Patriarch of Constantinople and heresiarch; b. Germanicia in Euphratesian Syria, after a.d. 381; d. Libya, after 451. Of Persian parenthood, Nestorius studied in Antioch and entered the monastery of Euprepios, where he was ordained. He penetrated deeply into the Antiochene theology, although it is doubtful that he became a disciple of theodore of mopsuestia. An orator, he was selected by theodosius ii to succeed Sisinnius as bishop of Constantinople and was consecrated April 10, 428. A zealous opponent of arianism and pelagianism, he corresponded with Pope celestine i on the Pelagianism of julian of eclanum, then residing in Constantinople.
Nestorius inaugurated a vast theological quarrel by preaching against the title theotokos, or Mother of God, given to the Virgin Mary, claiming she should be called rather the Mother of Christ. His doctrine was challenged by Eusebius of Doryleum, still a layman, who posted a contestatio, or rebuttal, on the doors of hagia sophia in Constantinople, charging Nestorius with the errors of paul of samosata. Nestorius wrote to Pope Celestine to explain his teaching on the Christotokos, and Eusebius sent the pope copies of the bishop's sermons. Meanwhile cyril of alexandria, disturbed by agitation on the part of Egyptian monks, sent two letters to Nestorius warning him of the heretical implications in calling Mary only the Mother of Christ and not the Mother of God. Cyril finally sent a dossier of the argument to Celestine, who in a Roman synod (August 430) summoned Nestorius to retract within ten days and charged Cyril with executing this sentence. After a synod at Alexandria in which Nestorius' teaching was condemned (November 430), Cyril wrote a third letter to Nestorius to which he adjoined 12 anathemas (capitula ) requesting Nestorius's acquiescence and signature. Nestorius in turn charged Cyril with apollinarianism and called upon the Emperor Theodosius II to convoke a council to settle the matter. The Council of ephesus met in June 431, but Nestorius refused to appear before it when Cyril, charged by Pope Celestine with acting as his legate, took over the presidency. In a session on June 22, 431, Nestorius was condemned as a heretic and despite charges of irregularity in the Council's proceedings, Theodosius deposed Nestorius and relegated him to a monastery from which, at the insistence of john of antioch, he was sent into exile to Petra in Arabia (436) and finally to the Great Oasis in Libya, where he died.
In 435 Theodosius ordered the writings of Nestorius to be burnt; hence only fragments of his sermons, letters, and treatises have been preserved. They were edited by F. loofs in 1905. His Bazaar of Heraclides, discovered in 1895 in a Syrian translation, is an autobiographical defense of his teaching in which he claims that his doctrine was identical with that of Pope leo i and flavian of constantinople. Its literary form attests Nestorius' eloquence, and its plea for charity and forgiveness have caused a reestimate of his guilt as a heretic, although the doctrine known as nestorianism took its rise from his preaching. A fragment of an earlier defense, known as the Tragedy of Nestorius, written probably between 431 and 435, has been preserved in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and a number of his letters and sermons have been published in the literature dealing with the Council of Ephesus.
Bibliography: nestorius, Nestoriana: Fragmente, tr. and ed. f. loofs et al. (Halle 1905). É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables Générales 1951–) 11.1:76–157. i. rucher, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al.17.1:126–137. j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, Md. 1950–) 3:514–519. Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum (Berlin 1914–) 1.1.1–6. j. f. bethune-baker, Nestorius and His Teaching (Cambridge, Eng. 1908). r. v. sellers, Two Ancient Christologies (London 1940). p. galtier, "Nestorius mal compris, mal traduit," Gregorianum 34 (1953). 427–433.
[p. t. camelot]