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Coptic Orthodox Church
Council of Chalcedon
edited December 2014
What is it and why did our fathers reject it?
The more I read about it, the more confused I get!
I suggest you read up on previous discussions because almost everything that was said there will be repeated here. For starters, you can read V.C Samuel's 'The council of Chalcedon re-examined'. Although not the most perfect it takes you step by step through history, theology/terminology, etc.
Also, more recently there's Abouna Shenouda Maher's comprehensive book 'Christology and the council of Chacledon'. These 2 books are quite full of information with the former being 480 pages and the later almost 700. Not for the faint of heart, but if you have the will and capacity for concentration
you'll be sure to get what you need from an Oriental Orthodox perspective.
edited December 2014
Council occurred in the year 451 AD, 20 years after the council of Ephesus, presided by St. Cyril of Alexandria against the heresy of Nestorianism. Problems with this council actually began in St. Cyril's time. After Nestorius was condemned, supporters of Nestorius (of the "Antiochian school") schismed from supporters of St. Cyril ("Alexandrian school"). Part of the language of Nestorius was believing Christ to be "two natures", interpreted as two persons. Two years after the schism, St. Cyril differentiated between heretical Antiochians and Orthodox Antiochians, the former using the terminology "in two natures" and the latter "of two natures", in agreement with the Alexandrian school, and a reunion occurred with the patriarch of Antioch, who agreed to condemn Nestorius and to confess the term "Theotokos".
Well, this did not solve issues much. Two famous bishops, one Theodoret of Cyrrus and another Ibas of Mari, were still very Nestorian in their theology, and interpreted the union of St. Cyril as if St. Cyril repented from his errors of Apollinarianism and Docetism (an accusation that continues with those who opposed the council of Chalcedon). In other words, they accused St. Cyril of destroying the integrity of Christ's humanity. St. Cyril continued to write and defend his actions and his "one nature" terminology as the most perfect theology for the unity of Christ, while maintaining the integrity of Christ's humanity. Well, later on, St. Cyril died, the Pope of Rome died, the Patriarch of Antioch died, and respectively, St. Dioscorus, Pope Leo, and Patriarch Domnus take over. You also had Patriarch of Constantinople, Flavius, another important character.
A monk named Eutyches decided to teach some questionable ideas about Christ that actually did in fact make Christ sound like He did not have real and tangible human nature. So Flavian called a local council in Constantinople in 448 and condemned Eutyches as a heretic, but in doing so, they tried to force him to confess "in two natures", which St. Cyril considered as heretical. So Eutyches appeals to Pope Leo and St. Dioscorus. Pope Leo rejects the appeal and supports Patriarch Flavian's judgment, and sends him the infamous letter, the Tome of Leo (which was filled with Nestorianizing tendencies that St. Dioscorus openly condemned later on, and was actually praised by Nestorius himself, who was still alive when the Tome was written). St. Dioscorus, alarmed by subtle Nestorianism in the council accepts the appeal, and with the help of the emperor, convenes an ecumenical council in Ephesus in the year 449 AD.
Here, Eutyches is reinstated as agreeable to St. Cyril, Flavian is condemned, as well as Theodoret and Ibas were condemned as well. The caveat: Eutyches may have disingenuous in his confession, the Tome of Leo was ignored, which was considered as an insult to the see of Rome, and Leo was good friends with Theodoret and took the decision very personal, calling Dioscorus a heretic and the council a "robber council". But he could not do anything because the emperor decreed this council as legally binding and ecumenical.
Well, in a tragic twist of events, the emperor fell off a horse, broke his neck, and died. He was replaced by his sister's husband, Marcion, who was close to Pope Leo, and agreed to the appeal to make a new and grander council. And so in 451 AD, in the frightful month of October (everyone thinks about Halloween in this month, I think about Chalcedon
), which lasted almost a whole month, Eutyches (who was not present) was condemned, St. Dioscorus was also condemned, which we believe was done in an unjust manner, the Tome of Leo declared an Orthodox document, Theodoret and Ibas, who were clearly heretics, were reinstated in the council as "Orthodox", they rejected the term "of two natures", and put in the term "in two natures", while at the same time ambiguously does confess Christ as one person and the Holy Virgin as "Theotokos", and did have Alexandrian theologians among the group mingled with the Nestorians and the semi-Nestorians.
St. Dioscorus was punished by being sent in exile, was beaten and tortured there, and eventually died some years later. He wrote some letters in exile affirming the same faith as St. Cyril, confessing one nature of Christ, fully divine and fully and truly human, and he condemned Eutyches as well. He also fearlessly condemned Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo. And thus began the anti-Chalcedonian tradition, filled with much bloodshed because of not accepting the government-sanctioned council and its Tome.
The Chalcedonian tradition evolved to reinterpret its ambiguities in an Orthodox manner, but also condemned certain aspects of Theodoret and Ibas that were actually accepted in the council of Chalcedon itself. We continued to reject Chalcedon on the idea that it was a robber council that mingled with heretics. Today's Chalcedonians include the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. We, the Oriental Orthodox, are the anti-Chalcedonians.
And that is a very very very small summary, believe me
edited December 2014
Also, this summary is very one-sided of me as well. If I were to give you something more objective, it would probably require maybe 2 or 3 more long posts like that.
The book recommendation of Fr. VC Samuel is a must, if you must have just one book.
Thank you so much!!!!!
And thank you for simplifying it down to my level of understanding.. this must be baby talk for you
I really appreciate it!