What is heretical about the specific phrase "en duo physeon" ("in two natures" or "of two natures")?

I don't really want to come across as a guy that is trying to "proselytize" or "crusade against the "heresy of "monophysitism,"" but there are still some elements in me trying to understand what happened in Chalcedon with this controversy, that I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around.

And that is the staunch opposition of Dioscorus, and later Severus of Antioch and other Oriental saints, to this phrase, said phrase which was famously in the Chalcedonian Definition.

It seems that these proponents argue that this phrase "en duo physeon" seems to imply in of itself heterodoxy, that perhaps there is really no union of the two natures or that there are two hypostases of Christ.

However, in light of the fact that this specific term was used by Orthodox proponents before - Saint John Cassian and Saint Ambrose for example - and was even accepted as legitimately Orthodox by Saint Cyril in the Reunion of 433, why do Oriental Orthodox feel that this phrase was worthy of schism?

I think Severus argued that although there may be Saints even recent who used the term, the Nestorian controversy gave it a whole new meaning, as the phrase was routinely used by the Nestorians. However, how can this be a legitimate argument, in light of the fact that DURING the Nestorian controversy, Saint Cyril agreed to the idea that it's an acceptable expression of the Faith - as long as there is a recognition that the Natures are united together, while still retaining each others' properties, but inseparable; and a recognition that the Word is fully God and fully man after the Incarnation?


  • edited September 2018
    That is, "of two natures" is recognized in the formula of 433, which seems to be synonymous with "in two natures."
  • edited September 2018
    we’ll, are you asking if Severus’ argument is legitimate or asking what’s so bad about “in two natures”?

    If you’re wondering if Severus’ argument is legitimate, then have you considered precedent in other areas like whether the Trinity is one or three hypostases?

    And “in” is not synonymous with “of” in the ancient world (and not today either for that matter).
  • edited September 2018
    Both. Also, how are they not synonymous?

    I know that “ek” dyo physis (sorry don’t know Greek), which is a legitimate OO formula, is translated as “of Two Natures,” but the “of” here is different from what I mean. “Of” here means in the sense of origin, not composition.
    For example, “I’m a plumber who is of Brooklyn.”
    Considering that the purpose of the Formula of 433 was reunion with the Antiochians, wasn’t the “of” used here in reference to composition?
    And what is different from this compositional “of” and “en dyo physis”?

    If I’m missing something, I’d welcome an explanation.
  • Well, in the 5th century, it made all the difference. “Of” was rejected by Chalcedon as evident by the minutes that discussed the formula. So what you see as difference is not.

    “In” describes a strong distinction. Like One God in three persons. It may imply seperation at times, like there’s a little bit of love in the capulets and montagues. “Of” describes a composition, like this salad is made up of tomatoes and lettuce. It may imply confusion sometimes, like this alloy is a mingling of base metal and stainless steel.
  • Mina, 
    My question though is why is it the case that Cyril seemed it was perfectly acceptable for some theologians to divide the two natures in terms of the actions they perform?

    "For we know the theologians make some things of the Evangelical and Apostolic teaching about the Lord common as pertaining to the one person, and other things they divide as to the two natures, and attribute the worthy ones to God on account of the Divinity of Christ, and the lowly ones on account of his humanity [to his humanity]."

  • And do you happen to have a text where Cyril uses the phrase "from two natures", and the quote of Chalcedon where this was rejected?
  • Hi, This is a topic I'm highly interested in so I look for as many opportunities to learn more about it as I can ...

    I suggest no error or fault in your response, but this whole matter is monstrously confusing. 

    1. The EO say that Christ is "in" two natures, i.e. two natures in one hypostasis.
    2. The OO say that Christ is in one nature composed of two natures.

    I just read this article by Pope Shenouda where he says:

    "His Divine Nature is united with His Human Nature in a complete Hypostatic (personal) Union
    without mingling, confusion, alteration or separation."

    This is perfectly agreeable to the EO Church. Oddly, your comment above: 

    "“Of” describes a composition, like this salad is made up of tomatoes and lettuce. It may imply confusion sometimes, like this alloy is a mingling of base metal and stainless steel."

