The Christological Errors Of Monophysitism

We leave here the area of theology and come to that of Christology. We

have exhibited the monophysite errors with respect to the doctrine of

primal deity; we now proceed to analyse their views with respect to the

incarnate Christ. The former subject leads the thinker into deep

water; the layman is out of his depth in it; so it does not furnish

material for a popular controversy. It is otherwise with the latter

t. Here the issue is narrowed to a point. It becomes a question

of fact, namely, "Was Christ a real man?" The question and most of the

answers given to it are readily intelligible, and they naturally gave

rise to heated controversy. Theopaschitism is, as we have shown, a

tendency inherent in the heresy, but one slow to come to the surface,

and one easily counter-acted and suppressed by the personal piety of

the monophysite. Its docetism, the assertion of the unreality of

Christ's human nature, lies on the surface. No amount of personal

piety can neutralise it. It has had, and still has, a crippling effect

on the faith of devout Christians. Even where it is not carried to the

length of formal heresy, it spreads a haze of unreality over the gospel

story, and dulls the edge of belief.

The second count of Leo's charge against the monophysites was, it will

be remembered, that their presentation of Christ made Him "homo

falsus." Under this heading "homo falsus" may be classed a wide group

of erroneous tenets, ranging from the crudities of early docetism to

the subtleties of Apollinarianism. We propose to sketch those of major

importance. No attempt will be made to take them in their historical

order or historical setting. Further, it is not implied that they all

formed part of the official doctrine of the monophysite church. The

standard of belief in that communion was constantly varying, and the

history of its dogma would need a work to itself. We shall deal with

those Christological errors, which, whether part of the official

monophysite creed or not, are logical results of the monophysite


Unreality may be predicated of Christ's human nature as a whole, or in

respect of its parts. Consubstantiality with humanity may be denied of

the whole of his human nature; or deficiency in one or other of the

essential constituents of human nature may be alleged. We shall deal

first with those errors that concern the entire nature, coming later to

the errors in respect of one or more of its several parts.

Suspicion of the reality of Christ's human nature as a whole is

characteristic of all monophysite thought. This suspicion, not always

formulated or expressed, is everywhere present. If the monophysites

admitted the fact of His true manhood, they denied or neglected the

religious value of that fact. Their spurious spirituality rebelled

against a dogma which seemed to tie the infinite down to a point in

history. The fact that the Son of God lived a perfect human life

contained no inspiration for them. They idealised the incarnation. It

was not for them a historical event. This is a corollary to the

proposition, maintained by their great champion, Philoxenus, that "no

addition to His person took place." It is tantamount to saying that

the union of divine and human in Christ is purely conceptual. When the

monophysite faced the question, "What change in Christ did the

incarnation effect?" his formula constrained him to reply, "It made no

change." The deity of the person was not denied. The pre-existent

Logos and the Christ who walked in Galilee were admittedly one and the

same. The second person of the trinity and Jesus of Nazareth were one

personality. If Bethlehem made no change in that personality, it was

purposeless, and the import of the incarnation disappears.