Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Council of Chalcedon


1.      Introduction

2.      Council of Chalcedon

3.      Relics of Nestorianism

4.      Eutychian controversy

5.      Latrocinium of Ephesus

6.      Definition of Faith

7.      Consequences of the council

8.      Conclusion

9.      Bibliography

The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from October 8 to November 1, AD 451, at Chalcedon (a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor), on the Asian side of the Bosporus, known in modern times as Kalikow in Istanbul, although it was then separate from Constantinople. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century[1]. It is the last council which many Anglicans and most Protestants consider ecumenical.[2]
The Council of Chalcedon was convened by Emperor Marcian, with the reluctant approval of Pope Leo the Great, to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus which would become known as the "Latrocinium" or "Robber Council The Council of Chalcedon issued the 'Chalcedonian Definition,' which repudiated the notion of a single nature in Christ, and declared that he has two natures in one person and hypostasis; it also insisted on the completeness of his two natures: Godhead and manhood[3]. The council also issued 27 disciplinary canons governing church administration and authority. In a further decree, later known as the canon 28, the bishops declared the Sea of Constantinople (New Rome) equal in honor and authority to Rome.
The Council is considered to have been the Fourth Ecumenical Council by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church (including its Eastern Catholic Churches), the Old Catholics, and various other Western Christian groups. As such, it is recognized as infallible in its dogmatic definitions by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (then one church). Most Protestants also consider the concepts of the Trinity and Incarnation as defined at Nicaea (in 325) and Chalcedon to be orthodox doctrine to which they adhere. However, the Council is not accepted by several of the ancient Eastern Churches, including the Oriental Orthodox of Egypt, Syria, Armenia, Ethiopia and India. The Oriental Orthodox teaches 'one nature' in Christ, "Jesus Christ, who is identical with the Son, is one person and one hypostasis in one nature: divine[4]
In A.D. 381 the Council of Constantinople rejected the teaching of an elderly bishop from Syria, named Apollinaire. Apollinaire had theorized that Jesus Christ’s divine nature displaced Jesus’ human mind and will. To him, Jesus possessed only a divine nature, and therefore did not truly take on the fallen nature of humanity.
Controversy about the relationship between the divine and human natures of Jesus continued with Nestorius of Antioch, who was appointed bishop of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius concluded that Jesus had two separate natures and two wills, making him two persons— a double being — one divine and the other human, sharing one body. Nestorius’ teaching was condemned by a church council at Ephesus in 431, but the controversy did not end.
In the 440s, a respected monk from Constantinople, Eutyches, denied that Jesus was truly human. He taught that Jesus did not exist in two natures because his human nature was absorbed or swallowed up by his divine nature. Flavian, bishop of Constantinople, convened a synod in 448, condemning Eutyches’ position, but Eutyches appealed the decision. The fight took a nasty turn when Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, became determined to reinstate Eutyches and his views. Eastern emperor Theodosius II, also favoring Eutyches’ position, called another church-wide council to meet at Ephesus in August 449. He appointed Dioscorus to chair the proceedings and to silence any dissent.
Leo I, bishop of Rome, sent delegates to the synod with his Tome, an exposition of how the two natures, divine and human, are joined in Christ. Dioscorus prevented the reading of Leo’s letter and rejected his position. Eutyches’ teaching was declared orthodox. Bishops who refused to accept the council’s decision were deposed.[5]

Council of Chalcedon
An unexpected event dramatically changed the situation. On July 28, 450, while out riding, Theodosius’ horse bolted. The emperor fell, broke his neck and died. His sister Pulcheria became empress with her husband, Marcian, as co-emperor. They were opposed to Eutyches’ teaching and eager to redress the wrongs perpetrated by Dioscorus.
Emperor Marcian called for a church council to meet at Chalcedon, on the outskirts of Constantinople. More than 500 bishops attended — the largest church council gathering to that time. All delegates were from the Eastern Church, except the few papal representatives from Rome and two from Africa. Deliberations lasted from October 8 to November 1, 451.
Leo again sent representatives with his Tome, which was read and approved by the council. Chalcedon reversed the “Robbers’ Council” decision and condemned Eutyches’ teaching. It anathematized those who taught that Christ had only a single, divine nature and those “who imagine a mixture or confusion between the two natures of Christ.”[6]

Relics of Nestorianism
In 325, the first ecumenical council (First Council of Nicaea) determined that Jesus Christ was God, "consubstantial" with the Father, and rejected the Arian contention that Jesus was a created being. This was reaffirmed at the First Council of Constantinople (381) and the Council of Ephesus (431).
After the Council of Ephesus had condemned Nestorianism, there remained a conflict between Patriarchs John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril claimed that John remained Nestorian in outlook, while John claimed that Cyril held to the Apollinaire heresy. The two settled their differences under the mediation of the Bishop of Beroea, Acacias, on April 12, 433. In the following year[7], Theodoret of Cyrrhus assented to this formula as well. He agreed to anathematize Nestorius as a heretic in 451, during the Council of Chalcedon, as the price to be paid for being restored to his sees (after deposition at the Council of Ephesus of 449). This put a final end to Nestorianism within the Roman Empire

