Council of Chalcedon

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Council of Chalcedon
Fourth ecumenical council of chalcedon - 1876.jpg
Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, 1876 painting by Vasily Surikov
Accepted by
Previous council
Council of Ephesus
Next council
Second Council of Constantinople
Convoked by Emperor Marcian of the Byzantine Empire
President Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople; A board of government officials and senators, led by the patrician Anatolius
AttendanceApprox. 520
Topicsthe judgements issued at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, the alleged offences of Bishop Dioscorus of Alexandria, the definition of the Godhead and manhood of Christ, many disputes involving particular bishops and sees
Documents and statements
Chalcedonian Creed, 28 canons
Chronological list of ecumenical councils

The Council of Chalcedon ( /kælˈsdən, ˈkælsɪdɒn/ ) was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451, at Chalcedon, a town of Bithynia in Asia Minor. The Council was called by Emperor Marcian to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus. Its principal purpose was to assert the orthodox catholic doctrine against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites, although ecclesiastical discipline and jurisdiction also occupied the council's attention. [1]

Chalcedon Town in Bithynia

Chalcedon was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor. It was located almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari and it is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy. The name Chalcedon is a variant of Calchedon, found on all the coins of the town as well as in manuscripts of Herodotus's Histories, Xenophon's Hellenica, Arrian's Anabasis, and other works. Except for a tower, almost no above-ground vestiges of the ancient city survive in Kadıköy today; artifacts uncovered at Altıyol and other excavation sites are on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

Bithynia region in Anatolia

Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine Sea. It bordered Mysia to the southwest, Paphlagonia to the northeast along the Pontic coast, and Phrygia to the southeast towards the interior of Asia Minor.

Marcian Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperor

Marcian was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 450 to 457. Very little of his life before becoming emperor is known, other than that he was a domesticus who served under Ardabur and his son Aspar for fifteen years. After the death of Emperor Theodosius II on 28 July 450, Marcian was made a candidate to the throne by Aspar, who held much influence due to his military power. After a month of negotiations Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius, agreed to marry Marcian, and Flavius Zeno, a military leader of similar influence to Aspar, agreed to help Marcian to become emperor in exchange for the rank of patrician. Marcian was elected and inaugurated on 25 August 450.

The council is numbered as the fourth ecumenical council by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and most Protestants. Oriental Orthodox Churches do not agree with the conduct and the proceedings of the Council, commonly calling it "Chalcedon, the Ominous". This disagreement led the Oriental Orthodox Churches to separate from the rest of Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon.

Ecumenical council conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice

An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Followers of the Council believe its most important achievement was to issue the Chalcedonian Definition, stating that Jesus is "perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man." [2] The council's judgments and definitions regarding the divine marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates. [3]

The Chalcedonian Definition was 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 Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and most Protestant churches. It was the first council not to be recognised by any Oriental Orthodox church; these churches may be classified as non-Chalcedonian.


In 325, the first ecumenical council (First Council of Nicaea) determined that Jesus Christ was God, "consubstantial" with the Father, and rejected the Arian contention that Jesus was a created being. This was reaffirmed at the First Council of Constantinople (381) and the Council of Ephesus (431).

First Council of Nicaea council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in 325

The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.

Consubstantiality, or coessentiality, is a notion in Christian theology referring to the common properties of the divine persons of the Christian Trinity, and connotes that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are "of the same substance" (consubstantial), or "of the same essence" (coessential). The notion of consubstantiality or coessentiality was developed gradually, during the first centuries of Christian history, with main theological debates and controversies being held between the First Council of Nicaea (325) and the First Council of Constantinople (381).

Arianism is a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to him, but the Son is also God. Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria of Egypt. The term "Arian" is derived from the name Arius; and like "Christian", it was not a self-chosen designation but bestowed by hostile opponents—and never accepted by those on whom it had been imposed. The nature of Arius's teaching and his supporters were opposed to the theological views held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The Arian concept of Christ is based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father.

