The Eutychian Controversy And Th
What is known as the Eutychian controversy is less a dogmatic controversy
than a struggle between the patriarchs of the East for supremacy, using
party theological differences as a support. Few passages in the history of
the Church are more painful. The union made in 433 between the Antiochian
and Alexandrian parties lasted fifteen years, or until after the death of
those who entered into it. At Antioch Domnus became bishop in 442, at
Alexandria Dioscurus in 444, and at Constantinople Flavian in 446. Early
in 448 Dioscurus, who aimed at the domination of the East, began to attack
the Antiochians as Nestorians. In this he was supported at Constantinople
by Chrysaphius, the all-powerful minister of the weak Theodosius II, and
the archimandrite Eutyches, the godfather of the minister. Eusebius of
Dorylaeum thereupon accused Eutyches, who held the Alexandrian position in
an extreme form, of being heretical on the doctrine of the Incarnation.
Eutyches was condemned by Flavian at an endemic synod [cf. DCA, I. 474].
November 22, 448. Both Eutyches and Flavian [cf. Leo the Great, Ep.
21, 22] thereupon turned to Leo, bishop of Rome. Leo, abandoning the
traditional Roman alliance with Alexandria, on which Dioscurus had
counted, supported Flavian, sending him June 13, 449, a dogmatic epistle
(the Tome, Ep. 28) defining, in the terms of Western theology, the point
at issue. A synod was now called by Theodosius at Ephesus, August, 449, in
which Dioscurus with the support of the court triumphed. Eutyches was
restored, and the leaders of the Antiochian party, Flavian, Eusebius,
Ibas, Theodoret, and others deposed. Flavian [cf. Kirch, nn. 804 ff.],
Eusebius, and Theodoret appealed to Leo, who vigorously denounced the
synod as a council of robbers (Latrocinium Ephesinum). At the same time
the situation at the court, upon which Dioscurus depended, was completely
changed by the fall of Chrysaphius and the death of Theodosius. Pulcheria,
his sister, and Marcian, her husband, succeeded to the throne, both
adherents of the Antiochian party, and opposed to the ecclesiastical
aspirations of Dioscurus. A new synod was now called by Marcian at
Chalcedon, a suburb of Constantinople. Dioscurus was deposed, as well as
Eutyches, but Ibas and Theodoret were restored after an examination of
their teaching. A definition was drawn up in harmony with the Tome of
Leo. It was a triumph for Leo, which was somewhat lessened by the passage
of canon 28, based upon the third canon of Constantinople, A. D. 381, a
council which was henceforth recognized as the "Second General Council."
Leo refused to approve this canon, which remained in force in the East and
was renewed at the Quinisext Council A. D. 692.
Additional source material: W. Bright, Select Sermons of S. Leo
the Great on the Incarnation; with his twenty-eighth Epistle
called the "Tome", Second ed., London, 1886; Percival, The
Seven Ecumenical Councils (PNF); Evagrius, Hist. Ec., II, 1-5,
18, Eng. trans., London, 1846 (also in Bohn's Ecclesiastical
Library); also much material in Hefele, §§ 170-208.
(a) Council of Constantinople, A. D. 448, Acts. Mansi, VI, 741 ff.
The position of Eutyches and his condemnation.
Inasmuch as Eutyches was no theologian and no man of letters, he
has left no worked-out statement of his position. What he taught
can be gathered only from the acts of the Council of
Constantinople A. D. 448. These were incorporated in the acts of
the Council of Ephesus, A. D. 449, and as his friends were there
they may be regarded as trustworthy. The acts of the Council of
Ephesus, A. D. 449 were read in the Council of Chalcedon, A. D.
451, and in this way the matter is known.
The following passages are taken from the seventh sitting of the
Council of Constantinople, November 22, 448.
Archbishop Flavian said: Do you confess that the one and the same Son, our
Lord Jesus Christ, is consubstantial with His Father as to His divinity,
and consubstantial with His mother as to His humanity?
Eutyches said: When I intrusted myself to your holiness I said that you
should not ask me further what I thought concerning the Father, Son, and
The archbishop said: Do you confess Christ to be of two natures?
Eutyches said: I have never yet presumed to speculate concerning the
nature of my God, the Lord of heaven and earth; I confess that I have
never said that He is consubstantial with us. Up to the present day I have
not said that the body of our Lord and God was consubstantial with us; I
confess that the holy Virgin is consubstantial with us, and that of her
our God was incarnate.
Florentius, the patrician, said: Since the mother is consubstantial with
us, doubtless the Son is consubstantial with us.
Eutyches said: I have not said, you will notice, that the body of a man
became the body of God, but the body was human, and the Lord was incarnate
of the Virgin. If you wish that I should add to this that His body is
consubstantial with us, I will do this; but I do not understand the term
consubstantial in such a way that I do not deny that he is the Son of God.
