Corruption of Christ

Greetings to all brothers!

I am member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which has communion with the Coptic Orthodox Church.

As far as I know, our Churches agree on the doctrine of one Mia nature, but disagree on the doctrine of the corruption of Christ (before and after the Resurrection). That’s why, I’d like to know the teaching of the Coptic Church in this matter.

Thank you!


  • welcome. 
    i never heard of the 'corruption of Christ'.
    i don't think it is an orthodox Christian belief (i have been an orthodox Christian for 14 years)
    what do you mean by it?
  • Hello,

    The debate over corruptibility and incorruptibility of Christ was probably the most contentious Christological debate in the sixth century Church of Christ.

    There was a heretic named Julian of Halicarnassus who taught that Christ's nature was physically incorruptible even before the Resurrection of the Lord.  St Severus the Great exposed this heresy as a masked version of Docetism, in that it would posit that the sufferings of Christ were merely illusionary and not according to nature.

    The Armenian Orthodox Church probably never held to this position of Julianism.  But, they did receive a disciple of the heretic Julian named Abdisho, and Abdisho spread the falsehood that when St Severus proclaimed Christ to be corruptible, that He was speaking about a spiritual corruptibility or sinfulness.  This was obviously not taught by St Severus, in fact, St Severus affirmed this aspect of incorruptibility, since Christ took on everything except sin in His incarnation.

    It was due to Abdisho that the Armenian Orthodox Church temporarily anathematized St Severus for holding to Christ's incorruptibility, but later they came into full communion with the Church of Christ at the council of Manzikert in the eighth century and dropped their anathema on St Severus and made sure to anathematize Julian of Halicarnassus.

    In fact, this strawman of Abdisho made no sense, since Julian originally taught the Aphthartodocetae doctrine from reading St Severus' own work: the Philalethes, which was a comprehensive apologetic to the Chalcedonian sect.

    So, just keep this in mind; when Armenian Orthodox speak of Christ's "incorruptibility," they only mean it in the sense of Christ not having original sin, but when the rest of the Orthodox Church proclaims that Christ is "corruptible before the Resurrection," they are speaking about it in a bodily sense.  The reason that the Armenian Orthodox approach this from a different perspective is because of their tradition which they inherit from St Gregory the Illuminator.

    Neither the Severian explanation of Christ's corruptibility nor the Armenian explanation of Christ's incorruptibility are in any opposition, and when the Armenian Orthodox came back into full union, both parties understood that only the Severian and Armenian parties are Orthodox, and that all other parties are heterodox, which is why the reunion Council of Mazikert anathematizes the Chalcedonians.

    God bless you,
  • By the doctrine of corruption I mean that the human nature of Christ was changed in resurrection from corruption (not biological, but in passions) to incorruption (to the first nature of Adam). EO and Catholic Churches accept this doctrine.
  • Hello Mabsoota,

    The original poster is referring to the debate between St Severus and Julian of Halicarnassus.  You'll recall from your personal studies of the Chalcedonian schism of this debate from St Severus' "anti Julianist" writings and apologetics.  St Severus defended the corruptibility of Our Lord and Julian affirmed the heresy of the absolute incorruptibility of Our Lord (before the Ressurection).

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    St Severus never affirmed that the blameworthy passions were experienced by Christ, only blameless passions of hunger and sleep etc., it is these blameless passions which Christ did not have anymore after the Ressurection.  Julian claimed that Christ never even had the blameless passions, which if of course heretical.

    St Severus refers to "corruptibility" according to blameless passions, but that Christ never had blameworthy passions.

    The Armenian Orthodox Church acknowledges that Christ had blameless passions, but that Christ never had blameworthy passions, and it is this they call "incorruptibility."

    God bless you, and may the prayers of Sts Grigor Tatevatsi, Shahak II, and Severus the Great be with us all,
  • Hello, Dioscorus,

    Thank you for your answer!

