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date: 28 November 2022

Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, c. 386–450/1 celocked

Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, c. 386–450/1 celocked

  • Susan Wessel

Summary

Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople, was deposed and sent into exile in Egypt for opposing the Christological views of Cyril of Alexandria. The theological and ecclesiastical controversy was set in motion soon after Nestorius began to serve as bishop of Constantinople. Interested in eliminating heresy, he proposed to align himself with the emperor Theodosius II. Soon thereafter, Nestorius learned that debates were taking place concerning the appropriate title of devotion for the Virgin Mary. In the use of the title Theotokos that some had proposed, he sensed a deeper Christological question, namely, “Was Mary the bearer of the Godhead”? He reasoned that if Mary was indeed the Theotokos, as some suggested, then God, or rather the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, was born from her. For Nestorius, however, while Mary was the mother of Jesus, she was not the mother of the Logos, and for that reason could not be called Theotokos. Once Cyril was informed of Nestorius’s views, the controversy was officially underway. Local synods were held in Alexandria and Rome, at which Nestorius was deposed. Theodosius II called an ecumenical council in Ephesus to resolve the controversy. Although Nestorius was present in Ephesus at the appointed time, he did not appear at the council and was deposed in absentia. His deposition was then confirmed, and he was sent into exile at the Great Oasis in Egypt, where he wrote his autobiography, The Book of Heracleides, and where he died in c. 450/1 ce.

Subjects

  • Christianity
  • Late Antiquity

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