Is a "Miaphysite Catholic" an oxymoron?

Dear brother Adrian,

Thank you for the question. I perceive two points for discussion here (brother Adrian, any explanation I give below is not intended to presume that you do not already know, but only for the benefit of readers who may not know):

1) The issue between “in two natures” and “from two natures.”
The diophysite teaching uses the phrase “in two natures,” while the miaphysite teaching uses the phrase “from two natures” to describe the Person or Hypostasis of Christ. Diophysites and miaphysites both accept that Christ is “from two Natures.” The apparent historical disagreement came when considering what happens after (or upon) the hypostatic union of two natures:

  • Diophysites teach that Christ still has two distinct Natures, united per the Four Adverbs (see below);
  • Miaphysites teach that Christ has one Nature that is both human and divine, also united per the Four Adverbs.

What complicated matters was the language (as usual). The terms at issue were hypostasis, ousia (Latin, natura), physis, and prosopon. I don’t have time to explain them right now and how it relates to the issue of one/ two natures. If anyone is interested, let me know, or perhaps someone else can do so. In any case, this difference in language is the main reason why extremists within EO’xy have blocked official, synodal acceptance of the agreements formulated by several OO-EO commissions on the matter, while the OO and CC are already formally united on the matter.

2) Whether a miaphysite Catholic is going against the infallible Magisterium of the Church (or, alternatively, “Is a miaphysite Catholic an oxymoron?”).

The touchstone of the unity in Faith between diophysites and miaphysites is known – innocuously enough - as “the Four Adverbs”: without confusion (or mixture); without alteration (or mingling); without division; without any form of separation. Hierarchs and theologians from both sides have fully, formally, and officially agreed that what the Oriental Orthodox mean when they say “from two Natures” is equivalent to what the Catholics mean when they say “in two Natures.” The method of agreement was the realization that,
Pegging down orthodoxy to…the fixity of theological propositions issued by them, and judging orthodoxy or otherwise of a section of the church on the basis of its acceptance or rejection…has failed to produce unity in the Church, and most probably will continue to do so…On the other hand, when we take a Council dealing with doctrinal matters as a teaching organ, rather than a legislative organ of the church, and focus our attention on the insights contained in its exposition, then the desired consensus will be possible to produce.
HG Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (of happy memory) of the Armenian Apostolic Church

So not only are Miaphysite Catholics in full agreement with the infallible Magisterium of the Church, I believe our existence is necessary to demonstrate in a palpable way the fact that Miaphysites and Diophysites are truly united in Christology, and to witness to the value of the spiritual fruit of understanding as the only and truest method to achieve unity among the Churches.

I hope I have answered your question sufficiently. Or feel free to ask any other questions.


Excellent post, Marduk!!

I’ve never heard the expression “Miaphysite Catholic” but it makes eminent sense. The Oriental Orthodox Churches reject and condemn monophysism (is that the correct spelling?), but affirm they are Miaphysite.

If we were going to condemn Miaphysism, then we would be condemning St Cyril of Alexandria.


Dear brother Alex,

I see you have not been here long. In my 5 years here on CAF, though I consider myself a perfectly traditional (not Traditionalist, mind you) and orthodox Catholic, many look at me as somewhat avante-garde (though I’m sure others have stronger descriptives of me :D). I’ve introduced several new terms and ideas here in the ECF over the years in my efforts to promote understanding between East, West, and Orient (in truth, the ideas themselves are not new, but few seem to have heard of them).

If you’ve never heard of the term “Miaphysite Catholic” before, that’s probably because it was first coined only within the past (I think) two months by me. In truth, I personally know only 5 Miaphysite Catholics in existence (3 online, 2 in real life). I think those who translate from OO’xy to Catholicism normally become Diophysite, or feel compelled to do so. Not me.:smiley:

So you probably will not hear the term “Miaphysite Catholic” very often — unless I’m around.:smiley:


P.S. I remember visiting a Ukrainian Orthodox website a long time ago, and I distinctly remember articles from someone by your name. Are you the same person?

