Friday, February 25, 2005

Was Theodoret of Cyrus a Nestorian?

This is the question that David T. King asks on the NoTRoMan board. Regarding Theodoret personally, the answer is "probably not." But it is beyond doubt that he wrote some works that were condemned as Nestorian at the Second Council of Constantinople, although he later disavowed them. So I suppose the real question is whether the particular works quoted in conjunction with this question were Nestorian in character. Let's look at that question.

The cited work of Theodoret, a commentary on Hebr. 7:3, reads as follows:

Of Melchizedek, by contrast, the divine Scripture did not inform us of father or mother or race, or how long he lived or when he reached the end of his life. So according to this he is without father, without mother, without family tree, with no beginning to his days or end to his life; of these details the divine Scripture gives us nothing. Christ the Lord, of course, has each of these by nature and in reality: while as God he is without mother, being begotten of the Father, as man he is without father, being born only of a mother – the virgin, I mean. As God he is without family tree: the one begotten of the unbegotten Father does not require a family tree. With no beginning to his days: the begetting was eternal. With no end to his days: he has an immortal nature. Robert Charles Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul, Vol. 2 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001), p. 162. In an endnote on the word “virgin” employed by Theodoret, Robert Charles Hill comments: “Rarely mentioned by Theodoret, and always nameless.” (p. 202).

So let's turn now to one of Theodoret's condemned propositions that appears to be drawing a conclusion based on this premise that the Ever-Virgin Mary should not be identified as "Mother of God":

Against I. -- But all we who follow the words of the evangelists state that God the Word was not made flesh by nature, nor yet was changed into flesh; for the Divine is immutable and invariable. Wherefore also the prophet David says, "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." And this the great Paul, the herald of the truth, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, states to have been spoken of the Son. And in another place God says through the Prophet, "I am the Lord: I change not." If then the Divine is immutable and invariable, it is incapable of change or alteration. And if the immutable cannot be changed, then God the Word was not made flesh by mutation, but took flesh and tabernacled in us, according to the word of the evangelist. This the divine Paul expresses clearly in his Epistle to the Philippians in the words, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant." Now it is plain from these words that the form of God was not changed into the form of a servant, but, remaining what it was, took the form of the servant. So God the Word was not made flesh, but assumed living and reasonable flesh. He Himself is not naturally conceived of the Virgin, fashioned, formed, and deriving beginning of existence from her; He who is before the ages, God, and with God, being with the Father and with the Father both known and worshipped; but He fashioned for Himself a temple in the Virgin's womb, and was with that which was formed and begotten. Wherefore also we style that holy Virgin qeotokos, not because she gave birth in natural manner to God, but to man united to the God that had fashioned Him. Moreover if He that was fashioned in the Virgin's womb was not man but God the Word Who is before the ages, then God the Word is a creature of the Holy Ghost. For that which was conceived in her, says Gabriel, is of the Holy Ghost. But if the only begotten Word of God is uncreate and of one substance and co-eternal with the Father it is no longer a formation or creation of the Spirit. And if the Holy Ghost did not fashion God the Word in the Virgin's womb, it follows that we understand the form of the servant to have been fashioned, formed, conceived, and generated. But since the form was not stripped of the form of God, but was a Temple containing God the Word dwelling in it, according to the words of Paul "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell" "bodily," we call the Virgin not mother of man (anqrwpotokos) but mother of God (qeotokos), applying the former title to the fashioning and conception, but the latter to the union. For this cause the child who was born is called Emmanuel, neither God separated from human nature nor man stripped of Godhead. For Emmanuel is interpreted to mean "God with us ", according to the words of the Gospels; and the expression "God with us" at once manifests Him Who for our sakes was assumed out of us, and proclaims God the Word Who assumed. Therefore the child is called Emmanuel on account of God Who assumed, and the Virgin qeotokos on account of the union of the form of God with the conceived form of a servant. For God the Word was not changed into flesh, but the form of God took the form of a servant.

Ouch! That looks awfully close. Maybe we ought to check the anathemas by the Second Council of Constantinople, just to make sure.

