THE FORMATION OF ORTHODOX CHRISTOLOGY


The great dogmatic debate of the fourth century concerned the divinity of Christ; the great dogmatic debate of the fifth century (and after) concerned his humanity. Or, rather, it concerned the unity of his Person, and the relation of the divine to the human within that unity. And this, as it happened, would prove to be the most contentious doctrinal dispute in Christian history prior to the Reformation, and the most divisive. In addition to giving rise to a host of newer, more precise theological formulae, the ultimate effect of these 'Christological controversies' was a fragmented Church.


[Two figures from the Christology debate of the fourth and fifth centuries —  St Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as St Gregory the Theologian) and, St Cyril of Alexandria - are depicted in a 14th-century icon painting]


All the Christians of the time, of course, believed that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God; and all faithful members of the Nicene Church believed the divine Son to be co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. 


(CO-EQUAL?  DEPENDS  WHAT  YOU  MEAN!  IT  IS  ABUNDANTLY  CLEAR  FROM  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  THAT  GOD  THE  FATHER  IS  THE  GREATEST  IN  "AUTHORITY"  OF  ANYONE  IN  THE  UNIVERSE.  JESUS  SITS  ON  HIS  RIGHT  HAD  IN  THE  HEAVENLY  THRONE....BOOK  OF  REVELATION  MAKES  THIS  AS  CLEAR  AS  A  CLOUDLESS  DAY.  I  HAVE  PROVED  IN  OTHER  STUDIES  THE  FATHER  IS  SUPREME  IN  AUTHORITY.  I  HAVE  PROVED  THE  "TRINITIY"  TEACHING [IN  ITS  TWO  OR  THREE  FORMS  AS  TAUGHT  BY  CATHOLICS  AND  PROTESTANTS]  TO  BE  A  FALSE  DOCTRINE  -  Keith Hunt)


But in what sense then had he become a man? Had he merely assumed human flesh? Or had he assumed also a human soul, a human mind, a human will? If Christ was both God and man, did this mean that he was somehow a composite of the two, producing some sort of 'third genus'? Or did his divinity 'swallow up' his humanity? Or was he a kind of harmonious alliance within one body between two distinct personalities, one divine and one human?


Practical Doctrinal Issues


These were not abstract concerns.The Church taught that in Christ, God had assumed our humanity in order to heal it of sin and death and to join it to himself in a divinizing union. And Gregory of Nazianzus, in the fourth century, had enunciated the principle by which Christological reflection had therefore to be governed: what had not been assumed had not been healed — which is to say, if any part of our humanity was absent from Christ, then that part of our humanity had never been saved.


The 'Mother of God'


The 'Christological crisis' began in Constantinople in 428, though its initial cause was a dispute not over Christ - at least, not directly - but over his mother. The trouble began when Nestorius (d.c.451), a theologian educated in Antioch, was made bishop of Constantinople on the recommendation of Emperor Theodosius II (401—50). Nestorius quickly distinguished himself by his eloquence and by his brashness, and both qualities were put on full display in a series of sermons he delivered - beginning on the first day of Christmas 428 - denouncing the established Constantinopolitan practice of referring to the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos: 'God-bearer' or 'Mother of God'. The title was not common in Antioch and struck Nestorius as theologically dubious; as mother of Jesus the man, of course, Mary merited all praise, but no-one could be said to be mother of the eternal God.


Opinions differ on whether the 'heresy' called 'Nestorianism' was ever actually advanced by Nestorius himself; but one prominent Antiochian approach to Christology tended to emphasize the complete integrity of both the humanity and the divinity of Christ, almost to the point of dividing Christ into two distinct agencies —'the son of Mary' and 'the Son of God' - who coexisted within the one prerson (that is, the 'personality' or 'character') of Jesus of Nazareth. The so-called Nestorian heresy is the teaching that, in Christ, the divine Logos intimately associated himself with a naturally and completely human person. Whether this was indeed Nestorius' view, his refusal to call Mary the 'Mother of God' seemed to many Christians effectively to deny that God had really become human. A moral association between the Logos and a man would not be a real incarnation — and, again, what was not assumed by Christ was not healed by Christ.


Nestorius' great opponent was the brilliant, if sometimes intemperate, Bishop Cyril of Alexandria (c.375—444), who - in good Alexandrian fashion — believed that the doctrine of the incarnation was only true if, in Christ, the one divine Person of the eternal Logos had, while remaining God, become a man: that is, only if, in the most radical sense, there was one Person in Christ, the 'eternal Logos as a man'. Mary is indeed the Theotokos, because the man who was her son was also God the Son. Cyril sought and received the support of Pope Celestine I (d.432) against Nestorius, and in 431 a council was convened in

Ephesus, whose ultimate result - after a few political complications — was that

Nestorius was condemned and sent into perpetual exile.


