Language matters

Sometimes, language really does matter.

All Along the Watchtower

Nestorius If we are going to try to understand why the Church of the East became known as ‘Nestorian’ and what it meant by that, a note on linguistic terminology is inevitable. Here I am guided by three sources: one my co-author, Chalcedon who has lent me his notes on this; John McGuckin  Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy ; and Susan Wessels, Cyril of Alexandria and the Nestorian Controversy . John McGuckin’s, The Westminster Handbook to Patristic Theology , was also very useful. So here goes.

The Council of Constantinople, 381 defined the Trinity as one ousia in three hypostases. ‘Ousia’ is Greek for ‘substance’, ‘hypostasis’ is Greek for ‘person’ – so, the Council understood the Trinity as Three Persons in One substance. Unfortunately, both words, when translated into Latin or English can be defined as simply ‘nature’, that is a universal category, as in the nature…

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