I. Apollinaris: Περὶ σαρκώσεως — Περὶ πίστεως — Περὶ ἀναστάσεως — Κατὰ κεφαλειον, — and controversial works against Porphyry, and Eunomius, biblical commentaries, and epistles. Only fragments of these remain in the answers of Gregory of Nyassa and Theodoret, and in Angelo Mai: Nov. Biblioth. Patrum, tom. vii. (Rom. 1854), Pars secunda, pp. 82-91 (commentary on Ezekiel), in Leontinus Byzantinus, and in the Catenae, especially the Catena in Evang. Joh., ed. Corderius, 1630.
II. Against Apollinaris: Athanasius: Contra Apollinarium, libri ii. (Περὶ σαρκώσεωστοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰ. Χ. κατὰ Ἀπολλιναρίου, in Opera, tom. i. pars secunda, pp. 921-955, ed. Bened., and in Thilo’s Bibl. Patr. Gr. dogm., vol. i. pp. 862-937). This work was written about the year 372 against Apollinarianism in the wider sense, without naming, Apollinaris or his followers; so that the title above given is wanting in the oldest codices. Similar errors, though in like manner without direct reference to Apollinaris, and evading his most important tenet, were combated by Athanasius in the Epist. ad Epictetum episcopum Corinthi contra haereticos (Opp. i. ii. 900 sqq., and in Thilo, i. p. 820 sqq.), which is quoted even by Epiphanius. Gregory of Nyssa: Λόγος ἀντιῤῥητικός πρὸς τὰ Ἀπολλιναρίου, first edited by L. A. Zacagni from the treasures of the Vatican library in the unfortunately incomplete Collectanea monumentorum veterum ecclesiae Graecae et Latinae, Romae, 1698, pp. 123-287, and then by Gallandi, Bibliotheca Vet. Patrum, tom. vi. pp. 517-577. Gregory Naz.: Epist. ad Nectarium, and Ep. i. and ii. ad Cledonium (or Orat. 46 and 51-52; comp. Ullmann’s Gregor v. Naz. p. 401 sqq.). Basilius M.: Epist. 265 (a.d. 377), in the new Bened. ed. of his Opera, Par. 1839, tom. iii. Pars ii. p. 591 sqq. Epiphanius: Haer. 77. Theodoret: Fabul. haer. iv. 8; v. 9; and Diolog. i.-Iii.
Dion. Petavius: De incarnatione Verbi, lib. i. cap. 6 (in the fourth vol. of the Theologicorum dogmatum, pp. 24-34, ed. Par. 1650). Jac. Basnage: Dissert. de Hist. haer. Apollinar. Ultraj. 1687. C. W. F. Walch: l.c. iii. 119-229. Baur: l.c. vol. i. pp. 585-647. Dorner: l.c. i. pp. 974-1080. H. Voigt: Die Lehre des Athanasius, etc. Bremen, 1861. Pp. 306-345.
The Apollinarian Heresy
Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea in Syria, was the first to apply the results of the trinitarian discussions of the Nicene age to Christology, and to introduce the long Christological controversies. He was the first to call the attention of the Church to the psychical and pneumatic side of the humanity of Christ, and by contradiction brought out the doctrine of a reasonable human soul in him more clearly and definitely than it had before been conceived.
Apollinaris, like his father (Apollinaris the Elder, who was a native of Alexandria, and a presbyter in Laodicea), was distinguished for piety, classical culture, a scholarly vindication of Christianity against Porphyry and the emperor Julian, and adhesion to the Nicene faith. He was highly esteemed, too, by Athanasius, who, perhaps through personal forbearance, never mentions him by name in his writings against his error.
But in his zeal for the true deity of Christ, and his fear of a double personality, he fell into the error of denying his integral humanity. Adopting the psychological trichotomy, he attributed to Christ a human body, and a human (animal) soul, but not a human spirit or reason; putting the divine Logos in the place of the human spirit. In opposition to the idea of a mere connection of the Logos with the man Jesus, he wished to secure an organic unity of the two, and so a true incarnation; but he sought this at the expense of the most important constituent of man. He reaches only a θεὸς σαρκοφόρος, as Nestorianism only an ἄνθρωπος θεοφόρος, instead of the proper θεάνθρωπος. He appealed to the fact that the Scripture says, the word was made flesh — not spirit; God was manifest in the flesh, etc.; to which Gregory Nazianzen justly replied that in these passages the term σάρξ was used by synecdoche for the whole human nature. In this way Apollinaris established so close a connection of the Logos with human flesh, that all the divine attributes were transferred to the human nature, and all the human attributes to the divine, and the two were merged in one nature in Christ. Hence he could speak of a crucifixion of the Logos, and a worship of his flesh. He made Christ a middle being between God and man, in whom, as it were, one part divine and two parts human were fused in the unity of a new nature.
Epiphanius expresses himself concerning the beginning of the controversy in these unusually lenient and respectful terms: “Some of our brethren, who are in high position, and who are held in great esteem with us and all the orthodox, have thought that the spirit (ὁ νοῦς) should be excluded from the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, and have preferred to hold that our Lord Christ assumed flesh and soul, but not our spirit, and therefore not a perfect man. The aged and venerable Apollinaris of Laodicea, dear even to the blessed father Athanasius, and in fact to all the orthodox has been the first to frame and promulgate this doctrine. At first, when some of his disciples communicated it to us, we were unwilling to believe that such a man would put this doctrine in circulation. We supposed that the disciples had not understood the deep thoughts of so learned and so discerning a man, and had themselves fabricated things which he did not teach,” etc.
So early as 362, a council at Alexandria rejected this doctrine (though without naming the author), and asserted that Christ possessed a reasonable soul. But Apollinaris did not secede from the communion of the Church, and begin to form a sect of his own, till 375. He died in 390. His writings, except numerous fragments in the works of his opponents, are lost.
