In classes earlier on in my life I was taught that Nestorius was a false teacher since he taught what some have called the "two board" theory. In this theory, There's two Jesuses (what's the Plural of Jesus in English?) glued together. These two Jesuses (one human and the other divine) do not interact with each other. Instead, they take turns.

Before I continue on, please let me apologize if that illustration is somewhat crass. I'm just simply handing down what was handed down to me.

In Nestorius, The Bazaar of Heracleides, it seems as if the issue was far more that he was very vague in his explanations than that his Christology was heretical. In one of the final quotes (of the earlier cited book) there is this assessment:

“The difference between Nestorius and Cyril is that whereas Nestorius is throughout perfectly consistent, and his theory a brilliant attempt to solve the problem on the basis of a principle which renders a solution impossible, Cyril's greatness lies in the very fact of his inconsistency. He would no more question the antithesis between godhead and manhood than would Nestorius, but where the truth was too much for his system, he preferred the truth to the system, and by his self-contradiction (which Nestorius exposes again and again) left room for further development of Christological doctrine in the future. What, then, will be our judgement on Nestorius? If the above interpretation of his teaching be true, he surely represents a very gallant and ingenious attempt to explain the Incarnation without giving up the belief that in Christ is to be found a complete human person as well as a complete divine person. He could not think of humanity except as existing in a distinct human person; for him, to deny the human ⲩⲡⲟⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲥ of Christ was to teach an Apollinarian maimed humanity.' Cyril boldly gave up belief in a distinct human ⲩⲡⲟⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲥ in Christ. Nestorius saw at once that this was inconsistent with the belief of both as to the relation between God and man, but in Cyril's inconsistency we have still a challenge to thought and to the search for a perfect Christology which is not to be found in the barren coherence of Nestorius.” (Appendix IV)

My question is this, then: Did Nestorius deny key aspects of Christology? Or was he just sloppy in his treatment of it? Or is there some other explanation?

As a gentle reminder, I'd appreciate citations from credible sources, especially from primary sources. I do read Greek, Hebrew, some Latin, and some Syriac. So those sources are welcome, in case the sources are only present in the original languages.

1 Answer 1


The condemnation of Nestorius by the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus 431) rested on his refusal to call the Virgin Mary "Theotokos" (Mother of God, or God-bearer), using only the term "Christotokos" (Mother of Christ, or Christ-bearer). As, for us Orthodox Christians at least, Mariology is always a reflection of Christology, I would have to say, yes, he denied something fundamental in Christology: that it is proper to regard Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, as God.

This is very much something in the consciousness of the Church, for instance, at Vespers this evening we sang the Resurrectional Theotokion in the Third Tone:

O Lady of exceeding honor, how can we but wonder at thee giving birth to incarnate God? For thou, O all-blameless, not knowing a man, didst give birth in the flesh to a Son without father, who before eternity was begotten of the Father without mother, the property and essence of each substance remaining intact. Wherefore, O virgin Mother, beseech Him to save the souls of those who assent and confess, with true belief, that thou art the Theotokos.

Other Marian hymnology is of a similar character, and would have been objected to by Nestorius on Christological grounds.

His formulation of Christology, on which this refusal rested, drew a distinction between the Divine Logos and "the one from the Virgin", regarding them as united not in a single hypostasis (Latin persona, English person), but only in a single prosopon (more or less equivalent to the English persona, which is not equivalent to the Latin persona). Does your source discuss Nestorius's views on the Virgin Mary at all, or only try to argue that his formulation of Christology, as such, is more sound than its condemnation at Ephesus and views colored by that would have us believe?

  • Are you aware of Sebastian Brock's article on the topic?: syriacstudies.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/…
    – user24895
    Oct 23, 2023 at 23:03
  • The train of thought seems to be that Nestorius affirmed the theology that Mary is ⲑⲉⲟⲧⲟⲕⲟⲥ, but his terminology was lacking. To my knowledge, still to this day, the Eastern church hasn't condemned Nestorius. so, I'm just trying to learn more.
    – user24895
    Oct 23, 2023 at 23:05

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