The Chalcedonian Solution

  1. The Chalcedonian Solution.
    1. The Chalcedonian Christ.
      We will now examine the formulation of the Christology of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), according to which Jesus Christ is one divine Person in two Natures. Despite its many detractors, this formula remains the touchstone of Christological orthodoxy to this day. The process which led to the Chalcedonian Definition began in A.D. 361 and ended in A.D. 381 at the First Council of Constantinople, where the theology of Athanasius was upheld, but the Christology of his disciple Apollinarius was condemned. As we have seen, the difficulty which both men faced concerned the place of the human soul in Jesus. Athanasius held to its existence, but found little for it to do, whereas Apollinarius believed it could be omitted completely in the explanation of the Person of Christ. As far as Apollinarius was concerned, the Word had taken the place of the human soul when the Word took on inert flesh and merely appeared to be man.

    2. The Alexandrian Christology.
      Alexandrian Christology, of which Apollinarianism was an extreme aberration, had other difficulties also. One of the cardinal axioms of this school of theology was that the Logos was the active subject of the incarnation, who had assumed humanity and united it to himself. Most Alexandrians thought of God as a personal nature, and this nature manifested itself in Jesus when the Logos took on humanity. This position was summed up in the phrase "one nature [mia phusis]", using "nature" to mean "a self-determining being". This Being assumed manhood and united it to Himself, without in any way changing it as a result.

      The union in one nature through the incarnation did not destroy the divinity or the humanity of Jesus, which were held together by a transfer of properties (Latin, communicatio idiomatum) from the former to the latter. This concept was used to explain the miracles of Jesus, which appeared to attribute superhuman powers to his body. Jesus was able to walk on water because his divine nature expressed itself in his body. Similarly, when Jesus spat on the ground, the mud which was formed was empowered by the divine saliva to heal the eyes of a blind man. This explanation of the miracles of Jesus seems plausible enough and is still given today. But there are difficulties. Having a divine nature, how could Jesus have been thirsty on the cross? And, how could he not have known when the Last Judgment would take place (Matt.24:36)? To these questions Athanasius and his followers had no real answer. They simply said that the weaknesses and ignorance of Jesus seen in the Gospels were feigned by the Logos who wished to accommodate Himself to the limitations of human mind.

    3. The Antiochene Christology.
      Such explanations outraged the theologians of the Antiochene school. Antioch saw in these inadequate explanations the opportunity to get back at Alexandria, who in the struggle against Arius had captured the orthodox label and tarred Antioch with the semi-Arian brush. The great Antiochene theologians, Diodore of Tarsus (died about A.D. 394) and his pupil Theodore of Mopsuestia (c.350-428 A.D.), undertook a detailed analysis of the Alexandrian position in order to find its weaknesses and provide an alternative which would not force a theologian to suggest that God had deceived the disciples about the manhood of Jesus.

      1. Diodore of Tarsus.
        After a thorough secular and religious education in his native Antioch and in Athens, Diodore became a Christian monk and a persuasive, influential teacher in Antioch. His two most distinguished disciples were Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom. In A.D. 372, Diodore was banished from Antioch to Armenia by Emperor Valens, but in A.D. 378, he became bishop of Tarsus. Diodore began as a Alexandrian theologian, but the ideas of Apollinarius made him uneasy with the Alexandrian position. He declared himself against it and developed his own explanation of the Person of Jesus. Similar to Athanasius, Diodore said that the soul in Jesus was a "physical factor" but not a "theological one". By this he meant that Jesus had a human soul as part of his flesh, though at first he accepted the Alexandrian belief that the Logos had transferred its properties to it. But he insisted that this transfer took place within the natural limits imposed by the flesh. In other words, the child Jesus had only the wisdom of a child, even though it was a wisdom fully penetrated by the Divine.

        Diodore also believed that the Logos as a personal nature was fully present in Jesus and, like the Alexandrians, he denied that it could suffer or die. But whereas Apollinarius was able to say that the Logos had experienced suffering and death, not in itself but by virtue of the complete transfer of properties to the human side of Jesus' one "nature", Diodore denied this. He insisted that Jesus had two natures, only one of which died on the cross. The dead body in the tomb was that of a man whose soul had expired, not that of the Logos, which remained untouched. In the end, Diodore denied any transfer of properties at all, on the ground that this compromised the integrity of the two natures. In this form, it became the standard teaching of Antioch.

        The following table compares Apollinarius' teaching with Diodore's: [1]
        Apollinarius (Alexandria) Diodore (Antioch)
        1. The Logos dwells in Jesus and takes the place of a human soul. 1. The Logos dwells in Jesus but does not take the place of a human soul.
        2. The transfer of properties is total. 2. There is no transfer of properties.
        3. Jesus had one nature. 3. Jesus had two natures.
        4. The Logos suffered and died on the cross, not in itself but by the transfer of its properties to the flesh. 4. The Logos did not suffer or die on the cross, but only the human soul and flesh of Jesus.