Apollinaris, therefore, taught the deity of Christ, but denied the completeness (τελειότης) of his humanity, and, taking his departure from the Nicene postulate of the homoousion ran into the Arian heresy, which likewise put the divine Logos in the place of the human spirit in Christ, but which asserted besides this the changeableness (τρεπτότης) of Christ; while Apollinaris, on the contrary, aimed to establish more firmly the unchangeableness of Christ, to beat the Arians with their own weapons, and provide a better vindication of the Nicene dogma. He held the union of full divinity with full humanity in one person, therefore, of two wholes in one whole, to be impossible. He supposed the unity of the person of Christ, and at the same time his sinlessness, could be saved only by the excision of the human spirit; since sin has its seat, not in the will-less soul, nor in the body, but in the intelligent, free, and therefore changeable will or spirit of man. He also charged the Church doctrine of the full humanity of Christ with limiting the atoning suffering of Christ to the human nature, and so detracting from the atoning virtue of the work of Christ; for the death of a man could not destroy death. The divine nature must participate in the suffering throughout. His opponents, for this reason, charged him with making deity suffer and die. He made, however, a distinction between two sides of the Logos, the one allied to man and capable of suffering, and the other allied to God and exalted above all suffering. The relation of the divine pneumatic nature in Christ to the human psychical and bodily nature Apollinaris illustrated by the mingling of wine and water, the glowing fire in the iron, and the union of soul and body in man, which, though distinct, interpenetrate and form one thing.
His doctrine, however, in particulars, is variously represented, and there arose among his disciples a complex mass of opinions, some of them differing strongly from one another. According to one statement Apollinaris asserted that Christ brought even his human nature from heaven, and was from eternity ἔνσαρκος; according to another this was merely an opinion of his disciples, or an unwarranted inference of opponents from his assertion of an eternal determination to incarnation, and from his strong emphasizing of the union of the Logos with the flesh of Christ, which allowed that even the flesh might be worshipped without idolatry.
The Church could not possibly accept such a half Docetistic incarnation, such a mutilated and stunted humanity of Christ, despoiled of its royal head, and such a merely partial redemption as this inevitably involved. The incarnation of the Logos is his becoming completely man. It involves, therefore, his assumption of the entire undivided nature of man, spiritual and bodily, with the sole exception of sin, which in fact belongs not to the original nature of man, but has entered from without, as a foreign poison, through the deceit of the devil. Many things in the life of Jesus imply a reasonable soul: sadness, anguish, and prayer. The spirit is just the most essential and most noble constituent of man, the controlling principle, and it stands in the same need of redemption as the soul and the body. Had the Logos not assumed the human spirit, he would not have been true man at all, and could not have been our example. Nor could he have redeemed the spirit; and a half-redemption is no redemption at all. To be a full Redeemer, Christ must also be fully man, τέλειος ἄνθρωπος. This was the weighty doctrinal result of the Apollinarian controversy.
Athanasius, the two Gregories, Basil, and Epiphanius combated the Apollinarian error, but with a certain embarrassment, attacking it rather from behind and from the flank, than in front, and unprepared to answer duly its main point, that two integral persons cannot form one person. The later orthodox doctrine surmounted this difficulty by teaching the impersonality of the human nature of Christ, and by making the personality of Christ to reside wholly in the Logos.
The councils at Rome under Damasus, in 377 and 378, and likewise the second ecumenical council, in 381, condemned the Apollinarians. Imperial decrees pursued them, in 388, 397, and 428. Some of them returned into the catholic church; others mingled with the Monophysites, for whose doctrine Apollinaris had, in some measure, prepared the way.
With the rejection of this error, however, the question of the proper relation of the divine and human natures in Christ was not yet solved, but rather for the first time fairly raised. Those church teachers proved the necessity of a reasonable human soul in Christ. But respecting the mode of the union of the two natures their views were confused and their expressions in some cases absolutely incorrect and misleading. It was through the succeeding stages of the Christological controversies that the church first reached a clear insight into this great mystery: God manifest in the flesh.
137. The Nestorian Controversy, a.d. 428-431
I. Nestorius: Ὁμιλίαι, Sermones; Anathematismi. Extracts from the Greek original in the Acts of the council of Ephesus; in a Latin translation in Marius Mercator, a North African layman who just then resided in Constantinople, Opera, ed. Garnerius, Par. 1673. Pars ii, and better ed. Baluzius, Par. 1684; also in Gallandi, Bibl. vet. P. P. viii. pp. 615-735, and in Migne’s Patrol. tom. 48. Nestorius’ own account (Evagr. H. E. i. 7) was used by his friend Irenaeus (comes, then bishop of Tyre till 448) in his Tragoedia s. comm. de rebus in synodo Ephesina ac in Oriente toto gestis, which, however, is lost; the documents attached to it were revised in the 6th century in the Synodicon adversus tragoediam Irenaei, in Mansi, tom. v. fol. 731 sqq. In favor of Nestorius, or at least of his doctrine, Theodoret († 457) in his works against Cyril, and in three dialogues entitled Ἐρανιστής (Beggar). Comp. also the fragments of Theodore of Mopsuestia, († 429).
II. Against Nestorius: Cyril of Alex.: Ἀναθεματισμοὶ, Five Books κατὰ Νεστορίου, and several Epistles against Nest., and Theod., in vol. vi. of Aubert’s ed. of his Opera, Par. 1638 (in Migne’s ed. t. ix.). Socrates: vii. c. 29-35 (written after 431, but still before the death of Nestorius; comp. c. 84). Evagrius: H. E. i. 2-7. Liberatus (deacon of Carthage about 553): Breviarium causes Nestorianorum et Eutychianorum (ed. Gartnier, Par. 1675, and printed in Gallandi, Bibl. vet. Patr. tom. xii. pp. 121-161). Leontinus Byzant. (monachus): De sectis; and contra Nestorium et Eutychen (in Gallandi, Bibl. tom. xii. p. 625 sqq., and 658-700). A complete collection of all the acts of the Nestorian controversy in Mansi, tom. iv. fol. 567 sqq., and tom. v. vii. ix.
