THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON LEO OF ROME AND THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON
FR. TADROS Y. MALATY
The delegates of Rome returned to their bishop declaring
their failure to protect Flavian and his company. Leo wrote
to Theodosius II against St. Dioscorus, and the Church of
Constantinople and lastly asked Valentinian III, through his
wife Eudoxia and his mother Galla Placidia, to write to his
brother Theodosius concerning Dioscorus and the council of
Ephesus of 449, but Theodosius refused his demand praising
St. Dioscorus and the council of Ephesus.
Leo realized his aim with the help of the following events:
1. Leo received appeals from those who opposed the
council of Ephesus (449), to attack the Alexandrian
theology, calling the Second Council of Ephesus: "The Robbers' Synod."
2. The death of Flavian was an event which elicited
sympathy for the cause of Leo, particularly in
Constantinople. This incident came to be interpreted in later
times by the opponents of the council of 449 as having been
caused by physical injuries inflicted on Flavian at the council.
3. On July 28, 450 Theodosius died and his sister
Pulcheria and her consort Marcian were declared emperors
on 28 August 450. Pulcheria denied her vow as a virgin. She
was a woman of remarkable ability and indomitable will. She
removed Chrysophius - the grand Chamberlain - from her
way by a sentence of death, and banished Eutyches to
Doliche in north Syria. Now, she supported "Rome" against
"Alexandria." She and her husband gathered signatures on
the "Tome" of Leo, to be introduced as a basic paper at
Chalcedon against Alexandrian theologians. At the same time
she decided not to let Rome enjoy supreme authority in the
Church; she refused Leo's demand to hold a council in Italy,
but insisted that it would be held in the East. When she saw
that matters were turning out well and that it was impossible
to hold the desired council in Italy, he expressed a wish that
no council be held at all, but Marcian and Pulcheria were
bent on having one.
Leo sent a letter to declare that he would send delegates to the council. For the first time Leo describes Eutyches as being malicious and wicked like Nestorius. This sudden change means nothing but that a conspiracy was hatched against St. Dioscorus.
Although the Council of Chalcedon is believed to have
condemned Eutyches, the man whom it really dealt with was
not the old monk, but Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria, for
Eutyches was not present at the council but he was away in
north Syria, where he had been exiled even before the
council was held.
In fact, St. Dioscorus was condemned not because of
theological heresy but due to political circumstances which
played the principal role in this council. Some of the leaders
of this council, such as Anatolius of Constantinople
considered him quite Orthodox. Many of the scholars
confirm his orthodoxy1.
SESSION 1 (8TH OF OCTOBER 451)
When the judges started to declare the order of the acts
of the council, Paschasinus said, "We have orders from the
most blessed and apostolic man, the bishop of the city of
Rome, who is the head of all churches, enjoining that
Dioscorus should not have a place in the synod. If this is
violated, he should be cast out. We are obliged to obey this
injunction. Your excellency may order, therefore, that either
he goes out or we depart2". When the judges asked if what
Dioscorus had done was against the laws, the other Roman
delegate replied: "He had seized the office of judge, and
dared to conduct a council, without the authorization of the
apostolic See, a thing which has never happened and which
ought not to have happened3."
Now I will discuss all the charges which were brought against our Pope.
1. HIS PRESIDENCY OVER THE EPHESIAN
It is clear that it was not in fact a charge against
Dioscorus but it was an attempt to give the Roman bishop a
supreme authority over the Universal Church. It was not
Dioscorus who had summoned the Ephesian Council but the
emperors, and their letter still survives. It is astonishing that
Leo protested against the Ephesian Council as being illegal
because he had not given permission for it, while we find him
sending his delegates to the council, and they were angry as
Leo's Tome was not read. It was not Dioscorus alone who
was president of the council, but there were two co-
presidents (Juvenal and Thalassius) attending according to an
2. THE STORY OF THE BLANK PAPERS
Stephen of Ephesus said that they were forced to sign blank papers, through violence. This story was fabricated for many reasons:
a- Eusebius of Dorylaeum who was present at Ephesian Council did not mention the story of the blank papers in his petitions to the emperor.
