The Christology of the Council of Chalcedon

A Paper Submitted to Dr. Rex Butler of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Course History of Christianity: Early to Medieval: HIST5200RB in the Division of Church History

Matthew C. Jolley B.S., Shorter College, 2007 November 1, 2010

It is in going to those places of logic or human explanation that one enters into heresy. Jesus. and the theological struggle for right doctrine were lit and burning well before Nestorius was condemned in 431. the issues faced within the three major heresies of Apollinarianism. However. but more importantly. This paper will briefly outline the events leading up to Chalcedon. But since Constantinople did not address the issue. The Chalcedonian formula of “two natures. It did not lean to one side or the other (on emphasizing divinity or humanity). 168. Constantinople. and the events at Chalcedon set the bar for right Christological orthodoxy. and having faith to believe what the human mind cannot comprehend. 1998).The Council of Chalcedon. as most heresies did. Brown. What Chalcedon did was set the standard for understanding rightly about Jesus. set boundaries on the places where one should not go in trying to understand the mystery of the God-man. though unaddressed issues of Apollinarianism.1 Needless to say. even to before Constantinople of 381 when Apollinarianism was in full swing. and 1 Harold O. from Nicaea. The ecumenical council at Chalcedon answered all major questions proposed. and Chalcedon. one person” endures. The Robber Synod of 449. and all Appolinarians were exiled by Theodosius I in 388. and Eutychianism. . Heresies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers. the fires of political struggle for power. Information on the historical backdrop of the council of Chalcedon will help the reader to understand the flow of events. but landed squarely balanced. Ephesus. was pointed out by Basil of Caesarea in 377. the prelude for the Christological debate had begun years prior to the Council at Ephesus in 431. which spurred Pulcheria to call the council. the very apparent.J. convened in 451. even to today. was the definitive council that tied the bow on the intense argumentation over Christology that had been happening since the close of the fourth century. just as the New Testament does. Nestorianism.

3rd. but God is without beginning. (New York: Oxford University Press. resulting in the Chalcedonian formula of “two natures.3 The end of the Council at Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople (convened to deal with certain issues concerning the Holy Spirit.2 It is clear to see that Arius asserted that Jesus was not the same substance with God. Three terms were being used at the time: homo-ousios (of the same substance). USA. 3 Heresies. Bishop of Nicomedia wrote. which said. 43. the incarnation being the means of his glorification. in his letter to Eusebius. and because we say that he is from what is not. 115-116. and hetero-ousious (of different substance). for he was not unbegotten. 1999). We are presecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning. but that God created him (or that he was the first begotten of the Father). Arius. sort of superman-type being. “We believe…in one Lord Documents of the Christian Church. that the Son is not unbegotten…And before he was begotten or created or appointed or established. But what we say and think we both have taught and continue to teach. we are persecuted. not of same substance. one person. he did not exist. 2 . who develops into deity.finally the decisions made at Chalcedon. homoi-ousious (of like substance). Arius’ view on Christ was that God. but rather the created Logos. or unlike substance with the Father because he was a created. Ed.” The basic question that arose around the time of Nicaea was of Christ’s consubstantial nature with the Father. And this we say because he is neither part of God nor derived from any substance. The reason that Arius’ position was convoluted was that he sort of landed in the middle. saying that Christ was pre-existent. sometimes called the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed. and that he was somewhat lower than the father in order. as well as the Arian problem) was the Nicene Creed. For that reason. Arius assumed the position that Christ was anomoios.

