1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ephesus, Council of

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27050211911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Ephesus, Council ofTheodore Freylinghuysen Collier

EPHESUS, COUNCIL OF. This Church council was convened in 431 for the purpose of taking authoritative action concerning the doctrine of the person of Christ. The councils of Nicaea and Constantinople had asserted the full divinity and real humanity of Christ, without, however, defining the manner of their union. The attempt to solve the apparent incongruity of a perfect union of two complete and distinct natures in one person produced first Apollinarianism, which substituted the divine Logos for the human νοῦς or πνεῦμα of Jesus, thereby detracting from the completeness of his humanity; and then Nestorianism, which destroyed the unity of Christ’s person by affirming that the divine Logos dwelt in the man Jesus as in a temple, and that the union of the two was in respect of dignity, and furthermore that, inasmuch as the Logos could not have been born, to call Mary θεοτόκος, “Godbearer,” was absurd and blasphemous. The Alexandrians, led by Cyril, stood for the doctrine of the perfect union of two complete natures in one person, and made θεοτόκος the shibboleth of orthodoxy. The theological controversy was intensified by the rivalry of the two patriarchates, Alexandria and Constantinople, for the primacy of the East. As bishop of Constantinople Nestorius naturally looked to the emperor for support, while Cyril turned to Rome. A Roman synod in 430 found Nestorius heretical and decreed his excommunication unless he should recant. Shortly afterwards an Alexandrian synod condemned his doctrines in twelve anathemas, which only provoked counter-anathemas. The emperor now intervened and summoned a council, which met at Ephesus on the 22nd of June 431. Nestorius was present with an armed escort, but refused to attend the council on the ground that the patriarch of Antioch (his friend) had not arrived. The council, nevertheless, proceeded to declare him excommunicate and deposed. When the Roman legates appeared they “examined and approved” the acts of the council, whether as if thereby giving them validity, or as if concurring with the council, is a question not easy to answer from the records. Cyril, the president, apparently regarded the subscription of the legates as the acknowledgment of “canonical agreement” with the synod.

The disturbances that followed the arrival of John, the patriarch of Antioch, are sufficiently described in the article Nestorius.

The emperor finally interposed to terminate that scandalous strife, banished Nestorius and dissolved the council. Ultimately he gave decision in favour of the orthodox. The council was generally received as ecumenical, even by the Antiochenes, and the differences between Cyril and John were adjusted (433) by a “Union Creed,” which, however, did not prevent a recrudescence of theological controversy.

See Mansi iv. pp. 567-1482, v. pp. 1-1023; Hardouin i. pp. 1271-1722; Hefele (2nd ed.) ii. pp. 141-247 (Eng. trans. iii. pp. 1-114); Peltanus, SS. Magni et Ecumen. Conc. Ephesini primi Acta omnia ... (Ingolstadt, 1576); Wilhelm Kraetz, Koptische Akten zum Ephes. Konzil ... (Leipzig, 1904); also the articles Nestorius; Cyril; Theodore of Mopsuestia.

The so-called “Robber Synod” of Ephesus (Latrocinium Ephesinum) of 449, although wholly irregular and promptly repudiated by the church, may, nevertheless, not improperly be treated here. The archimandrite Eutyches (q.v.) having been deposed by his bishop, Flavianus of Constantinople, on account of his heterodox doctrine of the person of Christ, had appealed to Dioscurus, the successor of Cyril in the see of Alexandria, who restored him and moved the emperor Theodosius II. to summon a council, which should “utterly destroy Nestorianism.” Rome recognizing that she had more to fear from Alexandria, departed from her traditional policy and sided with Constantinople. The council of 130 bishops, which convened on the 8th of August 449, was completely dominated by Dioscurus. Eutyches was acquitted of heresy and reinstated, Flavianus and other bishops deposed, the Roman legates insulted, and all opposition was overborne by intimidation or actual violence. The death of Flavianus, which soon followed, was attributed to injuries received in this synod; but the proof of the charge leaves something to be desired.

The emperor confirmed the synod, but the Eastern Church was divided upon the question of accepting it, and Leo I. of Rome excommunicated Dioscurus, refused to recognize the successor of Flavianus and demanded a new and greater council. The death of Theodosius II. removed the main support of Dioscurus, and cleared the way for the council of Chalcedon (q.v.), which deposed the Alexandrian and condemned Eutychianism.

See Mansi vi. pp. 503 sqq., 606 sqq.; Hardouin ii. 71 sqq.; Hefele (2nd ed.) ii. pp. 349 sqq. (Eng. trans. iii. pp. 221 sqq.); S. G. F. Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus (Dartford, 1881); l’Abbé Martin, Actes du brigandage d’Éphèse (Amiens, 1874) and Le Pseudo-synode connu dans l’histoire sous le nom de brigandage d’Éphèse (Paris, 1875).  (T. F. C.)