Yep, it’s not the one and only language issue. Before I even think to comment further, I’m curious about the specific Syriac terminology involved. It would just bore people and take up space in the thread, so if you have it, a PM would be fine.

I remember some years ago talking to a Coptic Orthodox online about Christology. We went back and forth struggling to understand the terminology we each used (my terminology then was still very western), but at the end decided we were expressing the same faith with different words. I think it’s important to remember that there is more than one way to explain the same truth, and it need not divide us! In my Antiochian Orthodox parish we have several Coptic families visit regularly, and our priest communes them without any distinction between Oriental or Eastern Orthodox. :smiley:

Dear brother malphono,

Off the top of my head, kyana is “nature” and qnoma is “person” (IIRC). I remember this from debates with ACOE when I was not yet Catholic. My memory is spotty, to be sure. Perhaps one of our Chaldean members can help out (though I hope this thread does not become about “Nestorianism”).


Thanks. I thought maybe you had some reference at hand. I’m familiar with both words, but unless I’m missing something (which is distinctly possible particularly since this isn’t one of my better days) the use of the first seems to be kind of a stretch (I guess it’s due to the Greek thing and hence the language issue in the first place).

In any case, what I’d be more interested in is the usage of those words in context. I haven’t seen anthony or rony around here lately, but if either of you is out there and has something you wouldn’t mind sharing, please feel free to PM me.

Dear Marduk,

You’ve been here for five years? This is such a great forum!

And yes, that is me on Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

I think you can add me to the Miaphysite Catholics too! (And I love the Agpeya!!).



I am starstruck!:slight_smile:

[quote=]I think you can add me to the Miaphysite Catholics too! (And I love the Agpeya!!).

:thumbsup:Should we start a brotherhood? 6 members - the few and the proud? Membership fees?:smiley:


Just want to add here that So not only are Miaphysite Catholics in full agreement with the infallible Magisterium of the Church, I believe our existence is necessary to demonstrate in a palpable way the fact that Miaphysites and Diophysites are truly united in Christology, and to witness to the value of the spiritual fruit of understanding as the only and truest method to achieve unity among the Churches.How could that be?

Customized Term Papers

Dear brother Adrian,

I was hoping my explanation of the matter in my first post of this thread was sufficient to answer your question. Obviously not. So I’ll get into a little more detail here.

[quote=JohnVIII]My view of the nature of Christ is called “Miaphysite”. The view that was taught by Pope Leo (that part of it that I take issue of) is called Diaphysite. I was of the opinion that Pope Leo made a minor error here on this issue of Faith. But now as I am just beginning to believe that infallibility may be true, I have a problem here. The issue mostly boils down to only one word in the Tomb of Pope Leo - the word “in”, as in Christ is “in” two natures, as apposed to Christ is “from” two natures. As many saints in the Alexandrian tradition teach we should, after the incarnation, no longer think of Christ as having two natures. Yes Jesus is indeed true God and true man, but this is one composite nature, not two separate natures after the incarnation. Hence I believe that Pope Leo should have said “from two natures”, not “in two natures”.

As you no doubt know, the OO and Catholic Churches have both officially agreed that “from two natures” and “in two natures” are theologically equivalent. They both express and affirm in different ways the reality that Christ is both fully human and fully divine, according to the Four Adverbs. The Four Adverbs are the test of orthodoxy, and the diophysitism of Pope St. Leo’s Tome does not deny them in any way. The Christological agreements between the OO and Catholic Churches should be sufficient, brother Adrian. But I see you have a much more inquisitive mind.

In truth, it is not the “in two natures” which gives the most pause to miaphysite theologians. As the official agreements indicate, that clause can mean nothing more than a statement that Christ is both fully human and fully divine. The part of Pope St. Leo’s Tome which give miaphysites the greatest problem is the following line: “For each “form” does the acts which belong to it, in communion with the other; the Word, that is, performing what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carrying out what belongs to the flesh.

