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Monophysitism ( // or // ; Greek : μονοφυσιτισμός; Late Koine Greek, pronounced [monofysitizˈmos] from μόνος monos, "only, single" and φύσις physis, "nature") is the Christological position that, after the union of the divine and the human in the historical incarnation, Jesus Christ, as the incarnation of the eternal Son or Word ( Logos ) of God, had only a single "nature" which was either divine or a synthesis of divine and human. Monophysitism is contrasted to dyophysitism (or dia-, dio-, or duophysitism) which maintains that Christ maintained two natures, one divine and one human, after the incarnation.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
The Greek language underwent pronunciation changes during the Koine Greek period, from about 300 BC to 300 AD. At the beginning of the period, the pronunciation was almost identical to Classical Greek, while at the end it was closer to Modern Greek.
Christology, translated literally from Greek as "the word of Christ", is the study of the nature (person) and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, and the relation between these two natures; and the role he plays in salvation.
Historically, the term "Monophysites" (capitalized in this sense) referred to those Christians in the Eastern Roman Empire who rejected the fourth ecumenical council, the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The moderate members of this group, however, maintained a "miaphysite" theology that became that of the Oriental Orthodox churches. The Oriental Orthodox reject the label "monophysite" as a catch-all term, but the label was extensively used in historical literature of Chalcedonian Christian authors.
The Council of Chalcedon 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.
After the Council of Chalcedon, the monophysite controversy (together with institutional, political, and growing nationalistic factors) led to a lasting schism between the Oriental Orthodox churches, on the one hand, and the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches on the other. The Christological conflict among monophysitism, dyophysitism, and their subtle combinations and derivatives lasted from the third through the eighth centuries and left its mark on all but the first two Ecumenical councils. The vast majority of Christians presently belong to the Chalcedonian churches, namely the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and traditional Protestant churches (those that accept at least the first four Ecumenical Councils); these churches have always considered monophysitism to be heretical, usually claiming that it implies Christ is neither "truly God" nor "truly man".
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. 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.
Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than also by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.
Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs. Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.
Monophysitism is occasionally referred to as "monophysiticism".
Monophysitism was born in the Catechetical School of Alexandria, which began its Christological analysis with the (divine) eternal Son or word of God and sought to explain how this eternal word had become incarnate as a man—in contrast to the School of Antioch (birthplace of Nestorianism, the antithesis of monophysitism), which instead began with the (human) Jesus of the Gospels and sought to explain how this man had become united with the eternal word in the incarnation. Both sides agreed that Christ was both human and divine, but the Alexandrians emphasized divinity (including the fact that the divine nature was itself "impassible" or immune to suffering) while the Antiochines emphasized humanity (including the limited knowledge and "growth in wisdom" of the Christ of the Gospels). Individual monophysite and Nestorian theologians in fact rarely believed the extreme views that their respective opponents attributed to them (although some of their followers may have). Ultimately, however, the dialectic between the schools of Alexandria and Antioch produced Christologies that on all sides (notwithstanding ongoing differences between the Oriental Orthodox and Chalcedonian churches) avoided the extremes and reflect both points of view.
The Catechetical School of Alexandria was a school of Christian theologians and priests in Alexandria. The teachers and students of the school were influential in many of the early theological controversies of the Christian church. It was one of the two major centers of the study of biblical exegesis and theology during Late Antiquity, the other being the School of Antioch.
In Christology, the Logos is a name or title of Jesus Christ, derived from the prologue to the Gospel of John "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God", as well as in the Book of Revelation, "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." These passages have been important for establishing the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus since the earliest days of Christianity.
The School of Antioch was one of the two major centers of the study of biblical exegesis and theology during Late Antiquity; the other was the Catechetical School of Alexandria. This group was known by this name because the advocates of this tradition were based in the city of Antioch, one of the major cities of the ancient Roman Empire.
Monophysitism was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which among other things adopted the Chalcedonian Definition (often known as the "Chalcedonian Creed") stating that Christ is the eternal Son of God.
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.
[M]ade known in two natures without confusion [i.e. mixture], without change, without division, without separation, the difference of the natures being by no means removed because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one prosopon [person] and one hupostasis [subsistence]—not parted or divided into two prosopa [persons], but one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Accepted by the sees of Rome, Constantinople, and Antioch, the Chalcedonian settlement encountered strong resistance in Alexandria (and in Egypt generally), leading ultimately to the schism between the Oriental Orthodox churches (which reject Chalcedon), on the one hand, and the so-called Chalcedonian churches on the other. The Chalcedonian churches have always considered monophysitism to be heretical and have generally viewed it as the (explicit or implicit) position of Oriental Orthodoxy. Oriental Orthodoxy, however, considers their own Christology, known as miaphysitism and based heavily on the writings of Cyril of Alexandria (whom all sides accept as orthodox), to be distinct from monophysitism and often object to being labelled monophysites.