        Diodore's polemic against Apollinarianism seems to be have been aimed less at its mutilation of the Lord's humanity than at its monophysite tendency. In particular, the proposition that the Incarnate was a single hypostasis aroused his criticism. The divinity, he argued, must be compromised if the Word and the flesh form a substantial unity analogous to that formed by the body and soul in man. In reaction to this, Diodore's own theory attempted to hold them apart, and thus he was led to distinguish the Son of God and the Son of David. Scripture, he argued, draws a sharp line of demarcation between the activities of the "two Sons". The union was not the result of any fusion ("mixture") of the Word with the flesh; if it had been, why should those who blaspheme against the Son of Man receive forgiveness, while those who blaspheme against the Spirit do not? Rather it came about through the Word dwelling in the flesh as in a temple. The relationship, though similar in kind, differed from that of God with His prophets, for whereas they enjoyed the fragmentary, very occasional inspiration of the Spirit, the son of David was permanently and completely filled with the glory and wisdom of the Word. Yet both were united in worship, since the son of David shared in the devotion offered to the Son of God, just as the purple robe of the monarch can be said to share in the reverence paid to his person.

        There was at least one Alexandrian that saw difficulty in Apollinarius' teachings and tried to put it right, and that was Didymus the Blind (c.313-398 A.D.). He tried to provide the Athanasian Christ not merely with a soul but with a psychology, while at the same time safeguarding the unity of His nature in the Logos. Didymus said that the soul of Jesus could experience anguish and temptation, which were the beginnings of suffering [propatheia], but was prevented from actual suffering [pathos] itself by its union with the Logos. He also admitted that there was a twofold reality in Christ, but he would not call them "natures" in the Antiochene manner. Instead, he preferred to borrow other terms like "forms" [morphai] from Phil. 2:7 or "characters" [characteres] from Heb. 1:3. He did not define these terms, and the fact that he also used the word "persons" [prosopa] for this dual reality was to cause confusion in the West. Of course, Didymus recognized only one hypostasis in Christ, that of the Logos, but he identified this with the one nature of Apollinarius, much to the consternation of later generations.

      2. Theodore of Mopsuestia.
        Theodore of Mopsuestia, who was born into wealthy Antinochene family, was educated with John Chrysostom under the eminent rhetorician and philosopher Libanius. Like John he abandoned a secular career about A.D. 369 for the monastic school of Diodore of Tarsus. When marriage and the bar proved tempting, John persuaded him to persevere. He was ordained presbyter by Flavian about A.D. 383 and in A.D. 392 he was made bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia. During his lifetime, his erudition and prolific literary versatility were renowned and his orthodoxy virtually unquestioned, but after the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 his standing became posthumously entangled with that of his condemned pupil Nestorius. He was attacked by Rabbula of Edessa and Cyril of Alexandria, who wrote Against Diodore and Theodore. But despite Chalcedon's apparent favor, Theodore and his writings were anathematized in the first of the Three Chapters by Justinian (A.D. 543/4) and the Second Council of Constantinople (A.D. 553).

        Theodore did not follow Didymus, but took up where Diodore had left off. He fully supported the teaching that there were two separate natures in Christ and sought to explain their connection by means of the concept of "conjunction" [synapheia] rather than a "union" [henosis]. He dismisses Diodore's theory of two Sons as "naive", arguing that "the distinction of natures does not prevent their being one". According to him, each nature had its own identity or hypostasis, before the incarnation, as well as at its own appearance, which was now one instead of two.

        The effect of the incarnation can be shown by the following table: [2]
        Before Incarnation After Incarnation
        Alexandria Nature 2 1
        Hypostasis 1 1
        (Person) 1 1
        Antioch Nature 2 2
        Hypostasis 2 2
        Person 2 1

        It was on this basis that Theodore was able to say that in the Incarnate Christ there were two natures in one person, a formula which in an inverted form was approved at Chalcedon ("one Person with two natures"). As Theodore expressed it, the formula is very weak indeed. The union of God and man is not real, but merely an appearance which is the result of a conjunction. The Alexandrians immediately labeled it heretical and were never reconciled to it, even when the Chalcedonian inversion managed to produce a very different Christology using the same words.

    4. Nestorianism.
      Shortly after the death of Theodore of Mopsuestia in A.D. 428, things came to a head. In that year, the emperor Theodosius II appointed the Antiochene professor Nestorius to the patriarchate of Constantinople. Born of Persian parents after A.D. 381, Nestorius was probably a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia before becoming a monk and presbyter at Antioch. Because of the fame he achieved as a preacher, Nestorius was elevated by Theodosius II on 10 April 428 A.D. to the patriarchal see of Constantinople. Politically, this move was resented at Alexandria, which saw its influence being diminished in the capital. Resentment turned to fear when Nestorius began a vigorous persecution of the heretics who had taken refuge in the relative anonymity of Constantinople. Nestorius was particularly sever on the Apollinarians, a term which at Antioch could include almost any Alexandrian.

    5. Cyril of Alexandria.
      The patriarch of Alexandria, a rather unscrupulous man called Cyril, bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to get rid of this impending menace. As a young man, Cyril had gone to Constantinople to witness the deposition of the patriarch John Chrysostom, another Antiochene, by his predecessor. Perhaps an opportunity would come for history to repeat itself.

