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Developments in Christology in the Early Church History

By jidian, November, 2002


1. Introduction
Christology is the section of Christian theology and doctrine about the identity and the
person of Jesus Christ. The uestion of !"ho is Jesus Christ# is no doubt one of the
most essential uestions for Christianity. Throughout the nearly 2000 years of history of
the church, Christians have believed that Christ is truly man and truly $od, and %e is the
&on of $od, 'ho is our savior and 'hom 'e 'orship, as the Bible teaches. %o'ever,
historically, the orthodo( doctrine e(perienced a lot of struggles in its development in the
early church history. The doctrine about the person of Christ is still much relevant today,
as 'e are still facing many unorthodo( and heretical teachings about the person of Christ,
e.g., the Jehovah)s "itness, the *ormonism and the !apostolic oneness# theology.
+oo,ing bac, on the history of the developments of Christology can certainly help us to
preserve, defend and proclaim the orthodo( Christian faith.
-lthough Christology can also have a soteriological side to include the 'or, of Christ,
the main focus of the early church theologians on the study of Christ 'as on the theology
proper side
.
. The majority of the debates and controversies 'ere about the person of
Christ / his deity and humanity, and the relationship of the t'o. The orthodo( doctrines
of Christology 'ere established during this period of time, along 'ith other important
orthodo( doctrines such as the Trinity. %o'ever, orthodo( Christology did not come into
place automatically or easily. 0n the early church history, there 'ere a lot of heretical
teachings and controversies about the person of Christ. -nd the orthodo( doctrine 'as
developed out of continuous debates and fighting 'ith the 'rong doctrines.
This paper revie's the development of Christology in early church history 1from
apostolic fathers to the 2
th
century, ca. -3 4052006. Because of the fact that in this period
of time Christology 'as developed along 'ith the struggles 'ith the heretical thoughts,
this paper is outlined mainly 'ith historical heresies and controversies as the thread.
2. Early Doctrines and Heresies
2... -postolic 7athers and 8arly Theologians

There are plenty of descriptions about Christ)s deity and humanity in the $ospels and the
rest of the Ne' Testaments. The early apostolic fathers 1-3 405.906 emphasi:ed on both
the deity and the humanity of Christ. 0gnatius ac,no'ledged the true deity and humanity
of Christ 'hen he referred to !Jesus Christ our $od# and the !blood of $od#
2
. Clement
began his sermon by !Brothers, 'e must thin, about Jesus Christ as about $od, as about
.
Ber,hof, +ouis, The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp .0..
2
=0gnatius, !The &econd 8pistle to the 8phesians#, http;>>'''.ccel.org>fathers2>-N750.>anf0.522.htm
1Nov. 20026
.

