My first post: Where Pope Leo got his Christology

Greetings my friends,

    This is my first post on Tasbeha, and I hope you all find it acceptable. I am an Eastern Orthodox Catechumen, in the process of conversion (Reception through baptism and chrismation) to holy Orthodoxy from the RCC. There was a time a few years ago when I briefly looked into the Non-Chalcedonian perspective, but then sort of moved away from it.
    I recently read the two papers by Fr. John Romanides at the Aarhus unofficial dialogues between EO and OO in 1964. Needless to say, I was deeply impressed by his sympathy and empathy with the OO perspective, to the degree where he justifies Dioscorus's anathematization of Pope Leo, which is pretty epic for a Chalcedonian to admit.

So, after having read many of the historical documents, the acts of Chalcedon (Which reveal how Dioscorus was pretty much smeared through the entire first session and third), I have come to a realization: Pope Leo's tome has some pretty novel language in it, and it sounds ALOT like Theodoret. In fact, upon analyzing it, it seems like there are almost two voices in it, Theodoret of Cyrus, emphasizing that each form does what is proper to it, but then a more Orthodox voice talking about the full unity of the Person of the Logos. I asked myself the question, "Where did Leo get it in his head to explain things in such a non-Cyrillian way?"

And I found the answer.

When Leo was Archdeacon of Rome, he asked a certain Eastern priest living in the West to write him a paper on the incarnation that refutes Nestorius. Can you guess who it was? St. John Cassian!

And in that Writing on the incarnation, I see the source of Leos terminology. A heretic named Leporius was a Pelagian. But he repented, and sent a confession of faith to the Bishops of Gaul. Here is the part of his confession as recorded by St. John Cassian:

"For Leporius, then a monk, now a presbyter, who followed the teaching or rather the evil deeds of Pelagius, as we said above, and was among the earliest and greatest champions of the aforesaid heresy in Gaul, was admonished by us and corrected by God, and so nobly condemned his former erroneous persuasion that his amendment was almost as much a matter for congratulation as is the unimpaired faith of many...
He then acknowledging the perverseness of his views, and seeing the light of faith, wrote to the Gallican Bishops, and thus began:
... But because the Word of God vouchsafed to come down upon manhood by assuming manhood, and manhood was taken up into the Word by being assumed by God, God the Word in His completeness became complete man. For it was not God the Father who was made man, nor the Holy Ghost, but the Only Begotten of the Father; and so we must hold that there is one Person of the Flesh and the Word: so as faithfully and without any doubt to believe that one and the same Son of God, who can never be divided, existing in two natures (who was also spoken of as a "giant") in the days of His Flesh truly took upon Him all that belongs to man, and ever truly had as His own what belongs to God: since even though He was crucified in weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God."

And St. John says in regard to this confession:

"THIS confession of his therefore, which was the faith of all Catholics was approved of by all the Bishops of Africa,(4) whence he wrote, and by all those of Gaul, to whom he wrote. Nor has there ever been anyone who quarreled with this faith, without being guilty of unbelief: for to deny what is right and proved is to confess what is wrong."

In addition St. John also says in this work

"And so in the two natures the Word and Flesh become one, so that while each substance continues naturally perfect in itself, what is Divine imparteth without suffering any loss, to the humanity, and what is human participates in the Divine; nor is there one person God, and another person man, but the same person is God who is also man: and again the man who is also God is called and indeed is Jesus Christ the only Son of God; and so we must always take care and believe so as not to deny that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Very God (whom we confess as existing ever with the Father and equal to the Father before all worlds) became from the moment when He took flesh the God-man."

I see in this work St. John emphasizing very effectively the unity of Christ, and at the same time speaking of a union in two natures that have come together into a personal union, such that as a result, the incarnate Logos is referred to by him as God-man.

