Skip to comments.Nestorius on Mary as the Mother of God
Posted on 01/09/2012 10:38:02 PM PST by rzman21
Nestorius of Constantinople, Second epistle to Cyril of Alexandria WRITTEN BY NESTORIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Nestorius sends greeting in the Lord to the most religious and reverend fellow-minister Cyril. I pass over the insults against us contained in your extraordinary letter. They will, I think, be cured by my patience and by the answer which events will offer in the course of time. On one matter, however, I cannot be silent, as silence would in that case be very dangerous. On that point, therefore avoiding longwindedness as far as I can, I shall attempt a brief discussion and try to be as free as possible from repelling obscurity and undigestible prolixity. I shall begin from the wise utterances of your reverence, setting them down word for word. What then are the words in which your remarkable teaching finds expression ?
The holy and great synod states that the only begotten Son, begotten of God the Father according to nature, true God from true God, the light from the light, the one through whom the Father made all things, came down, became incarnate, became man, suffered, rose.
These are the words of your reverence and you may recognise them. Now listen to what we say, which takes the form of a brotherly exhortation to piety of the type of which the great apostle Paul gave an example in addressing his beloved Timothy: Attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. For by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. Tell me, what does attend mean? By reading in a superficial way the tradition of those holy men (you were guilty of a pardonable ignorance), you concluded that they said that the Word who is coeternal with the Father was passible. Please look more closely at their language and you will find out that that divine choir of fathers never said that the consubstantial godhead was capable of suffering, or that the whole being that was coeternal with the Father was recently born, or that it rose again, seeing that it had itself been the cause of resurrection of the destroyed temple. If you apply my words as fraternal medicine, I shall set the words of the holy fathers before you and shall free them from the slander against them and through them against the holy scriptures.
I believe, they say, also in our Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son. See how they first lay as foundations Lord and Jesus and Christ and only begotten and Son, the names which belong jointly to the divinity and humanity. Then they build on that foundation the tradition of the incarnation and resurrection and passion. In this way, by prefixing the names which are common to each nature, they intend to avoid separating expressions applicable to sonship and lordship and at the same time escape the danger of destroying the distinctive character of the natures by absorbing them into the one title of Son. In this Paul was their teacher who, when he remembers the divine becoming man and then wishes to introduce the suffering, first mentions Christ, which, as I have just said, is the common name of both natures and then adds an expression which is appropriate to both of the natures. For what does he say ? Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, and so on until, he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. For when he was about to mention the death, to prevent anyone supposing that God the Word suffered, he says Christ, which is a title that expresses in one person both the impassible and the passible natures, in order that Christ might be called without impropriety both impassible and passible impassible in godhead, passible in the nature of his body.
I could say much on this subject and first of all that those holy fathers, when they discuss the economy, speak not of the generation but of the Son becoming man. But I recall the promise of brevity that I made at the beginning and that both restrains my discourse and moves me on to the second subject of your reverence. In that I applaud your division of natures into manhood and godhead and their conjunction in one person. I also applaud your statement that God the Word needed no second generation from a woman, and your confession that the godhead is incapable of suffering. Such statements are truly orthodox and equally opposed to the evil opinions of all heretics about the Lords natures. If the remainder was an attempt to introduce some hidden and incomprehensible wisdom to the ears of the readers, it is for your sharpness to decide. In my view these subsequent views seemed to subvert what came first. They suggested that he who had at the beginning been proclaimed as impassible and incapable of a second generation had somehow become capable of suffering and freshly created, as though what belonged to God the Word by nature had been destroyed by his conjunction with his temple or as though people considered it not enough that the sinless temple, which is inseparable from the divine nature, should have endured birth and death for sinners, or finally as though the Lords voice was not deserving of credence when it cried out to the Jews: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. He did not say, Destroy my godhead and in three days it will be raised up.
Again I should like to expand on this but am restrained by the memory of my promise. I must speak therefore but with brevity. Holy scripture, wherever it recalls the Lords economy, speaks of the birth and suffering not of the godhead but of the humanity of Christ, so that the holy virgin is more accurately termed mother of Christ than mother of God. Hear these words that the gospels proclaim: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. It is clear that God the Word was not the son of David. Listen to another witness if you will: Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ. Consider a further piece of evidence: Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, she was found to be with child of the holy Spirit. But who would ever consider that the godhead of the only begotten was a creature of the Spirit? Why do we need to mention: the mother of Jesus was there? And again what of: with Mary the mother of Jesus; or that which is conceived in her is of the holy Spirit; and Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt; and concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh? Again, scripture says when speaking of his passion: God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; and again Christ died for our sins and Christ having suffered in the flesh; and This is, not my godhead, but my body, broken for you.
Ten thousand other expressions witness to the human race that they should not think that it was the godhead of the Son that was recently killed but the flesh which was joined to the nature of the godhead. (Hence also Christ calls himself the lord and son of David: What do you think of the Christ ? Whose son is he ? They said to him, The son of David. Jesus answered and said to them, How is it then that David inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand?. He said this as being indeed son of David according to the flesh, but his Lord according to his godhead.) The body therefore is the temple of the deity of the Son, a temple which is united to it in a high and divine conjunction, so that the divine nature accepts what belongs to the body as its own. Such a confession is noble and worthy of the gospel traditions. But to use the expression accept as its own as a way of diminishing the properties of the conjoined flesh, birth, suffering and entombment, is a mark of those whose minds are led astray, my brother, by Greek thinking or are sick with the lunacy of Apollinarius and Arius or the other heresies or rather something more serious than these.
