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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



adherents of a religiophilosophical doctrine that formed in Byzantium in the seventh century. According to the Monothelites, Christ possessed two natures (human and divine) but one will and one divine-human “energy”; Christ’s human will was absorbed within his divine will. The Monothelite doctrine arose as a compromise between the orthodox dogma adopted at the Council of Chalcedon and the doctrine of the Monophysites.

The most prominent Monothelites were Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople (610–638); Cyrus, bishop of Phasus; and Theodore, bishop of Pharan (in the Sinai Peninsula). The Monothelite doctrine was officially approved by Emperor Heraclius in his Ecthesis (638).

The Monothelites were challenged by Maximus the Confessor, who asserted that Christ’s human will had retained its independent existence and was subordinated to the divine will only in an act of free choice. Emperor Constans II, in his Typos (648), proposed a compromise solution that forebade the use of the disputed formulations.

The Monothelites were condemned as heretics by Pope Martin I at the Lateran Council in 649; they were also condemned by the Constantinople (Sixth Ecumenical) Council in 680–681. With the final defeat of the Monothelites, the mystical doctrine of the two natures and two wills of Christ was reinforced.


Lebedev, A. P. Vselenskie sobory VI, VI i VII vv., 3rd ed. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Beck, H. G. Kirche und theologische Literatur im Byzantinischen Reich. Munich, 1959. Pages 292–95, 430–33.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.