Petavius: Theolog. dogmatum tom. iv. (de incarnations), lib. i. c. 7 sqq. Jo. Garnier: De haeresi et libris Nestorii (in his edition of the Opera Marii Mercator. Par. 1673, newly edited by Migne, Par. 1846). Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the R. E. ch. 41. P. E. Jablonski: De Nestorianismo. Berol. 1724. Gengler (R.C.): Ueber die Verdammung des Nestorius (Tübinger Quartalschrift, 1835, No. 2). Schröckh: K. Geschichte, vol. xviii. pp. 176-312. Walch: Ketzerhist. v. 289-936. Neander: K. Gesch. vol. iv. pp. 856-992. Gieseler, vol. i. Div. ii. pp. 131 ff. (4th ed.). Baur: Dreieinigkeit, vol. i. 693-777. Dorner: Christologie, vol. ii. pp. 60-98. Hefele (R.C.): Conciliengesch., vol. ii. pp. 134:ff. H. H. Milman: History of Latin Christianity, vol. i. ch. iii. pp. 195-252. (Stanley, in his History of the Eastern Church, has seen fit to ignore the Nestorian, and the other Christological controversies — the most important in the history of the Greek church!) Comp. also W. Möller: Article Nestorius, in Herzog’s Theol. Encykl. vol. x. (1858) pp. 288-296, and the relevant sections in the works on Doctrine History.
The Nestorian Controversy
Apollinarianism, which sacrificed to the unity of the person the integrity of the natures, at least of the human nature, anticipated the Monophysite heresy, though in a peculiar way, and formed the precise counterpart to the Antiochian doctrine, which was developed about the same time, and somewhat later by Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus (died 394), and Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia (393-428), and which held the divine and human in Christ so rigidly apart as to make Christ, though not professedly, yet virtually a double person.
From this school proceeded Nestorius, the head and martyr of the Christological heresy which bears his name. His doctrine differs from that of Theodore of Mopsuestia only in being less speculative and more practical, and still less solicitous for the unity of the person of Christ. He was originally a monk, then presbyter in Antioch, and after 428 patriarch of Constantinople. In Constantinople a second Chrysostom was expected in him, and a restorer of the honor of his great predecessor against the detraction of his Alexandrian rival. He was an honest man, of great eloquence, monastic piety, and the spirit of a zealot for orthodoxy, but impetuous, vain, imprudent, and wanting in sound, practical judgment. In his inaugural sermon he addressed Theodosius II. with these words: “Give me, O emperor, the earth purified of heretics, and I will give thee heaven for it; help me to fight the heretics, and I will help thee to fight the Persians.”
He immediately instituted violent measures against Arians, Novatians, Quartodecimanians, and Macedonians, and incited the emperor to enact more stringent laws against heretics. The Pelagians alone, with whose doctrine of free will (but not of original sin) he sympathized, he treated indulgently, receiving to himself Julian of Eclanum, Coelestius, and other banished leaders of that party, interceding for them in 429 with the emperor and with the pope Celestine, though, on account of the very unfavorable reports concerning Pelagianism which were spread by the layman Marius Mercator, then living in Constantinople, his intercessions were of no avail. By reason of this partial contact of the two, Pelagianism was condemned by the council of Ephesus together with Nestorianism.
But now Nestorius himself fell out with the prevailing faith of the church in Constantinople. The occasion was his opposition to the certainly very bold and equivocal expression mother of God, which had been already sometimes applied to the virgin Mary by Origen, Alexander of Alexandria, Athanasius, Basil, and others, and which, after the Arian controversy, and with the growth of the worship of Mary, passed into the devotional language of the people.
It was of course not the sense, or monstrous nonsense, of this term, that the creature bore the Creator, or that the eternal Deity took its beginning from Mary; which would be the most absurd and the most wicked of all heresies, and a shocking blasphemy; but the expression was intended only to denote the indissoluble union of the divine and human natures in Christ, and the veritable incarnation of the Logos, who took the human nature from the body, of Mary, came forth God-Man from her womb, and as God-Man suffered on the cross. For Christ was borne as a person, and suffered as a person; and the personality in Christ resided in his divinity, not in his humanity. So, in fact, the reasonable soul of man, which is the center of the human personality, participates in the suffering and the death-struggle of the body, though the soul itself does not and cannot die.
The Antiochian theology, however, could not conceive a human nature without a human personality, and this it strictly separated from the divine Logos. Therefore Theodore of Mopsuestia had already disputed the term theotokos with all earnestness. “Mary,” says he, “bore Jesus, not the Logos, for the Logos was, and continues to be, omnipresent, though he dwelt in Jesus in a special manner from the beginning. Therefore Mary is strictly the mother of Christ, not the mother of God. Only in a figure, per anaphoram, can she be called also the mother of God, because God was in a peculiar sense in Christ. Properly speaking, she gave birth to a man in whom the union with the Logos had begun, but was still so incomplete that he could not yet (till after his baptism) be called the Son of God.” He even declared it “insane” to say that God was born of the Virgin; “not God, but the temple in which God dwelt, was born of Mary.”
In a similar strain Nestorius, and his friend Anastasius, a priest whom he had brought with him from Antioch, argued from the pulpit against the theotokon. Nestorius claimed that he found the controversy already existing in Constantinople, because some were calling Mary mother of God (θεοτόκος), others, mother of Man (ἀνθρωποτόκος). He proposed the middle expression, mother of Christ (Χριστοτόκος), because Christ was at the same time God and man. He delivered several discourses on this disputed point. “You ask,” says he in his first sermon, “whether Mary may be called mother of God. Has God then a mother? If so, heathenism itself is excusable in assigning mothers to its gods; but then Paul is a liar, for he said of the deity of Christ that it was without father, without mother, and without descent. No, my dear sir, Mary did not bear God; … the creature bore not the uncreated Creator, but the man who is the instrument of the Godhead; the Holy Ghost conceived not the Logos, but formed for him, out of the virgin, a temple which he might inhabit (Joh_2:21). The incarnate God did not die, but quickened him in whom he was made flesh …. This garment, which he used, I honor on account of the God which was covered therein and inseparable therefrom; … I separate the natures, but I unite the worship. Consider what this must mean. He who was formed in the womb of Mary, was not himself God, but God assumed him [assumsit, i.e., clothed himself with humanity], and on account of Him who assumed, he who was assumed is also called God.”
