Chalcedonian Christianity

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Chalcedonian Christianity is the branch of Christianity that accepts and upholds theological and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in 451. [1] Chalcedonian Christianity accepts the Christological Definition of Chalcedon, a Christian doctrine concerning the union of two natures (divine and human) in one hypostasis of Jesus Christ, who is thus acknowledged as a single person (prosopon). [2] [3] Chalcedonian Christianity also accepts the Chalcedonian confirmation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, thus acknowledging the commitment of Chalcedonism to Nicene Christianity. [4] [5]


In regard to their specific attitudes towards theological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, Christian denominations (both historical and modern) can be divided into:

Today, Chalcedonian Christianity encompasses the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestant denominations, while non-Chalcedonian, or Miaphysite, Christianity encompasses the Oriental Orthodox Churches and, indirectly, the Church of the East.


Ecclesiastical order, established by the Council of Chalcedon (451) Chalkedonmapa.svg
Ecclesiastical order, established by the Council of Chalcedon (451)

The dogmatic disputes raised during the Council of Chalcedon led to the Chalcedonian Schism thus to the formation of the Non-Chalcedonian body of churches known as Oriental Orthodoxy. The Chalcedonian churches remained united with the Holy See of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (or "New Rome") and the Eastern Orthodox patriarchates of the Middle East (namely Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). Together, these five patriarchates were considered the pillars of orthodox catholic Christendom and of the Chalcedonian confession of faith. During the 6th-century reign of Emperor Justinian I, the five patriarchates were recognised as the Pentarchy, the official ecclesiastical authority of the Imperial Christian Church.

Pre-Chalcedonian Christianity was mainly based on Paul. John of Tella described the foundations of pre-Chalcedeonian Christianity:

And [the council of Nicaea] considered and saw widely where it set up its building; and the divine Paul, wise among spiritual master-builders, invoked them, and showed them the true foundation, a rock that can not be shaken; on it they will place and build their building; and those he spoke before them when he was saying: Another foundation except for you this you should not constitute, this is Jesus Christ; it was on this that Simeon built and John; on it that Thomas completed [his mission] in Cush. And in Egypt Mark built upon it, and Addai the house of the Medians, Persians and Parthians. And it was on this that the apostle Matthew built in Palestine, and Jacob, the brother of our Lord.

He believed this foundation was abandoned at Chalcedon: "the council of Chalcedon builds not at all on the foundation that the divine master-builder Paul has set up, but on the sand that Nestorius, the confused and dethroned builder, put to it". [7]

Today, the great majority of Christian denominations can be considered descended from the Pentarchy, subscribing to Chalcedonian Christianity, broadly divided into the Roman Catholic Church in the predominantly Latin-speaking West, the Eastern Orthodox Church in the predominantly Greek-speaking East, and the Protestant denominations created in the wake of the Protestant Reformation.

The groups that rejected Chalcedon's Christological definition were the majority of the Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopian Christians, together with a part of the Indian and Syriac Christians (the latter of which came to be identified as Jacobites ). Today, such groups are known collectively as the Non-Chalcedonian, Miaphysite, or Oriental Orthodox churches.

Some Armenian Christians, especially in the region of Cappadocia and Trebizond inside the Byzantine Empire, accepted the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon and engaged in polemics against the Armenian Apostolic Church. [8]

After the conclusion of Byzantine-Sasanian War of 572591, direct rule of the Byzantine Empire was extended to all western parts of Armenia, and Emperor Maurice (582602) soon decided to strengthen his political control over the entire region by supporting the local pro-Chalcedonian faction of the Armenian Church. In 593, a regional council of western Armenian bishops was convened in the city of Theodosiopolis, and proclaimed allegiance to the Chalcedonian Definition.

The council also elected John (Yohannes, or Hovhannes) of Bagaran as the new Catholicos of the Chalcedonian Armenians. [9]

Chalcedonian Christology

Those present at the Council of Chalcedon accepted Trinitarianism and the concept of hypostatic union, and rejected Arianism, Modalism, and Ebionism as heresies (which had also been rejected at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325). Those present at the council also rejected the Christological doctrines of the Nestorians, Eutychians, and monophysites (these doctrines had also been rejected at the First Council of Ephesus in 431).

The Chalcedonian understanding of how the divine and human relate in Jesus Christ is that the humanity and divinity are exemplified as two natures and that the one hypostasis of the Logos perfectly subsists in these two natures. The Non-Chalcedonians hold the position of miaphysitism (sometimes called monophysitism by their opponents). Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, divinity and humanity are united in one nature, the two being united without separation, without confusion and without alteration. That led many members of the two churches to condemn each other: the Chalcedonians condemning the Non-Chalcedonians as Eutychian Monophysites, and the Non-Chalcedonians condemning the Chalcedonians as Nestorians. [10]

Later interpreters of the council held that Chalcedonian Christology also rejected monothelitism and monoenergism (rejected at the Third Council of Constantinople in 680). Those who did not accept the Chalcedonian Christology now call themselves non-Chalcedonian . Historically, they called themselves Miaphysites or Cyrillians (after St Cyril of Alexandria, whose writing On the Unity of Christ was adopted by them and taken as their standard) and were called by Orthodox Christians monophysites. Those who held to the non-Chalcedonian Christologies called the doctrine of Chalcedon dyophysitism . In turn, they considered themselves to be Orthodox Christians and called the Chalcedonians, Nestorians.