2. If anyone will not confess that the Word of God has two nativities, that which is before all ages from the Father, outside time and without a body, and secondly that nativity of these latter days when the Word of God came down from the heavens and was made flesh of holy and glorious Mary, mother of God and ever-virgin, and was born from her: let him be anathema.

3. If anyone declares that the [Word] of God who works miracles is not identical with the Christ who suffered, or alleges that God the Word was with the Christ who was born of woman, or was in him in the way that one might be in another, but that our lord Jesus Christ was not one and the same, the Word of God incarnate and made man, and that the miracles and the sufferings which he voluntarily underwent in the flesh were not of the same person: let him be anathema.

6. If anyone declares that it can be only inexactly and not truly said that the holy and glorious ever-virgin Mary is the mother of God, or says that she is so only in some relative way, considering that she bore a mere man and that God the Word was not made into human flesh in her, holding rather that the nativity of a man from her was referred, as they say, to God the Word as he was with the man who came into being; if anyone misrepresents the holy synod of Chalcedon, alleging that it claimed that the virgin was the mother of God only according to that heretical understanding which the blasphemous Theodore put forward; or if anyone says that she is the mother of a man or the Christ-bearer, that is the mother of Christ, suggesting that Christ is not God; and does not formally confess that she is properly and truly the mother of God, because he who before all ages was born of the Father, God the Word, has been made into human flesh in these latter days and has been born to her, and it was in this religious understanding that the holy synod of Chalcedon formally stated its belief that she was the mother of God: let him be anathema.

13. If anyone defends the heretical writings of Theodoret which were composed against the true faith, against the first holy synod of Ephesus and against holy Cyril and his Twelve Chapters, and also defends what Theodoret wrote to support the heretical Theodore and Nestorius and others who think in the same way as the aforesaid Theodore and Nestorius and accept them or their heresy and if anyone, because of them, shall accuse of being heretical the doctors of the church who have stated their belief in the union according to subsistence of God the Word; and if anyone does not anathematize these heretical books and those who have thought or now think in this way, and all those who have written against the true faith or against holy Cyril and his twelve chapters, and who persist in such heresy until they die: let him be anathema.

Such then are the assertions we confess. We have received them from

1. holy Scripture, from
2. the teaching of the holy fathers, and from
3. the definitions about the one and the same faith made by the aforesaid four holy synods.

Moreover, condemnation has been passed by us against the heretics and their impiety, and also against those who have justified or shall justify the so-called "Three Chapters", and against those who have persisted or will persist in their own error. If anyone should attempt to hand on, or to teach by word or writing, anything contrary to what we have regulated, then if he is a bishop or somebody appointed to the clergy, in so far as he is acting contrary to what befits priests and the ecclesiastical status, let him be stripped of the rank of priest or cleric, and if he is a monk or lay person, let him be anathema.

Can't see much of a way around it. Looks like it's anathematized as heretical Nestorianism. Well, at least no one actually ENDORSED that view. As the Council put it:

Are they unaware, or rather pretending to be unaware, that to be judged anathematized is just the same as to be separated from God? The heretic, even though he has not been condemned formally by any individual, in reality brings anathema on himself, having cut himself off from the way of truth by his heresy. What reply can such people make to the Apostle when he writes: As for someone who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Or as St. Cyril himself says:

The holy synod of Ephesus, meeting in accordance with the will of God, has pronounced sentence against the heresy of Nestorius and has condemned according to justice and with accuracy both Nestorius himself and all those who might later, in inane fashion, adopt the same opinions as he held, and those who had previously adhered to the same opinions and who were bold enough to put them in writing, placing upon them all an equal condemnation. It was quite logical that when a condemnation was issued against one person for such stupidity in what he said, then that condemnation should apply not only to that person alone but also, so to speak, against all those who spread the heresies and untruths. They express these falsehoods against the true dogmas of the church, offering worship to two sons, trying to divide what cannot be divided, and introducing to both heaven and earth the offence of the worship of man. But the sacred band of heavenly spirits worship along with us only one lord Jesus Christ.

