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(mənŏf`ĭsĭt'ĭzəm) [Gr.,=belief in a single nature], a heresy of the 5th and 6th cent., which grew out of a reaction against NestorianismNestorianism,
Christian heresy that held Jesus to be two distinct persons, closely and inseparably united. In 428, Emperor Theodosius II named an abbot of Antioch, Nestorius (d. 451?), as patriarch of Constantinople.
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. It was anticipated by ApollinarianismApollinarianism
, heretical doctrine taught by Apollinaris or Apollinarius (c.315–c.390), bishop of Laodicea, near Antioch. A celebrated scholar and teacher, author of scriptural commentary, philosophy, and controversial treatises, he propounded the theory that Jesus
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 and was continuous with the principles of EutychesEutyches
, c.378–c.452, archimandrite in Constantinople, sponsor of Eutychianism, the first phase of Monophysitism. He was the leader in Constantinople of the most violent opponents of Nestorianism, among whom was Dioscurus, successor to St. Cyril (d.
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, whose doctrine had been rejected in 451 at Chalcedon (see Chalcedon, Council ofChalcedon, Council of,
fourth ecumenical council, convened in 451 by Pulcheria and Marcian, empress and emperor of the East, to settle the scandal of the Robber Synod and to discuss Eutychianism (see Eutyches).
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); modern Monophysite churches are also known as Non-Chalcedonian or Oriental Orthodox churches. Monophysitism challenged the orthodox definition of faith of Chalcedon and taught that in Jesus there were not two natures (divine and human) but one (divine). Discussion of this belief was clouded by misunderstandings of terms and by the lack of knowledge of Greek in the West; the Non-Chalcedonian churches have argued that they believe that Christ has one nature that is equally divine and human, and prefer the term Miaphysitism [Gr.,=belief in a unified nature].

In the East the Council of Chalcedon was declared (c.476) invalid by Basiliscus, the imperial usurper. Later, Emperor Zeno, restored to his throne, issued the Henoticon (482), based on the doctrines of St. CyrilCyril, Saint
(Saint Cyril of Alexandria) , d. A.D. 444, patriarch of Alexandria (412–44), Doctor of the Church, known for his animosity toward heretics and heathens. He drove the Jews from Alexandria, and under his rule Hypatia was killed.
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 of Alexandria, in an attempt to settle the dispute. It recommended a formula that, ostensibly orthodox, left a loophole for the Non-Chalcedonians. Neither side was satisfied; the extreme Monophysites refused to accept the intended compromise, and the pope excommunicated the East for abrogating the Council of Chalcedon.

The schism ended in 519 when Emperor Justin I enforced the definition of faith of Chalcedon. Later, Justinian, although strongly Catholic, was tolerant toward the Monophysites, who were becoming more intransigent. The quarrel was further embittered when Justinian in 544 condemned the so-called Three Chapters. These were the person and writings of Theodore of MopsuestiaTheodore of Mopsuestia
, c.350–428, Syrian Christian theologian, bishop of Mopsuestia (from 392). Together with his lifelong friend, St. John Chrysostom, he studied at the school of Antioch, adopted its exegetical methods, and became a diligent writer and preacher.
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, the writings of TheodoretTheodoret
, c.393–c.458, Syrian churchman and theologian. He was a monk of Apamaea and a lifelong friend of Nestorius. In 423 he went unwillingly to be bishop of Cyrus, Syria, where he furthered the work of the church in a difficult see.
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 against St. Cyril of Alexandria, and the letter of Ibas of Edessa to Maris the Persian. The condemnation was based on the assertion that these writings were tainted with Nestorianism. Since parts of the Three Chapters were considered orthodox by the majority of Catholics, the edict was confusing.

The Second Council of Constantinople (553; see Constantinople, Second Council ofConstantinople, Second Council of,
553, regarded generally as the fifth ecumenical council. It was convened by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to settle the dispute known as the Three Chapters.
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), summoned by Justinian and attended by Pope VigiliusVigilius
, pope (537–55), a Roman; successor of St. Silverius. Empress Theodora exiled Silverius and made Vigilius pope in the expectation that he would compromise with the Monophysites. After Silverius' death Vigilius' pontificate was legalized.
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, again condemned the Three Chapters, while maintaining the authority of the canons of Chalcedon. The Monophysites remained aloof, and the West was virtually alienated. Justinian's successors alternately favored and suppressed Monophysitism, but by 600 the lines of schism had hardened; the Coptic Church (see under CoptsCopts
, the native Christian minority of Egypt; estimates of the number of Copts in Egypt range from 5% to 17% of the population. Copts are not ethnically distinct from other Egyptians; they are a cultural remnant, i.e.
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), the Jacobite ChurchJacobite Church
, officially Syrian Orthodox Church, Christian church of Syria, Iraq, and India, recognizing the Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch as its spiritual head, regarded by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as heretical. It was founded (6th cent.
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 of Syria, and the Armenian ChurchArmenian Church,
autonomous Christian church, sometimes also called the Gregorian Church. Its head, a primate of honor only, is the catholicos of Yejmiadzin, Armenia; Karekin II became catholicos in 1999.
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, all Non-Chalcedonian, were established. Modern Non-Chalcedonian churches also include the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo churches and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India. MonotheletismMonotheletism
or Monothelitism
[Gr.,=one will], 7th-century opinion condemned as heretical by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680 (see Constantinople, Third Council of).
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 was a 7th-century attempt to reconcile orthodoxy with Monophysitism.


See W. H. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement (1972); J. Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (1971) and The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (1974).