Reference: CPG 5665/8634
Incipit: Fraternas nobis inuicem debemus collocutiones
Date: first half of A.D. 429
Greek Text:  
Latin Text: ACO 1.2:12-14
Other Ancient Versions:  
English Translation: FCC: C. Willick and R. Read

About a year after becoming bishop, with the Christological debates ever increasing in Constantinople, Nestorius decided to write to the bishop of Rome, ostensibly about another issue. Several western clerics who had been excommunicated at Rome for their Pelagian views were causing problems in Constantinople, charging that they had been wrongly condemned and seeking redress from the emperor and the church (1). In the following section of the letter, Nestorius turns to Christology and complains of the false teaching that has infected the church in Constantinople where his opponents have been ascribing “the divine nature of the only-begotten to the same origin as the flesh joined with it (2), Some have even been using the word “deification” to describe how “the flesh when joined with the divine nature was turned into deity” (2). As a result, instead of calling Mary Christotokos (Christ-bearer) they dare to call her theotokos (God-bearer), something not done by the fathers at Nicaea in 325 (2). He ends by stating that he is sharing this news with his brother in Rome knowing that they are both concerned with fighting against heresies (3).

The letter, although originally written in Greek, is only preserved in a Latin translation. The text below is adapted from that in the ACO 1.2:12-14. The English translation was done for FCC by C. Willick and R. Read.