Eutychian controversy
About two years after Cyril of Alexandria's death in 444, an aged monk from Constantinople named Eutyches began teaching a subtle variation on the traditional Christology in an attempt (as he described in a letter to Pope Leo I in 448) to stop a new outbreak of Nestorianism. He claimed to be a faithful follower of Cyril's teaching, which was declared orthodox in the Union of 433.
Cyril had taught that "There is only one physis, since it is the Incarnation, of God the Word." Cyril had apparently understood the Greek word physis to mean approximately what the Latin word persona (person) means, while most Greek theologians would have interpreted that word to mean nature. Thus, many understood Eutyches to be advocating Docetism, a sort of reversal of Arianism—where Arius had denied the consubstantial divinity of Jesus, Eutyches seemed to be denying his human nature [8]Cyril's orthodoxy was not called into question, since the Union of 433 had explicitly spoken of two physes in this context
Leo I wrote that Eutyches' error seemed to be more from a lack of skill on the matters than from malice. Further, his side of the controversy tended not to enter into arguments with their opponents, which prevented the misunderstanding from being uncovered. Nonetheless, due to the high regard in which Eutyches was held (second only to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the East), his teaching spread rapidly throughout the East
In November 448, during a local synod in Constantinople, Eutyches was denounced as a heretic by the Bishop Eusebius of Dorylaeum. Eusebius demanded that Eutyches be removed from office. Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople preferred not to press the matter on account of Eutyches' great popularity. He finally relented and Eutyches was condemned as a heretic by the synod. However, the Emperor Theodosius II and the Patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus, rejected this decision ostensibly because Eutyches had repented and confessed his orthodoxy Dioscorus then held his own synod which reinstated Eutyches[9]. The competing claims between the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria led the Emperor to call a council which was held in Ephesus in 449. The emperor invited Pope Leo I to preside He declined to attend on account of the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun. However, he agreed to send four legates to represent him. Leo provided his legates, one of whom died en route, with a letter addressed to Flavian of Constantinople explaining Rome's position in the controversy. Leo's letter, now known as Leo's Tome, confessed that Christ had two natures, and was not of or from two natures. Although it could be reconciled with Cyril's Formula of Reunion, it was not compatible in its wording with Cyril's Twelve Anathemas. In particular, the third anathema reads: "If anyone divides in the one Christ the hypostases after the union, joining them only by a conjunction of dignity or authority or power, and not rather by a coming together in a union by nature, let him be anathema." This appeared to some to be incompatible with Leo's definition of two natures hypostatically joined. However, the Council would determine (with the exception of 13 Egyptian bishops) that this was an issue of wording and not of doctrine; a committee of bishops appointed to study the orthodoxy of the Tome using Cyril's letters (which included the twelve anathemas) as their criteria unanimously determined it to be orthodox, and the Council, with few exceptions, supported this.