      Cyril did not have long to wait. Before long somebody (we do not know whether in innocence or in malice) asked Nestorius whether it was proper to refer to Mary as Theotokos, a Greek word meaning "God-bearer" (it is usually rendered in English as "Mother of God"). This question sounds rather trivial, but it was important for two reasons.

      1. At the theological level, it asked the question: Was the fetus in the womb of Mary the Son of God or was Mary no more than the mother of an ordinary man?
      2. At the popular level, it called into question a long tradition of popular devotion, which had grown use to this term as a description of Mary.
      Nestorius sensed the pitfall awaiting him and gave a evasive answer. Theotokos was all right, but only if were accompanied by anthropotokos, "man-bearer", since Mary carried a baby with two natures. Such terms were awkward and misleading, however. It would have been better to emphasize the unity of Jesus by using the term Christotokos, "Christ-bearer". This word would have emphasized the conjunction of the two Natures in the one Person of Christ. Nestorius thought that he had found the answer, and he published it in his Easter letter of A.D. 429. But in writing on the subject, Nestorius used intemperate language which was calculated to inflame people whose approach differed from his own. God cannot have a mother, he argued, and no creature could have given birth to the Godhead; Mary bore a man, the vehicle of divinity but not God. The Godhead cannot have been carried for nine months in a woman's womb, or have been wrapped in baby-clothes, or have suffered, died and been buried. Behind the description of Mary as the Theotokos, he professed to detect the Arian tenet that the Son was a creature, or the Appollinarian idea that the manhood was incomplete. When Cyril read it, he realized that he had found the scandal that he was looking for.

      Without fully realizing it, Nestorius had raised two vitally important questions:

      1. Did theos in theotokos refer to the divine nature or to the person of the Logos?
      2. Who or what caused the incarnation in the first place?
      Before A.D. 429, neither of these questions had emerged clearly. Now they confronted Cyril with blinding clarity. Theos obviously meant the person of the Logos; but although Cyril understood this, he was never able to free himself from the Apollinarian belief in "one nature after the union". As a result, he was unable to answer the first question in a completely unambiguous way. The second question was much easier. Alexandria had always maintained that the Logos was the subject of the incarnation, that God had taken on human flesh. It was, therefore, essential to maintain that God Himself had entered into the womb of Mary; she was Theotokos without qualification. Here Cyril had used the strong card of Alexandria against the main weakness of Antioch. The Antiochenes were so preoccupied with analysis that they could never find an adequate basis for the unity of Christ. For them the person of the Savior was the result of the incarnation, not its cause. But in that case, what was its cause? Were the two natures equal before the union? If so, whatever was it that attracted them to each other? The Antiochenes had no answer to these questions, and so their theology was bound to fail in the end.

      Cyril wasted no time in denouncing Nestorius, and before long both men were appealing to Rome for judgment. This turn of events must have come as a welcome surprise to the Romans, who had never before participated in the Eastern Christological debate. But Rome was not particularly neutral. Ever since the days of Athanasius, it had been pro-Alexandrian and against the Eastern emperor, whose nominee Nestorius, of course, was. A Roman Synod considered the arguments on both sides, but nobody can have been too surprised when it decided for Alexandria. Pope Celestine sent a letter to Cyril supporting him, and asked him to convey the decisions to Nestorius.

      The Twelve Anathemas.
      Cyril lost no time in making the most this extraordinary request. He forwarded the Pope's letter, but attached to it Twelve Anathemas, in which he denounced virtually every major point of Antiochene theology. Deliberately provocative, these anathemas summarize the Cyrilline Christology in uncompromising terms.

      1. The first asserts that Mary is Theotokos,
        "for she bore after the manner of flesh the God-Logos made flesh".
      2. According to the second, the Word is united "hypostatically" [kath' hupostasin] to the flesh.
      3. The third rejects any separation of hypostases after the union or any attempt to link them by a mere association [mone . . . sunapheia] based on dignity, authority or power; they are brought together in "a natural union" [henosin phusiken].
      4. The fourth denied the propriety of distinguishing the statements made about Christ, as if some properly applied to the Word and others to the man.
      5. The description "God-inspired man" [theophoros anthropos] is repudiated in the fifth on the grounds that Christ is very God, the Word having become flesh and sharing our flesh and blood.
      6. The sixth states that it is wrong to say that the divine Word is Christ's God or Lord, and not rather that after the incarnation He is simultaneously God and man.
      7. The seventh denies that Jesus as man was moved by the Word or clothed in His glory, as if there were a distinction between Him and the Word.
      8. The eighth condemned those who speak of "the man assumed" as deserving to be worshipped along with the Word (this was the formula Nestorius favored) and designated God along with Him, for that suggests a separation; Immanuel is the Word incarnate, and one indivisible worship is owing to Him.
      9. The ninth lays it down that, so far from being a power alien to Jesus which enabled Him to work miracles, the Holy Spirit is His very own.
      10. According to the tenth, our high-priest is not a man distinct from the Word, but the incarnate Word Himself.
      11. The eleventh declares that the Lord's flesh is the very [idian] flesh of the Word, possessing in consequence quickening power.
      12. The twelfth insists on the fact that the Word really suffered, was crucified and died in His flesh.

