Theotokos

Theotokos is Greek for “Birth-giver of God,” Orthodoxy’s main title for Mary, the Mother of God. It’s pronounced thay-oh-TOKE-os.

It began as a popular devotion in the Church of Constantinople in the early centuries of Christianity. But when they got a bishop from out of town, Nestorius, he thought it was blasphemous, and tried to stamp it out. He thought the most that could be said was that Mary was Christotokos [sic], Birthgiver of Christ. The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus overruled him, because the title Theotokos was needed theologically to uphold the Divinity of Christ; that the Virgin gave birth not just to a man named Jesus who came to be called Christ, or only to His human ‘nature,’ but to the God-Man Himself. The Council Fathers and Mothers found that Nestorius placed too much distance between Christ’s humanity and His Divinity, so that there were almost two persons in Christ, rather than “the Logos bec[o]me flesh” (John 1:14). Christ didn’t take on a human person, just human nature.

When I finally realized the implications of all this, I was horrified to conclude that all my life I had been quasi-Nestorian! Raised to hold equally Christ’s Divinity and His humanity — “fully human, fully Divine” — and to maximize each excessively. I now understand Orthodoxy to hold that the Incarnation was asymmetrical. Western so-called Low Christology, considered with little if any reference to Christ’s Divinity, is improper.

See what “Theotokos” has to do with Christ?

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