The Council of Ephesus
The Council of Ephesus was convened at the Church of Mary in Ephesus (near present-day Selçuk in Turkey) in 431 AD by Emperor Theodosius II. This third ecumenical council confirmed the original Nicene Creed and condemned the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who held that the Virgin Mary should be called the Christotokos, “Christ-bearer” as opposed to the ancient title of Theotokos or “God-bearer”. Nestorius himself had requested the Emperor to convene the council, hoping that it would prove his orthodoxy; but the council in fact condemned his teachings as heresy (later referred to as Nestorianism) and the council declared Mary as Theotokos (Mother of God). This precipitated the Nestorian Schism, by which churches supportive of Nestorius, especially in the Persian Empire of the Sassanids, were severed from the rest of Christendom and became known as Nestorian Christianity, or the Church of the East, whose present-day representatives are the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Chaldean Syrian Church, and the Chaldean Catholic Church (which restored communion with Rome).
Contention over Nestorius’ teachings, which he developed during his studies at the School of Antioch, largely revolved around his rejection of the long-used title Theotokos (“Carrier of God”, “God-Bearer”, or “Mother of God”) for the Virgin Mary. Nestorius taught that Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth to the incarnate Christ, not the divine Logos who existed before Mary and indeed before time itself. Consequently, Nestorius argued that the Virgin Mary should be called Christotokos, Greek for “Carrier of Christ”, and not Theotokos, Greek for “Carrier of God”. Nestorius’s opponents charged him with detaching Christ’s divinity and humanity into two persons existing in one body, thereby denying the reality of the Incarnation. Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria argued that Nestorianism split Jesus in half and denied that he was both human and divine. A mother, after all, gives birth to a person, not just a body. Such a proposition would suggest that Christ merely passed through Mary as through a vessel rather than being born of her at the Incarnation. Since the Incarnation was vital to Christendom’s understanding of salvation, to deny that Christ was incarnate in every aspect would undermine the person of Jesus and the Church’s understanding of salvation. Cyril of Alexandria appealed to Pope Celestine I, charging Nestorius with heresy. The Pope agreed and gave Cyril his authority to serve a notice to Nestorius to recant his views within ten days or else be excommunicated. Cyril sent a letter to Nestorius known as “The Third Epistle of Saint Cyril to Nestorius.” This epistle drew heavily on the established Patristic Constitutions and contained the most famous article of Alexandrian Orthodoxy: “The Twelve Anathemas of Saint Cyril.” In these anathemas, Cyril excommunicated anyone who followed the teachings of Nestorius. On 19 November, Nestorius, anticipating the ultimatum which was about to be delivered, convinced Emperor Theodosius II to summon a general council through which Nestorius hoped to convict Cyril of heresy and thereby vindicate his own teachings.
The Council of Ephesus issued eight canons:
- Canon 1–5 condemned Nestorius and Caelestius and their followers as heretics
- Canon 6 decreed deposition from clerical office or excommunication for those who did not accept the Council’s decrees
- Canon 7 condemned any departure from the creed established by the First Council of Nicaea (325), in particular an exposition by the priest Charisius.
- Canon 8 condemned interference by the Bishop of Antioch in affairs of the Church in Cyprus and decreed generally, that no bishop was to “assume control of any province which has not heretofore, from the very beginning, been under his own hand or that of his predecessors […] lest the Canons of the Fathers be transgressed”.
The Council denounced Nestorius’ teaching as erroneous and decreed that Jesus was one person (hypostasis), and not two separate persons, yet possessing both a human and divine nature. The Virgin Mary was to be called Theotokos, a Greek word that means “God-bearer” (the one who gave birth to God).
(Source: McGuckin, John A. (1994). St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts. Leiden: Brill.)
The Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.)
The Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.)
Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.)
Extracts from the Acts
[Before the arrival of the Papal Legates.]
We believe in one God, etc.
When this creed had been recited, Peter the Presbyter of Alexandria, and primicerius of the notaries said:
We have in our hands the letter of the most holy and most reverend archbishop Cyril, which he wrote to the most reverend Nestorius, filled with counsel and advice, on account of his aberration from the right faith. I will read this if your holiness [i.e., the holy Synod] so orders….The letter began as follows:
The Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius(“Intelligo quosdam meæ”)
To the most religious and beloved of God, fellow minister Nestorius, Cyril sends greeting in the Lord.
I hear that some are rashly talking of the estimation in which I hold your holiness, and that this is frequently the case especially at the times that meetings are held of those in authority. And perchance they think in so doing to say something agreeable to you, but they speak senselessly, for they have suffered no injustice at my hands, but have been exposed by me only to their profit; this man as an oppressor of the blind and needy, and that as one who wounded his mother with a sword. Another because he stole, in collusion with his waiting maid, another’s money, and had always laboured under the imputation of such like crimes as no one would wish even one of his bitterest enemies to be laden with. I take little reckoning of the words of such people, for the disciple is not above his Master, nor would I stretch the measure of my narrow brain above the Fathers, for no matter what path of life one pursues it is hardly possible to escape the smirching of the wicked, whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness, and who at the last must give an account to the Judge of all.
But I return to the point which especially I had in mind. And now I urge you, as a brother in the Lord, to propose the word of teaching and the doctrine of the faith with all accuracy to the people, and to consider that the giving of scandal to one even of the least of those who believe in Christ, exposes a body to the unbearable indignation of God. And of how great diligence and skill there is need when the multitude of those grieved is so great, so that we may administer the healing word of truth to them that seek it. But this we shall accomplish most excellently if we shall turn over the words of the holy Fathers, and are zealous to obey their commands, proving ourselves, whether we be in the faith according to that which is written, and conform our thoughts to their upright and irreprehensible teaching.
Extracts from the Acts (Continued)
And after the letter was read, Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, said: This holy and great Synod has heard what I wrote to the most religious Nestorius, defending the right faith. I think that I have in no respect departed from the true statement of the faith, that is from the creed set forth by the holy and great synod formerly assembled at Nice. Wherefore I desire your holiness [i.e. the Council] to say whether rightly and blamelessly and in accordance with that holy synod I have written these things or no.
[A number of bishops then gave their opinion, all favourable to Cyril; after these individual opinions the Acts continue (col. 491):]
And all the rest of the bishops in the order of their rank deposed to the same things, and so believed, according as the Fathers had set forth, and as the Epistle of the most holy Archbishop Cyril to Nestorius the bishop declared.
And after this letter was read, Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, said, What seems good to this holy and great synod with regard to the letter just read? Does it also seem to be consonant to the faith set forth by the holy Synod assembled in the city of Nice?
[The bishops, then as before, individually express their opinion, and at last the Acts continue (col. 502):]
All the bishops cried out together: Whoever does not anathematize Nestorius let him be anathema. Such an one the right faith anathematizes; such an one the holy Synod anathematizes. Whoever communicates with Nestorius let him be anathema! We anathematize all the apostles of Nestorius: we all anathematize Nestorius as a heretic: let all such as communicate with Nestorius be anathema, etc., etc.
[The letter of Cælestine was read and no opinion expressed.]
Peter the presbyter of Alexandria, and primicerius of the notaries said: Altogether in agreement with the things just read are those which his holiness Cyril our most pious bishop wrote, which I now have at hand, and will read if your piety so shall order.
[The letter was read which begins thus:]
The Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius(“Cum salvator noster”)
To the most reverend and God-loving fellow-minister Nestorius, Cyril and the synod assembled in Alexandria, of the Egyptian Province, Greeting in the Lord.