      The Council of Ephesus.
      Nestorius was duly outraged, and asked the emperor to call a council to decide the issue. The emperor Theodosius obliged, and on 19 November 430 A.D. he ordered a council to assemble at Ephesus on Pentecost, 7 June 431 A.D. When the day arrived, only Cyril had turned up in force with some 60 like-mined bishops, though 68 supporters of Nestorius were also there. They waited until the 22 June when Cyril, fearing that events might not go his way if anyone else showed up, defied protests of the imperial commissioner, the count Candidianus, and under his own presidency opened the council on his own initiative. Nestorius, who was already a Ephesus, naturally declined to participate. In his absence, needless to say, Nestorius was quickly deposed ("the new Judas") and his teaching condemned, after having the correspondence between him and Cyril read out as well as a dossier of patristic authorities.
      But four days later on 26 June the Antiochene delegation, headed by John of Antioch, turned up and the situation was reversed. Both Cyril and the local prelate, Memnon, was deposed, his Twelve Anathemas was repudiated, and Nestorius was reinstated. Finally, on the 10 July, the Roman delegation arrived and overturned the verdict a second time. Nestorius was again deposed, this time for good, and was banished to upper Egypt, and Cyril was able to celebrate a complete triumph. The Papal legates endorsed Cyril's gathering of the council, which has gone down in history as the Third General Council. Nestorus was never rehabilitated. After languishing at Antioch for some years, he finally died about A.D. 451.

      The Council of Ephesus seemed to be in shambles, but its final decrees have managed to survive all opposition. Eight canons were passed on various doctrinal matters. On 22 July, it decreed that the Council of Nicaea should never be changed, but should remain forever as the standard of the Church's faith. The precise meaning of this decree has been disputed, and it is not clear whether the decree applied to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed as well as to the ancient Creed of Nicaea. The Eastern Churches has taken the stricter interpretation, while the West has preferred a somewhat looser interpretation. But one thing at least was clear; the age of official creed writing was over.

      Formulary of Reunion
      Reaction to the Council of Ephesus came thick and fast. Having deposed of Nestorius, Cyril was more accommodating and attempted to restore peace with the emperor, whose sympathies were Antiochene and wanted a reconciliation to preserve the unity of the Empire. In a very short time, peace was restored, when Cyril sent a letter to John of Antioch on 23 April 433 A.D., in which he included the Formulary of Reunion (also known as the Symbol of Union), which had been drawn up as early as August 431 A.D. This document granted Cyril's arguments, but avoided any reference to the "one nature" and treaded warily on the subject of the transfer of properties. It said in part,

      "We confess our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
      perfect God and perfect man, consisting of a rational soul and body,
      begotten of the Father before the ages as to his Godhead,
      and in the last days the Same [ton auton]
      for us and for our salvation, [was born] of Mary the Virgin
      according to his manhood;
      the Same consubstantial [homoousios] with the Father
      as to his Godhead, and consubstantial with us as to his manhood.
      For there has been a union [henosis] of two natures;
      wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.

      In accordance with this thought of the unconfused union,
      we confess the holy Virgin to be Theotokos,
      because the divine Logos became flesh and was made man,
      and from the very conception united to himself
      the temple that was taken from her.

      And with regard to the evangelical and apostolic statements about the Lord,
      we recognize that theologians treat some in common
      because they relate to the unity of Person
      [hos eph' henos prosopou],
      and others they distinguish according to the two natures
      [hos epi duo phuseon],
      explaining acts befitting God in reference to the Godhead of Christ,
      and the humble ones in reference to his manhood." [3]

      Cyril greeted this Formulary with enthusiasm. At first sight, it seemed to make large concessions to the Antiochene point of view. Clearly, the Anathemas which he had made so much of had dropped into the background, and even his favorite expressions, "one nature" and "hypostatic union", had disappeared. Instead he found himself accepting the Antiochene language of "one prosopon" and "union of two natures", while one phrase [hos epi duo phuseon] emphasized the duality of the natures after the union. Theotokos was admitted, but only with safeguards which satisfied the Antiochenes, and it was balanced by the admission of their traditional description of the humanity as the Word's "temple". A form of communicatio idiomatum was sanctioned, but a much less thoroughgoing form than the one for which he had contended. On the other hand, Cyril had gains as well as losses to count. The condemnation of Nestorius had been accepted, and Theotokos, even though with safeguards, had been pronounced orthodox; and the bogey of "Nestorianism", with its doctrine of "two Sons", was no more. Moreover, the identification of the subject in the God-man with the eternal Word had been clearly recognized in the repeated, emphatic use of ton auton, "the Same". All talk of "conjunction", etc., had vanished, and the union was now described as henosis, "union".