1. Fraternas nobis inuicem debemus collocutiones, ut una inter nos secundum […] optinente concordia pugnaturi diabolum pacis inimicum. 1. We surely ought to enjoy brotherly discussions with each other so that, together in harmony and union, we may fight against the devil, the enemy of peace.
Quorsum hoc anteloquium? Iulianus quidam et Florus et Orontius et Fabius, dicentes se Occidentalium partium episcopos, saepe et piissimum et praedicatissimum imperatorem adierunt ac suas causas defleuerunt tamquam orthodoxi temporibus orthodoxis persecutionem passi; saepe eadem et apud nos lamentantes ac saepe reiecti, eadem facere non desierunt, sed insistunt per dies singulos implentes aures omnium uocibus lacrimosis. Why this preface? Certain men—Julian, Florus, Orontius, and Fabius—who say that they are bishops from the West, have often approached our most pious and glorious emperor and cried out their case with tears—namely, that they are orthodox men who have suffered persecution in an orthodox age. They have often addressed their laments to us and just as often have been rejected. Yet they do not cease to repeat the same case, but day after day they continue filling everyone’s ears with their plaintive wails.
His quidem ad eos sermonibus quibus oportuit, usi sumus, et cum negotii eorum ueram fidem nesciremus; sed quoniam apertiore nobis de causis eorum notitia opus est, ne piissimus et Christianissimus imperator noster molestiam saepe ab his sustineat nec nos ignorantes eorum causas circa negotii defensionem diuidamur, dignare nobis notitiam de his largiri, ne uel quidam ignorando iustitiam ueritatis importuna miseratione conturbent uel canonicam indignationem beatitudinis tuae, quae contra eos pro sectis religionis forte probata est, aliud quidam quam hoc aestiment. Nam sectarum nouitas multam meretur defensionem a ueris pastoribus. We have spoken to them as is fitting, although we do not know the exact truth of their situation. But since we need a fuller knowledge of their case lest our most pious and Christian emperor continue to be annoyed by them and we who are ignorant of their complaints be uncertain about the proper measures to take in this matter, please give us information about them. In this way, no one will cause trouble by showing them undue consideration through ignorance of the true justice in the matter nor expect something else after your disciplinary sentence, which was given against them, I suppose, on account of religious divisions. For the rise of divisions calls for serious measures from true pastors.
2. Unde et nos non modicam corruptionem orthodoxiae apud quosdam hic repperientes, et ira et lenitate circa aegros cottidie utimur. Est enim aegritudo non parua, sed adfinis putredini Apollinaris et Arrii, dominicam enim in homine uisionem ad cuiusdam contemperationis confusionem passim commiscens, adeo ut et quidam apud nos clericorum, alii ex imperitia, alii ex haereretica fraude in se olim celata, qualia plurima et apostolorum temporibus contigerunt, tamquam haereretici aegrotent et aperte blasphement deum uerbum patri omousion tamquam originis initium de Christotoco uirgine sumpsisset et cum templo suo aedificatus esset et carni consepultus, carnemque dicant post resurrectionem non mansisse carnem, sed in naturam transisse deitatis. Ut in compendio dicam, deitatem unigeniti ad originem coniunctae carnis referunt et conmortificant carni, carnem uero coniunctam deitati ad deitatem transisse blasphemant ipso uerbo deificationis, quod nihil est aliud nisi utrumque corrumpere. 2. For this reason, when we also have found serious corruption of orthodoxy among some people here, we have treated the sick day by day with both sternness and gentleness. It is no small error, but one similar to the corruption of Apollinaris and Arius. It indiscriminately blends together the Lord’s appearance as man into a kind of confused combination—so much so that certain of our clergy (some from inexperience and others from heretical error long kept concealed, as often happened even in the times of the apostles) languish like heretics and openly blaspheme God the Word, who is of the same substance as the Father. They act instead as if he took his beginning from the Christ-bearing virgin and was shaped together with his bodily temple and was buried with the flesh. They even say that his flesh after the resurrection did not remain flesh but was transformed into the divine nature. To speak briefly, they ascribe the divine nature of the only-begotten to the same origin as the flesh joined with it. They kill it with the flesh and blasphemously say that the flesh joined with the divine nature was turned into deity by using the word ‘deification,’ which is nothing other than corrupting both.
Sed et uirginem Christotocon ausi sunt cum deo quodam modo tractare diuine; hanc enim theotocon uocantes non perhorrescunt, cum sancti illi et supra omnem praedicationem patres per Nicaeam nihil amplius de sancta uirgine dixissent nisi quia dominus noster Iesus Christus “incarnatus est ex spiritu sancto et Maria uirgine.” Et taceo scripturas quae ubique uirginem matrem Christi, non dei uerbi et per angelos et per apostolos praedicarunt. They have even dared to treat the Christ-bearing virgin, in a certain way, as alongside God. For they do not recoil from calling her theotokos, even though the holy and admirable fathers at Nicaea said nothing more about the holy virgin than that our Lord Jesus Christ “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary”—not to mention that the scriptures (in the words of both angels and apostles) speak everywhere of the virgin as mother of Christ, not of God the Word.
Propter quae quanta certamina sustinuimus, aestimo famam praecedentem docuisse beatitudinem tuam, hoc quoque attendentem quod non frustra certauerimus, sed emendati sunt gratia domini multi ex his qui peruersi erant, discedentes a nobis, quia proprie parienti omousios natiuitas; cui uero commissa est illa in homine uisio, creatura est humanitatis dominicae deo coniunctae ex uirgine per spiritum. I presume that you have already learned how many conflicts we have endured for these things. But know that we have not struggled in vain, but many of those who had gone astray have, by the grace of the Lord, repented. They have learned from us that what is born is properly of the same substance as the parent and that what was seen among men was the creature of the Lord’s humanity, joined with God, born of the virgin by the Spirit.
Si quis autem hoc nomen theotocon propter natam humanitatem coniunctam deo uerbo, non propter parientem proponat, dicimus quidem hoc uocabulum in ea quae peperit, non esse conueniens (oportet enim ueram matrem de eadem esse essentia ex se natum), ferri tamen potest hoc uocabulum propter ipsam considerationem [et] quod solum nominetur de uirgine hoc uerbum propter inseparabile templum dei uerbi ex ipsa, non quia ipsa mater sit dei uerbi; nemo enim antiquiorem se parit. Moreover, if anyone wishes to use the word theotokos with reference to the humanity which was born and was joined to God the Word, and not with reference to the parent, we say that this word is not appropriate for her who gave birth, since a true mother must be of the same essence as what is born of her. But the term could be accepted in consideration of this: that the word is used of the virgin only because of the inseparable bodily temple of God the Word which was born of her, not because she is the mother of God the Word—for no one gives birth to one older than herself.
3. Haec quidem existimo praecedentem famam significasse, exponimus uero etiam nos quae contigerunt, ut rebus ostendamus quia fraterno animo negotium eorum quos praediximus, nosse cupimus, non desiderio curiositatis importunae, cum et nostra narramus tamquam fratres fratribus, ueritatem sectarum nobis inuicem publicantes, ut sit mihi principium litterarum uerissimum; dixi enim, cum has litteras inciperem, quia fraternas nobis debemus inuicem collocutiones. 3. I suppose, indeed, that you have already been notified of these things. But we too explain what has been happening to us in order to show that it is in fact in a brotherly spirit that we wish to know about the affairs of those whom we mentioned before, not out of mere disrespectful curiosity. For we tell you of our affairs as we would among brothers, sharing with each other the facts of these divisions so that the beginning of this letter of mine may indeed be correct—for I said as I began this letter that we ought to enjoy brotherly discussions with each other.
Omnem quae tecum est in Christo, fraternitatem ego et qui mecum sunt, salutamus. I and those who are with me greet the entire brotherhood in Christ which is with you.

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