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Concerning the distinction between nature and person


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#1 David Lindblom

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 01:43 AM

In my reading I've come across something that never occurred to me as a Protestant. St. John of Damascus said that the root of all heresies is the confusion of nature and person. I've read that this is the foundational error Calvinist have made. Can someone flesh this out a bit for me? What is meant by the terms nature and person w/in the Orthodox Church in this context? Thanks.

#2 Father David Moser

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 03:27 AM

What is meant by the terms nature and person w/in the Orthodox Church in this context? Thanks.


An incredibly complex question. A good treatment of the issue of "person" is the book "the person in Orthodox Tradition" by Metr. Hieotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos.

Fr David Moser

#3 Mario Shammas

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 01:23 AM

I think that you mean the nature and person of Christ. In the Orthodox doctrine, the person of Jesus has two natures, divine and human. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon(the 4th of the 7 Ecumenical Councils) determined, by the wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit of course, that the person of Jesus had 2 natures, FULLY DIVINE, and FULLY HUMAN. So Jesus is a full God, but his divinity did not at any time intertwine or overcome his humanity; which is why he ate and felt pain (human, but of course never sinned). The Coptic and Ethiopian "Orthodox" Churches did not agree with the decision of the council because they thought that Christ's divine nature overcame his human nature and became a full God, but not a full man. These churches thought the council might be bringing back Arian(from Arius) heresies about Christ not being divine, but it was them who actually misunderstood it. These churches became known as "monophysites" because they believed that Jesus only had 1 nature, divine. However, in order for Jesus to save us, he had to be fully God and fully man.
Hope this helps, please ask if you have any more questions.

#4 Dimitris

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 05:51 AM

In the Orthodox doctrine, the person of Jesus has two natures, divine and human. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon(the 4th of the 7 Ecumenical Councils) determined, by the wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit of course, that the person of Jesus had 2 natures, FULLY DIVINE, and FULLY HUMAN.

The correct wording according to the Chalcedonian Council is not that Jesus Christ has to natures, but that Jesus Christ is one person in two natures.

Edited by Dimitris, 09 November 2010 - 06:29 AM.


#5 Mario Shammas

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 12:22 AM

Thanks for correcting me Dimitris.

#6 Benjamin Amis

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:57 PM

I think that you mean the nature and person of Christ. In the Orthodox doctrine, the person of Jesus has two natures, divine and human. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon(the 4th of the 7 Ecumenical Councils) determined, by the wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit of course, that the person of Jesus had 2 natures, FULLY DIVINE, and FULLY HUMAN. So Jesus is a full God, but his divinity did not at any time intertwine or overcome his humanity; which is why he ate and felt pain (human, but of course never sinned). The Coptic and Ethiopian "Orthodox" Churches did not agree with the decision of the council because they thought that Christ's divine nature overcame his human nature and became a full God, but not a full man. These churches thought the council might be bringing back Arian(from Arius) heresies about Christ not being divine, but it was them who actually misunderstood it. These churches became known as "monophysites" because they believed that Jesus only had 1 nature, divine. However, in order for Jesus to save us, he had to be fully God and fully man.
Hope this helps, please ask if you have any more questions.


I would like to speak a bit more to the differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church when it comes to their respective Christologies.

The Council of Chalcedon (4th EC) declared that Christ was one person in two natures. He is fully God and fully man by nature (in essence), and that there was no confusion between those natures, but Jesus still exists as a single person.

The Non-Chalcedonians saw this as too Nestorian. Nestorius, who has been anathematized by both groups, had taught essentially that Christ was composed of two persons, each with their own nature. The Definition of Chalcedon was simply too close to the Nestorian heresy for this group to accept.

On the other hand, the group that became the Oriental Orthodox were not monophysites, even though they have been called that by our Church for centuries, they too had anathematized the doctrine. They call themselves "miaphysites." They teach that Christ is one person who has one nature, but in that nature exists a fusion of divine and human, and that these two natures exist without separation, alteration or confusion. This makes Christ fully human and fully divine, combined in one nature.

For the Chalcedonians, the group that became the Eastern Orthodox Church could not except this definition, as it was too close to Eutychianism for them. Eutyches had taught that the human and divine nature of Christ had melded into a single nature. Neither the EO or the OO accept Euchtyes, either.

The important thing to note here is that the Non-Chalcedonians hold that Christ is both fully human and fully divine, and that his human nature was not dissolved by his divine nature "like a drop of honey in the sea" as Eutyches taught.

However, recently (in the last few decades, I don't remember exactly when) a common declaration between these two churches declared that their doctrines, Chalcedonianism and Miaphysitism, were not in conflict. There's still a lot of work to be done, and plenty of opposition to resuming intercommunion from both sides, but after 1,500 years, we are coming to slowly understand and respect each other more.

I also ask our Oriential Orthodox here to correct me if I have spoken in error about any of your church's dogma, as well as any Eastern Orthodox if I have failed to articulate our faith properly.




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