Eutychianism was a Christological heresy of the fifth century, taking its name from Eutyches, an ascetic, of strict monastic training, for thirty years superior of a monastery near Constantinople. The history of the struggle of the orthodox party with Eutyches up to the Council of Chalcedon is an unhappy chapter in church history, not alone because court cabals had a considerable share in it, but because it was less a struggle for purity of doctrine than for ecclesiastical power, turning to a large extent on questions of decisive importance in the development of the Alexandrian and Roman patriarchates and in the position of monasticism and of learning in the Church. As a chapter in the history of ideas, it offers one of the most confused and unedifying pictures in the whole of dogmatic development. This is not to adopt Harnack's view that the Monophysitism of Cyril was the legitimate outcome of Greek Christological development, or to pass judgment upon the ultimate solution adopted by the council, which, under the influence of the West, was the most rational then possible; it is simply an expression of distaste for the theological ignorance, thoughtlessness, and lack of conscience of which the history of the controversy is full.
1. Compromise between Alexandria and Antioch in 433. The story begins in 433 with the union enforced by court influence between the parties of Alexandria and Antioch (see NESTORUS, § 6) which had only concealed the opposition between their Christological teachings. It was, however, not without its effects. It was fatal to those who had refused to condemn Nestorius (q.v.), and compelled the submission of such men as Theodoret and Andrew of Samosata. It forced Cyril to take his stand in defense of formulas which had been worked out by the school of Antioch and could not be so easily fitted in as some zealous Alexandrians then desired. It tended rather to favor the acceptance of two natures in Christ. It is true, there was in the East no theology with which these formulas were altogether harmonious. They corresponded to the traditions of the West, where it was possible to assert in the same breath the unity of the person and the duality of nature. In the West the conception of the single personality of Christ had, with unphilosophical simplicity, attached itself to the historic Christ, and thus prevented the assertion of two natures, for the purpose of emphasizing both the divinity and the humanity, from working out philosophically so as to endanger the conception of the unity, and the consequent intelligibility of the person of Jesus. In the East the word prosōpon, the nearest equivalent for the Latin persona, had by no means a wholly parallel sense. In its technical meaning it had been employed since the triumph of the later Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, as a synonym of hypostasis, though it could also be employed in the original signification, to denote a phenomenon, a figure presented to the senses, or the form under which either one or more hypostases are presented. It was thus very useful as a compromise formula. Both parties, however, accepted the compromise as an earnest of complete victory, the patriarch of Alexandria hoping in this for more than the mere triumph of the Alexandrian Christology. Since the days of Athanasius this see had acquired a position in the East which could inspire an ambitious bishop with the hope of dominating his rivals both at Antioch and Constantinople. This ambition was abundantly possessed by Cyril (see CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA), and nothing else explains his acceptance of the compromise. Peace, however, endured as long as John of Antioch and Proclus of Constantinople as well as Cyril lived; but it became less secure each year as the extreme tendencies on both sides came into play. This was especially the case on Cyril's side. It was not unnatural that some of his partizans, incapable of comprehending his fine distinctions, should push his Christology into what was practically Monophysitism. The proceedings against Nestorius for a while kept the opposition party quietthough the most prominent theologian on that side, Theodoret, remained true to the fundamental principles of the school of Antioch. As time went on still more zealous upholders of the Antiochian views appeared among the bishops of Asia Minor. In 435 Ibas, who had censured the dogmatic position of Cyril and the synod of Ephesus and supported Theodore of Mopsuestia, became bishop of Edessa. In 441 or 442 John of Antioch was succeeded by Domnus, a more ardent partizan of the traditions of that see; this Domnus, between 443 and 447, filled the bishopric of Tyre, contrary to the canons, with a man who had been twice married, Irenæus, formerly a friend of Nestorius and exiled on this account about 435. After the death of Proclus (446), the see of Constantinople was filled by Flavian, who had indeed accepted the union but still came from the Antioch party. Cyril died in 444 and was succeeded by Dioscurus, much less important as a theologian, but still more unscrupulous in his struggle for supremacy, and willing to avail himself of monastic fanaticism and obscure intrigues to win the favor of both populace and court. The time was favorable to his purposes. The feeble emperor Theodosius (408-450), since the downfall of his sister Pulcheria's influence about 440, had been under that of his favorite Chrysaphius, who was in close relations with the Alexandrian party, especially with the aged presbyter and archimandrite Eutyches, who was among the most influential members of that party. Born in 378, Eutyches had acquired the reputation of an honorable and pious man, but was uneducated and unfamiliar with the laws of thought. As a veteran monk, and a zealous foe of Nestorianism, he counted as one of the heads of the monastic or Alexandrian party. He was accordingly a useful instrument in the hands of Dioscurus, whose principal agent in Constantinople he was after the death of Proclus.
