Biography of Eutyches of Constantinople (leader of Eutychianism)
Much about the life of Eutyches (born ~375 to 454) has been lost to history. He was a monk and archimandrite (head monk) in Constantinople. He was influenced greatly by the teachings of St. Cyril of Alexandria and greatly opposed the teachings of Nestorius during the Council in Ephesus in 431. His strong opposition to Nestorianism led him to the extreme opposite view that Jesus had a single brand new nature which was a combination of humanity and divine. His views were controversial and he was brought before a synod in 448 where he was branded a heretic, deposed from his religious positions and excommunicated. He was briefly reinstated during the second council of Ephesus in 449 (called the robber synod) before he was again deposed, excommunicated and this time exiled during the Council of Chalcedon in 451. He died in exile.
Time frame of Eutychianism
431 AD - Council of Ephesus determined that Jesus had a single hypostasis
431 to 447 - Eutyches teaches that Jesus' divine nature combined together with his human nature to form a 'new' combined single nature.
448 - Eutyches' teachings are determined to be heretical.
449 - Eutyches is reinstated during the second council of Ephesus.
451 - Council of Chalcedon. Eutyches is again condemned as a heretic and is exiled.
Prior to the edict of Milan (313 AD), most Christians were focused on their personal safety and the survival of the faith. However, post-edict Christians were allowed to worship freely and no longer feared for their life. This allowed them to switch their focus away from questions of survival to questions of Orthodoxy/doctrine. There were many different ideas during this period and this resulted in conflict between different teachers and their followers. The new emperor Constantine wanted to avoid any conflict and desired to unite the church under one accepted orthodoxy. This led Constantine to invite all the most respected church leaders to Nicaea in 325AD to resolve the most pressing issue/doctrine of the time which was the divine nature of Jesus and His relationship to God the Father. The council of Nicaea determined that the Scriptures declare that Jesus is God, is "of the same essence (ousia) as the Father" and "he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit...and was made human". However the council did not elaborate of how the both the divine and humanity coexisted in the person of Jesus Christ. This ambiguity led to many different church leaders coming up with their own ideas and interpretations. One such leader was Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople who taught that Jesus had two distinct hypostases loosely joined by a moral union. Nestorius' views were quickly opposed by many church leaders and this resulted in the council of Ephesus (431AD) which declared Nestorius a heretic and that Jesus has only one hypostasis. One of Nestorius' staunches opponent was Eutyches of Constantinople, Euthyches rejected idea of dual hypostates vehemently and insisted that Jesus had only one hypostasis. However, Euthyches did not believe that both divinity and humanity coexisted in Jesus. He taught that Jesus' divine nature and human nature were blended and the divine nature swallowed up His humanity. He argued that this made Jesus homoousian with God the Father but not with man. His teachings were called Eutychianism and was the topic of debate during the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The council found his views herectical and he was excommunicated.
In opposition to Nestorianism where Jesus is believed to have two distinct hypostases (human and divine) which are loosely joined together, Eutychianism holds that Jesus has only one hypostasis. They taught that God the Son who has always existed swallowed up Jesus' human nature during the incarnation. This implied that Jesus continued to be God and of the same essence (ousia) as the Father but He was no longer fully human. Eutychianism taught that Jesus' divinity absorbed His humanity which created one hypostasis during the incarnation.
Opponents to Eutychianism and Council of Chalcedon (451 AD)
Bishop Eusebius of Dorylaeum and Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople declared Eutyches' monophysite teachings heretical in 448AD during a standing synod at Constantinople. He was deposed of his position and excommunicated. Flavian reported these views to Pope Leo I who issued a tome condemning Eutychianism on June 13, 449. However, there was support for Eutyches from other church leaders such as the Patriarch of Alexandria and emperor Theodosius II. There was widespread disagreement between the two sides which culminated in the council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. The council of Chalcedon rejected the ideas that Jesus' divine nature swallowed up his humanity. The leaders believed that Jesus' humanity was clearly revealed in Scripture (Rom 5:15, Heb 4:15, 1 John 4:2) and declared once again that Eutychianism was heretical. The council concluded that Jesus was fully God and fully man (2 natures) that existed in one person in perfect union (hypostatic union).
Impact of the Eutychianism to the Christian Church
Immediately after the Council of Chalcedon, there was a schism that formed between those that agreed with the council's conclusions and those that did not. There were numerous bishops that did not adhere to the findings of Chalcedon and the most prominent one was Dioscorus of Alexandria. Dioscorus believed that the council's findings of two natures in one person was tantamount to Nestorianism and he advocated for Eutychianism or a form of miaphysitism. This led to church of Alexandria and those under it's influence to largely separate from the western churches. Today, the Coptic Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox church who stem from the traditions of the church of Alexandria still adhere to miaphysite views.
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