When our Saviour says clearly:
He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, what is to become of us, from whom your Holiness requires that we love you more than Christ the Saviour of us all? Who can help us in the day of judgment, or what kind of excuse shall we find for thus keeping silence so long, with regard to the blasphemies made by you against him? If you injured yourself alone, by teaching and holding such things, perhaps it would be less matter; but you have greatly scandalized the whole Church, and have cast among the people the leaven of a strange and new heresy. And not to those there [i.e. at Constantinople] only; but also to those everywhere [the books of your explanation were sent]. How can we any longer, under these circumstances, make a defense for our silence, or how shall we not be forced to remember that Christ said:
Think not that I have come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother. For if faith be injured, let there be lost the honour due to parents, as stale and tottering, let even the law of tender love towards children and brothers be silenced, let death be better to the pious than living;
that they might obtain a better resurrection, as it is written.
Behold, therefore, how we, together with the holy synod which met in great Rome, presided over by the most holy and most reverend brother and fellow-minister, Celestine the Bishop, also testify by this third letter to you, and counsel you to abstain from these mischievous and distorted dogmas, which you hold and teach, and to receive the right faith, handed down to the churches from the beginning through the holy Apostles and Evangelists, who
were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the Word. And if your holiness have not a mind to this according to the limits defined in the writings of our brother of blessed memory and most reverend fellow-minister Celestine, Bishop of the Church of Rome, be well assured then that you have no lot with us, nor place or standing (λόγον) among the priests and bishops of God. For it is not possible for us to overlook the churches thus troubled, and the people scandalized, and the right faith set aside, and the sheep scattered by you, who ought to save them, if indeed we are ourselves adherents of the right faith, and followers of the devotion of the holy fathers. And we are in communion with all those laymen and clergymen cast out or deposed by your holiness on account of the faith; for it is not right that those, who resolved to believe rightly, should suffer by your choice; for they do well in opposing you. This very thing you have mentioned in your epistle written to our most holy and fellow bishop Celestine of great Rome.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both those in heaven and those in the earth. Who for us men and for our salvation, came down, and was incarnate, and was made man. He suffered, and rose again the third day. He ascended into the heavens, from thence he shall come to judge both the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost: But those that say, There was a time when he was not, and, before he was begotten he was not, and that he was made of that which previously was not, or that he was of some other substance or essence; and that the Son of God was capable of change or alteration; those the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.
Following in all points the confessions of the Holy Fathers which they made (the Holy Ghost speaking in them), and following the scope of their opinions, and going, as it were, in the royal way, we confess that the Only begotten Word of God, begotten of the same substance of the Father, True God from True God, Light from Light, through Whom all things were made, the things in heaven and the things in the earth, coming down for our salvation, making himself of no reputation (καθεὶς ἑαυτὸν εἰς κένωσιν), was incarnate and made man; that is, taking flesh of the Holy Virgin, and having made it his own from the womb, he subjected himself to birth for us, and came forth man from a woman, without casting off that which he was; but although he assumed flesh and blood, he remained what he was, God in essence and in truth. Neither do we say that his flesh was changed into the nature of divinity, nor that the ineffable nature of the Word of God was laid aside for the nature of flesh; for he is unchanged and absolutely unchangeable, being the same always, according to the Scriptures. For although visible and a child in swaddling clothes, and even in the bosom of his Virgin Mother, he filled all creation as God, and was a fellow-ruler with him who begot him, for the Godhead is without quantity and dimension, and cannot have limits.
Confessing the Word to be made one with the flesh according to substance, we adore one Son and Lord Jesus Christ: we do not divide the God from the man, nor separate him into parts, as though the two natures were mutually united in him only through a sharing of dignity and authority (for that is a novelty and nothing else), neither do we give separately to the Word of God the name Christ and the same name separately to a different one born of a woman; but we know only one Christ, the Word from God the Father with his own Flesh. For as man he was anointed with us, although it is he himself who gives the Spirit to those who are worthy and not in measure, according to the saying of the blessed Evangelist John.
One therefore is Christ both Son and Lord, not as if a man had attained only such a conjunction with God as consists in a unity of dignity alone or of authority. For it is not equality of honour which unites natures; for then Peter and John, who were of equal honour with each other, being both Apostles and holy disciples [would have been one, and], yet the two are not one. Neither do we understand the manner of conjunction to be apposition, for this does not suffice for natural oneness (πρὸς ἕνωσον φυσικήν). Nor yet according to relative participation, as we are also joined to the Lord, as it is written
we are one Spirit in him. Rather we deprecate the term of
junction (συναφείας) as not having sufficiently signified the oneness. But we do not call the Word of God the Father, the God nor the Lord of Christ, lest we openly cut in two the one Christ, the Son and Lord, and fall under the charge of blasphemy, making him the God and Lord of himself. For the Word of God, as we have said already, was made hypostatically one in flesh, yet he is God of all and he rules all; but he is not the slave of himself, nor his own Lord. For it is foolish, or rather impious, to think or teach thus. For he said that God was his Father, although he was God by nature, and of his substance. Yet we are not ignorant that while he remained God, he also became man and subject to God, according to the law suitable to the nature of the manhood. But how could he become the God or Lord of himself? Consequently as man, and with regard to the measure of his humiliation, it is said that he is equally with us subject to God; thus he became under the Law, although as God he spoke the Law and was the Law-giver.
We are careful also how we say about Christ:
I worship the One clothed on account of the One clothing him, and on account of the Unseen, I worship the Seen. It is horrible to say in this connection as follows:
The assumed as well as the assuming have the name of God. For the saying of this divides again Christ into two, and puts the man separately by himself and God also by himself. For this saying denies openly the Unity according to which one is not worshipped in the other, nor does God exist together with the other; but Jesus Christ is considered as One, the Only-begotten Son, to be honoured with one adoration together with his own flesh.
We confess that he is the Son, begotten of God the Father, and Only-begotten God; and although according to his own nature he was not subject to suffering, yet he suffered for us in the flesh according to the Scriptures, and although impassible, yet in his Crucified Body he made his own the sufferings of his own flesh; and by the grace of God he tasted death for all: he gave his own Body thereto, although he was by nature himself the life and the resurrection, in order that, having trodden down death by his unspeakable power, first in his own flesh, he might become the first born from the dead, and the first-fruits of them that slept. And that he might make a way for the nature of man to attain incorruption, by the grace of God (as we just now said), he tasted death for every man, and after three days rose again, having despoiled hell. So although it is said that the resurrection of the dead was through man, yet we understand that man to have been the Word of God, and the power of death was loosed through him, and he shall come in the fullness of time as the One Son and Lord, in the glory of the Father, in order to judge the world in righteousness, as it is written.
And since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God, and he is the Maker of the ages, coeternal with the Father, and Creator of all; but, as we have already said, since he united to himself hypostatically human nature from her womb, also he subjected himself to birth as man, not as needing necessarily in his own nature birth in time and in these last times of the world, but in order that he might bless the beginning of our existence, and that that which sent the earthly bodies of our whole race to death, might lose its power for the future by his being born of a woman in the flesh. And this:
In sorrow you shall bring forth children, being removed through him, he showed the truth of that spoken by the prophet,
Strong death swallowed them up, and again God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. For this cause also we say that he attended, having been called, and also blessed, the marriage in Cana of Galilee, with his holy Apostles in accordance with the economy. We have been taught to hold these things by the holy Apostles and Evangelists, and all the God-inspired Scriptures, and in the true confessions of the blessed Fathers.