Eutychian controversy

About two years after Cyril of Alexandria's death in 444, an aged monk from Constantinople named Eutyches began teaching a subtle variation on the traditional Christology in an attempt to stop what he saw as a new outbreak of Nestorianism. [4] He claimed to be a faithful follower of Cyril's teaching, which was declared orthodox in the Union of 433.

Cyril of Alexandria Pope of Alexandria from 412 to 444

Cyril of Alexandria was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444. He was enthroned when the city was at the height of its influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the late-4th and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the Council of Ephesus in 431, which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Patriarch of Constantinople.

Monk religious occupation of Monasteries

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

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.

Cyril had taught that "There is only one physis, since it is the Incarnation, of God the Word." Cyril apparently thought that the Greek word physis meant approximately what the Latin word persona (person) means, while most Greek theologians would have interpreted that word to mean natura (nature). The energy and imprudence with which Eutyches asserted his opinions led to his being misunderstood. Thus, many believed that Eutyches was advocating Docetism, a sort of reversal of Arianism — where Arius had denied the consubstantial divinity of Jesus, Eutyches seemed to be denying that Jesus was fully human. [4] Pope Leo I wrote that Eutyches' error seemed to be more from a lack of skill than from malice.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

In the history of Christianity, docetism is the heterodox doctrine that the phenomenon of Jesus, his historical and bodily existence, and above all the human form of Jesus, was mere semblance without any true reality. Broadly it is taken as the belief that Jesus only seemed to be human, and that his human form was an illusion.

Jesus The central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Eutyches had been accusing various personages of covert Nestorianism. In November 448, Flavian, Bishop of Constantinople held a local synod regarding a point of discipline connected with the province of Sardis. At the end of the session of this synod one of those inculpated, Eusebius, Bishop of Dorylaeum, brought a counter charge of heresy against the archimandrite. [5] Eusebius demanded that Eutyches be removed from office. Flavian preferred that the bishop and the archimandrite sort out their differences, but as his suggestion went unheeded, Eutyches was summoned to clarify his position regarding the nature of Christ. Eventually Eutyches reluctantly appeared, but his position was considered to be theologically unsophisticated, and the synod finding his answers unresponsive condemned and exiled him. [4] Flavian sent a full account to Pope Leo I. Although it had been accidentally delayed, Leo wrote a compendious explanation of the whole doctrine involved, and sent it to Flavian as a formal and authoritative decision of the question. [6]

Eutyches appealed against the decision, labeling Flavian a Nestorian, and received the support of Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria. John Anthony McGuckin sees an "innate rivalry" between the Sees of Alexandria and Constantinople. [7] Dioscurus, imitating his predecessors in assuming a primacy over Constantinople, held his own synod which annulled the sentence of Flavian, and absolved Eutyches.

"Latrocinium" of Ephesus

Through the influence of the court official Chrysaphius, godson of Eutyches, in 449, the competing claims between the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria led Emperor Theodosius II to call a council which was held in Ephesus in 449, [8] with Dioscorus presiding.

Pope Leo sent four legates to represent him and expressed his regret that the shortness of the notice must prevent the presence of any other bishop of the West. [6] He provided his legates, one of whom died en route, with a letter addressed to Flavian explaining Rome's position in the controversy. Leo's letter, now known as Leo's Tome, confessed that Christ had two natures, and was not of or from two natures. [9]

On August 8, 449 the Second Council of Ephesus began its first session. The Acts of the first session of this synod were read at the Council of Chalcedon, 451, and are thus preserved. The remainder of the Acts (the first session being wanting) are known through a Syriac translation by a Monophysite monk, written in the year 535 and published from a manuscript in the British Museum. [10] Nonetheless, there are somewhat different interpretations as to what actually transpired. The question before the council by order of the emperor was whether Flavian, in a synod held by him at Constantinople in November, 448, had justly deposed and excommunicated the Archimandrite Eutyches for refusing to admit two natures in Christ.

Dioscorus began the council by banning all members of the November 448 synod which had deposed Eutyches from sitting as judges. He then introduced Eutyches who publicly professed that while Christ had two natures before the incarnation, the two natures had merged to form a single nature after the incarnation. Of the 130 assembled bishops, 111 voted to rehabilitate Eutyches.