b- If this story was true why did they wait for over two
years to hear it for the first time on October A.D. 451 from
the men who had signed the tome of Leo and agreed to
c- When St. Dioscorus asked them about the recording of
the acts of the Ephesian Council, they confessed that every
bishop was accompanied by a clerk and there were many
copies of the acts recorded by the clerks of Juvenal,
Thalassius, Elesuis of Coronth etc. How then had they
signed blank papers?!
d- When the bishops were asked about the
excommunication of Flavian they did not say that they had
signed blank papers, but said twice: "We all have sinned, we
ask for pardon."
e- Throughout the acts of the Chalcedonian Council, the bishops' discussions reveal that this story was fabricated, as everyone told a different story.
f- St. Dioscorus openly blamed the bishops who said that
they had signed blank papers because it is the bishop's duty
to be brave especially when he signs what concerns the
3. THE REHABILITATION OF EUTYCHES
When they discussed the words of Eutyches, his accuser said that Eutyches was a liar. St. Dioscorus explained that his concern is not persons but the apostolic faith.
4. THE CONDEMNATION OF FLAVIAN AND EUSEBIUS
The commissioners asked how Eutyches who had not
accepted the Formulary of Reunion of A.D. 433 was
acquitted, while Flavian and Eusebius who had accepted it
were excommunicated. Here the main problem was raised,
when St. Dioscorus explained how St. Cyril - confirmed by
St. Athanasius - refused the formula "two natures after the
union" as unlawful, but used "one incarnate nature of God
the Word". On hearing "one nature," some bishops shouted,
[Eutyches says these things! Dioscorus says these things!]
Here St. Dioscorus clarified the Alexandrian point of view,
saying: [We do not speak of confusion, neither of division,
nor of change. Let him who says confusion, change or
mixture, be anathema5.] St. Dioscorus tried to make his
position clear, that he did not accept "two natures after the
union," but he had no objection to "From two natures after
The verdict of the Commissioners was announced:
Dioscorus of Alexandria, Juvenal of Jerusalem, Thalassius
of Caesarea in Copadocia, Eusebius of Ancyra, Eustathius of
Berytus and Basil of Seleucia in Insuria - these were the men
who had been really responsible for the decisions of the
second council of Ephesus, and should as such all be
At the close of the first session - and contrary to what
Pope (Leo) had planned should be the main business of the
council - the commissioners decided that a discussion on the
question of the true faith should take place at the following
meeting, and that every delegate should produce in writing a
statement of the faith, bearing in mind that the emperor
believed in accordance with the decrees of Nicea and
Constantinople, together with the writings of the holy
Fathers, Gregory, Basil, Hilary, Ambrose and the two letters
of Cyril which had been approved at the first council of
Ephesus, besides the tome of Leo.
V. C. Samuel notices here that they refer to the two canonical letters of Cyril, i.e. the Second and Third letters addressed to Nestorius, but in fact the last one with its anathemas was not read at Chalcedon.
THE SECOND SESSION (ON 10TH OCTOBER)
This session did not produce better results, despite the
absence of the heads of Ephesian Council whose deposition
was announced the day before. The assembly most strongly
protested against the suggestion that they should dare to
draw up "another exposition of the faith in addition to what
had been taught by the Fathers and set down in writing6".
Although many bishops signed the tome of Leo before
holding the council, when it was read at this session there
were men who raised objections to three passages in the
Tome (especially the bishops of Illyricum and Palestine).
Atticus of Nicopolis asked for a time to compare it with the
third letter of St. Cyril to Nestorius.
The Illyrians pleaded that mercy should be shown to the
heads of the Ephesian Council, but no attention was paid to
At the close of the session the commissioners declared
that the following session would be held after five days in
order that those who had doubts about the tome may meet
with Anatolius of Constantinople and clear their misgivings7.
