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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 MopsuestiaTheodore of Mopsuestia
, c.350–428, Syrian Christian theologian, bishop of Mopsuestia (from 392). Together with his lifelong friend, St. John Chrysostom, he studied at the school of Antioch, adopted its exegetical methods, and became a diligent writer and preacher.
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, 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 ofEphesus, Council of,
431, 3d ecumenical council, convened by Theodosius II, emperor of the East, and Valentinian III, emperor of the West, to deal with the controversy over Nestorianism. Adherents of both parties attended; St.
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) 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 ofConstantinople, Second Council of,
553, regarded generally as the fifth ecumenical council. It was convened by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to settle the dispute known as the Three Chapters.
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), 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 ChurchNestorian Church,
officially the Assyrian Church of the East, Christian community of Iraq, Iran, and SW India. It represents the ancient church of Persia and is sometimes also called the East Syrian Church. It numbers about 175,000, including emigrants to the United States.
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 had diminishing connections with those of Nestorius. The teachings of EutychesEutyches
, c.378–c.452, archimandrite in Constantinople, sponsor of Eutychianism, the first phase of Monophysitism. He was the leader in Constantinople of the most violent opponents of Nestorianism, among whom was Dioscurus, successor to St. Cyril (d.
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 and MonophysitismMonophysitism
[Gr.,=belief in a single nature], a heresy of the 5th and 6th cent., which grew out of a reaction against Nestorianism. It was anticipated by Apollinarianism and was continuous with the principles of Eutyches, whose doctrine had been rejected in 451 at Chalcedon
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 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 ?
In China and south India, by the eighth century, members of the Nestorian Christian church used a distinctive symbol in which the cross is joined to the lotus, symbol of Buddhist enlightenment.
Its leader at that time (from 780 to 823)was the Nestorian patriarch or Katholikos, Timothy.
The new rulers appointed the Bakhtishu family, who were Nestorian Christians, as court physicians and advisers.
Thus, by becoming the conduit through which Greek science reached the Islamic people, Nestorian Christians repaid the debt of support that Christianity owed to Greek science.
Passages in the manuscripts which reflected Nestorian theological language or contained the names of Nestorian theologians were revised or left blank.
The importance of Cyril's thought rests m his Christology, which opposes the Nestorian God-Logos separation by insisting on the unity of what he preferred to call Logos and Flesh ('Sarx'), using the term 'Hypostasis', denoting Being or Substance.
Some contributors who are not sensitive to shifts in vocabulary in the light of recent consensus statements and official dialogues continue to use problematic descriptions such as Nestorian, Jacobite, Monophysite, and so on, that are now considered misleading.
For the earlier periods paragraphs on Eastern Orthodoxy, Nestorian missions, developments in Latin American churches, and women in missions are welcome surprises.
He has produced the first study of this Anglo-Catholic, nonproselytizing mission, which worked for educational and theological renewal in the ancient "Nestorian" church effectively from 1880 to 1915 (eventually closing down in 1938).
By the 13th century the Church of the East (or the Nestorian Church as "most of the early Asian Christian communities came to be called") had "ecclesiastical authority over more of the earth than either Rome or Constantinople."
Another example: Timothy I of Baghdad, catholicos, "arch bishop" 780-823 of the East Syrian (Nestorian) Church that stretched from Cyprus to Beijing, unexpectedly quoted Gregory more favorably in his limited extant letters than he praised Nestorius.
Raguin's explorations are carried further by Stephen Eskildsen ("Christology and Soteriology in the Chinese Nestorian Texts"), Gunner Mikkelsen ("'Quickly Guide Me to the Peace of the Pure Land': Christology and Buddhist Terminology in the Chinese Manichaean Hymnscroll"), and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit ("Jesus' Entry into Parinirvana: Manichaean Identity in Buddhist Central Asia").