Throughout these proceedings, Hilary (one of the papal legates) repeatedly called for the reading of Leo's Tome, but was ignored. The Eastern Orthodox Church has very different accounts of The Second Council of Ephesus. Pope Dioscorus requested deferring reading of Leo's Tome, as it was not seen as necessary to start with, and could be read later. This was seen as a rebuke to the representatives from the Church of Rome not reading the Tome from the start.

Dioscorus then moved to depose Flavian of Constantinople and Eusebius of Dorylaeum on the grounds that they taught the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin and that Christ had two natures. When Flavian and Hilary objected, Dioscorus called for a pro-monophysite mob to enter the church which assaulted Flavian as he clung to the altar. Flavian died three days later. Dioscorus then placed Eusebius of Dorylaeum under arrest and demanded the assembled bishops approve his actions. Fearing the mob, they all did. The papal legates refused to attend the second session at which several more orthodox bishops were deposed, including Ibas of Edessa, Irenaeus of Tyre, Domnus of Antioch, and Theodoret. Dioscorus then had Cyril of Alexandria's Twelve Anathemas declared orthodox [11] with the intent of condemning any confession other than one nature in Christ.

According to a letter to the Empress Pulcheria collected among the letters of Leo I, Hilary apologized for not delivering to her the pope's letter after the synod, but owing to Dioscurus, who tried to hinder his going either to Rome or to Constantinople, he had great difficulty in making his escape in order to bring to the pontiff the news of the result of the council. [12] Hilary, who later became pope and dedicated an oratory in the Lateran Basilica in thanks for his life, [13] managed to escape from Constantinople and brought news of the council to Leo who immediately dubbed it a "synod of robbers"—Latrocinium—and refused to accept its pronouncements. The decisions of this council now threatened schism between the East and the West.

The claims that bishops being forced to approve actions, were challenged by Pope Dioscorus and the Egyptian Bishops at Chalcedon.

Convocation and session

The situation continued to deteriorate, with Leo demanding the convocation of a new council and Emperor Theodosius II refusing to budge, all the while appointing bishops in agreement with Dioscorus. All this changed dramatically with the Emperor's death and the elevation of Marcian, an orthodox Christian, to the imperial throne. To resolve the simmering tensions, Marcian announced his intention to hold a new council to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus which was named the "Latrocinium" [14] or "Robber Council" by Pope Leo. Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius, may have influenced this decision, or even made the convention of a council a requirement during her negotiations with Aspar, the magister militum, to marry Marcian.

Leo had pressed for it to take place in Italy, but Emperor Marcian instead called for it to convene at Chalcedon, because it was closer to Constantinople, and would thus allow him to respond quickly to any events along the Danube, which was being raided by the Huns under Attila.

The council opened on October 8, 451. Marcian had the bishops deposed by Dioscorus returned to their dioceses and had the body of Flavian brought to the capital to be buried honorably. The Emperor asked Leo to preside over the council, but Leo again chose to send legates in his place. This time, Bishops Paschasinus of Lilybaeum and Julian of Cos and two priests Boniface and Basil represented the western church at the council. The council was attended by about 520 bishops or their representatives and was the largest and best-documented of the first seven ecumenical councils. [15] All the sessions were held in the church of St. Euphemia, Martyr, outside the city and directly opposite Constantinople. As to the number of sessions held by the Council of Chalcedon there is a great discrepancy in the various texts of the Acts, also in the ancient historians of the council. Either the respective manuscripts must have been incomplete; or the historians passed over in silence several sessions held for secondary purposes. According to the deacon Rusticus, there were in all sixteen sessions; this division is commonly accepted by scholars, including Karl Josef von Hefele, an historian of the councils. If all the separate meetings were counted, there would be twenty-one sessions; several of these meetings, however, are considered as supplementary to preceding sessions. [1]

Paschasinus refused to give Dioscorus (who had excommunicated Leo leading up to the council) a seat at the council. As a result, he was moved to the nave of the church. Paschasinus further ordered the reinstatement of Theodoret and that he be given a seat, but this move caused such an uproar among the council fathers, that Theodoret also sat in the nave, though he was given a vote in the proceedings, which began with a trial of Dioscorus.