From this word the Nestorian controversy took its rise; but this word represented, at the same time, a theological idea and a mighty religious sentiment; it was intimately connected with the growing veneration of Mary; it therefore struck into the field of devotion, which lies much nearer the people than that of speculative theology; and thus it touched the most vehement passions. The word theotokos was the watchword of the orthodox party in the Nestorian controversy, as the term homoousios had been in the Arian; and opposition to this word meant denial of the mystery of the incarnation, or of the true union of the divine and human natures in Christ.
And unquestionably the Antiochian Christology, which was represented by Nestorius, did not make the Logos truly become man. It asserted indeed, rightly, the duality of the natures, and the continued distinction between them; it denied, with equal correctness, that God, as such, could either be born, or suffer and die; but it pressed the distinction of the two natures to double personality. It substituted for the idea of the incarnation the idea of an assumption of human nature, or rather of an entire man, into fellowship with the Logos, and an indwelling of Godhead in Christ. Instead of God-Man, we have here the idea of a mere God-bearing man; and the person of Jesus of Nazareth is only the instrument or the temple, in which the divine Logos dwells. The two natures form not a personal unity, but only a moral unity, an intimate friendship or conjunction. They hold an outward, mechanical relation to each other, in which each retains its peculiar attributes, forbidding any sort of communicatio idiomatum. This union is, in the first place, a gracious condescension on the part of God, whereby the Logos makes the man an object of the divine pleasure; and in the second place, an elevation of the man to higher dignity and to sonship with God. By virtue of the condescension there arises, in the third place, a practical fellowship of operation, in which the humanity becomes the instrument and temple of the deity and the ἕνωσις σξετική culminates. Theodore of Mopsuestia, the able founder of the Antiochian Christology, set forth the elevation of the man to sonship with God (starting from Luk_2:52) under the aspect of a gradual moral process, and made it dependent on the progressive virtue and meritoriousness of Jesus, which were completed in the resurrection, and earned for him the unchangeableness of the divine life as a reward for his voluntary victory of virtue.
The Antiochian and Nestorian theory amounts therefore, at bottom, to a duality of person in Christ, though without clearly avowing it. It cannot conceive the reality of the two natures without a personal independence for each. With the theanthropic unity of the person of Christ it denies also the theanthropic unity of his work, especially of his sufferings and death; and in the same measure it enfeebles the reality of redemption.
From this point of view Mary, of course, could be nothing more than mother of the man Jesus, and the predicate theotokos, strictly understood, must appear absurd or blasphemous. Nestorius would admit no more than that God passed through (transiit) the womb of Mary.
This very war upon the favorite shibboleth of orthodoxy provoked the bitterest opposition of the people and of the monks, whose sympathies were with the Alexandrian theology. They contradicted Nestorius in the pulpit, and insulted him on the street; while he, returning evil for evil, procured corporal punishments and imprisonment for the monks, and condemned the view of his antagonists at a local council in 429.
His chief antagonist in Constantinople was Proclus, bishop of Cyzicum, perhaps an unsuccessful rival of Nestorius for the patriarchate, and a man who carried the worship of Mary to an excess only surpassed by a modern Roman enthusiast for the dogma of the immaculate conception. In a bombastic sermon in honor of the Virgin he praised her as “the spotless treasure-house of virginity; the spiritual paradise of the second Adam; the workshop, in which the two natures were annealed together; the bridal chamber in which the Word wedded the flesh; the living bush of nature, which was unharmed by the fire of the divine birth; the light cloud which bore him who sat between the Cherubim; the stainless fleece, bathed in the dews of Heaven, with which the Shepherd clothed his sheep; the handmaid and the mother, the Virgin and Heaven.”
Soon another antagonist, far more powerful, arose in the person of the patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, a learned, acute, energetic, but extremely passionate, haughty, ambitious, and disputatious prelate. Moved by interests both personal and doctrinal, he entered the field, and used every means to overthrow his rival in Constantinople, as his like-minded uncle and predecessor, Theophilus, had overthrown the noble Chrysostom in the Origenistic strife. The theological controversy was at the same time a contest of the two patriarchates. In personal character Cyril stands far below Nestorius, but he excelled him in knowledge of the world, shrewdness, theological learning and acuteness, and had the show of greater veneration for Christ and for Mary on his side; and in his opposition to the abstract separation of the divine and human he was in the right, though he himself pressed to the verge of the opposite error of mixing or confusing the two natures in Christ. In him we have a striking proof that the value of a doctrine cannot always be judged by the personal worth of its representatives. God uses for his purposes all sorts of instruments, good, bad, and indifferent.
Cyril first wrote to Nestorius; then to the emperor, the empress Eudokia, and the emperor’s sister Pulcheria, who took lively interest in church affairs; finally to the Roman bishop Celestine; and he warned bishops and churches east and west against the dangerous heresies of his rival. Celestine, moved by orthodox instinct, flattered by the appeal to his authority, and indignant at Nestorius for his friendly reception of the exiled Pelagians, condemned his doctrine at a Roman council, and deposed him from the patriarchal chair, unless he should retract within ten days (430).
As Nestorius persisted in his view, Cyril, despising the friendly mediation of the patriarch John of Antioch, hurled twelve anathemas, or formulas of condemnation, at the patriarch of Constantinople from a council at Alexandria by order of the pope (430).
Nestorius replied with twelve counter-anathemas, in which he accused his opponents of the heresy of Apollinaris. Theodoret of Cyros, the learned expositor and church historian, also wrote against Cyril at the instance of John of Antioch.
The controversy had now become so general and critical, that it could be settled only by an ecumenical council.
138. The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, a.d. 431. The Compromise
For the Acts of the Council, see Mansi (tom. iv. fol. 567-1482, and a part of tom. v.), Harduin, and Fuchs, and an extended history of the council and the transactions connected with it in Walch, Schröckh, and Hefele (ii. pp. 162-271). We confine ourselves to the decisive points.