but not human. but it cost the full acceptance of the humanity of Christ. nor his soul. and Spirit. begotten not made. its relation to Chalcedon stands. giving Jesus some sort of God-flesh. and at Constantinople in 381. but only one after. Begotten of the Father before all the ages. 28. it is what is united to his Deity that is saved. For what he has not assumed he has not healed. three heresies arose. true God of true God. which is why Apollinaris insisted that the Logos became flesh. but rather that the Logos took the place of the human soul. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote to the Bishop of Constantinople of 381. at Constantinople the final blow was made on the consubstantiality of the Father. Heresies. leading to the Chalcedonian defnition of the unity of two natures. Son. one person.Jesus Christ. 50.5 Apollinaris insisted that Jesus had but one nature. because it was early recognized as a Christological heresy. 6 Documents. Leaning to one side or the other. However. and in 381. of one substance with the Father. only appearing in flesh that was decidedly a deification of the flesh.”4 Arius was condemned in 325.”6 Appolinaris was condemned at Alexandria in 362. This view expressly advocated for the divinity of Christ. the belief that Jesus had two natures before the incarnation. the only begotten Son of God. 163. In essence. confidently asserting an important doctrinal truth concerning the Appollinarian heresy: “If any one has put his trust in him as a man without a human mind. What was left was an emphasis on the deity of Christ. Appolinaris asserted that Christ himself did not have a human soul. leaving a gaping opportunity for the Christological debate to continue on in full force. This was the beginnings of monophytism. Light of Light. First. and Chalcedon triumphantly answered all three. Christ’s mind was not human. . 4 5 Documents of the Christians Church. that is. he is himself devoid of mind and unworthy of salvation.

Constantinople had elevated itself over the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools. for it is the Nestorian view that Chalcedon validated without using so many words. and trying to correct and reconcile the problem. the bishop of Constantinople. The book could condemn and vindicate Nestorius.Second is the “heresy” of Nestorianism. two separate natures. he did not do so very well. 2010). From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A guide to the Literature and its Background (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. His struggle was with the concrete Antiochene Frances M. just not very intelligently.” Two schools existed at the time. and his own attempt to use the prosopon correctly. History depicts the Nestorian heresy to be rather convoluted.7 The word pro/swpon means “face or appearance. and the Alexandria school. and Nestorius. This opened up a plethora of debate over Nestorius’ position on Christology. 294.” and so the misunderstanding was that Nestorius was presenting two totally separate natures or prosopa with two totally separate underlying grounds. as a man and a woman are joined in marriage. Nestorius’ story comes with special circumstances. The basic misunderstanding came from Nestorius’ presentation of the natures of Christ. and even more frustrating when the Bazaar of Heraclides is introduced. opened his mouth to argue over the term theotokos. but struggling with Antiochene theology. and deserves special attention. Nestorius was wrestling with his inherited Antiochene theology. who emphasized His humanity. When the word pro/swpon was used by Nestorius. in attempts to reconcile the mystery of the two natures of Christ in one person. he presented an explanation of the person of Christ by using what would later be called “prosopic union. but have separate being all together. Young. the Antiochene school that emphasized the divinity of Christ. 7 .” which would be understood as Nestorius’ attempt to give a metaphysical explanation of the “real” union of the two natures of Christ in one person. that is. Nestorius was trying to convey one concrete person with two natures. or God-bearer. He was perhaps what one might call “misunderstood.

Nicaea had presented three prosopa and one ousia. Nestorius would argue with the term because he would insist that Christ did not have a starting point. the causeless alarm he manifested on this subject just exposed his extreme ignorance. and in his heart. 755. but in reality he was disgracefully illiterate. I have found him an unlearned man and shall candidly express the conviction of my mind concerning him…he seemed scared at the term Theotokos as though it were some terrible ‘bugbear’. and in agreement with his chaplain. not the Divine Word. 295. he would agree that “the Virgin gave birth to the man Jesus. Ibid. The Rise of Christianity (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers. and his own lack of ability to articulate left him misunderstood in his attempts to reconcile two prosopa. 10 Ibid. Nestorius was actually trying to present that there were two prosopa. The major problem. Frend. which made him sound like he was presenting two natures remaining personalized. 9 8 .” The most Nestorious would concede was that she was Christ-bearer (Christotokos).H. 1986). saying. To him. Having myself perused the writings of Nestorius. the term Theotokos was blasphemous. 292.8 Socrates wrote of Nestorius.” 11 By 429. but only one ousia. reached the ears of Cyril in Alexandria. The fact is.belief.’ and the ‘humanness of the human’10 was consistent. Given the documentary evidence of Cyril’s unsuspecting dependence on Ibid. for being a man of natural fluency as a speaker. In terms of what had happened previously in the debate over Trinitarian issues at Nicaea. Nestorius was trying to give due respect to the two natures of Christ without elevating one or the other. 296. this scandal. and foremost reason for the conflict between Nestorius and Cyril was the issue over Theotokos. It seems that Nestorius entered into an argument without enough bullets in his gun.9 Though Socrates dealt harshly with Nestorius. he was considered well-educated.C. 11 W. though misunderstood it seems. it seems as though Nestorius’ battle throughout to preserve the ‘Godness of God.