Marcian wished to bring proceedings to a speedy end, and asked the council to make a pronouncement on the doctrine of the Incarnation before continuing the trial. The council fathers, however, felt that no new creed was necessary, and that the doctrine had been laid out clearly in Leo's Tome. [9] They were also hesitant to write a new creed as the First Council of Ephesus had forbidden the composition or use of any new creed. Aetius, deacon of Constantinople then read Cyril's letter to Nestorius, and a second letter to John of Antioch. The bishops responded, "We all so believe: Pope Leo thus believes ... we all thus believe. As Cyril so believe we, all of us: eternal be the memory of Cyril: as the epistles of Cyril teach such is our mind, such has been our faith: such is our faith: this is the mind of Archbishop Leo, so he believes, so he has written." [16]

Beronician, clerk of the consistory, then read from a book handed him by Aetius, the synodical letter of Leo to Flavian (Leo's Tome). After the reading of the letter, the bishops cried out: This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. ...Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles. Piously and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril. Everlasting be the memory of Cyril. Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, ...This is the true faith...This is the faith of the fathers. Why were not these things read at Ephesus?" [16]

However, during the reading of Leo's Tome, three passages were challenged as being potentially Nestorian, and their orthodoxy was defended by using the writings of Cyril. [17] Due to such concerns, the council decided to adjourn and appoint a special committee to investigate the orthodoxy of Leo's Tome, judging it by the standard of Cyril's Twelve Chapters, as some of the bishops present raised concerns about their compatibility. This committee was headed by Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and was given five days to carefully study the matter. The committee unanimously decided in favor of the orthodoxy of Leo, determining that what he said was compatible with the teaching of Cyril. A number of other bishops also entered statements to the effect that they believed that Leo's Tome was not in contradiction with the teaching of Cyril as well. [17]

The council continued with Dioscorus' trial, but he refused to appear before the assembly. However, historical accounts from the Eastern Orthodox Church note that Dioscorus was put under solitary arrest. As a result, he was condemned, but by an underwhelming amount (more than half the bishops present for the previous sessions did not attend his condemnation), and all of his decrees were declared null. Empress Pulcheria (Marcian's wife) told Dioscorus "In my father's time, there was a man who was stubborn (referring to St. John Chrysostom) and you are aware of what was made of him", to which Dioscorus famously responded "And you may recall that your mother prayed at his tomb, as she was bleeding of sickness". Pulcheria is said to have slapped Dioscorus in the face, breaking some of his teeth, and ordered the guards to confine him, which they did pulling his beard hair. Dioscorus is said to have put these in a box and sent them back to his Church in Alexandria noting "this is the fruit of my faith" [18] [19] . Marcian responded by exiling Dioscorus.

All of the bishops were then asked to sign their assent to the Tome, but a group of thirteen Egyptians refused, saying that they would assent to "the traditional faith". As a result, the Emperor's commissioners decided that a credo would indeed be necessary and presented a text to the fathers. No consensus was reached. Paschasinus threatened to return to Rome to reassemble the council in Italy. Marcian agreed, saying that if a clause were not added to the credo, the bishops would have to relocate. The Committee then sat in the oratory of the most holy martyr Euphemis and afterwards reported a definition of faith which while teaching the same doctrine was not the Tome of Leo. [20]

Although it could be reconciled with Cyril's Formula of Reunion, it was not compatible in its wording with Cyril's Twelve Anathemas. In particular, the third anathema reads: "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." This appeared to some to be incompatible with Leo's definition of two natures hypostatically joined. However, the council would determine (with the exception of 13 Egyptian bishops) that this was an issue of wording and not of doctrine; a committee of bishops appointed to study the orthodoxy of the Tome using Cyril's letters (which included the twelve anathemas) as their criteria unanimously determined it to be orthodox, and the council, with few exceptions, supported this.[ clarification needed ] [21]