Theodosius II., in connection with his Western colleague, Valentinian III., summoned a universal council on Pentecost, a.d. 431, at Ephesus, where the worship of the Virgin mother of God had taken the place of the worship of the light and life dispensing virgin Diana. This is the third of the ecumenical councils, and is held, therefore, by all churches, in high regard. But in moral character this council stands far beneath that of Nicaea or of the first council of Constantinople. An uncharitable, violent, and passionate Spirit ruled the transactions. The doctrinal result, also, was mainly only negative; that is to say, condemnation of Nestorianism. The positive and ecumenical character of the council was really secured only by the subsequent transactions, and the union of the dominant party of the council with the protesting minority of Oriental bishops.
Nestorius came first to Ephesus with sixteen bishops, and with an armed escort, as if he were going into battle. He had the imperial influence on his side, but the majority of the bishops and the prevailing voice of the people in Ephesus, and also in Constantinople, were against him. The emperor himself could not be present in person, but sent the captain of his body-guard, the comes Candidian. Cyril appeared with a numerous retinue of fifty Egyptian bishops, besides monks, parabolani, slaves, and seamen, under the banner of St. Mark and of the holy Mother of God. On his side was the archbishop Memnon of Ephesus, with forty of his Asiatic suffragans and twelve bishops from Pamphilia; and the clergy, the monks, and the people of Asia Minor were of the same sentiment. The pope of Rome — for the first time at an ecumenical council — was represented by two bishops and a priest, who held with Cyril, but did not mix in the debates, as they affected to judge between the contending parties, and thus maintain the papal authority. This deputation, however, did not come in at the beginning. The patriarch John of Antioch, a friend of Nestorius, was detained on the long journey with his bishops.
Cyril refused to wait, and opened the council in the church of St. Mary with a hundred and sixty bishops sixteen days after Pentecost, on the 22d of June, in spite of the protest of the imperial commissioner. Nestorius was thrice cited to appear, but refused to come until all the bishops should be assembled. The council then proceeded without him to the examination of the point in dispute, and to the condemnation of Nestorius. The bishops unanimously cried: “Whosoever does not anathematize Nestorius, let himself be anathema; the true faith anathematizes him; the holy council anathematizes him. Whosoever holds fellowship with Nestorius, let him be anathema. We all anathematize the letter and the doctrines of Nestorius. We all anathematize Nestorius and his followers, and his ungodly faith, and his ungodly doctrine. We all anathematize Nestorius,” etc. Then a multitude of Christological expressions of the earlier fathers and several passages from the writings of Nestorius were read, and at the close of the first session, which lasted till late in the night, the following sentence of deposition was adopted and subscribed by about two hundred bishops: “The Lord Jesus Christ, who is blasphemed by him [Nestorius], determines through this holy council that Nestorius be excluded from the episcopal office, and from all sacerdotal fellowship.”
The people of Ephesus hailed this result with universal jubilee, illuminated the city, and accompanied Cyril with torches and censers in state to his house.
On the following day Nestorius was informed of the sentence of deposition in a laconic edict, in which he was called a new Judas. But he indignantly protested against the decree, and made complaint in an epistle to the emperor. The imperial commissioner declared the decrees invalid, because they were made by only a portion of the council, and he prevented as far as possible the publication of them.
A few days after, on the 26th or 27th of June, John of Antioch at last reached Ephesus, and immediately, with forty-two bishops of like sentiment, among whom was the celebrated Theodoret, held in his dwelling, under the protection of the imperial commissioner and a body-guard, a counter council or conciliabulum, yielding nothing to the haste and violence of the other, deposed Cyril of Alexandria and Memnon of Ephesus from all priestly functions, as heretics and authors of the whole disorder and declared the other bishops who voted with them excommunicate until they should anathematize the heretical propositions of Cyril.
Now followed a succession of mutual criminations, invectives, arts of church diplomacy and politics, intrigues, and violence, which give the saddest picture of the uncharitable and unspiritual Christianity of that time. But the true genius of Christianity is, of course, far elevated above its unworthy organs, and overrules even the worst human passions for the cause of truth and righteousness.
On the 10th of July, after the arrival of the papal legates, who bore themselves as judges, Cyril held a second session, and then five more sessions (making seven in all), now in the house of Memnon, now in St. Mary’s church, issuing a number of circular letters and six canons against the Nestorians and Pelagians.
Both parties applied to the weak emperor, who, without understanding the question, had hitherto leaned to the side of Nestorius, but by public demonstrations and solemn processions of the people and monks of Constantinople under the direction of the aged and venerated Dalmatius, was awed into the worship of the mother of God. He finally resolved to confirm both the deposition of Nestorius and that of Cyril and Memnon, and sent one of the highest civil officers, John, to Ephesus, to publish this sentence, and if possible to reconcile the contending parties. The deposed bishops were arrested. The council, that is the majority, applied again to the emperor and his colleague, deplored their lamentable condition, and desired the release of Cyril and Memnon, who had never been deposed by them, but on the contrary had always been held in high esteem as leaders of the orthodox doctrine. The Antiochians likewise took all pains to gain the emperor to their side, and transmitted to him a creed which sharply distinguished, indeed, the two natures in Christ, yet, for the sake of the unconfused union of the two (ἀσύγξυτος ἕωσις), conceded to Mary the disputed predicate theotokos.
The emperor now summoned eight spokesmen from each of the two parties to himself to Chalcedon. Among them were, on the one side, the papal deputies, on the other John of Antioch and Theodoret of Cyros, while Cyril and Memnon were obliged to remain at Ephesus in prison, and Nestorius at his own wish was assigned to his former cloister at Antioch, and on the 25th of October, 431, Maximian was nominated as his successor in Constantinople. After fruitless deliberations, the council of Ephesus was dissolved in October, 431, Cyril and Memnon set free, and the bishops of both parties commanded to go home.