    I am not sure that the anathema against Severus of Antioch does not exist today in the Armenian Church, because I heard from some priests the opposite information.

    Armenian theologians accused him of the fact that Christ experienced passions out of the necessity of nature, but not voluntarily (as Armenian Church teaches).

    Talking about the faith of Armenian Church, we believe that Christ took our sinful and corrupted body and soul from St Mary, and in incarnation made it incorrupted as the first nature of Adam. And He didn’t change in Ressurection.

    St Grigor Tatevatsi in his “Book of Questions” said:

    “Let us also say that He [Christ] did not take the first nature of Adam, but took our corruptible from the generation of Adam and, uniting it with Himself, changed it into the first innocent and incorruptible nature of Adam.”

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    Saying that Christ took from our sinful and corrupted body and soul from St Mary is not the same as saying that Christ's soul is corrupted by original sin.  Tatevatsi is saying that that which Christ took from (St Mary) had original sin, but that when Christ took our humanity, He was not spiritually fallen like Adam, but that He willed for His body to be subject to change (which is what Severians mean by "corruption" of the body).  Julian rejected that Christ even willed for His body to be subject to change, and said that the "willing" was merely on the level of the actions that Christ underwent, but not down to the body which those actions affected itself.

    As for the Armenian anathemas, these do not contain St Severus, they do however, contain those who are in actual disagreement with the Church:

    "I profess the orthodox faith and I confess the Holy Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the incarnation of Christ our God; and I anathematize all the ranks of heretics; Arius, Macedon, and Nestor, and all the ranks of Diophysites." - Rite of the Calling to the Priesthood, Armenian Orthodox Church

    "Do you anathematize Eutyches [...]; and the Aphthardocetae [...] and Leo and his "Tome," which he wrote for personal glory and not for the sake of truth, and thus schismed from the Church?" - ibid

    Unfortunately, some Armenian Orthodox think that the heresy of Christ's soul being corrupted by sin (blameworthy passions) was taught by St Severus the Great, but they are wrong.  That's why whenever we have a concelebrated liturgy, the bishops usually deliberate to have the Armenian Orthodox to read the commemoration of St Severus.  It's also why HH Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia venerated the relics of St Severus the Great with HH Pope Tawadros and HH Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.

    God bless you,
  • Hello Dioscorus,

    The difference between us I see in the little things.

    We believe that Adam before sin and Christ after Resurrection were still able to have some blameless and voluntary passions. That’s why we can’t call it “corruption”, because God can’t create from the very beginning something corrupted, but only incorrupted.

    That’s why in Manzikert in 726 we said:

    “10. If someone does not confess that Christ incorruptibly bore all human passion voluntarily; but in corruption, he will say, this is all, or the passions make him corruptible, and he does not confess according to the apostles and prophets and Orthodox teachers, let him be anathema.”

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    The way the blameless passions affect man is different before the fall and after the fall, and so it is experiencing the blameless passions qua after the fall which is called "corrupted."

    Manzikert is working from the incorruptibility terminology of the Armenian tradition which relates to the blameworthy passions - so in other words; Christ is incorruptible in this regard even before the passions.  That's all it is saying, which is why someone is anathema if they say that the passions make him "corruptible" in the sense of sin.

    God bless you,
  • Hello Dioscorus,

    What is the difference between blameless passions before and after fall in your opinion?

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    For one, after the fall the blameless passions affect one in physically damaging ways (sleep depravation, starvation, etc.) and ultimately these can lead even to physical death.  We don't believe that Christ's death was on account of having sinned, but instead to be because Christ according to His physicality was "mutable" and therefore "corruptible."  He was able to undergo physical damage and physical pains, and ultimately death, and this according to nature which He chose to take on for the salvation of our race.

    God bless you,
  • Hello Dioscoros,

    Here is the difference. We believe that Adam (if he would have wanted by his free will) could felt starvation before fall.