It approved the creed of Nicaea (325), the creed of Constantinople (381; subsequently known as the Nicene Creed), two letters of Cyril against Nestorius, which insisted on the unity of divine and human persons in Christ, and the Tome of Pope Leo I confirming two distinct natures in Christ. [15]


The dogmatic definitions of the council are recognized as normative by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well by certain other Western Churches; also, most Protestants agree that the council's teachings regarding the Trinity and the Incarnation are orthodox doctrine which must be adhered to. The council, however, is rejected by the Assyrian Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the latter teaching rather that "The Lord Jesus Christ is God the Incarnate Word. He possesses the perfect Godhead and the perfect manhood. His fully divine nature is united with His fully human nature yet without mixing, blending or alteration." [22] The Oriental Orthodox contend that this latter teaching has been misunderstood as monophysitism, an appellation with which they strongly disagree but, nevertheless, refuse to accept the decrees of the council, likely as a result of the conduct and the proceedings of the Council. The Eastern Orthodox Churches have, and continue to view the Council as a power struggle by the Church of Rome, given the prominence in theology, spirituality of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Early Church and during the first ecumenical councils.

Many Anglicans and most Protestants consider it to be the last authoritative ecumenical council. [23] These churches, along with Martin Luther, hold that both conscience and scripture preempt doctrinal councils and generally agree that the conclusions of later councils were unsupported by or contradictory to scripture. [24]


The Council of Chalcedon issued the Chalcedonian Definition, which repudiated the notion of a single nature in Christ, and declared that he has two natures in one person and hypostasis. It also insisted on the completeness of his two natures: Godhead and manhood. [25] The council also issued 27 disciplinary canons governing church administration and authority. In a further decree, later known as canon 28, the bishops declared that the See of Constantinople (New Rome) had the patriarchal status with "equal privileges" ("τῶν ἴσων ἀπολαύουσαν" in Greek, "aequalibus privilegiis" in Latin) to the See of Rome. [26] [27] [28] [29] No reference was made in Canon 28 to the bishops of Rome or Constantinople having their authority from being successors to Peter or Andrew respectively. Instead, the stated reasons in the actual text of the Canon that the episcopacy of these cities had been granted their status was the importance of these cities as major cities of the empire of the time. [26] [lower-alpha 1]

Confession of Chalcedon

The Confession of Chalcedon provides a clear statement on the two natures of Christ, human and divine: [30]

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; (ἐν δύο φύσεσιν ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως – in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter) the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (prosopon) and one Subsistence (hypostasis), not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεόν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The full text of the definition which reaffirms the decisions of the Council of Ephesus, the pre-eminence of the Creed of Nicea (325). [lower-alpha 2] It also canonises as authoritative two of Cyril of Alexandria's letters and the Tome of Leo written against Eutyches and sent to Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople in 449.


The work of the council was completed by a series of 30 disciplinary canons the Ancient Epitomes of which are: [9]