There are two ways to interpret this phrase from Pope St. Leo’s Tome:

  1. When Jesus performs divine acts, it is His divine nature which acts (e.g., miracles, healings, etc.) with no reference to the human nature; when He performs human acts, it is His human nature which acts (e.g., sleeping, eating, etc.), with no reference to the divine nature.

  2. When Jesus performs divine acts, both the divine and human natures act as one, but the divine nature is the source of that act; when Jesus performs human acts, both the divine and human natures act as one, but the human nature is the source of that act.

On the surface, either interpretation is heretical from the Miaphysite standpoint. The Miaphysite understanding is simply that Jesus as the God-man can perform both divine and human acts because of a nature that is both fully divine and fully human. There is no distinctly divine source for the divine acts, and no distinctly human source for the human acts – there is only one source that can act both divinely and humanly because that one source is both fully divine and fully human.

Is there any way to understand the phrase from Pope St. Leo in an orthodox sense? I believe there is. The key is to consider the phrase in the context of the sentences that come before it:
For the selfsame who is very God, is also very man; and there is no illusion in this union, while the lowliness of man and the loftiness of Godhead meet together. For as “God” is not changed by the compassion [exhibited], so “Man” is not consumed by the dignity [bestowed]. For each “form” does the acts which belong to it,

This immediate context puts the questionable phrase in a completely different light. The context demonstrates that Pope St. Leo was not intending to define the relationship between the human and divine natures (which is a plausible interpretation only if the phrase was taken in isolation), but rather only to define the fact that humanity and divinity both exist fully in Christ (i.e., neither one disappearing as a result of the hypostatic union). In effect, he is not saying, “When Jesus acts in a divine way, the source is only the divine nature; when Jesus acts in a human way, the source is only the human nature.” Rather, he is only and simply teaching, “Jesus acts in a divine way because of (i.e., that is proper to) the fact that He is fully divine, and also acts in a human way because of (i.e. that is proper to) the fact that He is fully human.

Is there anyone out there who thinks that I should get in line with the Pope and convert to the Diaphysite view?

I don’t see why that would be necessary since from both the OO and Catholic perspectives, miaphysites and diophysites are teaching the same thing, though simply in different theological languages.

I hope that has helped.


Excellent thread and topic!

I’m curious if you guys have any thoughts about St. Athanasius’ uses of the words in question. In particular I’m thinking of the term hypostasis, which St. Athanasius used as a synonym of ousia (essence) rather than to mean “person”.

I’ve personally always found this usage to make more sense, since *hypostasis *is the Greek equivalent of the Latin term *substantia. *Did this kind of difference in terminology play any part in the disputes over Miaphysitism?

Peace and God bless!

Armenian Church Patriarch St. Nersess the Gracefilled wrote, “If one says ‘one nature’ in the sense of the indissoluble and indivisible union and not in the sense of confusion, and if one says ‘two natures’ as being without confusion, alteration or signifying division, then both positions are within the orbit of orthodoxy.”

The reason I see this issue to be a minor issue is because, as I see it, you could say that Christ has 10 natures, but if you also say that these 10 natures are an “indivisible union” then these 10 natures are really only one. An indivisible union can no longer be two or more. So there can be no essential difference between Miaphysite and Diaphysite.

But just for the sake of argument, St. Athanasius as well as the 3rd Ecumenical Council really settled this issue simply by saying that Mary is the Mother of God! If Christ has two natures then Mary must be the mother of only the human nature of Christ and therefore you could not say she is the Mother of God. But if, on the other hand, Christ has one nature that is both human and divine, you would have to say that Mary is the Mother of God! And the latter was the orthodoxy that won the day at the 3rd Ecumenical. Now if the 4th Ecumenical (via the tome of Pope Leo) declares…


The “Definition of the faith” was passed at the council’s fifth session, and was solemnly promulgated at the sixth session in the presence of the emperor and the imperial authorities. The formula accepted in the decree is: Christ is one in two natures. This is in agreement with Leo’s letter to Flavian of Constantinople.

