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Christianity / Ecumenical council /
Council of Ephesus



Artistic representation of Council of Ephesus.
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Artistic representation of Council of Ephesus.

In Christianity, a 3rd ecumenical council, held in Ephesus in 431, from June 22 until July 31.
The council was convened by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius 2 and Roman Emperor Valentinian 3, but the real initiative came Pope Celestine 1 of Rome and Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria. It was attended by 198 bishops by the first day, but more appear to have arrived over the following days. No bishops from Carthage attended; they were under intense attack by the Vandals.
The background for the council was a conflict over the teaching of the Bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius. Nestorius had refused to use the title "mother of God" for Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. With this he expressed the logical implication of Christ being of two natures, one divine and one human. Mary could therefore only be the mother of human Jesus, she was not involved in anything dealing with Jesus' divine qualities. Nestorius opponents claimed that Christ was a single person, at once God and man.
A rival synod under the leadership of John of Antioch is set up, making its own decisions. They had both the Bishop of Ephesus and the Patriarch of Alexandria excommunicated, but this came to have no real impact.
The actual council made, of course, different decisions, being led by no other than the Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril. Nestorius was deposed and his doctrines condemned. Jesus Christ was declared having two natures joined in one person, and his mother, Mary, was officially recognized "Mother of God".
It was 50 years since the first council (First of Constantinople), and it was 20 years until the next (Chalcedon).




By Tore Kjeilen