  1. The canons of every Synod of the holy Fathers shall be observed.
  2. Whoso buys or sells an ordination, down to a Prosmonarius, shall be in danger of losing his grade. Such shall also be the case with go-betweens, if they be clerics they shall be cut off from their rank, if laymen or monks, they shall be anathematized.
  3. Those who assume the care of secular houses should be corrected, unless perchance the law called them to the administration of those not yet come of age, from which there is no exemption. Unless further their Bishop permits them to take care of orphans and widows.
  4. Domestic oratories and monasteries are not to be erected contrary to the judgment of the bishop. Every monk must be subject to his bishop, and must not leave his house except at his suggestion. A slave, however, can not enter the monastic life without the consent of his master.
  5. Those who go from city to city shall be subject to the canon law on the subject.
  6. In Martyries and Monasteries ordinations are strictly forbidden. Should any one be ordained therein, his ordination shall be reputed of no effect.
  7. If any cleric or monk arrogantly affects the military or any other dignity, let him be cursed.
  8. Any clergyman in an almshouse or monastery must submit himself to the authority of the bishop of the city. But he who rebels against this let him pay the penalty.
  9. Litigious clerics shall be punished according to canon, if they despise the episcopal and resort to the secular tribunal. When a cleric has a contention with a bishop let him wait till the synod sits, and if a bishop have a contention with his metropolitan let him carry the case to Constantinople.
  10. No cleric shall be recorded on the clergy-list of the churches of two cities. But if he shall have strayed forth, let him be returned to his former place. But if he has been transferred, let him have no share in the affairs of his former church.
  11. Let the poor who stand in need of help make their journey with letters pacificatory and not commendatory: For letters commendatory should only be given to those who are open to suspicion.
  12. One province shall not be cut into two. Whoever shall do this shall be cast out of the episcopate. Such cities as are cut off by imperial rescript shall enjoy only the honour of having a bishop settled in them: but all the rights pertaining to the true metropolis shall be preserved.
  13. No cleric shall be received to communion in another city without a letter commendatory.
  14. A Cantor or Lector alien to the sound faith, if being then married, he shall have begotten children let him bring them to communion, if they had there been baptized. But if they had not yet been baptized they shall not be baptized afterwards by the heretics.
  15. No person shall be ordained deaconess except she be forty years of age. If she shall dishonour her ministry by contracting a marriage, let her be anathema.
  16. Monks or nuns shall not contract marriage, and if they do so let them be excommunicated.
  17. Village and rural parishes if they have been possessed for thirty years, they shall so continue. But if within that time, the matter shall be subject to adjudication. But if by the command of the Emperor a city be renewed, the order of ecclesiastical parishes shall follow the civil and public forms.
  18. Clerics and Monks, if they shall have dared to hold conventicles and to conspire against the bishop, shall be cast out of their rank.
  19. Twice each year the Synod shall be held wherever the bishop of the Metropolis shall designate, and all matters of pressing interest shall be determined.
  20. A clergyman of one city shall not be given a cure in another. But if he has been driven from his native place and shall go into another he shall be without blame. If any bishop receives clergymen from without his diocese he shall be excommunicated as well as the cleric he receives.
  21. A cleric or layman making charges rashly against his bishop shall not be received.
  22. Whoever seizes the goods of his deceased bishop shall be cast forth from his rank.
  23. Clerics or monks who spend much time at Constantinople contrary to the will of their bishop, and stir up seditions, shall be cast out of the city.
  24. A monastery erected with the consent of the bishop shall be immovable. And whatever pertains to it shall not be alienated. Whoever shall take upon him to do otherwise, shall not be held guiltless.
  25. Let the ordination of bishops be within three months: necessity however may make the time longer. But if anyone shall ordain counter to this decree, he shall be liable to punishment. The revenue shall remain with the œconomus.
  26. The œconomus in all churches must be chosen from the clergy. And the bishop who neglects to do this is not without blame.
  27. If a clergyman elope with a woman, let him be expelled from the Church. If a layman, let him be anathema. The same shall be the lot of any that assist him.
  28. The bishop of New Rome (Constantinople) shall enjoy the same privileges as the bishop of Old Rome, on account of the removal of the Empire. For this reason the [metropolitans] of Pontus, of Asia, and of Thrace, as well as the Barbarian bishops shall be ordained by the bishop of Constantinople.
  29. He is sacrilegious who degrades a bishop to the rank of a presbyter. For he that is guilty of crime is unworthy of the priesthood. But he that was deposed without cause, let him be [still] bishop.
  30. It is the custom of the Egyptians that none subscribe without the permission of their Archbishop. Wherefore they are not to be blamed who did not subscribe the Epistle of the holy Leo until an Archbishop had been appointed for them.