Formerly I spoke in general not of a consubstantiality according to the
flesh; now I will do so, because your Holiness demands it.
Florentius said: Do you or do you not confess that our Lord, who is of the
Virgin, is consubstantial and of two natures after the incarnation?
Eutyches said: I confess that our Lord was of two natures before the union
[i.e., the union of divinity and humanity in the incarnation], but after
the union one nature. I follow the teaching of the blessed Cyril and the
holy Fathers and the holy Athanasius, because they speak of two natures
before the union, but after the union and incarnation they speak not of
two natures but of one nature.
Condemnation of Eutyches.
Eutyches, formerly presbyter and archimandrite, has been shown, by what
has taken place and by his own confession, to be infected with the heresy
of Valentinus and Apollinaris, and to follow stubbornly their blasphemies,
and rejecting our arguments and teaching, is unwilling to consent to true
doctrines. Therefore, weeping and mourning his complete perversity, we
have decreed through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been blasphemed by
him, that he be deprived of every sacerdotal office, that he be put out of
our communion, and deprived of his position over a monastery. All who
hereafter speak with him or associate with him, are to know that they also
are fallen into the same penalty of excommunication.
(b) Leo the Great, Epistola Dogmatica or the Tome. Hahn, § 176.
This letter was written to Flavian on the subject which had been
raised by the condemnation of Eutyches in 448. It is of the first
importance, not merely in the history of the Church, but also in
the history of doctrine. Yet it cannot be said that Leo advanced
beyond the traditional formulae of the West, or struck out new
thoughts [cf. Augustine, Ep. 187, text and translation of most
important part in Norris, Rudiments of Theology, 1894, pp.
262-266]. It was to be read at the Council of Ephesus, 449 A. D.,
but was not. It soon became widely known, however, and was
approved at the endemic Council of Constantinople, A. D. 450, and
when read at Chalcedon, the Fathers of the council cried out:
"Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo."
It may be found translated in PNF, ser II, vol. XII, p. 38, and
again vol. XIV, p. 254. The best critical text is given in Hahn, §
224. A translation with valuable notes may be found in Wm. Bright,
op. cit. Hefele, § 176, gives a paraphrase and text with useful
notes. The most significant passages, which are here translated,
may be found in Denziger, nn. 143 f.
Ch. 3. Without detracting from the properties of either nature and
substance, which came together in one person, majesty took on humility;
strength, weakness; eternity, mortality; and to pay off the debt of our
condition inviolable nature was united to passible nature, so that as
proper remedy for us, one and the same mediator between God and man, the
man Jesus Christ, could both die with the one and not die with the other.
Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born,
complete in what was His and complete in what was ours.
Ch. 4. There enters, therefore, these lower parts of the world the Son of
God, descending from His heavenly seat, and not quitting the glory of His
Father, begotten in a new order by a new nativity. In a new order: because
He who was invisible in His own nature, was made visible in ours; He who
was incomprehensible [could not be contained], became comprehensible in
ours; remaining before all times, He began to be in time; the Lord of all,
He took upon Him the form of a servant, having obscured His immeasurable
majesty. He who was God, incapable of suffering, did not disdain to be
man, capable of suffering, and the immortal to subject Himself to the laws
of death. Born by a new nativity: because the inviolate virginity knew not
concupiscence, it ministered the material of the flesh. The nature of the
Lord was assumed from the mother, not sin; and in the Lord Jesus Christ,
born of the womb of the Virgin, because His nativity is wonderful, yet is
His nature not dissimilar to ours. For He who is true God, is likewise
true man, and there is no fraud(186) since both the humility of the man
and the loftiness of God meet.(187) For as God is not changed by the
manifestation of pity, so the man is not consumed [absorbed] by the
dignity. For each form [i.e., nature] does in communion with the other
what is proper to it [agit enim utraque forma cum alterius communione
quod proprium est]; namely, by the action of the Word what is of the
Word, and by the flesh carrying out what is of the flesh. One of these is
brilliant with miracles, the other succumbs to injuries. And as the Word
does not depart from equality with the paternal glory, so the flesh does
not forsake the nature of our race.(188)
(c) Council of Chalcedon, A. D. 451, Definition. Mansi, VII, 107.