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Major denominational families in Christianity:
Western Christianity
Eastern Christianity
(Latin Church)
Catholic Church
(Eastern Catholic Churches)
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Church of the East
Schism (1552)
Assyrian Church of the East
Ancient Church of the East
Protestant Reformation
(16th century)
Great Schism
(11th century)
Council of Ephesus (431)
Council of Chalcedon (451)
Early Christianity
State church of the
Roman Empire
"Great Church"
(Full communion)
(Not shown are non-Nicene, nontrinitarian, and some restorationist denominations.)

Related Research Articles

The Chalcedonian Definition is a declaration of Christ's nature, adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. Chalcedon was an early centre of Christianity located in Asia Minor. The council was the fourth of the ecumenical councils that are accepted by Chalcedonian churches which include the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and Reformed churches.

Nestorianism is a term used in Christian theology and Church history to refer to several mutually related but doctrinarily distinct sets of teachings. The first meaning of the term is related to the original teachings of Christian theologian Nestorius, who promoted specific doctrines in the fields of Christology and Mariology. The second meaning of the term is much wider, and relates to a set of later theological teachings, that were traditionally labeled as Nestorian, but differ from the teachings of Nestorius in origin, scope and terminology. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Nestorianism as "The doctrine of Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, by which Christ is asserted to have had distinct human and divine persons."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Second Council of Constantinople</span> Encumenical council held in 553 in response to the Three Chapters controversy

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Monophysitism or monophysism is a Christological term derived from the Greek μόνος and φύσις. It is defined as "a doctrine that in the person of the incarnated Word there was only one nature—the divine".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monothelitism</span> Christian theological doctrine

Monothelitism, or monotheletism, is a theological doctrine in Christianity, that holds Christ as having only one will. The doctrine is thus contrary to dyothelitism, a Christological doctrine that holds Christ as having two wills. Historically, monothelitism was closely related to monoenergism, a theological doctrine that holds Jesus Christ as having only one energy. Both doctrines were at the center of Christological disputes during the 7th century.

Eutyches was a presbyter and archimandrite at Constantinople. He first came to notice in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus, for his vehement opposition to the teachings of Nestorius; his condemnation of Nestorianism as heresy led him to an equally extreme, although opposite view, which precipitated his being denounced as a heretic himself.

Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monoenergism</span> Doctrine in medieval Christianity stating that Christ had only one "energy"

Monoenergism was a notion in early medieval Christian theology, representing the belief that Christ had only one "energy" (energeia). The teaching of one energy was propagated during the first half of the seventh century by Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople but opposition to Dyoenergism would persist until Dyoenergism was espoused as Orthodoxy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Ultimately, monoenergism was rejected as heresy, in favour of dyoenergism.

The Henotikon was a christological document issued by Byzantine emperor Zeno in 482, in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the differences between the supporters of the Council of Chalcedon and the council's opponents. It was followed by the Acacian schism.

Hypostatic union is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ's humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence.

Miaphysitism is the Christological doctrine that holds Jesus, the "Incarnate Word, is fully divine and fully human, in one "nature" (physis)." It is a position generally held by the Oriental Orthodox Churches and differs from the Chalcedonian position that Jesus is one "person" in two "natures", a divine nature and a human nature.

Non-Chalcedonian Christianity comprises the branches of Christianity that do not accept theological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in 451. Non-Chalcedonian denominations reject the Christological Definition of Chalcedon, for varying reasons. Non-Chalcedonian Christianity thus stands in contrast to Chalcedonian Christianity.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dyophysitism</span>

In Christian theology, dyophysitism is the Christological position that two natures, divine and human, exist in the person of Jesus Christ. It contrasts with monophysitism and miaphysitism.

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Oriental Orthodoxy is the communion of Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils—the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the Council of Ephesus. They reject the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon. Hence, these Churches are also called Old Oriental Churches or Non-Chalcedonian Churches.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oriental Orthodox Churches</span> Branch of Eastern Christianity

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  1. Meyendorff 1989, p. 165-206.
  2. Grillmeier 1975, p. 543-550.
  3. Meyendorff 1989, p. 167-178.
  4. Meyendorff 1989, p. 171-172.
  5. Kelly 2006, p. 296-331.
  6. Kharlamov 2009, p. 66.
  7. Menze 2008, p. 91-92.
  8. Hacikyan, Agop Jack; Basmajian, Gabriel; Franchuk, Edward S, The Heritage of Armenian Literature: From the Sixth to the Eighteenth Century
  9. Meyendorff 1989, p. 108-109, 284, 343.
  10. "The Oriental Orthodox Rejection of Chalcedon". The British Orthodox Church. February 2006. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2014.