, from whom the sect of the Nestorians derive their name, was born in Germanica, a city of Syria, in the fifth century. He was educated and baptized at Antioch, and soon after the latter ceremony withdrew himself to a monastery in the suburbs of that city. When he had received the order of priesthood, and began to preach, he acquired so much celebrity by his eloquence and unspotted life, that in the year 429 the emperor Theodosius appointed him to the bishopric of Constantinople, at that time the second see in the Christian church. He had not been long in this office before he began to manifest an extraordinary zeal for the extirpation of heretics, and not above five days after his consecration, attempted to demolish the church in which the Arians secretly held their assemblies. In this attempt he succeeded so far, that the Brians, grown desperate, set fire to the church themselves, and with it burnt some adjoining houses. This fire excited great commotions in the city, and Nestorius was ever afterwards called an incendiary. From the Arians he turned against the Novatians, but was interrupted in this | attack by the emperor. He then began to persecute those Christians of Asia, Lydia, and Caria, who celebrated the feast of Easter upon the 14th day of the moon; and for this unimportant deviation from the catholic practice, many of these people were murdered by his agents at Miletum and at Sardis. The time, however, was now come when he was to suffer by a similar spirit, for holding the opinion that “the virgin Mary cannot with propriety be called the mother of God.” The people being accustomed to hear this expression, were much inflamed against their bishop, as if his meaning had been that Jesus was a mere man. For this he was condemned in the council of Ephesus, deprived of his see, banished to Tarsus in the year 435, whence he led a wandering life, until death, in the year 439, released him from farther persecution. He appears to have been unjustly condemned, as he maintained in express terms, that the Word was united to the human nature in Jesus Christ in the most strict and intimate sense possible; that these two natures, in this state of union, make but one Christ, and one person; that the properties of the Divine and human natures may both be attributed to this person; and that Jesus Christ may be said to have been born of a virgin, to have suffered and died: but he never would admit that God could be said to have been born, to have suffered, or to have died. He was not, however, heard in his own defence, nor allowed to explain his doctrine. The zealous Cyril of Alexandria (see Cyril) was one of his greatest enemies, and Barsumas, bishop of Nisibis^ one of the chief promoters of his doctrines, and the co-founder of the sect. In the tenth century the Nestorians in Chaldsea, whence they are sometimes called Chaldaeans, extended their spiritual conquest beyond mount Imaus, and introduced the Christian religion into Tartary, properly so called, and especially into that country called Karit, and bordering on the northern part of China. The prince f that country, whom the Nestorians converted to the Christian faith, assumed, according to the vulgar tradition, the name of John, after his baptism, to which he added the surname of Presbyter, from a principle of modesty; whence it is said, his successors were each of them called Prester John, until the time of Jenghis Khan. But Mosheim observes, that the famous Prester John did not begin to reign in that part of Asia before the conclusion of the eleventh century. The Nestorians formed so considerable | a body of Christians, that the missionaries of Rome were industrious in their endeavours to reduce them under the papal yoke. Innocent IV. in 1246, and Nicolas IV. in 1278, used their utmost efforts for this purpose, but without success. Till the time of pope Julius III. the Nestorians acknowledged but one patriarch, who resided first at Bagdat, and afterwards at Mousul; but a division arising among them in 1551, the patriarchate became divided, at least for a time, and a new patriarch was consecrated by that pope, whose successors fixed their residence in the city of Ormus, in the mountainous part of Persia, where they still continue distinguished by the name of Simeon; and so far down as the seventeenth century, these patriarchs persevered in their communion with the church of Rome, but seem at present to have withdrawn themselves from it. The great Nestorian pontiffs, who form the opposite party, and look with a hostile eye on this little patriarch, have, since 1559, been distinguished by the general denomination of Elias, and reside constantly in the city of Mousul. Their spiritual dominion is very extensive, takes in a great part of Asia, and comprehends also within its circuit the Arabian Nestorians, and also the Christians of St. Thomas, who dwell along the coast of Malabar. It is observed, to the honour of the Nestorians, that of all the Christian societies established in the East, they have been the most careful and successful in avoiding a multitude of superstitious opinions and practices that have infected the Greek and Latin churches* About the middle of the seventeenth century the Romish missionaries gained over to their communion a small number of Nestorians, whom they formed into a congregation or church, the patriarchs or bishops of which reside in the city of Amida, or Diarbekir, and all assume the denomination of Joseph. Nevertheless, the Nestorians in general persevere, to our own times, in their refusal to enter into the communion of the Romish church, notwithstanding the earnest entreaties and alluring offers that have been made by the pope’s legate to conquer their inflexible constancy. 1


Cave, vol. I.—Mosheim.—Encycl. Brit.—Dupin.