The division lasted two years longer, till at last a sort of compromise was effected. John of Antioch sent the aged bishop Paul of Emisa a messenger to Alexandria with a creed which he had already, in a shorter form, laid before the emperor, and which broke the doctrinal antagonism by asserting the duality of the natures against Cyril, and the predicate mother of God against Nestorius. “We confess,” says this symbol, which was composed by Theodoret, “that our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and body subsisting; as to his Godhead begotten of the Father before all time, but as to his manhood, born of the Virgin Mary in the end of the days for us and for our salvation; of the same essence with the Father as to his Godhead, and of the same substance with us as to his manhood; for two natures are united with one another. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Lord, and one Son. By reason of this union, which yet is without confusion, we also confess that the holy Virgin is mother of God, because God the Logos was made flesh and man, and united with himself the temple [humanity] even from the conception; which temple he took from the Virgin. But concerning the words of the Gospel and Epistles respecting Christ, we know that theologians apply some which refer to the one person to the two natures in common, but separate others as referring to the two natures, and assign the expressions which become God to the Godhead of Christ, but the expressions of humiliation to his manhood.”
Cyril assented to this confession, and repeated it verbally, with some further doctrinal explanations, in his answer to the irenical letter of the patriarch of Antioch, but insisted on the condemnation and deposition of Nestorius as the indispensable condition of church fellowship. At the same time he knew how to gain the imperial court to the orthodox side by all kinds of presents, which, according to the Oriental custom of testifying submission to princes by presents, were not necessarily regarded as bribes. The Antiochians, satisfied with saving the doctrine of two natures, thought it best to sacrifice the person of Nestorius to the unity of the church, and to anathematize his “wicked and unholy innovations.” Thus in 433 union was effected, though not without much contradiction on both sides, nor without acts of imperial force.
The unhappy Nestorius was dragged from the stillness of his former cloister, the cloister of Euprepius before the gates of Antioch, in which he had enjoyed four years of repose, from one place of exile to another, first to Arabia, then to Egypt, and was compelled to drink to the dregs the bitter cup of persecution which he himself, in the days of his power, had forced upon the heretics. He endured his suffering with resignation and independence, wrote his life under the significant title of Tragedy, and died after 439, no one knows where nor when. Characteristic of the fanaticism of the times is the statement quoted by Evagrius, that Nestorius, after having his tongue gnawed by worms in punishment for his blasphemy, passed to the harder torments of eternity. The Monophysite Jacobites are accustomed from year to year to cast stones upon his supposed grave in Upper Egypt and have spread the tradition that it has never been moistened by the rain of heaven, which yet falls upon the evil and the good. The emperor, who had formerly favored him, but was now turned entirely against him, caused all his writings to be burned, and his followers to be named after Simon Magus, and stigmatized as Simonians.
The same orthodox zeal turned also upon the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the long deceased teacher of Nestorius and father of his error. Bishop Rabulas of Edessa († 435) pronounced the anathema upon him and interdicted his writings; and though his successor Ibas (436-457) again interested himself in Theodore, and translated several of his writings into Syriac (the ecclesiastical tongue of the Persian church), yet the persecution soon broke out afresh, and the theological school of Edessa where the Antiochian theology had longest maintained its life, and whence the Persian clergy had proceeded, was dissolved by the emperor Zeno in 489. This was the end of Nestorianism in the Roman empire.
139. The Nestorians
Jos. Sim. Assemani: De Syris Nestorianis, in his Bibliotheca Orientalis. Rom. 1719-1728, fol. tom. iii. P. ii. Ebedjesu (Nestorian metropolitan of Nisibis, † 1318): Liber Margaritae de veritate fidei (a defence of Nestorianism), in Ang. Mai’s Scrip. vet. nova collect. x. ii. 317. Gibbon: Chap. xlvii., near the end. E. Smith and H. G. O. Dwight: Researches in Armenia; with a visit to the Nestorian and Chaldean Christians of Oormiah and Salmas. 2 vols. Bost. 1833. Justin Perkins: A Residence of eight years in Persia. Andover, 1843. Wiltsch: Kirchliche Geographie u. Statistik. Berl. 1846, i. 214 ff. Geo. Percy Badger: The Nestorians and their Rituals. Illustrated (with colored plates), 2 vols. Lond. 1852. H. Newcomb: A Cyclopaedia of Missions. New York, 1856, p. 553 ff. Petermann: Article Nestorianer, in Herzog’s Theol. Encykl. vol. x. (1858), pp. 279-288.
While most of the heresies of antiquity, Arianism not excepted, have been utterly obliterated from history, and only raise their heads from time to time as individual opinions under peculiar modifications, the Christological heresies of the fifth century, Nestorianism and Monophysitism, continue in organized sects to this day. These schismatic churches of the East are the petrified remains or ruins of important chapters in the history of the ancient church. They are sunk in ignorance and superstition; but they are more accessible to Western Christianity than the orthodox Greek church, and offer to the Roman and Protestant churches an interesting field of missions, especially among the Nestorians and the Armenians.
The Nestorians differ from the orthodox Greek church in their repudiation of the council of Ephesus and of the worship of Mary as mother of God, of the use of images (though they retain the sign of the cross), of the doctrine of purgatory (though they have prayers for the dead), and of transubstantiation (though they hold the real presence of Christ in the eucharist), as well as in greater simplicity of worship. They are subject to a peculiar hierarchical organization with eight orders, from the catholicus or patriarch to the sub-deacon and reader. The five lower orders, up to the priests, may marry; in former times even the bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs had this privilege. Their fasts are numerous and strict. The feast-days begin with sunset, as among the Jews. The patriarch eats no flesh; he is chosen always from the same family; he is ordained by three metropolitans. Most of the ecclesiastical books are written in the Syriac language.
After Nestorianism was exterminated from the Roman empire, it found an asylum in the kingdom of Persia, whither several teachers of the theological school of Edessa fled. One of them, Barsumas, became bishop of Nisibis (435-489), founded a new theological seminary there, and confirmed the Persian Christians in their aversion to the Cyrillian council of Ephesus, and in their adhesion to the Antiochian and Nestorian theology. They were favored by the Persian kings, from Pherozes, or Firuz, onward (461-488), out of political opposition to Constantinople. At the council of Seleucia (498) they renounced all connection with the orthodox church of the empire. They called themselves, after their liturgical language, Chaldaean or Assyrian Christians, while they were called by their opponents Nestorians. They had a patriarch, who after the year 496 resided in the double city of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and after 762 in Bagdad (the capital of the Saracenic empire), under the name of Yazelich (catholicus), and who, in the thirteenth century, had no less than twenty-five metropolitans under his supervision.