To all these your reverence also should agree, and give heed, without any guile. And what it is necessary your reverence should anathematize we have subjoined to our epistle.
The Twelve Anathemas of St. Cyril Against Nestorius
If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written,
The Word was made flesh] let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If anyone says that the Emmanuel is true God, and not rather God with us, that is, that he has united himself to a like nature with ours, which he assumed from the Virgin Mary, and dwelt in it; and if anyone calls Mary the mother of God the Word, and not rather mother of him who is Emmanuel; and if he maintains that God the Word has changed himself into the flesh, which he only assumed in order to make his Godhead visible, and to be found in form as a man, let him be anathema.
If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God the Father is united hypostatically to flesh, and that with that flesh of his own, he is one only Christ both God and man at the same time: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one asserts that, at the union of the Logos with the flesh, the divine Essence moved from one place to another; or says that the flesh is capable of receiving the divine nature, and that it has been partially united with the flesh; or ascribes to the flesh, by reason of its reception of God, an extension to the infinite and boundless, and says that God and man are one and the same in nature; let him be anathema.
If anyone shall after the [hypostatic] union divide the hypostases in the one Christ, joining them by that connection alone, which happens according to worthiness, or even authority and power, and not rather by a coming together (συνόδῳ), which is made by natural union (ἕνωσιν φυσικὴν): let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one says that Christ, who is also Emmanuel, is One, not [merely] in consequence of connection, but [also] in nature, and does not acknowledge the connection (συνάφεια) of the two natures, that of the Logos and of the assumed manhood, in one Son, as still continuing without mingling; let him be anathema.
If anyone shall divide between two persons or subsistences those expressions (φωνάς) which are contained in the Evangelical and Apostolical writings, or which have been said concerning Christ by the Saints, or by himself, and shall apply some to him as to a man separate from the Word of God, and shall apply others to the only Word of God the Father, on the ground that they are fit to be applied to God: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one assigns the expressions of the Gospels and Apostolic letters, which refer to the two natures of Christ, to one only of those natures, and even ascribes suffering to the divine Word, both in the flesh and in the Godhead; let him be anathema.
If anyone shall dare to say that the Christ is a Theophorus [that is, God-bearing] man and not rather that he is very God, as an only Son through nature, because
the Word was made flesh, and
has a share in flesh and blood as we do: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one ventures to say that, even after the assumption of human nature, there is only one Son of God, namely, he who is so in nature (naturaliter filius = Logos), while he (since the assumption of the flesh) is certainly Emmanuel; let him be anathema.
If anyone shall dare say that the Word of God the Father is the God of Christ or the Lord of Christ, and shall not rather confess him as at the same time both God and Man, since according to the Scriptures,
The Word was made flesh: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: “If anyone, after the Incarnation calls another than Christ the Word, and ventures to say that the form of a servant is equally with the Word of God, without beginning and uncreated, and not rather that it is made by him as its natural Lord and Creator and God, and that he has promised to raise it again in the words:
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again; let him be anathema.”
If anyone shall say that Jesus as man is only energized by the Word of God, and that the glory of the Only-begotten is attributed to him as something not properly his: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one says that the man who was formed of the Virgin is the Only-begotten, who was born from the bosom of the Father, before the morning star was Psalm 108:3 , and does not rather confess that he has obtained the designation of Only-begotten on account of his connection with him who in nature is the Only-begotten of the Father; and besides, if any one calls another than the Emmanuel Christ let him be anathema.
If anyone shall dare to say that the assumed man (ἀναληφθέντα) ought to be worshipped together with God the Word, and glorified together with him, and recognised together with him as God, and yet as two different things, the one with the other (for this
Together with is added [i.e., by the Nestorians] to convey this meaning); and shall not rather with one adoration worship the Emmanuel and pay to him one glorification, as [it is written]
The Word was made flesh: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one says that the form of a servant should, for its own sake, that is, in reference to its own nature, be reverenced, and that it is the ruler of all things, and not rather, that [merely] on account of its connection with the holy and in itself universally-ruling nature of the Only-begotten, it is to be reverenced; let him be anathema.
If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Ghost, so that he used through him a power not his own and from him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was his own Spirit through which he worked these divine signs; let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If anyone says that the form of a servant is of like nature with the Holy Ghost, and not rather that it owes its union with the Word which has existed since the conception, to his mediation, by which it works miraculous healings among men, and possesses the power of expelling demons; let him be anathema.
Whosoever shall say that it is not the divine Word himself, when he was made flesh and had become man as we are, but another than he, a man born of a woman, yet different from him (ἰδικῶς ἄνθρωπον), who has become our Great High Priest and Apostle; or if any man shall say that he offered himself in sacrifice for himself and not rather for us, whereas, being without sin, he had no need of offering or sacrifice: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one maintains that the Word, who is from the beginning, has become the high priest and apostle of our confession, and has offered himself for us, and does not rather say that it is the work of Emmanuel to be an apostle; and if any one in such a manner divides the sacrifice between him who united [the Word] and him who was united [the manhood] referring it to a common sonship, that is, not giving to God that which is God’s, and to man that which is man’s; let him be anathema.
Whosoever shall not confess that the flesh of the Lord gives life and that it pertains to the Word of God the Father as his very own, but shall pretend that it belongs to another person who is united to him [i.e., the Word] only according to honour, and who has served as a dwelling for the divinity; and shall not rather confess, as we say, that that flesh gives life because it is that of the Word who gives life to all: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: “If any one maintains that the flesh which is united with God the Word is by the power of its own nature life-giving, whereas the Lord himself says,
It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing John 6:61, let him be anathema. [He adds,
God is a Spirit John 4:24. If, then, any one maintains that God the Logos has in a carnal manner, in his substance, become flesh, and persists in this with reference to the Lord Christ; who himself after his resurrection said to his disciples,
Handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you behold me having Luke 24:39; let him be anathema.]”
Whosoever shall not recognize that the Word of God suffered in the flesh, that he was crucified in the flesh, and that likewise in that same flesh he tasted death and that he has become the first-begotten of the dead, for, as he is God, he is the life and it is he that gives life: let him be anathema.
Nestorius: If any one, in confessing the sufferings of the flesh, ascribes these also to the Word of God as to the flesh in which he appeared, and thus does not distinguish the dignity of the natures; let him be anathema.
Extracts from the Acts (Continued)
[No action is recorded in the Acts as having been taken. A verbal report was made by certain who had seen Nestorius during the past three days, that they were hopeless of any repentance on his part. On the motion of Flavian, bishop of Philippi, a number of passages from the Fathers were read; and after that some selections from the writings of Nestorius. A letter from Capreolus, Archbishop of Carthage, was next read, excusing his absence; after the reading of the letter, which makes no direct reference to Nestorius whatever, but prays the Synod to see to it that no novelties be tolerated, the Acts proceed. (Col. 534).]
Cyril, the bishop of the Church of Alexandria, said: As this letter of the most reverend and pious Capreolus, bishop of Carthage, which has been read, contains a most lucid expression of opinion, let it be inserted in the Acts. For it wishes that the ancient dogmas of the faith should be confirmed, and that novelties, absurdly conceived and impiously brought forth, should be reprobated and proscribed.
All the bishops at the same time cried out: These are the sentiments (φωναί) of all of us, these are the things we all say — the accomplishment of this is the desire of us all.