2. The Beginning of Strife. On Feb. 17, 448, the emperor renewed the edict against the Nestorians, and decreed the deposition of Irenæus of Tyre; and about the same time intrigues against Bishop Ibas began at Edessa in which Eutyches had a hand. Both parties now felt that the decisive conflict was approaching. Domnus showed no signs of recognizing the deposition of Ibas, and maintained a close alliance with Theodoret, who had just before thrown down the gauntlet to the Alexandrian party in his Eranistes ; and certain clerics from Edessa who had come to Antioch with charges against their bishop were detained there as prisoners. On the other side Dioscurus arrogantly censured Domnus, and Eutyches invoked the aid of Leo of Rome, asserting that the Nestorian heresy was being revived. The case of Ibas was discussed by a synod at Antioch in the summer of 448; Theodoret, who seems to have come to Antioch to attend it, was ordered by the emperor to return to his diocese and remain there. Possibly to the late summer belongs the unsuccessful attempt of Domnus to discredit Eutyches as an Apollinarian heretic. Probably through court influence, Irenæus was replaced in September by Photius, who at once came out on the Alexandrian side. The accusers of Ibas, who had now gone on to Constantinople, had better success there than at Antioch; they obtained a decree from the emperor calling for a rehearing of their case before three bishops, two of whom at least were known as antagonists of lbas. All seemed to be going well for Dioscurus when a renewed accusation against Eutyches provoked him to attempt to reap his harvest before it was ripe. This new charge was nominally brought by Bishop Eusebius of Dorylæum, who, from what is known, seems to have had little sympathy with the Antioch party, though he was not an avowed adherent of the other side. To his moderate views some thoughtless expressions of Eutyches on a point of dogma may have seemed dangerous, and it is possible that personal dislike helped to determine his attitudeat least Eutyches asserted afterward that Eusebius had long been his enemy. However that may be, he appeared at a local synod held by Flavian of Constantinople in Nov., 448, with a charge against Eutyches which named him in general terms as a heretic. Eusebius succeeded in forcing the synod to summon Eutyches before it. He returned answer that he was unwilling to leave his monastery; that he adhered to the decrees of Nicæa and Ephesus; but that he declined to be bound by expressions taken at random from the Fathers, preferring to follow the Scripture, which was a more certain rule of faith than all of them. He denied ever having taught that the Divine Word had brought his body with him from heaven; he acknowledged "one nature of God made flesh," and that Christ was at once perfect God and perfect man, though his body was not homoousios with ours. The synod now sent a more formal summons to Eutyches, which had to be twice repeated before, on Nov. 22, he at last appeared, escorted by a military guard and a large number of monks.. His heterodoxy was not long in manifesting itself to the assembly. Attempts were made to find a way out of the difficulty, and for a moment he seemed to yield; but his settled conviction was expressed in the words "I confess that our Lord was born of two natures before the union." The council found Apollinarianism and Valentinianism in his admission, deposed him from his priestly and monastic offices, and excommunicated him. This condemnation, of course, did not touch the Christology of Cyril himself; but many of the Alexandrians thought as Eutyches did. The blow was thus a heavy one for them and there is no doubt that it was the cause of the energetic counter stroke represented by the Synod of Ephesus in 449. Of the intervening events it is known only that Eutyches attempted to set aside the condemnation and to win to his defense a number of prominent bishops, including Leo of Rome and Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna, and probably Dioscurus and others in the East; that he made the most of his favor at court; and that he asserted a falsification of the acts of the Constantinopolitan synod and induced the emperor to order an investigation of his charge. Flavian, who was forced to satisfy the emperor of his orthodoxy by a special confession of faith, also sought help abroad, and Leo of Rome took a decisive stand on his side in a brief of May 21, 449.
3. The Robber Synod of Ephesus, 449. The discontent of the Alexandrians, however, was so decided that they induced the emperor to call a new ecumenical council at Ephesus for Aug. 1, of the same year. Everything was prepared for a triumph of Dioscurus, whom the emperor designated to preside over the council; but the completeness of his triumph was impaired by Pope Leo, who developed in a famous letter to Flavian of June 13, sent by his legates with another to the council, the Western doctrine of the two natures in its essential variation from the Alexandrian with a clearness that was fatal to the permanent maintenance of the latter. The number of participants in the "Robber Synod" of Ephesus was never higher than 138. Two imperial commissaries were present; Eusebius of Dorylæum and Flavian of Constantinople found themselves placed by the emperor himself in the position of accused parties, while Eutyches was summoned almost as accuser. The first period of the synod's session, Aug. 8-18, was occupied with the rehabilitation of Eutyches and the deposition of Eusebius and Flavian. Among the tolerably certain facts are the unsuccessful demand of the Roman legates to be allowed to preside, and their failure to have the epistle of Leo to Flavian even read; their repeated protests against this so-called invasion of the rights of the Roman see; and the unsparingly masterful manner in which Dioscurus conducted the whole affair. The tumultuous scene described by Gibbon, which had given its opprobrious name to the synod, rests upon partizan accounts and can be shown inaccurate in detail. The proceedings of the second period, Aug. 20-22 (?) from which not only Eusebius and Flavian but also the Roman legates were absent, resulted in a number of depositions. Among others Ibas, Irenæus of Tyre, Theodoret, and even Domnus of Antioch were deposed and excommunicated as Nestorians.
