Who were the Nestorians? What happened to them?
The Nestorians are followers of Nestorius (c. AD 386–451), who was Archbishop of Constantinople. Nestorianism is based on the belief put forth by Nestorius that emphasized the disunity of the human and divine natures of Christ. According to the Nestorians, Christ essentially exists as two persons sharing one body. His divine and human natures are completely distinct and separate.
This idea is not scriptural, however, and goes against the orthodox Christian doctrine of the hypostatic union, which states that Christ is fully God and fully man in one indivisible Person. God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been the Son of God (John 8:58; 10:30), but at the Incarnation, Jesus also became a human being (John 1:14).
In the first few centuries of the church, a great debate arose: what is the exact nature of Christ? How can a being be completely divine and completely human? In the West, the Roman Catholic Church decreed Jesus to be “two natures in one person,” and went on to other things. In the East, the definition of Christ’s nature was as much about politics as it was about religion, and the discussion went on far longer.
The Alexandrines, so named because the political loyalties of most who held the view were Alexandrian, were “monophysites.” They insisted that Jesus was, above all, divine. He was the teacher of divine truth and, in order to have had that truth, must have been primarily divine. To emphasize His humanity over His deity led to unthinkable assertions like “God got tired, injured, hungry, thirsty, and then died.” Apollinaris of Laodicea summarized the thought by saying the Word of God took the place of a rational soul so that a human body could preach the truth of God; the body was a mouthpiece.
The Antiochenes from Antioch thought this was ridiculous. A sacrifice that was not fully human could not redeem humans. Antiochenes were “dyophysites.” The Godhead dwelt in Jesus, no doubt, but not in any way that undermined His humanity. Jesus’ two natures were distinct from one another—although no one could precisely explain what that meant.
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