Episco-Fact #131
March 7, 2019

In recent FORUM's concerning the first three thousand years of Christianity, you have mentioned two groups who are Orthodox but see the person of Jesus differently from the way Episcopalians do. Can you say more about that?

Certainly, more can be said about those forms of Christianity and if you are still curious, there will be another presentation on Sunday, March 17 at 9:15 am and 11:30 am that will focus primarily on the diophysite strain and its evangelism.

Firstly, just a reminder, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, and more are both Nicene and Chalcedonian Christians. The Nicene Creed is said every Sunday within our Eucharistic service and the "Definition of the Union of the Divine and Human Natures in the Person of Christ "(rolls right off the tongue, does it not?) is on page 864 of the BCP 1979.

On to the first group of Nicene, non-Chalcedonians, the monophysites, or modern-day, and more accurately self-described, miaphysites. They are the theological descendants of Cyril of Alexandria, a fifth century theologian and Metropolitan Bishop (Alexandria was a big city, even then) As the Church of the Eastern Roman Empire moved into discussions of how Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity could be both human and divine, Cyril proposed that Jesus was of one nature and one will, The nature of Jesus was a composite of the Divine Christ, or Logos, and the human Jesus. This proposal was ultimately rejected by the "official" church of the Eastern Roman Empire. Cyril was cast as a heretic by the Byzantine hierarchy and beloved by Miaphysite believers ever since. Churches that are Nicene and Miaphysite are Oriental Orthodox Churches, which include, but are not limited to, the Armenian Apostolic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Malankara Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Ethiopian Tewahedo Church, and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The second major group of Nicene Churches that rejected the theological position of the Constantinopolitan Church are the Diophysites. They descend from the theology of Nestorius, who was condemned for his position at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. Nestorius proposed that Jesus had two natures which were separate and yet conformed to one will. It was Nestorius' desire to protect the humanity of Jesus. His formulation led him to deny the title attributed to Mary, the mother of Jesus, by many in the church at that time, and today—Theotokos, Mother of God. This led his opponents to claim that he denied the divinity of Jesus. What remains of this once vibrant and geographically diverse church is the Assyrian Church of the East.

 

David