Lesson 16B Preview: “The Bazaar of Heracleides” by Nestorius discussed by G.R. Driver and Leonard Hodgson”; St. Cyril’s Third Letter to Nestorius with 12 Anathemas; Video “Schism and the Seeds of Schism”; Dominican Fr. Walter Wagner’s lecture “Early Challenges and Confessions of the Church”
Below is an excerpt from the editors’ introduction to the The Bazaar of Heracleides by Nestorius, translated from the Syriac and edited by G. R. DRIVER, M.A. & LEONARD HODGSON, M.A., OXFORD , THE CLARENDON PRESS 1925 (this book is now in the public domain):
“What precisely did Nestorius teach? This is the question over which controversy has raged since the discovery of The Bazaar. It is not the object of the present volume to enter upon the discussion of this problem, but to provide English-speaking theologians with the necessary material to study it for themselves. The following summary of undisputed facts may, however, be given without entrenching upon the questionable ground. It will be well first to state what Nestorius denies, and what he asserts.
(i) He denies that the unity of Christ is a ‘natural composition’ in which two elements are combined by the will of some external ‘creator’.
(ii) He denies that the Incarnation was effected by changing godhead into manhood or vice versa, or by forming a tertium quid from those two ousiai.
(iii) He denies that God was in Christ in the same way as in the saints.
(iv) He denies that either the godhead or the manhood of Christ are ‘fictitious’ or ‘phantasmal’, and not real.
(v) He denies that the Incarnation involved any change in the godhead, or any suffering on the part of the Divine Logos who, as divine, is by nature impassible.
(vi) He denies that the union of two natures in one Christ involves any duality of sonship.
(vii) He asserts that the union is a voluntary union of godhead and manhood.
(viii) He asserts that the principle of union is to be found in the prosopa of the godhead and the manhood; these two prosopa coalesced in one prosopon of Christ incarnate.
(ix) He asserts that this view alone provides for a real Incarnation, makes possible faith in a real atonement, and provides a rationale of the sacramentalism of the Church.
It is clear that the crux of the question is to be found in the eighth of these points, and that the difficulty arises from the difficulty of determining the sense in which Nestorius used the word prosopon. His own theory can be stated almost in a dozen words. It is this: Christ is the union of the eternal Logos and the Son of Mary, the principle of the union being that the πρόσωπον of each has been taken by the other, so that there is one πρόσωπον of the two in the union. Did one know precisely what Nestorius meant by the word πρόσωπον, one would know precisely how he thought of the Incarnation, and would be able to decide whether the logical implications of his teaching are those of Nestorianism or of orthodoxy. It is certain that he himself did not wish to teach what is known as ‘Nestorianism’. His denunciations of Paul of Samosata and his followers show that he had no sympathy with those who think of the Incarnation on adoptionist lines, and when accused of ‘Nestorianism’ he indignantly repudiates any such views. The intention of his doctrine is accurately summed up in the heading inserted by the Syriac translator to the fifty-fourth section of the first part of The Bazaar—-‘Concerning this: that God the Word became incarnate and there were not two sons but one by a union.’
…It is the heretics, Apollinarius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, who are the logically consistent upholders of this outworn conception of the relation between godhead and manhood. Cyril’s teaching, no doubt without his realizing the fact, was inconsistent, for he had not consciously abandoned this ante-Nicene position, with the result that his positive teaching on the Incarnation, while consistent with the Nicene doctrine of Creation, demanded a revision of his conception of godhead and manhood, a fact which he does not seem to have realized. But, as has happened so often in the history of thought, the inconsistency of a thinker great enough to recognize truth at the cost of his system won for his thought a place in posterity far above that of the barren coherence of his rival.”
THIRD LETTER OF ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA TO NESTORIUS, with the 12 anathemas
Edited and translated by P. E. Pusey, Oxford, 1872
To read the entire letter, click here, otherwise the 12 Anathemas of Cyril, which he indicates were annexed to his letter, follow below:
3. If any one sever the Persons of the One Christ after the Union, connecting them with only a connection of dignity or authority or sway, and not rather with a meeting unto Unity of Nature, be he anathema.
4. If any one allot to two Persons or Hypostases, the words in the Gospel and Apostolic writings, said either of Christ by the saints or by Him of Himself, and ascribe some to a man conceived of by himself apart from the Word That is of God, others as God-befitting to the Word alone That is of God the Father, be he anathema.
5. If any one dare to say, that Christ is a God-clad man, and not rather that He is God in truth as being the One Son and That by Nature, in that the Word hath been made Flesh, and hath shared like us in blood and flesh [Heb. 2:14], be he anathema.
6. If any one say that the Word That is of God the Father is God or Lord of Christ and do not rather confess that the Same is God alike and Man, in that the Word hath been made flesh, according to the Scriptures, be he anathema.
