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St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts

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The Christological Controversy describes the turmoil of fifth-century Christianity seeking to articulate its beliefs on the person of Christ. The policies of the Theodosian dynasty and the conflicting interests of the patriarchal sees are the context of the controversy between Nestorius of Constantinople and Cyril of Alexandria, a bitter dispute that racked the entire oecu The Christological Controversy describes the turmoil of fifth-century Christianity seeking to articulate its beliefs on the person of Christ. The policies of the Theodosian dynasty and the conflicting interests of the patriarchal sees are the context of the controversy between Nestorius of Constantinople and Cyril of Alexandria, a bitter dispute that racked the entire oecumene. The historical analysis expounds the arguments of both sides, particularly the Christology of Cyril, which was adopted as a standard.


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The Christological Controversy describes the turmoil of fifth-century Christianity seeking to articulate its beliefs on the person of Christ. The policies of the Theodosian dynasty and the conflicting interests of the patriarchal sees are the context of the controversy between Nestorius of Constantinople and Cyril of Alexandria, a bitter dispute that racked the entire oecu The Christological Controversy describes the turmoil of fifth-century Christianity seeking to articulate its beliefs on the person of Christ. The policies of the Theodosian dynasty and the conflicting interests of the patriarchal sees are the context of the controversy between Nestorius of Constantinople and Cyril of Alexandria, a bitter dispute that racked the entire oecumene. The historical analysis expounds the arguments of both sides, particularly the Christology of Cyril, which was adopted as a standard.

30 review for St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Madison

    A little difficult to get through in some places, but it's overall a good book. Helpful in giving a solid perspective on the controversy. A little difficult to get through in some places, but it's overall a good book. Helpful in giving a solid perspective on the controversy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tyson Guthrie

    McGuckin seeks to reclaim Cyril as a hero of Christian orthodoxy. A worthy task, and effective on the whole. McGuckin’s Eastern Orthodox perspective and his penchant for the dramatic may cause him to overstate his case. Still, if one must listen to a theology set at too high a volume, Orthodoxy is to be preferred.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    St Cyril of Alexandria is the sphragidis of the Fathers, the seal of the Fathers. While he is not the last word in Christology, he was an able summarizer of Christological thought and was remarkably consistent. He’s also disliked among academics today. St Cyril played hardball and it seemed like he used unsavory means to keep heretics from being represented at Council. Prof McGuckin dismantles these myths. McGuckin a) exposes the postmodern and elitist presuppositions of the university professors St Cyril of Alexandria is the sphragidis of the Fathers, the seal of the Fathers. While he is not the last word in Christology, he was an able summarizer of Christological thought and was remarkably consistent. He’s also disliked among academics today. St Cyril played hardball and it seemed like he used unsavory means to keep heretics from being represented at Council. Prof McGuckin dismantles these myths. McGuckin a) exposes the postmodern and elitist presuppositions of the university professors and b) offers a different angle on the Nestorian Controversy—and he does it with dash, flair, and humor. To be fair, though, it is difficult to know exactly what Nestorius actually believed. Nestorius was accused of maintaining there were two persons in Christ, a position he seemed to deny. Yet McGuckin makes clear that Nestorius believed in two prosopon in Christ. This word can mean “person” but doesn’t always, and that appeared to give Nestorius an out. Yet as McGuckin and St Cyril make clear, Nestorius nonetheless held to two operating principles in Christ. (At this point McGuckin gives a long summary of Nestorius’s Christology. In short, it reads: • Extreme divine impassibility: the Logos cannot suffer (131). • Christ’s two natures remain ontologically apart, existing side by side (135). • The Church’s confession of Christ should always begin with his double reality (156). On pp. 138ff McGuckin gives a helpful summary of the meanings of ousia, physis, hypostasis, and prosopon. Cyril’s Christology Before examining St Cyril’s Christology, McGuckin surveys Apolloniarius’s Christology. While denounced as a heretic (and rightly so), Apollonaris put his finger on many important points. To put it another way, while Apollonaris’s heresy was bad, it set the stage for Cyril’s triumph. Apollonaris saw the important point that had to be maintained: the single subject of the Logos (179). Redemptive Deification St Cyril’s Christology was tied to his soteriology: “The incarnation was a restorative act designed for the ontological reconstruction of a human nature that had fallen into existential decay as a result of its alienation from God” (184). The Logos appropriates human nature—and this human nature becomes that of one who is God—the human nature is lifted up to extraordinary glory. St Cyril also offers us a way to think about divine impassibility: we should see the intimacy of the connection between the two realities of Christ…In the incarnation the power of the one transforms and heals the fallibility of the other. “The human nature is conceived as the manner of action of an independent and omnipotent power—that of the Logos; and to the Logos alone can be attributed the authorship of, and responsibility for, all its actions” (186). The subject is unchanged, but that subject now expresses the characteristics of his divinely powerful condition in and through the medium of a passible and fragile condition. Of course, St Cyril ties this in with the holy mysteries (188). The believer is deified because the encounter brings him into life-giving proximity with the Logos—and this proximity was the metaphysical root of all being. St Cyril’s vision was the transformation of the human race according to the paradigm of divine appropriation of a human nature in the incarnation (188). The Ecumenical Reception of St Cyril Cyril preferred to say that Christ was of two natures, placing the stress on the Incarnation (231). McGuckin scores major points in noting that St Leo’s Tome actually had to pass muster before it was excepted. The Church didn’t merely receive it and note, “Leo has spoken. The end.” They said this, but only after it passed a Cyrillene test. Why did they praise Leo? Because his Tome agreed with Cyril and the Fathers, not merely because he was “pope.” Conclusion This was a fantastic book. It is truly one of the great books written on Christology. Because of the timeline it does not deal with later concerns about the energies and wills of Christ. However, it wonderfully ties in ecclesiology, Christology, soteriology, and the Eucharist into one prism which then sheds multi-perspectival light on the Church.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Williams