    Khosrovik Targmanich, great Armenian theologian took part in Manzikert Council. Не wrote:

    «He [Christ] manifested in His flesh all human passions, spiritual and bodily, as much as He wished, when and where He wished. And to show ... that it was not for sins that these passions became allied with our nature, but were bestowed on us by the Creator for longevity as a help by nature.»

    He also wrote:

    «Again, if there were no spiritual and bodily passions in the creation of God, then Christ preferred to put on not the passionless creation he created, but ours, which became capable of passions through sins. Consequently, you and I recognized our sinful nature, which allegedly became preferable and desirable for Him, to be much more beautiful and perfect. So, why should I continue their false nonsense and mythical nonsense? Further, we will continue our philosophizing, which is the truth!»

    So, we believe that Jesus Christ can’t save our world using something, that appeared because of Adam sin.

    God bless you,
  • thanks for explaining.
    just remember that our Lord did not take a human nature which had original sin, because original sin is not inherited anyway.
    what is inherited is corruptability (not corruption), which is the tendency to sin, and also mortality.
    it was not until the latin scholar anselm started misunderstanding the writings of earlier church fathers in the 1,000s that people (in the church of the western roman empire that became the catholic church) started believing in the inheritence of sin itself.
    unfortunately many catholic scholars infiltrated the coptic orthodox church from the 1,700s onward so many copts mistakenly say that we inherit 'original sin'.

    but i am not an expert on the discussions of the 600s and 700s between the armenian orthodox church and the other churches, so i'll defer to you both on that one.
    i have taken Holy Communion in the armenian church though
  • Mabsoota, dear friend,

    You are right. Original sin is not a sin in the sense of personal guilt, but a distortion of our nature. Its main consequence is the "death of the soul", i.e. lack of fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

    Luckily, fellowship with God can be restored in baptism. In the general resurrection, the incorruption of the body will be also restored.

    God bless you,
  • Hello Mabsoota,

    Christ did not take on the tendency to sin, which is why His temptation was purely from without, and in no way from within.  St Mary did have this "tendency to sin" and was purified in the Annunciation, though she never committed any actions of sin.  What Christ took on was the blameless passions (not blameworthy passions) and in these blameless passions, He is able to be bodily corrupted by crucifixion and the like, which is distinct from how in the Resurrection, the glorified will be not just incorrupt qua "without corruption" but also "incorruptible" qua "unable to become corrupted in any sense."  This is why Our Lord is seen walking through walls after His Ressurection.

    It would be nice if Anselm started the ideas peculiar to him, but unfortunately he drew from errors that St Augustine made.  At the same time, we recognize that there is a legitimate transmission of original sin as taught by St Cyril of Alexandria and the rest of the Fathers, though we don't accept any innovations that came from other Holy Fathers like St Augustine, and we certainly distance ourselves from heretical figures who based their anthropology on errors.  The Coptic Orthodox Church has not been "infiltrated by catholic scholars," on the contrary, the Coptic Orthodox Church after this period was rebaptizing Latins who came out from schism.

    God bless you,
  • thanks, both, for the comments.
    i think it is possible to take saint augustine's writings and use them in an orthodox way, personally i think the main error was made by anselm, but i accept this is open to debate.
    as for infiltration by catholic teaching, i mean that in the 1700s and 1800s there were efforts from the roman church to change the coptic orthodox church, which is why we have a coptic catholic church. it is great to hear that many people from that group have gone back to the orthodox church.
    however it is also possible that a lot of the incorrect theology came from the anglican church from britain, which definately had a strategy of infiltrating the orthodox church by influencing young people who then took on the ideas in their teaching (especially in sunday schools). 
  • Dear Dioscoros,

    I wonder, do you agree with this statement?

    "The word corruption has two meanings. For it signifies all the human sufferings, such as hunger, thirst, weariness, the piercing with nails, death, that is, the separation of soul and body, and so forth. In this sense we say that our Lord«"s body was subject to corruption. For He voluntarily accepted all these things. But corruption means also the complete resolution of the body into its constituent elements, and its utter disappearance, which is spoken of by many preferably as destruction. The body of our Lord did not experience this form of corruption, as the prophet David says, For Thou will not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption.