8. If any one dare to say that the man that was assumed ought to be co-worshipped with God the Word and co-glorified and co-named God as one in another (for the co-, constantly appended, compels us thus to deem) and does not rather honour Emmanuel with One worship and attribute to Him One Doxology, inasmuch as the Word has been made Flesh, be he anathema.
9. If any one say that the One Lord Jesus Christ hath been glorified by the Spirit, using His Power as though it were Another’s, and from Him receiving the power of working against unclean spirits and of accomplishing Divine signs upon men; and does not rather say that His own is the Spirit, through Whom He hath wrought the Divine signs, be he anathema.
10. The Divine Scripture says that Christ hath been made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession [Heb. 3:1] and He hath offered Himself for us for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. If any one therefore say that not the Very Word of God was made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made Flesh and man as we, but that man of a woman apart from himself as other than He, was [so made]: or if any one say that in His own behalf also He offered the Sacrifice and not rather for us alone (for He needed not offering Who knoweth not sin), be he anathema.
11. If any one confess not that the Flesh of the Lord is Life-giving and that it is the own Flesh of the Word Himself That is from God the Father, but say that it belongs to another than He, connected with Him by dignity or as possessed of Divine Indwelling only and not rather that it is Life-giving (as we said) because it hath been made the own Flesh of the Word Who is mighty to quicken all things, be he anathema.
12. If any one confess not that the Word of God suffered in the Flesh and hath been crucified in the Flesh and tasted death in the Flesh and hath been made First-born of the Dead, inasmuch as He is both Life and Life-giving as God, be he anathema.”
This video lecture Early Challenges and Confessions of the Church: The Three Fold Body of Christ from Father Walter Wagner, a priest in the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, provides a Catholic perspective on this complex period of Christian theological developments. Click on the lecture reference/link and you will go to the page where you can play the video. It is a remarkable survey of the following issues:
(a) The Hebrew/Jewish tradition
(b) The Platonic insight and the Hellenic situation
(c) Jesus at the confluence of Judaic and Hellenic thought and Gnosticism
(d) The Alexandrian and Antiochene responses
(e) Arianism, Nestorianism, and Monophysitism; Augustine
Fr. Wagner’s marvelous presentation runs just over an hour and will provide a summary of many theological developments you have read about in Olson.
A Quote for Your Consideration: “When the Son of God assumed into His person true human nature, He assumed also the properties which belong to human nature (to be a creature, to be born, to suffer, die, ascend and descend, move about, etc.). All who deny the communication of attributes must deny also the personal union, or the paramount mystery that the Word was made flesh.” (John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 272)
Questions for Discussion of Lesson 16B:
1. According to Nestorius, Christ is the union of ___ _____ __ __ ____ __ _____, the principle of the union being that the πρόσωπον of each has been taken by the other, so that there is one πρόσωπον of the two in the union. What string of words would you insert in the blank spaces to create an instant heresy? What would you guess might be the best anglicisms to replace the two Greek words?
2. What single aspect of Nestorius’ theology limits our ability, according to Driver and Hodgson, from knowing with absolute confidence what was in his mind as he wrote and whether or not he was truly a heretic or a misunderstood, orthodox theologian?
3. What was Nestorius’ attitude toward Paul of Samosata and his followers? How does this complicate our assessment of Nestorius?
4. A student in your Sunday School class says, “I have in my NIV Study Bible the words of our Lord in red ink. Is there any problem with my going through these passages in my daily Bible study and assigning them to either the Divine Christ or Jesus the Man?” How will you respond? How would Cyril respond?
5. Yet another student in the same class asks, “Because Jesus ascended physically into heaven after his resurrection, is Jesus still a flesh-and-blood God or is he now Spirit?” How would you respond? [This question is adapted from one submitted to the LCMS.]
6. Your class has grown bolder. A new student asks, When our Lord ascended to be at the right hand of the Father, did he retain his human nature, or did he hypostatize into a fully divine being? How will you respond to this student? [This question is adapted from information provided by the LCMS.]
7. A student who rarely speaks confesses in class, ” I must admit to struggling with some of this theology we’ve been reading. But wouldn’t it be fair to say, in contrast to what the heretics were saying, that our Lord’s nature was a single divine nature, a new kind of nature that resulted from the divine side swallowing up the human part of him that Mary passed on during the birth process”? How would you respond? [See David Withun’s video and Fr. Wagner’s lecture above for additional insight into this issue.]
8. In 431 the Council of Ephesus achieves, according to Father Wagner, a major affirmation of a church teaching. What was affirmed and how did this relate to the personhood of Christ? How did this affirmation affect the Theotokos debate?
9. Fr. Wagner discusses Augustine and his conception of “bodily life” and “choices”. What is your understanding of Augustine’s use of “choice” in the context of discussing “bodily life”, as Fr. Wagner presents it? How does grace figure in? What does this all mean for your Christian walk today?