Does the Coptic Church believe in monothelitism or dyothelitism. I appreciate your help.


  • I still have the same question.

    There are a couple of existing discussions you may want to take a look at if you haven't already.

    There is also this and this.

    The best answer I have so far is neither (?). Sometimes they talk about "miatheletism" like this forum, but I'm not clear on what that means. I think the OO recognizes monotheletism as a heresy, but since they are miaphysite and believe in one will, I don't think they can reasonably be dyothelite.

    I look forward to learning more about this.

  • edited June 2019
    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.  http://metropolitan-bishoy.org/files/monthelitism.PDF

  • I think I just may be starting to get this.

    I understand miaphysitism vs dyophysitism because in both cases we are talking about the uniting of the divine nature and the human nature in Christ. Both of these views express the belief that the eternal Logos took flesh, and became man. Both of these views express that once Christ was incarnate, His divinity and humanity were fully joined and never separated. 

    As I understand it, the only difference between miaphysitism and dyophisitism is the concept of "hypostasis". The miaphysites believe that the divine and human are inseparably combined in one nature in Christ. The dyophysites simply add the idea of "hypostasis"; the idea that the divine nature and human nature are inseparably combined in one hypostasis in Christ. Not that this is "simple" in any way, but I'm at least comfortable with it.

    Adding "will" to this model makes it much harder because it also requires talking about our concept of the Trinity. God can only have one will. The Trinity therefore, Father, Son and Holy Spirit can only have one will. I feel confident in saying that if we believed that each hypostasis of the Trinity had its own will, we would be polytheists.

    To a dyothelite, Eastern Orthodox person keeping this in mind and reading the account at Gethsemane, i.e. "not my will but thy will", there must be two wills at work in Christ.  There is the will of God fully present in him as he is the fully divine Logos and there is his human will as he is fully human. To the dyothelite, these two wills cannot be separate wills of two hypostases of the trinity, else we would be polytheists; it has to be two wills in the nature/hypsotasis of Christ.

    The concept of miatheletism, according to Metropolitan Bishoy is "two united natural desires". It seems to me that this concept of miatheletism is virtually indistinguishable from dyotheletism. The only real difference could be that the function of "mia-" is to emphasize the perfect union of the two. Just like miaphysite is not monophysite, miathelite is not monothelite. Miathelites believe that Christ's divine and human nature are so perfectly joined that they prefer to count it as one nature. Miaphysites believe that Christ's divine and human will are so perfectly joined that they prefer to count it as one will.
  •  ... (sorry, correction) ...

    Miaphysites believe that Christ's divine and human nature are so perfectly joined that they prefer to count it as one nature. Miathelites believe that Christ's divine and human will are so perfectly joined that they prefer to count it as one will.
  • Thank you for the answers and the references. I found the following article to be relevant:

    In this Pope Shenouda III declares the Coptic Church's belief in Monothelitism. I think it settles the issue.
  • edited June 2019
    Also, in this article Pope Shenouda expresses belief in Monothelitism:


    He doesn't use the expression "miathelitism." 

  • Aaaaaand I'm confused again.

    So how do you read the account at Gethsemane?

    1. Christ has one will.
    2. Here said, "not my will but they will". This means...
    3. The Father and Son each have their own distinct will.

    Why is this not polytheism?
  • I agree with you. I believe in dyothelitism. 

     But according to Pope Shenouda, the Coptic Church believes in Monothelitism. In the 2 articles, he presents the logic behind that belief. 

    So, now we have a real difference between EO & OO.

    Before realizing this difference, I thought that miaphysitism was not significantly different from dyophysitism. 

  • edited June 2019
    What do the Cappadocians and Alexandrian fathers say about that passage in Gethsemane? You’d be hard-pressed to find them saying the same thing you’re thinking of.

    Also, don’t jump to conclusions on reading before understanding. Sometimes something may sound like monotheletism but it isn’t. Otherwise, as scholars have started to realize, you might as well call the Cappadocians and Alexandrians monothelite heretics.

    It may be poorly worded from Pope Shenouda, but we have no development of the issue at hand. If you read the writings of St. Severus, the very few times he talks about it, he acknowledges a human component, but as an incarnate form of the divine will. So human and divine as one theandric will.
  • edited June 2019

    It is important to note that the union of the divine Nature and human nature, as well as the divine will and the human will are mystical. St. Cyril will allow to speak of the distinct natures, in thought alone, but ultimately ‘that Christ is one’. In the end, our OO faith proclaims that Christ has 1 nature though composed of two wills. What is mystical is that Christ is not 50% human, 50% divine, nor is He 100% divine at times, and 100% human at other times - composing a 100% single nature. He is 100% human, 100% divine united in One nature of Christ. This makes no sense logically, nor mathematically. It is a mystical union. 