the judge of living and dead?#
@
. -t a slightly later time 1-3 .<25.A26, *elito of &ardis
spo,e clearly of Christ as both man and $od; !he 'as by nature $od and man? he is
buried, and so he is manB he rises again, and so he is $od.#
9
. 0n his apologetic 'or,,
Justin *artyr of the same time e(pressed his belief that Christ is the !logos# and has
personality. %o'ever, he seemed to vie' Christ as another $od 'ho is inferior to the
highest $od 1&ubordinationism6
2
. The teachings about Christ in this period of time
lac,ed clarity and a'areness of the problems involved.
2.2. The 8bionism and 3ocetism
Cerversions of the $ospel started to threaten the Church 'hen early heresies emerged.
Dn the Christology side, the 8bionites denied both the divinity of Christ and at least some
of them denied %is virgin birth. They believed that Jesus 'as mere man, 'ho became the
*essiah only by his good 'or,s and strict maintaining of the la'. %e became conscious
of his *essiah identity and received the %oly &pirit 'hen he 'as bapti:ed
1-doptionism6
<
.
The 3ocetists refused to ac,no'ledge Christ)s humanity and only believed in %is
divinity. They claimed that Christ did not actually have a physical body, but only
appeared to have flesh and blood. Jesus on earth 'as only some ,ind of !phantom# and
the Theophany of $od. 0gnatius 'itnessed and refuted the 3ocetic teaching that Christ
only !suffered in mere appearance#, but did not suffer in reality
A
. The $nosticism of the
2
nd
century and many of the later heresies on Christology had a 3ocetic vie' about
Christ
E
.
The 8bionism and 3ocetism 'ere t'o of the earliest Christological heresies. -ll the
other Christological heresies that follo'ed in the history may be divided into t'o broad
categories 'ith similarity to these t'o; -doptionism 1as in 8bionism6 and 3ocetism. The
former denied Christ)s divinity 'hile emphasi:ing Jesus) human nature, and the latter
denied %is full humanity 'hile emphasi:ing %is divine nature.
3. Gnosticism and Monarchianism
-fter the 2
nd
century, serious heretic teachings came into e(istence to challenge the early
church about 'ho Christ is. 0n the 2
nd
century, the biggest heresy 'as $nosticism, and in
the @
rd
century it 'as *onarchianism.
@
=Clement, !The &econd 8pistle of Clement#, http;>>'''.earlychristian'ritings.com>2clement.html 1Nov.
20026
9
=*elito of &ardis, !Crayer in Craise of Christ#, http;>>'''.catholic5forum.com>saints>pray029A.htm 1Nov.
20026
2
=Justin *artyr, !The 7irst -pology of Justin#, http;>>'''.ccel.org>fathers>-N75
0.>just>justinapology..htmlF&ection9< 1Nov. 20026
<
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. 99.
A
=0gnatius, !+etter to the Trallians#, 45.0, &ection 9.. in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian Theology
Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
E
!3ocetism#, in 7erguson, &. B. and "right, 3. 7., 8d., Ne' 3ictionary of Theology, 8ngland; 0nter5
Harsity Cress, .4EE
2

@... $nosticism and -nti5$nostic Theologians
$nosticism covered a 'ide range of belief, and most of their teachings that 'e ,no'
today 'ere obtained from the patristic -nti5$nostic 'or,s
4
. 0n terms of Christology,
$nosticism believed that the &upreme $od 'as incomprehensible and inaccessible, but
from %im came a series of progressively lesser deities 1aeons6. Jehovah of the Dld
Testament is the lo'est of these aeons, and Christ is one of the highest aeons. &ince
$nosticism believed that all matter is evil, it usually had a 3ocetic vie' of Christ that he
'as a spirit being having only an apparent body or temporarily associated 'ith a man
Jesus 'ho 'as a special emissary sent to the 'orld to deliver man,ind from the
dar,ness
.0
. 0n his anti5heretic 'or,, 0renaeus listed out various Christological heresies
that are due to $nostic influence, especially the 3ocetic vie's
..
.
0n the Ne' Testament, these $nostic vie's on the $odhead 'ere already refuted, e.g., by
John in his $ospel and other 'ritings and by Caul in Colossians. The early apostolic
fathers and theologians also had many 'or,s 'ith the purpose of fighting against $nostic
teachings including its Christology. The debates contributed significantly to the
development of orthodo( Christology. Drigen believed that Christ is the 3ivine Geason,
and !the mediator bet'een $od and flesh#. %e noted that !through the 'hole of
&cripture the divine nature is spo,en of in human terms, and at the same time the human
nature is accorded the distinctive epithets proper to the divine#
.2
. %e used the 'ord
!homoousios# to state that Christ has the same essence of the 7ather, but at the same time
he seemed to be also a &ubordinationist 1e.g., he taught that the +ogos 'as a !copy# of
the original $od and inferior to the 7ather6. 0renaeus stressed the unity of $od, but he
did not have much speculation about the !+ogos#. The &on and the !"isdom# 'ere
involved in the Creation. %e emphasi:ed that Christ 'as both $od and man, and rejected
the separation of !the heavenly Christ# and !the earthly Christ#. %e held a recapitulation
1restoration6 theory about Christ)s &alvation
.@
. Tertullian believed that Christ is fully $od
and fully man at the same time, and rejected the idea of !divine5human alloy#. %e
stressed that the +ogos is an independent Cerson 'ho 'as begotten by 1and thus
proceeded from6 $od. There 'as still a little &ubordinationism in his discourse of
Christology, as evidenced in a crude form of a greater and lesser participation of the first
and second persons of $od
.9
.
@.2. *onarchianism and 0ts Dpponents
*onarchianism sought to assert that $od has only one being but as a result denied the
Trinity. 0t 'as divided into t'o different classes, 3ynamic *onarchianism and
*odalistic *onarchianism.
4
!$nosticism#, ibid.
.0
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. 9A59E.
..
=0renaeus, !adversus haereses#, 0.((iv..52, in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian Theology Geader,
D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
.2
=Drigen, !de principiis#, 00.vi.@, &ection 9.2 in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian Theology Geader,
D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
.@
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. <95<2.
.9
ibid., pp <25<<.
@