Latrocinium of Ephesus
On August 8, 449 the Second Council of Ephesus began its first session with Dioscorux2xs presiding by command of the Emperor. Dioscorus began the council by banning all members of the November 447 synod which had deposed Eutyches. He then introduced Eutyches who publicly professed that while Christ had two natures before the incarnation, the two natures had merged to form a single nature after the incarnation. Of the 130 assembled bishops, 111 voted to rehabilitate Eutyches. Throughout these proceedings, Roman legate Hilary repeatedly called for the reading of Leo's Tome, but was ignored. Dioscorus then moved to depose Flavian and Eusebius of Dorylaeum on the grounds that they taught the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin and that Christ had two natures. When Flavian and Hilary objected, Dioscorus called for a pro-mono physite mob to enter the church and assault Flavian as he clung to the altar. Flavian was mortally wounded. Dioscorus then placed Eusebius of Dorylaeum under arrest and demanded the assembled bishops approve his actions. Fearing the mob, they all did. The papal legates refused to attend the second session at which several more orthodox bishops were deposed, including Ibas of Edessa, Irenaeus of Tyre (a close personal friend of Nestorius), Domnus of Antioch, and Theodoret. Dioscorus then pressed his advantage by having Cyril of Alexandria's Twelve Anathemas posthumously declared orthodox with the intent of condemning any confession other than one nature in Christ. Roman Legate Hilary[10], who as pope dedicated an oratory in the Lateran Basilica in thanks for his life managed to escape from Constantinople and brought news of the Council to Leo who immediately dubbed it a "synod of robbers"—Latrocinium—and refused to accept its pronouncements. The decisions of this council now threatened schism between the East and the West.
Definition of Faith
Marcian urged the council to write a statement of faith to provide unity and understanding for the Church. In response, the council produced the “Chalcedonian Definition.” The Definition affirms that Christ is “complete in Godhead and complete in humanness, truly God and truly human.”[11] He is “of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his humanity.”
Jesus Christ is to be “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” The “distinction of natures” is “in no way annulled by the union.” “The characteristics of each nature” are to be considered as “preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence.” They are not to be “separated into two persons.”
In summary, the Definition confesses Jesus Christ is “one person, who is both divine and human.” Though its wording has been criticized as inadequate, it has helped the Church in “setting the limits beyond which error lies” in speaking of the human and divine union in Christ.
The Definition confesses the gospel message that Jesus Christ assumed our fallen humanity in order to save us, for as early church father, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), said, “That which he [Christ] has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved.”
Consequences of the council
The near-immediate result of the council was a major schism The bishops that were uneasy with the language of Pope Leo's Tome repudiated the council, saying that the acceptance of two physes was tantamount to Nestorianism. Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, advocated miaphysitism and had dominated the Council of Ephesus.[23] Churches that rejected Chalcedon in favor of Ephesus broke off from the rest of the Church in a schism, the most significant among these being the Church of Alexandria, today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria[12]
Justinian I attempted to bring those monks who still rejected the decision of the Council of Chalcedon into communion with the greater church. The exact time of this event is unknown, but it is believed to have been between 535 and 548. St Abraham of Farshut was summoned to Constantinople and he chose to bring with him four monks. Upon arrival, Justinian summoned them and informed them that they would either accept the decision of the Council or lose their positions. Abraham refused to entertain the idea. Theodora tried to persuade Justinian to change his mind, seemingly to no avail. Abraham himself stated in a letter to his monks that he preferred to remain in exile rather than subscribe to a faith contrary to that of Athanasius They was not alone, and the non-Chalcedon churches compose Oriental Orthodoxy, with the Church of Alexandria as their spiritual leader. Only in recent years has a degree of rapprochement between Chalcedonian Christians and the Oriental Orthodox been seen.


Richard Price, Michael GaddisThe acts of the Council of Chalcedon by Council of Chalcedon’’, 2006 ISBN 0-85323-039-0

Donald S. Armentrout, Robert Book Slocum “An Episcopal dictionary of the church  2005’’ ISBN 0-89869-211-3

Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1974). "Latrocinium". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Martin Lembke, lecture in the course "Meetings with the World's Religions", Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, Spring Term 2010.

Sellers, R.V., The Council of Chalcedon: A Historical and Doctrinal Survey, (London, SPCK, 1953).
Frend, W. H. C., The Rise of the Monophysite Movement, Cambridge University Press, 1972,

Edward Walford, “A History of the Church from AD 431 to AD 594’’, 1846. Reprinted 2008. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-88-6.
Bindley, T. Herbert and F. W. Green, the Ecumenical Documents of the Faith. 2nd ed. London: Methuen, 1950.

Richard, and Gaddis, Michael, “The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon’’, 3 vols (Liverpool University Press, 2005, 2007).
Grillmeier, Aloys (1975), “Christ in Christian Tradition: from the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon’’ (451), Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 0-664-22301-X

Meyendorff, John, “Christ in Eastern Christian Thought” Washington D.C.: Corpus Books, 1969
Hefele, Charles Joseph. “A History of the Councils of the Church from the Original Documents’’.  5 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1883.

[1] The acts of the Council of Chalcedon by Council of Chalcedon, Richard Price, Michael Gaddis 2006 ISBN 0-85323-039-0 pages 1–5

[2] An Episcopal dictionary of the church by Donald S. Armentrout, Robert Book Slocum 2005 ISBN 0-89869-211-3 page 81

[3] Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1974). "Latrocinium". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2 Ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[4] Martin Lembke, lecture in the course "Meetings with the World's Religions", Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, Spring Term 2010.
[5] Sellers, R.V., The Council of Chalcedon: A Historical and Doctrinal Survey, (London, SPCK, 1953).

[6] Frend, W. H. C., The Rise of the Monophysite Movement, Cambridge University Press, 1972, pps. 41–43

[7] Edward Walford, translator, The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius: A History of the Church from AD 431 to AD 594, 1846. Reprinted 2008. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-88-6.

[8] Bindley, T. Herbert and F. W. Green, The Oecumenical Documents of the Faith. 2nd ed. London: Methuen, 1950.

[9] Price, Richard, and Gaddis, Michael, The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, 3 vols (Liverpool University Press, 2005, 2007).

[10] Grillmeier, Aloys (1975), Christ in Christian Tradition: from the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (451), Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 0-664-22301-X

[11] Meyendorff, John, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (Washington D.C.: Corpus Books, 1969)

[12] Hefele, Charles Joseph. A History of the Councils of the Church from the Original Documents. 5 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1883. (Our topic is located in vol. 3)

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