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Miaphysitism and hypostatic union


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#1 Grace Singh

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Posted 26 March 2010 - 03:57 PM

Dear Friends ~

God bless you, and keep you.

i am wondering, what are the differences between Miaphysitism (of the OOC) and the doctrine of Hypostatic Union (EOC)?

accoriding to Wikipedia, Miaphystism holds that "in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature" ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration".

Hypostatic Union says that "Jesus Christ, who is identical with the Son, is one person and one hypostas in two natures: a human and a divine."

so what is the difference? i'm not asking to argue that "there really is no difference, so why disagree?" but to ask genuinely what the difference is. one definition says "one nature" and another "two natures", yet both speak of "one Person" and two united aspects of His person. how are these churches understanding the word "nature"?

#2 Kosta

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 01:27 AM

Both us (the EO) and the miaphysites fully accept the hypostatic union which was a central point in St Cyril's theology at the third ecumenical council. Much of the current dialogue between our two churches says that the christology is basically identical and the issues over the two natures are simply semantic. That what we call hypostasis, the miaphysites called nature (physies). Basically in the 4th century the terminology was still not standardized and the word hypostasis and physeis were still used interchangeably.

Now theologically the difference bbetween us and the non-chalcedon churches (miaphysites) is one of emphasis. Those who accept chalcedon believe that the one and same Christ is both human and divine without seperation yet the natures remain distinct. Miaphysites would prefer not to use the word 'distinct' at all. They confess 2 natures but prefer to say that Christ is OF two natures and not IN two natures. This is because they dont want to give any ammunition to the nestorian heresy.

To understand even better is to analyze the christology of the Assyrian Church of the East which is nestorian leaning. The Assyrian church has a very similar christology and one may say all three churches are saying the same thing. The difference lies in where the miaphysites wont utilize the word 'distinct', the Assyrians readily admit it, on the other hand the Assyrians put less emphasis on the inseperability of the two natures.

The Assyrian church strictly followed the Antiochan school which emphasized the humanity of Christ and thus distinctions between the human and divine in Christ were pointed out. The miaphysites follow the Alexandrian school exclusively which emphasized the divinity of Christ and the incarnation, thus the deeds of Christ belong to the person and not to a nature. The Orthodox church took both these traditions, using the Alexandrian tradition to battle the extremes of Nestorianism in Ephesus 431 a.d. and took of the Antiochan school to battle the extremes of Eutyches monophysitism in Chalcedon.

#3 Grace Singh

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 01:27 PM

Kosta ~

thank you so much! so it is essentially a matter of semantics, different words being used to say the same thing. interesting.

do you know of any websites or books that go into this in more depth? and what else, besides Christology, theologically seperates the OO and EO Churches?

#4 Kosta

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 10:34 PM

The christological differences is very subtle. Below are two agreed upon christological confessions. The one is the agreed upon roman catholic/ assyrian statement. The other is the roman catholic/Coptic statement. Looking at these two statements, the Eastern Orthodox as well as the mainline Protestant churches would agree are correct and orthodox. Yet the Copts and the Assyrians do not agree with each others confession!

Confession agreed upon between roman catholics and assyrians:

Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. IN HIM HAS BEEN PRESERVED THE DIFFERENCE OF THE NATURES OF DIVINITY AND HUMANITY, WITH ALL THEIR PROPERTIES, FACULTIES AND OPERATIONS. But far from constituting "one and another", the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.
Agreed upon confession by the roman catholic and Coptic church:

We confess that our Lord and God and Savior and King of us all, Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His Divinity, perfect man with respect of His humanity. IN HIM HIS DIVINITY IS UNITED WITH HIS HUMANITY IN A REAL AND PERFECT UNION WITHOUT MINGLING, WITHOUT CONFUSION, WITHOUT ALTERATION, WITHOUT DIVISION, WITHOUT SEPERATION. His divinity did not separate from His humanity for an instant, not for the twinkling of an eye. He who is God eternal and invisible, became visible in the flesh, and took upon Himself the form of a servant. In Him are preserved all the properties of the divinity and all the properties of the humanity, together in a real, perfect, indivisible and inseparable union.

The boldfaced sentences are what the entire controversy between chalcedon and non chalcedon churches revolves around. In fact the syriac church i believe had suspended dialogue with the roman catholics after they issued the above joint declaration with the Assyrians.

The Orthodox consider both the 3rd and 4th ecumenical councils to go hand in hand. The miaphysites reject the 4th council and prefer to keep silent on the human and divine natures "after the union" .
Orthodoxinfo.com has writings from the Orthodox camp which reject the dialogues between us and the miaphysites. They give a good overview as to what differences remain. A miaphysite website called orthodoxunity.com which promotes Orthodox/miaphysite union has the transcripts of the dialogues that have taken place between us.