    Very Good information and a very good book if you like to read about history and how things came about. It is not an interesting read or a book that grabs you and pulls you and you get absorbed in the reading but it is VERY GOOD for learning about the third ecumenical council (Ephesus, 431 AD) and what transpired between Cryil of Alexandria and Nestorius. Nestorius put a division in Christ or a separation between His humanity and divinity whereas Cyril of Alexandria (who was the Bishop of Alexan Very Good information and a very good book if you like to read about history and how things came about. It is not an interesting read or a book that grabs you and pulls you and you get absorbed in the reading but it is VERY GOOD for learning about the third ecumenical council (Ephesus, 431 AD) and what transpired between Cryil of Alexandria and Nestorius. Nestorius put a division in Christ or a separation between His humanity and divinity whereas Cyril of Alexandria (who was the Bishop of Alexandria) argued that there was absolutely no separation in Jesus divinity and Humanity but that God united Himself with man in a true and complete union (henosis) without separation, division or mingling. Nestorius position led to the Third Ecumenical (means "Universal") council in Ephesus (in Modern day Turkey near the west coast near the Aegean Sea) in 431AD. Cyril represented what the Church has always believed and articulated the position of the Fathers and the Scriptures very clearly and the Orthodox position prevailed. This book chronicles all of the events that took place and the details what each side believed. The last part of the book is dedicated to the actual writings of Cyril and Nestorius so you can read them first hand. Really a good book to help you understand the third council and the events and issues that led up to that. On thing that is interesting (to me), is that Cyril used the phrase, "μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη; mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene" and the author states that, in all likelyhood, this is really Cyril's own phrase (because some people say he did not say that). What is translates to is this: "One nature of the Word of God incarnate" which stressed the complete unity of the Logos with humanity (i.e., that Christ was truly 100% God and truly 100% man with a true and indivisible union of the divinity with the humanity). Based on this fact that Cyril actually worded it like that, I think the Eastern Orthodox should respect the way the Coptic Orthodox refers to Christ (as Cyril did) and understand that they believe exactly as the Eastern Orthodox do but express is in the way Cyril did (as opposed to the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451 which is the way the Eastern orthodox express their Christology).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    This book both lifts up St. Cyril and brings his theological mind and heart into a proper light within the broader understanding of the Catholic Church. It illuminates both the subtleties of Nestorianism and Cyril's theological language battle to root out heresy, while at the same time accepting other Orthodox wordings of true theology coming out of Antioch. This last is the most important for relations with the non-chalcedonians. Both a strict adherence to an Orthodox understanding of the Perso This book both lifts up St. Cyril and brings his theological mind and heart into a proper light within the broader understanding of the Catholic Church. It illuminates both the subtleties of Nestorianism and Cyril's theological language battle to root out heresy, while at the same time accepting other Orthodox wordings of true theology coming out of Antioch. This last is the most important for relations with the non-chalcedonians. Both a strict adherence to an Orthodox understanding of the Person of Christ being both God and Man, and at the same time acknowledging that simple formulas do not capture who He is. The book also includes many of the Homilies and letters (in translation) where Cyril is dealing with the God-man, and for this alone it is very valuable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cody Edds