One Incarnate Nature


The controversy, however, was just beginning; and now the source of the difficulty was Alexandria. For, if the Antiochian tendency was to stress the integrity of the divine and human natures to the neglect of the unity of Christ's Person, the Alexandrian tendency was the opposite. Cyril himself was wont to speak of Jesus as possessing a 'single incarnate nature', which to the ears of many Christians elsewhere seemed to suggest that, in Christ, the divine nature had wholly displaced the human nature: which, again, would mean that God had not really become a man. 


As it happens, the word 'nature' (physis), as used in Alexandria, often had the connotation of 'substance' or 'concrete reality', but in other parts of the Church the word had a somewhat more abstract meaning. Cyril was intelligent enough to recognize that terminology was not consistent throughout the Christian world, and so subscribed in 433 to a declaration — intended as a compromise between the Alexandrian and Antiochian positions - that Christ was one Person (that is, the eternal Son of God) possessing two complete natures (divine and human). Not all of his theological kith, though, were willing to follow his lead.


After Cyril's death, the cause of 'monophysitism' (that is, the doctrine that Christ possessed only one physis or nature) was taken up with a special vigour — though without much philosophical finesse - by a fervent disciple of Alexandrian theology named Eutyches (r.375—454). According to him, there were 'two natures before the Incarnation, and one after'. In other words, in the Incarnation, Christ's humanity was wholly assumed into his divinity. In 448, Eutyches' position was condemned at a synod in Constantinople. In 449, Pope Leo I 'the Great' (d.461) lent his support to the Constantinopolitan synod by issuing the document known as 'Leo's Tome', in which he upheld the doctrine of Christ's two natures — inseparable but unconfused - within the unity of the one divine Person of the incarnate Logos. Eutyches, however, turned for succour to the patriarch of


[In ancient times Ephesus in present-day Turkey was an important sea port and centre of commerce. At its heart stood the Roman library, originally built in i 15—25 and dedicated to the proconsul Celsus. A mile to the north of the library stands the Church of St Mary, where the Council of Ephesus was convened in 431]


Ephesus - known in later Church history as the 'Robber Synod' — which restored Eutyches to communion and condemned the 'dyophysite' (or 'two natures') position. In 451, however, under the emperor Marcian (396—457), the great Council of Chalcedon (the Fourth Ecumenical Council) was convened, which reaffirmed the 'dyophysite' position, condemned monophysitism and adopted Leo's Tome as an authoritative statement of orthodox doctrine.


(TO  USE  ROMAN  THEOLOGY  WORDS  "LEO'S  TOME"  IS  CORRECT  -  Keith Hunt)


The Aftermath


Chalcedon marked the end of an undivided Catholic order. Monophysite communions - the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Church, the Syrian Jacobite Church, the Armenian Church — broke with Constantinople and Rome. So did the Nestorian communion, in East Syria and Persia. Collectively, these are now often referred to as the 'Oriental Churches'.


The great tragedy of the Christological controversies was that, for the most part, the Churches were divided more by language than by belief. The so-called Monophysites, for instance, never meant to deny the full and inviolable humanity of Christ. The so-called Nestorians never meant to deny the real unity of God and man in Christ. There were, however, powerful political forces at play as well: the division of the 'Oriental' Churches from Rome and Constantinople was partly the result of indigenous resentment of imperial power.


Over the next two centuries, various attempts were made by Byzantine emperors to placate the Monophysites, with one or another theological compromise. The patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius I (d.638) proposed two different conciliatory formulae. The first was 'monoenergism': the theory that Christ — though he possessed two natures - possessed only one 'operation' or 'activity', and that divine; this was favoured by the emperor Heraclius (c.575-641), but was ultimately rejected by both the Greek and Latin Churches as implicitly denying Christ's full humanity. Sergius then proposed instead the theory of 'monothelitism', according to which Christ — though he possessed two natures - nevertheless possessed only a single will, and that divine. This was the position favoured by Emperor Constans II (630—68).


The most devastatingly subtle critique of the monothelite position was that of the great Maximus the Confessor (c.580-662), who was repaid for his opposition to imperial policy by having his tongue torn out and his right hand hacked off, before being banished to die in exile. Pope St Martin I (d.655), Maximus' ally, was also sent into exile in the Crimea, and he too soon succumbed to the ordeal.


