Fathers of the Church

Letter CLXXII. to Nestorius

Description

Theodoret’s letters are a mine of information for the history of the fifth century, of the author’s life and of the history of dogma in general. This large correspondence is distinguished for its unpretentious learning, felicitous diction and perfect grace of style. (Quasten) In letter Theodoret explains to Nestorius that he has been reconciled with Alexandrian party only after carefully studying Cyril of Alexandria’s most recent writings and concluding that they express the orthodox teaching that, he believes, both he and Nestorius have always held. He has not, however, assented to the actual proceedings at Ephesus, including the condemnation of Nestorius, which he still believes to have been illegal. (Theodoret was finally induced to condemn Nestorius, at least to the extent that the “Nestorian” heresy could really be associated with him, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.)

Provenance

Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393-466), the wise and zealous bishop of Cyrus, a small town near Antioch, was the last great theologian of the school of Antioch. Although he first considered Alexandrian Christology dangerous, and refused to condemn Nestorius until the Council of Chalcedon, his commitment to the correct doctrine of the Incarnation should not be questioned. As late as the 14th century more than 500 of his letters were extant, of which we still have 232. The present was written in reply to a letter from Nestorius, during or shortly after the reconciliation between the opposed parties of Alexandria and Antioch, two years after the Council of Ephesus; this Council had condemned and deposed Nestorius.

by Theodoret in 433-434 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

To the very reverend and religions lord and very holy Father, Nestorius, the bishop Theodoretus sends greeting in the Lord. Your holiness is, I think, well aware that I take no pleasure in cultivated society, nor in the interests of this life, nor in reputation, nor am I attracted by other sees. Had I learnt this lesson from no other source, the very solitude of the city over which I am called to preside would suffice to teach me this philosophy. It is not indeed distinguished only for solitude, but also by very many disturbances which may check the activity even of those who most delight in them.

Let no one therefore persuade your holiness that I have accepted the Egyptian writings as orthodox, with my eyes shut, because I covet any see. For really, to speak the truth, after frequently reading and carefully examining them, I have discovered that they are free from all heretical taint, and I have hesitated to put any stress upon them, though I certainly have no love for their author, who was the originator of the disturbances which have agitated the world. For this I hope to escape punishment in the day of Judgment, since the just Judge examines motives. But to what has been done unjustly and illegally against your holiness, not even if one were to cut off both my hands would I ever assent, God's grace helping me and supporting my infirmity. This I have stated in writing to those who require it. I have sent to your holiness my reply to what you wrote to me, that you may know that, by God's grace, no time has changed me like the centipedes and chameleons who imitate by their colour the stones and leaves among which they live. I and all with me salute all the Brotherhood who are with you in the Lord.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF II/III, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.