#5 Grace Singh

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 03:32 AM

Kosta ~

that is interesting! as i remember, the Nestorian heresy emphasized that Christ had two distinct natures in one Person, as opposed to two united natures (a compound unity) within (or of) One Person. and you can definately see that in the Assyrian Church of the East statement.

so if this Christology is so clearly distinct from both the Hypostatic Union and Miaphysitism, why is the CC agreeing to some aspect of it? doesn't the Nestorian understanding contradict both the CC/EO and OO understandings?

#6 Kosta

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 05:33 AM

I just want to correct an error from my previous post. In the RC statement with the Copts i should have boldfaced the final sentence of the declaration:
"...In Him are preserved all the properties of the divinity and all the properties of His humanity, together in a real, perfect, indivisible, and inseperable union."

Contrast the above sentence with that of the Assyrians:
"In Him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and and operations..."

Taken by themselves both these statements are orthodox for the EO and even for most protestant groups. But there not acceptable for Assyrians and miaphysites. The miaphysite document (copts) exalts the decrees of Ephesus while downplaying Chalcedon. While the other does the exact opposite, because Assyrians reject Ephesus but hold a favorable opinion towards the chalcedonian definition. Notice how the word "difference" is used in the Assyrian document but completly absent from the coptic document.

The miaphysites believe the oneness of divinity and humanity are so close that its similar to the bond between the body and soul. As humanity is of two elements, the soul (spiritual) and the body (material), both these elements comprise one cohesive person or one nature. No one divides themselves between body and soul but attribute all aspects to their person. The one and same Christ is the divine person which assumed a human body and a rational soul and made it His very own. Thus for the miaphysites there is no need to speak of two natures after the union (incarnation).

In response to the monophysite heresy (spread by the monk Eutyches who persecuted and hated the nestorians), Chalcedon convened to clarify the proper role of the dual natures in the Child of Mary . The miaphysites were loyalists to the theology of St Cyril who defended the truth from Nestorius in Ephesus, thus they rejected chalcedon, thinking chalcedon was meant to overturn Ephesus and contrary to the spirit of Cyril's explanation of the hypostatic union. While they have eased their position over the years they still believe the chalcedonian definition is too strong in its emphasis on the two natures in Christ.

#7 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 05:58 AM

I was under the impression that a consequence of holding to one nature is that you also end up believing in one will. That was the reason for the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which condemned Monotheletism. The latter was intended as a compromise between Chalcedon and its opponents, but St Maximos the Confessor showed that it was heretical. And my understanding is the doctrine of two wills, one divine and one human, is still a major stumbling-block for the Oriental Orthodox.

http://orthodoxinfo....ism/mono_2.aspx

The Eastern Orthodox maintain a clear distinction between hypostasis and nature, whereas my impression is that the OO do not. So they interpret two natures to mean something like two hypostases, because they can't understand how a divine hypostasis, the Word, can take on human nature while remaining a single hypostasis, unless the natures themselves were united. The EO, on the other hand, can believe that the natures remain distinct, because the hypostasis, the Word, is not dependent on one nature or the other. After the Incarnation, the hypostasis of the Word became Theanthropic, rather than simply divine.

A consequence of confusing hypostasis and nature is that the individual person or subsistence cannot be distinguished from the natural faculties that it exercises, including the faculty of the will. Therefore, Christ exercising two wills at once, as the EO teach, seems to the OO like another kind of Nestorianism, because they automatically associate will with person. If Christ has two wills, he must be two persons or subsistences. The EO, again, maintain a clear distinction between hypostasis and nature, thus avoiding this confusion.

#8 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 09:27 PM

When we speak of Christ, it is necessary to distinguish between what is one and what is two: this necessity, however, is derived from a need to combat heresy when it arises rather than because we want to explain the mystery of the incarnation. St Cyril of Alexandria, in combating Nestorius' teaching, often used the phrase 'one incarnate nature': when it came to the Council of Chalcedon the miaphysites wanted to hold on to St Cyril's definition and weren't prepared to accept anything which might be seen to compromise him. Thus, Miaphysites held a strict cyrillian position whereas Chalcedonians a two-natures one.

The Chalcedonian position can be seen in its Definition of Faith:

… Following the holy Fathers we teach with one voice that the Son (of God) and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed as one and the same (Person), that he is perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, very God and very man, of a reasonable soul and (human) body consisting, consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead, and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood; made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted; begotten of his Father before the worlds according to his Godhead; but in these last days for us men and for our salvation born (into the world) of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God according to his manhood. This one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son (of God) must be confessed to be in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably (united), and that without the distinction of natures being taken away by such union, but rather the peculiar property of each nature being preserved and being united in one Person and subsistence, not separated or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten, God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Prophets of old time have spoken concerning him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ hath taught us, and as the Creed of the Fathers hath delivered to us.


The Chalcedonians were willing to accept the Cyrillian language so long as it was interpreted in an 'Orthodox' way: this was not accepted so the schism exists to this day.

In Xp

Alex

#9 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 10:39 AM

Hi Kosta, what do you think of what this ex-Copt has written?

http://www.pravmir.c...ticle_1139.html

#10 Kosta

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 06:27 AM

The link doesnt work for me.




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