    • ‘I am given to understand that a further query has been raised. Anyone, surely, who states that the Lord suffered exclusively in the flesh renders the suffering irrational and involuntary, but if you say he suffered with his soul and mind, to make the suffering voluntary, there is no bar to saying that he suffered in the manhood's nature.216 If that is true, must we not be conceding that two natures exist217 inseparably after the union?218 With the result that if you quote "Christ therefore having suffered for us in flesh" your meaning is the same as if you had said "Christ having suffered for us in our nature". The objection is just one more attack upon those who affirm one incarnate nature of the Son219; apparently aiming to prove the affirmation idle, they obstinately argue always for the existence of two natures. - “Second Letter to Succensus” Cyril of Alexandria: Select letters 

    This last quote essentially tells us that To speak of two natures, beyond in thought alone, is to attack Miaphysitism. 

    • “We do not confess that this single Son is two natures, one to be worshiped and one not to be worshiped. He is rather one incarnate nature of the Word, and is to be worshipped, with his flesh, with a single nature.” - Saint Athanasius

    The will of God is to be approached in a similar way. He is united in a mystical union. When you look at the following two quotes, both wills are fully existing, but they are harmonized. 

    • “He [Christ] says these words to teach that he considers dying for all to be willed on the one hand because the divine nature has willed it but unwilled on the other because of the suffering on the cross—and this insofar as the flesh is concerned, which seeks to avoid death... suffering on the cross is clearly unwilled, in a sense, by Christ our Savior in that he is a human being... Since there was no other way to raise what had fallen into death back to life except for the only begotten Word of God to become human (and once he became human he certainly had to suffer), he made what was unwilled into something willed, and the divine nature accepted this because of its love for us. “  Commentary on John: Cyril of Alexandria 
    • ‘Christ endured death for us and in our place, he did so not against his will, but he came to it willingly, even though he could easily have escaped it if he did not want to suffer.’ - Cyril of Alexandria. (2013). Festal Letters
    In the end, both OO and EO would agree that there are 2 wills mystically united. 
  • Hi.

    > Otherwise, as scholars have started to realize, you might as well call the Cappadocians and Alexandrians monothelite heretics. <

    I didn’t call anybody heretics. And didn’t mention the early Church Fathers at all. I'm only questioning current Coptic beliefs.

    > In the end, both OO and EO would agree that there are 2 wills mystically united. <

    This statement contradicts Pope Shenouda’s representation of the Coptic Church. You don't represent the Coptic Church but he did. Please review his articles:




  • edited June 2019
    As I said, my statement clearly says in the end it is one will. Miathelism is one will, out of two, mystically united. I do not read anywhere in those two articles that claim monothelitism.

    Just like we speak of only one nature after the incarnation, we speak of only one will after the incarnation. Speaking in such a way is not monothelitism, not is it monophysite. To speak of 1 nature and 1 will is the true and strong sense of the incarnation. To speak of 2 natures, 2 wills, is to speak of the incarnation in a weak sense, of in thought alone, just for our human minds to comprehend. But in the end, Christ, is one nature out of 2. One will, out of 2 ; MYSTICALLY united.
  • edited June 2019


    The following includes excerpts from Wikipedia:

    Cyrus of Alexandria (al-Muqawqis) became a Malachite patriarch of the see of Alexandria in 630 AD. He died after the Arab invasion of Egypt in Alexandria on March 21, 642 AD.

    Once a patriarch, Cyrus set himself vigorously to effect the desired union with the Coptic Church. In a synod held at Alexandria, he proposed what is known as the plèrophoria or "Satisfactio", an agreement in nine articles, the seventh of which is a bold assertion of Miathelitism. 

    The following includes excerpts from the Synexarion:

    When Cyrus came to Alexandria, and did not find Pope Benjamin, Patriarch of the Coptic Church. He arrested his brother Minas and tortured him by burning his sides to force him to reveal his brother's hiding place. Then Cyrus commanded his men to place him in a bag full of sand and throw him in the sea. 