Canon 28 grants equal privileges (isa presbeia) to Constantinople as of Rome because Constantinople is the New Rome as renewed by canon 36 of the Quinisext Council. Pope Leo declared the canon 28 null and void and only approved the canons of the council which were pertaining to faith. [31] [32] The “Holy, Great and Universal Council” simply addressed the bishop of Rome as "Archbishop Leo". [33] [34] [35]

According to some ancient Greek collections, canons 29 and 30 are attributed to the council: canon 29, which states that an unworthy bishop cannot be demoted but can be removed, is an extract from the minutes of the 19th session; canon 30, which grants the Egyptians time to consider their rejection of Leo's Tome, is an extract from the minutes of the fourth session. [36]

In all likelihood an official record of the proceedings was made either during the council itself or shortly afterwards. The assembled bishops informed the pope that a copy of all the "Acta" would be transmitted to him; in March, 453, Pope Leo commissioned Julian of Cos, then at Constantinople, to make a collection of all the Acts and translate them into Latin. Most of the documents, chiefly the minutes of the sessions, were written in Greek; others, e.g. the imperial letters, were issued in both languages; others, again, e.g. the papal letters, were written in Latin. Eventually nearly all of them were translated into both languages. [31]

The status of the sees of Constantinople and Jerusalem

The status of Jerusalem

The metropolitan of Jerusalem was given independence from the metropolitan of Antioch and from any other higher-ranking bishop, given what is now known as autocephaly, in the council's seventh session whose "Decree on the Jurisdiction of Jerusalem and Antioch" contains: "the bishop of Jerusalem, or rather the most holy Church which is under him, shall have under his own power the three Palestines". [9] This led to Jerusalem becoming a patriarchate, one of the five patriarchates known as the pentarchy, when the title of "patriarch" was created in 531 by Justinian. [37] The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. patriarch (ecclesiastical), also calls it "a title dating from the 6th century, for the bishops of the five great sees of Christendom". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, [38] says: "Five patriarchates, collectively called the pentarchy, were the first to be recognized by the legislation of the emperor Justinian (reigned 527–565)".

The status of Constantinople

In a canon of disputed validity, [39] the Council of Chalcedon also elevated the See of Constantinople to a position "second in eminence and power to the Bishop of Rome". [28] [29]

The Council of Nicaea in 325 had noted that the Sees of Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome should have primacy over other, lesser dioceses. At the time, the See of Constantinople was not yet of ecclesiastical prominence, but its proximity to the Imperial court gave rise to its importance. The Council of Constantinople in 381 modified the situation somewhat by placing Constantinople second in honor, above Alexandria and Antioch, stating in Canon III, that "the bishop of Constantinople... shall have the prerogative of honor after the bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome". In the early 5th century, this status was challenged by the bishops of Alexandria, but the Council of Chalcedon confirmed in Canon XXVIII:

For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges (ἴσα πρεσβεῖα) to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her. [9]

In making their case, the council fathers argued that tradition had accorded "honor" to the see of older Rome because it was the first imperial city. Accordingly, "moved by the same purposes" the fathers "apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome" because "the city which is honored by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equaling older imperial Rome should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her". [40] The framework for allocating ecclesiastical authority advocated by the council fathers mirrored the allocation of imperial authority in the later period of the Roman Empire. The Eastern position could be characterized as being political in nature, as opposed to a doctrinal view. In practice, all Christians East and West addressed the papacy as the See of Peter and Paul or the Apostolic See rather than the See of the Imperial Capital. Rome understands this to indicate that its precedence has always come from its direct lineage from the apostles Peter and Paul rather than its association with Imperial authority.[ clarification needed ]

After the passage of the Canon 28, Rome filed a protest against the reduction of honor given to Antioch and Alexandria. However, fearing that withholding Rome's approval would be interpreted as a rejection of the entire council, in 453 the pope confirmed the council's canons with a protest against the 28th.