The main proponents of 3ynamic *onarchianism 'ere Theodotus 1.40 -36 and Caul of
&amosata 12<052A2 -36. -ccording to %yppolitus, Theodotus believed Jesus 'as a mere
man, but 'ith the highest moral virtue, and a dynamic po'er 'as conferred to him 'hen
he got bapti:ed
.2
. Theodotus) teaching 'as challenged by %ippolytus, and 'as
condemned by the &ynod of -ntioch in 2<E -3. Caul of &amosata also believed that
Jesus 'as a mere man, but he 'as besto'ed the divine +ogos at his baptism, 'hich is an
impersonal po'er and an attribute of $od. Jesus 'as given the dynamos of 'isdom more
intensively than any others and it empo'ered him to have moral perfection, and thus
e(alted him to divine status 1-doptionism6
.<
. Caul of &amosata 'as repeatedly
challenged by the church and finally e(communicated in 2<4 -3.
*odalist *onarchianism 'as originated by Cra(eas and the most influential *odalistic
*onarchianist 'as &abellius. Cra(eas believed that 7ather and &on are different names
of the same $od. The 7ather became man and suffered and died on the cross. Tertullian
called this ,ind of vie' Catripassianism, and identified it in his attac, on Cra(eas 'ith the
famous sentence !%aving driven out the Caraclete 1%oly &pirit6, he 1Cra(eas6 no'
crucified the 7ather#
.A
. "hile maintaining the unity of the person of Christ, Tertullian
distinguished the proper functions of the humanity and deity of Christ;
!"e do indeed believe that there is only one $odB but 'e believe that under this
dispensation...there is also a &on of this one only $od, %is "ord, 'ho proceeded
from %im and through 'hom all things 'ere made and 'ithout 'hom nothing 'as
made. "e believe that %e 'as sent by the 7ather into a Hirgin and 'as born of her,
$od and man, &on of man and &on of $od, and 'as called by the name Jesus
Christ#
.E
.
&abellius 'as also a Catripassianist, and he included the reference to the %oly &pirit in his
theory. %e believed that the 7ather, the &on and the %oly &pirit are plurality of the
manifestations of $od)s essence. $od is one indivisible substance, but 'ith three
fundamental modes, appearing successively as the 7ather 1in creation and giving of la'6,
as the &on 1in the incarnation6, and as the %oly &pirit 1in regeneration and
sanctification6
.4
.
4. he !rian Controversy
9... The -rian Hie's
.2
=%yppolitus, !Gefutation of -ll %eresies#, Boo, H00, Chapter II000,
http;>>'''.'ebcom.com>Jgnosis>library>hypKrefutA.htm 1Nov. 20026
.<
!*onarchianism#, in 7erguson, &. B. and "right, 3. 7., 8d., Ne' 3ictionary of Theology, 8ngland;
0nter5Harsity Cress, .4EE
.A
=Tertullian, !-gainst Cra(eas#, http;>>'''.ccel.org>fathers>-N750@>tertullian>part2>againstKpra(eas.html
1Nov. 20026
.E
ibid.
.4
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. A4.
9