    That sounds more like an EO person attacking the OO Christology. As an EO Christian myself, I routinely dispute other EO Christians who make that argument because I know that the beliefs of the OO Church are not heretical. I know that the miaphysite stance is that Christ is fully Divine and fully human, etc.

    My confusion with miaphysitism is monotheletism. If Christ is in one nature (of two) doesn't that also mean that he has one will? If he has one will, then when he prayed at Gethsemane, " ... not my will but your will ... " does that mean that each hypostasis of the Trinity has it's own will? (This line of reasoning is starting to sound very wrong ... )

    If Christ is in one nature (of two) but each nature has it's own will, then the explanation of the prayer at Gethsemane is nearly identical between the EO and OO Churches. We'd both have to take care not to sound Nestorian when we say that Christ was speaking on behalf of his human nature; we both believe that His Divinity and humanity never separated. We'd have the same challenge here, but at least we'd be in agreement. The thing is, does it make sense to say "one nature" if Christ has two wills?

    Can anyone help me understand this? Is the Oriental Orthodox Church Monothelite? If yes, how do you understand Gethsemane? If no, is that at odds with miaphysitism?
  • If my understanding is correct, we believe of the will, the same as of the natures. Miatheletism. He has in unity 100% divine will, 100% human in a mystical union. 

  • hi george 27 , if u search this website for the synaxarium (story of the saints), you will see that the monothelite cyrus behaved very violently towards our patriarch benjamin 1st and our coptic fathers, so we can see they stood up against his heresay.
  • the exact link is www.copticchurch.net/topics/synexarion/benjamin.html
  • @ShareTheLord & @mabsoota

    Thank you for your responses and sources. 

    I mean to learn more about the agreed statements in Geneva 1990. I hope we see the day when the EO and OO Churches are in communion again.
  • edited February 2019

    Hi George - if you couldn't tell, I'm also a Chalcedonian Orthodox who is interested in figuring out what happened with the schism.

    I'm actually on a different forum and I was having a similar conversation, and Pope Shenouda III, while arguing for One Will, also states that Christ had a human will and Divine Will.

    "Naturally, as long as we consider that this Nature is One, the Will and the Act must also
    each be one. What the Divine nature Chooses is undoubtedly the same as that chosen
    by the human nature because there is not any contradiction or conflict whatever
    between the will and the action of both.
    The Lord Jesus Christ said: "My meat is to do the Will of Him that sent Me to finish His
    work. " (Jn. 4:34). This proves that His Will is the same as that of the Father. In this
    context, He said about Himself "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees
    the Father do, for what things soever He does, these also does the Son likewise. " (Jn.
    He does not seek for Himself a will that is independent of that of the Father.
    Consequently He Says "Because I seek not Mine Own Will, but the Will of the Father,
    who has sent Me. " (Jn. 6:38).
    It is obvious that the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity have One Will, for the
    Lord Jesus Christ said: "I and My Father are One," (Jn. 10:30).
    Hence, since He is one with Him in the Godhead, then He is essentially one with Him
    concerning the Will. Again, the Son, in His Incarnation on earth, was fulfilling the Will of
    the heavenly Father. Thus it must be that He Who united with the manhood had One
    In fact, Sin is nothing but a conflict between man’s will and God’s.
    But remember that our Lord Jesus Christ had no sin at all. He challenged the Jews
    saying: "Which of you convicts Me of Sin?. " (Jn. 8:46). Therefore, His Will was that of
    the Father.
    The Saints who are perfect in their behavior achieve complete agreement
    between their will and the Will of God, so that their will becomes that of God, and
    the Will of God becomes their will.
    And St., Paul the Apostle said "But we have the mind of Christ. "(1 Cor. 2:16). He did
    not say that our thoughts are in accord with the mind of Christ, but that "we have the
    mind of Christ", and here the unity is stressed.
    If this is said about those with whom and in whom God works, then how much more the
    unity between the Son and His Own manhood would be in all that is related to the will,
    the mind and the power to act! He, in Whom the Divine nature has united with the
    human nature, a Hypostatic and Essential union without separation-not for a second nor
    a twinkle of an eye,
    If there was not unity between the Will of the Divine nature of Christ and His human
    nature, this would have resulted in internal conflict. Far be it from Him! How then could
    Christ be our guide and our example... to follow in His footsteps (1 Jn. 2:6)?.
    The complete righteousness which marked the life of our Lord Jesus was due to
    His Divine as well as His Human will.
  • @LivenotoneviL