[Immediately follows the sentence of deposition and the subscriptions. It seems almost certain that something has dropped out here, most probably the whole discussion of Cyril’s XII. Anathematisms.]
Decree of the Council Against Nestorius
(Found in all the Concilia in Greek with Latin Versions.)
As, in addition to other things, the impious Nestorius has not obeyed our citation, and did not receive the holy bishops who were sent by us to him, we were compelled to examine his ungodly doctrines. We discovered that he had held and published impious doctrines in his letters and treatises, as well as in discourses which he delivered in this city, and which have been testified to. Compelled thereto by the canons and by the letter (ἀναγκαίως κατεπειχθέντες ἀπό τε τῶν κανόνων, καὶ ἐκ τὴς ἐπιστολῆς, κ.τ.λ.) of our most holy father and fellow-servant Cœlestine, the Roman bishop, we have come, with many tears, to this sorrowful sentence against him, namely, that our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has blasphemed, decrees by the holy Synod that Nestorius be excluded from the episcopal dignity, and from all priestly communion.
Extracts from the Acts
The most pious and God-beloved bishops, Arcadius and Projectus, as also the most beloved-of-God Philip, a presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See, then entered and took their seats.
Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: We bless the holy and adorable Trinity that our lowliness has been deemed worthy to attend your holy Synod. For a long time ago (πάλαι) our most holy and blessed pope Cœlestine, bishop of the Apostolic See, through his letters to that holy and most pious man Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, gave judgment concerning the present cause and affair (ὥρισεν) which letters have been shown to your holy assembly. And now again for the corroboration of the Catholic (καθολικῆς) faith, he has sent through us letters to all your holinesses, which you will bid (κελούσατε) to be read with becoming reverence (πρεπόντως) and to be entered on the ecclesiastical minutes.
Arcadius, a bishop and legate of the Roman Church said: May it please your blessedness to give order that the letters of the holy and ever-to-be-mentioned-with-veneration Pope Cœlestine, bishop of the Apostolic See, which have been brought by us, be read, from which your reverence will be able to see what care he has for all the Churches.
Projectus, a bishop and legate of the Roman Church said, May it please, etc. [The same as Arcadius had said verbatim!]
And afterwards the most holy and beloved-of-God Cyril, bishop of the Church of Alexandria, spoke as is next in order contained; Siricius, notary of the holy Catholic (καθολικῆς) Church of Rome read it.
Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria said: Let the letter received from the most holy and altogether most blessed Cœlestine, bishop of the Apostolic See of Rome be read to the holy Synod with fitting honour.
Siricius, notary of the holy Catholic (καθολικῆς) Church of the city of Rome read it.
And after it was read in Latin, Juvenal, the bishop of Jerusalem said: Let the writings of the most holy and blessed bishop of great Rome which have just been read, be entered on the minutes.
And all the most reverend bishops prayed that the letter might be translated and read.
Philip, the presbyter of the Apostolic See and Legate said: The custom has been sufficiently complied with, that the writings of the Apostolic See should first be read in Latin. But now since your holiness has demanded that they be read in Greek also, it is necessary that your holiness’s desire should be satisfied; We have taken care that this be done, and that the Latin be turned into Greek. Give order therefore that it be received and read in your holy hearing.
Arcadius and Projectus, bishops and legates said, As your blessedness ordered that the writings which we brought should be brought to the knowledge of all, for of our holy brethren bishops there are not a few who do not understand Latin, therefore the letter has been translated into Greek and if you so command let it be read.
Flavian, the bishop of Philippi said: Let the translation of the letter of the most holy and beloved of God, bishop of the Roman Church be received and read.
Peter, the presbyter of Alexandria and primicerius of the notaries read as follows:
The Letter of Pope Cœlestine to the Synod of Ephesus
Cœlestine the bishop to the holy Synod assembled at Ephesus, brethren beloved and most longed for, greeting in the Lord.
A Synod of priests gives witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit. For true is that which we read, since the Truth cannot lie, to wit, the promise of the Gospel;
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. And since this is so, if the Holy Spirit is not absent from so small a number how much more may we believe he is present when so great a multitude of holy ones are assembled together! Every council is holy on account of a peculiar veneration which is its due; for in every such council the reverence which should be paid to that most famous council of the Apostles of which we read is to be had regard to. Never was the Master, whom they had received to preach, lacking to this, but ever was present as Lord and Master; and never were those who taught deserted by their teacher. For he that had sent them was their teacher; he who had commanded what was to be taught, was their teacher; he who affirms that he himself is heard in his Apostles, was their teacher. This duty of preaching has been entrusted to all the Lord’s priests in common, for by right of inheritance we are bound to undertake this solicitude, whoever of us preach the name of the Lord in various lands in their stead for he said to them,
Go, teach all nations. You, dear brethren, should observe that we have received a general command: for he wills that all of us should perform that office, which he thus entrusted in common to all the Apostles. We must needs follow our predecessors. Let us all, then, undertake their labours, since we are the successors in their honour. And we show forth our diligence in preaching the same doctrines that they taught, beside which, according to the admonition of the Apostle, we are forbidden to add anything. For the office of keeping what is committed to our trust is no less dignified than that of handing it down.
They sowed the seed of the faith. This shall be our care that the coming of our great father of the family, to whom alone assuredly this fullness of the Apostles is assigned, may find fruit uncorrupt and many fold. For the vase of election tells us that it is not sufficient to plant and to water unless God gives the increase. We must strive therefore in common to keep the faith which has come down to us today, through the Apostolic Succession. For we are expected to walk according to the Apostle. For now not our appearance (species) but our faith is called in question. Spiritual weapons are those we must take, because the war is one of minds, and the weapons are words; so shall we be strong in the faith of our King. Now the Blessed Apostle Paul admonishes that all should remain in that place in which he bid Timothy remain. The same place therefore, the same cause, lays upon us the same duty. Let us now also do and study that which he then commanded him to do. And let no one think otherwise, and let no one pay heed to over strange fables, as he himself ordered. Let us be unanimous, thinking the same thing, for this is expedient: let us do nothing out of contention, nothing out of vain glory: let us be in all things of one mind, of one heart, when the faith which is one, is attacked. Let the whole body grieve and mourn in common with us. He who is to judge the world is called into judgment; he who is to criticise all, is himself made the object of criticism, he who redeemed us is made to suffer calumny. Dear Brethren, gird yourselves with the armour of God. You know what helmet must protect our head, what breast-plate our breast. For this is not the first time the ecclesiastical camps have received you as their rulers. Let no one doubt that by the favour of the Lord who makes two to be one, there will be peace, and that arms will be laid aside since the very cause defends itself.
Let us look once again at these words of our Doctor, which he uses with express reference to bishops, saying,
Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, over which the Holy Ghost has placed you as bishop, that you rule the church of God, which he has purchased with his blood.
We read that they who heard this at Ephesus, the same place at which your holiness has come together, were called thence. To them therefore to whom this preaching of the faith was known, to them also let your defense of the same faith also be known. Let us show them the constancy of our mind with that reverence which is due to matters of great importance; which things peace has guarded for a long time with pious understanding.
Let there be announced by you what things have been preserved intact from the Apostles; for the words of tyrannical opposition are never admitted against the King of Kings, nor can the business of truth be oppressed by falsehood.