      Because of Cyril's prestige, this Formulary remained in force until his death in A.D. 444, though many of his followers regarded it as a sell-out to the Nestorians. The absence of a "one nature" clause, which Cyril had made a badge of orthodoxy in spite of its Apollinarian provenance, gave this element its main excuse to cause trouble later.

    6. From Ephesus to Chalcedon.
      In the fifteen years between the agreement patched up in A.D. 433 and the outbreak of the next crisis in A.D. 448, neither of the parties was as a whole satisfied with the terms of the Union Symbol.

      On the Antiochene side, there was a extremist Cilician group which persisted in declaring Cyril a heretic. The sentence passed on Nestorius rankled the consciences of even those moderate Antiochenes who had come to recognize Cyril's orthodoxy. For example, Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus in Syria (c.393-c.458 A.D.), absolutely refused to endorse the Union Symbol. He accepted neither of the extreme positions, but held that Christ had two natures, united in one person but not in essence. At the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), Theodoret protested against both Cyril's procedural opportunism and his doctrine, and afterward wrote a refutation of the Twelve Anathemas directed by Cyril against Nestorius.

      On the Alexandrian side, Cyril's right-wing allies viewed his apparent acceptance of the Two Natures doctrine with unconcealed dismay. In self-defense, Cyril had to produce arguments to show that, for all the objectable language in which it was expressed, the Union Symbol was essentially the teaching that he had always supported. Having gained the political advantage in Nestorius' defeat, Cyril was able while he was alive to restrain his hot-headed partisans. With his death in A.D. 444, the reaction against the Two Natures doctrine gathered force and is reflected in attacks launched on the teaching of Theodoret, now the leading theologian of the Antiochene school.

      Dioscorus, the successor of Cyril and the Patriarch of Alexandria from A.D. 444 to 451, was an energetic and ruthless prelate, who put himself at the head of Alexandrian school. He became a leading figure in the Monophysite controversy. Dioscorus was determined, at any cost, to reassert the One Nature doctrine which, he sincerely believed, had the authority of the fathers behind it and which had only been compromised by Cyril in a moment of weakness. In A.D. 444, Dioscorus accused Theodoret of Nestorianism, and when Eutychus was accused by Theodoret and others of the opposite error, Dioscorus came to his aid.

      Eutyches (c. 375-454 A.D.), who was an archimandrite or superior of a monastery in Constantinople and a rather simple-mined disciple of the Cyril of Alexandria, had come out of retirement to contest the error of Nestorianism towards which he believed the Union Symbol leaned. But he went to such an extreme in stressing the single nature of Christ that the supporters of orthodoxy in Constantinople became uneasy. His obstinacy in refusing the two natures of Christ brought the condemnation by Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople from A.D. 446 until his death in A.D. 449, who declared Eutyches' views as unorthodox. On 8 November 448 A.D., at a meeting of the Standing Synod of Constantinople, Eutyches was denounced as heretical by Eusebius of Dorylaeum. Formal discussion began on 12 November, the chairman being Flavian, the patriarch of Constantinople, who seized the opportunity to read a profession of faith containing the important formulary,

      "We confess that Christ is of two natures [ek duo phuseon]
      after the incarnation, confessing one Christ, one Son, one Lord,
      in one hupostasis and one prosopon". [4]
      Although the phrase, "out of two natures", became later the battle-cry of the monophysites, Flavian was using it to imply that the Incarnate had two natures. Also his identification of hupostasis and prosopon marked an important step towards Chalcedon.

      Eutyches refused to appear at this session, and when he did appear, on 22 November, it was to hear sentence passed on himself. The verdict of those present, all supporters of the Union Symbol, was that he was a follower of Valentinus and Apollinarius, and he was accordingly deposed. Historically, Eutyches is considered the founder of an extreme and virtually Docetic form of monophysitism, teaching that the Lord's humanity was totally absorbed by His divinity.

      That such ideas were current at this time is clear. Theodoret the year before had aimed his Eranistes against people who, holding that Christ's humanity and divinity formed "one nature", taught that the former had not really derived from the Virgin, and that it was the latter which had suffered. Their theory was, apparently, that "the divine nature remains while the humanity is swallowed up (katapothenai) by it". The nature assumed was not annihilated, but was transformed into the substance (ousia) of the divinity. Though he named no names, it is fairly certain that Theodoret had Eutyches in view.

      What Eutyches'actual doctrine was has never been easy to ascertain. At a preliminary examination before the envoys of the synod, he declared that "after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ I worship one nature, that is, that of God made flesh and become man". He vigorously repudiated the suggestion of two natures in the Incarnate as un-Scriptural and contrary to the teaching of the fathers. Yet he expressly allowed that Christ was born from the Virgin and was at once perfect God and perfect man. He denied ever having said that His flesh came from heaven, but refused to concede that it was consubstantial with us. At this interrogation before the synod, he yielded the point that Christ was "of two natures" [ek duo phuseon], but he argued that that was only before the union; "after the union I confess one nature". He repeated that Christ took flesh of the Virgin, and added that it was a complete incarnation [enanthropesai . . . teleios] and that the Virgin was consubstantial with us. Flavian then pressed him to admit that the Lord was consubstantial with us. Eutyches consented to do so if the synod insisted. His reluctance hitherto, he explained, had been due to the fact that he regarded Christ's body as the body of God; he had been shy of calling the body of God "the body of a man", (he evidently took "consubstantial with us" as implying an individual man), but he had preferred to speak of it as "a human body", and to say that the Lord became incarnate of the Virgin. This, however, was a passing remark; he soon returned to his monotonous affirmation of two natures before the incarnation, one after.

