Christianity / Orientations / Heresy /
In Christianity, a sectarian orientation (see heresy) originating in the 5th century. The orientation is named after Archbishop Nestorius of Constantinople, but whether he truly was the orientation's founder cannot be set with certainty.
The theology of Nestorianism deviated from that of the mainstream church with its definition of the nature of Christ. In Nestorianism, Christ was defined as both divine and human, acting as one, but not joined together. Nestorians rejected such terminology as "God suffered" or "God was crucified", because it was the human nature of Jesus Christ which suffered, not the divine nature.
Nestorianism was accused of dividing Christ into two separate personalities with separate experiences. At a late point in his life, Nestorius stated that he believed that Christ was indeed one person. Whether he had changed opinions, or had been misinterpreted earlier, is a matter of speculation among scholars.
Nestorianism refused to call the Virgin Mary "Mother of God" (Theotokos), since her son, Jesus, was born as a human being. It was not from her, but from the Father, that his divine nature was derived. Nestorianism only called her "Mother of Christ" (Christotokos).
Nestorians were persecuted since its earliest times, but it found refuge in Sassanid Persia. From Persia, Nestorianism would spread to India, China and Mongolia. Churches founded by the early Nestorians have survived into modern times, but much of the theology has changed over time. The present-day Nestorian Church of Iraq is related to original Nestorianism mainly in name only, since its Christology was redefined around 600 by Babai the Great, who taught that Christ has two qnomes (essences), unmingled and eternally united in one parsopa (personality).
The Nestorians developed a certain type of prayer, used during Lent, which involved genuflections. The Muslim salat (prayer) has similar movements, called rak'a; whether Islam has been influenced or not is an open question, but at least there is correspondence in geography and time.
428: In Constantinople, where Nestorius has become archbishop, a deviating explanation of the nature of Jesus Christ, is preached.
430 August: Conflicts over theology between Nestorius and Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria reach the point where both appeal to Pope Celestine 1 to solve the dispute. Celestine is well aware of the conflict and sympathetic to Cyril. He arranges a church council in Rome, where the accepted Christology is settled and decided upon that the term Theotokos should be used on Virgin Mary. Nestorius was requested to confirm these decisions, which he apparently refused to do.
431: The Council of Ephesus is convened to condemn the teaching of Nestorius. Nestorius himself is deposed as archbishop, and 17 bishops supporting him are also removed from their offices. This causes a schism in the church, since Nestorius' supporters continued with their practices.
451: The Council of Chalcedon reaffirms the condemnation of Nestorianism from the prior ecumenical council.
462: The Sassanid rulers of Persia grant protection to Nestorian Christians.
484: The pro-Byzantine Catholicos Babowai is replaced by the Nestorian Bishop of Nisibis, Bar Sauma.
486 February: The Persian Church acknowledges Theodore of Mopsuestia, the chief Nestorian theological authority, as guardian of correct faith. Since that time, the church has been Nestorian.
489: Nestorians are forced to abandon their theological school and stronghold of Edessa, and relocate to Persia. Nisibis is made their new headquarters. It would soon emerge as a famous and influential seat of learning. But few scriptures have survived out of Nisibis.
520's and 530's: Schism among the Nestorians.
540's: Persecution of Nestorian Christians in Persia.
553: The Second Council of Constantinople condemns the theology of Nestorius' teacher, Theodore of Mopsuestia.
End 6th century: Schism among the Nestorians, as Henana of Adiabene tries to replace the doctrine of Theodore with his own doctrine, which was close to the theology of Origen.
Around 600: Babai the Great, the unofficial head of the Eastern Church at that time and reformer of the Assyrian monastic movement, refutes Nestorius and writes what became the normative Christology of the Assyrian Church.
635: Nestorian missionaries reach China.
637: Muslim Arab conquest of Persia, and the independence of the national church is recognized.
7th-10th centuries: The Nestorian church prospers and expands.
10th century: The Nestorians have 20 metropolitan provinces (bishoprics), of which 15 are within the Caliphate.
Central Asian Tatars are converted to Nestorian Christianity.
14th century: The raids of Timur Lenk almost destroys the infrastructure of the church. Nestorianism survives mainly in the mountainous regions of modern Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
1551: A large contingent of Nestorians acknowledges the Pope in Rome, forming the church today called Chaldean Catholic Church. The groups refusing this, are since known as Nestorian Church.
1559: Nestorian church in India, known as St. Thomas Christians acknowledge the Pope in Rome too.
1898: A small number of Nestorian congregations of the Urmia region (Iran) becomes part of the Russian Orthodox Church.