…Christ is one “in two natures”, instead of saying that Christ is one “from two natures”, then a part of the orthodoxy established by the Rock of 3rd Ecumenical was taken down by the 4th.

I feel I must add that one of the consequences of this departure was the division of what was before the very stable Church of Alexandria. But, over several centuries, the Miaphysite division of Alexandria is by far the more dominant one.

I really only have one question about all of this. Since this great division in the Church seems to have come about because of an error on an issue of faith that Pope Leo taught to the whole Church and was accepted by the 4th Ecumenical, how then can the “doctrine” of infallibility of the Church through the teaching of the Pope be absolutely true without exception? :shrug:

I really only have one question about all of this. Since this great division in the Church seems to have come about because of an error on an issue of faith that Pope Leo taught to the whole Church and was accepted by the 4th Ecumenical, how then can the “doctrine” of infallibility of the Church through the teaching of the Pope be absolutely true without exception? :shrug:

Pope Leo didn’t teach in error; he taught with a different language than some other Fathers. There was no contradiction in Faith, there was a failure to adapt to the fact that several different theological languages had developed over the course of centuries in Christianity.

Peace and God bless!

Dear brother Ghosty,

I would like to join you in defense of Pope St. Leo, but I’m going to hold off. When I was not in communion with Rome, the Eastern defense of Pope St. Leo was legendary - for lack of a better word. So I want to sit back, relax, and have my Eastern brethren take the baton.:smiley:

I will address your earlier post concerning the language later, though. I just want to see my Eastern brethren in action first.


Sorry about that.

Agreed. But equivalent does not mean there is no difference at all.

Agreed. The essential part is ‘the four adverbs’, not the number of the united natures.

This line was simply misunderstood. And I’m sure that it helps as a lead in to your conclusion…

I’m going back to the “in two natures”. To me it’s the only issue that “different theological languages” come short in explaining away. The difference between “in” and “from” is that “in” means you believe Christ has two natures right now. If you also say that they are perfectly united then fine, you’re orthodox. But do you think for a moment that St. Maximos, for example, would agree that miaphysites and diophysites are teaching the same thing? He taught that if there are two natures then there must also be two wills. Well, if two natures are the same as one nature then it must also follow that two wills are the same as one will. Then what harm is there if someone says there are two natures but only one will so long as the one will is a composite will that is both human and divine and the two natures are perfectly united? As I’m sure you know, miaphysite doesn’t mean one composite nature, but two wills? It’s also one composite will. But if someone confessed one nature and two wills, what harm would there be so long as ‘the four adverbs’ were also confessed? Perhaps that was what was in those letters written by Pope Honorius I that were destroyed. Perhaps he said it’s ok to believe that way so long as the belief is qualified by ‘the four adverbs’. If so then Pope Severinus was wrong for saying that Pope Honorius should be condemned.

The only way I can see both miaphysite and diophysite teaching to be the same is if Christ does in fact have two natures right now, but both of them are composite natures of true God and true man. And of course the four adverbs must also be so, in this case, on two levels. Too weird though.

Perhaps, with regard to the issue of infallibility, the guarantee is not that there would be no error whatsoever, but that heresy could not be taught. I think that there is such a thing as error, even error with regard to faith, that is NOT heresy. For an error to be a heresy I think it must be something that, by virtue of believing it, spiritual death occurs. Heresy, after all is a type of sin, and there are mortal sins and venial sins. So there must be also such a thing as mortal and venial mis-beliefs; the mortal mis-beliefs would be the heresies. So by this careful definition, the Pope (together with the Church) can teach error, but cannot teach heresy. :shrug:

JohnVIII: We can say “one will of Christ” in an orthodox sense, it just depends on what is meant by “one will”. It’s the same as saying “one nature”. There are heretical meanings and orthodox meanings of the terms; in most cases the words themselves can’t be broadly labled as heretical.

Peace and God bless!

