Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

aka, Bishops behaving badly.

This is the schism that should never have happened, a schism between the Cappadocian Church (EO and RC) and the Oriental Orthodox Church. It is a split that occurred more because of language and cultural differences than anything else, both sides accusing the other of following wrong doctrine.

On the Oriental side was Eutyches, a learned theologian who was attempting to put down a resurgence of Nestorianism, and a follower of Cyril of Alexandria. Eutyches, like Cyril, was educated in the Latin theological language, not Greek like the Cappadocians.

The Cappadocian side was led by Eusebius, whose education in the Greek theological language similarly lacked a solid background in Latin.

Nestorianism (a form of which is currently held by the Assyrian Church of the East) stated that there were two distinct persons in human form, one human (Jesus, if you will) the other divine (Christ) that worked together. Jesus was born of Mary, after which Christ was infused into the man, the two personas operating independent of each other, but in communion. Jesus ate, drank, and taught the Good News, Christ worked the miracles. At the Crucifixion the two separated at the point when Jesus uttered, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me”, the man Jesus died but Christ, being divine, could not suffer death. Interestingly enough, Nestorius said that this was never part of his teachings, that he firmly believed in the full unity of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ. He said the he was simply trying to understand the doctrine of the Incarnation, and that Mary’s title of Theotokos (God-Bearer) ignored the human side of Jesus, focusing solely on the God side, suggesting instead the term Christotokos (Christ-Bearer).

As I said, Eutyches was a learned theologian, but not well versed in Greek, his opponent, Eusebius, was also well schooled, but in the Greek philosophies, and therein lay the root of the issue; Eutyches was called to defend his teachings. Add to this that there was a contention between the preeminence of Alexandria and Constantinople over which Patriarchate should fall next after Rome, both theologians arrived at the council with chips on their shoulders. Eutyches defended his teaching on the basis that (as Cyril had said) “There is only oneĀ physis, since it is the Incarnation, of God the Word.” Eutyches believed that physis was the Greek equivalent of the Latin persona (person), problem was that it isn’t, the Greek word physis actually means nature, what Eutyches should have said was ousia. Eusebius jumped relentlessly on this and, like a dog with a new bone, wouldn’t let Eutyches. Pope Leo I sent a letter trying to explain that Eutyches’ error was one of linguistics and not one of malice, unfortunately the letter was delayed and the verdict rendered.

Both sides appealed to Emperor Theodosius I who called an Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 449 AD. I’m not going to get into what happened at the council, as there at least two different interpretations of the event, and the different sessions. Once again Pope Leo sent a letter rather than attending in person, which was looked upon as a snubbing of the Eastern churches, so, according to at least one of the interpretations the letter wasn’t read until after the decision had been made. Regardless, the Council rejected Eutyches’ claims, upheld Eusebius. Both Eutyches and Eusebius were placed under arrest by opposing forces. Regardless, feelings were hurt (deeper than that, but the best I can do in English), tensions increased, the Council condemned Eutyches’ teachings, anathematized anyone who taught or believed them, and the split between Cappadocia and Alexandria became permanent.

This ends my history of the East/West churches. The next section will give a final look at the Eastern Orthodox churches before moving onto the Western churches. On a personal note I don’t know when I will get back to this, I am going through a state of deep depression I struggled to get this finished (as you can tell by how long it took to post this), so I don’t when if/when I will be back.


Comments on: "A History of Christianity – The (not so) Great Schism" (1)

  1. Sad to read you are going through a state of deep depression and struggled to get this finished.

    We do hope the many lockdowns by the Covid pandemic did not worsen your situation and pray that you will find the strength to endure the difficulties of this world and shall find the courage to search the Scriptures for the Biblical Truth.

    Keep up! & Good luck.


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