    Wherefore to say, with that foolish Julianus and Gaianus, that our Lord's body was incorruptible, in the first sense of the word, before His resurrection is impious. For if it were incorruptible it was not really, but only apparently, of the same essence as ours, and what the Gospel tells us happened, viz. the hunger, the thirst, the nails, the wound in His side, the death, did not actually occur. But if they only apparently happened, then the mystery of the dispensation is an imposture and a sham, and He became man only in appearance, and not in actual fact, and we are saved only in appearance, and not in actual fact. But God forbid, and may those who so say have no part in the salvation. But we have obtained and shall obtain the true salvation. But in the second meaning of the word «corruption,» we confess that our Lord's body is incorruptible, that is, indestructible, for such is the tradition of the inspired Fathers. Indeed, after the resurrection of our Saviour from the dead, we say that our Lord»"s body is incorruptible even in the first sense of the word. For our Lord by His own body bestowed the gifts both of resurrection and of subsequent incorruption even on our own body, He Himself having become to us the firstfruits both of resurrection and incorruption, and of passionlessness. For as the divine Apostle says, This corruptible must put an incorruption."

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    We absolutely agree with this.  Srb Hovhannes Odzneci says it and it is a brilliant refutation of Julianites and Chalcedonites because it shows the corruptibility of the Savior before the Resurrection according to the Severian definition as necessary, while showing that the Armenian definition of corruption, that Christ is free from this.  This definition of corruption is used in St Macarius' Letter to the Armenians, for which he commands the Armenians use unmixed wine and unleavened bread for the Eucharist.  There was no dissolving of the constituent elements of the body into the Earth, and Christ was free from this corruption on account of the union.

    God bless you,
  • Dear Dioscoros,

    You have just agreed with the exact Chalcedonian definition of Christ's corruption. I copied the text of their Father John of Damascus ( Usually, these are the lines the Chalcedonites use when they have a polemic with us.

    According to Chalcedonians, corruption (in the sense of suffering) is a consequence of original sin, which Christ took from Mary. It turns out that Christ did not improve all the consequences of original sin in his nature, but allowed some of them to be prior to the Resurrection.

    Problems arise from this:

    1) Christ's pre-Resurrection nature was not fully corrected, which means that the pattern of the union of the natures was changed in the Resurrection.

    2) In this scheme, it appears that the corruptible nature is more perfect than the incorruptible nature because Christ was able to save mankind using the corruptible nature, but not incorruptible. 

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    John of Damascus stole some things from the Orthodox Church Fathers (as well as Nestorius' analogy of a man carrying another man, which he slightly modified to hide his bile), this would count as one of them.  Here is what St Odzneci says for instance:

    "The noun ‘corruptibility’ distinguishes two kinds of corruptibility. First, it is called the lack of corruptibility, as hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and death, which belong to the body. The body of the lord was corruptible in this sense, for He willingly underwent all theseThe second kind of corruptibility is the complete disappearance of the body, as David said, ‘You will not abandon me to the grave, no will you let your Holy One see corruptibility’ (Ps. 15:10 LXX). Therefore, saying that the Lord’s body is incorrupt, as [the heretic] Julian says, according to the first kind is not true, for He underwent all until death, for if He did not, He is not homoousios [of like nature] with us. [The Incorruptionists] say that all, fatigue, suffering and death, were [merely] in appearance to the eye, and if He was [merely] an appearance to the eye, in that case all economia, miracles and mystery of salvation were in vain. If He became man in semblance and not truly, then man was not saved and the call of salvation was in vain. And according to the second kind of corruptibility, the body of the Lord is incorrupt, that is, it was incorrupt and remained so in death and after death, as the God-bearing holy Fathers taught us. And after the resurrection of the dead, we call the body of the Lord incorrupt according to the first kind also, for the Lord gave to our bodies after the resurrection of the dead and eternal life the same incorruptibility as His body, when He became the first of the resurrection and the incorruptibility and the strength of us, for ‘the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable’ (1 Cor. 15. 53)."
    - St. Hovhannes Odzneci, On the Incarnation of the Word