I exhort you, most blessed brethren, that love alone be regarded in which we ought to remain, according to the voice of John the Apostle whose relics we venerate in this city. Let common prayer be offered to the Lord. For we can form some idea of what will be the power of the divine presence at the united intercession of such a multitude of priests, by considering how the very place was moved where, as we read, the Twelve made together their supplication. And what was the purport of that prayer of the Apostles? It was that they might receive grace to speak the word of God with confidence, and to act through its power, both of which they received by the favour of Christ our God. And now what else is to be asked for by your holy council, except that you may speak the Word of the Lord with confidence? What else than that he would give you grace to preserve that which he has given you to preach? That being filled with the Holy Ghost, as it is written, you may set forth that one truth which the Spirit himself has taught you, although with various voices.
Animated, in brief, by all these considerations (for, as the Apostle says:
I speak to them that know the law, and I speak wisdom among them that are perfect), stand fast by the Catholic faith, and defend the peace of the Churches, for so it is said, both to those past, present, and future, asking and preserving
those things which belong to the peace of Jerusalem.
Out of our solicitude, we have sent our holy brethren and fellow priests, who are at one with us and are most approved men, Arcedius, and Projectus, the bishops, and our presbyter, Philip, that they may be present at what is done and may carry out what things have been already decreed be us (quæ a nobis antea statuta sunt, exequantur).
To the performing of which we have no doubt that your holiness will assent when it is seen that what has been decreed is for the security of the whole church. Given the viij of the Ides of May, in the consulate of Bassus and Antiochus.
Extracts from the Acts
And all the most reverend bishops at the same time cried out. This is a just judgment. To Cœlestine, a new Paul! To Cyril a new Paul! To Cœlestine the guardian of the faith! To Cœlestine of one mind with the synod! To Cœlestine the whole Synod offers its thanks! One Cœlestine! One Cyril! One faith of the Synod! One faith of the world!
Projectus, the most reverend bishop and legate, said: Let your holiness consider the form (τύπον) of the writings of the holy and venerable pope Cœlestine, the bishop, who has exhorted your holiness (not as if teaching the ignorant, but as reminding them that know) that those things which he had long ago defined, and now thought it right to remind you of, you might give command to be carried out to the uttermost, according to the canon of the common faith, and according to the use of the Catholic Church.
Firmus, the bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia said: The Apostolic and holy see of the most holy bishop Cœlestine, has previously given a decision and type (τύπον) in this matter, through the writings which were sent to the most God beloved bishops, to wit to Cyril of Alexandria, and to Juvenal of Jerusalem, and to Rufus of Thessalonica, and to the holy churches, both of Constantinople and of Antioch. This we have also followed and (since the limit set for Nestorius’s emendation was long gone by, and much time has passed since our arrival at the city of Ephesus in accordance with the decree of the most pious emperor, and thereupon having delayed no little time so that the day fixed by the emperor was past; and since Nestorius although cited had not appeared) we carried into effect the type (τύπον) having pronounced against him a canonical and apostolic judgment.
Arcadius the most reverend bishop and legate, said: Although our sailing was slow, and contrary winds hindered us especially, so that we did not know whether we should arrive at the destined place, as we had hoped, nevertheless by God’s good providence…Wherefore we desire to ask your blessedness, that you command that we be taught what has been already decreed by your holiness.
Philip, presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: We offer our thanks to the holy and venerable Synod, that when the writings of our holy and blessed pope had been read to you, the holy members by our [or your] holy voices, you joined yourselves to the holy head also by your holy acclamations. For your blessedness is not ignorant that the head of the whole faith, the head of the Apostles, is blessed Peter the Apostle. And since now our mediocrity, after having been tempest-tossed and much vexed, has arrived, we ask that you give order that there be laid before us what things were done in this holy Synod before our arrival; in order that according to the opinion of our blessed pope and of this present holy assembly, we likewise may ratify their determination.
Theodotus, the bishop of Ancyra said: The God of the whole world has made manifest the justice of the judgment pronounced by the holy Synod by the writings of the most religious bishop Cœlestine, and by the coming of your holiness. For you have made manifest the zeal of the most holy and reverend bishop Cœlestine, and his care for the pious faith. And since very reasonably your reverence is desirous of learning what has been done from the minutes of the acts concerning the deposition of Nestorius your reverence will be fully convinced of the justice of the sentence, and of the zeal of the holy Synod, and the symphony of the faith which the most pious and holy bishop Cœlestine has proclaimed with a great voice, of course after your full conviction, the rest shall be added to the present action.
[In the Acts follow two short letters from Cœlestine, one to the Emperor and the other to Cyril, but nothing is said about them, or how they got there, and thus abruptly ends the account of this session.]
Extracts from the Acts
Juvenal the bishop of Jerusalem said to Arcadius and Projectus the most reverend bishops, and to Philip the most reverend presbyter; Yesterday while this holy and great synod was in session, when your holiness was present, you demanded after the reading of the letter of the most holy and blessed bishop of Great Rome, Cœlestine, that the minutes made in the Acts with regard to the deposition of Nestorius the heretic should be read. And thereupon the Synod ordered this to be done. Your holiness will be good enough to inform us whether you have read them and understand their power.
Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: From reading the Acts we have found what things have been done in your holy synod with regard to Nestorius. We have found from the minutes that all things have been decided in accordance with the canons and with ecclesiastical discipline. And now also we seek from your honour, although it may be useless, that what things have been read in your synod, the same should now again be read to us also; so that we may follow the formula (τύπῳ) of the most holy pope Cœlestine (who committed this same care to us), and of your holiness also, and may be able to confirm (βεβαιώσαι) the judgment.
[Arcadius having seconded Philip’s motion, Memnon directed the acts to be read which was done by the primicerius of the notaries.]
Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince (ἔξαρχος) and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation (θεμέλιος) of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Cœlestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod, which the most humane and Christian Emperors have commanded to assemble, bearing in mind and continually watching over the Catholic faith. For they both have kept and are now keeping intact the apostolic doctrine handed down to them from their most pious and humane grandfathers and fathers of holy memory down to the present time, etc.
[There is no further reference in the speech to the papal prerogatives.]
Arcadius the most reverend bishop and legate of the Apostolic See said: Nestorius has brought us great sorrow….And since of his own accord he has made himself an alien and an exile from us, we following the sanctions handed down from the beginning by the holy Apostles, and by the Catholic Church (for they taught what they had received from our Lord Jesus Christ), also following the types (τύποις) of Cœlestine, most holy pope of the Apostolic See, who has condescended to send us as his executors of this business, and also following the decrees of the holy Synod [we give this as our conclusion]: Let Nestorius know that he is deprived of all episcopal dignity, and is an alien from the whole Church and from the communion of all its priests.
Projectus, bishop and legate of the Roman Church said: Most clearly from the reading, etc….Moreover I also, by my authority as legate of the holy Apostolic See, define, being with my brethren an executor (ἐκβιβαστὴς) of the aforesaid sentence, that the beforenamed Nestorius is an enemy of the truth, a corrupter of the faith, and as guilty of the things of which he was accused, has been removed from the grade of Episcopal honour, and moreover from the communion of all orthodox priests.
Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria said: The professions which have been made by Arcadius and Projectus, the most holy and pious bishops, as also by Philip, the most religious presbyter of the Roman Church, stand manifest to the holy Synod. For they have made their profession in the place of the Apostolic See, and of the whole of the holy synod of the God-beloved and most holy bishops of the West. Wherefore let those things which were defined by the most holy Cœlestine, the God-beloved bishop, be carried into effect, and the vote cast against Nestorius the heretic, by the holy Synod, which met in the metropolis of Ephesus be agreed to universally; for this purpose let there be added to the already prepared acts the proceedings of yesterday and today, and let them be shown to their holiness, so that by their subscription according to custom, their canonical agreement with all of us may be manifest.
