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Nestorianism is a Christian theological doctrine that upholds several distinctive teachings in the fields of Christology and Mariology. It opposes the concept of hypostatic union and emphasizes that the two natures (human and divine) of Jesus Christ were joined by will rather than personhood. This Christological position is defined as radical dyophysitism.Nestorianism was named after Christian theologian Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, who was influenced by Christological teachings of Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch.
Nestorius' teachings brought him into conflict with other prominent church leaders, most notably Cyril of Alexandria, who criticized especially his rejection of the title Theotokos ("Mother of God") for Mary, the mother of Jesus, and issued 12 anathemas against him at a council in Rome in 430. Nestorius and his teachings were eventually condemned as heretical at the Council of Ephesus in 431, and again at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which led to the Nestorian Schism; churches supporting Nestorian teachings broke with the rest of the Christian Church.
Following that, many of Nestorius's supporters relocated to the Sasanian Empire, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. However, some such as Sebastian Brock consider referring to the Assyrian Church of the East as the "Nestorian Church" to be "inappropriate and misleading."
Nestorianism is a radical form of dyophysitism, : οὐσία ) but of one prosopon . Both Nestorianism and monophysitism were condemned as heretical at the Council of Chalcedon.differing from the orthodox dyophysitism on several points, mainly by opposition to the concept of hypostatic union. It can be seen as the antithesis to monophysitism, which emerged in reaction to Nestorianism. Where Nestorianism holds that Christ had two loosely united natures, divine and human, monophysitism holds that he had but a single nature, his human nature being absorbed into his divinity. A brief definition of Nestorian Christology can be given as: "Jesus Christ, who is not identical with the Son but personally united with the Son, who lives in him, is one hypostasis and one nature: human." This contrasts with Nestorius' own teaching that the Word, which is eternal, and the Flesh, which is not, came together in a hypostatic union, 'Jesus Christ', Jesus thus being both fully man and God, of two ousia (Ancient Greek
Nestoranism was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus. The Armenian Church rejected the Council of Chalcedon (451) because they believed Chalcedonian Definition was too similar to Nestorianism. The Persian Nestorian Church, on the other hand, supported the spread of Nestorianism in Persarmenia. The Armenian Church and other eastern churches saw the rise of Nestorianism as a threat to the independence of their Church. Peter the Iberian, a Georgian prince, also strongly opposed the Chalcedonian Creed.Thus, in 491, Catholicos Babken I of Armenia, along with the Albanian and Iberian bishops met in Vagharshapat and issued a condemnation of the Chalcedonian Definition.
Nestorians held that the Council of Chalcedon proved the orthodoxy of their faith and had started persecuting non-Chalcedonian or monophysite Syrian Christians during the reign of Peroz I. In response to pleas for assistance from the Syrian Church, Armenian prelates issued a letter addressed to Persian Christians reaffirming their condemnation of the Nestorianism as heresy.
Following the exodus to Persia, scholars expanded on the teachings of Nestorius and his mentors, particularly after the relocation of the School of Edessa to the (then) Persian city of Nisibis (modern-day Nusaybin in Turkey) in 489, where it became known as the School of Nisibis.[ citation needed ] Nestorian monasteries propagating the teachings of the Nisbis school flourished in 6th century Persarmenia.
Despite this initial Eastern expansion, the Nestorians' missionary success was eventually deterred. David J. Bosch observes, "By the end of the fourteenth century, however, the Nestorian and other churches—which at one time had dotted the landscape of all of Central and even parts of East Asia—were all but wiped out. Isolated pockets of Christianity survived only in India. The religious victors on the vast Central Asian mission field of the Nestorians were Islam and Buddhism".
Nestorius developed his Christological views as an attempt to understand and explain rationally the incarnation of the divine Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as the man Jesus. He had studied at the School of Antioch where his mentor had been Theodore of Mopsuestia; Theodore and other Antioch theologians had long taught a literalist interpretation of the Bible and stressed the distinctiveness of the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius took his Antiochene leanings with him when he was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople by Byzantine emperor Theodosius II in 428.
