by Simon
Lien-yueh Wei





The Development of Christology









In the Apostles Age and Apostolic Father Age, The Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Christ, had already been discussed. From 3rd to 4th century, Tertullian and Origen give a more complete doctrine of Christology. Then, there were many different viewpoints of the doctrine proposed by Alexandrian School (ex: Arius, Athansius, and Apollinarius) and Antiochene School (ex: Eustathius, Diodore) in the Church. However, the controversial zenith of the Christology is between Cyril of Alexandrian School and Theodore of Antiochene School from the 4th to 5th century.


Alexandrian School: Cyril of Alexandria

Its theory adopts “Word-Flesh” scheme and the formula “One nature.” Divinity and humanity of Savior united in one. Two natures are united so close that they cannot be distinguished in the union.


How does Cyril’s interpretation of work of Christ influence on his explanation of the person of Christ:

First, If Christ’s suffering and saving works are not those of the divine but only of the       man, the redemption is undermined. Hence, the divine must unite with His flesh and must be involved in the suffering and saving work. Moreover, because Christ is the second Adam and a new, regenerated race of mankind, the union of the divine with the flesh must be close as one.

Second, The transformation of a person’s (believer’s) nature takes place through the union with Christ in the rituals of baptism and eucharist. The dying and rising with Christ in baptism have a transformative effect on the soul and body of the person. The bread and win in eucharist transelement to Christ’s body and blood after the celebrant’s prayer. When a communicant eats Christ’s body and blood, the person receives Christ’s divine life through Christ’s flesh. The transformation of the person’s life is accomplished through the simultaneous function of the union of humanity and divinity in Christ. Thus, human and divine natures must be united closely as one in Christ. They cannot be distinguished in the union.


How does Cyril’s explanation of the person of Christ influence on his interpretation of work of Christ:

First, The Word of God unites His person by taking body, soul and spirit, and joining them to Himself. The union of the divinity to the whole of humanity in Christ is called the hypostatic union.  In the process of the hypostatic union, the Word of God changes body, soul and spirit and thus had transformed human nature itself. After that, Christ can change the humanity and situation of every human being. All humans now have possibilities of immortality and perfection through Christ. These possibilities can be done through the teaching and example of Christ.

Second, The human and the divine natures become one hypostasis in the union. There is no any essential separation after the union. The body and nature of Jesus is the body and nature of the Word of God. The work of salvation, living and dying and rising again, are done by the one in Jesus. 


Antiochene School: Theodore of Mopsuestia

His theory adopts “Word-man” scheme and the formula “Two natures.”

Divinity and humanity of Savior can be distinguished in Savior’s actions.

Savior has a real, complete, and independent humanity.


How does Theodore’s interpretation of work of Christ influence on his explanation of the person of Christ:

First, The death of Jesus in fidelity to God’s will and rejection of Satan’s temptations is a victory. Jesus won the right to free others from the power of sin and death. This action of salvation could be performed only by a human being who could resist temptation and suffer for humans. Hence, Jesus has a complete humanity with human mind and soul.

Second, As a reward for his fully fidelity at his death, Jesus had completely united to the Word of God. Then He was raised from the dead and given a highest position in the cosmos. The human Jesus becomes the Savior, the King of the Universe, the judge of the living and the dead. Thus before his death, Jesus has two natures. They are not mixed with each other and can be distinguished. Each nature is complete and independent.


How does Theodore’s explanation of the person of Christ influence on his interpretation of work of Christ:

First, the Word of God commits himself to Jesus at his conception. The human nature is a temple in which the Word of God dwells. There are two natures and two individuals in Jesus. The Bible mentions the conjunction (not the union) of divinity and humanity in Jesus, but also stresses the difference between these two natures. Since Jesus has a complete human nature, he has all the weaknesses of a human being (such as huger and thirst). Hence, Jesus has to struggle with temptation and can suffer for humans.

Second, the human nature of Jesus responds obedience to the commands of God and the guidance of the Word of God who dwells within him. Through a series of temptations he gradually grows into a full commitment to the divine. At his death, Jesus proclaims his full self-gift to God.  Thus the union of divine and human in Jesus was begun at his conception and completed in his death. The two natures and individuals work for the salvation in a partnership. 



The Formation of the Principle of Christology

From 4th century, empires and the Church had called many councils in order to settle this doctrinal controversy. In the 5th century, there were three important councils that their purposes were to resolve this controversy:

In 431, First Council of Ephesus declared that: There are two natures in one person and hypostasis in Jesus. The Nicene Creed is the core of Christology. Support Cyril and condemn Nestorious, who advocates two natures and two persons in Christ.

       In 449, Second Council of Ephesus, also named Robber Synod, declared that: One nature in Christ. Support Alexandrian school’s theory of Christology.

       In 451, Council of Chalcedon proclaimed that: Christ is One and is both human and divine.  There are two natures in one person and hypostasis. The two natures are united without confusion, without change, and without separation.

        The decree of Council of Chalcedon became a principle of Christology in Catholic Church. There are no other influential oppositions or serious controversies on Christology in the doctrinal history of the Church after Council of Chalcedon. Most of the orthodox theologians from 5th century to the Medieval Ages accepted basically this doctrinal priciple of Christology.  



Burns, Patout, Lectures of “The Formation of Christian Tradition” in Vanderbilt Divinity school, 2004 Fall.



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