4. The Council of Chalcedon, 451. The decision of the synod was received with approval at court, but by no means wholly so throughout the East. Yet Dioscurus had on his side, besides court favor, the sympathies of most of the Eastern bishops, and Flavian's place at Constantinople was soon taken by Anatolius, an Alexandrian partizan. The only hope for a revision of the settlement lay in the West, whither Theodoret and Flavian now turned. But for the moment even the influence of Rome was unavailing. The synod in Rome on Oct. 15, 449, rejected the decrees of Ephesus, and Leo attempted in vain, through his own letters and those of the Western emperor to procure from Theodosius II. the calling of a new synod in Italy. The death of Theodosius in the next year brought about great changes. The power was now in the hands of Pulcheria, who had already been won over to Leo's side. Anatolius held a synod the same autumn at Constantinople which declared its agreement with Leo's epistle to Flavian, which had already found increasing assent in the East. Leo was not able, however, to secure that the new general council should be held in the West; and it finally sat at Chalcedon, across the Bosphorus from Constantinople, Oct. 8 to Nov. 1, 451, attended by about 600 bishops. The presidency, in a parliamentary sense, was held by the imperial commissaries; but the papal legates, recognized by the council as representing the spiritual head of the Church, took the lead among the ecclesiastics and presided formally when the imperial commissaries were absent.
- Dioscurus had secured his triumph at Ephesus largely through the strength of his Egyptian following; the emperor guarded against a repetition of this by ordering him to come alone to Constantinople. He had a private audience with the new emperor, Marcian, Pulcheria's husband, in the presence of Anatolius and others, which was intended to bring him to an accommodationbut without success. He soon recognized that the cause was lost; and his downfall was not long in following. He appeared in the council practically as an accused person, while Theodoret, whom he had deposed at Ephesus, took his seat under the full protection of both pope and emperor. At the close of the first session the commissaries declared that Dioscurus himself and five of his principal supporters at Ephesus must be deposed, which took place in the third session, though a direct charge of heresy was avoided. He was banished to Gangra in Paphlagonia, where he died in 454. The five other bishops were restored to good standing in the fourth session. As to the dogmatic question, which the council treated with some hesitation, nominally out of respect for the First Council of Ephesus, after two epistles of Cyril (iv. and xxxix.) and Leo's to Flavian had been acknowledged, Anatolius was directed to draw up a proposed new definition. This, which was apparently decided in its expressions on the point of one person out of two natures, was approved by the majority at the fifth session; but the Roman legates threatened to take their departure and have a new council called in Italy if Leo's epistle was not closely followed. The majority was disinclined to yield until an imperial order forced them to appoint a new committee on definition, of which the legates were now members. The result of this work was laid before the council at the same session, and solemnly proclaimed, Oct. 25. This was from the dogmatic standpoint a complete victory of West over East; the council's definition is only intelligible in the light of Western Christology. After an introduction affirming the Nicene and so-called Constantinopolitan creeds, which it declares sufficient as general creeds, it proceeds, with the purpose of avoiding Nestorian and Monophysite perversions of the mystery of the Incarnation, to recognize the epistles of Cyril and Leo named above as orthodox expositions of the creed, and then to give a lengthy and precise restatement of the one person of the Lord in two natures. It is not difficult to see that the terms of this definition and the recognition of Leo's epistles go beyond Cyril's teaching; but the members of the council attempted to forestall objections by persuading themselves of their agreement with both, and of each with the other. The formulas of Chalcedon were acceptable to Western minds, with their firm hold on the single person of the historic Christ without danger of obscuring either of the two natures, the divine or the human. But it was not a real settlement of the question for the East, and the action of the council, for all its pacific intent, was but the beginning of new strife (see MONOPHYSITES). Eutyches, the nominal originator of the controversy, was not expressly anathematized at Chalcedon; he was considered to have been already sufficiently condemned by Flavian, by Leo, and by the synod held under Anatolius. But after the council two imperial edicts of the year 452 enforced the ecclesiastical condemnation of his party by the usual civil penalties. Eutyches himself was banished, and the last heard of him is in a letter of Leo, Apr. 15, 454, requesting his removal to a more distant place on the ground that he still continued to deceive the unwary in his original place of banishment. See CHRISTOLOGY, IV.
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