      The general impression of Eutyches was that he was a confused and unskilled thinker (a "muddle-headed archimandrite", as he was later called), blindly rushing forward to defend the unity of Christ against all attempts to divide Him. He was no Docetist or Apollinarian; nothing could have been more explicit than his affirmation of the reality and completeness of the Christ's manhood. His hesitation about "consubstantial with us" were due to his exaggerated suspicion that it might be twisted to imply the Nestorian conception of the humanity as being an individual man whom the Godhead assumed. If he had a horror of "two natures", it sprang from the fact that he, like so many of the Alexandrian way of thinking, took phusis, or "nature", to mean a concrete existence. Even more than Cyril himself, whose depth of insight and grasp of essentials Eutyches lacked, Eutyches had been nurtured on literature of Apollinarian origin which he pathetically believed to be fully orthodox, and he was devoted to Cyril's formula "one nature", although he omitted to add Cyril's saving qualification "made flesh". If his condemnation is to be justified, it must be in the light of more far-reaching considerations. The Church at this epoch was feeling its way toward a balanced Christology. The type of thought which Eutyches represented was one-sided to a degree. It upset the balanced Christology towards which the Church of this epoch was striving. Without the emphasis on the other side which the Two Natures doctrine supplied, Christology might well have drifted into the errors his opponents attributed to Eutyches.

      The Robber Synod.
      Although Eutyches was excommunicated and deposed, his disgrace did not last long. He wrote to the Pope Leo, but his letter did not get the results he wanted. Flavian had already informed Pope Leo of Eutyches' condemnation, and now he wrote in greater detail defining his heresy. Flavian's letter reached Rome on 21 May 449 A.D. As a result, on 13 July 449 A.D., Leo sent his famous Dogmatic Letter, or Tome, to Flavian, and made his hostility to the One Nature doctrine clear. Eutyches had greater success with Dioscorus, who from the start refused to recognize Eutyches' excommunication, and with the help of Chrysaphius, Dioscorus persuaded emperor Theodosius II to summon a general council. This met at Ephesus in August 449 A.D. It was dominated with brutal efficiency by Dioscorus, who acted as chairman, and although the Pope Leo sent three legates they were not given an opportunity of presenting Leo's Tome. They were arrested and thrown into prison, while many leading Antiochene representatives were beaten up or harassed. Flavian himself was probably treated in this way, and it seems that he died of his wounds not long after the council ended. Eutyches was immediately rehabilitated and his orthodoxy vindicated. The Union Symbol was formally set aside as going beyond the decisions of the council of Ephesus of A.D. 431, and the confession of two natures after the union was anathematized. Flavian and Eusebius of Dorylaeum, and along with them Theodoret and all the dyophysite leaders, were condemned and deposed. So ended the council which became known as the Robber Synod or "Brigandage" [Latrocinium], of Ephesus.

      Pope Leo's Tome.
      Apart from Tertullian, the West had made little or no contribution to Christology so far. Tertullian had long ago provided the structure and language two substantiae in one persona of a Latin Christology which to a remarkable extent anticipated the outcome of the Eastern disputes. The importance of Leo's Tome requires a closer look at its Christology. The Christology of Leo's Tome has no special originality; it reflects and codifies with masterly precision the ideas of his predecessors. The following are the chief points that Leo was concerned to set forth.

      1. First, the Person of the God-man is identical with that of the divine Word. As he expressed it,
        "He Who became man in the form of a servant
        is He Who in the form of God created man".
        Though describing the incarnation as a "self-emptying" [exinaitio], he claimed that it involved no diminution of the Word's omnipotence; He descended from His throne in heaven, but did not surrender His Father's glory.
      2. Secondly, the divine and human natures co-exist in this one Person without mixture or confusion. Rather, in uniting to form one Person each retains its natural properties unimpaired [salva . . . proprietate utriusque naturae et substantiae], so that, just as the form of God does not do away with the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not diminish the form of God. Indeed, the redemption required that "one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, should be able both to die in respect of the one and not to die in respect of the other".
      3. Thirdly, the natures are separate principles of operation, although they always act in concert with each other.
        In a famous sentence he says,
        "Each form accomplishes in concert with the other what is appropriate to it,
        the Word performing what belongs to the Word,
        and the flesh carrying out what belongs to the flesh". [5]
      4. Lastly, the oneness of the Person postulates the legitimacy of the "communication of idioms". For example, we can affirm that the Son of God was crucified and buried, and also that the Son of Man came down from heaven.
      These four theses may not have probed the depths of the Christological problem; it is obvious that they left the issues which puzzled Greek theologians largely untouched. But they had the value of setting out the factors demanding recognition fairly and squarely. But they also went a long way towards meeting the points of view of both the schools of thought struggling for supremacy in the East. Antiochenes could recognize their own theology in Leo's vigorous affirmation of the duality in Christ, and of the reality and independence of the two natures. Some of his sentences, indeed, particularly the one cited above, were to prove to be stumbling blocks to Alexandrian theologians. Nevertheless these latter also could see the essentials of their standpoint vindicated in the Pope Leo's unerring grasp of the identity of the Person of the Incarnate with that of the eternal Word. As he expressed it in a Christmas sermon,
      "It is one and same Son of God Who exists in both natures,
      taking what is ours to Himself without losing what is His own". [6]