THE THIRD SESSION (ON 13TH OF OCTOBER)
Suddenly the five-days recess was not respected, but on
the 13th October the council met under the presidency of the
Roman legate Paschasinus, and it was attended neither by the
commissioners nor the six condemned men. Rev. V.C.
Samuel states that the minutes contain no mention of the
number of bishops who attended this meeting, which does
not even deserve to be counted as a session, but it is clear
that their number was small, and that it was held in the
martyrion of St. Euphemia8 (a small chapel) instead of the
Church of Euphemia.
As they desired to realize the formalities so that their
statement would be canonical, they summoned Pope
Dioscorus who told them that he was in custody, thus he
could not accompany them to the meeting unless he was
given permission by the authorities, and he put conditions for
his attendance: The presence of the commissioners and those
who were condemned with him. In his absence, it was not
difficult to incite persons to accuse him of many charges for
example that his life was desolate, there was such disaf-
fection against him in Alexandria, he prevented sending corn
to Libya etc. These charges were false, for history itself wit-
nesses how he was most warmly loved and honored by a vast
majority of the people of Egypt. Even his adversaries didn't
accuse him of any wrong conduct in his personel life. As for
the story of the corn, it was a way to turn the emporer
against him. They also acused him of excommunicating Leo.
It is worthy to note that the word of the Roman legates at
the end of the session declared that his disposal had been
issued by Leo, and the assembly merely had to approve the
decision... In fact it was not a statement for theological
dogma but for defending the Roman Papal supremacy. The
Contemporaries were confused in giving reasons for his
deposal, but the majority did not attribute heresy to him, nor
was he excommunicated.
THE FOURTH SESSION (17TH OF OCTOBER)
A new formula of faith concerning the nature of Christ
was not discussed except after the deposal of St. Dioscorus.
Even while Aloys Grillmeier states: [It was only under
constant pressure from the emperor Marcian that the Fathers
of Chalcedon agreed to draw up a new formula of belief.
Even at the fourth session of the council, on October 17th
451, the delegates of the emperor heard the synod once
again endorse its purpose to create no new formula over and
above the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople9]. Tixeront
also states: [Most of the Fathers were opposed to a new
form of faith, but wished merely to approve certain
documents, the contents of which would express their own
It was the emperor's favor that the council had to draw
out Alexandria and declare a new formula to bring the entire
church in the east under the leadership of Constantinople.
Emperors - for political reasons - wished to bring down
Alexandria from the hegemony which it enjoyed in the east
and to set up Constantinople in its place. They used Leo as a
tool to realize their desire exploring his enmity to Alexandria,
that seemed to him an obstacle in spreading his papal su-
preme authority over the church world-wide.
EVENTS OF THE 22ND OF OCTOBER
The eastern bishop came to the meeting with a draft statement
of the formula to be adopted by the Council. According to Tixeront
[its text is lost. All we know for certain is that it asserted that Jesus
Christ is "of" two natures "ek dus phuson" on script. The
expression was accurate, but ambiguous, and in a particular way,
unsatisfactory, since Dioscorus himself had declared that he held
it. However, the formula was accepted by most of the members of
the council, except the papal legates and some Orientals (who held
This comment explains how the majority of the bishops were holding fast the Alexandrian formula of faith, and it is important to study why this draft had been lost.
Under the threat of the Roman legates the commissioners asked
a new statement, but the bishop insisted that this was the definition
of the Orthodox12 . Kelly states [Only by dint of consummate skill
and diplomacy was the assembly induced to accept the necessary
The diplomacy that the commissioners used appears from what Hefele14 states, that the minutes here seem incomplete; perhaps they refer to Leo's formula not as contrary to the faith of the church but as a defense for it against Eutychianism.
