Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Council of Chalcedon from an Oriental Perspective

I am by no means a great theologian, or well schooled in Christology. I am however very history minded and therefore this will be from a historical point of view. One thing that really rubs me the wrong way is when in discussion with an Eastern Orthodox Christian about this schism, the EO tends to tell the OO what they believe according to their understanding and then they attack it. This of course is not every EO that I have encountered but quite a number of them do this. Its perplexing to me that someone would not first ask the other what it is they believe, what is their perspective, and how they understand what took place.

The EO tend to point to Dioscorus as a heretic, adhering to a monophysite Christology simply because Dioscorus was trying to rehabilitate Eutyches who was in error. The fact is that even at the council Dioscorus was not condemned for heresy, there is no evidence for this whatsoever. This idea comes from later interpretation of Dioscorous' actions and not any decision by the council of Chalcedon. Dioscorus later did condemn Eutyches who persisted in his error of a monophysite Christology, which apparently is overlooked. But what about the Oriental Orthodox perspective which is almost entirely ignored by the Eastern Orthodox?

From our perspective we were very suspicious of Leo. Why? Well, like Dioscorus making the Eastern suspicious by supporting, and attempting to rehabilitate Eutyches, Leo supported Theodoret, a known Nestorian heretic. When Dioscoros read Leo's Tome he most likely thought it was suspicious in its wording, which is probably why he refused to read it. Not only that, Nestorious himself said that Leos Tome was a "vindication of the truth." So we had enough reason to be suspicious of Leo and his intentions to reject what was taking place at Chalcedon and the Antiochene formula. Of course in hindsight we know that Leo was not a heretic and that while he was friends with Theodoret he was attempting, like Dioscorus, to rehabilitate Theodoret, even rebuking his Nestorian Christology in letters to him.

You will find most, if not all, Oriental Orthodox accept both EO and OO formulas, namely because St Cyril himself affirmed that both formulas are Orthodox, even though he preferred the OO formula to the EO formula. The formula itself is pretty much a non-issue yet I find so many EO are obsessively focused on this, again telling us what it is we believe and then attacking it. Without ever actually asking what we believe, or if we even accept both formulas. We are not monophysite, never have been and never will be. We have adhered to St Cyrils formula of "One nature united out of two" which was accepted at the 3rd council. How exactly could that be Orthodox in one council and then heretical in the following council?

At any rate, we accept both formulas.


  1. Dear friend,

    The EO actually tried to get the OO to accept both formulas, just look up 'Neo-Chalcedonianism' and the Canons to the 5th Ecumenical Council. That's why even scholars like Fr. J. Meyendorff, that believed in the Orthodoxy of the OO, labeled the OO "fundamentalist Cyrillians". Because the OO chose to follow persons like Severos, that demanded that Chalcedon and St. Leo be anathematized as heretical. Leontius of Jerusalem, one of St. Justinian's spokesmen stated:

    "So as to demonstrate, as may be, before God and men that your secession from the Church isn’t reasonable, look, we set aside every argument we might make against your allegations, and make you the following offer: If you’ll join with us in confessing the tried and true doctrines, saying both ‘one incarnate nature of God the Word’ and that there are two natures of Christ united in His one hypostasis, and if you also don’t repudiate the Council, and Leo, and ourselves, then we, for our part, anathematize even an angel from heaven sooner than we do you, if he doesn’t think and speak and write likewise; we praise and accept Severus, Dioscorus, Timothy, and you, and anyone at all who shares such views; we add nothing to this, but we leave the judgment on those who think in this way, or who speak in one way and think in another, to God, the judge of all." (Testimonies of the Saints)

    The offer was refused. Why? Because your saints sincerely believed that there were serious differences in our christological beliefs. Additionally, OO theologians continue to balk at dyotheletism and dyoenergenism. This is no attack, just laying it out there.

    in ICXC,

    1. And your saints massacred "monophysite" heretics. Just laying that out there.

  2. John,

    Massacres occurred on both sides (ie Sts. Flavian and Proterius); additionally, St. Maximus was mutilated by the Byzantine imperials powers of his day...regrettably, that stuff happened. Lord have mercy!! I only responded to inform you that historically, the OO did not accept any terminology other than Alexandrian terminology. Fr. John Romanides, an EO theologian who desired Union and accepted the basic orthodoxy of the OO stated:

    'At this conference [at Constantinople in 531-533] the Severians supported that Eutyches was indeed a heretic and that Dioscoros accepted him as one repentant and finally confessing the faith that Christ is consustantial with his mother. They seemed not troubled that Eutyches had denied that Christ is cobsubstantial with us. They defended Dioscoros' action against Flavian and Eusebius because they contradicted themselves when saying "One nature of the Logos Incarnate" and at the same time insisting on "two natures after or in their union." Hypatius, the spokesman for the Chalcedonians, was exasperated at the logic of the Orientals by which they justified Dioscoros' defense of the supposedly penitent Eutyches, but refused to accept the Orthodoxy of Flavian and Eusebius. The conference deteriorated into a fundamentalistic debate about which tradition had the correct terminology, a sanctified tradition of debate which reached right up to Aarhus 1964. The Severians insisted that "from two natures" was only correct and that "in two natures" is only wrong. The Chalcedonian side claimed that both are correct.'

    One can easily see the same pattern in Dioscorus, Timothy Aelurus and Severus; Chalcedon, the Tome of Leo and even the number "two", when used in Christology, was accursed. I'm glad it's not now and I pray we can all unite in the Truth.

    in ICXC,

    1. St Cyril did deem both terminologies as Orthodox, but preferred his because the other school is where Nestorianism derived from. Not only that Nestorious supported Leos tome and Leo supported Theodoret, a known Nestorian heretic. But of course all the blame goes to the OO for not accepting Leos crummy Christology.

