Contra Nestorius

Originally posted 8/19/2007.

This is a decisive refutation of Nestorius’ objectively heretical Christological teaching. I will distinguish the various Trinitarian terms and prove that in Christ there are not two hypostases and that the two hypostases teaching of Nestorius inexorably leads to two Christs, which is repugnant to the Catholic faith.

1. Holtz attributes the rise of the Nestorian heresy to an imperfection in Christ’s teaching. Lest anyone defend the perfidious heretic Nestorius as orthodox, I will explain why Nestorius’s doctrine of the Incarnation is impossible. What follows is a short and succinct summary: We do not admit two Sons. If that were true we would be worshipping a Divine Quaternity instead of the Trinity. For the Son of God is one Person in one hypostasis with two natures. Nestorius taught that there are two hypostases in Christ, while insisting that Christ is one Person. But in Christ there are not two hypostases. For if Christ as Man is a hypostasis there would be two persons: one eternal and one temporal.{1} Therefore Nestorius’s teaching inexorably leads to two Christs, or two Sons, which is contrary to the Catholic faith.

2. The human nature of Christ exists in alio in the Divine Personality of the Word; it is not a person because it is not communicated by assumption and does not exist per se seorsum. The person of “that man Who is called Jesus” [Jn 9:11] affirms that “Before Abraham was, I AM” [Jn 8:58] and that “I and the Father are one” [Jn 10:30], meaning that the person of that Man is the person of the Son of God; i.e. that Jesus Christ is one person only. Moreover, the Man Christ who ascended to Heaven [Acts 1:9] and the Word of God who descended from Heaven are the same person [Eph 4:10].

3. The Son of God was made man because to be man is truly predicated of the Son of God, not from eternity, but from the time of His assuming human nature, the moment of His conception ca. 2000 years ago. “Made man” does not imply a change in God, which would contradict Mal 3:6 (“I am the Lord, and I change not”). Whatever is predicated relatively can be newly predicated of Jack without Jack’s change. The change was only on the part of the human nature assumed and not on the part of God. To illustrate, take the men Jack and John. To be on the right side is predicated of Jack without Jack’s change, for Jack was immobile while John changed by moving to Jack’s left side.

4. The Son of God was made man. Therefore, man is God. For “man” may represent any hypostasis of human nature and thus may represent the Person of the Son of God (a hypostasis of human nature), of whom the word God is truly and properly predicated [ST III, q. 16, art. 2, corp.]. We do not attribute the name of the Deity to the man in His human nature, but in the eternal suppositum, which by union is a suppositum of the human nature [ibid., ad 1] (n.b., there is only one suppositum of both natures and only one hypostasis of one person, contra the heretic Nestorius and his followers; if Christ as man is a hypostasis or person there would be two persons in Christ, one temporal and the other eternal, which is repugnant to the truth of the Incarnation).

5. The man Christ did not begin to be; He always was. Christ began to be Man, since “Man” signifies the eternal, uncreated suppositum when placed in the subject and refers to the finite human nature when placed in the predicate [ST III, q. 16, art. 9, ad 3].

6. The characteristics of the Son of Man may be predicated of the Son of God and the characteristics of the Son of God may be predicated of the Son of Man. That means that we can say of Christ that “God is passible,” “the God of glory was crucified,” and “God died.”

7. Because there is one hypostasis of the Divine and the human nature, the name of either nature (Son of Man, Son of God) signifies the same hypostasis. What belongs to the Divine nature be said of the Man, as of a hypostasis of the Divine nature [ST III, q. 16, art. 4, corp.]. Moreover, what belongs to the human nature may be said of God, as of a hypostasis of human nature [ibid.]. The Catholic faithful do not distinguish things predicated of Christ but distinguish the reasons for which they are predicated [ibid.].

8. Now the critical thinker will not fall into the trap of predicating the characteristics of the Son of Man of the Divine nature and the characteristics of the Son of God of the human nature. In the Mystery of the Incarnation the Divine and human natures are not the same, though the hypostasis of the two natures in the same. Therefore what belongs to one nature cannot be predicated of the other if they are taken in the abstract. Now concrete words stand for the hypostasis of the nature. Ergo of concrete words we may predicate simply what belongs to either nature, whether the concrete word of which they are predicated refers to the Divine nature alone or the human nature alone.

