The Early Church Christological Controversies
The Early Church

Disputes shaping the orthodox teaching that Jesus Christ is one person with two natures, one fully human and the other fully divine.

These controversies occurred against the background of the Trinitarian controversies in which orthodox teachers maintained that Christ is of one substance with the Father. How, then, theologians asked, can Christ also be fully human? Three preliminary answers were eventually condemned as heretical. Apollinarianism maintained that in Jesus the Word of God (Logos) took the place of a human mind. Nestorianism taught that in Christ there are two distinct natures and two distinct persons. Eutycheanism held that Christ is of one substance with the Father but not of one substance with humankind. All of these alternatives were eventually rejected by orthodox teachers.Two theologians in particular contributed to the development of orthodox teaching. Cyril of Alexandria from the East taught that in Christ there are two complete and distinct natures, a human and a divine, which are however of the same and undivided substance. Pope Leo I from Rome maintained that Jesus Christ is one person of the divine Trinity with two distinct natures that are permanently united. These two natures share properties through the so-called communicatio idiomatum or sharing of attributes between the divine and human natures of Christ. The Council of Chalcedon (451) affirmed that Christ is one hypostasis or prosopon ("person") with two natures, one fully human and one fully divine. These two natures are said to share or communicate attributes through the so-called communicatio idiomatum. Chalcedon thus condemned extreme Antiochene tendencies in rejecting the teachings of Nestorius, but respected the two natures of Christ. The council resisted extreme Alexandrian teaching in repudiating Eutyches, but accepted the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria. It also incorporated elements of Roman teaching from the Tome of Leo. It thus combined Antiochene, Alexandrian, and Roman tendencies. After the Council of Chalcedon, some opponents of its teaching advanced monophysite views which tended toward the position that Christ was of one human nature. Still later, others urged a monothelite position, arguing that Christ has two natures but the one divine will of the Logos. In time, however, the Chalcedonian position prevailed throughout most of the churches of the East and the West.

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