    7. The Council of Chalcedon.
      The Robber Synod had been held under imperial auspices, and emperor Theodosius was resolved to maintain its decisions despite all of Pope Leo's maneuvers to get the doctrinal question reopened. It looked like an extremely awkward situation was developing when, contrary to all expectations (the orthodox naturally interpreted it as an act of Providence), the deadlock was broken when the Emperor was killed by falling from his horse on 28 July 450 A.D. His appointed successor, a professional soldier, Marcian, succeeded to the throne, who promptly consolidated his position by marrying the late emperor's sister, Pulcheria. Both sympathized with the Two Natures doctrine, and this, combined with the manifest desirability of securing the Church's unity in the empire, caused them to fall in readily with proposals for a general council. The Pope had striven to persuade Theodosius to summon one, preferably in Italy, being anxious to reassert his position over against Alexandria as well as to annul the theological work of the Robber Synod; and now Theodoret, back from exile, was reviving the demand. Originally planned for Nicaea (not Italy, as the Pope wanted), the council was transferred to Chalcedon, as being nearer the capital and thus convenient for Marcian.

      More than five hundred bishops took part, the Pope as usual being represented by legates; the proceedings of the Council of Chalcedon opened on 8 October 451 A.D. Pulcheria's own commissioners controlled the proceedings. Pope Leo's Tome was read out and hailed as the expression of the purest orthodoxy. The decisions of earlier councils were reviewed and upheld, including the condemnation of Nestorius in A.D. 431. The council was most anxious to affirm the orthodoxy of Cyril, and its defenders claimed that Cyril's "one nature" Christology, properly understood, did not contradict the orthodox formula. Cyril may have suffered from terminological imprecision, but his teaching was perfectly sound. The acts of the Robber Synod were undone and Dioscorus deposed. Theodoret at last disowned Nestorius.

      Chalcedonian Definition.
      The whole object of the council, from the imperial point of view, was to establish a single faith throughout the empire. The majority of bishops present objected to the formulation of a new creed; they considered it sufficient to uphold the Nicene Creed and recognize the binding force of Cyril's Dogmatic Letters and Leo's Tome. But if the council was to succeed, the imperial commissioners knew that it must produce a formulary which everyone could be required to sign, and they made their intentions clear. Hence the Definition of Faith which was finally agreed took the following form.

      1. First, after a preamble, it solemnly reaffirmed the Nicene Creed as the standard of orthodoxy, setting the creed of the Council of Constantinople (the creed now recited at the Eucharist) beside it as refuting heresies which had sprung up since Nicaea.
      2. Secondly, it canonized Cyril's two Dogmatic Letters and Leo's Tome, the former as disposing of Nestorianism and as a sound interpretation of the creed, and the latter as overthrowing Eutychianism and confirming the true faith.
      3. Thirdly, it set out a formal confession of faith in the following terms:
        "In agreement, therefore, with the holy fathers, we all unanimously teach that we should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin; begotten from the Father before the ages as regards His Godhead, and in the last days, the same, because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards His manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, 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 and one hupostasis not parted or divided into two prosopa, but one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets of old and Jesus Christ Himself have taught us about Him and the creed of our fathers has handed down." [7]
      The imperial commissioners, in their desire to avoid a split, had to exert considerable pressure before agreement could be reached.
      1. In the first place, apart from widespread objection to framing a new creed, three passages in Leo's Tome excited grave disquiet in the Illyrian and Palestinian delegations. It required the special explanations of the Roman legates, as well as a dossier of citations from Cyril, to satisfy them that the Pope was not dividing Christ as Nestorius had done, but was only recognizing and drawing the practical implications of the distinction of natures.
      2. Secondly, the first draft of the formal confession, produced at the Fifth Session on 22 October, seems to have lacked the extracts from the Tome which stand in the final version, and also to have read "from two natures" [ek duo phuseson] instead of "in two natures" [en duo phusesin]. Although this echoes Flavian's declaration of faith at the Constantinopolitan Standing Synod, it did not clearly affirm the subsistence of two natures after the union, and indeed, in the light of Eutyches' position, was consistent with a denial of it. Only by dint of consummate skill and diplomacy was the assembly induced to accept the necessary amendments.
      In its final shape, the Definition is a mosaic of excerpts from Cyril's two Dogmatic Letters, Leo's Tome, the Union Symbol and Flavian's profession of faith at the Standing Synod. Its distinctive theology is its recognition of both the unity and duality in the God-man. Within an essentially Alexandrian framework, it made allowances for the teaching of Antioch, particularly in the use of word "coalescing" to describe the union of the two natures. The principle of unity in diversity could hardly have received clearer expression, and it is no accident that the Chalcedonian Definition remains to this day the supreme expression of an orthodox faith.

