The Council of Chalcedon and It’s Impact

In 451 AD, Roman Emperor Marcian called for the church to come together and make known a very deep understanding of The Person of Jesus Christ to solve the confusion and division.  As Gnostic teachings and writings spread throughout the semi-early Christian world, confusion about who Jesus was in the deepest way is an issue.  The issue is the true nature of Christ. In attendance were over 500 church teachers from all parts of the Christian world and in their possession were the earliest biblical manuscripts.

At this time the Trinity was already proclaimed and taught.  This ushered in deeper questions about Jesus, being a man, yet part of the Godhead as a person in The Trinity and how to explain this to a growing inquisitive world.

  1. Monophysitism is the idea that after Christ was incarnadined, he had only 1 single nature, which was either divine alone or a synthesis of divine and human.  Eutychianism goes farther and states that the divine nature consumed the human nature and there is only one divine nature at incarnation.  
  2. Similarly to Monophyistism, Miaphysitism is the idea that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one nature, the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. The Oriental Orthodox Churches disagree with Monophysitism but adhere to Miaphysitism.
  3. Dyophysitism is the idea that Christ maintained two natures, one divine and one human, after the Incarnation without separation, without confusion, and without alteration.
  4. Adoptionism taught that Jesus was just a normal sinful person until he was baptized and then God adopted him as his Son and from there made him holy and sinless. This was unanimously rejected by earlier councils. 
  5. Nestorianism is simply that there are 2 unique persons in 1 body.  The person Jesus and then The divine Son of God; in one body; 2 distinct and different beings. This was deemed false and contradictory to scripture by the Council of Ephesus in 431AD.
  6. Arianism taught that the Son of God was a created being. This however was unanimously rejected by The First Council of Nicaea in 325AD. 

The discussion was, did Jesus Christ have 1 nature or 2 natures, and how did his humanity and divinity work? Thus Monophysitism, Miaphysitism, and Dyophysitism were the primary discussions and all the others were determined to be heresy (Adoptionism, Nestorianism, Arianism).

Key questions were:

  • How can the Son of Man relate to man, and pay for the sins of man, if he was not fully man?
  • How can the Son of God be divine and eternal if he is not fully God?
  • How can both these complete natures fully co-exist in 1 person, Jesus Christ?

After much discussion and debate, the church found that Dyophysitism is described in scripture in regards to the natures of Jesus.  The Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, Malankara Syrian (Indian Orthodox Church) and Armenian churches, known as the Oriental Orthodox churches disagreed and broke fellowship. A schism that remains today.

Key Truths to consider:

  1. Jesus is God (see link)
  2. Jesus is the eternal Son of God (1 John 5:10)
  3. Jesus was a man (2 John 1:7Mark 14:21).
  4. Jesus was born in the flesh (see link)
  5. Jesus perfectly atoned for man (1 Cor 15:45)
  6. Jesus perfectly imputed his righteousness on man (Romans 3:21; 10:6, 1 Cor 1:30)
  7. Therefore: Jesus is fully God and Fully Man in 1 person.
  8. Therefore: Jesus’ natures co-exist in perfect union, united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration.

The Council formulated the Chalcedon Creed to describe the natures of Jesus Christ:

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people
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 [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential]
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 of the Father according to the Godhead, and in
these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin
Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same
Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures,
inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; (ἐν δύο φύσεσιν
ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως – in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter)
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 (prosopon) and one Subsistence (hypostasis),
not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and
only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεόν), 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.”

This is called the Hypostatic Union

To this day The Coptic Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Eritrean Orthodox Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Indian
Orthodox Church and Oriental
Orthodox churches do not accept the Hypostatic Union of Christ and that the divinity and humanity of Jesus are one nature.

Unifying Factors:
What makes both these positions worthy of fellowship is that both declare that Jesus is divine and both declare Jesus as human.  How these truths interact with each other within the person of Jesus is where the division is.  Some contend that this issue can not be definitively expressible by human thought or language currently and that everyone will fully understand the person of Jesus when “the perfect comes”.

1 Cor 3:9-12

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

The Gospel 4All holds to the Hypostatic Union due to the evidence in the most completeness of scripture.  However, this is a secondary issue because the Deity of Jesus is affirmed by both schools of thought and his manhood is also affirmed; thus the Gospel Message is not effected and people can still come to know Jesus as God through his atoning work on the cross.

The Benefits of Such a Definition
The benefits of defining something such as this is that it makes discerning errors easier for the church.  This process helped the church determine other teachings that were gross errors and helped point people to the divinity and works of Jesus.

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