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advocates of a Christian religiophilosophical doctrine propounded in Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire) in the fifth century by the archimandrite of Constantinople, Eutyches, as a reaction against Nestorianism. The term “Monophysite” is not encountered until the end of the seventh century.
The Monophysites put forward the problem of the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. Rejecting (in accordance with Stoic principles) the possibility of a blending of the two natures, they treated the union as the absorption of the human element by the divine in Christ. Thus, according to Monophysite doctrine, it was not the god-man who suffered for humanity (as the orthodox theologians asserted) but god.
The Monophysite doctrine spread widely throughout the eastern provinces of Byzantium (Egypt, Syria, and Armenia), where the traditions of a cult of a god who dies were still alive, and it became the banner of a separatist movement. At the Council of Ephesus in 449 the Monophysites triumphed, but their doctrine was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. This led to an intense religiopolitical struggle. In the late fifth century the Monophysites occupied patriarchal thrones in Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem; in the sixth century their teaching spread to Nubia and Arabia. During this period purely theological disputes receded into the background and a rapprochement was attempted between Monophysite doctrine and orthodox Christianity. At the same time, the political side of the Monophysite movement came to the fore—the drive of the eastern provinces to separate from the empire. The tendency of the Byzantine emperors to compromise with the Monophysites contributed to the formation of the Monophelite doctrine in the seventh century. When the Arabs conquered the empire’s eastern provinces, the Monophysites lost their base in Byzantium but became established in Armenia (the Armenian Apostolic Church), Syria (the Jacobite Church), Egypt, and Ethiopia.
A. P. KAZHDAN