(OF  COURSE  CHRIST'S  WILL  WAS  ALWAYS  SET  TO  THE  "DIVINE"  - HE  SAID  HE  CAME  TO  DO  THE  FATHER'S  WILL,  NOT  HIS  OWN.

YOU  ALSO  SEE  HERE  THE  DEPTH  OF  EVIL  IN  THE  ROMAN  CHURCH  BY  MAXIMUS  THE  CONFESSOR  HAVING  HIS  TONGUE  TORN  OUT  AND   HIS  RIGHT  HAND  HACKED  OFF.......  AND  OH  MY  THAT  IS  JUST  A  FRACTION  OF  ONE  PERCENT  OF  THE  EVIL  TO  COME  FROM  CATHOLIC  ROME  -  Keith Hunt)


THE DEATH OF HYPATIA

[20th-century engraving is often used to represent Hypatia. A brilliant lecturer in mathematics and Platonic philosophy, later tradition credited her with several commentaries on arithmetical and geometric texts]


One of the more monstrous tales of violence to emerge from the perpetually violent streets of ancient Alexandria is that of the death of the female pagan philosopher and mathematician Hypatia (c.355—415), who was savagely assassinated and dismembered by the Parabolani of Alexandria, originally a Christian charitable fraternity devoted to the impoverished ill. Cyril of Alexandria has often been accused of direct complicity in her murder, but of this he was innocent. Nevertheless, she was definitely killed because she was suspected of having prevented a rapprochement between Cyril and the imperial prefect Orestes.


Hypatia's death has often been mythologized as a kind of martyrdom; it is fashionable to claim that she was murdered by Christian zealots on account of her paganism, her scientific researches and her sex. For (so the legend goes) the Christians of the time, in addition to hating all non-Christians, were hostile to learning and science, and especially despised women who presumed to dabble in such things.



Actually, there was no pronounced prejudice against woman scholars in the fifth century, especially not in the Eastern empire, among either Christians or pagans; such women were to be found in both communities. And learning and science were pursuits of the educated class, which comprised Christians and pagans alike.



Hypatia, moreover, was apparently on extremely good terms with the Christian intellectuals of Alexandria, not being an habituee of the local pagan cults, and she numbered many Christians among her students and associates.The warmest portrait of her that we possess, as well as the frankest account of her murder, was written by the Christian Church historian Socrates.


Hypatia died because she inadvertently became involved in one of the conflicts that were constantly erupting - in Alexandria between the warring tribes in the streets. But, in the social and intellectual world to which she belonged, all the attainments of classical culture were the common property of all philosophies, including the Christian 'philosophy'.


'After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.This affair brought down great opprobrium, not only upon Cyril, but also upon the whole Alexandrian Church. And surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights and transactions of that sort'

Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History (on the murder of Hypatia), 440s

....................


TO  BE  CONTINUED


THE  STORY  AND  LIFE  OF HYPATIA  IS  CAPTURED  ON  FILM,  MADE  IN  2010,  CALLED  SIMPLY  "AGARA"  -  SAYS  ON  THE  FRONT  COVER:  "A  HOLY  WAR  BECOMES  HELL  ON  EARTH."

ON  THE  BACK  COVER:  "QUITE  SIMPLY,  FLAT-OUT-GORGEOUS" - Todd Brown.  "EPIC" - Mike  Sargent.


"WHEN  A  VIOLENT  RELIGIOUS  BATTLE  ERUPTS  UPON  THE  CITY  OF  ALEXANDRIA,  THE  FATE  OF  THE   ANCIENT  WORLD  IS  LEFT  IN  THE  HANDS  OF  HYPATIA.  LIVING  IN  A  SOCIETY  THREATENED  BY  HER  LIFE  AND  WORKS,  SHE  BECOMES  THE  CENTER  OF  AN  EPIC  BATTLE  THAT  CHANGES  HISTORY  FOREVER."


IT  CERTAINLY  SHOWS  YOU  THAT  SO-CALLED  "CHRISTIANS"  WERE  NOT  THEOLOGICALLY  GOING  TO  HOLD  BACK  ON  SHEDDING  BLOOD...... A  PART  OF  WHAT  WAS  ALL  TOO  OFTEN  THE  HISTORY  OF  ROMAN  "CHRISTIAN"  THEOLOGY  DOWN  THROUGH  THE  CENTURIES.


Keith Hunt