Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople/Istanbul (AD 386-428)

Nestorius was born in what is now the modern city of Kahramanmaraş, in southeast Turkey, around 386. He received his Christian training as a student of Theodore of Mopsuestia in Antioch (modern Antakya) and became famous for his dynamic sermons.

Emperor Theodosius II had Nestorius ordained as Constantinople’s bishop, but he only served for three years, from 428 to 431. By 431, Nestorius’ teaching—later called Nestorianism—had created a deep division in the church. Nestorius taught that the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ should be understood as a conjunction, but not as a total union; although the two natures formed the person of Christ, it was a much weaker understanding than the hypostatic union written in the final version of the Nicene Creed. As a result of his understanding concerning the natures of Christ, Nestorius disapproved of Christians calling the Virgin Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God. He insisted that she should be called Christotokos, the Mother of Christ.

Bishop Cyril of Alexandria and empress Pulcheria opposed Nestorius, and his teaching was condemned at Ephesus’ Ecumenical Church Council held in 431. Because of Nestorius’ separation of the natures of Christ, the new Monophysite teaching of Eutyches arose that taught that Christ had one divine nature and that his human nature was absorbed in his divinity. The discovery of Nestorius’ Book of Heraclides in the early 1900s has led many Bible teachers to reassess his theology. It is now generally agreed that his teaching was not that different from the Chalcedon Creed.