EVENTS PRECEDENT TO THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON1
FR. TADROS Y. MALATY
DISPUTE OVER THE PERSON OF CHRIST REOPENED
In the third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in the year
341 A.D, Nestorius was deposed from his See and ex-
communicated, his doctrines were condemned, the creed of
Nicea reaffirmed, and formal approval was given to the title
"Theotokos." The Antiochene side attacked these decisions.
On the arrival of John of Antioch, joined by Theodoret of
Cyrus and other bishops, a rival meeting was held at which
St. Cyril and Memnon of Ephesus were excommunicated and
deposed as guilty of violence and heresy... Every Party had
its supporters in the court, and the Emperor, more or less un-
certain, did not know which side to support. St. Cyril was
put into jail for two months and was then permitted to return
to his see, but Nestorius was exiled into Egypt where he died
in Upper Egypt. A reconciliation between John and Cyril was
finally effected in A.D 433. John sent Paul of Emesa to
Alexandria with credentials for Cyril and a profession of faith
that was to serve as the basis of an agreement. St. Cyril
accepted it and sent back to Antioch his famous letter
"Laetentur caeli" i.e., the "Formulary of reunion." The prob-
lem was externally solved, but the "Reunion" itself was being
taken in a different way by the Alexandrian and the
Antiochene sides. St. Cyril accepted it just as to lead the
Antiochenes to accept the Council of Ephesus (431)
unconditionally. The Antiochenes also were not satisfied by
the reunion, and they were angry for the exile of Nestorius.
Neither of the great parties was as a whole content with the
term of the Union Symbol. Now, the circumstances had been
changed and the controversy returned in a more severe form
which created a bitter schism in the Church, through the
Council of Chalcedon in A.D 451. We can summarize the
events in the following:
At Edessa, in A. D 435 a newly elected bishop Ibas turned
out to be a zealous disciple of Theodore of Mospuestia (an
Antiochene leader), and the dogmatic controversy now be-
gan to concentrate on Theodore's writings. John of Antioch
was replaced in A. D 443 by his nephew Domnus, who had a
weak and unstable character, a man only capable of sensible
decisions when he had Theodoret of Cyrus at hand to advise
him. In the year 444 St. Cyril died and was succeeded by
Dioscorus. At Constantinople Proclus was succeeded (A. D
446) by Flavian. He seemed to believe in "one incarnate
nature of the Word of God out of the two," but Theodoret of
Cyrus changed his mind.
According to church tradition St. Dioscorus sent letters to
his brothers the bishops. Theodoret of Cyrus replied with a
kind letter, wherein he praised his modesty and decency.
Theodoret declared his enmity to St. Dioscorus, for the latter
sent a letter to Domnus of Antioch, blaming him kindly and
openly for his encouragement to Theodoret to preach the
people with the Nestorian dualism of the Person of Christ,
despising the Council of Ephesus and declaring that Nesto-
rius was not a heretic. Domnus sent a kind reply
to St. Dioscorus, telling him that he enjoyed his letter because of his love and openness
ST. DIOSCORUS AND EUTYCHES
(c.378-454) was an Archmandrite of a
monastery at Constantinople. He was an old ascetic,
endowed with eloquence but he was not a true theologian.
Eutyches had widespread fame throughout the see of Con-
stantinople, within the monastic circles, the imperial court
and among the people. As a friend of St. Cyril, he received
from him a copy of the decisions of the Council of Ephesus
in A.D 431. He accepted the Alexandrian Christological
formula "one incarnate nature of the Word of God..." In his
eager opposition to Nestorianism, he defended the formula
"one nature" against that of the "two natures," but without
sound theological basis, as he inferred that the Godhead
absorbed the manhood of Christ.
Until today scholars cannot understand the character of Eutyches and his theology, for he sometimes used orthodox statements, against his main ideas. Perhaps because he was shaky in the theological knowledge, or because he was a deceiver, or even because he was cautious not to loose his fame or his position and priesthood.
