The Nestorian Reaction

Opposition to Apollinarianism gave rise to the Nestorian heresy. The

original ebionitism had died away, but its spirit and central doctrine

reappeared in Nestorianism. Nestorianism might be described as

ebionitism conforming to the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople. The

leaders of the opposition to the Apollinarists of the fifth century

were their own Syrian countrymen whose headquarters was at Antioch.

The Antioc
ians differed from the Apollinarians in the starting-point

of their Christology and in the controlling motive of their thought.

While Apollinaris had constructed his Christology on the basis of the

doctrine of the Trinity, the Antiochians started from the formula

"perfect alike in deity and humanity." The reasonings of Apollinaris

were governed by the thought of redemption. The fundamental question

of religion for him was, "How can the closest union between divine and

human be secured?" The tendency of the Antiochians, on the other hand,

was to neglect the interests of Soteriology and to emphasize the

ethical aspect of Christ's life and teaching. They put in the

background the idea of the all-creating, all-sustaining Logos, who took

man's nature upon Him and in His person deified humanity. Their

thought centred on the historic Christ, the Christ of the evangelists.

They did not revert to crude ebionitism, but they explained the Nicene

creed from an ebionitic stand-point. They maintained as against the

Apollinarians the completeness of Christ's human nature; with equal

vigour they maintained the essential deity of the Logos. The "poverty"

(ebionitism) of their doctrines consisted in their paltry view of the

hypostatic union. The union, according to the Nestorians, was

subsequent to the conception of Jesus. It was not a personal, but a

moral union. It was a conjunction of two co-ordinate entities. They

taught that the more the man Jesus acted in accordance with the divine

promptings, the closer became his union with the Logos. That is to

say, the union was relative not absolute. Thus the union between

divine and human in Christ differed only in degree from the union of

the same elements in any good man. The unity of the Son of God and the

Son of Mary consisted solely in the identity of name, honour and