Skip to main content Accessibility help

Aflame but not consumed: Nestorius and the person of Christ

  • Kirsten Heacock Sanders (a1)


Though Nestorius is often thought to have erred largely due to his christological views, this article will suggest that it was his hamartiology that led to his errant christological claims.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Hide All

1 Among them: Chadwick, Henry, ‘Eucharist and Christology in the Nestorian Controversy’, Journal of Theological Studies, ns 2 (1951), pp. 145–64; Turner, H. E. W., ‘Nestorius Reconsidered’, Studia Patristica 13 (1975), pp. 306–21; Milton, Anastos, ‘Nestorius was Orthodox’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 16 (1962), pp. 117–40; Wilken, Robert, ‘Tradition, Exegesis and the Christological Controversies’, Church History 34/2 (1965), pp. 123–45. See also the monograph by Loofs, Fredrich, Nestorius and His Place in the History of Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: CUP, 1914).

2 See Jones, Paul Dafydd, The Humanity of Christ: Christology in Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics (London: T&T Clark, 2008), pp. 1659.

3 He could not affirm what later came to be called the communication idiomatum. For more on the communication of idioms, see Weinandy, Thomas, Does God Suffer? (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), pp. 172213.

4 Norris, Richard A., The Christological Controversy (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1980), p. 130.

5 See Riches, Aaron, Ecce Homo: On the Divine Unity of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2016), pp. 21–3.

6 Ibid., p. 30, n. 40; quoting McGuckin, John, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004), p. 131.

7 See Carl Braaten's excellent discussion of modern approaches to the question in his Modern Interpretations of Nestorius’, Church History 32/3 (1963), pp. 251–67, esp. pp. 254–9. See also Riches, Ecce Homo, p. 31: ‘Nestorius’ dyophysite doctrine of Christ therefore requires two prosopa, which in turn confirms that some of Jesus’ acts are “human”, while others are “divine”.’

8 For more on Loofs and his relation to other recent literature on Nestorius, see Braaten, ‘Modern Interpretations of Nestorius’, p. 256.

9 Ibid., p. 259.

10 The most helpful treatment of the competitive and non-competitive options for the relation between God and humanity comes from Tanner, Kathryn, God and Creation in Christian Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), esp. ch. 2.

11 One of the most interesting thinkers on the question of an ontological link between the divine and the human is Sergius Bulgakov, whose opening chapter in Lamb of God, titled ‘The Dialectic of the Idea of Divine-Humanity in the Patristic Epoch’, makes for extremely compelling reading, even if his conclusions are somewhat overwrought. See Bulgakov, Sergius, Lamb of God, trans. Jakim, Boris (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2008), pp. 119–56.

12 These are Kathryn Tanner's words in Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 3.

13 For the purposes of this article, I intend ‘body of Christ’ to refer to the actual, physical Jesus of Nazareth, though the temptation to speak ecclesially always lingers.

14 Norris, Christological Controversy, p. 129.

15 Ibid., p. 125.

16 Ibid., p. 123.

17 Ibid., p. 124.

19 Ibid., p. 136.

20 Ibid., p. 137.

24 Ibid., p. 138.

26 Susan Wessel notes that there were political concerns at play here due to the economic significance of the relationship between the monks in Egypt and Alexandria. See Wessel, Susan, Cyril of Alexandria and the Nestorian Controversy: The Making of a Saint and a Heretic (Oxford: OUP, 2004).

27 According to Chadwick, it is not the case that Nestorius denied the Theotokos entirely; rather he simply required that the Apollinarian implications of the term be covered up with the addition of Anthropotokos. See Chadwick, ‘Eucharist and Christology’, p. 149, n. 1.


Aflame but not consumed: Nestorius and the person of Christ

  • Kirsten Heacock Sanders (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.