I think this question haven't been asked yet here. The teaching of Chalcedonian Christianity (including the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches) is that Jesus Christ exists as one person with two natures: divine and human, united without mixing or confusion. Thus, in Jesus Christ there is not one will (contra Monothelism), there is no absence of the human soul (contra Apollinarianism) and there is not two persons (contra Nestorianism).

There is a new explanation just recently that is called Neo-Apollinarianism wherein it is said that Jesus had no uncreated human soul but that the divine Logos completes the human nature of Jesus Christ. In this view, the divine Logos underwent a change (divine mind became the soul) so that Jesus has one mind but still had two complete natures: divine and human (pro Chalcedon) (Source)

My question is: How to explain the doctrine that Jesus Christ is one person despite having two wills (dyothelitism) and two minds? Answers from any Chalcedonian perspective are welcome.

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    You are asking for an explanation of the classical Chalcedonian/dyothelitism position, not Neo-Apollinarianism, right?
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 29, 2020 at 4:25
  • @curiousdannii, exactly. :)
    – R. Brown
    Feb 29, 2020 at 7:35
  • How does Neo-Apollinarianism differ from Apollinarianism exactly? Mar 3, 2020 at 22:53
  • @SolaGratia Neo-Apollinarianism teaches that Jesus has a complete human nature because Jesus has a human soul which is the Divine Logos himself. In this case, the Divine Logos became the one consciousness of Jesus which experiences human life. Apollinarianism teaches that Jesus did not have a human soul but had the Divine Logos replacing the human soul.
    – R. Brown
    Mar 4, 2020 at 6:23

3 Answers 3


There is a complex Christological history behind this question. The common ground is that Jesus Christ is of two natures, divine and human. Christ's divine nature is uncreated and pre-existent, while his human nature is given through the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was then taken in two ways:

  1. The theologians of Antioch in Syria emphasized the completeness of the two natures of Christ and his being fully divine and fully human, and that meant that in Christ incarnate there are two wills (or minds). This is dyophysitism. In order to be fully human, Christ needs to have a fallible human will, by which he can be tempted, otherwise tempted, fallible human beings cannot be saved through him. This is alongside Christ's perfect divine will. Nestorius, who became Patriarch of Constantinople in 428, was trained in Antiochene theology and was appalled by the popular devotion to the Virgin Mary in Constantinople by which she was addressed as Theotokos (or 'God-bearer'), believing that she should only be credited with the producing of Christ's human nature. This made Nestorius unpopular and led to accusations that he was advocating that Christ was two persons.
  2. The other view came from the theologians of Alexandria in Egypt and was particularly expounded by Cyril of Alexandria, who became Patriarch of the city in 412. The Alexandrian view is that a person can only exist with a unified nature, and so Christ is of two natures, but, at his incarnation, these became one nature. This is monophysitism (but modern-day supporters of a moderate version of this view prefer to be called miaphysites). Thus, Christ has one will, even though that will has a fallible human part as well as a perfect divine. Cyril affirmed that the two natures were in united in Christ (a 'hypostatic union'), but others went for more extreme views. Apollinaris of Laodicea (died 390) advocated a view in which Christ's human nature is 'hollowed out', leaving a shell that is filled with his divine nature at the incarnation. And Eutyches of Constantinople (died around 456) taught the one-nature Christology so strongly that Christ's human nature was completely subsumed by his divine nature. The extreme versions of monophysitism tend towards an understanding of Christ as a kind of superman, a tertium quid who is not really wholly human anymore.

For a time, Cyril of Alexandria had the upper hand and Nestorius was exiled, but extremist one-nature Christologies needed to be rectified. The pendulum swung back, and the Council of Chalcedon (451) promulgated an essentially moderate two-nature Christology with Cyril's hypostatic union. This is the orthodox Christology of Catholics, most Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

There was, however, a strong monophysite dissent to Chalcedon, leading to centuries of attempts to find a different definition, which essentially came to nothing. One attempt at reconciliation was the seventh-century doctrine of monothelitism that taught that, whereas Christ is two natures, he has but one will. This doctrine secured official support in the East for a time, but, in the end, was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople (680/1) for diminishing the fullness of Christ's human nature in order to reach a political compromise.

