar Christians) and E. Asia (see sigan-fu stone).

After the Arab conquests (completed in 651), the Christians met with moderately good treatment under the Caliphate, constituting an ahl al dhimma (‘people of protection’), whose religious freedom was theoretically guaranteed in return for payment of a poll tax. Under the Abbasids (749–1258) the Patriarchate moved to Baghdad, where Syriac scholars such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq (d. 873), played an important role in the transmission of Greek philosophical and scientific literature to the Arab world.

Initially favoured by the Mongols, the Church of the East suffered drastic losses in the 14th cent. after the conversion of the Mongol dynasty to Islam in 1295. The diary of a monk from Peking, Rabban Sauma, who was sent by the Mongols as an envoy to Europe, survives. In the mid 16th cent. the Church of the East (by now centred on the mountains of Kurdistan) was divided by the creation of a separate Uniat Patriarchal line (see chaldean christians). In the 19th cent. several W. missions were sent to the Church of the East. An American Presbyterians mission set up a Syriac printing press at Urmi, which functioned from 1841 to 1918; in 1885 the Abp. of Canterbury, E. W. Benson, sent an educational mission (closed in 1915) which also published many Syriac biblical and liturgical texts.

The Church of the East suffered greatly as a result of political developments in the 20th century. Partly because of the influence of the ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission’ it supported the Anglo-Russian side during the First World War; there were reprisals from both Turks and Kurds. When the war was over, after the murder of the Catholicos, most of his flock fled to the protection of the British Mandate in Iraq. At the end of the Mandate (1933), as a result of disturbances, the Catholicos was deported, eventually to settle in the USA. Members of the Church of the East are now scattered in many parts of the world, esp. in the USA; only about 30,000 remain in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran). Since 1968 there has been a schism, with one Catholicos resident in Baghdad, the other in the USA.

The liturgical language of the Church of the East is Syriac, and three anaphoras are used, attributed to Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorius, and Addai and Mari. The last of these retains a number of primitive elements.

W. Baum and D. W. Winkler, Die apostolische Kirche des Ostens (Klagenfurt, 2000; Eng. tr., The Church of the East, 2003). D. W. Winkler, Ostsyrische Christentum (Studien zur Orientalischen Kirchengeschichte 26; 2003). J. Gillman and H.-J. Klimkeit, Christians in Asia before 1500 (Richmond, Surrey, 1999) J. Labourt, Le Christianisme dons l’empire perse sous la dynastie sassanide, 224–632 (1904). F. Nau, ‘L’Expansion nestorienne en Asie’, Annales du Musée Gauimet: Bibliothèque de Vulgarisation, 40 [1913], pp. 193–383. J. M. Fiey, OP, Assyrie Chrétienne (Recherches publiées sous la direction de l’Institut des Lettres Orientales de Beyrouth, 22; 3 vols., 1965–8). Id., Jalons pour une Histoire de l’Église en Iraq (CSCO, Subsidia, 36; 1970); id., Chrétiens Syriaques sous les Abbassides surtout à Bagdad (749–1258) (ibid. 59; 1980); id., Chrétiens Syriaques sous les Mongols (Il-Khanat de Perse, XIIIe–XIVe s.) (ibid. 44; 1975) Id., Pour un Oriens Christianus novus: Répertoire des diocèses syriaques orientaux et occidentaux (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 49; 1993). J. F. Coakley and K. Parry (eds.), ‘The Church of the East: Life and Thought’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 78, no. 3 (1996). W. G. Young, Patriarch, Shah and Caliph: A Study of the Relationships of the Church of the East with the Sassanid Empire and the early Caliphates up to 820 AD (Rawalpindi, 1974). D. Wilmshurst, The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318–1913 (CSCO 582, Subsidia, 104; 2000). G. P. Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals (2 vols., 1852; descriptive account of contemporary practice as seen by a missionary, with Eng. tr. of liturgical texts). A. J. Maclean and W. H. Browne, The Catholicos of the East and his People: Being the Impressions of Five Years’ Work in the ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assyrian Mission’ (1892). J. F. Coakley, The Church of the East and the Church of England: A History of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assyrian Mission (Oxford, 1992). H. L. Murre-van den Berg, ‘The American Board and the Eastern Churches: the “Nestorian Mission” (1844–1846)’, OCO 65 (1999) pp. 117–38. Mar Aphrem [Mooken], The Assyrian Church of the East in the Twentieth Century (Kerala, 2003). A. Vööbus, History of the School of Nisibis (CSCO, Subsidia, 26; 1965). G. Chediath, The Christology of Mar Babai the Great (Kottayam, 1982). S. [P.] Brock, ‘The Christology of the Church of the East in the Synods of the Fifth to Early Seventh Centuries: Preliminary Considerations and Materials’, in G. D. Dragas (ed.), Aksum-Thyateira: A Festschrift for Archbishop Methodios of Thyateira and Great Britain (1985), pp. 125–42, repr. in id., Studies in Syriac Christianity [1992], no. 12. J. B. Chabot (ed. and tr.), Synodicon orientale ou recueil des synodes nestoriens (Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale, 38; 1902). W. de Vries, SJ, Sakramententheologie bei den Nestorianern (Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 133; 1947). E. A. W. Budge, The Monks of Kûblâi Khân, Emperor of China, or The History of the Life and Travels of Rabban Sàwmâ, tr. from the Syriac (1928). A. S. Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity (1968), pp. 237–302. E. Tisserant and É. Amann in DTC 11 (pt. 1; 1931), cols. 157–323, s.v. ‘Nestorius. 2. L’Église nestorienne’; J. Dauvillier in DDC 3 (1942), cols. 292–388, s.v. ‘Chaldéen (droit)’. , S. 353


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