A struggle occurred between Eutyches and Theodoret,
the latter accused St. Cyril of Apollinarianism, and published
a long attack against St. Cyril and Eutyches. Eusebius of
Dorylaeum tried to agitate Flavian of Constantinople to
condemn Eutyches. The Patriarch Flavian asked Eusebius to
treat this matter with wisdom but the latter insisted on the
condemnation of Eutyches before a council. The Council of
Constantinople was held in A.D 448, but Eutyches refused to
appear before the council till the seventh session. He denied
ever having said that Jesus' flesh came from heaven. He repeated that Christ took flesh of the Virgin Mary, and added that it was a complete incarnation, but he refused to conclude that His flesh was consubstantial with us.
Eusebius insisted on answering these two questions:
Was Christ consubstantial with us?
Were there in Him two natures after the Incarnation?
Concerning the first question he was hesitating, but he assured that the holy Fathers of the Church spoke of the "one nature."
Many scholars2 state that according to this council
discussions, Eutyches was not confirmed heretic, and that
Eusebius did not aim at gaining Eutyches to the truth but to
obliging him to accept the Nestorian dualism and that the
condemnation of Eutyches by the Council was a hasty action.
THE SECOND COUNCIL OF EPHESUS IN A.D 449
Eutyches condemnation caused many troubles in
Constantinople. His supporters accused Flavian and his
supporters of Nestorianism. Flavian had to excommunicate
some monastery leaders somewhat violently. Eutyches ap-
pealed to Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Thessalonica,
and through his friend Chrysophius, the chief Chamberlain,
he lodged a complaint to the emperor saying that those who
judged him desired to accept the Nestorian dualism, and that
the minutes of the Council had been falsified.
Leo of Rome wrote to Eutyches, praising his zeal in
opposing the Nestorian dualism, and at the same time wrote
to Flavian to be kind to Eutyches3. But he changed his mind
perhaps when he heard that the emperor wrote to St.
Dioscorus, Pope of Alexandria, summoning him to a council
to be held to discuss this matter. Leo, who had no real
knowledge of the nature of the conflict between the Alex-
andrian and Antiochine Christology sent his tome (letter) to
Constantinople on 13 June 449, not to work for the
reconciliation of the parties but to deform the Alexandrian
theologians. Tixeront's comment on this tome was : [This
letter has always been regarded as a dogmatic document of
exceptional value. Yet, it is decidedly inferior, in theological
inspiration, to the work of Cyril, and strictly so-called
speculation hardly finds any place in it at all. St. Leo does
not discuss or demonstrate; he judges and settles
Leo was occupied with "papacy"
more than the dogma of
the Church as we will see through the current events of the
fifth century. J.W.C. Wand states: [Leo was one of the
greatest of all ecclesiastical statesmen, and has been called the Father of Papacy5.]
This attitude was clear, as he wrote back to the emperor
that there was no need for a council, but that he was
nominating Julius of Puteoli, presbyter Renatus and deacon
Hilary as his delegates simply to satisfy the emperor6
declaring that his tome was enough to offer the needed
Emperor Theodosius II who was convinced with the
necessity to hold a council, asked Dioscorus to exercise
supreme authority over it as president, and asked Juvenal of
Jerusalem and Thalassius of Caesarea in Capadocia to be co-
presidents with him.
The decisions of the council were:
1. The Rehabilitation of Eutyches: It was not the error of St. Dioscorus that this council rehabilitated Eutyches, for these reasons:
a. Leo of Rome wrote to Pulcheria, saying that Eutyches
inclined into heresy because of his ignorance, if he repents
then let him be treated kindly. Leo declared the same idea in
his letters to Julus of Cios (448-458) and to Flavian7.
b. Eutyches declared orthodox statements, like: [For He
who is the Word of God came down from heaven without
flesh and was made flesh from the very flesh of the Virgin
unchangeable and inconvertible, in a way He Himself knew
and willed. And He who is always perfect God before the
ages was also made perfect man in the end of days for us and
for our salvation.]