-n important controversy in Christology, the -rian controversy, too, place in the 9
th

century. The -rian controversy mainly concerned the relationship of $od the 7ather and
$od the &on, and had its root in the past unclear conception of the Trinity. The result of
this controversy established the basic elements of orthodo( doctrine of the Trinity, but the
,ey issues of the controversy 'ere much related to Christology. -s a matter of fact,
development of orthodo( of Christology 'as usually intermingled 'ith that of the Trinity
at that time in history. -rius stressed that there is only one unbegotten $od and
unoriginated $od. %e believed that there is a real difference in the essence bet'een the
7ather and the &on. Christ 'as neither $od nor man, but some being in bet'een, or a
lesser $od. The &on is a created being, he !has a beginning#, and !there 'as a time 'hen
he 'as not#. The &on might also be mutable
20
.
9.2. The Council of Nicea
-rius) o'n bishop -le(ander 'as the first one to oppose him and contended for the
eternal sonship of Christ by generation. -le(ander called the Council of -le(andria 1@2.
-36, and -rius 'as e(communicated. But -rius continued to get more follo'ers.
Constantine decided to intervene to maintain peace, and called the Council of Nicea 1@22
-36. This 'as a larger council and the .
st
ecumenical one. Both -rius) supporters 1e.g.,
8usebius of Nicomedia6 and strong opponents 1e.g., -le(ander and -thanasius6 'ere
minorities. The majority 'as the middle party 1!semi5-rian# people, e.g., 8usebius of
Caesarea6. They suggested using the 'ord homoiousios to state that the &on is of similar
essence as the 7ather, instead of homoousios to state that the &on is of the same essence
of the 7ather. Constantine 'as actively involved and finally 'ith the emperor)s pressure
the Council adopted a statement 'ith !homoousios# in it and the party of -le(ander and
-thanasius had a temporary victory. The Creed of Nicea, 'ith its focus on Christology,
is 'idely regarded as the basis of orthodo( Christianity. 0t affirmed the full divinity of
Christ against the -rian vie' of his creaturely status;
!"e believe in one $od, the 7ather almighty, ma,er of all things visible and invisible.
-nd 'e believe in one +ord Jesus Christ, the &on of $od, begotten from the 7ather,
only begotten, that is from the 7atherLs substance, light from light, true $od from true
$od, begotten not made, of one substance 'ith the 7ather. Through him 'ere made
all things, both in heaven and on earth. 7or us and for our salvation he came do'n,
'as incarnate and became human. %e suffered, rose again on the third day, ascended
into the heavens and is coming to judge the living and the dead. -nd 'e believe in the
%oly &pirit. But those 'ho say, Mthere 'as once 'hen he 'as not) and Mbefore he 'as
begotten he 'as not), and that Mhe 'as made out of nothing), or 'ho affirm that Mthe
&on is of a different hypostasis or substance), or that he is mutable or changeable 5
these the catholic and apostolic church anathemati:es.#
2.

The Creed is uneuivocal in its e(pression that the &on is of the same essence as that of
the 7ather. 0t also included e(plicit condemnations of -rian vie's. %o'ever, many
20
=-rius, !- +etter to 8usebius, Bishop of Nicomedia#, &ection 9.< in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian
Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
2.
=!The Creed of Nicea#, http;>>'''.gospelcom.net>chi>$+0*C&87>$limpses>glmps0EE.shtml 1Nov.
20026
2

people at that time still had concerns about using the 'ord !homoousios# 'hich 'as not
biblical and had been used by the heretic Caul of &amosata. The decision reached by the
influence of the strong hand of the emperor 'as not satisfactory.
9.@. 3efending the Nicene Drthodo(
-fter the Council of Nicea, &emi5-rianism came bac, and 'as on the rise, 'ith
-thanasius fighting alone for the Nicene orthodo(. 0n a letter dated around @20 -3,
-thanasius argued for the divinity of Christ as 'ell as the full humanity of Christ;
!Being $od, he became a human beingB and then as $od he raised the dead, healed all
by a 'ord, and also changed 'ater into 'ine. These 'ere not the acts of a human
being. But as a human being, he felt thirsty and tiredness, and he suffered pain.
These e(periences are not appropriate to deity? -nd yet these are not events
occurring 'ithout any connection, distinguished according to the their uality, so that
one class may be ascribed to the body, apart from the divinity, and the other to the
divinity, apart from the body.#
22