Arcadius the most reverend bishop and legate of the Roman Church, said: According to the acts of this holy Synod, we necessarily confirm with our subscriptions their doctrines.
The Holy Synod said: Since Arcadius and Projectus the most reverend and most religious bishops and legates and Philip, the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See, have said that they are of the same mind with us, it only remains, that they redeem their promises and confirm the acts with their signatures, and then let the minutes of the acts be shown to them.
[The three then signed.]
Session VII (The Canons):
The holy and ecumenical Synod, gathered together in Ephesus by the decree of our most religious Emperors, to the bishops, presbyters, deacons, and all the people in every province and city:
When we had assembled, according to the religious decree [of the Emperors], in the Metropolis of Ephesus, certain persons, a little more than thirty in number, withdrew from among us, having for the leader of their schism John, Bishop of Antioch. Their names are as follows: first, the said John of Antioch in Syria, John of Damascus, Alexander of Apamea, Alexander of Hierapolis, Himerius of Nicomedia, Fritilas of Heraclea, Helladius of Tarsus, Maximin of Anazarbus, Theodore of Marcianopolis, Peter of Trajanopolis, Paul of Emissa, Polychronius of Heracleopolis, Euthyrius of Tyana, Meletius of Neocæsarea, Theodoret of Cyrus, Apringius of Chalcedon, Macarius of Laodicea Magna, Zosys of Esbus, Sallust of Corycus in Cilicia, Hesychius of Castabala in Cilicia, Valentine of Mutloblaca, Eustathius of Parnassus, Philip of Theodosia, and Daniel, and Dexianus, and Julian, and Cyril, and Olympius, and Diogenes, Polius, Theophanes of Philadelphia, Trajan of Augusta, Aurelius of Irenopolis, Mysæus of Aradus, Helladius of Ptolemais. These men, having no privilege of ecclesiastical communion on the ground of a priestly authority, by which they could injure or benefit any persons; since some of them had already been deposed; and since from their refusing to join in our decree against Nestorius, it was manifestly evident to all men that they were all promoting the opinions of Nestorius and Celestius; the Holy Synod, by one common decree, deposed them from all ecclesiastical communion, and deprived them of all their priestly power by which they might injure or profit any persons.
Whereas it is needful that they who were detained from the holy Synod and remained in their own district or city, for any reason, ecclesiastical or personal, should not be ignorant of the matters which were thereby decreed; we, therefore, notify your holiness and charity that if any Metropolitan of a Province, forsaking the holy and Ecumenical Synod, has joined the assembly of the apostates, or shall join the same hereafter; or, if he has adopted, or shall hereafter adopt, the doctrines of Celestius, he has no power in any way to do anything in opposition to the bishops of the province, since he is already cast forth from all ecclesiastical communion and made incapable of exercising his ministry; but he shall himself be subject in all things to those very bishops of the province and to the neighbouring orthodox metropolitans, and shall be degraded from his episcopal rank.
If any provincial bishops were not present at the holy Synod and have joined or attempted to join the apostacy; or if, after subscribing the deposition of Nestorius, they went back into the assembly of apostates; these men, according to the decree of the holy Synod, are to be deposed from the priesthood and degraded from their rank.
If any of the city or country clergy have been inhibited by Nestorius or his followers from the exercise of the priesthood, on account of their orthodoxy, we have declared it just that these should be restored to their proper rank. And in general we forbid all the clergy who adhere to the Orthodox and Ecumenical Synod in any way to submit to the bishops who have already apostatized or shall hereafter apostatize.
If any of the clergy should fall away, and publicly or privately presume to maintain the doctrines of Nestorius or Celestius, it is declared just by the holy Synod that these also should be deposed.
If any have been condemned for evil practices by the holy Synod, or by their own bishops; and if, with his usual lack of discrimination, Nestorius (or his followers) has attempted, or shall hereafter attempt, uncanonically to restore such persons to communion and to their former rank, we have declared that they shall not be profited thereby, but shall remain deposed nevertheless.
Likewise, if any should in any way attempt to set aside the orders in each case made by the holy Synod at Ephesus, the holy Synod decrees that, if they be bishops or clergymen, they shall absolutely forfeit their office; and, if laymen, that they shall be excommunicated.
When these things had been read, the holy Synod decreed that it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa.
But those who shall dare to compose a different faith, or to introduce or offer it to persons desiring to turn to the acknowledgment of the truth, whether from Heathenism or from Judaism, or from any heresy whatsoever, shall be deposed, if they be bishops or clergymen; bishops from the episcopate and clergymen from the clergy; and if they be laymen, they shall be anathematized.
And in like manner, if any, whether bishops, clergymen, or laymen, should be discovered to hold or teach the doctrines contained in the Exposition introduced by the Presbyter Charisius concerning the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son of God, or the abominable and profane doctrines of Nestorius, which are subjoined, they shall be subjected to the sentence of this holy and ecumenical Synod. So that, if it be a bishop, he shall be removed from his bishopric and degraded; if it be a clergyman, he shall likewise be stricken from the clergy; and if it be a layman, he shall be anathematized, as has been afore said.
Our brother bishop Rheginus, the beloved of God, and his fellow beloved of God bishops, Zeno and Evagrius, of the Province of Cyprus, have reported to us an innovation which has been introduced contrary to the ecclesiastical constitutions and the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and which touches the liberties of all. Wherefore, since injuries affecting all require the more attention, as they cause the greater damage, and particularly when they are transgressions of an ancient custom; and since those excellent men, who have petitioned the Synod, have told us in writing and by word of mouth that the Bishop of Antioch has in this way held ordinations in Cyprus; therefore the Rulers of the holy churches in Cyprus shall enjoy, without dispute or injury, according to the Canons of the blessed Fathers and ancient custom, the right of performing for themselves the ordination of their excellent Bishops. The same rule shall be observed in the other dioceses and provinces everywhere, so that none of the God beloved Bishops shall assume control of any province which has not heretofore, from the very beginning, been under his own hand or that of his predecessors. But if any one has violently taken and subjected [a Province], he shall give it up; lest the Canons of the Fathers be transgressed; or the vanities of worldly honour be brought in under pretext of sacred office; or we lose, without knowing it, little by little, the liberty which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Deliverer of all men, has given us by his own Blood.
Wherefore, this holy and ecumenical Synod has decreed that in every province the rights which heretofore, from the beginning, have belonged to it, shall be preserved to it, according to the old prevailing custom, unchanged and uninjured: every Metropolitan having permission to take, for his own security, a copy of these acts. And if any one shall bring forward a rule contrary to what is here determined, this holy and ecumenical Synod unanimously decrees that it shall be of no effect.