Monophysitism, and its theological antithesis Nestorianism, were extensively disputed and divisive competing tenets in the maturing Christian traditions during the first half of the 5th century, during the tumultuous last decades of the Western Empire. It was marked by the political shift in all things to a center of gravity then located in the Eastern Roman Empire, and particularly in Syria, the Levant, and Anatolia, where monophysitism was popular among the people; neither positions were of particular debate in the West beyond Rome.
There are two major doctrines that can indisputably be called "monophysite":
"Moderate" Monophysites, while rejecting Eutychianism, also opposed the Chalcedonian Christology on accusations of seeming like Nestorianism.
After Nestorianism was rejected at the First Council of Ephesus, Eutyches, an archimandrite at Constantinople, emerged with diametrically opposite views. Eutyches' energy and the imprudence with which he asserted his opinions brought him accusations of heresy in 448, leading to his excommunication. In 449, at the controversial "robber"Second Council of Ephesus, Eutyches was reinstated and his chief opponents Eusebius, Domnus and Flavian were deposed. Monophysitism and Eutyches were again rejected at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Eutyches was again condemned at the non-Chalcedonian Third Council of Ephesus in 475.
Later, monothelitism – the belief that Christ was two natures in one person except that he only had a divine will and no human will, or at least had one will in general – was developed as an attempt to bridge the gap between the monophysite and the Chalcedonian position. However, it too was rejected by the members of the Chalcedonian synod, despite at times having the support of the Byzantine emperors and once escaping the condemnation of a pope of Rome, Honorius I. Some[ who? ] are of the opinion that monothelitism was at one time held by the Maronites; the contemporary Maronite community mostly disputes this, stating that they have never been out of official communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Nestorianism is a Christian theological doctrine that upholds several distinctive teachings in the fields of Christology and Mariology. It opposes the concept of hypostatic union and emphasizes that the two natures of Jesus Christ were joined by will rather than personhood. This Christological position is defined as radical dyophisitism. Nestorianism was named after Christian theologian Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, who was influenced by Christological teachings of Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch.
Monothelitism or monotheletism is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus. The Christological doctrine formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629. Specifically, monothelitism is the view that Jesus Christ has two natures but only one will. That is contrary to the Christology that Jesus Christ has two wills that correspond to his two natures (dyothelitism). Monothelitism is a development of the Neo-Chalcedonian position in the Christological debates. Formulated in 638, it enjoyed considerable popularity, even garnering patriarchal support, before being rejected and denounced as heretical in 681, at the Third Council of Constantinople.
Chalcedonian Christianity refers to the Christian denominations adhering to the christological definitions and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451. Chalcedonian Christians follow the Definition of Chalcedon, a religious doctrine concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christian communions and confessions in the 21st century are Chalcedonian, but from the 5th to the 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology was not always certain.
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.
Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria, 25th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He was deposed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 but was recognized as Patriarch by the Coptic Church until his death. He died on the Island of Gangra, Paphlagonia, in September 454. He is venerated as a saint by the Coptic and other Oriental Orthodox churches.
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.
Nicene Christianity is a set of Christian doctrinal traditions which reflect the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and amended at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381.
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, sometimes called henophysitism, is Cyril of Alexandria's Christological formula holding that in the person of Jesus Christ, divine nature and human nature are united in a compound nature ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration.
Eutychianism refers to a set of Christian theological doctrines derived from the ideas of Eutyches of Constantinople. Eutychianism is a specific understanding of how the human and divine relate within the person of Jesus Christ.
The Second Council of Ephesus was a Christological church synod in 449 AD convened by Emperor Theodosius II under the presidency of Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria. It was intended to be an ecumenical council, and it is accepted as such by the miaphysite churches but was rejected by the Chalcedonian dyophysites. It was explicitly repudiated by the next council, the Council of Chalcedon of 451, recognised as the fourth ecumenical council by Chalcedonian Christians, and it was named the Latrocinium or "Robber Council" by Pope Leo I. The Chalcedonian churches, particularly the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions, continue to accept this designation, while the Oriental Orthodox repudiate it.
The Scythian monks were a community of monks from the region around the mouths of the Danube, who played an influential role in Christian theological disputes between the 4th and 6th centuries. The name Scythian comes from Scythia Minor, the classical name of the modern Dobruja region in Romania and Bulgaria, at the time a Roman province. The monks were raised not only from local Christian elements, but also from immigrant Christians who came to live ascetic lives.
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.
Coptic history is part of history of Egypt that begins with the introduction of Christianity in Egypt in the 1st century AD during the Roman period, and covers the history of the Copts to the present day. Many of the historic items related to Coptic Christianity are on display in many museums around the world and a large number is in the Coptic Museum in Coptic Cairo.
In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.
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.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Christian churches adhering to miaphysite Christology and theology, and together have 60 to 70 million members worldwide. As some of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Oriental Orthodox Churches have played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian body of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarized in that the churches recognize the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.
The term Nature of Christ or Natures of Christ may refer to: