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Dyophysitism: An Introduction to Chalcedonian Christology

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Nestorius vs. St. Cyril

The Son is one with the Father, God cannot suffer, the Son suffered on the cross. This line of reasoning sparked a severe debate between the figures of Nestorius and St. Cyril of Alexandria, on how exactly this seeming contradiction can be true, resulting in the formulation of Chalcedonian Christology (Dyophysitism). There is even debate amongst scholars on what exactly St. Cyril meant in his many responses to Nestorius. To delve into this specific issue of the suffering of Christ in the debates between Nestorius and St. Cyril will deepen our understanding of the person of Christ. Further, this is vital to an understanding of Chalcedonian Christology (Dyophysitism).

Chalcedonian Christology in Scholarly Literature

The popular narrative of what the Dyophysite debate between Nestorius and St. Cyril was about is that “the Alexandrians (in the person of Cyril)...diminished [Christ’s] humanity and the Antiochenes (in the person of Nestorius)...defended it...Alexandrian Christology (dyophysitism) missed the point of the Incarnation by denying the Word a full human nature.”[i] Some have argued for a divergence on the part of his Christology from his use of “one nature” as a “dogmatic, anti-Nestorius” Christology and a substantially different “exegetical, anti-ArianChristology,[ii] with a final compromise to the Antiochenes (dyophysitism).[iii] Some have posited that this debate between Nestorius and St. Cyril was a mere battle over different emphases with no theological weight to the matter, a difference between St. Cyril’s emphasis on “Christological unity” and Nestorius’ emphasis on the “completeness of Jesus’ humanity, with “Cyril often emerg[ing] as a de facto Apollinarian who stressed the onenes