The Letter of the Same Holy Synod of Ephesus, to the Sacred Synod in Pamphylia Concerning Eustathius Who Had Been Their Metropolitan
Forasmuch as the divinely inspired Scripture says,
Do all things with advice, it is especially their duty who have had the priestly ministry allotted to them to examine with all diligence whatever matters are to be transacted. For to those who will so spend their lives, it comes to pass both that they are established in [the enjoyment of] an honest hope concerning what belongs to them, and that they are borne along, as by a favouring breeze, in things that they desire: so that, in truth, the saying [of the Scripture] has much reason [to commend it]. But there are times when bitter and intolerable grief swoops down upon the mind, and has the effect of cruelly beclouding it, so as to carry it away from the pursuit of what is needful, and persuade it to consider that to be of service which is in its [very] nature mischievous. Something of this kind we have seen endured by that most excellent and most religious Bishop Eustathius. For it is in evidence that he has been ordained canonically; but having been much disturbed, as he declares, by certain parties, and having entered upon circumstances he had not foreseen, therefore, though fully able to repel the slanders of his persecutors, he nevertheless, through an extraordinary inexperience of affairs, declined to battle with the difficulties which beset him, and in some way that we know not set forth an act of resignation. Yet it behooved him, when he had been once entrusted with the priestly care, to cling to it with spiritual energy, and, as it were, to strip himself to strive against the troubles and gladly to endure the sweat for which he had bargained. But inasmuch as he proved himself to be deficient in practical capacity, having met with this misfortune rather from inexperience than from cowardice and sloth, your holiness has of necessity ordained our most excellent and most religious brother and fellow bishop, Theodore, as the overseer of the Church; for it was not reasonable that it should remain in widowhood, and that the Saviour’s sheep should pass their time without a shepherd. But when he came to us weeping, not contending with the aforenamed most religious Bishop Theodore for his See or Church, but in the meantime seeking only for his rank and title as a bishop, we all suffered with the old man in his grief, and considering his weeping as our own, we hastened to discover whether the aforenamed [Eustathius] had been subjected to a legal deposition, or whether, forsooth, he had been convicted on any of the absurd charges alleged by certain parties who had poured forth idle gossip against his reputation. And indeed we learned that nothing of such a kind had taken place, but rather that his resignation had been counted against the said Eustathius instead of a [regular] indictment. Wherefore, we did by no means blame your holiness for being compelled to ordain into his place the aforenamed most excellent Bishop Theodore. But forasmuch as it was not seemly to contend much against the unpractical character of the man, while it was rather necessary to have pity on the elder who, at so advanced an age, was now so far away from the city which had given him birth, and from the dwelling-places of his fathers, we have judicially pronounced and decreed without any opposition, that he shall have both the name, and the rank, and the communion of the episcopate. On this condition, however, only, that he shall not ordain, and that he shall not take and minister to a Church of his own individual authority; but that [he shall do so only] if taken as an assistant, or when appointed, if it should so chance, by a brother and fellow bishop, in accordance with the ordinance and the love which is in Christ. If, however, you shall determine anything more favourable towards him, either now or hereafter, this also will be pleasing to the Holy Synod.
The Letter of the Synod to Pope Celestine
The Holy Synod which by the grace of God was assembled at Ephesus the Metropolis to the most holy and our fellow-minister Cœlestine, health in the Lord.
The zeal of your holiness for piety, and your care for the right faith, so grateful and highly pleasing to God the Saviour of us all, are worthy of all admiration. For it is your custom in such great matters to make trial of all things, and the confirmation of the Churches you have made your own care. But since it is right that all things which have taken place should be brought to the knowledge of your holiness, we are writing of necessity [to inform you] that, by the will of Christ the Saviour of us all, and in accordance with the orders of the most pious and Christ-loving Emperors, we assembled together in the Metropolis of the Ephesians from many and far scattered regions, being in all over two hundred bishops. Then, in accordance with the decrees of the Christ-loving Emperors by whom we were assembled, we fixed the date of the meeting of the holy Synod as the Feast of the Holy Pentecost, all agreeing thereto, especially as it was contained in the letters of the Emperors that if anyone did not arrive at the appointed time, he was absent with no good conscience, and was inexcusable both before God and man. The most reverend John Bishop of Antioch stopped behind; not in singleness of heart, nor because the length of the journey made the impediment, but hiding in his mind his plan and his thought (which was so displeasing to God,) [a plan and thought] which he made clear when not long afterwards he arrived at Ephesus.
Therefore we put off the assembling [of the council] after the appointed day of the Holy Pentecost for sixteen whole days; in the meanwhile many of the bishops and clerics were overtaken with illness, and much burdened by the expense, and some even died. A great injury was thus being done to the great Synod, as your holiness easily perceives. For he used perversely such long delay that many from much greater distances arrived before him.
Nevertheless after sixteen days had passed, certain of the bishops who were with him, to wit, two Metropolitans, the one Alexander of Apamea, and the other Alexander of Hierapolis, arrived before him. And when we complained of the tardy coming of the most reverend bishop John, not once, but often, we were told,
He gave us command to announce to your reverence, that if anything should happen to delay him, not to put off the Synod, but to do what was right. After having received this message — and as it was manifest, as well from his delay as from the announcements just made to us, that he refused to attend the Council, whether out of friendship to Nestorius, or because he had been a cleric of a church under his sway, or out of regard to petitions made by some in his favour — the Holy Council sat in the great church of Ephesus, which bears the name of Mary.
But when all with zeal had come together, Nestorius alone was found missing from the council, thereupon the holy Synod sent him admonition in accordance with the canons by bishops, a first, second, and third time. But he surrounding his house with soldiers, set himself up against the ecclesiastical laws, neither did he show himself, nor give any satisfaction for his iniquitous blasphemies.
After this the letters were read which were written to him by the most holy and most reverend bishop of the Church of Alexandria, Cyril, which the Holy Synod approved as being orthodox and without fault (ὀρθῶς καὶ ἀλήπτως ἔχειν), and in no point out of agreement either with the divinely inspired Scriptures, or with the faith handed down and set forth in the great synod of holy Fathers, which assembled sometime ago at Nice in Bithynia, as your holiness also rightly having examined this has given witness.
On the other hand there was read the letter of Nestorius, which was written to the already mentioned most holy and reverend brother of ours and fellow-minister, Cyril, and the Holy Synod was of opinion that those things which were taught in it were wholly alien from the Apostolic and Evangelical faith, sick with many and strange blasphemies.
His most impious expositions were likewise read, and also the letter written to him by your holiness, in which he was properly condemned as one who had written blasphemy and had inserted irreligious views (φωνᾶς) in his private exegesis, and after this a just sentence of deposition was pronounced against him; especially is this sentence just, because he is so far removed from being penitent, or from a confession of the matters in which he blasphemed, while yet he had the Church of Constantinople, that even in the very metropolis of the Ephesians, he delivered a sermon to certain of the Metropolitical bishops, men who were not ignorant, but learned and God-fearing, in which he was bold enough to say,
I do not confess a two or three months old God, and he said other things more outrageous than this.
Therefore as an impious and most pestilent heresy, which perverts our most pure religion (θρησκείαν) and which overthrows from the foundation the whole economy of the mystery [i.e. the Incarnation], we cast it down, as we have said above. But it was not possible, as it seemed, that those who had the sincere love of Christ, and were zealous in the Lord should not experience many trials. For we had hoped that the most reverend John, bishop of Antioch would have praised the sedulous care and piety of the Synod, and that perchance he would have blamed the slowness of Nestorius’s deposition. But all things turned out contrary to our hope. For he was found to be an enemy, and a most warlike one, to the holy Synod, and even to the orthodox faith of the churches, as these things indicate.