So, as I said good thing that no one behaved in such an "inane fashion" as to adopt this view, and thereby partake of the Nestorian "stupidity." Errr, what was that you said there, Dr. Svendsen?

I made this same point by citing this same passage at the end of my article titled The New Roman Catholic Apollinarimonophysites.

OK, OK, but surely you didn't use it to support the Nestorian "stupidity," right? Let's see, there's a quote right here...

The Roman Catholic e-pologist position goes something like this: Jesus is God; Mary is the Mother of Jesus; therefore, Mary is the Mother of God (see, e.g., , premises 7 & 8, and conclusion; and Aside from the logical fallacies inherent in this syllogism (see my book, Evangelical Answers), Evangelicals rightly reject this syllogism based on the distinction between Jesus' humanity (which was "mothered" by Mary) and Jesus' divinity (which had no mother).

Oh, my.

What could have inspired you to directly incur the anathema of an ecumenical council?

Roman Catholic e-pologists like to respond to this objection by insisting that Mary didn't give birth to a nature, but rather a person, and that Jesus was a "divine person" who took on a human nature. This is the Apollinarian heresy resurrected from the theological grave.
In short, Apollinaris' view was that Christ was a body of flesh formed and animated by a nous (spirit and intellect), but that the nous was not human, but rather divine. What Apollinaris means by nous is "person."

Oh, I see. You don't know the difference between a person (hypostasis) and a nature, which is exactly Nestorianism! Now it all makes sense! I wonder if that shows up anywhere else. Let's see, there was this accusation of Monophysitism...

According to Augustine, Mary could not have been the "Mother of God," since Jesus in His divinity had no mother. He insists over and over again in this passage that Mary was the mother of Jesus humanity only.

Yep, you definitely do not know the difference between a person and a nature. Wow, imagine actually talking about Christological heresies without even bothering to learn that! St. Cyril would call that "stupidity." I'll be more charitable and call it blindly irrational anti-Catholicism. Either way, on behalf of all of us orthodox creedal Christians like myself and St. Cyril, I'd like to commend Dr. Svendsen for openly admitting his heresy, allowing us to expose it to the light of day and the anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

And evidently, this error trickles down to Dr. Svendsen's followers as well. A poster called "Hilasterion" offered the following observation:

To the extent that they cannot abide anyone speaking of just one of Christ's natures, yes he would be considered a heretic.

For the record, we have no objection to people speaking about just one of Christ's natures, as long as they aren't denying the one divine person of the Word of God. That Jesus is the same divine person as the Word of God is clearly presented in Scripture, including the letter to the Hebrews.

Incredibly enough, Svendsen recently posted this on his blog:

Why such an emphasis on belief in the Resurrection? Because if Christ died for our sins but was not raised from the dead, then redemption is incomplete. Man consists of more than his just immaterial part (soul, spirit, psyche)--he has a physical body, and that body needs to be redeemed; and if he has not risen from the dead, he has not redeemed the body. And if Christ has not redeemed the whole man, he has redeemed nothing.

You'd think that someone who actually believed this would have the sense to worry about whether or not his Christology was Nestorian, since major Christological heresies involve a denial that Christ is fully God and fully man. This is essentially an argument for why his position actually denies our salvation, and hence, cannot possibly be compatible with the Gospel.


Arthur said...

Wow! Now that's a blog entry!!!

CrimsonCatholic said...

Thanks, I think. :)

Unbelievably, I've found more to add to the entry, as Svendsen keeps compounding his errors. His ignorance of theology, particularly Catholic theology, is appalling.

Anonymous said...

The most unbelievable thing is that Svendsen thinks that properties are rooted in the hypostasis and not nature. "So said Arius!"


Hesiodos said...

Of one thing I'm sure. Svendsen is a formal heretic, and DTK is at least a material one. Why we listen to them at all is the question.

CrimsonCatholic said...

"Why we listen to them at all is the question."

I don't. The real question is why ANYONE listens to them, which is the point of posting these things. I want to make sure that no thinking human being is ever sufficiently foolish to cite this type of work, any more than they would cite Jack Chick or the like.