The Nestorian church flourished for several centuries, spread from Persia, with great missionary zeal, to India, Arabia, and even to China and Tartary, and did good service in scholarship and in the founding of schools and hospitals. Mohammed is supposed to owe his imperfect knowledge of Christianity to a Nestorian monk, Sergius; and from him the sect received many privileges, so that it obtained great consideration among the Arabians, and exerted an influence upon their culture, and thus upon the development of philosophy and science in general.
Among the Tartars, in the eleventh century, it succeeded in converting to Christianity a king, the priest-king Presbyter John (Prester John) of the Kerait, and his successor of the same name. But of this we have only uncertain accounts, and at all events Nestorian Christianity has since left but slight traces in Tartary and in China.
Under the Mongol dynasty the Nestorians were cruelly persecuted. The terrible Tamerlane, the scourge and the destroyer of Asia, towards the end of the fourteenth century almost exterminated them. Yet they have maintained themselves on the wild mountains and in the valleys of Kurdistan and in Armenia under the Turkish dominion to this day, with a separate patriarch, who from 1559 till the seventeenth century resided at Mosul, but has since dwelt in an almost inaccessible valley on the borders of Turkey and Persia. They are very ignorant and poor, and have been much reduced by war, pestilence, and cholera.
A portion of the Nestorians, especially those in cities, united from time to time, under the name of Chaldaeans, with the Roman church, and have a patriarch of their own at Bagdad.
And on the other side, Protestant missionaries from America have made vigorous and successful efforts, since 1833, to evangelize and civilize the Nestorians by preaching, schools, translations of the Bible, and good books.
The Thomas-Christians in East India are a branch of the Nestorians, named from the apostle Thomas, who is supposed to have preached the gospel on the coast of Malabar. They honor the memory of Theodore and Nestorius in their Syriac liturgy, and adhere to the Nestorian patriarchs. In the sixteenth century they were, with reluctance, connected with the Roman church for sixty years (1599-1663) through the agency of Jesuit missionaries. But when the Portuguese power in India was shaken by the Dutch, they returned to their independent position, and since the expulsion of the Portuguese they have enjoyed the free exercise of their religion on the coast of Malabar. The number of the Thomas-Christians is said still to amount to seventy thousand souls, who form a province by themselves under the British empire, governed by priests and elders.
140. The Eutychian Controversy. The Council of Robbers, a.d. 449
Comp. the Works at §137.
Acts of the council of Chalcedon, of the local council of Constantinople, and of the Robber Synod of Ephesus. The correspondence between Leo and Flavian, etc. For these acts, letters, and other documents, see Mansi, Conc. tom. v. vi. and vii. (Gelasius?): Breviculus historiae Eutychianistarum a. gesta de nomine Acacii (extending to 486, in Mansi, vii. 1060 sqq.). Liberatus: Breviarium causae Nest. et Eutych. Leontinus Byzant.: Contra Nest. et Eutych. The last part of the Synodicon adv. tragoediam Irenaei (in Mansi, v. 731 sqq.). Evagrius: H. E. i. 9 sqq. Theodoret: Ἐρανιστής (the Beggar) or Πολύμορφος (the Multiformed), — a refutation of the Egyptian Eutychian system of doctrines (which begged together so much from various old heresies, as to form a now one), in three dialogues, written in 447 (Opera, ed. Schulze, vol. iv.).
Petavius: De incarnatione Verbi, lib. i. c. 14-18, and the succeeding books, particularly iii., iv., and v. (Theolog. dogmatum, tom. iv. p. 65 sqq. ed. Par. 1650). Tillemont: Mémoires, tom. xv. pp. 479-719. C. A. Salig: De Eutychianismo ante Eutychen. Wolfenb. 1723. Walch: Ketzerhist. vol. vi. 3-640. Schröckh: vol. xviii. 433-492. Neander: Kirchengesch. iv. pp. 942-992. Baur: Gesch. der Lehre von d. Dreieinigkeit, etc. i. 800-825. Dorner: Gesch. d. Lehre v. d. Pers. Chr. ii. 99-149. Hefele (R.C.): Conciliengesch. ii. pp. 295-545. W. Cunningham: Historical Theology, i. pp. 311-’15. Comp. also the Monographs of Arendt (1835) and Perthel (1848) on Leo I.
The Eutychian Controversy
The result of the third universal council was rather negative than positive. The council condemned the Nestorian error, without fixing the true doctrine. The subsequent union of the Alexandrians and the Antiochians was only a superficial peace, to which each party had sacrificed somewhat of its convictions. Compromises are generally of short duration; principles and systems must develope themselves to their utmost consequences; heresies must ripen, and must be opened to the core. As the Antiochian theology begot Nestorianism, which stretched the distinction of the human and divine natures in Christ to double personality; so the Alexandrian theology begot the opposite error of Eutychianism or Monophysitism, which urged the personal unity of Christ at the expense of the distinction of natures, and made the divine Logos absorb the human nature. The latter error is as dangerous as the former. For if Christ is not true man, he cannot be our example, and his passion and death dissolve at last into mere figurative representations or docetistic show.
A large portion of the party of Cyril was dissatisfied with the union creed, and he was obliged to purge himself of inconsistency. He referred the duality of natures spoken of in the symbol to the abstract distinction of deity and humanity, while the two are so made one in the one Christ, that after the union all separation ceases, and only one nature is to be recognized in the incarnate Son. The Logos, as the proper subject of the one nature, has indeed all human, or rather divine-human, attributes, but without a human nature. Cyril’s theory of the incarnation approaches Patripassianism, but differs from it in making the Son a distinct hypostasis from the Father. It mixes the divine and human; but It mixes them only in Christ, and so is Christo-theistic, but not pantheistic.
