What sort of a man was Nestorius? His early years were spent as a monk. He seems to have executed his monastic duties excellently, being an especially competent preacher. From what we know, he was a man of resolution, one who was unafraid to be opposed.
When he was appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius promptly sought to establish moral purity within the city. He prudently observed that the city racing games, with their unbridled atmosphere of sin, replete with dancing girls and all sorts of licentiousness, were unfitting for Constantinople, a city whose origins were bathed in the waters of Christianity, and that these activities incubated hostility to true devotion. He dissolved the last Arian church in the city, much to the consternation of many politicians, who needed favorable relations with their German, Arian garrisons. Indeed, the art of politics was lacking in Nestorius’s personal repertoire. He even managed to alienate Pulcheria, the overbearing sister of the Emperor, someone who was suspected of being an imperial puppet master. For when Pulcheria entered the sanctuary during the Eucharist, thinking that certain prohibitions were inapplicable to her, Nestorius refused to treat her differently than anyone else, and he administered no communion to her while she stood in the place of consecration.
From these descriptions, Nestorius is shown virtuous. Any demonic portraits of Nestorius, therefore, cannot account for all the data. Nestorius executed his actions because he believed in his cause, and in his fight for moral purity, all Christians can stand in concord with him. Yet we must be careful, in observing Nestorius virtuous deeds, to avoid maligning Cyril’s campaign against him. Secular historians cannot comprehend why Cyril, a man who considered himself a Christian, would stop at nothing until Nestorius was deposed.
Yet history demonstrates that false teachers usually possess some goodness, and they believe firmly in the justice of their cause. Was this not the case with Paul’s opponents, with Arius, and with many other Antichrists in history? The courage of the great Saints – Athanasius, Augustine, and Cyril – was that they had the capacity to act against heresy, even when it was spoken from the lips of someone well meaning. An Antichrist is not Freddie Krueger in a Cassock; an Antichrist is one whose doctrines deny Christ. Nestorius fits this criteria. Remember that Nestorius divided the human and divine union of Christ, even saying that Jesus is Lord only in his divinity, not in his humanity. For Jesus is Lord not according to sonship from David, but according to his Divine Sonship.
Cyril’s rightly identified the heresy of Nestorius, namely the pulling apart the unity of Christ, making the Son of David separable from the Son of God. The deity of Christ and the humanity of Christ, according to Nestorius, were each crowned with their own titles, rather than the one Lord being crowned with all titles. “But they are not separated” writes Cyril, as if these two principles “exist apart and distant from one another. On the contrary, they are brought together into an indissoluble union, for, as John says: ‘the Word became flesh’(Jn 1:14).” It is precisely in his humanity, the pedigree of which was Davidic and Marian, that Jesus is rightly called creator. For “the correct position”, writes Cyril, “is that the Only Begotten Son who is born from God the Father is himself, and no other, the Son of David according to the flesh.”
The genealogies of Matthew demonstrate this principle, because, Immanuel –God with us – is shown therein to fully identify with our weaknesses. Why else would Jesus come to us through such a genealogy – through a prostitute, a deceiver, a foreigner, and a murderer – unless we were meant to see that our Lord has fully identified with us, not holding our human problems at a safe distance, but uniting his eternal life with our helplessness. In our own day, with the superlative Christological work of N.T. Wright, we will consider Cyril to have judged the matter rightly, in that this Apocalyptic Jewish prophet is indeed Yahweh returning to Zion. This is a great mystery, something which Cyril acknowledges forthrightly. And we should not penetrate beyond the veil of this mystery. We must rather accept with simplicity that there is one Lord Jesus, both in his bruised humanity and his unshakeable deity. Cyril writes: “in the case of Christ they came together in a mysterious and incomprehensible union without confusion or change.”
This post was intended to cover a different topic: the actions Cyril took against Nestorius. Instead, I have taken a small detour into another area, namely the psychology of Nestorius. The next post will hopefully fulfill the original mission of this one.
 St. Cyril of Alexandria The Unity of Christ. Trans. by John Anthony McGuckin (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 76.
 Ibid, 83.
 Ibid, 77.