-thanasius 'as repeatedly banished and e(iled. -fter Constantine died, the Goman
8mpire 'as divided. Constantius in the 8ast supported -rius, but -thanasius 'as
'elcome in the "est ruled by Constans, and the Council of &ardica 1@9@ -36 endorsed
his doctrine. Then Constans died and Constantius became the sole emperor. Constantius
called a fe' synods councils 1&ynods of -rles and *ilan, Council of &irmium6 to force
-rianism. %o'ever, the -rians had divisions among themselves. There 'ere no' three
camps; 1.6 e(treme -rians 'ho believed in heteroousios, 126 moderate -rians 'ho
believed in homoiousios and 1@6 Nicene orthodo( 'ho believed in homoousios
23
.
9.9. The Cappadocian 7athers
*ean'hile the Cappadocian fathers 1Basil the $reat, $regory of Nyssa and $regory of
Na:ian:us6 did great service to the orthodo( doctrine of the Trinity by dra'ing a
distinction bet'een !ousios# and !hypostasis#. Their starting point 'as the three
!hypostasis# instead of the one divine ousia of $od. By this they made it clear that
$od is one in essence, but three in persons. 0n @E. -3 the Council of Constantinople
affirmed the approval of the Creed of Nicea, and mar,ed the final triumph of the Nicene
orthodo(. The !Niceno5Constantinoplitan Creed#, 'hich had a longer discussion of the
person of Christ, became the orthodo( !Nicene Creed# as 'e call it today. The part of
this Creed that concerns Christology states;
!0 believe in?one +ord Jesus Christ, the only5begotten &on of $od, begotten of the
7ather before all 'orldsB $od of $od, +ight of +ight, very $od of very $odB
begotten, not made, being of one substance 'ith the 7ather, by 'hom all things 'ere
made. "ho, for us men for our salvation, came do'n from heaven, and 'as incarnate
by the %oly &pirit of the virgin *ary, and 'as made manB and 'as crucified also for
22
=-thanasius, !8pistulate ad &erapionem#, 0H..9, &ection 9.A in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian
Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
2@
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. EA5EE.
<

us under Contius CilateB %e suffered and 'as buriedB and the third day %e rose again,
according to the &cripturesB and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of
the 7atherB and %e shall come again, 'ith glory, to judge the uic, and the deadB
'hose ,ingdom shall have no end.#
29

". he Christological Controversies
- fe' other controversies specifically concerning Christology follo'ed in the 9
th
and the
2
th
century. By that time there 'ere t'o schools of thoughts concerning Christology. The
-le(andrian &chool tends to stress the unity of the t'o natures of Christ and focused
more on the deity of Christ. The -ntiochian &chool tends to stress the distinction of the
t'o natures and focus more on the humanity of Christ. -s a result, there 'ere t'o main
controversies concerning Christology; the -ppollinarian controversy and the Nestorian
controversy.
2... The -ppollinarian Controversy 1-3 @<25@E.6
7rom the -le(andrian school)s point of vie', -ppollinarius maintained that Christ is
$od, and %e is homoousios 'ith $od the 7ather. %e believed Jesus has a human body
and soul, but does not have human spirit. Christ is the 3ivine +ogos. Christ never sinned
li,e a human, and %is moral center 'as purely divine. 0n one of his letters -ppollinarius
uneuivocally said;
!"e confess that the "ord of $od has not descended upon a holy man, 'hich 'as
'hat happened in the case of the prophets. Gather, the "ord himself has become
flesh 'ithout having assumed a human mind / that is, a changeable mind, 'hich is
enslaved to filthy thoughts 5 but 'hich e(ists as an immutable and heavenly divine
mind.#
22

-ppollinarian opponents stressed that Christ is fully *an as 'ell as fully $od. "hile the
-ppollinarian vie' affirms the full divinity of Christ, it denies the full humanity of
Christ. Nltimately it 'ill lead to the denial of full incarnation and a 3ocetic vie' of
Christ. "ithout full incarnation, there 'ill be no real redemption. $regory of Na:ian:en
refuted the -ppollinarian thesis that Christ 'as not fully man, and pointed out that
humanity cannot be redeemed if Christ did not possess a human mind;
!3o not let people deceive themselves and others by saying that OChristP?is 'ithout
a human mind. "e do not separate the humanity from the divinityB in fact, 'e assert
the dogma of the unity and identity of the Cerson, 'ho aforetime 'as not just human
but $od, the only &on before all ages, 'ho in these last days has assumed human
nature also for our salvation?#
2<

