Monophysitism (from the Greek monos meaning 'one, alone' and physis meaning 'nature'), or Monophysiticism, is the Christological position that Christ has only one nature, his humanity being absorbed by his Deity, as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ maintains two natures, one divine and one human. As monophysitism is contrary to the orthodox Chalcedonian Creed it has always been considered heretical by the Western Church and most of the Eastern Church. A brief definition of Monophysitist Christology can be given as: "Jesus Christ, who is identical with the Son, is one person and one hypostas in one nature: divine-human."
Monophysitism and its antithesis, Nestorianism, were both hotly disputed and divisive competing tenets in the maturing Christian traditions during the first half of the fifth century; during the tumultuous last decades of the Western Empire, and marked by the political shift in all things to a center of gravity then located in the Eastern Roman Empire, and particularly in Syria, the Levant, and Anatolia, where Monophysitism was popular among the people.
There are two major doctrines that can indisputably be called Monophysite (pronounced /məˈnɒfɨsaɪt/):
- Eutychianism holds that the human and divine natures of Christ were fused into one new single (mono) nature: His human nature was "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea".
- Apollinarism or Apollinarianism holds that Christ had a human body and human "living principle" but that the Divine Logos had taken the place of the nous, or "thinking principle", analogous but not identical to what might be called a mind in the present day.
After Nestorianism, taught by Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, was rejected at the First Council of Ephesus, Eutyches, an archimandrite at Constantinople, emerged with diametrically opposite views. Eutyches' energy and imprudence with which he asserted his opinions brought him the accusation of heresy in 448, leading to his excommunication. In 449, at the controversial Second Council of Ephesus Eutyches was reinstated and his chief opponents Eusebius, Domnus and Flavian, deposed. Monophysitism and Eutyches were again rejected at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
Monophysitism's theological point of view is also rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Churches, but was widely accepted in Syria, Egypt and the Levant, leading to many tensions in the Coptic period of the Byzantine Empire.
Later, Monothelitism was developed as an attempt to bridge the gap between the Monophysite and the Chalcedonian position, but it too was rejected by the members of the Chalcedonian synod, despite at times having the support of the Byzantine emperors and once escaping the condemnation of a Pope of Rome, Honorius I. Some are of the opinion that Monothelitism was at one time held by the Maronites, but the Maronite community, for the most part, dispute this, stating that they have never been out of communion with the Catholic Church.
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