What are the Oriental Orthodox?

Who are the Oriental Orthodox, and are they the same as the Eastern Orthodox? Since oriental generally means eastern I thought maybe it is just a different name for the Eastern Orthodox but from some posts it seems they are a unique communion. Are they valid in Apostolic succession, and when they did they break off from Rome?

They have a slightly different view of the trinity

Oriental Orthodox are a communion of Churches that broke off after the Council of Chalcedon. They include the Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, and Syriac Orthodox churches. They have valid Apostolic Succesion, and valid Eucharist. They are not in communion with Rome, but they do to my knowledge maintain amicable relations with Chalcedonian (Eastern) Orthodoxy.As for their Christology, I believe the Vatican has signed a common Christological statement with them


Generally it refers to those churches who rejected the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (in 451), but I have seen it used more broadly to also include those who rejected the Council of Ephesus (in 431). They have valid sacraments including holy orders.

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They are different than the Eastern Orthodox.

Pope Dioscorus I and other Egyptian bishops did not accept the Christological dogmas of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.).

  • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
  • Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
  • Armenian Apostolic Church
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

Others have already adequately answered most parts of your question, so I won’t repeat what they have already said.

The interesting question is why they are called Oriental when, as you say, it just means Eastern. I thought it would be interesting to look up the terms for Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox in some other European languages. The interesting thing is that most (though not all) other languages don’t call the Eastern Orthodox Church “Eastern”: they just call it “Orthodox”. However, every other language that I checked does call the Oriental Orthodox Church “Oriental” or another word meaning “Eastern”.

The really interesting thing is that it’s not just English that uses a word derived from the Latin orientalis to denote “Oriental” (as distinct from “Eastern”). Of course the Romance languages all use a word derived from the Latin, but so do Germanic languages (including English of course), Slavic languages, and Celtic, Turkic, and Finno-Ugric languages.

I checked the Armenian term (I couldn’t get my head around the Amharic!) and it literally means “Eastern Ancient Church”. Interestingly, some formulation including “Ancient” or “Old” (sometimes combined with “Eastern” and/or “Orthodox”) is also used is some Slavic languages such as Russian, though a Latin-derived term meaning “Oriental” is also used.

I’m not sure, however, that that really answers the question of why they are called “Oriental” when it just means “Eastern”. I can only imagine that it is a convention that arose without regard to semantics or etymology. I can imagine that for British scholars of the 19th century or so, “Eastern” could have denoted “Eastern Europe”, e.g. the Russian Empire and thereabouts, while “Oriental” may have had connotations of being Asiatic or exotic.

There are some other terms for Oriental Orthodox Churches that are mainly found in academic contexts. For example, “non-Chalcedonian”, denoting dissent from the Council of Chalcedon. The problem with that term is that is presumes that the Council of Chalcedon is normative, and so the term “pre-Chalcedonian” is also used, indicating that rather than being defined by dissent from the Council of Chalcedon they should be defined by adherence to a form of Christianity which merely predates the Council of Chalcedon. They are also sometimes called the Churches of the Three of Councils, emphasising their unity with all other Christians other than the (Assyrian or Ancient) Church of the East (itself also sometimes called “non-Ephesian” or “pre-Ephesian” or “Church(es) of the two councils”).

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I think this good question is for section on eastern church

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Not quite.

It was yet another round of saying the exact same thing but talking past one another and calling one another heretics because they didn’t understand what one another was saying. :sob:

Hmm, maybe I should say the first of too many of these . . . I don’t recall any earlier.

Pretty much any statement of the alleged differences in belief should be put next to the joint statement between RCC and OO–and then tossed aside as error.

Over 1500 years to figure that out . . . :exploding_head::roll_eyes:

And in another example of the first time but repeated too many times, I believe that at Chalcedon, the matter was discussed before the Orientals got there, with no willingness to reopen once there was someone who knew what they actually believed.

They are also often called “Non Chalcedonian Christians”.

Also, they are far closer in general to establishing communion with the RCC than most of the EO. In some cases, there are joint agreements for ministering to one another’s faithful between the RCC and the OO, and between OC and OO.

I’ve moved it to Non-Catholic Religions, where discussion of Eastern Orthodoxy usually occurs.

A section on Eastern Christianity in general, both EC and EO, would be interesting, but would be kind of redundant with the forums on byzcath.org.

Speaking of which, hunting the archives there will yield plenty of information on the subject.



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