While the Christological debates do not say much about 'minds', the sense of 'will' comes closest. Christology is traditionally done working from the point of Jesus Christ being both fully human and fully divine and then navigate between the extremes of the two schools of thought. We might like to start from our experience of being human, which leads to the prevalence of new ways of expressing what are basically either adoptionist or Eutychian views, or even whatever Neo-Apollinarianism really is. An approach from human experience will also prefer an essentially monothelite response because, otherwise, we are looking at schizophrenia. The patristic approach, however, has been to ensure the fullness of the two natures, while disagreeing whether the hypostatic union makes them into one or holds them as two still. Perhaps the two approaches find common ground in some kind of Cyrillian miaphysitism that ensures the fullness of natures in perfect unity.

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    The theology of hypostatic union is that in Christ there is one hypostasis or individual existence. How this functions is a mystery! But then, how we experience personhood is pretty mysterious too. Talking about souls is a bit difficult because we don't know if the Godhead has [a] soul[s], and thus whether Christ's divine nature includes the/a divine soul. Maybe so, because humans are created in God's image and humans have souls. Except in Apollinarism, Christ has a human soul which participates in his personhood. Feb 29, 2020 at 8:44
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    To continue: a human has a soul and is a person, but it doesn't necessarily follow that having a soul constitutes personhood. Thus, Christ's human soul isn't another person hiding in there, as some thought that Nestorius was teaching, or even something that's sublimated as in Eutychianism, because the soul is a part of a person not the constituting factor of a person. Feb 29, 2020 at 8:47

Questions like this one concerning the incarnation of God really stretch the limits of what we can comprehend. Over the centuries Christians came to settle on terms like "person" or "hypostasis" as the best ways they could think of to explain and reconcile the many truths taught by the scriptures, even though they can't do justice to the full reality of God. But I don't think we should feel hopeless: rather than being completely transcendent and unknowable, God wants to be known by us, and so he has both equipped us with intellects that reflect his own, as well as revealed himself to us in the scriptures and in the incarnation of his Son, Jesus. We can think of many analogies which, although not perfect, can communicate true things about God.

So one analogy I find helpful for understanding how the one person Jesus Christ can have two minds and two wills, is the fact that all of us actually do too, in a way. The two hemispheres of our brains work closely together, but if their connection through the corpus callosum is severed, a condition called split-brain arises, and it is really weird. For a quick introduction I'd recommend this five minute Youtube video by CGP Grey. People with split-brain can experience the two halves of their brains making different decisions, having different thoughts, and even having different favourite colours. This capacity for each hemisphere to make decisions doesn't arise after the severing of the corpus callosum, it was always there, but in a healthy brain the two hemispheres cooperate so well that we don't realise our two hemispheres could operate independently. Similarly, in the incarnate Jesus, his two natures cooperate perfectly and each nature's faculties of thought and will are united. I think even the passages where Jesus describes his own ignorance, such as Matthew 24:36 where he says he does not know the day of his own return to earth, don't indicate a division between the natures, but instead just a holding back of certain facts from the divine nature to the human nature.

What actually is a "person" of the godhead? I think we should understand this as referring to the relational distinctions within the godhead. There are three "persons" of the Trinity because there are three loving relationships: the father and son, the father and spirit, and the son and spirit. Even though there are more than three aspects of God, and even though aspects like the will of God are taught by Chalcedonian Christians to be singular and shared by all persons of the godhead, neither the multiplicity of aspects nor their shared nature are responsible for how many persons of the godhead there are. The "persons" of the Trinity refer to whatever it is that loves the others. We recognise this in humans too. Even though you could say that you genuinely love both the body of your spouse and the mind of your spouse, we recognise that there's a love for a person that unifies and subsumes both. So it is with the incarnation: even though God the Father could say that he loves both the human nature of Christ and the divine nature of Christ, he loves the united God-man Jesus Christ as one person, just like any of us are one person, not two.

