Why argue over the “Mother of God”? Questions for Discussion: Lesson 16A- Chapter 14 “Nestorius & Cyril Bring the Controversy to a Head” from  The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson

1. What is the literal and symbolic significance of theotokos and why would the Alexandrians be “shocked and delighted” when Bishop Nestorius in the Christmas service of 428 ordered his Constantinopolitan congregation to stop using it?

2. During the era of Nestorius’ patriarchate the Alexandrians “readily acknowledged” that the Son of God is a divine being, but their defined union of the Son of God with humanity became the center of a dispute with the Antiochenes. How did the Alexandrians describe this union? How did the Antiochenes want it described?

3. What role did Theodor of Mopsuestia play in the conflict between Constantinople and Alexandria over the nature of the Son of God.

4. Olson suggests Cyril and Nestorius “were probably equally guilty”. Guilty of what? Can you explain the background of events that support Olson’s reasoning?

5. The fundamental theological issue confronting Nestorius was to explain how two persons can be one person. How did he accomplish this and where do you think he strayed in his Christology?

6. While much of Cyril’s writings can be fairly described as ambiguous, sometimes muddled, he did make a “unique contribution to Christology”. Can you explain this still-respected contribution?

7. What was the purpose and outcome of the Council of Ephesus?

8. What was the Formula of Reunion intended to accomplish? What was the result; that is, what was really decided?

Lesson 16B – Correlated Readings

The Bazaar of Heracleides by Nestorius (excerpt from the introduction by Driver and Hodgson); the Third Letter of St. Cyril of Alexandria to Nestorius

Bible Verses for Reflection


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