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Related to Nestorianism: Monophysitism, Arianism, Docetism


Nestorianism, Christian heresy that held Jesus to be two distinct persons, closely and inseparably united. In 428, Emperor Theodosius II named an abbot of Antioch, Nestorius (d. 451?), as patriarch of Constantinople. In that year Nestorius, who had been a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia, outraged the Christian world by opposing the use of the title Mother of God for the Virgin on the grounds that, while the Father begot Jesus as God, Mary bore him as a man. This view was contradicted by Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, and both sides appealed to Pope Celestine I. The Council of Ephesus (see Ephesus, Council of) was convened in 431 to settle the matter. This council (reinforced by the Council of Chalcedon in 451) clarified orthodox Catholic doctrine, pronouncing that Jesus, true God and true man, has two distinct natures that are inseparably joined in one person and partake of the one divine substance. Nestorius, deposed after the Council of Ephesus, was sent to Antioch, to Arabia, and finally to Egypt. A work believed to be by Nestorius, Bazaar of Heraclides, discovered c.1895, gives an account of the controversy. The patriarch of Antioch and his bishops, accusing Cyril of unscrupulous action, stayed out of communion with Alexandria until a compromise was reached in 433, but though the subject was discussed in 553 at the Second Council of Constantinople (see Constantinople, Second Council of), Nestorianism was practically dead in the empire after 451. Nestorianism survived outside the Roman Empire through missionary expansion into Arabia, China, and India from the 6th cent., but declined after 1300. The doctrines that continued in the Nestorian Church had diminishing connections with those of Nestorius. The teachings of Eutyches and Monophysitism developed partially in reaction to Nestorianism. J. Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (1971); and R. Norris, ed. and tr., The Christological Controversy (1980).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a movement in Christianity that arose in Byzantium in the fifth century; founded by Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431 (before that, a priest in Antioch, Syria).

For Nestorianism, which retained elements of classical rationalism, the mystical Christian concept of the “god-man” was the object of criticism. According to Nestorius, the Virgin Mary bore a man who subsequently rose to the level of the son of god (the messiah) after he had overcome human weakness; in Christ the human and the divine elements coexist only in a relative union, never fully merging. In contrast, orthodox doctrine emphasized the full unity of the human and the divine. Nestorius’ social support was mainly from those who still maintained classical traditions. His influence was especially great in Syria. His chief opponent was Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, who was supported by the monks and the rural population of Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Nestorianism was condemned as a heresy, and Nestorius was exiled. Most of the Nestorians fled to Iran (where they formed the Nestorian Church, which flourished until the mid-seventh century), to Middle Asia, and later to China.

Today there are Nestorians in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and India (along the Malabar Coast). In the early 20th century, when works by Nestorius previously known only through his opponents’ expositions were published, a tendency appeared in Western theology to prove that the doctrine of Nestorianism is not divergent from orthodoxy.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It was in this way that foreign religions, such as Nestorianism, Judaism, and Islam, were able to flourish.
This was a distinctly unpopular notion, and Nestorianism was declared heretical at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
concrete individual ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] -- an axiom often used by miaphysites in their attacks on Chalcedonian Christology(30)) and that therefore the doctrine of one prosopon or hypostasis in two natures is merely a disguised Nestorianism, since it necessarily implies two prosopa.
As a religion from the West, Nestorianism was taken as a sect of Buddhism, and satisfied the curiosity as well as the religious pursuit of the Tang Chinese.
Those anathematisms also refer to Christians, who refuse to acknowledge the dual--godly and human--nature of Christ (Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism), as well as iconoclasm and those who reject the entire written as well as unwritten church tradition (25).
Of particular note is the way Marshall provides an excellent clarification of what can be properly attributed to a person and to a nature (278-83), an important bulwark against a kind of latent Nestorianism that can creep into certain expressions of traditional doctrine (15).
Similarly, the way he urges that the two-natures statement of Chalcedon could be interpreted would lead to an extreme Nestorianism, also definitively rejected by the ancient ecumenical councils.
The mere invocation of the names of the great heresies of the past--Arianism, Nestorianism, Eunomianism, Docetism, Eutychianism, to name a few--may tempt us to believe that heresy is now a matter for the historians, and the degrees of remotion from our own setting these names indicate might imply that the whole thing is a dead issue (has anyone called you a "Donatist" recently?).
The << Brilliant Teachings: the rise and fall of << Nestorianism >> (Jingjiao) in Tang China, Japanese Religions 31 (2) 2006, 91-110.
Its remarkable growth and tenacity occurred after 451, the year Nestorianism was outlawed as heresy in the Roman Empire.
A century later, Arianism, exacerbated by Nestorianism, mutated into Monophysitism, the doctrine that the Incarnate Christ had but a single nature, the divine, as opposed to the orthodox teaching of a divine-human duality.
Though he was known to have written many books, all but this commentary were destroyed after he was condemned by the Lateran council of 649 as the father of Nestorianism. Hill (Australian Catholic U.) has translated and analyzed many of the Old Testament commentaries of the Antiochene Fathers.