Nestorianism would claim that Mary only gave birth to Christ's humanity. When I thought about it and considered it, I realized my prior attitude towards the Virgin Birth had been somewhat Nestorian, and so now I'm awe-struck at the fact, according to Orthodox understanding, that Mary gave birth to both Christ's humanity and divinity in some way.

How far does this go? How does a finite, created being give birth to the pre-eternal God who existed before the Ages, including His divinity? As we say in Small Compline in the hymn 'Awed by the beauty', "I am in doubt, and stand in awe", but yet, I want to know, how much does the Eastern Orthodox Church know on this topic? In what sense did the Virgin give birth to the Divine? Was the Divine Nature recreated through her, or was she somehow infused with the Divine Nature so that Christ inherited it from her in birth? How much do we know? What do the Saints say on this topic?

  • Sorry please can you be a little clearer on your question especially the 'give birth to christ's divinity' part . I do not really understand what you mean by that Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 0:30
  • The question IS to clarify the Orthodox understanding of that. Nestorius said that Mary only gave birth to Chirst's human nature, and not his divine nature. The Orthodox Church, in contrast, being Dyophysite, asserts that Mary is the Theotokos (meaning Godbirther) in order to secure the theological stance that she gave birth to Christ in His human AND Divine natures, and fully so. My question is, what does it actually mean that she fully gave birth to the Divine Logos? Also, this should not be an answer, it should be a comment.
    – Josiah
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 0:36
  • 1
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    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 0:42
  • Just like one's own mother gives birth to one's body only, but is nevertheless called "one's mother" (as opposed to, say, "the mother of one's body"), despite the fact that a human being consists of more than just their physical nature, so also Christ's or God's mother is called as such, despite the fact that it only gave birth to His human nature.
    – user46876
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 2:50

2 Answers 2


You answered your question that Mary gave birth to Christ, full stop. This same Christ who walked the earth and was the child of Mary is the God-man. Mary gave birth to the one cohesive person who is Jesus Christ. The second hypostasis of the Trinity entered her womb and took flesh of her and made it his own. This is called the hypostatic union.

Nestorianism believes that Christ is a duality of persons. The human person born of Mary and second person of the Trinity who occupied this mere man Jesus as a temporary receptacle.

The canonical epistles of Cyril to Nestorius presented at Ephesus 431 AD explain the Orthodox understanding:

For we do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and became flesh, or that it was converted into a whole man consisting of soul and body; but rather that the Word having personally united to himself flesh animated by a rational soul, did in an ineffable and inconceivable manner become man, and was called the Son of Man....Because the two natures being brought together in a true union, there is of both one Christ and one Son; for the difference of the natures is not taken away by the union, but rather the divinity and the humanity make perfect for us the one Lord Jesus Christ.

Confessing the Word to be made one with the flesh according to substance, we adore one Son and Lord Jesus Christ: we do not divide the God from the man, nor separate him into parts, as though the two natures were mutually united in him only through a sharing of dignity and authority (for that is a novelty and nothing else), neither do we give separately to the Word of God the name Christ and the same name separately to a different one born of a woman; but we know only one Christ, the Word from God the Father with his own Flesh....

Besides, what the Gospels say our Saviour said of himself, we do not divide between two hypostases or persons. For neither is he, the one and only Christ, to be thought of as double, although of two (natures) and they diverse, yet he has joined them in an indivisible union, just as everyone knows a man is not double although made up of soul and body, but is one of both. Wherefore when thinking rightly, we transfer the human and the divine to the same person....And since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. Thanks for offering an answer. It would be much improved if you could provide some references to Eastern Orthodox doctrinal statements or theologians to support the statements here. See: What makes a good supported answer? Meanwhile, I do hope you'll stick around! Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 6:49
  • not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh. I take to mean, she does not become the originator of the divine nature, which answers part of my question. But then, is Mary in some sense the 'giver' or 'bringer' of the divine nature? Was Mary somehow united to or infused with the divine nature in order to give birth to a divine man?
    – Josiah
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 19:29
  • No, it was God incarnate who united humanity to himself from her not the other way around. God did not impart any divine essence to her.
    – kosta
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 1:54
  • @kosta source and add to the answer?
    – Josiah
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 20:36

One does not give birth to a nature of a person, such as humanity or divinity. One gives birth to a person. Mary gave birth to the person Jesus. Because Jesus is both God and Man, both of the statements "Mary is the mother of a man" and "Mary is the mother of God" are true.

  • 2
    In what sense is she the mother of Christ? Is she just a surrogate mother? Can you give any quotes from Eastern Orthodox documents which explain it in more details?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 11:34
  • @curiousdannii: In common speech, the term mother applies to one's person (hypostasis), not to one's nature (essence), which is why we say, for instance, my mother, not the mother of my body, despite the fact that, technically, she only gave birth to one's physical nature, and not to one's soul as well.
    – user46876
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 3:10

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