  • I discovered that Myaphysitism (union of the two natures) explains Dyothelitism and that both of these were actually the Hypostatic Union. :)
    – R. Brown
    Mar 4, 2020 at 7:34
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    @RadzC.Brown Well miaphysitism is taught by the Oriental Orthodox who rejected Chalcedon. To be honest I don't really understand the difference between miaphysitism and dyophysitism, but I assume there are significant differences because the two camps have never reconciled.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 4, 2020 at 7:59
  • The Orthodox follows a tradition, that of Cryil of Alexandrian. They merely emphasised the union of the two natures in one divine person. Miaphysitism is not the same as monophysitism. Both Chalcedon and Orthodox tradition of miaphysitism agreed that the two natures did not mix/blend to result into one single nature. They agreed in the hypostatic union: Jesus is one divine person with two natures united.
    – R. Brown
    Mar 6, 2020 at 9:01

In my research, Dyothelitism (union of the two wills from the two minds of the one Christ) is actually explained by Myaphisitism (union of the two natures, the natures did not become one. The nature were one i.e united/in unity). These two were succinctly the Hypostatic Union.

Myaphisitism agrees with Chalcedon that the Lord Jesus Christ is consubstantial with the Father in divinity and consubstantial with us in being human.

Contrariwise, the Chalcedonians saw the Oriental Orthodox as tending towards Eutychian Monophysitism. However, the Oriental Orthodox persistently specified that they have never believed in the doctrines of Eutyches, that they have always affirmed that Christ's humanity is consubstantial with our own, and they thus prefer the term Miaphysite to be referred to as, a reference to Cyrillian Christology, which used the phrase "μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη", "mía phýsis toû theoû lógou sesarkōménē". The term miaphysic means one united nature as opposed to one singular nature (monophysites). Thus the Miaphysite position maintains that although the nature of Christ is from two, it may only be referred to as one in its incarnate state because the natures always act in unity.

In recent times,leaders from the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches have signed joint statements in an attempt to work towards reunification. Likewise the leaders of the Assyrian Church of the East, which venerates Nestorius and Theodore, have in recent times signed a joint agreement with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church acknowledging that their historical differences were over terminology rather than the actual intended meaning.(Source)

In Myaphysitism, the two natures were united without blending or altering the natures. This is not Monophysitism wherein the two natures was blended so that they become one nature similar to the concept of a hybrid. The union of the two natures meant the union of the two minds (i.e. one consciousness with two minds) contra Nestorianism.

The identity of the original human being was known by name. God named the first human beings , the male and female, with a singular name 'Adam'. Scholars say that the name 'Adam' applied to Eve in Genesis 5:2 was a designation of her equality with the male in human nature as stated in Genesis 2:23 where the male said that the female was the flesh of his flesh and the bones of his bones. In this case, God was treating human beings, male and female, as one.

The union of the divine nature and human nature in a singularly named person called 'Jesus' was similar to the spirit being united with flesh which was called singularly as soul (cf. Genesis 2:7).

Consciousness existed in the mind. In Jesus, the human mind and the divine mind were one i.e. in unity/united. This meant that in Him was united minds or one consciousness. This one consciousness had two distinct divisions in which similar but not identical to the Perichoresis of the Trinity, the divine part had full access to the human part whilst the human part had varying access to the divine part -- from limited access during his ministry before the crucifixion to full access post-Easter.

If the divine mind and human mind were two consciousness in Jesus, it would mean two separate persons (Nestorianism) which would be akin to Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) wherein there existed ''split identities'' (www.webmd.com) in which there was multiple names for each person existing in one body. This was not the case in Jesus Christ. (Jesus Christ: one person with two minds based on biblical Anthropology and the Perichoresis of the Trinity, R. Brown, 2020)

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    If this is basically the same as Chalcedonian dyophysitism, what part of it made the difference for it making sense to you? What does it mean for there to be two minds but one consciousness? Does miaphysitism teach that the mind/will is by person rather than nature, so that the will of Christ is not share with the Father and Spirit?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 4, 2020 at 9:54
  • @curiousdannii, Jesus Christ had two natures (Divine and Human) which are united (Miaphysitism) which meant two minds and two wills (Dyothelitism) which are united i.e. one consciousness (Hypostatic Union). The two minds are not separated but united so that there exists one consciousness in Christ (Contra Nestorianism). This is why Chalcedon emphasises on the unity of the two natures. Miaphysitism made gave even more emphasis in that unity.
    – R. Brown
    Mar 6, 2020 at 9:24

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