He denied that he spoke of two sons, but he affirmed that he spoke of two natures. The Divine nature does not change the human nature, in its essence; but it was a human nature which by grace could follow the Divine nature. The Divine nature does not change the human nature. Therefore one can speak of Mary as giving birth to God – you remember this was the decisive formula. This is against the tradition of the Antiocheans, but they couldn’t deny at least the phrase – Mary giving birth to God. He justified the acceptance of this phrase by saying that Mary also gave birth to a man, and this is the direct and adequate (way of ) speaking; the other, that she gave birth to God, is only indirectly adequate, because the body of Jesus was united with God the Logos.
In the same way, he agrees that the human nature must be adored and, conversely, that God has suffered. But he says all this can be said only of the unity of the first person. In this unity one can say this because what you can say of the unity, you can say of the whole being. But not because of a transformation of the Logos into a human being – this he rejects.
Now this is the Antiochean theology. It is very near to us, and this is not by chance; the West was near to these ideas. The oneness of nature, the Western theologians said, is reached only when Christ is elevated at the resurrection to the throne of God, where the body and the human soul are glorified and transformed. But this event of the human part being swallowed up, is something transcendent. This happens in Heaven, but not on earth. So he says: Only the flesh, i. e. , the historical person, has suffered and died, not the Divinity in Him. It is blasphemy to say that Divinity and flesh belong to one nature. Having both natures, He suffered in His human nature, Ambrose said.:The same grace which accepted the human nature in Christ and made Him the Son of God, made us also justified before God and His children.” This means we see here two allies: Rome with the empirical personal and historical interest; Antioch, which has the same interest and uses it for philological studies and for philosophical considerations, which however were less successful than the historical criticism.
This alliance of Rome and Antioch could have led perhaps – we don’t know – to a full victory of the Antiocheans over the Alexandrians. But this did not happen. And it did not happen because Rome had no direct theological interest. It had only a political interest – not political in the state sense, but in the Church-state sense. Rome was the great (center of the Church’s movement) and as such it did not want to surrender Christianity because of a theological formula.
One of the members of this school for (whom) we should have great (respect), is Nestorius. He preached in 429 against the theotokos doctrine, that Mary gave birth to God. Mary gave birth to a man, who became the organ of Divinity. Therefore not the Divinity but the humanity of Christ has suffered. Therefore one could even say, as he does, that Mary is Christotokos. But if this is the case, that Christ is Christotokos – and only indirectly, later, did he accept that Mary can become theotokos – this was not really meant; he really meant that here is God, the Logos, coming down; there is Mary giving birth to a man: and they are united. But it is not a divine being coming down and becoming; a man, in terms of a transmutation myth.