2. Condemnation of the Nestorian leaders: Chadwick
states in his book "the Early Church" that the council went
on to depose the leading Nestorians, such as Ibas of Edessa,
Daniel of Charrae, Irenaeus of Tyre, Theodoret of Cyrus,
Domnus of Antioch and Flavian of Constantinople. The
minutes of this council in Syriac revealed their Nestorian
Many Chalcedonians state that the schism which occurred
through the council of Chalcedon was a reaction of what
happened in the Second Council of Ephesus; first because
Dioscorus omitted the Tome of Leo, and second because he
was violent. But we shall argue these two charges.
THE OMISSION OF THE TOME OF LEO
The Roman bishop considered this omission as a despise
for his Petrine authority, describing the council as "the
Robbers' Council," a title which is still used by many westerns!
It is noteworthy that this "Tome" was not written as a document to the council, but as a letter to the emperor and a copy had been sent to the council and handed to the delegates. This document had been given wide publicity in the East, even before the council was held. The bishops - and not Dioscorus alone - did not read it out of respect for the See of Rome. This Tome was read by Nestorius while he was in his exile and he declared his approval of it 8.
The Greek Prof. Florovsky says: [The tome of Leo, if
taken alone by itself, could have created the impression of an
excessive opposition of two natures especially by its per-
sistent attribution of particular acts of Christ to different
natures, without any adequate emphasis on the unity of
Christ's Person, although the intention of the Pope himself
was sound and orthodox. However the interprets of the
Tome by the Roman Catholic historians and theologians in
modern times quite often transfer a certain quasi Nestorian
bias, to which attention has been called recently by some
Roman Catholic writers themselves9.]
WAS ST. DIOSCORUS VIOLENT?10
1. The Council was not held on the demand of Pope Dioscorus, and there were no previous letters between the Alexandrian Pope and the emperors. This means that St. Dioscorus demanded no personal benefit.
2. The imperial letters did not describe St. Dioscorus with
titles more honorable than others. This means that there was
no previous agreement between the emperor and St.
3. The imperial letters revealed the increased theological troubles that spread in the See of Constantinople.
4. Decisions were accepted through voting, and we do not hear that one of the bishops who were present resented or withdrew from the Council, except Flavian and Eusebius on giving a statement against them.
5. In the opening word which Juvenal of Jerusalem addressed, he described Leo of Rome as a "saint" and "lover of God." These titles revealed the council's spirit.
6. When Leo of Rome asked the emperor of the West, Valentinus, his mother and his sister Pulcheria to intercede before Theodosius II, to summon another council, the latter sent them a letter praising the Council of Ephesus, starting that it was controlled by the fear of God.
7. In the imperial message at the opening of the Council,
the emperor revealed the violence of Theodoret of Cyrus.
8. In fact, until the last moment of this council, St.
Dioscorus did not speak an evil word against Rome, while
Leo in his epistles referred to our Pope as "that Egyptian
plunderer," and "preacher of the devil's errors," who tried to
force his "villainous blasphemies" on his brethren.
1. The Coptic Church.. as a Church of Erudition & Theology, p.100-1; 115.
2. Kelly: Early Christian Doctrines, 1978, p. 333; Jobland: The Life and Time of St. Leo the Great, p.216.
3. Gregorius B. Behnam: Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria, Defender of the Faith, Cairo 1968 (in Arabic), p. 93.
4. History of Dogmas vol. 3, p. 81.
5. A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500, 1965, p. 237.
6. Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum (ACO), Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1933, II, i,
7. Mgr. Hefele: Histoire de Conciles, Paris 1969, t2, p. 555-8. 8. Henry
Chadwick: The Early Church, 1974, p.202 [See Methodios Fouyes, Archbishop of Theateria..., Theological and Hist. Studies, v
.8, Athens 1985, p.15].
9. Methodois Fouyes, p.12,13.
10. The Coptic Church ... as a Church of Erudition & Theology, p.122