Nestorius's teachings became the root of controversy when he publicly challenged the long-used title Theotokos("God-Bearer") for Mary. He suggested that the title denied Christ's full humanity, arguing instead that Jesus had two persons (dyoprosopism), the divine Logos and the human Jesus. As a result of this prosopic duality, he proposed Christotokos (Bringer forth of Christ) as a more suitable title for Mary.
Nestorius' opponents found his teaching too close to the heresy of adoptionism – the idea that Christ had been born a man who had later been "adopted" as God's son. Nestorius was especially criticized by Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, who argued that Nestorius's teachings undermined the unity of Christ's divine and human natures at the Incarnation. Some of Nestorius's opponents argued that he put too much emphasis on the human nature of Christ, and others debated that the difference that Nestorius implied between the human nature and the divine nature created a fracture in the singularity of Christ, thus creating two Christ figures. [ citation needed ][ dubious ] the divine Logos and the human Christ. However, this formulation was never adopted by all churches termed "Nestorian". Indeed, the modern Assyrian Church of the East, which reveres Nestorius, does not fully subscribe to Nestorian doctrine, though it does not employ the title Theotokos.Nestorius himself always insisted that his views were orthodox, though they were deemed heretical at the Council of Ephesus in 431, leading to the Nestorian Schism, when churches supportive of Nestorius and the rest of the Christian Church separated. A more elaborate Nestorian theology developed from there, which came to see Christ as having two natures united, or hypostases,
Nestorianism became a distinct sect following the Nestorian Schism, beginning in the 430s. Nestorius had come under fire from Western theologians, most notably Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril had both theological and political reasons for attacking Nestorius; on top of feeling that Nestorianism was an error against true belief, he also wanted to denigrate the head of a competing patriarchate.[ citation needed ] Cyril and Nestorius asked Pope Celestine I to weigh in on the matter. Celestine found that the title Theotokos was orthodox, and authorized Cyril to ask Nestorius to recant. Cyril, however, used the opportunity to further attack Nestorius, who pleaded with Emperor Theodosius II to call a council so that all grievances could be aired.
In 431 Theodosius called the Council of Ephesus. However, the council ultimately sided with Cyril, who held that the Christ contained two natures in one divine person (hypostasis, unity of subsistence), and that the Virgin Mary, conceiving and bearing this divine person, is truly called the Mother of God (Theotokos, meaning, God-bearer). The council accused Nestorius of heresy, and deposed him as patriarch.Upon returning to his monastery in 436, he was banished to Upper Egypt. Nestorianism was officially anathematized, a ruling reiterated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. However, a number of churches, particularly those associated with the School of Edessa, supported Nestorius – though not necessarily his doctrine – and broke with the churches of the West. Many of Nestorius' supporters relocated to the Sasanian Empire of Iran, home to a vibrant but persecuted Christian minority. In Upper Egypt, Nestorius wrote his Book of Heraclides, responding to the two councils at Ephesus (431, 449).
Persia had long been home to Christian communities that had been persecuted by the Zoroastrian majority, which had accused local Christians of pro-Roman leanings. In 424, the Church in Persia declared itself independent of the Byzantine Church and all other churches, in order to ward off allegations of foreign allegiance. Following the Nestorian Schism, the Persian Church increasingly aligned itself with the Nestorians[ who? ], a measure encouraged by the Zoroastrian ruling class. The Persian Church became increasingly Nestorian[ citation needed ] in doctrine over the next decades, furthering the divide between Chalcedonian Christianity and the Nestorians[ who? ]. In 486 the Metropolitan of Nisibis, Barsauma, publicly accepted Nestorius' mentor, Theodore of Mopsuestia, as a spiritual authority. In 489 when the School of Edessa in Mesopotamia was closed by Byzantine Emperor Zeno for its Nestorian teachings, the school relocated to its original home of Nisibis, becoming again the School of Nisibis, leading to a wave of Nestorian[ who? ] immigration into Persia. The Persian patriarch Babai (497–502) reiterated and expanded upon the church's esteem for Theodore, solidifying the church's adoption of Nestorianism. [ better source needed ]
Now firmly established in Iran, with centers in Nisibis, Ctesiphon, and Gundeshapur, and several metropoleis, the Nestorian Persian Church began to branch out beyond the Sasanian Empire. However, through the sixth century, the church was frequently beset with internal strife and persecution by Zoroastrians. The infighting led to a schism, which lasted from 521 until around 539 when the issues were resolved. However, immediately afterward Roman-Persian conflict led to the persecution of the church by the Sassanid emperor Khosrow I; this ended in 545. The church survived these trials under the guidance of Patriarch Aba I, who had converted to Christianity from Zoroastrianism.
