The Council of Chalcedon (/, /) was a church council held from October 8 to November 1, AD 451, at Chalcedon. The council is numbered as the fourth ecumenical council by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and most Protestants. A minority of Christians, subsequently known as Oriental Orthodoxy, do not agree with the council's teachings.
Its most important achievement was to issue the Chalcedonian Definition, stating that Jesus is "perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man." The council's judgments and definitions regarding the divine marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates.
The Council of Chalcedon was convened by Emperor Marcian, with the reluctant approval of Pope Leo the Great, to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus which would become known as the "Latrocinium" or "Robber Council". The Council of Chalcedon issued the Chalcedonian Definition, which repudiated the notion of a single nature in Christ, and declared that he has two natures in one person and hypostasis. It also insisted on the completeness of his two natures: Godhead and manhood. The council also issued 27 disciplinary canons governing church administration and authority. In a further decree, later known as canon 28, the bishops declared that the See of Constantinople (New Rome) had the same patriarchal status as the See of Rome.
The dogmatic definitions of the council are recognized as infallible by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well by certain other Western Churches; also, most Protestants agree that the council's teachings regarding the Trinity and the Incarnation are orthodox doctrine which must be adhered to. The council, however, is rejected by the Assyrian Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the latter teaching rather that "The Lord Jesus Christ is God the Incarnate Word. He possesses the perfect Godhead and the perfect manhood. His fully divine nature is united with His fully human nature yet without mixing, blending or alteration."  The Oriental Orthodox contend that this latter teaching has been misunderstood as monophysitism, an appellation with which they strongly disagree but, nevertheless, refuse to accept the decrees of the council.
Many Anglicans and most Protestants consider it to be the last authoritative ecumenical council. These churches, along with Martin Luther, hold that both conscience and scripture preempt doctrinal councils and generally agree that the conclusions of later councils were unsupported by or contradictory to scripture.
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In 325, the first ecumenical council (First Council of Nicaea) determined that Jesus Christ was God, "consubstantial" with the Father, and rejected the Arian contention that Jesus was a created being. This was reaffirmed at the First Council of Constantinople (381) and the Council of Ephesus (431).
After the Council of Ephesus had condemned Nestorianism, there remained a conflict between Patriarchs John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril claimed that John remained Nestorian in outlook, while John claimed that Cyril held to the Apollinarian heresy. The two settled their differences under the mediation of the Bishop of Beroea, Acacius, on April 12, 433. In the following year, Theodoret of Cyrrhus assented to this formula as well. He agreed to anathematize Nestorius as a heretic in 451, during the Council of Chalcedon, as the price to be paid for being restored to his see (after deposition at the Council of Ephesus of 449). This put a final end to Nestorianism within the Roman Empire.
About two years after Cyril of Alexandria's death in 444, an aged monk from Constantinople named Eutyches began teaching a subtle variation on the traditional Christology in an attempt (as he described in a letter to Pope Leo I in 448) to stop a new outbreak of Nestorianism. He claimed to be a faithful follower of Cyril's teaching, which was declared orthodox in the Union of 433.
Cyril had taught that "There is only one physis, since it is the Incarnation, of God the Word." Cyril had apparently understood the Greek word physis to mean approximately what the Latin word persona (person) means, while most Greek theologians would have interpreted that word to mean natura (nature). Thus, many understood Eutyches to be advocating Docetism, a sort of reversal of Arianism—where Arius had denied the consubstantial divinity of Jesus, Eutyches seemed to be denying his human nature.[clarification needed] Cyril's orthodoxy was not called into question, since the Union of 433 had explicitly spoken of two physeis in this context. [clarification needed]
Leo I wrote that Eutyches' error seemed to be more from a lack of skill on the matters than from malice. Further, his side of the controversy tended not to enter into arguments with their opponents, which prevented the misunderstanding from being uncovered. Nonetheless, due to the high regard in which Eutyches was held (second only to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the East), his teaching spread rapidly throughout the East. [clarification needed]
