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Jesse Slimak

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 Most whom would identify themselves as Christians
(orthodox ones at least!) would affirm that Christ is
both True God and True Man. Where are they getting
this from though? They would probably say scripture,
but I do not believe that if you put 100 Christians alone
into separate rooms with their Bibles (and of course
the Holy Spirit!) they would all come up with the same
definition, let alone an orthodox one. This
demonstrates the importance of the ecumenical
councils, and in this case Chalcedon and Ephesus.
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General info
 The major emphasis of both Ephesus (431) and
Chalcedon (451) is Christological.
 Differences in the “schools” of Antioch and Alexandria
are driving force behind these councils.
 Antiochene school emphasized the “the eternal word
assuming the man Jesus” (Collins 185). Emphasized the
distinction of the two natures of Christ.
 Alexandrian school expounded on Johannine thought of
“the Word becoming flesh” (Collins 185). Emphasized the
unity of Christ.
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Key Players
 Cyril of Alexandria- Patriarch of Alexandria and a strong proponent of
theotokos (bearer of God). Christ was one person with two natures.
Unity emphasized though. Writes several letters to Nestorius.
 Nestorius- Patriarch of Constantinople whom was later deposed. Argues
for Christokos (Christ bearer)at first at least. Preferred the term
“conjunction” as opposed to union. He prefers a sharp distinction of
Christ’s two natures, to the point where it is interpreted as Christ being
two people, I.e. son of God begotten from eternity, but also Son of God by
 Eutyches- head of a large monastery in Constantinople. After the council
at Ephesus takes the union of Christ’s natures that Cyril stressed to the
extreme arguing for one “fused” union. The divinity basically swallows up
the humanity.
 Leo- Bishop of Rome (Pope). Influential in Chalcedon.Borrows language
and ideas from Tertullian in his Tome to Flavian.
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Outline of significant events
 Nestorius becomes patriarch of Constantinople, bringing the two
Christological traditions to a head. He believes that Christotokos is
better term for the Virgin Mary.
 Cyril of Alexandria begins attack on Nestorius by writing to Epyptian
monks in defense of Theotokos.
 Nestorius and Cyril exchange two sets of letters. Nestorius thinks that
Cryril is emphasizing a fusion of Christ’s humanity and Divinity.
 Bishop of Rome, Celestine calls Nestorius to recant or be
excommunicated. Cyril writes a third letter to Nestorius telling him to
submit to most extreme form of his Christology. Nestorius fires back
with his own anathemas.
 The two Roman emperors (of the east and west) get involved and call
the council at Ephesus.
 Cyril and supporters arrive early, Nestorius’ supporters do not.
Nestorius refuses to attend then.
 “In a single days session, this body, affirming the sole authority of the
creed of Nicea and standing on Cyril’s interpretation of it, condmened
and deposed Nestorius.” (Walker 168). Lesson: Never, ever run late to
a council!

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Outline of significant events-cont.
 Then Nestorius supporters arrive and they condemn
Cyril. Lastly the delegates of Pope Clestine arrive.
 Ultimately Cyril is restored, but Nestorius is not
My history Prof at Calvin Seminary referred to this as “the
worst ecumenical council.” The ultimate result is the
orthodox position but the way they arrived there was
anything but Christian.
The good news though, was that the “Council of Ephesus…
emphasize(d) that the humanity and divinity of Christ was
not to be understood as seperated” (O’Collins 190).
 However this position is taken to the extreme by Eutyches.
Who argues that Christ is only “from” two natures, but now
only one nature. He emphasizes divinity.
• He was condemned in 448 at a synod in his hometown (home-
sweat-home!) but restored the following year at Ephesus. This
synod though was highly criticized by Pope Leo.

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Outline of significant events-cont.
 Pope Leo writes his Tome to Flavian, who was
the patriarch of Constantinople.
 It maintains the balance of the Christ’s two
natures and his unity, I.e. being one person.

At the council of Chalcedon the Tome along with Cyril’s second letter to
Nestorius and letter to John of Antioch (from 433, where Cyril had accepted a
Antiochene formula of Union [431] that affirmed Christ’s perfect divinity and
perfect humanity, and also spoke of a union of the natures, and his “double
generation” I.e. being begotten from eternity and also born of the Virgin.) and the
Nicean Creed.
In the second part of the confession they specifically affirm that Christ is one
person “in” two natures. “In other words the unity of Christ exists on the level of
person, the duality on that of natures” (O’Collins 192).
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The Definition of the Union of the Divine and Human
Natures of Christ That the Council at Confirmed. Also
Known As the “The Symbol of Chalcedon”.
We, then, following the holy fathers, all with one consent, teach men 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 soul and body; consubstantial (homoousios) 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 according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for
us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos, i.e. the God
bearer), according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be
acknowledged in two natures; inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; 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 and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two
persons, but one and the Son, and only begotten, God 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.
Notice how theological points are stated in the positive rather than negative. Yes, people are
condemend but in the symbol themselves things are stated in the positive rather than negative.

truly man, of a reasonable soul and body= counters Apollinaris
Two natures- inconfusedly, unchangeable= counters Nestorious
inseperable, indivisible=counters Eutychus
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Many Critics of, and schisms
due to, Chalcedon
 In the west Chalcedon is the standard of
unquestioned orthodoxy. In the east though there is
much dissention. Many of the conservative followers
of Cyril never can not swallow Chalcedon.
 These followers believe that Cyril was not accurately
represented, and that to speak of “two natures” did not
emphasize the unity enough, and that the very basis of
our redemption is based in this reality. They feel like
Chalcedon was too much in line with Nestorius’
 The “monophysites” (those that argue for one nature) no
move from being a party to actual series of national
churches based in Syria, Egypt, Armneia, Ethopia and
 Note: There is also a group of Nestorius’ followers that
take shape in the Persian empire.
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Questions for reflection
(please do not feel obligated to answer all these questions.
I am just putting them here to stimulate discussion for
possible reply posts)
 Do you agree or disagree with the the “Symbol of Chalcedon”?
 As a reaction to the Chalcedonian Formulation about the person and
nature(s) of Christ, there is a theopaschite formula, “One of the Trinity
suffered in the flesh.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
 Does the definition set forth at Chalcedon help clarify the person of Christ
or is it an unnecessary stumbling block?
 How would you personally articulate the relationship between Christ’s
divinity and humanity using contemporary terms?
 O’Collins (191) points out that the the controversies leading up to Ephesus
and Chalcedon “shift(s) direction from Christ’s death and resurrection to
his incarnation and the relationship between his human and divine
natures.” Do you think they overly focused on these issues? Do you think
the pendulum has swung too far in the back over in the other direction
now, and is now focused too much on the work of Christ and not enough
on the person of Christ in the Evangelical world?

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O’Collins, Gerald. SJ. Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of
Jesus. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Walker, Williston., Norris, Richard A., Lotz, David W., & Handy, Robert T. A History
of the Christian Church, 4
ed. New York, NY: Scribner, 1985.

Notes from “Church History I” from Calvin Theological Seminary. Prof Rlylarsdaam
Fall 2005.