Thank you brother [user]mardukm[/user] and brother [user]Ghosty[/user] for your kindness trying to help me understand and accept the dogma of infallibility. The miaphysite issue got all tangled into the real issue for me which was infallibility. If I could believe as you both say you do, namely that there is no difference between miaphysite and diophysite, then I wound not have a problem with infallibility. But since I cannot believe that they are the same thing I feel I must choose on the side of safety. Rome has defined infallibility as a dogma, therefore if there is something that stands in the way for me to accept it a dogma it’s up to me to make the correction. Clearly, if Rome did make a distinction between diophysite and maiphysite it would have to be the diophysite view that Rome would favor. So, in order to error on the side of safety, so to speak, I hereby announce that I am no longer maiphysite, I an now diophysite. - (This shouldn’t make any difference from your point of view since you believe they are one and the same thing anyway.)

God Bless!

Dear brother Adrian,

Forgive me for being away for so long. I see a rather drastic development in your thinking since then (though not in a bad way). Though I do not seek to change your mind, I would like to provide some further explanation on the historic debates between the miaphysites and the diophysites - not for your sake exactly (since I am sure you have plumbed the depths of the issue in your own mind), but for the sake of the understanding of others.

The primary reason that both sides of the debate got off on the wrong foot, so to speak, was because each side was trying to address different issues. The Chalcedonians, taking the lead of Pope St. Leo, were primarily concerned with Eutychianism. On the other hand, the non-Chalcedonians, taking the lead of Pope St. Dioscorus, were primarily concerned with Nestorianism. Eutychianism and Nestorianism were theological opposites - Eutychianism maintained one nature, a divine one that subsumed the human nature; Nestorianism maintained two distinct prosopon or natures, human and divine.

In reaction to Eutychianism, the Chalcedonians stressed in the one Hypostasis of Christ, the existence of a fully human natura, and a fully divine natura.

In reaction to Nestorianism, the non-Chalcedonians stressed in the one Hypostasis of Christ, the one physis of Christ that is both fully divine and fully human.

Both the Latin natura and the Greek physis were both normatively equivalent, both possessing the same range of meaning. Both could refer to (1) the particular nature of an individual, or (2) the general nature of a class. The problem was that each side was using the terms according to the different heresies being addressed. The Chalcedonians, in reaction to Eutychianism, used natura according to the second definition; the non-Chalcedonians, in reaction to Nestorianism, was using physis according to the first definition.

It has taken almost 1500 years for Catholics and Oriental Orthodox to understand that the different theological formulations that were tempered by the particular heresies they intended to address were actually saying the same thing - namely, that Christ is both fully divine and fully human, the two natures united according to the Four Adverbs.

As it relates to the topic of papal infallibility, I hope you can see from the above explanation that Pope St. Leo certainly expressed himself in a fully orthodox manner insofar as he was primarily concerned with the heresy of Eutyches. But the miaphysites were also fully orthodox insofar as they were primarily concerned with addressing the heresy of Nestorius. So there is no need to reject miaphysitism in order to be fully Catholic (which includes in its objective definition the denotation of orthodoxy)

One thing one must understand about infallibility is that the charism of Infallibility is not a guarantee of perspecuity. In truth, no single Ecumenical Council, which is infallible, has ever been so perspicuous so as never to require a later Ecumenical Council to provide a subsequent and further explanation of its teachings. That the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians have existed in relative misunderstanding throughout these centuries really has no bearing on the issue of infallibility - papal, conciliar, or ecclesial.

Brother Adrian, I certainly applaud you in your efforts to be consistent for the sake of conscience. For my part, I feel content to remain miaphysite as a Catholic, and I would challenge anyone to indicate how I am betraying my own conscience otherwise.

Peace and Blessings,

I would never say that you are betraying anything by remaining “miaphysite as a Catholic” my true brother in Christ!

What I said about my faith is my judgment for me only. I will not, and I cannot, judge anyone else’s faith over this issue. I cannot understand how the two views can be the same, but I except that they are in essence the same for all believers in Christ. No one is either better nor worse in any way for holding either view.

Peace and Blessings,
JohnVIII (aka Adrian)

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