    So, to answer your problems:
    1. No, Christ cannot be said to have original sin merely because He had what St Hovhannes calls "the first type of corruption."  The first type of corruption is only a result of original sin when it is undergone unwillingly.  When Christ takes on the first type of corruption willingly, this is not on account of original sin, but on account of His philanthropic union.
    2. Again, only a nature which has "the first type of corruption" can be sacrificed, since an impassible nature cannot be pierced, like when the Lord Jesus Christ walked through walls yet without phantasy.  But it is not possible any longer for the Son after the resurrection to experience the first type of corruption.  Needless to say, the Son did not ever have the second type of corruption.

    My counter question to you, is:
    How can we say that there are not two types of corruption, one which the Lord Jesus ceased having at the Resurrection, and the other which the Lord Jesus never had, when we have the clearest Biblical testimony utilized by the Orthodox saints?  See the below for reference (DRA):

    And to shew that he raised him up from the dead, not to return now any more to corruption, he said thus: I will give you the holy things of David faithful.
    - Acts 13:34 (this type of corruption Christ had to have before the Holy Resurrection, since He never returns to what He once had)

    Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt then give thy holy one to see corruption.
    - Pslam 16:10 (this type of corruption Christ could never have, since the Holy One never sees the corruption)

    God bless you,
  • edited May 2023
    Dear Dioscoros,

    I'm not sure if this is an authentic quote from Hovhannes Odznetsi. I would be glad if you could provide a link to this work.
    I would like to comment on your answers:

    1. Christ accepts neither original sin nor its consequences. Immaculate passions (like hunger and suffering) are not the result of original sin, as St. Hovhannes Odznetsi writes:

    "Hunger as well and other similar passions were not acquired together with death and decay"(Saint Hovhannes Odznetsi, Word against Docetes)

    The same we can find in the works of Khosrovik Targmanich, a Father of Manzikert Council:

    "These passions [of Christ] are not the result of original sin, but these passions are a gift of God, to help nature of man."(Khosrovik Targmanich, That the body of Christ was subject to the passions)

    "It must be confessed that the Savior truly bore human passions, but the corruption which is born of our passions was not mingled with the passions of the Savior"(Khosrovik Targmanich, Word against the Julianites and Jakobites)

    2. Jesus had nature which can not be pierced (by his will) both before ressurection. St. Grigor Tatevatsi writes:

    "Again, it is known that after the resurrection the bodies of the common people will undergo four changes:

    First: Transparency (that is, permeability to material objects). And this was manifested by Christ being born of a virgin.
    Fourth: the imperishability of the body. And this was revealed by Christ in the Upper Room, when He gave His incorruptible body to the Apostles, for if it was corruptible, what use was it to the eaters?

    And Christ manifested all four before His crucifixion, so that the evil-minded may not say that the Savior's body was changed after the resurrection, but that from conception in the womb He had in His body secretly, which after the resurrection He manifested in the body openly."

    So, Jesus could become mortal or immortal, passible or impassible when he wanted. And there is no need for any change after resurrection.

    So we see that not all passions are the result of original sin. Consequently, Christ corrected our nature in the incarnation and it made no sense for Him to change. So, we avoid the heresy of Julian, and do not say that Christ saved us by a result of original sin.

    God bless you,
  • Dear Dioscoros,

    Let's discuss Acts 13:34.

    And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.(Acts.13:34)

    So just after this we can find:

    Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Acts.13:35)

    According to the context of the chapter, the apostle is talking about one sense of corruption here.