    From this we can see that the Coptic fathers stood against Miaphysitism. Pope Shenouda, in his articles, did not mention this theory at all. He expressed belief in Monothelitism in the following statements:

    “Has the Lord Christ two wills and two actions, that is a Divine will and a human will, as well as two actions, that is, a divine act and a human act? As we believe in the One Nature of the Incarnate Logos, as St. Cyril the Great called it, likewise: We believe in One Will and One Act. Naturally, as long as we consider that this Nature is One, the Will and the Act must also each be one.” 

    But he goes on to say, “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.” 

    But he goes on to say, “Naturally, since we believe that after the union of the Divine and Human Natures, One Nature (entity) resulted, namely, the Nature of the Incarnate Logos, we also believe in One Will and One Act for the Incarnate Logos.”

    But again he goes on to say, “There is no contradiction or conflict between the will and the act of the Two Natures; what the Divine Nature chooses is undoubtedly chosen by the Human Nature.” 

    So, basically what Pope Shenouda said with one side of the mouth, he contradicted with the other side. In so doing, he follows closely in the footsteps of Pope Cyril I.

    And your analysis has been right all along.

  • This last post is confusing. The Coptic church first off is not against Miaphysitism. It professes it. Second of all, Pope Shenouda’s statements are vague and do not conclusively agree with Monotheletism. Hence why I mentioned the ancient Cappadocians and Alexandrians, who were equally vague. To compare developed language by Maximus the Confessor to what Pope Shenouda tried to profess is not a fair comparison and does not help with your analysis. Elsewhere, you have St. Severus of Antioch who is more open is mentioning two wills. And even in Pope Shenouda’s quote there could be an implicit understanding of two wills. Furthermore, we believe in the theandric will, the divine will in incarnate form. This is the Orthodox tradition and it does not contradict Maximus beliefs
  • edited June 2019
    Furthermore, while Pope Shenouda represented the Coptic Church, he doesn’t represent the best quotes for theology of the Oriental Orthodox tradition as a whole historically. In fact, he’s not really the best representative of Coptic theology, and I will say that outright at this point because people tend to make that mistake, and I’m sorry if that sounds offensive to my Coptic brothers and sisters, but there comes a point in time that as much as one loves his father, one has to recognize his father is not infallible.

    Some things I wrote in the past:







  • Hi:

    > This last post is confusing. The Coptic church first off is not against Miaphysitism. It professes it. < 

    Oops. Sorry for the typo. I meant to say, “From this we can see that the Coptic fathers stood against Miathelitism.” The formula that the Chalcedonian Prefect Cyrus of Alexandria proposed for uniting with the non-Chalcedonians was “hen thelèma kai mia energeia.” My inquiry is really about the “will” not about “nature.” I read your previous articles and enjoyed their conceptual clarity. Here are statements you made:

    > Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta gave his own Coptic explanation of the "one will".  He saw no difference between the expression of "one will" in the Coptic Church and "two wills" in the Byzantines, Byzantines, as he interpreted the former to be pertaining to the prosopon of Christ whereas the latter pertains to the nature. <

    > we also need to acknowledge other scholarly voices, such as Fr. Richard Price's recent thoughts on the possible historical red herring of Monotheletism (i.e. that it might not have been dogmatically different from diotheletism). <

    > St. Cyril would have been quite annoyed at him, and would have asked his newfound friend John of Antioch to explain to him that he never changed his mind about "one nature", but simply was pastoral enough to recognize the theological equivalence of "two natures". <  

    > I have already explained HH's weaknesses in theology regarding the Scholastic influence he received.  I think the Coptic Church is beginning to turn the tide on this, learning from the mistakes of Chalcedonians who also had Scholastic infiltrations in their theological traditions not too long ago. <

    > One will find that in fact, these dialogues, of which Fr. Georges Florovsky had no scant participation in, showed that the men representing both sides agreed doctrinally on all issues, but had different interpretations of the historical and semantical perspectives. < 

    > In another debate I once had with another Chalcedonian, he also attacked St. Severus by saying that if you believe Christ is "one nature", then you inevitably have to believe that the Trinity is 3 natures.  OO theology was never concerned with making consistent the terms of nature between Christology and Trinitarian theology. Just because we believe Christ is one nature or one will DOES NOT MEAN we believe the Trinity is 3 natures or 3 wills.  OO theology, like St. Cyril himself, is very flexible with terminologies. Chalcedonians on the other hand developed a tradition of rigidity with terminology to keep some sort of metaphysical consistency. < 

    From these statements, I may conclude that 1) there is agreement on both sides on the issue of “will” and historical disagreements were caused by either politics or misunderstandings / misrepresentation; and 2) While the non-Chalcedonian definitions have soteriological value, the Chalcedonian definitions are more scientific and accurate in explaining the dogma under question.