The church emerged stronger after this period of ordeal, and increased missionary efforts farther afield. Missionaries established dioceses in the Arabian Peninsula and India (the Saint Thomas Christians). They made some advances in Egypt, despite the strong miaphysite presence there. [ disputed ] went into decline.Missionaries entered Central Asia and had significant success converting local Turkic tribes. Nestorian missionaries were firmly established in China during the early part of the Tang dynasty (618–907); the Chinese source known as the Nestorian Stele records a mission under a Persian proselyte named Alopen as introducing Nestorian Christianity to China in 635. Following the Arab conquest of Persia, completed in 644, the Persian Church became a dhimmi community under the Rashidun Caliphate. The church and its communities abroad grew larger under the Caliphate. By the 10th century it had 15 metropolitan sees within the Caliphate's territories, and another five elsewhere, including in China and India. After that time, however, Nestorianism
Sebastian Brock, Fellow of the British Academy published an article in a 1996 journal and stated that the term 'Nestorian' when applied to the Assyrian Church of the East is both inappropriate and misleading.
Sebastian Brock, in a 1996 article published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, wrote that "..the term 'Nestorian Church' has become the standard designation for the ancient oriental church which in the past called itself 'The Church of the East', but which today prefers the fuller title 'The Assyrian Church of the East'. Such a designation ['Nestorian Church'] is not only discourteous to modern members of this venerable church, but also--as this paper aims to show--both inappropriate and misleading."
In a 2017 paper, Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, stated the position of the Assyrian Church: "After the Council of Ephesus (431), when the Nestorius the patriarch of Constantinople was condemned for his views on the unity of the Godhead and the humanity in Christ, the Church of the East was branded as 'Nestorian' on account of its refusal to anathematize the patriarch."
The Chalcedonian Definition is a diophysite declaration of the two natures of Christ, adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. Chalcedon was an early centre of Christianity located in Asia Minor. The council was the fourth of the Ecumenical Councils that are accepted by Chalcedonian churches which include the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and most Protestant churches. It was the first council not to be recognised by any Oriental Orthodox church; these churches may be classified as non-Chalcedonian.
The Council of Ephesus was a council of Christian bishops convened in Ephesus in AD 431 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II. This third ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, confirmed the original Nicene Creed, and condemned the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who held that the Virgin Mary may be called the Christotokos, "Birth Giver of Christ" but not the Theotokos, "Birth Giver of God". It met in June and July 431 at the Church of Mary in Ephesus in Anatolia.
Chalcedonian Christianity refers to the Christian denominations adhering to the christological definitions and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451. Chalcedonian Christians follow the Definition of Chalcedon, a religious doctrine concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christian communions and confessions in the 21st century are Chalcedonian, but from the 5th to the 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology was not always certain.
Nestorius was Archbishop of Constantinople from 10 April 428 to August 431, when Emperor Theodosius II confirmed his condemnation by the Council of Ephesus on 22 June.
Eutyches was a presbyter and archimandrite at Constantinople. He first came to notice in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus, for his vehement opposition to the teachings of Nestorius; his condemnation of Nestorianism as heresy led him to an equally extreme, although opposite view, which precipitated his being denounced as a heretic himself.
Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria, 25th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He was deposed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 but was recognized as Patriarch by the Coptic Church until his death. He died on the Island of Gangra, Paphlagonia, in September 454. He is venerated as a saint by the Coptic and other Oriental Orthodox churches.
The Nestorian Schism (431–544), in church history, involved a split between the Christian churches of Sassanid Persia, which affiliated with Nestorius, and churches that rejected him. The schism rose out of a Christological dispute, notably involving Cyril and Nestorius. The First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 condemned Nestorius and his doctrine, which emphasized the radical distinctness between Christ's human and divine natures.
The School of Nisibis, for a time absorbed into the School of Edessa, was an educational establishment in Nisibis. It was an important spiritual centre of the early Church of the East, and like the Academy of Gondishapur, it is sometimes referred to as the world's first university. The school had three primary departments teaching: theology, philosophy and medicine. Its most famous teacher was Narsai, formerly head of the School of Edessa.
Nicene Christianity is a set of Christian doctrinal traditions which reflect the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and amended at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381.
Hypostatic union is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ's humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence.
Non-Chalcedonianism is a religious doctrine of those Christian churches that do not accept the Confession of Chalcedon as defined at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. The doctrine contrasts with Chalcedonian Christianity, which accepts the doctrines of the first seven Ecumenical Councils. Some Christian denominations do not accept the Confession of Chalcedon, for varying reasons, but accept the doctrines of the previous council at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Eutychianism refers to a set of Christian theological doctrines derived from the ideas of Eutyches of Constantinople. Eutychianism is a monophysite understanding of how the human and divine relate within the person of Jesus Christ.
The Second Council of Ephesus was a Christological church synod in 449 AD convened by Emperor Theodosius II under the presidency of Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria. It was intended to be an ecumenical council, and it is accepted as such by the miaphysite churches but was rejected by the Chalcedonian dyophysites. It was explicitly repudiated by the next council, the Council of Chalcedon of 451, recognised as the fourth ecumenical council by Chalcedonian Christians, and it was named the Latrocinium or "Robber Council" by Pope Leo I. The Chalcedonian churches, particularly the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions, continue to accept this designation, while the Oriental Orthodox repudiate it.
In Christian theology, dyophysitism is the Christological position that two natures, divine and human, exist in the person of Jesus Christ. It contrasts with monophysitism and miaphysitism.
Coptic history is part of history of Egypt that begins with the introduction of Christianity in Egypt in the 1st century AD during the Roman period, and covers the history of the Copts to the present day. Many of the historic items related to Coptic Christianity are on display in many museums around the world and a large number is in the Coptic Museum in Coptic Cairo.
In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.
Oriental Orthodoxy is the communion of Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the Council of Ephesus. They reject the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon. Hence, these Churches are also called Old Oriental Churches or Non-Chalcedonian Churches.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Christian churches adhering to miaphysite Christology and theology, and together have 60 to 70 million members worldwide.
In the 5th century in Christianity, there were many developments which led to further fracturing of the State church of the Roman Empire. Emperor Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, that addressed the teachings of Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius and similar teachings. Nestorius had taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. The Council rejected Nestorius' view causing many churches, centered on the School of Edessa, to a Nestorian break with the imperial church. Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church thereby making it a center of Nestorianism. By the end of the 5th century, the global Christian population was estimated at 10-11 million. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon was held to clarify the issue further. The council ultimately stated that Christ's divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites. The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches, that is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy. In spite of these schisms, however, the imperial church still came to represent the majority of Christians within the Roman Empire.
The Church of the East, also called the Persian Church or Nestorian Church, was a Christian church of the East Syriac rite established c. 410. It was one of three major branches of Eastern Christianity that arose from the Christological controversies of the 5th and 6th centuries, alongside the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Since the Schism of 1552, there have been several different churches claiming the heritage of the Church of the East.
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