    However, you said that this type of corruption Christ could never have, since the Holy One never sees the corruption:

    For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Ps.15:10)

    We can conclude that the Scripture quotations you cite refer to only one meaning of corruption. And the phrase now "no more to return to corruption" does not mean that he had corruption before, but that he will not have corruption in the future.

    Dear Dioscoros, I have a question for you. As far as I know (and most likely I don't know something), there is no compulsory reason in the Armenian Church to accept this particular understanding of the question of corruptibility. As we have found out, the Council of Manazkert can be interpreted in different ways. I am not aware of any other councils raising this question. Are there any Local Councils in the Coptic Church which clarify theology of corruptibility?

    God bless you,
  • edited November 2023
    Dear Dioscoros,

    I have just read book «The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined». And I have several questions about corruption theme.

    1) Does the Coptic Church really believe that Adam was corruptible before the Fall? If so, a) did he have vicious passions? b) Was he physically corrupted before the Fall (getting old, decaying)?

    2) Was Jesus physically corrupted before Ressurection (getting old, decaying)?

    3) What does it mean from the book «we say that Christ suffered voluntarily, we do not refer this to his manhood, but to God the Son.» (p.235)? Do you think, that Jesus had freely chosen to save us only as God, bot not as man?

    God bless you,
  • And one more question, brothers

    Are there any councils in the Coptic or Syrian Church that confirm the teaching of Sevier about corruption and anathematize others?

    Or is this only the opinion of Severus of Antioch, as a teacher of the Church?
  • the second question is difficult (i haven't read that much) but as for the first, adam was sinless untill he chose to sin.
    i don't know if he was getting old, maybe others can answer that.
    (i didn't meet him, i am old but not as old as him, ha ha!)

    our Lord Jesus Christ was certainly getting old in the usual way (although you must be <25 if you consider 33 to be old!) - He died so definitely experienced bodily corruption.
    however He then raied the physical body from the dead which was 'raised in incorruption' as saint paul explains in 1 corinthians 15: 42-49).
    saint macarius writes more about this in homily number 5 - let me know if you would like me to paste the relevant parts of it here.

    i don't know what vicious passions are - it sounds like something from the roman church.
  • To my mind, this is a very important question. Yes, Christ grew and learned, but at 33 years old He reached the perfect and final age of human nature. Therefore, if He had not decided to go to the Cross, die, rise again and ascend, He would not have aged and would never have died of old age in the future, because He was a complete and perfect man at 33. And at the cellular level there was no destruction in Christ. No genetic illnesses. Therefore, He did not decay in the tomb.

    However, this in no way prevents Christ from truly suffering and dying. Because dying and suffering is not part of decaying. Death and decay have a fundamental difference. Saint Gregory of Tatev writes:

    "And so, one is death, and the other is corruption, and this is clear from their actions. Death, when it enters, separates the soul and body, this is its business. And corruption enters with distortion, and what is divided begins to distort (change) until the whole body is dissolved (decomposed) into the elements: “For you are dust, and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19).

    Like, for example, if someone cuts down a tree, and another begins to cut and divide it in order to burn it; Likewise, death cuts off from life, but corruption continues to dissect. Further, death divides personality, and decay corrupts nature...

    We can say that the flesh of the Lord God is tormented and mortal, but it cannot be said that the flesh is corrupted. For the Imperishable Flesh is from the Imperishable Virgin, united with the Imperishable Essence of God. And that the Flesh of Christ is incorruptible is in our “Confession of Faith,” which we keep unchanged."

    If we deny biological incorruptibility, we will face a lot of problems. It becomes incomprehensible how the Flesh of Christ before the Resurrection could be life-giving and give eternal life if it itself did not have this. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life” (John 6:54)

    How can it give eternal life if it itself tends to death by nature? It is not clear why the Apostles took communion before the Resurrection, if the Flesh was not deified. Then it is simply useless.

    Likewise, the patristic analogy of iron and fire becomes useless. If the flesh is corrupted in the biological sense, the fire does not actually heat the iron. There is no change in iron. And there is simply no hypostatic union.
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