  3. Sheesh... and EOs are on the attack, huh? Please hear me out because this is my last response.

    Arians were the first to utilize the terminology "treis hypostases" but they used it to mean three natures/substances. "Homoousios" was first utilized by Paul of Samosota (an adoptionist proto-Nestorian), in addition to Sabellian heretics before it became the very watchword of Orthodox triadology. The point I'm laboring to make is that the heretics used those subsequently Orthodox terms in a perverse manner. Even your scholars admit that St. Cyril's "mia physis" has Apollinarian provenance, BUT he utilized it in an Orthodox manner. So, it makes no difference to me that Nestorius supported the Tome because the important thing is how did he understand it? To support the monstrous "two persons" heresy. The so-called "crummy" Tome is not Nestorian despite what you've been told. Read it.

    Pope St. Leo did use Latin/Antiochian terminology, but his intentions were to be fully Alexandrian christologically:

    "[I]f they think there is any doubt about our teaching, let them at least not reject the writings of such holy priests as Athanasius, Theophilus and Cyril of Alexandria, with whom our statement of the Faith so completely harmonizes that any one who professes consent to them disagrees in nothing with us." (Letter 117.3)

    The Popes were actually instrumental in routing Nestorianism in the East and the West. Pope St. Celestine anathematized Nestorius in Rome even before Ephesus 431; remember that St. Cyril consulted with him and was given authority to represent Old Rome at the Council. "Crummy" St. Leo even requested for St. John Cassian (from Gaul) to come out of seclusion to write "On the Incarnation" against Nestorianism wherein he flat out calls him "heretic" throughout the work.

    More importantly, to address your response (which does reveal subtle terminological fundamentalism), St. Cyril himself said this:

    'Some attack the exposition of faith which those from the East [Antioch] have made and ask, “For what reason did the Bishop of Alexandria endure or even praise those who say that there are two natures?” Those who hold the same teachings as Nestorius say that he thinks the same thing too, snatching to their side those who do not understand precision. But it is necessary to say the following to those who are accusing me, namely, THAT IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO FLEE AND AVOID EVERYTHING WHICH HERETICS SAY, FOR THEY CONFESS MANY OF THE THINGS WE CONFESS. For example, when the Arians say that the Father is the creator and Lord of all, does it follow that we avoid such confessions? Thus also is the case of Nestorius even if he says there are two natures signifying the difference of the flesh and the Word of God, for the nature of the Word is one nature and the nature of his flesh is another, but Nestorius does not any longer confess the union as we do. (To Eulogius the Priest, Letter 44)


  4. St. Cyril also said:

    [T]he brethren at Antioch, understanding in simple thoughts only those from which Christ is understood to be, have maintained a difference of natures, because, as I said, divinity and humanity are not the same in natural quality, but proclaimed one Son and Christ and Lord as being truly one; they say His person is one, and in no manner do they separate what has been united. Neither do they admit the natural division as the author of the wretched inventions was pleased to think, but they strongly maintain that only the sayings concerning the Lord are separated, not that they say that some of them separately are proper to the Son, the Word of God the Father, and others are proper to another son again, the one from a woman, but they say that some are proper to His divinity and others again are proper to his Humanity. For the same One is God and man. But they say that there are others which have been made common in a certain way and, as it were, look toward both, I mean both the divinity and the humanity. WHAT I AM SAYING IS THE SAME AS THIS... since he is one Christ, both Son and Lord, we say that his person also is one, both we and they say it. (Letter 40.10-14, 16-18)

    Ioannes, St. Cyril himself describes Antiochian christology in dyophysite phrases VERY similar to that which was set forth in the Tome: i.e. "some are proper to His divinity and some are proper to His humanity". He explicitly states: "I'm saying the same". (!!!) I agree, he certainly didn't prefer to express himself that way but he didn't have to develop the terminology which arose from prolonged struggles with full-blown Monophysite Eutychians, Aphthartodocetists and Tri-theists either.

    Again, it all comes back to the big question: if St. Cyril condescended to accept dyophysite terminology, then why didn't Dioscorus and Severus so as to avoid a 1500-yr schism??? Frs. Georges Florovsky Anthony Mcguckin, EO priests who respect[ed] Orientals, have the answers:

    'It is at this time that Monophysite closeness to St. Cyril seems so obvious, for this is closeness IN WORD, NOT IN SPIRIT. The source of Monophysitism is NOT to be found in dogmatic formulas but in RELIGIOUS PASSION.' (Fr. Georges Florovsky: The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth Through Eighth Centuries)

    'Dioscorus sometimes has wrongly been accused of misinterpreting Cyril’s mind on this point, but in fact he consistently applied Cyril’s ideas and interpreted all christology on the basis of the pure Cyrilline canon, with one significant exception. What he did was to attempt to delete Cyril’s Antiochene negotiations from the picture. He came to regard all Syrian ‘variations’ on the Cyrilline theme as dispensable. This was a fatal emendation of his teacher’s life’s work. Dioscorus regarded the rapprochement of 433 as merely the result of imperial pressure placed on a sick old man, whose judgment had accordingly lapsed. In consequence, he cut across the diphysite literature of Cyril and thus abandoned the policy of mutual search for an agreed terminology that had been slowly bringing the churches together in common agreement after the Council of Ephesus. In this, he not only abandoned a part of Cyril’s legacy, but made a large departure from Proclus too. (Fr. John McGuckin: Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controvery pg. 229)

    sorry so long-winded...

    in ICXC,