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I am reading the book The First Seven Ecumenical Councils by Leo Donald Davis. This is my first introduction to Trinitarian and Christological disputes within the Early Church.

It appears to me:

  • that Nestorians believed that Christ had two natures, two wills, and two hypostasis;
  • that Chalcedonians believed that Christ had two natures and two wills, but in one hypostasis;
  • that Monophysites believed that Christ had one (or two, dependent on sub-sect) nature, one will, and one hypostatsis.

A) Is my assessment accurate? (This isn't the crux of my question: B is.)

B) Regardless of my assessment’s veracity, is it fair to state that the Chalcedonian position is a moderate position in between the Nestorian position and the Monophysite position? Why or why not?

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It may be, because the monophysites called Chalcedonians "Nestorians", whereas (as you identify) they are different. However the question isn't particularly easy to answer, because -- whichever view one subscribes to -- one view is orthodoxy and the other two are heresies. –  Andrew Leach Oct 14 '13 at 7:56
@Andrew Leach, I agree, but, I'm wondering, is still this the reason why the mission of cleansing the world from the impurity of heresy may seem impossible? Perhaps not, and the Chalcedonian solution is likely the right way. –  Elberich Schneider Oct 14 '13 at 21:12
Only 5 tags can be put on a question. Personally, I think that christology is the best tag here, though I added two of the suggested heresy tags. Miaphysitism is a seemingly more rare tag. –  Affable Geek Oct 15 '13 at 1:21
@AffableGeek Thank you. –  Matthew Moisen Oct 16 '13 at 2:39

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A better summarization of your statement would be "Monophysitism and Nestorianism are heresy; the Chalcedonian position is orthodox. The heresies over-emphasize one of the natures, but the orthodox position stresses that both are fully present and effective."

Obviously, "heresy" is a word that carries a strong connotation, but it does have an actual definition - heresy is heresy because the orthodox position is to reject.

  • Nestorianism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD by Theodosius. As you said, it emphasizes the human nature of Jesus to such an extent that his divine nature often gets overlooked. A good modern example would be "Jesus Christ Superstar" by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

  • Monophysitism was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. This position emphasizes the divine nature to the exclusion of his human one. Many old school Baptists in particular want to think of Jesus as this magical God whom they neglect to see as also human, sharing in our sufferings and knowing our pains. This too, is heresy.

The Council of Chalcedon was, by definition, church dogma - indeed, it being one of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils, it is accepted by Orthodox and Catholic alike as reflecting the will of the church.

The line "fully human, fully divine," emphasizes that both natures are fully Christ, and is the orthodox position of the "Church", even to this day. While there are denominations that reject this position, to do so is to put oneself at odds with the historical consensus of the church assembled, as defined by the best measure of "Christian."

Your overall assessment then could be taken as fully accurate, although admittedly, I don't like the idea of it being a "compromise." A compromise suggests that both positions are valid, but that are optimized by rawing from each. Rather, here, I consider it to be the middle way that represents the truth, and either of the other positions is an error that emphasizes one nature in hypostasis over against the other. Most (All?) heresies - Christological and Trinitarian - tend to result from the over emphasis of one part to the exclusion of the whole.

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Thank you so much for the detailed answer. In regards to natures and hypostases, did I get it right? Nestorians: 2 natures and 2 hypostases; Chalcedonians: 2 natures and 1 hypostasis; Monophysites: 1 nature and 1 hypostasis; ? –  Matthew Moisen Oct 15 '13 at 19:06
I believe that Nestorians would say 2 natures but I forget about the hypostasis - but Chalcedonians and Monophysites would say 1 hypostasis. –  Affable Geek Oct 15 '13 at 19:22
Would you please check this out when you have time? nestorian.org/nestorian_theology.html In particular sections 3,4,6,7, and 8. This is written by pro-Nestorians. They say that Nestorius didn't use hypostasis but used prosopon which "was weaker in meaning than hypostasis, the word used by his opponents." Do you know anything about this? –  Matthew Moisen Oct 15 '13 at 22:05

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