1. The Coptic Orthodox Church as a Church of Erudition, p. 129- 130.
2. ACO II,i, p. 65:5.
3. Ibid 65:9; Mansi VI & 581; Benham p. 134.
4. Benham, p.140-2.
5. ACO II,i, p. 112-263; Mansi VI, 676f.
6. Sellers: The Council Of Chalcedon, p.109, Mansi VI, 953.
7. ACO II, i, 279:31.
8. Ibid 199:2.
9. Christ in the Christian Tradition, London 1975, p.543.
10. History of Dogmas, vol. 3, p. 89.
11. Ibid [see Mansi V II: 105-105].
12. ACO II, i, p. 210:36.
13. Early Christ, Doct. p. 334.
14. Early Christ. Doct. p. 345.
COULD THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON REALIZE A
I do not wish to present detailed theological discussions,
for I have presented them in brief, in the book: "The Terms
Physis and Hypostasis in the Early Church." I only want to
clarify that some scholars who feel that the majority of
bishops of the Chalcedonian Council preferred the Alexan-
drian formula: "one nature of the Incarnation Word of God"
or "one nature of two Natures." The Roman legates
practiced pressure on the commissioners to offer a new
formula: "in two natures (en dus fuzzes)", instead of "ek dus
phuson" (of two natures), those scholars try to give a
justification to the Council, that it did not reject the
Alexandrian formula nor did it consider it heretical, but
insufficient, therefore the new formula was issued just to
clarify the old one.
We reject the Chalcedonian formula for the following
1. The formula: "one nature" has an evangelic base, and
touches our salvation. H. H. Pope Shenouda III clarifies this
argument in detail in his book "The Nature of Christ," of
which I wrote a summary as mentioned in this book.
2. Some Chalcedonian Fathers and theologians stated that
the Tome of Leo represents an insurmountable obstacle in
the efforts made to unite with the non-Chalcedonians, for the
latter believe that two "physeis and ousia" in one person is
Nestorianizing. This is supported by the fact that Leo's Tome
was praised by Nestorius himself1, and that the Tome, if
taken alone by itself could have created the impression of an
excessive opposition of two natures, as Prof. Rev. Florovsky
states that, unlike, their brethren in the East, the
Westerns were concerned with the organization of
ecclesiastical matters more than theological ones. He also
states that with the exception of Tertullian, the west made
little or no contribution to christological theology3.
4. We are in accord with the Tome in refuting Eutychianism and in confirming that Christ's manhood was real, Christ entered the mundane plane of existence and that the unity of Godhead and manhood had been realized without change... but the Tome consists of three statements, those which some of the Fathers of Chalcedon themselves rejected for their Nestorian attitude4.
5. Leo speaks of "one person (prosopon)" of Christ but this term does not suffice, for the Nestorians used it to mean "mask," i.e. external unity. There was a need to confirm the unity as a true and "hypostatic" one...
6. The Council of Chalcedon adopted the Tome of Leo.
In Egypt many believers were martyred for they refused to
sign the Tome... The acceptance of the Tome as a principal
document of faith disfigured the Council in the sight of the
7. The "definitions" of Chalcedon admits the phrase "one
hypostasis." Some of the Nestorians objected on this
addition, but they accepted it when the word "hypostasis" was interpreted to them as an equal to "prosopon"...
8. We do not recognize this Council because it ignored all
the traditional formulas of the Church, which confirm the
oneness of the Person of Christ, as a true unity, such as: "one
nature of two natures" and "one nature of the Incarnate
Word of God."
I conclude my discussion of the Council of Chalcedon by referring to the words of Sellers who defends this council... [In the first place, it should be understood that the (Monophysite) theologians were not heretics, nor were they regarded as such by leading Chalcedonians5.]
1. Methodios Fouyas, p.12,13.
2. Christology according to the non-Chalcedonian Churches, p. 12-3.
3. Terms: "Physis & Hypostasis in the Early Church", p. 30-1.
4. Ibid 30f.
5. The council of Chalcedon, SPCK 1961, p. 269.
The term "monophysite"
was not used during the fifth,
sixth and seventh centuries, but was used later in a specific
way and in a polemic spirit on behalf of the Chalcedonian