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Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
Eutyches: Know Your Heretics
Eutyches (378-454) was in charge of the monastery at Constantinople and was second in command, only lower than the Bishop, in terms of authority there.
Is Jesus a Blend of God & Man?
The early church taught that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures—a divine nature and a human nature.
Eutyches was guilty of over-emphasizing the fact that Jesus Christ was one person and blurred the distinction between his divine and human natures. This was opposite of Nestorius’ heresy.
About Eutyches, church historian Stephen Nichols writes: “To him Christ was a third thing (the Latin expression is tertium quid)….One new and different person fashioned out of two natures is how he liked to put it. That is a theological way of saying yellow and blue makes green.”
When asked by Florentius if he believed there were two natures in Christ, Eutyches argued that there was only one nature in Christ after the incarnation:
Florentius: “Do you or do you not admit that our Lord who is of the Virgin is consubstantial [with us] and of two natures after the incarnation?”
Eutyches: “I admit that our Lord was of two natures before the union, but after the union one nature.”
Orthodox Response: Jesus Is Fully God & Fully Man
In his Tome, Leo the Great offers a beautiful response to the thought of Eutyches: “For just as the God [deity] is not changed by his compassion, so the man [manhood] is not swallowed up by the dignity [of the Godhead].” The human nature and the divine nature in Christ remain distinct and unmixed in the incarnation so that Jesus is truly God and truly man.
Flavian, who was the Bishop of Constantinople, called a synod that met at Constantinople in 448 at which the teachings of Eutyches were deemed heretical. In the Chalcedonian Creed there are phrases directed toward Eutyches: Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided in two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Is Our Representative
Stephen Nichols clearly describes the problem with Eutyches’ teachings: “The problem with stressing the unity without the counterbalance of the two intact natures, as Eutyches does, is that Christ loses his human and divine identity. As such, he is not truly our representative. The Christ of Eutyches falls short of Paul’s teaching of Christ as the last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:42-49).”
The orthodox theologians of the first several centuries saw an intimate connection between the incarnation and the atoning work of Christ.
This is why Leo the Great writes:
Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with passible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suits the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.