29
!The Nicene Creed#, http;>>'''.reformed.org>documents>nicene.html 1Nov. 20026
22
= -ppollinarius, !+etter to the Bishops at 3iocaesarea#, &ection 9.E in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian
Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
2<
=$regory of Na:ian:en, !+etter .0.#, &ection 9.4 in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian Theology
Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
A

0n this letter $regory of Na:ian:en used the term theotokos 1!$od5bearer#6 to call
*ary.
2.2. The Nestorian Controversy 1-3 92E59@.6
&ome of the -ntiochian school people 'ent to another e(treme and denied that the term
theotokos could be applied to *ary. Nestorian believed that to call *ary !theotokos
is to say that a creature gave birth to the Creator and is thus blasphemous. $od cannot
have a mother. %e 'hom *ary conceived is not $od, but a man in 'hich $od !clothed#
%imself. The Cerson of Jesus is a !temple# for the 3ivine +ogos. The t'o natures of
Christ should be separated
2A
. -ccording to the church history by &ocrates, Nestorius
sponsored the proposition of -nastasius 'ho preached; !+et no one call *ary the
Theoto,os; for *ary 'as only a human being, and it is impossible that $od should be
born of a human being#
2E
. Nestorian opponents refuted that the term !theotokos stresses
the unity of the divinity and humanity of Christ. To reject it is to reject the true union of
the t'o natures of Christ in one person. 3ichotomy of the t'o natures can eventually
lead to the denial of Christ)s full deity. Cyril 'as the most prominent opponent of
Nestorianism, although he 'as heavy5handed personally. Cyril 'rote t'elve
condemnations on the propositions of Nestorian Christology and other heresies, starting
'ith the denial of !theotokos;
!0f anyone does not ac,no'ledge that 8mmanuel is truly $od, and that the holy
virgin is, in conseuence, Mtheotokos), for she gave birth in the flesh to the "ord of
$od 'ho has become flesh, let them be condemned?#
24

-t the Council of 8phesus 19@. -36, the term !theotokos 'as officially endorsed as the
proper title for *ary. Cyril celebrated the dignity of *ary for bearing Jesus Christ in his
%omily at this Council
@0
. 0n his discussion about the incarnation, Cyril stressed the real
union of Christ)s divinity and humanity;
!The natures 'hich 'ere brought together to form a true unity 'ere differentB but out
of both is one Christ and one &on. "e do not mean that the difference of the natures
is annihilated by reason of this union, but rather that the divinity and the humanity, by
their ine(pressible and ine(plicable concurrence into unity, have produced for us the
one +ord and son Jesus Christ#.
@.
2.@. The 8utychian Controversy 1-3 9946
2A
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. .095.02.
2E
=&ocrates, !%istoria 8cclesiastica#, H00, @2, &ection 9..0 in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian Theology
Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
24
=Cyril, !+etter IH00, .2 1Third +etter to Nestorius6#, &ection 9... in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian
Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
@0
=Cyril, !%omily at the Council of 8phesus#, &ection 9..@ in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian Theology
Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
@.
=Cyril, !+etter 0H, @52 1&econd +etter to Nestorius6#, &ection 9..2 in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian
Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
E

