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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

St Cyril of Alexandria Against Nestorius (Part 1 of 2)

Translated by P. E. Pusey

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This Part: 115 Pages

PREFACE (49 Pages - Jump to the Treatise).

On the death of Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, his nephew and successor, S. Cyril, comes suddenly before us. For of S. Cyril's previous life we have only a few scattered notices. We do not know in what year he was born, nor any thing of his parents, nor where he was brought up. That S. Cyril had received a thoroughly good education, is abundantly clear; not only from his very extensive reading, which a mind of such large grasp as S. Cyril's would ever provide for itself, but that his reading being so well digested implies good early training. The great accuracy of his Theology implies a most accurate Theological education. That education included a large range of secular study as well as of Divinity, and probably comprised a good deal of learning by heart, not only of the holy Scriptures but also of profane authors, as witness a line of Antipater Sidonius quoted in his Commentary on Zechariah. He quotes too Josephus on the Jewish war. On Hab. iii. 2, he mentions interpretations of that verse of two different kinds: on Hosea he gives a long extract from a writer whom we do not apparently possess. Tillemont remarks, that " [1] his books against Julian shew that he had a large acquaintance with secular writers."  

We may infer that S. Cyril was brought up at some monastery, as a place of Christian education, and from the great reverence which he ever paid to S. Isidore, Abbot of Pelusium, it seems not unlikely that S. Isidore was his instructor during some part of his early life. S. Isidore alludes to some especial tie, in one of his brief letters to S. Cyril, when Archbishop. Near the beginning, S. Isidore says, "[ 2 ]If I be your father as you say I be,.....or if I be your son as I know I am, seeing that you hold the chair of S. Mark &c." The large number of Platonic words in S. Isidore's letters seem to indicate that he too had extensive reading of Plato, and S. Cyril may have acquired from him some of his knowledge of Aristotle.

But a mind of S. Cyril's grasp would feel itself lost in the desert, yearning for its own calling, and another Letter [3][ ]of the same S.Isidore to S.Cyril, reproaching him with his heart being in the world, may belong to this period. His uncle Archbishop Theophilus had him to live with him and, we may infer, ordained him priest and made him one of his Clergy. In a very long letter which S. Cyril wrote about A.D. 432 to the aged Acacius, Bishop of Beroea, he incidentally mentions the fact that he was at the synod of the Oak, in A.D. 403, where S. Chrysostom's troubles began. S. Cyril would of course be there, as a portion of Archbishop Theophilus' official attendance. S. Cyril says, " [4][ ]When your holy Synod was gathered at great Constantinople .... and I was one of those standing by, I know that I heard your holiness saying thus.----"  

1. [a] S. Cyrille d' Alex. Art. i. init.

2. [b] Ep. 370.  

3. [c] Ep. 25.  

4. [d] Synodicon c. 56.

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