Comparative Theology · Coptic Church · History & Tradition

Cyril’s 12 Anathemas

Following intense arguments with Nestor, Cyril of Alexandria proposed the following 12 rules of which if any where broken, the individual would be anathematised, meaning formally set apart from the church, ie excommunicated.

The council of Ephesus endorsed these rules and they are mentioned below.

1. If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh, let him be anathema.

2. If anyone does not confess that the Word from God the Father has been united by hypostasis with the flesh and is one Christ with his own flesh, and is therefore God and man together, let him be anathema.

3. If anyone divides in the one Christ the hypostases after the union, joining them only by a conjunction of dignity or authority or power, and not rather by a coming together in a union by nature, let him be anathema.

4. If anyone distributes between the two persons or hypostases the expressions used either in the gospels or in the apostolic writings, whether they are used by the holy writers of Christ or by him about himself, and ascribes some to him as to a man, thought of separately from the Word from God, and others, as befitting God, to him as to the Word from God the Father, let him be anathema.

5. If anyone dares to say that Christ was a God-bearing man and not rather God in truth, being by nature one Son, even as “the Word became flesh”, and is made partaker of blood and flesh precisely like us, let him be anathema.

6. If anyone says that the Word from God the Father was the God or master of Christ, and does not rather confess the same both God and man, the Word having become flesh, according to the scriptures, let him be anathema.

7. If anyone says that as man Jesus was activated by the Word of God and was clothed with the glory of the Only-begotten, as a being separate from him, let him be anathema.

8. If anyone dares to say that the man who was assumed ought to be worshipped and glorified together with the divine Word and be called God along with him, while being separate from him, (for the addition of “with” must always compel us to think in this way), and will not rather worship Emmanuel with one veneration and send up to him one doxology, even as “the Word became flesh”, let him be anathema.

9. If anyone says that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Spirit, as making use of an alien power that worked through him and as having received from him the power to master unclean spirits and to work divine wonders among people, and does not rather say that it was his own proper Spirit through whom he worked the divine wonders, let him be anathema.

10. The divine scripture says Christ became “the high priest and apostle of our confession”; he offered himself to God the Father in an odour of sweetness for our sake. If anyone, therefore, says that it was not the very Word from God who became our high priest and apostle, when he became flesh and a man like us, but as it were another who was separate from him, in particular a man from a woman, or if anyone says that he offered the sacrifice also for himself and not rather for us alone (for he who knew no sin needed no offering), let him be anathema.

11. If anyone does not confess that the flesh of the Lord is life-giving and belongs to the Word from God the Father, but maintains that it belongs to another besides him, united with him in dignity or as enjoying a mere divine indwelling, and is not rather life-giving, as we said, since it became the flesh belonging to the Word who has power to bring all things to life, let him be anathema.

12. If anyone does not confess that the Word of God suffered in the flesh and was crucified in the flesh and tasted death in the flesh and became the first born of the dead, although as God he is life and life-giving, let him be anathema.

4 thoughts on “Cyril’s 12 Anathemas

  1. Hello.

    I am Greek Orthodox. I and my church agree 100% with what St. Cyril said (he is one of our saints after all). So I’m wondering: why the split?

    This is just an earnest question. I’ve been searching the web for any Coptic blogs I can find, looking for someone to elucidate the reason why the Coptic church remains out of communion with us. Obviously there are historical reasons (and I know there were imperialistic abuses of power on the part of Constantinople way back in the first millennium), but what are the theological reasons, from the Coptic point of view, for our not being in communion? Are there any? I’d be to delighted to hear that there aren’t, and that both sides just need to overcome our prejudices, but I suspect it’s not so simple as that.

  2. Hey Jeremy

    From my understanding, the perceived theological differences that existed where only due to misunderstanding and now have been resolved, and theologically the Greek & Coptic churches are identical in their theological beliefs!

    As for communion between the two churches, there are active steps being taken at the moment to make this a reality.

    For eg, in Egypt it is now permitted for a Coptic to marry a Greek and if a Greek was to come to the coptic church they no longer need to be baptised and vice versa.

    These are small steps, but every mile journey has a first step!

    Let us keep praying for the unity of the Orthodox Church!


  3. Amen!

    Thanks for your reply. I agree with you, and I hope we are right. However, there must be people in both churches that disagree or else we would be re-united by now or at least moving toward that goal in a more focused and intentional way. If what you say is true, then our present disunity cannot be tolerated.

    I don’t know about your church, but I have come across people Eastern Orthodox Church that would take issue with what we’ve said. If it’s something you’re interested in, I urge you to read this blog post about Orthodox ecclesiology:

    I would point you in particular to the comments below it, where I asked the author of the post what he thought about the schism between us and the Non-Chalcedonians. What do you think of his responses? Are there real and lasting reasons for the schism between us? Is what you and I have said a betrayal of the Church Fathers’ ecclesiology?

    I would be very interested to read your thoughts about it, if you get the chance.

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