    8. The Monophysites.
      Of course, this is not to say that the Chalcedonian Definition did not have its detractors. The Alexandrians walked out of the council, and despite many attempts to persuade them to change their minds, they were never to abandon the "one nature" Christology of Cyril. The Eastern churchmen who cherished Cyril's one nature view of the incarnate Christ were offended; these dissidents were henceforth known as "Monophysites" and their belief as "Monophysitism" teaching that the Lord's humanity was totally absorbed by His divinity. For the most part, they could no more be called heretics than Cyril himself. Anti-Chalcedonianism soon dominated Egypt, where the Coptic language served to express dissent, especially among the monks. The Greek-speaking Chalcedonian minority was dubbed "the Emperor's men". In Syria, where the Syriac language played a similar role, the Monophysites had to struggle for ascendancy, but here too their leadership far excelled that of the Chalcedonians. The division threatened the imperial throne itself during the reign of Emperor Zeno (A.D. 474-491). He subsequently issued in A.D. 482 the Henoticon, a peace formula which condemned Nestorius and Eutyches, sanctioned Cyril's "twelve chapters" of anathemas in addition to the Creeds of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Constantinople (A.D. 381), and put a curse on any contrary doctrine "whether taught at Chalcedon or elsewhere". This allowed one to hold that the creed of Chalcedon was erroneous. The consequence was not peace but confusion. While many Monophysites accepted it, the more extreme Monophysites would have nothing to do with the Henoticon. On the other hand, the Roman See, feeling its honor and its orthodoxy attacked by this practical rejection of Chalcedon, excummunicated Acacius, the patriarch of Constantinople, and broke off relations to the East. From A.D. 484 to 518, under Emperors Zeno and Anastasius, the Henoticon was offical orthodoxy. The Pope's excommunication of Acacius created the "Acacian schism" between the Greek and Latin churches. This schism continued until A.D. 519, when emperor Justin renewed the authority of Chalcedon, under circumstances that increased the prestige of the papacy, but only alienated Egypt and Syria more.

      The Empire's adoption of this compromise Monophysitism encouraged the Persian church to accept Nestorianism, in order to widen its divorce from the imperial church, and so appear less obnoxious to Persia's rulers. After Nestorius' condemnation in A.D. 431, Nestorian strength had concentrated at Edessa, east of the Euphrates.

      The Council of Chalcedon marks a turning point in the history of theology. It welded Western and Eastern traditions into a unity which would not be seen again, though the price paid for this in the East was to be very high. The Nestorians were finally discredited, despite Nestorius' plea that he subscribed to the teaching of Leo. The Monophysite reaction after Chalcedon prompted many of Nestorian leading figures to emigrate to Persia. There they were rewarded by the Shah, who in A.D. 484 gave Nestorianism legal recognition as the only form of Christianity tolerated in his dominions. In A.D. 486, the Persian church became officially Nestorian. The works of Diodore and Theodore were preserved in Persian as well as Syriac. The Nestorians developed great missionary zeal, and their churches spread from Babylonia to China. Unfortunately they were never able to consolidate their gains, and after the eleventh century decline set in. Today they are a tiny community, known as Assyrians or Chaldeans. About half live in Iraq and the rest are dispersed across the world, with the largest number in the United States.

      The Nestorian church bequeath at least one legacy of lasting importance. The school of Antioch was Aristotelian in its philosophical method, in contrast to the Platonism of Alexandria. After the rise of Islam, Nestorians were influential in bringing Aristotle to the notice of the Arab world. There he was cherished, studied and improved, until in the twelfth century Spanish scholars translated his works from Arabic into Latin. The rediscovery of Aristotle in the West provoked a theological revolution which challenged the whole basis of classical orthodoxy and eventually resulted in the new synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christian orthodoxy by Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274 A.D.).

In writing the first part of this section on The Chalcedonian Solution I have relied very heavily upon Gerald Bray's book,
Creeds, Councils & Christ
[Downers Grove, Illinois, USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984], pp. 151-157,
so that maybe I should put quotation marks around that part of this section.
Thank you, Dr. Bray.


[1] Gerald Bray, Creeds, Councils & Christ,
Inter-Varsity Press, (Downers Grove, Illinois, USA, 1984),
p. 153.

[2] Ibid., p. 154.

[3] J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, 2nd Edition,
Harper & Row, Publishers (New York, Evanston and London, 1958, 1960).,
pp. 328-329.

[4] Ibid., p. 331.

[5] Ibid., p. 337.

[6] Ibid., p. 338.

[7] Ibid., pp. 339-340.