Today in Catholic History – The Exile of Nestorius

On 3 August 435, the former Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, was exiled by Emperor Theodosius II to a monastery in the Great Oasis of Hibis in Egypt.

Nestorius had been condemned at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 for his belief that the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ were completely separate – Mary was Christotokos or Christ bearer not Theotokos or God bearer. Nestorius believed that if the divinity and humanity were joined in Christ than Christ would not be either like us in our humanity nor like God in his divinity. At Ephesus, his main opponent Cyril of Alexandria argued that if the divinity and humanity of Christ were completely separated than our humanity too remained completely separated from God and we were not saved. Cyril claimed that Nestorius believed that Christ was composed of two persons in one body.

Unfortunately for Nestorius, Cyril did not wait until Nestorius’ supporters arrived at the Council of Ephesus before he demanded a vote condemning Nestorius. Nestorius’ supporters would hold a rival council condemning Cyril but the emperor would side with Cyril against Nestorius. Nestorius’ supporters facing persecution would move into Persia and establish what is today known as the Assyrian Church of the East. While the Assyrian Church of the East recognizes Nestorius as a saint, it does not follow all of his teachings.

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