Nestorians And Copts


The first theological and Christological clash between the doctrines and orthodoxy took place at the Council of EPHESUS (431). CYRIL I (412-444) faced a new phase in as preached by the scholar NESTORIUS, of Constantinople. The theologians, led by Saint Cyril, taught that Jesus Christ was the Eternal Logos under the condition of humanity. All the actions predicated to Jesus as a man were predicated to the as well; His mother, therefore, is the THEOTOKOS, mother of God.

According to Nestorius, Mary was only the mother of the man. This led to the doctrine of the dual nature of Jesus. Saint Cyril addressed himself to the pope of Rome, Celestine, in order to attract Roman attention to the irregularity of doctrine. Saint Cyril hurled twelve anathemas against Nestorius from Alexandria, the center of the Christian world. This preeminent position and the Nestorian struggle led to the division of the after the Council of Chalcedon (451).

DIOSCORUS I (444-458) recognized nothing but the Cyrillian formula for Christology. Politics under the cover of religion did the rest. Thus the orthodoxy was (because of dishonesty or ignorance) labeled as Eutychianism (see EUTYCHES). The Copts energetically protested against the basic elements of Eutychianism, as they refused the doctrines of Nestorianism. Their traditional hostility to Nestorianism and Nestorians, even from 616 to 642, when the Copts lived under Persian domination, as well as their unwillingness to discard their ecclesiastical and national independence, were deciding factors in favor of the establishment of a “Coptic church.”

The strict resistance to Nestorianism and Eutychianism has preserved the doctrinal orthodoxy of the Coptic until today. This is illustrated by the statement on drawn up by the Roman Catholic and the Coptic church which was signed at the Monastery near Cairo on 12 February 1988, “We believe that our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, is perfect in His divinity and perfect in His humanity, that His humanity is One with His divinity, without mixture or confusion, unchanging and unaltered, and that His divinity at no time was separate from His humanity. At the same time we anathemize simultaneously the doctrines of Nestorius, and of Eutyches” (John Paul II and Shenouda III).


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  • Tisserant, E. “L’Eglise nestorienne.” In Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, Vol. 11, cols. 157-323. Paris, 1931.