The definition of Chalcedon lays down the fundamental principles
upon which rests the doctrine of the incarnation, both in Eastern
and Western theology. It is the necessary complement and result of
the discussion that led to the definition of Nicaea, and is
theologically second only to that in importance. At Nicaea the true
and eternal deity of the Son who became incarnate was defined; at
Chalcedon the true, complete, and abiding humanity of manhood of
the incarnate Son of God. In this way two natures were asserted to
be in the incarnate Logos. According to Chalcedon, which came
after the Nestorian and the Eutychian controversies, these natures
are neither to be confused so that the divine nature suffers or
the human nature is lost in the divine, nor to be separated so as
to constitute two persons. The definition was, however, not
preceded by any clear understanding of what was to be understood
by nature in relation to hypostasis. This was left for later
discussion. There was even then left open the question as to the
relation of the will to the nature, and this gave rise to the
Monothelete controversy (see § 110). But the definition of
Chalcedon is important not merely for the history of doctrine but
also for the general history of the Church. The course of
Christianity in the East depends upon the great controversies, and
in Monophysitism the Church of the East was split into permanent
divisions. The divisions of the Eastern Church prepared the way
for the Moslem conquests. The attempts made to set aside the
definition of Chalcedon as a political move led to a temporary
schism between the East and the West.
In this definition, it should be noted, the Council of
Constantinople, A. D. 381, for the first time takes its place
alongside of Nicaea and Ephesus, A. D. 431, and the so-called creed
of Constantinople is placed on the same level as the creed put
forth at Nicaea. The creed of Constantinople eventually took the
place of the creed of Nicaea even in the East.
The text of the definition may be found in its most important
dogmatic part in Hefele, § 193; Hahn, § 146; Denziger, n. 148. For
a general description of the council, see Evagrius, Hist. Ec.,
II, 3, 4. Extracts from the acts in PNF, ser. II, vol. XIV, 243
The holy, great, and ecumenical synod, assembled by the grace of God and
the command of our most religious and Christian Emperors Marcian and
Valentinian, Augusti, at Chalcedon, the metropolis of the province of
Bithynia, in the martyry of the holy and victorious martyr Euphemia, has
decreed as follows:
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when strengthening the knowledge of the
faith in his disciples, to the end that no one might disagree with his
neighbor concerning the doctrines of religion, and that the proclamation
of the truth might be set forth equally to all men, said: "My peace I
leave with you, my peace I give unto you." But since the Evil One does not
desist from sowing tares among the seeds of godliness, but ever invents
something new against the truth, therefore the Lord, providing, as He ever
does, for the human race, has raised up this pious, faithful, and zealous
sovereign, and He has called together unto Himself from all parts the
chief rulers of the priesthood, so that, with the grace of Christ, our
common Lord, inspiring us, we may cast off every plague of falsehood from
the sheep of Christ and feed them with the tender leaves of truth. And
this we have done, with unanimous consent driving away erroneous doctrine
and renewing the unerring faith of the Fathers, publishing to all the
creed of the three hundred and eighteen [i.e., the creed of Nicaea], and
to their number adding as Fathers those who have received the same summary
of religion. Such are the one hundred and fifty who afterward assembled in
great Constantinople and ratified the same faith. Moreover, observing the
order and every form relating to the faith which was observed by the holy
synod formerly held in Ephesus, of which Celestine of Rome and Cyril of
Alexandria, of holy memory, were the leaders [i.e., Ephesus A. D. 431],
we do declare that the exposition of the right and blameless faith made by
the three hundred and eighteen holy and blessed Fathers, assembled at
Nicaea in the reign of Constantine, of pious memory, shall be pre-eminent,
and that those things shall be of force also which were decreed by the one
hundred and fifty holy Fathers at Constantinople for the uprooting of the
heresies which had then sprung up and for the confirmation of the same
Catholic and apostolic faith of ours.
"The Creed of the Three Hundred and Eighteen Fathers at Nicaea." The
so-called Constantinopolitan creed, without the "filioque."
This wise and salutary formula of divine grace sufficed for the perfect
knowledge and confirmation of religion; for it teaches the perfect
doctrine concerning Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and sets forth the
incarnation of the Lord to them that faithfully receive it. But forasmuch
as persons undertaking to make void the preaching of the truth have
through their individual heresies given rise to empty babblings, some of
them daring to corrupt the mystery of the Lord's incarnation for us and
refusing to use the name Theotokos in reference to the Virgin, while
others bringing in a confusion and mixture, and idly conceiving that there
is one nature of the flesh and the godhead, maintaining that the divine
nature of the Only begotten is by mixture capable of suffering; therefore
this present, great, and ecumenical synod, desiring to exclude from them
every device against the truth and teaching that which is unchanged from
the beginning, has at the very outset decreed that the faith of the three
hundred and eighteen Fathers shall be preserved inviolate. And on account
of them that contend against the Holy Ghost, it confirms the doctrine
afterward delivered concerning the substance of the Spirit by the one
hundred and fifty holy Fathers assembled in the imperial city, which
doctrine they declare unto all men, not as though they were introducing
anything that had been lacking in their predecessors, but in order to
explain through written documents their faith concerning the Holy Ghost
against those who were seeking to destroy His sovereignty. And on account
of those who are attempting to corrupt the mystery of the dispensation
[i.e., the incarnation], and who shamelessly pretend that He who was
born of the holy Virgin Mary was a mere man, it receives the synodical
letters of the blessed Cyril, pastor of the church of Alexandria,
addressed to Nestorius and to the Easterns,(189) judging them suitable for
the refutation of the frenzied folly of Nestorius and for the instruction
of those who long with holy ardor for a knowledge of the saving symbol.