Such as this:

"He then employed no subtilty or circumlocution, nor did he when he preached the gospel of the Lord blush at the mention of the cross of Christ. And though it was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles to hear of God as born, God in bodily form, God suffering, God crucified, yet he did not weaken the force of his pious utterance because of the wickedness of the offence of the Jews: nor did he lessen the vigour of his faith because of the unbelief and the foolishness of others: but openly, persistently, and boldly proclaimed that He, whom a mother(6) had borne, whom men had slain, the spear had pierced, the cross had stretched--was "the power and wisdom of God, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness."

Clearly, St. John was no Nestorius, given that the entire work was written by him against Nestorius. I think that in this work is the best of what Chalcedon MEANT to say.

However, Leo is a different story. Let's reasonably assume that this work of St. John influenced Leos Christology. Okay, fine. But then, Theodoret comes along. Flattering with his silver tongue, he uses expressions and terms that Leo could not see through, and as such influenced his Christology also. So the Tome of Leo becomes a hybrid of the Orthodoxy of St. John Cassian where it speaks of the One Person Incarnate, but of the Heresy of Nestorius where it speaks of each form acting independently.

For the record, I personally think that Chalcedon was complex, and that it is certainly not a simple matter. I acknowledge in full and with my whole heart the entirely Orthodox Christology of the Copts and those in communion with them. I say Dioscorus commited no Heresy, I say that he was calumniated.

I look at it this way; Israel in the old Testament was an image of the Church. And that image was epitomized under the reign of the prophet-king St. David and his Son, Solomon.

But what happened?

The kingdom was divided. The House of Israel centered in Samaria, and the House of Judah, centered in Jerusalem. Yet our merciful Christ treats them as one, he calls them one, and he does not exclude either from his promises. Is it possible that we, the more Numerous Chalcedonians were like the House of Israel? We insisted on our right of succession! We insisted that we are the chosen! We are the heir! We are, after all, eldest!

Are we Rehoboam? Who shouted, "My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions!" who formed the house of Judah, the legitimate successors of Solomon, Or Jeroboam, who rose up against this injustice, but formed a new Kingdom?

Regardless, the kingdom was divided, but God's promise to them was one, because even though the tribes had different political centers, yet they were all inheritors of the promise, they were all ISRAEL. No tribes were added, and no tribes were subtracted. If we do not differ in dogma (And I do not see how we do, even on the issues of monothelitism and monoenergism, which I am familiar with) then what else is there to say but we are one in faith?

Now, this does NOT mean we condemn the work of our fathers! They labored hard to set forth true doctrine. But it is one thing to say they are wrong doctrinally (impossible) and another to say that they may have had the wrong target in their sights. I see no reason to anathematize Severus of Antioch. But remember, communication back then was not like now. There was a certain amount of hearsay, and very little face-to-face deliberation. Views could more easily be misrepresented. Suppose St. Maximos anathematized St. Severus. Yet, today, if we held them side by side and compared them on the basis of their own teaching, what contradiction is there? Zero.

That's where I am now.

FYI, that analogy can ONLY hold water among the Chalcedonians and Non-Chalcedonians, between every other sect and body of heresy, to include the teachings of the Latins, there is zero comparison.

Sincerely in Christ,



  • I guess I was wondering if anyone agrees or disagrees...  ;D
  • Aelywn,

    Welcome to the forums. If you did not tell us you were an Eastern Orthodox catechumen, I would have thought you were Oriental Orthodox. I will respond with a few points.

    Taken as a whole, your entire analysis is Oriental Orthodoxy. I would add the caveat that it is irrelevant what Chalcedon MEANT to say. What WAS said is at best unnecessary and at worse Nestorian. Throughout history, most anti-Chalcedonians fell in the latter camp. In our politically correct world (which is not a bad thing in itself), the anti-Chalcedonians fall somewhere in between that spectrum.