In November 448, during a local synod in Constantinople, Eutyches was denounced as a heretic by the Bishop Eusebius of Dorylaeum. Eusebius demanded that Eutyches be removed from office. Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople preferred not to press the matter on account of Eutyches' great popularity. He finally relented and Eutyches was condemned as a heretic by the synod. However, the Emperor Theodosius II and Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria, rejected this decision ostensibly because Eutyches had repented and confessed his orthodoxy.[clarification needed] Dioscorus then held his own synod which reinstated Eutyches. The competing claims between the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria led the Emperor to call a council which was held in Ephesus in 449. The emperor invited Pope Leo I to preside.[clarification needed] He declined to attend on account of the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun. However, he agreed to send four legates to represent him. Leo provided his legates, one of whom died en route, with a letter addressed to Flavian of Constantinople explaining Rome's position in the controversy. Leo's letter, now known as Leo's Tome, confessed that Christ had two natures, and was not of or from two natures. Although it could be reconciled with Cyril's Formula of Reunion, it was not compatible in its wording with Cyril's Twelve Anathemas. In particular, the third anathema reads: "If anyone divides in the one Christ the hypostases after the union, joining them only by a conjunction of dignity or authority or power, and not rather by a coming together in a union by nature, let him be anathema." This appeared to some to be incompatible with Leo's definition of two natures hypostatically joined. However, the council would determine (with the exception of 13 Egyptian bishops) that this was an issue of wording and not of doctrine; a committee of bishops appointed to study the orthodoxy of the Tome using Cyril's letters (which included the twelve anathemas) as their criteria unanimously determined it to be orthodox, and the council, with few exceptions, supported this.[clarification needed]
On August 8, 449 the Second Council of Ephesus began its first session with Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria presiding by command of the Emperor. Dioscorus began the council by banning all members of the November 447 synod which had deposed Eutyches. He then introduced Eutyches who publicly professed that while Christ had two natures before the incarnation, the two natures had merged to form a single nature after the incarnation. Of the 130 assembled bishops, 111 voted to rehabilitate Eutyches. Throughout these proceedings, Hilary (one of the papal legates) repeatedly called for the reading of Leo's Tome, but was ignored. Dioscorus then moved to depose Flavian and Eusebius of Dorylaeum on the grounds that they taught the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin and that Christ had two natures. When Flavian and Hilary objected, Dioscorus called for a pro-monophysite mob to enter the church and assault Flavian as he clung to the altar. Flavian was mortally wounded. Dioscorus then placed Eusebius of Dorylaeum under arrest and demanded the assembled bishops approve his actions. Fearing the mob, they all did. The papal legates refused to attend the second session at which several more orthodox bishops were deposed, including Ibas of Edessa, Irenaeus of Tyre (a close personal friend of Nestorius), Domnus of Antioch, and Theodoret. Dioscorus then pressed his advantage by having Cyril of Alexandria's Twelve Anathemas posthumously declared orthodox with the intent of condemning any confession other than one nature in Christ. Hilary, who later became pope and dedicated an oratory in the Lateran Basilica in thanks for his life, managed to escape from Constantinople and brought news of the council to Leo who immediately dubbed it a "synod of robbers"—Latrocinium—and refused to accept its pronouncements. The decisions of this council now threatened schism between the East and the West.
The situation continued to deteriorate, with Leo demanding the convocation of a new council and Emperor Theodosius II refusing to budge, all the while appointing bishops in agreement with Dioscorus. All this changed dramatically with the Emperor's death and the elevation of Marcian, an orthodox Christian, to the imperial throne. To resolve the simmering tensions, Marcian announced his intention to hold a new council. Leo had pressed for it to take place in Italy, but Emperor Marcian instead called for it to convene at Nicaea. Hunnish invasions forced it to move at the last moment to Chalcedon, where the council opened on October 8, 451. Marcian had the bishops deposed by Dioscorus returned to their dioceses and had the body of Flavian brought to the capital to be buried honorably.
The Emperor asked Leo to preside over the council, but Leo again chose to send legates in his place. This time, Bishops Paschasinus of Lilybaeum and Julian of Cos and two priests Boniface and Basil represented the western church at the council. The Council of Chalcedon condemned the work of the Robber Council and professed the doctrine of the Incarnation presented in Leo's Tome.[clarification needed] The council was attended by about 520 bishops or their representatives and was the largest and best-documented of the first seven ecumenical councils. Paschasinus refused to give Dioscorus (who had excommunicated Leo leading up to the council) a seat at the council. As a result, he was moved to the nave of the church. Paschasinus further ordered the reinstatement of Theodoret and that he be given a seat, but this move caused such an uproar among the council fathers, that Theodoret also sat in the nave, though he was given a vote in the proceedings, which began with a trial of Dioscorus.