And to these it has rightly added for the confirmation of the orthodox
doctrines the letter of the president of the great and old Rome, the most
blessed and holy Archbishop Leo, which was addressed to Archbishop
Flavian, of blessed memory,(190) for the removal of the false doctrines of
Eutyches, judging them to be agreeable to the confession of the great
Peter and to be a common pillar against misbelievers. For it opposes those
who would rend the mystery of the dispensation into a duad of Sons; it
repels from the sacred assembly those who dared to say that the godhead of
the Only begotten is capable of suffering; it resists those who imagine
there is a mixture or confusion in the two natures of Christ; it drives
away those who fancy His form as a servant is of an heavenly or of some
substance other than that which was taken of us,(191) and it anathematizes
those who foolishly talk of two natures of our Lord before the union,(192)
conceiving that after the union there was only one.(193)
Following the holy Fathers,(194) we all with one voice teach men to
confess that the Son and our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same, that
He is perfect in godhead and perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man,
of a reasonable soul and body, consubstantial with His Father as touching
His godhead, and consubstantial with us as to His manhood,(195) in all
things like unto us, without sin; begotten of His Father before all worlds
according to His godhead; but in these last days for us and for our
salvation of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, according to His manhood, one
and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten Son,(196) in(197) two
natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably; the
distinction of natures being preserved and concurring in one person and
hypostasis,(198) not separated or divided into two persons, but one and
the same Son and Only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as
the prophets from the beginning have spoken concerning Him, and as the
Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and as the creed of the Fathers
has delivered us.
These things having been expressed by us with great accuracy and
attention, the holy ecumenical synod decrees that no one shall be
permitted to bring forward another faith,(199) nor to write, nor to
compose, nor to excogitate, nor to teach such to others. But such as dare
to compose another faith, or to bring forward, or to teach, or to deliver
another creed to such as wish to be converted to the knowledge of the
truth from among the Gentiles or the Jews, or any heresy whatever; if they
be bishops or clerics, let them be deposed, the bishops from the
episcopate, the clerics from the clerical rank; but if they be monks or
laymen, let them be anathematized.
(d) Council of Chalcedon, A. D. 451, Canon 28. Bruns, I, 32.
The rank of the see of Constantinople.
This canon is closely connected with Canon 3 of Constantinople, A.
D. 381, but goes beyond that in extending the authority of
Constantinople. With this canon should be compared Canons 9 and 17
of Chalcedon, which, taken with Canon 28, make Constantinople
supreme in the East. For the circumstances in which the Canon was
passed, see Hefele, § 200. The letter of the council submitting
its decrees to Leo for approval and explaining this canon is among
the Epistles of Leo, Ep. 98. (PNF, ser. II, vol. XII, p. 72.)
For Leo's criticism, v. supra, § 86. See W. Bright, Notes on
the Canons of the First Four General Councils, 1882. A valuable
discussion of the canon in its historical setting is in
Hergenroether, Photius, Patriarch von Constantinopel, 1867, I,
Texts of the canon may be found in Kirch, n. 868, and Hefele,
Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and
acknowledging the canon, which has just been read, of the one hundred and
fifty bishops, beloved of God we also do enact and decree the same things
concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople or New
Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of Old
Rome, because it was the royal city, and the one hundred and fifty most
religious bishops, moved by the same considerations, gave equal privileges
to the most holy throne of New Rome, judging with good reason that the
city which is honored with the sovereignty and the Senate, and also enjoys
equal privileges with old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters
also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that in the
dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace the metropolitans, and such bishops
also of the dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be
ordained only by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of
Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses together with
the bishops of his province ordaining bishops of the province, as has been
declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been said above, the
metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses shall be ordained by the
archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held
according to custom and have been reported to him.
(e) Council of Chalcedon, A. D. 451, Protests of the Legates of Leo
against Canon 28. Mansi, VII, 446.
Lucentius, the bishop [legate of Leo], said: The Apostolic See gave orders
that all things should be done in our presence [Latin text: The Apostolic
See ought not to be humiliated in our presence], and therefore whatever
was done yesterday during our absence, to the prejudice of the canons, we
pray your highnesses [i.e., the royal commissioners who directed the
affairs of the council] to command to be rescinded. But if not, let our
protest be placed in these acts [i.e., the minutes of the council then
being approved], so that we may know clearly what we are to report to that
apostolic and chief bishop of the whole Church [Latin text: to that
apostolic man and Pope of the universal Church], so that he may be able to
take action with regard either to the indignity done to his see or to the
setting at naught of the canons.
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