8utyches the archimandrite 'as the e(treme of the anti5Nestorian -le(andrian &chool.
%e stressed the divine nature of Christ to the point of neglecting the human aspect of
Christ. 8utychian believed that Christ has only one true nature 1*onophysites6, i.e., the
divine one, after the incarnation. $od 'as born !theotokos, and $od 'as crucified and
died
@2
.
The 8utychian opponents refuted by stressing that Christ has t'o natures instead of one,
in one Cerson. Christ is fully $od and fully *an, con5substantial 'ith the 7ather and has
complete *anhood. Christ had true incarnation, and there 'as no conversion from man
to $od or the deification of man 1nor 'as there humani:ation of $od6. 0n his famous
!Tome of +eo# in 994 -3, +eo 0 critici:ed the 8utychian vie's, and in particular his
rejection of Christ)s true humanity;
!O8utychesP did not reali:e 'hat he ought to believe concerning the incarnation of the
"ord of $od? "e could not overcome the author of sin and death, unless OChristP
had ta,en our nature and made it his o'n, 'hom sin could not defile or death retain?
Thus there 'as born true $od in the entire and perfect nature of true humanity,
complete in his o'n properties, complete in ours (totus in suis, totus in nostris).#
@@

2.9. The Council of Chalcedon 192. -36
-fter some more struggle bet'een the 8utychian party and its opponents 1including the
&econd Council of 8phesus in 994 -3, 'hich 'as nic,5named the !the Gobber
Council#6, the Council of Chalcedon 'as held in 92. -3. The 8utychian teachings 'ere
condemned, and the Tome of +eo 'as elevated to a position of authority as a statement of
Christological orthodo(y. The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon issued its famous
statement of the doctrine of the Cerson of Christ in its definition of faith;
!&o, follo'ing the saintly fathers, 'e all 'ith one voice teach the confession of one
and the same &on, our +ord Jesus Christ; the same perfect in divinity and perfect in
humanity, the same truly $od and truly man, of a rational soul and a bodyB
consubstantial 'ith the 7ather as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial
'ith us as regards his humanityB li,e us in all respects e(cept for sinB begotten before
the ages from the 7ather as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us
and for our salvation from *ary, the virgin $od5bearer as regards his humanityB one
and the same Christ, &on, +ord, only5begotten, ac,no'ledged in t'o natures 'hich
undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separationB at no point 'as the
difference bet'een the natures ta,en a'ay through the union, but rather the property
of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single
subsistent beingB he is not parted or divided into t'o persons, but is one and the same
only5begotten &on, $od, "ord, +ord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the
beginning about him, and as the +ord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the
creed of the fathers handed it do'n to us.#
@9

@2
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. .0<.
@@
=+eo 0, !+etter 2E to 7lavian 1.@ June 9946#, &ection 9..9 in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The Christian
Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
4

The Council of Chalcedon set its o'n purpose to study and decide the central issues of
Christology and 'as much self5conscious of its o'n goal to establish the orthodo(y of
Christology. 0t affirmed the orthodo( Christological doctrines from the Niceno5
Constantinopolitan Creed. 0t used the four negatives 1!no confusion, no change, no
division, no separation#6 to e(plain the relationship of Christ) divinity and humanity,
'hich 'as a great theological accomplishment that not only pointed out the doctrinal
errors before the Council, but also set a clear boundary by clarifying 'hat is out of the
range and thus forbidden.
@2
The Chalcedon 3efinition put together a clear statement
about the issue 'ith several important elements; 1.6 Jesus Christ is truly $od and truly
man, in one person, 'ith t'o natures. 126 Jesus Christ is the real incarnation. There 'as
no conversion bet'een the divinity and the humanity of Christ. There 'as neither the
deification of man, nor humani:ation of $od. 1@6 Christ is not a temporary association
'ith $od and man. %e is fully $od and fully man, but does not have t'o persons. 196
Christ has t'o natures 1$od and man6 forever, but has the perfect hypostatical union of
divine and human. These established the essential foundations for orthodo( Christology.
2.2. -ftermath of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon did not put all Christological disputes to rest. There 'ere still
strong follo'ers of Cyril and 8utyches in 8gypt, &yria and Calestine. They insisted that
Christ only had one holy nature instead of t'o natures after the union. 7or this reason
they 'ere called *onophysites. They thought that t'o distinct natures 'ould necessarily
lead to t'o persons
@<
. The later *onophysites rejected the Chalcedonian definition of
!t'o natures# in their petition;
!"e ought to confess one nature of $od the "ord, 'ho too, flesh and perfectly
became a human being. 7or this reason, $od the "ord, 'ho 'as previously simple,
can not be considered to have become composite in a body, if division results after
this union through his having t'o natures? OChristP 'ho 'as personally united to
and joined by composition 'ith a flesh 'hich possesses a soul can not be Min t'o
natures) on account of his union or composition 'ith a body.#
@A