Marcian wished to bring proceedings to a speedy end, and asked the council to make a pronouncement on the doctrine of the Incarnation before continuing the trial. The council fathers, however, felt that no new creed was necessary, and that the doctrine had been laid out clearly in Leo's Tome. They were also hesitant to write a new creed as the Council of Ephesus had forbidden the composition or use of any new creed. The second session of the council ended with shouts from the bishops, "It is Peter who says this through Leo. This is what we all of us believe. This is the faith of the Apostles. Leo and Cyril teach the same thing." However, during the reading of Leo's Tome, three passages were challenged as being potentially Nestorian, and their orthodoxy was defended by using the writings of Cyril. Nonetheless due to such concerns, the council decided to adjourn and appoint a special committee to investigate the orthodoxy of Leo's Tome, judging it by the standard of Cyril's Twelve Chapters, as some of the bishops present raised concerns about their compatibility. This committee was headed by Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and was given five days to carefully study the matter; Cyril's Twelve Chapters were to be used as the orthodox standard.[clarification needed] The committee unanimously decided in favor of the orthodoxy of Leo, determining that what he said was compatible with the teaching of Cyril. A number of other bishops also entered statements to the effect that they believed that Leo's Tome was not in contradiction with the teaching of Cyril as well.
The council continued with Dioscorus' trial, but he refused to appear before the assembly. As a result, he was condemned, but by an underwhelming amount (more than half the bishops present for the previous sessions did not attend his condemnation), and all of his decrees were declared null. Marcian responded by exiling Dioscorus. All of the bishops were then asked to sign their assent to the Tome, but a group of thirteen Egyptians refused, saying that they would assent to "the traditional faith". As a result, the Emperor's commissioners decided that a credo would indeed be necessary and presented a text to the fathers. No consensus was reached, and indeed the text has not survived to the present. Paschasinus threatened to return to Rome to reassemble the council in Italy. Marcian agreed, saying that if a clause were not added to the credo supporting Leo's doctrine [clarification needed], the bishops would have to relocate. The bishops relented and added a clause, saying that, according to the decision of Leo, in Christ there are two natures united, inconvertible, inseparable.[clarification needed]
The Confession of Chalcedon provides a clear statement on the human and divine nature of Christ:
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; (ἐν δύο φύσεσιν ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως – in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter) the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (prosopon) and one Subsistence (hypostasis), not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεόν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
The full text of the definition which reaffirms the decisions of the Council of Ephesus, the pre-eminence of the Creed of Nicea (325) and the further definitions of the Council of Constantinople (381) can be found here  It also canonises as authoritative two of Cyril of Alexandria's letters and the Tome of Leo written against Eutyches and sent to Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople in 449.
While Canon 28 was in fact a resolution passed by the council at the 16th session to grant equal privileges (isa presbeia) to Constantinople as of Rome because Constantinople was considered the New Rome it was rejected by the papal legates Paschasinus bishop of Lilybaeum, Bishop Lucentius, the priests Boniface and Basil, and Bishop Julian of Cos. Pope Leo confirmed all the canons with regards to doctrines of faith however; Canon 28, while retained in the Acts, was declared null and void since it violated the prerogatives of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and was contrary to Canons 6 and 7 of the Council of Nicaea.
According to some ancient Greek collections, canons 29 and 30 are attributed to the council: canon 29, which states that an unworthy bishop cannot be demoted but can be removed, is an extract from the minutes of the 19th session; canon 30, which grants the Egyptians time to consider their rejection of Leo's Tome, is an extract from the minutes of the fourth session.
In all likelihood an official record of the proceedings was made either during the council itself or shortly afterwards. The assembled bishops informed the pope that a copy of all the "Acta" would be transmitted to him; in March, 453, Pope Leo commissioned Julian of Cos, then at Constantinople, to make a collection of all the Acts and translate them into Latin.[clarification needed] Most of the documents, chiefly the minutes of the sessions, were written in Greek; others, e.g. the imperial letters, were issued in both languages; others, again, e.g. the papal letters, were written in Latin. Eventually nearly all of them were translated into both languages.