    (very cool tag btw)

    I agree 100% with everything you are saying. On a rather personal level, this is why I like contemplating Gethsemane as much as I do. To me, Gethsemane is the jewel of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and what it means for a fool like me to be Christian.

    Gethsemane highlights the very point that you are making, that Christ was sinless because he perfectly aligned his human will with the Divine Will. He was a fully human man knowing he was about to be betrayed by his own followers, tortured, and killed. If he "wanted" this to happen he would have been mad. He gathered his courage in prayer and perfectly aligned his will to the Divine Will.

    I'd also like to point out that, absent from the account of Gethsemane, was any notion that Christ was still free. He knew what was going to happen, and this was his last chance to escape. This wasn't mentioned at all. He didn't "want" to be crucified, but there was no apparent temptation to escape. As you are saying, and as Christ said several times, He constantly kept His will nearly indistinguishable from the Divine Will.

    The thing is, if we recognize no distinct human will for Christ to align with the Divine Will then our Christology sounds very monophysite in that His humanity is overwhelmed by his Divinity. It's not only important that His human will perfectly aligned with the Divine Will, it's also crucial that his human will willingly did so, in spite of human weakness and fear. (As another side note, this is the very definition of courage. Not to be without fear, but to do what's right even when feeling fear.)

    I agree 100% with your final paragraph. "If there was not unity between the Will of the Divine nature and Hus human nature ... How then could Christ be our guide and our example?". But this is a two sided coin. If Christ didn't have a human will to unite to the Divine Will, how could He be our guide and example?

    This leads to a more personal contemplation. Christ gives the perfect example on how to unite a free will to the Divine Will. As if that's not enough, we have many saints that give outstanding examples of how to unite a free will to the Divine Will, way more than enough to commemorate a different saint every day of the year. Not to mention people we meet that give great examples. I can't, for the life of me, clearly explain why it's so stinking hard to unite my own will to Christ.

    Thank you for this dialog, by the way ... This is very good contemplation for me.
  • hi EO brothers
  • on no, website ate my post! will try again later...
  • edited February 2019
    So, from what I've read in this thread:
    1) the OO "Of two natures" means that they are from the same origin, not the same in composition (a man of America vs a man of flesh)
    2) EO says that Christ is 2 natures in 1 hypostasis, being together but not the same at all times, while OO says that Christ is 1 nature made of 2 separate ones, that is, divinity and humanity
    3) God the Son's will is separate but perfectly aligned with God the Father's will, and the same with both of them and the Holy Spirit. This perfect alignment between the will of the Father and Son is possible through the Christly nature/hypostasis of fully God and fully man, which in turn makes it impossible to sin, since sin is anything that is contrary to God's will or plan.
    4) This whole matter is a very confusing mess that really needs to be solved quickly before a whole new issue arises

    If anyone sees something wrong, please feel free to correct me- I'm still trying to learn all of this, and it would be terrible if I learned wrong.

    Pray for me.
  • edited February 2019
    1. Yes, as far as I can tell.
    2. Yeah, but for Oriental Orthodoxy, the "1 nature" does not imply a blending or compromise of the natures - but rather, while still distinct, they are ultimately one reality.
    3. I think that's right.
    4. I fully agree - my guess is that there was either a complete misunderstanding, or one of the Churches was heretical but resolved it's heterodoxy by the time of the 5th Ecumenical Council. The problem here is that both sides have had Saints condemn each other for centuries - Severus of Antioch condemned the Chalcedonians as Nestorians multiple times, and the 6th Ecumenical Council of the Chalcedonians condemned the "God-accursed" Severus of Antioch for one example. 
    I wish that the schism would end, but it's really complicated when there's a consistent tradition for centuries of Saints condemning the other side as heretics.

