It is the 22nd of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 431. Well, technically, it was 1184, according to the Roman Calendar that was used at the time. The year one would correspond to what we would call 753 BC. Nonetheless, that old Roman calendar wouldn't be helpful for that much longer.
You'd excuse a Roman for thinking that their world was about to change. After all, the 1st half of the 5th century gave us the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire. This era was of Goths finally taking key Roman outposts. And in many places, the Romans conceded. In Britain, the last Roman troops evacuated the island. Meanwhile, in the early 5th century, the tribes of Angles and Saxons set up their first joint venture at the mouth of the Thames. This, amongst other tribal squabbles, led most in the southern part of the island to boot the troublesome Scots and Picts to the north.
The demise of Rome was a somewhat slow process interrupted by violent eruptions. One such outbreak took place in 411 when the Goth Alaric sacked Rome itself. The fears and speculation led St. Augustine penning his famous "City of God," an early political and theological text attempting to deal with Christians in secular space with sacred citizenship. This was an era also dominated by the Huns and their new Gothic overload, Attila.
The 1st half of the 4th century witnessed some genuinely remarkable characters in the Church. This age was of Augustine but also Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Cyril. Perhaps Cyril is about whom you know least. That's ok because today we will hear about what he helped to convene—the council at Ephesus which began on this day, the 22nd of June, in 431.
At the heart of the matter for this council was Christology. Both the Roman Empire and the Church had split into two administrative zones. The Emperor in the east, Theodosius II, backed the Bishop of Constantinople, one Nestorius, against the claims made by the Pope and his representative, St. Cyril.
Cyril was probably not Pope Celestine's first choice. He had sent a request for Augustine to appear at the council. However, he had just died during the sack of Hippo in North Africa. Cyril represented the Alexandrian school of Christology, as opposed to the Antiochene Christology, for which Nestorius had a claim to follow. The ecumenical council was made up of over 200 bishops. They began by reciting the Nicene Creed as had been updated at the last council, the council of Constantinople.
The question was then raised as to whether or not Mary might be referred to as the Theotokos, that is, "the mother of God." Alexandrian Christology began with the assumption that Jesus was God. It then worked backward to confirm His humanity as well. Nestorius suggested that while Theotokos was unsuitable for Mary as an Athiochene, Christokos was appropriate. According to Nestorius, "Mother of Christ" instead emphasized the humanity of Christ and then would seek to find proofs of His divinity. The Nestorians thus overemphasized the humanity of Christ to the detriment of his divinity.
The council found Nestorius guilty of heresy. In doing so, and with the approval of eastern Bishops, this put a nail in the coffin for Nestorianism and Antiochene Christology. The council of Ephesus essentially solidified Alexandrian Christology. It was the Council of Chalcedon twenty years later that would fully solidify early Christian Christology. The council also declared the Nicene Creed set and no longer open to revisions. This is the form we now call the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Furthermore, the council condemned Pelagius and Pelagianism, his little brother, "Semi," would haunt the Church as a bogeyman for years to come. The third ecumenical council, meeting in modern-day Turkey, began on this, the 22nd of June, in the year 431.
The reading for today is a poem with some good Christology for us. This is "Jehovah Jesus" by William Cowper.
My song shall bless the Lord of all,
My praise shall climb to His abode;
Thee, Saviour, by that name I call,
The great Supreme, the mighty God.
Without beginning or decline,
Object of faith and not of sense;
Eternal ages saw Him shine,
He shines eternal ages hence.
As much when in the manger laid,
Almighty Ruler of the sky,
As when the six days' work He made,
Fill'd all the morning stars with joy.
Of all the crowns Jehovah bears,
Salvation is His dearest claim;
That gracious sound well pleased He hears
And owns Emmanuel for His name.
A cheerful confidence I feel,
My well placed hopes with joy I see;
My bosom glows with heavenly zeal,
To worship Him who died for me.
As man He pities my complaint,
His power and truth are all divine;
He will not fail, He cannot faint;
Salvation's sure, and must be mine.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who opposes most things "semi" from circles to sweet chocolate, and Pelagians, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.