Cyril would assemble Ephesus I. rest. it seems that Cyril did hold to the one-nature side of things his rejection of Apollinarianism being merely superficial.14 Theodosius was the power behind the excommunication. there was a time of relative peace. and since during the “time of peace. After this point. but the two never reconciled their differences stemming from Theotokos/Christotokos debate. and John and all of his supporters were excommunicated.12 This sets up the controversy between the two a little better. Frend. who had no hope for defense or recovery. With the pope feeling good about Cyril’s successor. Even Pope Leo wrote a helpful letter to Dioscurus. Unfortunately for Nestorius. and though he brought several bishops who threatened to depose Cyril if he did not take back the 12 anathemas towards Nestorius. 764. but Cyril was the catalyst. 760. powered by two hundred bishops from Asia minor. 14 Ibid.13 John of Antioch arrived a little late. 15 Ibid.” deprived of all his priestly status.k. everything seemed to be o. for a moment. At the offset. In 447. 761. and decided to stamp out the members of Nestorianism wherever they might be found.” 12 13 Young. Cyril had died in 444. Dioscorus seemed like a lamb. In June of 431. Cyril simply wielded the power of the papal legates. Several letters ensued. changed everything.15 Since Theodosius II still believed that Nestorianism posed a threat. Cyril had all the political and religious power of the Emperor. but was really a wolf. and would utterly crush Nestorius. there was. Theodosius II. . Cyril’s successor. condemned as “the new Judas. Dioscorus had (for some reason) some seriously latent bad feelings towards Nestorianism. By that night Nestorius had been deposed. Discorus. he forbade the writings of Nestorius and bolstered Dioscorus’ desire to stir the pot even more. and cast out. 317. However. In the world of Christological struggle. instructing him on a few matters of training clergy.Apollinarius.

Christ had two natures. proceedings were underway before the Tome of Leo could be read (which confirmed Ephesus I). 330.16 Cyril did indeed endorse the single nature doctrine of Christ. though it was his power as Emperor that allowed his wife. Dr.there was still some resistance brewing about the doctrine of two natures. now the leading teacher of the Antiochene School. He was deposed by Flavian as a heretic. a second council at Ephesus. 2010. Rex Butler. Class Lecture.N. or The Robber Synod. and Dioscorus decided to pick up the fight against the Antiochene view. Although the whole synod unraveled in a completely unfair way. Eutyches wrote to Pope Leo I. and the position of Emperor was given to a professional soldier Marcian.D. 17 18 . October 6. 1963). The sides really began to form as Eutyches.18 Marcian is relatively unimportant. Theodosius fell off of his horse and died. Dioscorus completely restored Eutyches. before the Incarnation. like a drop of honey in the ocean.17 Christ’s flesh was a divine type of flesh. was formed. and though the letter made it into the hands of Flavian. He only had one nature. 338. The proceedings at The Robber Synod were the very proceedings that pushed towards Chalcedon. The legates sent by the pope never got to read the letter. Heresies. Leo had already been informed of Eutychus’ deposition. and win. and were given no floor time at all. but after the incarnation. as the divine swallowed up the humanity. Flavian. When the Synod was formed in 449. and Dioscorus was insistent that no one would come against the Alexandrian school. Early Christian Doctrine (New York: Continuum International. Kelly. and against Theodoret. Eutyches taught that initially. an Alexandrian monk was brought into the spotlight by Eusebius of Dorylaeum for his teachings. Kelly. chaired the synod. and though Eutyches never showed up. the bishop of Constantinople. but the response wasn’t exactly what he had planned on. 16 J. not human. and condemned Eusebius and Flavian. Fortunately for the side promoting the two natures of Christ. he did make it for his sentence.