  • 4) Oh my goodness, yes! I agree 100%. We should in no way be split from each other. We describe the indescribable a little differently ... big deal! Ultimately we believe the exact same thing. 

    1) This is a very interesting way of looking at it, but (as far as I understand right now) I don't think that is the OO position. The OO position, with emphasis on the part that the EO disagree with, is that Christ has only one nature. This is why so many of the OO Icons show Christ holding one finger up. The way I'm reading it, your description sounds EO to me. Your metaphor of "a man of America vs a man of flesh" gives strong emphasis to the fact that Christ's Divine Nature and human nature are two independent ideas. 

    We all believe that Christ, as fully human, perfectly harmonized His human will with His Divine Will. He did this so perfectly well that His human will and Divine Will were indistinguishable from each other. We believe the same thing about His human nature and His Divine Nature. I think I would go so far as to say that His Wills and Natures were so indistinguishable that the EO and OO are both right. The OO emphasize the perfect harmony (or oneness) of Christ's Wills and Natures and I think the EO does not disagree. The EO emphasizes the wonder that two ideas so different (Divinity and humanity) were perfectly harmonized in Christ and I think the OO does not disagree.

    I imagine it's like listening to two people singing in perfect harmony. You might say, "wow they have one voice" and I might say, "no, it's impressive because two people with two voices were in perfect harmony. If it was one person with one voice, it wouldn't be that impressive."

    2) Yes to everything except the "but not the same at all times" part. That bit makes it sound Nestorian. Just like the OO, the EO believes that Christ's humanity was always in perfect harmony with His Divinity. He wasn't more or less human at certain times. Even in Gethsemane where we can see evidence of his humanity, He was no less Divine than when he stood with Moses and Elijah. Similarly, He was no less human at the Transfiguration than He was at Gethsemane.

    3) This is a very interesting point. I think there is a mistake here, but it is an extraordinarily abstract subject. I hardly call myself an authority, but I want to emphasize extra that I'm just doing my best to understand this myself. We believe in the Holy Trinity, one God in three Hypostases. When you say "God the Son's will is separate but perfectly aligned with God the Father's will, and the same with both of them and the Holy Spirit" something doesn't sound quite right to me. I can understand well enough that the three Hypostases of the Trinity are one in essence and therefore we are traditional monotheists. For some reason though, when someone suggests that each Hypostasis has its own will, to me it sounds too much like we are losing sight of traditional monotheism. If each Hypostasis has its own will, how is that not polytheism?

    I think my "singers in harmony" metaphor worked ok for Christ's Divinity and humanity because it takes action for singers to sing in harmony. Divinity and humanity are two separate things. It took action to make it possible to harmonize Divinity and humanity. It took the incarnation and Christ's life, teaching and sacrifice to show us that we can harmonize our human will with the Divine through Christ.

    I don't think the singer metaphor works so well for the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are naturally in harmony because they are one God. God didn't need to do something to harmonize with himself. 

    Thanks again for the very interesting topic
  • Yeah its confusing lol
  • Though this is a very old thread, for those it would benefit, a preliminary remark must be made:

    The idea that the Orthodox Church has not responded to the interpretation of the Chalcedonian churches of the Council of Chalcedon is incorrect.  St Severus the Great refuted what is known as "neochalcedonianism" as taught by the heretic John the Grammarian.  When Chalcedonian heterodox teach that the "two enduring natures" are essences instead of hypostases they (as St Severus rightly expounded) venture into saying that all of humanity and all of divinity become incarnate, which would render universal incarnation to be the Chalcedonian faith.  It goes without saying that St Severus was well-ahead of his time, which is why the devil set up so many people in opposition to his holy evangelism.

    So, I invite all readers to read the works of St Severus of Antioch against Chalcedonianism.  Also, if any such reader is themselves a part of a Chalcedonian church, I humbly invite you to come into the fullness of the Faith by finding your nearest (Oriental) Orthodox church, where you can adhere to the Faith of Ephesus and have genuine saints who we can have assurance are in heaven.
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