ORIGIN OF ISLAM
emphasis. The Eastern school, of which
Antioch was originally the centre, devoted itself to
the exegesis of Scripture, and just as in modern days
our preoccupation with the Bible has led us again to
emphasise the importance of the man Jesus, so the thinkers
of the school of Antioch insisted on the reality of
humanity in Jesus Christ. There was no intention of
thereby doing detriment to His divinity. For them divinity
and humanity were distinct "natures" (phuseis),
both of which were real and both of which inhered in
Jesus Christ. Popularly we may suspect that, as controversy
increased, the crux of the position came to be regarded
as being that Jesus was a man. There are at least indications
that some Eastern Christians laid stress on that. On
the other hand, the Alexandrian school, with its interest
in philosophy, laid emphasis on the unity of the Incarnate
Word. Their formula was "One nature (phusis)
incarnate of God the Word". It will be noticed
that both schools used the term "nature" (phusis),
but they used it in different senses. For the Antiocheans
"nature" meant an abstract quality or set
of qualities. The Alexandrians were thinking rather
of the concrete personality. What they insisted on was,
in later phraseology, the unity of the Person of Christ.
We have to remember that men were working with a theological
terminology which was only in process of formation.
Conflict was ultimately provoked by the
use of certain phrases of a more or less popular character.
By the Alexandrians, epithets appropriate to the Divine
Word were without scruple applied
CHURCH AND ARABIA
to Jesus in His aspect as man. As popular
piety is always impatient of fine distinctions and inclines
to the unconditional assertion that Jesus is God, this
habit grew, especially among the monks of Egypt and
of the Syrian desert. One of the terms which came into
common use in these circles was the epithet theotokos
(Mother of God) applied to the Virgin Mary. From the
Alexandrian point of view that seemed quite allowable,
even natural. But the Easterns regarded it as suspicious
if not absurd, as indeed from their point of view it
In 428, Nestorius, a monk from the neighbourhood
of Antioch, was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople.
He showed himself zealous against heretics. It was not
long before he found himself accused of heresy. He had
brought with him some Eastern clergy, and one of them
began to preach against the use of the term theotokos.
Protests were raised and Nestorius defended his subordinate.
Cyrill, Patriarch of Alexandria, jealous already of
Nestorius, intervened in the troubles which ensued.
A Council was summoned to meet at Ephesus in 431. The
Syrian bishops were delayed in their journey, and Cyrill,
backed by his Egyptian contingent, and supported by
the bishops of Asia Minor who were jealous of the authority
of Constantinople, constituted a Council without them.
Nestorius refused to attend and was condemned. The Syrians,
having arrived, held a Council with Nestorius and condemned
Cyrill. Cyrill, however, had won the victory. Nestorius
was definitely deposed. Cyrill escaped to Alexandria
and remained secure. In a few years' time an accommodation