For as soon as he had come to Ephesus, before he had even shaken off the dust of the journey, or changed his travelling dress, he assembled those who had sided with Nestorius and who had uttered blasphemies against their head, and only not derided the glory of Christ, and gathering as a college to himself, I suppose, thirty men, having the name of bishops (some of whom were without sees, wandering about and having no dioceses, others again had for many years been deposed for serious causes from their metropolises, and with these were Pelagians and the followers of Celestius, and some of those who were turned out of Thessaly), he had the presumption to commit a piece of iniquity no man had ever done before. For all by himself he drew up a paper which he called a deposition, and reviled and reproached the most holy and reverend Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, and the most reverend Memnon, bishop of Ephesus, our brother, and fellow-minister, none of us knowing anything about it, and not even those who were thus reviling knew what was being done, nor for what reason they had presumed to do this. But ignoring the anger of God for such behaviour, and unheeding the ecclesiastical canons, and forgetting that they were hastening to destruction by such a course of action, under the name of an excommunication, they then reviled the whole Synod. And placing these acts of theirs on the public bulletin boards, they exposed them to be read by such as chose to do so, having posted them on the outside of the theatres, that they might make a spectacle of their impiety. But not even was this the limit of their audacity; but as if they had done something in accordance with the canons, they dared to bring what they had done to the ears of the most pious and Christ-loving Emperors. Things being in this condition, the most holy and reverend Cyril, bishop of Alexandria and the most reverend Memnon bishop of the city of Ephesus, offered some books composed by themselves and accusing the most reverend Bishop John and those who with him had done this thing, and conjuring our holy Synod that John and those with him should be summoned according to the canons, so that they might apologize for their daring acts, and if they had any complaints to make they might speak and prove them, for in their written deposition, or rather sheet of abuse, they made this statement as a pretext,
They are Apollinarians, and Arians, and Eunomians, and therefore they have been deposed by us. When, therefore, those who had endured their reviling were present, we again necessarily assembled in the great church, being more than two hundred bishops, and by a first, second, and third call on two days, we summoned John and his companions to the Synod, in order that they might examine those who had been reviled, and might make explanations, and tell the causes which led them to draw up the sentence of deposition; but he did not dare to come.
But it was right that he, if he could truly prove the before-mentioned holy men to be heretics, both should come and prove the truth of that which, accepted as a true and indubitable crime, induced the temerarious sentence against them. But being condemned by his own conscience he did not come. Now what he had planned was this. For he thought that when that foundation-less and most unjust reviling was done away, the just vote of the Synod which it cast against the heretic Nestorius would likewise be dissolved. Being justly vexed, therefore, we determined to inflict according to law the same penalty upon him and those who were with him, which he contrary to law had pronounced against those who had been convicted of no fault. But although most justly and in accordance with law he would have suffered this punishment yet in the hope that by our patience his temerity might be conquered, we have reserved this to the decision of your holiness. In the meanwhile, we have deprived them of communion and have taken from them all priestly power, so that they may not be able to do any harm by their opinions. For those who thus ferociously, and cruelly, and uncanonically are wont to rush to such frightful and most wicked things, how was it not necessary that they should be stripped of the powers which [as a matter of fact] they did not possess, of being able to do harm.
With our brethren and fellow-ministers, both Cyril the bishop and Memnon, who had endured reproval at their hands, we are all in communion, and after the rashness [of their accusers] we both have and do perform the liturgy in common, all together celebrating the Synaxis, having made of none effect their play in writing, and having thus shown that it lacked all validity and effect. For it was mere reviling and nothing else. For what kind of a synod could thirty men hold, some of whom were marked with the stamp of heresy, and some without sees and ejected [from their dioceses]? Or what strength could it have in opposition to a synod gathered from all the whole world? For there were sitting with us the most reverend bishops Arcadius and Projectus, and with them the most holy presbyter Philip, all of whom were sent by your holiness, who gave to us your presence and filled the place of the Apostolic See (τῆς ἀποστολικῆς καθέδρας). Let then your holiness be angered at what took place. But if license were granted to such as wished to pour reproval upon the greater sees, and thus unlawfully and uncanonically to give sentence or rather to utter revilings against those over whom they have no power, against those who for religion have endured such great conflicts, by reason of which now also piety shines forth through the prayers of your holiness [if, I say, all this should be tolerated], the affairs of the Church would fall into the greatest confusion. But when those who dare to do such things shall have been chastised aright, all disturbance will cease, and the reverence due to the canons will be observed by all.
When there had been read in the holy Synod what had been done touching the deposition of the most irreligious Pelagians and Cœlestines, of Cœlestius, and Pelagius, and Julian, and Præsidius, and Florus, and Marcellian, and Orontius, and those inclined to like errors, we also deemed it right (ἐδικαιώσαμεν) that the determinations of your holiness concerning them should stand strong and firm. And we all were of the same mind, holding them deposed. And that you may know in full all things that have been done, we have sent you a copy of the Acts, and of the subscriptions of the Synod. We pray that you, dearly beloved and most longed for, may be strong and mindful of us in the Lord.
Definition Against the Impious Messalians Who are Also Called Euchetæ and Enthusiasts
When the most pious and religious bishops, Valerian and Amphilochius had come to us, they proposed that we should consider in common the case of the Messalians, that is the Euchetes or Enthusiasts, who were flourishing in Pamphylia, or by what other name this most contaminating heresy is called. And when we were considering the question, the most pious and religious bishop Valerian, presented to us a synodical schedule which had been drawn up concerning them in the great city of Constantinople, under Sisinnius of blessed memory: What we read therein was approved by all, as well composed and as a due presentation of the case. And it seemed good to us all, and to the most pious bishops Valerian and Amphilochius and to all the most pious bishops of the provinces of Pamphylia and Lycaonia, that all things contained in that Synodical chart should be confirmed and in no way rescinded; also that the action taken at Alexandria might also be made firm, so that all those who throughout the whole province are of the Messalian or Enthusiastic heresy, or suspected of being tainted with that heresy, whether clerics or laymen, may come together; and if they shall anathematize in writing, according to the decrees pronounced in the aforesaid synod [their errors], if they are clergymen they may remain such; and if laymen they may be admitted to communion. But if they refuse to anathematize, if they were presbyters or deacons or in any other ecclesiastical grade, let them be cast out of the clergy and from their grade, and also from communion; if they be lay-men let them be anathematized.
Furthermore those convicted of this heresy are no more to be permitted to have the rule of our monasteries, lest tares be sown and increase. And we give command that the most pious bishops Valerian and Amphilochius, and the rest of the most reverend bishops of the whole province shall pay attention that this decree be carried into effect. In addition to this it seemed good that the filthy book of this heresy, which is called the
Asceticon, should be anathematized, as composed by heretics, a copy of which the most religious and pious Valerian brought with him. Likewise anything savouring of their impiety which may be found among the people, let it be anathema.
Moreover when they come together, let there be commended by them in writing such things as are useful and necessary for concord, and communion, and arrangement (dispositionem vel dispensationem). But should any question arise in connection with the present business, and if it should prove to be difficult and ambiguous, what is not approved by the most pious bishops Valerian and Amphilochius, and the other bishops throughout the province, they ought to discuss all things by reference to what is written. And if the most pious bishops of the Lycians or of the Lycaonians shall have been passed over; nevertheless let not a Metropolitan be left out of whatever province he may be. And let these things be inserted in the Acts so that if any have need of them they would find how also to expound these things more diligently to others.
Decree of the Synod in the Matter of Euprepius and Cyril
The petition of the most pious bishops Euprepius and Cyril, which is set forth in the papers they offered, is honest. Therefore from the holy canons and the external laws, which have from ancient custom the force of law, let no innovation be made in the cities of Europa, but according to the ancient custom they shall be governed by the bishops by whom they have been formerly governed. For since there never was a metropolitan who had power otherwise, so neither hereafter shall there be any departure from the ancient custom.