    McGuckin's volume is the standard work on Cyril's place in the Christological Controversies from Ephesus to Chalcedon. Much of this work undoes Gibbon's thesis and presents Cyril within his own historical and theological context. The detail that McGuckin goes into in relating what lead up to, what took place at, and what followed Ephesus is absolutely stunning. I've not read anything of this magnitude on any of the church councils and I was stunned by such details. Along with this, the texts tha McGuckin's volume is the standard work on Cyril's place in the Christological Controversies from Ephesus to Chalcedon. Much of this work undoes Gibbon's thesis and presents Cyril within his own historical and theological context. The detail that McGuckin goes into in relating what lead up to, what took place at, and what followed Ephesus is absolutely stunning. I've not read anything of this magnitude on any of the church councils and I was stunned by such details. Along with this, the texts that McGuckin provide is vastly important and helpful. A must-read for anyone wanting to know and understand Cyril of Alexandria as a person, a churchman, and a theologian.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mikhail

    This study is remarkable. Mr. McGuckin does an excellent job of providing context to the Christological debates. Readers are presented with a firm historical sketch of the controversy, a detailed analysis of the Christological beliefs of St. Cyril and Nestorius, and a clear sense of all the main actors involved in the debates. My understanding of the controversy increased greatly after reading this book. I especially love the inclusion of source texts from the hands of both St. Cyril and Nestori This study is remarkable. Mr. McGuckin does an excellent job of providing context to the Christological debates. Readers are presented with a firm historical sketch of the controversy, a detailed analysis of the Christological beliefs of St. Cyril and Nestorius, and a clear sense of all the main actors involved in the debates. My understanding of the controversy increased greatly after reading this book. I especially love the inclusion of source texts from the hands of both St. Cyril and Nestorius themselves. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in Christian theology or history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mattaniah Gibson

    I was assigned this book for my Christology class. It's a good historical background to the controversies, if a little dry at points. I was assigned this book for my Christology class. It's a good historical background to the controversies, if a little dry at points.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Rottman

    Excellent picture of the lives/theology of the major players at the Council of Ephesus in 431

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    see http://wheatonblog.wordpress.com/2011... see http://wheatonblog.wordpress.com/2011...

  11. 4 out of 5

    DBA OSB

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matt Spainhour

  13. 5 out of 5

    Derek Pillion

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shane Becker

  15. 4 out of 5

    Moses

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kimberley Debus

  17. 4 out of 5

    Per

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Baldock

  19. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Tran

  20. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  21. 4 out of 5

    nokey

  22. 4 out of 5

    Johannes J

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt Hale

  24. 4 out of 5

    Franklin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marian

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sujit Thomas

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Dodson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg Hillis

  30. 4 out of 5

    Beth

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