    The fact that St Dioscorus was condemned and betrayed is inexcusable. The fact that Theordoret was counted among the bishops of Chalcedon (so they can reach the alleged total of 636 bishop, ie, twice Nicaea, even though there is no evidence of that number of bishops as Gaddis writes in the "Acts of Chalcedon") is inexcusable. The fact that St Severus is explicitly mentioned in the same sentence with Apollinarius in the Sixth council and Eutyches and Nestorius in the Seventh Council is inexcusable. There are plenty of reasons why we can not accept Chalcedon.

    The main issue I see today is that the EO insist on acceptance of seven councils as a prerequisite for Christianity. Requiring 7 ecumenical councils is no different than requiring Roman papal subordination. The EO's 7 council requirement is no different than RCC's papal infallibility. When push comes to shove, the EO do not have give any good reason to reject Oriental Orthodoxy. They simply have been so used to calling us schismatics or monophysites. Just look at some EO forums on how they interact with OO. They cannot accept the fact that they were wrong to begin with in Chalcedon. Just like, RCC was wrong in papal infallibility and Roman subordination to begin with.

    Regarding your analogy, it seems quite accurate. I would add that Chalcedonians did not simply separate from one family. They acted like Judas Iscariot, betraying and switching sides when convenient. Using your analogy, it was not simply a creation of a divided kingdom. It was as if the Tribe of Benjamin claimed to be loyal to the southern kingdom Judah, then moved over to the northern kindgom Israel when Israel gained sovereignty, then back to Judah and so on. This is what happened in Chalcedon and the aftermath of Chalcedon. Bishops supporting Dioscorus all of sudden moved to the Leo's party at Chalcedon. Then when Leo and the Emperor lost their political influence, Timothy of Alexandria and other Oriental bishops signed a declaration with the Chalcedonians under Emperor Anastasius. Anastasius looses power and the Chalcedonians who signed the declaration say they were coerced, condemning Timothy and the Oriental bishops and Anastasius. And it goes on and on, even until today. To justify such betrayal, Chalcedonian historians claim Dioscorus had a mob (as did Popes Athanasius, Cyril, Theophilus, Timothy, Peter II and Peter III). Meanwhile, the Orientals have remained clear from the beginning and have never waivered that Leo's Tome is heretical. Nestorius and Theodoret were always heretics.

    I can say plenty more in line with your comments. But I'm sure the Chalcedonians will not agree with it.

  • Remnkemi,

        Thanks for the welcome. I will take your assesment of what I wrote as a compliment.  I was wondering though, what do you think of the writing of St. John Cassian? He clearly is unambiguously anti-nestorian,  yet he seems to use the phrase in two natures. In fact part of my question is, if we say that the Logos, after the incarnation is truly in two natures, does it really take away from the unity emmanuel, if we understand HE is the root of the unity of the natures? In other words, because HE is in two, and HE is one, they have unity in HIM, the logos? It seems like this is a natural way of speaking, to say that the Logos is in the humanity as his own, just as he is in divinity as his own? Why is this unacceptable? I agree that St. Cyril's formula makes sense and I accept it wholeheartedly, but if it can be so easily confused with eutychianism, why not qualify it a bit more as St. John did? Plus I see very few fathers explicitly teaching one nature out of two. None that I have been able to verify besides st. Cyril anyway.

    Your thoughts?
  • Yes it was a compliment. St John Cassian, as well as every patristic Orthodox father before Chalcedon, had no reason to explicitly explain a Christological formula except when a heresy challenged accepted Orthodox theology. I don't find it unusual that before St Cyril, no one used a one nature formula. I would say that a dyophysite formula was not used much either. St Athanasius used the term homoosios which was unheard of.