agreed with the condemnation of Nestorius and Eutychus. and per the request of Theodosius to convene a general council. but to define the limits of 19 20 Kelly. Marcian and Pulcheria were both supporters of the two natures of Christ. Price writes. but it wasn’t really “new. However. “The close connection that the council asserted between its own work and the Nicene Creed relates to its own conception of its task which was not to achieve progress in theological understanding. and set out a formal confession of faith. Chalcedon made a new confession. there was a political knowledge that there would have to be a “formulary which everyone could be required to sign and they made their intentions clear. making it easier for him. after the preamble. in order for the council to be any sort of success. 339. the pope had wanted a council to unify faith throughout the entire empire. all the documents that should have been included earlier surfaced.” It looked like the Nicene creed with some extra words added in there to appease everyone. the definition of Chalcedon reaffirmed the Nicene Creed as the standard. and the pope being represented by his legates. Chalcedon supported Nicaea. a council to end them all! Before he died.Pulcheria to call the council at Chalcedon in 451. . 338. Marcian moved the council from Italy to Chalcedon. and by doing so. 451. and a new conclusion was made at Chalcedon that sufficed for both sides of the argument. canonized Cyril’s two letters and Leo’s Tome. and hopefully to reinforce the Alexandrian position. rather than actually doing any condemning on its own. Finally. Ibid. as the statement of faith at Chalcedon was sort like piecing together puzzle pieces to make the right picture that had been broken and scattered to the wind through 200 years of theological debate. with more than 500 bishops.20 But one must understand what Chalcedon was really about. It did not create new orthodoxy. 19 However. The proceedings began on October 8.” So. Constantinople as support for confirming heresies.

Only-begotten. one and the same Christ. 21 22 The Acts of Chalcedon (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. the holy fathers. begotten from the Father before the ages in respect of the Godhead. Rex Butler. October 20. and the most important council of the Christological debate. even as the prophets from of old and Jesus Christ himself taught us about him and the symbol of the fathers has handed down to us. Chalcedon answer the question of Arius by asserting Jesus’ nature as truly God. and the same in the last days for us and for our salvation from the Virgin Mary the Theotokos. 2006). Appollinaris by asserting his true humanity. Jesus Christ. its importance in defining orthodoxy and putting limits on it still carries on to today. but rather the distinctive character of each nature being preserved and coming together into one person and one hypostasis). Lord. Chalcedon truly tied the bow on the Christological argument. acknowledged in two natures without confusion. Lord. Nestorius (misunderstood) confusion of two persons. Chalcedon was most definitely the most important ecumenical council of the 5th century. Word. However. but one and the same Son. Ibid. Chalcedon didn’t really answer the question of the problem that occurs within the mystery of the second person of the Trinity. 23 Interview with Dr. Only-begotten. as Baptists and other denominations believe and support the findings of the council of 451 in the doctrine of Christology to be of right biblical orthodoxy. the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood. Jesus Christ. change. or separation (the difference of the natures being in no way destroyed by the union. division. like us in all things apart from sin. of a rational soul and body.”21 The key section of the Chalcedonian definition asserts: Following.23 As mentioned earlier. we all in harmony teach confession of one and the same So our Lord Jesus Christ.Nicene orthodoxy (my emphasis added). 2010. and Eutychus’ assertion of Jesus having only a single nature. therefore. truly God and the same truly man. 59. 58. and the same consubstantial with us in respect of the manhood. . consubstantial with the Father in respect of the Godhead. In it’s reaffirmation of biblical truth and right orthodoxy. not parted or divided into two persons.22 In Conclusion. in respect of the manhood. Son.

New York: Macmillan. "Council of Chalcedon. Santa Barbara.. Documents of the Christian Church. 1992. October 6. 1963.htm (accessed October 7. J. W. Rise of Christianity. Dr. Scientific. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. "Heresies.Translated Texts for Historians).. J. New Orleans. 1931. History of Christianity: Mediaeval to Modern from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. New York: Oxford University Press. Early Christian Doctrines. From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and Its Background. USA.Bibliography Brown. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. Chalcedon..." Public Services . 1998. MacArthur. Grand Rapids. Michigan: Baker Academic. Kelly. H. Young. CA: ABCCLIO. . The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (Liverpool University Press . 3 ed. 1986. Heresies. annotated edition ed. 2010. Rex. Religious. http://mb-soft. N.. Butler. Harold O. Clifton. 2010).S. D. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers. 1999.Social. Chas S. 2 ed. Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. Products. 5 ed. 2006. Frend. Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics. 2010." Class lecture. Environment. C. Frances.

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