Nestorius as patriarch of Constantinople (434-46), had confessed the incarnate God and the mother of God ('theotokos'). Nestorius, by contrast, affected a consciously simple style in his homily; he examined a sentence of Proclus, in which the latter maintained that Christ as the incarnate Logos was appointed high priest for the sake of the salvation of human beings. With this statement Proclus had advertised his agreement with Cyril's tenth anathema (in the third letter) that was directed against a particular homily of Nestorius.

Discussing this sentence of Proclus' homily, Nestorius now attempted to explain his Christology: Christ has two natures; however, as Son he is one. For this reason, Nestorius says, he confesses 'two hypostases of the natures'. In Nestorius' mouth this is surprising and is best understood as a testy or derisive reaction to the third anathema (in the third letter), with which Cyril condemns anyone 'who divides the hypostases after the union'.

The condemnation of Nestorius and its consequences The Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), under the presidency of Cyril and in the absence of the Antiochenes, deposed Nestorius and approved Cyril's second letter to Nestorius, but not the third letter, Cyril's ultimatum, with the attached twelve anathemas. The third letter was only read out and subsequently recorded in the Acta. In opposition to Cyril's council, the Eastern Antiochenes concentrated specifically on refuting the twelve anathemas of Cyril's third letter. This possibly contributed to the emperor Justinian's (regn. 527-65) and some of his contemporaries' impression that Cyril's third letter had also been approved by the Council of Ephesus.

Cyril's attack on Nestorius and thus on the Antiochene tradition resulted in the oikoumene being divided into two camps, one comprising the followers of Cyril, who was also supported by Rome and thus by Western Christianity, and the other the adherents of the Antiochenes. In the difficult correspondence between the two, there was always talk of discord, difference and two irreconcilable viewpoints (dichonoia). Both sides sought to establish a basis for peace. The Antiochenes wanted Cyril to retract his anathemas and called upon Athanasius' letter to Epictetus as a way to reach an appropriate understanding of the Nicene confession. Cyril made a concession when he explained that the twelve anathemas of his third letter were directed solely against Nestorius, not against the Antiochene tradition. In this sense Cyril always held fast to his third letter to Nestorius in the subsequent course of events. However, he himself also sought for a way out of the impasse, a formula that demonstrated that the Antiochenes did not think the same as Nestorius.

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