For it is necessary for such as are attracted by the name propriety to make God the Word share, because of this same propriety, in being fed on milk, in gradual growth, in terror at the time of his passion and in need of angelical assistance. I make no mention of circumcision and sacrifice and sweat and hunger, which all belong to the flesh and are adorable as having taken place for our sake. But it would be false to apply such ideas to the deity and would involve us in just accusation because of our calumny.
These are the traditions of the holy fathers. These are the precepts of the holy scriptures. In this way does someone write in a godly way about the divine mercy and power, Practise these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. This is what Paul says to all. The care you take in labouring for those who have been scandalised is well taken and we are grateful to you both for the thought you devote to things divine and for the concern you have even for those who live here. But you should realise that you have been misled either by some here who have been deposed by the holy synod for Manichaeism or by clergy of your own persuasion. In fact the church daily progresses here and through the grace of Christ there is such an increase among the people that those who behold it cry out with the words of the prophet, The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the water covers the sea. As for our sovereigns, they are in great joy as the light of doctrine is spread abroad and, to be brief, because of the state of all the heresies that fight against God and of the orthodoxy of the church, one might find that verse fulfilled The house of Saul grew weaker and weaker and the house of David grew stronger and stronger.
This is our advice from a brother to a brother. If anyone is disposed to be contentious, Paul will cry out through us to such a one, we recognize no other practice, neither do the churches of God. I and those with me greet all the brotherhood with you in Christ. May you remain strong and continue praying for us, most honoured and reverent lord.
Mary was the mother of Jesus. You either believe Jesus was both God and man or you don’t. I believe.
The whole premise for changing the name seems faulty. The answer would better of have been to insure that correct teaching of the nature of who the Christ is would be instead of changing a title from one that is accurate and precise to one that is less so.
If the concern is heresy, I can’t see that changing the term to one less accurate would help that situation as opposed to the potential that it has to lead into MORE heresy.
the reason the title “Mother of God” is rejected today:
1. the historical orthodox Catholic Faith is not understood
2. the devil hates The Church
3. people reject the divinity of Jesus
4. people hate the fact that Christians have always loved and honored Mary.
5. people fail to realize the title says more about Jesus than Mary
pick one or all, but for me and my household, we will stick with the 2,000 year old Christian Faith as taught by the Church.
You are right, Mother of God should not have been changed to Mother of Christ.
I may have not explained it well. Mother of God was the accepted title tell Nestorious began teaching his heresy, it was he who insisted on the title Mother of Christ.
Mother of God and Theotokos is very precise and is in complete agreement with orthodox Christology.
How do those who follow Sola Scriptura and who don’t have a Confession or Article of Faith decide what is or is not heresy?
The following is the Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, formerly referred to colloquially as the “Nestorian Church.”
COMMON CHRISTOLOGICAL DECLARATION
BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST
His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, give thanks to God who has prompted them to this new brotherly meeting.
Both of them consider this meeting as a basic step on the way towards the full communion to be restored between their Churches. They can indeed, from now on, proclaim together before the world their common faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.
As heirs and guardians of the faith received from the Apostles as formulated by our common Fathers in the Nicene Creed, we confess one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity who, in the fullness of time, came down from heaven and became man for our salvation. The Word of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity, became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit in assuming from the holy Virgin Mary a body animated by a rational soul, with which he was indissolubly united from the moment of his conception.
Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting “one and another”, the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.
Christ therefore is not an “ ordinary man” whom God adopted in order to reside in him and inspire him, as in the righteous ones and the prophets. But the same God the Word, begotten of his Father before all worlds without beginning according to his divinity, was born of a mother without a father in the last times according to his humanity. The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour”. In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of God” and also as “the Mother of Christ”. We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.
This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord’s Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.
Whatever our Christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we might become children of God by his grace. We wish from now on to witness together to this faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, proclaiming it in appropriate ways to our contemporaries, so that the world may believe in the Gospel of salvation.
Thanks, It was my understanding that the Oriental Orthodox rejected the Council of Chalcedon. Is this document clarifying that the disagreement was a matter of language used and not of the theology behind that language?
Do the Oriental Orthodox now teach that Christ has one nature? That they do not in fact believe in monophysitism?
The Oriental Orthodox say Jesus has One Nature, but what they mean by it amounts to what all Chalcedonian Christians believe.
There have been numerous Christological declarations between Rome, the Eastern Orthodox, and the various Oriental Orthodox jurisdictions to that effect.
Some more militant OOs accuse Chalcedonians of being “Nestorians”, though.
It is my understanding that they believe the humanity and divinity of Jesus are perfectly joined in one nature, The Logos or Incarnate Word. Not that they reject either His humanity or His Divinity.
Your assumption about the Oriental Orthodox would be correct. I’ve spent a lot of time among them, especially with the Copts.
By the Catholic church or the scriptures???
You either believe that God preexisted all humanity, created all people, and was preceded by no other being, or you don't. I believe.
Pardon my simplicity here, but if Mary was the Mother of God, wouldn’t that mean that Mary had actually generated a member of the Trinity? And that He was a created being?
it means what Christians have always believed, Jesus Christ is God.
I should add ‘And you either believe that the God of miracles can escape a paradox which would trap a human, or you don’t. I believe.’
Fine. You serve your church. I'll serve the living God.
Joshua 24:14-15 Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
*Mother of God* says that God had a mother,
*Mother of Christ* says that Christ had a mother.
Sheesh, arguing over a title given to a human being that has no warrant. Mary should be, *Oh yeah. That Jewish girl who had the privilege of carrying the Messiah.* Nobody needs any more titles than that considering that we’re not to be respecters of persons.
It more than implies that Mary generated His divinity.