On the other side, the Orientals or Antiochians, under the lead of John, Ibas, and especially Theodoret, interpreted the union symbol in their sense of a distinction of the two natures continuing in the one Christ even after the incarnation, and actually obtained the victory for this moderate Nestorianism, by the help of the bishop of Rome, at the council of Chalcedon.
The new controversy was opened by the party of monophysite sentiment.
Cyril died in 444. His arch-deacon, Dioscurus (Διόσκορος), who had accompanied him to the council at Ephesus, succeeded him in the patriarchal chair of Alexandria (444-451), and surpassed him in all his bad qualities, while he fell far behind him in intellect and in theological capacity. He was a man of unbounded ambition and stormy passion, and shrank from no measures to accomplish his designs and to advance the Alexandrian see to the supremacy of the entire East; in which he soon succeeded at the Council of Robbers. He put himself at the head of the monophysite party, and everywhere stirred the fire of a war against the Antiochian Christology.
The theological representative, but by no means the author, of the monophysite heresy which bears his name, was Eutyches, an aged and respected, but not otherwise important presbyter and archimandrite (head of a cloister of three hundred monks) in Constantinople, who had lived many years in monastic seclusion, and had only once appeared in public, to raise his voice, in that procession, for the Cyrillian council of Ephesus and against Nestorius. His relation to the Alexandrian Christology is like that of Nestorius to the Antiochian; that is, he drew it to a head, brought it to popular expression, and adhered obstinately to it; but he is considerably inferior to Nestorius in talent and learning. His connection with this controversy is in a great measure accidental.
Eutyches, like Cyril, laid chief stress on the divine in Christ, and denied that two natures could be spoken of after the incarnation. In our Lord, after his birth, he worshipped only one nature, the nature of God become flesh and man. The impersonal human nature is assimilated and, as it were, deified by the personal Logos, so that his body is by no means of the same substance (ὁμοούσιον) with ours, but a divine body. All human attributes are transferred to the one subject, the humanized Logos. Hence it may and must be said: God is born, God suffered, God was crucified and died. He asserted, therefore, on the one hand, the capability of suffering and death in the Logos-personality, and on the other hand, the deification of the human in Christ.
Theodoret, in three dialogues composed in 447, attacked this Egyptian Eutychian type of doctrine as a beggar’s basket of Docetistic, Gnostic, Apollinarian, and other heresies, and advocated the qualified Antiochian Christology, i.e., the doctrine of the unfused union of two natures in one person. Dioscurus accused him to the patriarch Domnus in Antioch of dividing the one Lord Christ into two Sons of God; and Theodoret replied to this with moderation. Dioscurus, on his part, endeavored to stir up the court in Constantinople against the whole church of Eastern Asia. Domnus and Theodoret likewise betook themselves to the capital, to justify their doctrine. The controversy now broke forth with greater violence, and concentrated on the person of Eutyches in Constantinople.
At a local synod of the patriarch Flavian at Constantinople in 448 Eutyches was charged with his error by Eusebius, bishop of Dorylaeum in Phrygia, and upon his wilful refusal, after repeated challenges, to admit the dyophysitism after the incarnation, and the consubstantiality of Christ’s body with our own, he was deposed and put under the ban of the church. On his way home, he was publicly insulted by the populace. The council confessed its faith that “Christ, after the incarnation, consisted of two natures in one hypostasis and in one person, one Christ, one Son, one Lord.”
Both parties endeavored to gain the public opinion, and addressed themselves to distant bishops, especially to Leo I. of Rome. Leo, in 449, confirmed the decision of the council in several epistles, especially in a letter to Flavian, which forms an epoch in the history of Christology, and in which he gave a masterly, profound, and clear analysis of the orthodox doctrine of two natures in one person. But Eutyches had powerful friends among the monks and at the court, and a special patron in Dioscurus of Alexandria, who induced the emperor Theodosius II. to convoke a general council.
This synod met at Ephesus, in August, 449, and consisted of one hundred and thirty-five bishops. It occupies a notorious place in the chronique scandaleuse of church history. Dioscurus presided, with brutal violence, protected by monks and an armed soldiery; while Flavian and his friends hardly dared open their lips, and Theodoret was entirely excluded. When an explanation from Eusebius of Dorylaeum, who had been the accuser of Eutyches at the council of Constantinople, was presented, many voices exclaimed: “Let Eusebius be burnt; let him be burnt alive. As he has cut Christ in two, so let him be cut in two.” The council affirmed the orthodoxy and sanctity of Eutyches, who defended himself in person; adopted the twelve anathematisms of Cyril; condemned dyophysitism as a heresy, and deposed and excommunicated its advocates, including Theodoret, Flavian, and Leo. The three Roman delegates (the bishops Julius and Renatus, and the deacon Hilarus) dared not even read before the council the epistle addressed to it by Leo, and departed secretly, that they might not be compelled to subscribe its decisions. Flavian was so grossly maltreated by furious monks that he died of his wounds a few days later, in banishment, having first appealed to a new council. In his stead the deacon Anatolius, a friend and agent of Dioscurus, was chosen patriarch of Constantinople. He, however, afterwards went over to the orthodox party, and effaced the infamy of his elevation by his exquisite Greek hymns.
The conduct of these unpriestly priests was throughout so arbitrary and tyrannical, that the second council of Ephesus has ever since been branded with the name of the “Council of Robbers.” “Nothing,” Neander justly observes, “could be more contradictory to the spirit of the gospel than the fanatical zeal of the dominant party in this council for dogmatical formulas, in which they fancied they had Christ, who is spirit and life, although in temper and act they denied Him.” Dioscurus, for example, dismissed a charge of unchastity and other vices against a bishop, with the remark: “If you have an accusation against his orthodoxy, we will receive it; but we have not come together to pass judgment concerning unchastity.” Thus fanatical zeal for doctrinal formulas outweighed all interests of morality, as if, as Theodoret remarks, Christ had merely prescribed a system of doctrine, and had not given also rules of life.