Monday, March 8, 2021

Is the Assyrian Church of the East Nestorian?

(Britannica) - Nestorianism, Christian sect that originated in Asia Minor and Syria stressing the independence of the divine and human natures of Christ and, in effect, suggesting that they are two persons loosely united. The schismatic sect formed following the condemnation of Nestorius and his teachings by the ecumenical councils of Ephesus (431 CE) and Chalcedon (451 CE).

Originally, Nestorianism envisaged the divine Word as having associated with itself at the Incarnation a complete, independently existing man. From the orthodox point of view, Nestorianism therefore denied the reality of the Incarnation and represented Christ as a God-inspired man rather than as God-made-man. Since the 5th century all the principal branches of the Christian church have united in condemning Nestorianism and have affirmed that Christ is a single person, at once wholly human and wholly divine.

The modern Nestorian church is not Nestorian in the strict sense, though it venerates Nestorius and refuses to accept the title Theotokos for the Blessed Virgin. Contemporary Nestorians are represented by the Church of the East, or Persian Church, usually referred to in the West as the Assyrian, or Nestorian, Church. Most of its members live in Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

12 comments:

  1. "Originally, Nestorianism envisaged the divine Word as having associated with itself at the Incarnation a complete, independently existing man."

    Not exactly. In classical Nestorianism, the hypostasis of God the Word unites with a human hypostasis that came into being at the moment of the incarnation and was never separate from the Word. The two hypostases remain two different subjects for purposes of predication (thus the rejection of "Theotokos"), but exist in a "moral" or "prosopic" union, sharing a single will and constituting a single object of worship. It insists on thinking of the incarnation as a unique "indwelling" of the divine(cf. John 1:14) rather than as the Word becoming human.

    Which is all to say, what the Church has historically meant when talking about "Nestorianism" is really the theology of Theodore of Mopsuestia (condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council). Which poses problems when we approach the Church of the East, because not only do they venerate him alongside Nestorius and Diodore of Tarsus (also condemned by the Fifth Council) as the three "Greek Doctors", but since the time of Babai the Great (d. 628), the Church of the East has held Theodore as the incontrovertible gold standard for all biblical exegesis. Prior to Babai, it's not at all clear that the Church of the East was quite so rigidly "Antiochene" in its exegesis and Christology.

    In any case, discourse within the Church of the East about it not being Nestorian has to do primarily with correctly pointing out that their church is of apostolic foundation and was not founded as some sort of breakaway by partisans of Nestorius. Nestorius himself is a bit of a red herring because we don't know much about his theology apart from his post-condemnation work, surviving only in Syriac, the Bazaar of Heracleides. On the other hand, Theodore of Mopsuestia's Christology is relatively clear, and quite unambiguously condemned by the Orthodox Church.

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  2. This topic and relations with the Non-Chalcedonians is something I am mixed about.

    They assert that it was all Byzantine politics and Linguistic misunderstanding (due to incomplete texts or deliberate obtuseness, again because of politics).

    I don't know. While I agree that there were shenanigans and political maneuvering, I also have a hard time believing that the Holy Fathers got it all wrong. Perhaps they agree with us on things NOW, but was it always so clear back then? Or did they get it right, and we are just uncomfortable with it now, in our "Ecumenical" age?

    I don't claim to be an expert, and I think there is much to commend in their practice. But I'm not sold on "it was all a misunderstanding!"

    I'm open to correction on that, though. And of course all will be revealed before the Judgement Seat.

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    1. Why do you think it must be black and white? They are our Fathers, but they were also people, products of their times just as we are. Is there a need for them to be infallible alongside God? Just because they were right about most things doesn't mean they weren't wrong about anything...

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  4. Would it not be admirable if we as true christians employed christian charity and found a way to become one instead of succumbing to satan and remain at odds with each other,,,,isn't healing one of our primary virtues

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    1. I think the "Eastern" Churches should concentrate on reconciling their schisms before we take on the one with Rome.

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  5. I never mentioned time,,it is the oriental orthodox and ourselves,,,old and new calendar that need to heal and reconcile if we believe what we preach

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  6. I had the same question and took the time to read Mar Bawai Soro's "The Church of the East: Apostolic & Orthodox." Although the intention was to convince the reader of the substantial similarity of Assyrian and Orthodox Christologies, the book convinced me beyond any serious doubt that they in fact are incompatible.

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  7. I had the same question and took the time to read Mar Bawai Soro's "The Church of the East: Apostolic & Orthodox." Although the intention was to convince the reader of the substantial similarity of Assyrian and Orthodox Christologies, the book convinced me beyond any serious doubt that they in fact are incompatible.

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    1. I haven't read it, Bawai Soros left the Church of the East for the Chaldean Unia a while ago. I don't know how well he can represent them. His name is not well respected now amongst the Church of the East.

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  8. here is the rub
    1) theologians study minute issues and if they were not so pessimistic and myopic progress could be made, however it progress was made then there would be no jobs for them

    2) back in the 70's catholicos koren of the holy house of cilicia was interviewed on usa tv and asked about church unity, and he said thAt unity will happen immediately if we put the theologians in jail.

    3) it seems that the roman caTholics overcame all the of the road blocks we peseverate about,, the chUrch of the east bacome the chaldean rite, the syriac, armenian, ethopians etc have their own rite, there on the orthodox side aRe the melkite, ukrainians, greek, ruthenians all with their rite - why could they make it happen and cannot?

    4) the ommon lay person has no interest in the phiosophical theological issues,, yet the issues are used to isolate them from their bretheren. why?

    so, why can't we take the high road instead of always taking the low road, and not perseverate on what divides but what can unify, and address the sticky issues last and make unity happen?

    great leaders do just that, they have a vision and purpose, they make positive things happen, but alas we do not possess such a leader, is it because our system just doesn't not allow for it? this is grievous situation, isn't it?

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