Consequences: Chalcedonian Schism

The near-immediate result of the council was a major schism.[ clarification needed ] The bishops that were uneasy with the language of Pope Leo's Tome repudiated the council, saying that the acceptance of two physes was tantamount to Nestorianism. Dioscorus of Alexandria advocated miaphysitism and had dominated the Council of Ephesus. [41] Churches that rejected Chalcedon in favor of Ephesus broke off from the rest of the Eastern Church in a schism, the most significant among these being the Church of Alexandria, today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. [42] The rise of the "so-called" Monophysitism in the East (as branded by the West) was led by the Copts of Egypt. This must be regarded as the outward expression of the growing nationalist trends in that province against the gradual intensification of Byzantine imperialism, soon to reach its consummation during the reign of Emperor Justinian. A significant effect on the Orthodox Christians in Egypt, was a series of persecutions by the Roman (later, Byzantine) empire forcing followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church to claim allegiance to Leo's Tome, or Chalcedon. This led to the martyrdom, persecution and death of thousands of Egyptian saints and bishops till the Arab Conquest of Egypt. [43] As a result, The Council of Chalcedon is referred to as "Chalcedon, the Omnious" among Coptic Egyptians given how it led to Christians persecuting other Christians for the first time[ citation needed ] in history. Coptic Orthodox Christians continue to distinguish themselves from followers of Chalcedon to this day. Although the theological differences are seen as limited (if non-existent), it is politics, the subsequent persecutions and the power struggles of a rising Roman Empire, that may have led to the Great Schism, or at least contributed significantly to amplifying it through the centuries.

Justinian I attempted to bring those monks who still rejected the decision of the Council of Chalcedon into communion with the greater church. The exact time of this event is unknown, but it is believed to have been between 535 and 548. St Abraham of Farshut was summoned to Constantinople and he chose to bring with him four monks. Upon arrival, Justinian summoned them and informed them that they would either accept the decision of the council or lose their positions. Abraham refused to entertain the idea. Theodora tried to persuade Justinian to change his mind, seemingly to no avail. Abraham himself stated in a letter to his monks that he preferred to remain in exile rather than subscribe to a faith contrary to that of Athanasius.[ clarification needed ] They were not alone, and the non-Chalcedon churches compose Oriental Orthodoxy, with the Church of Alexandria as their primus inter pares. Only in recent years has a degree of rapprochement between Chalcedonian Christians and the Oriental Orthodox been seen.

Oriental Orthodox view

Several Oriental Orthodox Church historians[ who? ] have viewed the Council as a dispute with the Church of Rome over precedence among the various patriarchal sees. Coptic sources [44] both in Coptic and in Arabic, suggest that questions of political and ecclesiastical authority exaggerated differences between the two professions of faith.

The Copts consistently repudiate the Western identification of Alexandrine Christianity with the Eutychianism which originated in Constantinople and which they have always regarded as a flagrant heresy (monophysitism) since it declared the complete absorption of Christ's manhood in his single divine nature whereas the Copts clearly upheld the doctrine of the two natures, divine and human - mystically united in one (miaphysitism) without confusion, corruption, or change. As a strictly traditional church, its religious leaders have sought biblical justification for this interpretation of the Nicean Creed and the Cyriliian formula, but meanwhile have restricted the substance of their variance to interpretation.

Liturgical commemorations

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the "Holy Fathers of the 4th Ecumenical Council, who assembled in Chalcedon" on the Sunday on or after July 13; [45] [46] however, in some places (e.g. Russia) on that date is rather a feast of the Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils. [47]

For both of the above complete propers have been composed and are found in the Menaion.

For the former "The Office of the 630 Holy and God-bearing Fathers of the 4th ... Summoned against the Monophysites Eftyches and Dioskoros ..." was composed in the middle of the 14th century by Patriarch Philotheus I of Constantinople. This contains numerous hymns exposing the council's teaching, commemorating its leaders whom it praises and whose prayers it implores, and naming its opponents pejoratively. e.g., "Come let us clearly reject the errors of ... but praise in divine songs the fourth council of pious fathers." [46]

For the latter the propers are titled "We Commemorate Six Holy Ecumenical Councils". [47] This repeatedly damns those anathematized by the councils with such rhetoric as "Christ-smashing deception enslaved Nestorius" and "mindless Arius and ... is tormented in the fires of Gehenna ..." while the fathers of the councils are praised and the dogmas of the councils are expounded in the hymns therein.

See also


  1. Canon 28: "[...] For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him."
  2. Further definitions of the Council of Constantinople (381) can be found on Wikisource.

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Christianity in the 5th century Christianity-related events during the 5th century

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