9. Therefore we affirm that “God is passible” but we deny that “the Godhead is passible.” Q.E.D.

10. No longer do you need to be confused about the Latin and Green Trinitarian vocabulary! Note that for the definitions of “person” and “subsistence” I use “substance” not to mean the “essence” or “quiddity” of a thing, but a “subject” or “suppositum.” For by claiming the existence of three “essences” in God I would be guilty of Tritheism. Lest anyone object that “suppositum” and “hypostasis” are unbecoming to God, I say: We name Divine things after the manner of created things, and according to St. Thomas “created natures are individualized by matter which is the subject of the specific nature;“{2} thus we call individuals “subjects,” “supposita,” and “hypostases,” but without positing any real “subjection” in God so as to imply that God is composed of subject and accident,{3} for God is absolutely simple.{4}
Essence: Esse is the same as ousía.
According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, essence is “that whereby any given thing is that which it is, the ground of its characteristics and the principle of its being.”

Person: Persona is the same as prósopon.
A subsistent (existing in himself and for himself) individual substance of a complete rational nature.
Subsistence: Subsistentia (NOT substantia) is the same as hypostasis.
An individual of the genus substance; first substance; a particular substance. In other words, an individual substance of a complete nature who exists in himself and for himself. Or, what exists in and for himself and is specially and peculiarly indicated by a name.
Hypostasis is not altogether the same as person because the definition of hypostasis does not include the rationality of the nature.
Nature: Natura is the same as physis.
According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, nature is “that whereby it acts as it does, the essence considered as the foundation and principle of its operation.” St. Thomas [De ente et essentia, cap. i] defines it thusly: “the essence of a thing according as it has relation to its proper operation.”

11. In order to remove occasions of error I say:
A. If anyone denies that in the Holy Trinity there is one Nature having three Hypostases of Persons, let him be anathema.
B. If anyone denies that aside from the Trinity and the Incarnation, every physis is a hypostasis and every hypostasis is a physis, let him be anathema.
C. If anyone denies that physis is an abstraction which cannot exist except as a concrete, i.e. as a hypostasis, let him be anathema.
D. If anyone denies that Christ’s human nature is per se anhypostatos, let him be anathema.
E. If anyone denies that the Person of the Son is the hypostasis of the human nature, let him be anathema.
F. If anyone denies that the union in Christ is a union not of two natures directly with each other but a union of two natures in one hypostasis and that the two natures are distinct yet inseparable and act in communion with each other, let him be anathema.{5}
G. If anyone denies that the Three Persons are of one ousía, let him be anathema.

A thousand anathemas to Nestorius and those who follow his blasphemies!

Notes and References
{1} St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 16, art. 12. In reference to the suppositum, we affirm that “Christ as man is a person” because the suppositum of human nature is the Person of the Son. We deny that in “Christ as man is a person” as if “in Christ a proper personality caused by the principles of the human nature is due to the human nature” since the human nature does not subsist (exist of itself) apart from the Divine Nature, and subsistence is essential to personhood. Cf. Anathema 4.
{2} St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I, q. 39, art. 1, ad 3.
{3} Boethius, On the Trinity. Every accident is in a subject, and God cannot be a subject since “no simple form can be a subject.”
{4} Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo, On the Trinity 4:6-7.
{5} Echoing the Tome of Pope St. Leo I the Great (A.D. 449), the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) declared infallibly that the two natures of Christ are “asynchytos, atreptos, adiairetos, achoristos;” to wit: “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Amen.

2 Responses to Contra Nestorius

  1. […] Will R. “Contra Nestorius.” The Banana Republican. 19 Aug. 2007. 21 Oct. 2008 <;, n. 6: “The characteristics of the Son of Man may be predicated of the Son of God and the […]

  2. […] Will R. “Contra Nestorius.” The Banana Republican. 19 Aug. 2007. 25 Feb. 2008 <;. Nestorius was not condemned based on a misunderstanding, i.e., Nestorius was in fact […]

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