    > Nestorianism upholds Monotheletism even more clearly. <

    I didn’t know this. Would you please explain?

  • Fr. John Romanides did a deeper study on the issue. He concluded that Theodore of Mopsuestia believed that “union by will” between human and divine nature meant there was no human will at all. It is completely a divine will. To Nestorian, allegedly, Christ was born without a human will, whereas saints and prophets acquire a way to lose the human will completely at the second coming. So in a way, there is still not much difference between Christ and the saints in their identity, especially if the same union of will will happen in the second coming in all humanity.

    It’s a very long and complicated paper separated in 2 parts, but I highly recommend it.


  • edited July 2019

    > Fr. John Romanides did a deeper study on the issue. <

    I like his articles but haven’t read this one. Thank you for the reference.

    I have a different question: After the incarnation, the hypostasis of the Son became one with the human hypostasis. This is something virtually all Christians agree on. It follows that the hypostasis of the Son changed at the incarnation. This contradicts the dogma of immutability of God. How does the Church reconcile this?

  • How do you define hypostasis?
  • edited July 2019
    Church Fathers introduced the concept of hypostasis to describe the Holy Trinity and also to describe the Incarnation. It doesn't mean an "individual person" but rather a "mode of being" or an "individuated existence." It is similar to the latin "persona" and the Aramaic "Eknoum." Is this your understanding, also?   

    The following quote is from the article you recommended: "St. Athanasius attacked the Arians by maintaining on the one hand the traditional attribution of all human properties and activities to the Logos, but on the other hand he made a clear distinction between the Word in His uncreated nature and the Same Word united to humanity by means of His Birth from the Virgin. The Logos is born, lives the life of rzian, suffers, and is resurrected not in His divine nature but in His humanity."

    Does it seem from this quote that St Athanasius was not worried about the concept of immutability?
  • edited July 2019
    Going back to the subject of "will":

    Nestorianism upholds Monotheletism even more clearly. <

    I haven't finished reading the long article you recommended. To my complete surprise, you are right in your assertion. For very strange reasons, Theodore of Mopsuestia did believe in monothelitism. Here are some quotes:

    > In this letter Theodore writes "and why is it necessary to say any more? The reason of the union according to essence is true (or applicable) only in the case of consubstantials, but in the case of things not consubstantial it is not applicable {or true), there being no clear (reason) possible for confusion. But the manner of union according to good-will, while preserving the natures, demonstrates the one person of both inseparably, and also the one will and one energy, together with the one authority and rule which is consequent to these." < 

    > Furthermore, whereas all other men have only partial participation in the grace of God, the man Jesus. has a complete communion effected by the perfect conjunction of natures. Because of this conjunction there is in Christ only one will and one energy. < 

    > In Theodore one clearly finds a Nestorian type Monotheletism and Monenergism which perhaps goes some way to explaining its diophysite counterpart of the seventh century. <

    > Thus, if Christ is perfect, He can have no natural will belonging to the very essence of human nature and differing by the will o f God from the will of God. Nor can there be any proper activity or energy of the creature which is not a duplication of the immutable and immobile divine nature. < 

    On the surface, it appears that Nestorians and Miaphysites are close when it comes to the question of will. But I haven't finished reading the very long article.

  • I’ll get back to your question on hypostasis later, but the difference is we as Miaphysites do acknowledge a natural human will, we just like to do so in the same way as we acknowledge natural human nature: “en theoria”.
  • edited July 2019
    About the subject of "will":

    > Fr. John Romanides did a deeper study on the issue. He concluded that Theodore of Mopsuestia believed that “union by will” between human and divine nature meant there was no human will at all. It is completely a divine will. To Nestorian, allegedly, Christ was born without a human will, <

    I finished reading the article and haven't found evidence for the claim that Theodore believed that the Lord had "no human will at all." 

    Even a lot of Chalcedonians expressed belief in Monothelitism before the Third Council of Constantinople in 680/681. These included Patriarch Macarius of Antioch who was deposed by the Council, Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople (610-638) and other patriarchs of Constantinople, and even Pope Honorius of Rome (625-638). 

    The council defined that Jesus Christ possessed two energies and two wills but that the human will was 'in subjection to his divine and all-powerful will'. 

    I think most people would agree with this definition regardless of whether they are EO, OO, or Nestorians. Only a follower of Apollinaris of Laodicea, who was condemned in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople, would disagree.
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