Category Archives: Early Christian Studies

Cyril and the Condemning of Nestorius at the Council of Ephesus

The more I study Christian history the more I’m convinced that every Christian needs to have a solid foundational knowledge of it in order to guard themselves from bad theology, understand the origin of their own beliefs, and better realize the forgotten concept of what it means to be the universal church.  We stand on the shoulders of faithful men and women who have gone before us, many times without realizing it.  Thus, Wednesday (sorry I’m late on this) should officially have been “Thank a Dead Guy Day.”  On June 22, 431 Cyril of Alexandria called the Council of Ephesus in order to address the teaching of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius.  Nestorius had been wrongly teaching that there was a division between the humanity and divinity of Christ.  The way he spoke of Jesus made it sound like there were really “two separate sons”: the Son of God and the Son of Man, the human being the part that the divine Son dwelt in intimate association with.  For Nestorius this helped explain several Scriptures that spoke of divine as well as human attributes when speaking about Jesus.  After all, how could God be hungry or tired (Matt. 4).  Furthermore, people were speaking of Mary as the theotokos (Mother of God) and Nestorius felt it his duty to stop such talk.  Enter Cyril!  He saw the danger of Nestorius’ teaching.  If Jesus was not fully divine, he could not redeem sinners.  If Jesus was not fully human, he could not represent man.  If Jesus was only a human being with an intimate divine connection, how was he any different from Old Testament prophets?  He rightly saw the Jesus was not a split person, but one person with two natures.  Jesus was fully man AND fully divine.  Cyril referred to the union of deity and humanity in Jesus as the “Hypostatic Union.”  Furthermore, since Jesus was God in the flesh, one could, strictly speaking, talk of Mary as the Mother of God.  At the end of the Council of Ephesus the teaching of Nestorius was condemned and he was excommunicated for his refusal to recant his false teaching.  The decision of the council in 431 has been the orthodox view of the church ever since.  Seems fitting to remember this in a day when people want to speak of Jesus as merely a good prophet, teacher, or even divinely inspired human being.  He was much more than that!

The Ehrman project – critically engaging the work of Bart Ehrman

Thanks to Michael Gorman for pointing out The Ehrman Project, a website dedicated to exploring and engaging the work of Bart Ehrman. As the website explains:

 

Dr. Bart Ehrman is raising significant questions about the reliability of the Bible. In an engaging way, he is questioning the credibility of Christianity. His arguments are not new, which he readily admits. Numerous Biblical scholars profoundly disagree with his findings. This site provides responses to Dr. Ehrman’s provocative conclusions.

With resources from Alvin Plantinga, Ben Witherington, D.A. Carson, Darrell Bock, Craig Evans, Dan Wallace, and Larry Hurtado, among others, it looks like a great resource for understanding and engaging Ehrman’s writings and arguments.

And, no blog post on Bart Ehrman would be complete without referencing Stephen Colbert’s interview with Ehrman, in which Colbert drills Ehrman on why “the Bible is a big fat lie” and Stephen’s an idiot for believing it. Journalism at its finest.

 

If You Read the Bible in English You Should Thank This Guy.

English reformer William Tyndale was born around 1494 and died this day in 1536.  He was the key figure in translating the Bible into the English language so that lay people could read the text on their own.  He was influenced by Erasmus who had made the Greek New Testament available in England.  Although some partial English translations were around at the time, Tyndale was the first to use the original Greek and Hebrew, and was also the first to take it to print.  He was labeled a heretic by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, who at the time thought the “uneducated” populous could not be trusted to interpret Scripture correctly, and saw an English translation of the Bible that lay people could read as a threat to their authority.  For his heroic translating of Scripture into the language of the people, Tyndale was arrested by church authorities and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year in 1535.  He was subsequently tried for heresy, strangled, and burnt at the stake on October 6, 1536.  A good thing for us to remember as we read the Bible in English today.  We benefit to this day from the sacrifice of great saints who have run the race prior to us.

More on diversity in the early church

Following up on my earlier post about Mike Bird’s comments on diversity and unity in the early church, I wanted to point out a couple of other interesting posts. As I mentioned before, James McGrath weighed in with a warning that we need to keep in mind the evidence that does exist for diversity, especially in the NT texts themselves. In keeping with this, Darrell Pursiful has now posted a very helpful diagram (also available as a .pdf) of how he understands diversity during the New Testament period. 

What do you think about the diagram? Is there anything you would present differently?

Also worth looking at is a post by Ari Katz assesseing assessing Walter Bauer’s original thesis. Katz argues that there is insufficient evidence to support Bauer’s idea that the church in Rome had enough influence in the ealiest years of Christianity to enforce its brand of Christianity on the rest of the early Church.