+eontius of By:antium and later John of 3amascus defended the Chalcedonian
Christology against the *onophysites. +eontius stressed that the human nature of Christ
'as not impersonal but in5personal. %e taught that the human nature of Christ 'as not an
independent hypostasis 1anhypostatic6, but 'as enhypostatic, i.e., it had its subsistence in
and through the +ogos.
@E
.
@9
=!3ogmatic 3efinition of the Council of Chalcedon#, http;>>'''.e'tn.com>faith>teachings>incac2.htm
1Nov. 20026
@2
!Chalcedon, Council of#, in #, in 7erguson, &. B. and "right, 3. 7., 8d., Ne' 3ictionary of Theology,
8ngland; 0nter5Harsity Cress, .4EE
@<
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. .0E.
@A
=!The Cetition of the *onophysites to the 8mperor Justinian#, &ection 9..A in *c$rath, -. 8., 8d., The
Christian Theology Geader, D(ford and Cambridge; Blac,'ell, .442.
@E
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4, pp. .0E5.04.
.0

Dther additional uestions also arose, such as if the 'ill of Christ belongs to the person or
the nature, or if there is one 'ill in Christ or t'o. Dne sect of people asserted that there is
only one 'ill in Christ based on the unity of the Cerson. They 'ere called *onothelites
as a result. 7or a time the term !'ill# 'as replaced by !energy#. 0t 'as in the later A
th

century that the doctrine of t'o 'ills and t'o energies 'as adopted to be orthodo(
@4
.
#. Concluding $emar%s
-lthough most of the fundamental orthodo( doctrines of Christology 'ere established by
the closing of the patristic era, the Christological debates did not end at this time. 0n the
history to follo', there 'ere other controversies such as the -doptionist Controversy in
&pain in the A
th
and E
th
century. Christology 'as not in the foreground in the *iddle
-ges. The *iddle -ges theologians accepted the authority of patristic Christology and
identified 'ith -ugustine)s stress on the real humanity of Christ in his atoning 'or,.
Christology 'as not of essential importance to the Geformation debates. +uther)s
Christology 'as based on Christ as true $od and true man in inseparable unity. Calvin
also approved of the orthodo( Christological statements of the church councils.
%o'ever, Christology once again became of major importance during and after the
8nlightenment of the .4
th
century. The liberal theologians proclaimed it their goal to
isolate the !true historical Jesus# from the !$od5man# 'ho has been 'orshipped and
adored by the Church throughout the history. The divinity of Jesus Christ is presumed to
be a myth. *any of the modern Christological debates gave rise to uestions about the
relationship of faith and history. 0n the 20
th
century and today, the doctrine of the Cerson
of Christ has often been represented in a naturalistic 'ay, 'hich has departed from the
orthodo( doctrines as reflected in the historical creeds such as the Chalcedon 3efinition.
90
7or contemporary Christians 'ho are committed to preserving, defending and
proclaiming the orthodo( Christian faith, 'e often need to go bac, to the historical
orthodo( doctrine of Christology, 'hich is no doubt one of the most essential parts of
historical Christian doctrine. -nd 'e find that as this brief survey of the development of
Christology in the early church history has sho'n, most of the fundamental orthodo(
Christological doctrines 'ere developed before the beginning of the *iddle -ges through
the struggle 'ith the erroneous teachings. The discussions and important historical
creeds concerning Christology help us to set boundaries from historical insight. They are
valuable theologically for determining the important parameters. -lthough 'e still need
to have space for further theological discussion, they help us to avoid repeating the errors
in the history. This is especially important in a time li,e ours 'hen many of the historical
heretic teaching are reappearing in old and ne' forms.
&elected 'i(liography
Ber,hof, +., The %istory of Christian 3octrines, +ondon; Banner of Truth Trust, .4<4
@4
ibid., pp. .045..0
90
ibid., pp. ..95.2@.
..

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0@>tertullian>part2>againstKpra(eas.html 1Nov. 20026
.2