The metropolitan of Jerusalem was given independence from the metropolitan of Antioch and from any other higher-ranking bishop, given what is now known as autocephaly, in the council's seventh session whose "Decree on the Jurisdiction of Jerusalem and Antioch" contains: "the bishop of Jerusalem, or rather the most holy Church which is under him, shall have under his own power the three Palestines". This led to Jerusalem becoming a patriarchate, one of the five patriarchates known as the pentarchy, when the title of "patriarch" was created in 531 by Justinian. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. patriarch (ecclesiastical), also calls it "a title dating from the 6th century, for the bishops of the five great sees of Christendom". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, says: "Five patriarchates, collectively called the pentarchy, were the first to be recognized by the legislation of the emperor Justinian (reigned 527–565)".
The Council of Nicaea in 325 had noted the primacy of the See of Rome, followed by the Sees of Alexandria and Antioch. At the time, the See of Constantinople was not yet of ecclesiastical prominence, but its proximity to the Imperial court gave rise to its importance. The Council of Constantinople in 381 modified the situation somewhat by placing Constantinople second in honor, above Alexandria and Antioch, stating in Canon III, that "the bishop of Constantinople... shall have the prerogative of honor after the bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome". In the early 5th century, this status was challenged by the bishops of Alexandria, but the Council of Chalcedon confirmed in Canon XXVIII:
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, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges (ἴσα πρεσβεῖα) to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her.
In making their case, the council fathers argued that tradition had accorded "honor" to the see of older Rome because it was the first imperial city. Accordingly, "moved by the same purposes" the fathers "apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome" because "the city which is honored by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equaling older imperial Rome should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her". The framework for allocating ecclesiastical authority advocated by the council fathers mirrored the allocation of imperial authority in the later period of the Roman Empire. The Eastern position could be characterized as being political in nature, as opposed to a doctrinal view. In practice, all Christians East and West addressed the papacy as the See of Peter and Paul or the Apostolic See rather than the See of the Imperial Capital. Rome understands this to indicate that its precedence has always come from its direct lineage from the apostles Peter and Paul rather than its association with Imperial authority.[clarification needed]
After the passage of the Canon 28, Rome filed a protest against the reduction of honor given to Antioch and Alexandria. However, fearing that withholding Rome's approval would be interpreted as a rejection of the entire council, in 453 the pope confirmed the council's canons with a protest against the 28th.
The near-immediate result of the council was a major schism.[clarification needed] The bishops that were uneasy with the language of Pope Leo's Tome repudiated the council, saying that the acceptance of two physes was tantamount to Nestorianism. Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria advocated miaphysitism and had dominated the Council of Ephesus. Churches that rejected Chalcedon in favor of Ephesus broke off from the rest of the Eastern Church in a schism, the most significant among these being the Church of Alexandria, today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
Justinian I attempted to bring those monks who still rejected the decision of the Council of Chalcedon into communion with the greater church. The exact time of this event is unknown, but it is believed to have been between 535 and 548. St Abraham of Farshut was summoned to Constantinople and he chose to bring with him four monks. Upon arrival, Justinian summoned them and informed them that they would either accept the decision of the council or lose their positions. Abraham refused to entertain the idea. Theodora tried to persuade Justinian to change his mind, seemingly to no avail. Abraham himself stated in a letter to his monks that he preferred to remain in exile rather than subscribe to a faith contrary to that of Athanasius.[clarification needed] They were not alone, and the non-Chalcedon churches compose Oriental Orthodoxy, with the Church of Alexandria as their primus inter pares. Only in recent years has a degree of rapprochement between Chalcedonian Christians and the Oriental Orthodox been seen.
The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the "Holy Fathers of the 4th Ecumenical Council, who assembled in Chalcedon" on the Sunday on or after July 13;   however, in some places (e.g. Russia) on that date is rather a feast of the Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils.
For the former "The Office of the 630 Holy and God-bearing Fathers of the 4th ... Summoned against the Monophysites Eftyches and Dioskoros ..." was composed in the middle of the 14th century by Patriarch Philotheus I of Constantinople. This contains numerous hymns exposing the council's teaching, commemorating its leaders whom it praises and whose prayers it implores, and naming its opponents pejoratively. e.g., "Come let us clearly reject the errors of ... but praise in divine songs the fourth council of pious fathers."
For the latter the propers are titled "We Commemorate Six Holy Ecumenical Councils". This repeatedly damns those anathematized by the councils with such rhetoric as "Christ-smashing deception enslaved Nestorius" and "mindless Arius and ... is tormented in the fires of Gehenna ..." while the fathers of the councils are praised and the dogmas of the councils are expounded in the hymns therein.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Council of Chalcedon.|