    I think it is important to note that Orientals do not claim there is only one nature. This would be eutychianism. We believe in two natures and two wills. But after the union, speaking of two natures divides Christ, which is nestorianism. The Orientals, following Cyril's long battle with nestoriansim, have been so sensitized to nestorianism. We have always felt is as a real, substantial threat. Contrastly, euthycianism was viewed as mere folly, not even requiring a serious defense or apologetic response. Therefore, Oriental Orthodoxy in general, aggressively attacked any hint of nestoriansim and brushed off any concept of euthycianism. Somehow, the Chalcedonians took this lack of a response as an acceptance of eutychianism. More folly in my opinion. I think John Cassian's discourse, as you have described, illustrates this point. He spends more time attacking nestorianism, while only superficially describing two natures (so as not to hint at a monophysite heresy). In this sense, I see Cassian's Christology as Oriental, not Chalcedonian.
  • Remnkemi,

        I like what you have to say, and even better, I agree with it. While reading the fathers, I found something interesting. This entire debate of one vs. two natures and mingled vs unmingled was actually dealt with by St. Athanasius about 70 years before it actually happened! In his episte to Epictetus. I love what the Pillar of Orthodoxy has to say:

    "What lower region has vomited the statement that the Body born of Mary is coessential with the Godhead of the Word? Or that the Word has been changed into flesh, bones, hair, and the whole body, and altered from its own nature? Or who ever heard in a Church, or even from Christians, that the Lord wore a body putatively, not in nature; or who ever went so far in impiety as to say and hold, that this Godhead, which is coessential with the Father, was circumcised and became imperfect instead of perfect; and that what hung upon the tree was not the body, but the very creative Essence and Wisdom?"

    Hear he Dashes Eutyches against the rocks!  ;D

    And here he Dashes Nestorius  8)

    "But with regard to the imagination of some, who say that the Word came upon one particular man, the Son of Mary, just as it came upon each of the Prophets, it is superfluous to discuss it, since their madness carries its own condemnation manifestly with it. For if He came thus, why was that man born of a virgin, and not like others of a man and woman? For in this way each of the saints also was begotten. Or why, if the Word came thus, is not the death of each one said to have taken place on our behalf, but only this man's death? Or why, if the Word sojourned among us in the case of each one of the prophets, is it said only in the case of Him born of Mary that He sojourned here 'once at the consummation of the ages' Or why, if He came as He had come in the saints of former times, did the Son of Mary alone, while all the rest had died without rising as yet, rise again on the third day? Or why, if the Word had come in like manner as He had done in the other cases, is the Son of Mary alone called Emmanuel, as though a Body filled full of the Godhead were born of her?"

    It is so neat to see a truly God-inspired father speaking to our situation out of the midst of his own. Pardon my enthusiasm, I am a bit of an Orthodox cheerleader I guess, but I just am thrilled to see such clear confirmations.

    Now, to some of the hard stuff:

    1. Are there any Orthodox Miaphysite historians of the 5th and 6th century who present the history of the Christological controversies in a fair way? I am looking not for hagiography, but data.

    For example, one interesting point often omitted by the Chalcedonian side of orthodoxy is that "Emperor" Marcion recalled Nestorius from exile. This is present in the Miaphysite Histories and even in the Nestorian Histories, but NOT in the Chalcedonian histories, I think to avoid tarnishing their image of a powerful orthodox emperor.

    2. Timothy Aelurus: Obviously I have heard conflicting reports. Isn't Aelurus a perjorative term? Weasel? I heard he was called weasel because he went about to the various simple monks of Egypt and whispered into their cells while they were at prayer that he was the angel Gabriel, and they should listen to him... Personally I don't believe it. He has lots of patristic references to people like St. Julius of Rome speaking of one nature after the union, as well as St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, but I cannot find these. Are they extinct extracts? Can we verify their historicity?

    3. Dioscorus: People assert he had a mistress named Irene. True or False? Did he truly behave as he was accused in the council of Chalcedon, as a New Pharaoh throwing all of Alexandria into confusion? Or are these probably just disgruntled priests who said this? These accusing priests at Chalcedon were from Alexandria though, so SOME people there didn't like is the case with all holy men. I don't doubt he may have had an imperious nature, but didn't St. Cyril? They certainly were not lambs... :)

    So, obviously I am looking for Data. Can you point me to good non-Chalcedonian data? Fr. samuels book is just too expensive: over $300 right now!
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