The Historical Facts

 

By: Emad H. Asham MD, FRCS

 

The Oecumenical Movement
------------------------
This movement began as  early as the  reign  of Constantine the Great,  under
whom Christianity was recognized as the religion of the state by the Edict of
Milan in 312 A.D. With the disappearance of  Roman persecutions against which
the Christians had had  to present a unite  front, elements of disunity began
to surface  among those same Christians in  matters of faith.  Heresies arose
with the vehemence of intense piety  and split the  faithful into rival camps
which imperilled   the  peace of  the  Empire.  Perhaps  the  most  dangerous
situation occured in Alexandria in the war  words which broke out between the
followers of Arius and  Athanasius, for both  groups  claimed to  profess the
only true orthodoxy, and each of them  had a strong army  of adherents to the
extent that both  factions had  penetrated the  inner circle  of the imperial
court. The problem was the principle of consubstantiation.  The "Homoousion"(Monophysite),
signifying  that the Father  and the Son were  one and of the "same" essence,
was the thesis of Athanasius  in  opposition to  Arius, whose conception  was
that of the "Homoiousion"(dyophysite)
[1], indicating that the Son  was of divine origin
but only of "like" essence, begotten of  the Father as  an instrument for the
creation of the world, hence the Father's unequal  in eternity. Mark ye! That
little "iota" in the middle of one word made all  the difference in the world
and  shook the Empire  to its very foundations,  and  the peril  of civil war
between the contestant  camps loomed on the horizon.  In passing, it might be
said that a  parallel of the  latter scheme of  thought predated Arius in the
idea of the "demiurge" of late antique Neoplatonism and Gnosticism.

Admist  all these confusions  and in order to  bring unity back to the Church
and the Empire,  Constantine inaugurated the  Oecumenical Movement by calling
to order the Council  of Nicaea in 325 A.D.  under the presidency of  the old
bishop of Alexandria.  This was Alexandros (died 328  A.D.), who came  with a
young and able deacon,  the future Athanasius, destined to  follow him on the
throne. Against some   accepted views in    the science of patrology, he   is
revealed to  be Coptic  and not  Greek. Recently,  it   has been  found  that
Athanasius wrote in Coptic, though most of his monumental works were composed
in Greek. Greeks  knew  no Coptic and  had no  need  for using it [let  alone
learning it]. But  the  educated  Copts  were  masters of  both  tongues, and
Athanasius belonged to this class. Furthermore, Athanasius spent two years in
one of   his five exiles in the   Red Sea wilderness   with Saint Anthony the
Great, whose life he compiled in a famous Vita. It is well known that Anthony
was an illiterate Copt and spoke nothing but Coptic, which was his only means
of  communication  with his  illustrious  visitor.   It  is,  therefore,  not
unreasonable   to relate Athanasian  contributions   to the native Church  of
Egypt
.

It is beyond  the limits of this  work to cover  the immensity of the Nicaean
canons and the  literature in  which  they have been  discussed.  But certain
criteria   are clear from  the   deliberations of  the  Council under  Coptic
leadership.  First and  foremost, the   Nicaean  Creed was sanctioned  by the
Council. Composed  by  Athanasius,  it  remains  a triumph   for  Alexandrine
theology to this day.  Of historic importance  was the creation for the first
time of a    Bishopric of  Constantinople.   A  gift   from  a  predominantly
Alexandrine Council, the same bishopric  paradoxically joined forces with the
Bishopric of Rome  two  centuries later  to  degrade the   former Alexandrine
benefactor.

But let me  first  sum up the momentous   events in the field  of Christology
which  occured between 325  and 451, from Nicaea to  Chalcedon, to signal the
parting  of the ways between   East and West.   In  that period, three  major
councils were convened 
[2],  one at Constantinople   (318 A.D.) and two  at
Ephesus (431 A.D.  and 449  A.D.),  and all seemed   to be under  Alexandrine
control. They dealt with two  new major heresies: Eutychianism, which denuded
Christ of his  humanity, and  Nestorianism, which  relinquished  the unity of
Christ's divinity and humanity. Constantinople condemned Eutychius, though he
was reinstated at  Ephesus II after abjuring his  former views. At Ephesus I,
Nestorius clung to his view that Mary should be pronounced Mother of Jesus in
the  flesh, not Mother of  God (Theotokos), a  thesis that implied a cleavage
between the human and the divine nature  of Christ. Again under the influence
of Discorus I, a  Coptic patriarch, the formula of  Cyril the Great  (412-444
A.D.)  was accepted, and Nestorius and  his teachings were condemned, leading
to the schism of the Nestorian Church. What matters here  was the question of
Coptic leadership in definitions of  Christology. Sait Cyril was succeeded by
his nephew, the  aforementioned Dioscorus I  (444-454 A.D.), a determined and
active theologian whom the Copts describe as a pillar of the faith, while the
Romans stigmatized him   as  the leader  of  a Robber  Council  (Latrocinium)
because he had judged Eutychius without  reading the Tome  or letter of Leo I
to Ephesus II.

Feeling was  running  high in Rome and    Constantinople, and the  change  of
Emperors brought changes in imperial policies. Theodosius II was succeeded by
Marcian and  his wife  Pulcheria,  a former   nun, who deplored   Alexandrine
supremacy in  ecclesiastical matters. The  two capitals were  drawn nearer by
the high-handed actions of Dioscorus, and Coptic patriarchs were described as
the  "Pharaohs  of the  Church",  which was  unpalatable to  the authority of
Byzantium.  Thus Marcian  summoned  Dioscorus to  answer  for  his actions at
Ephesus II and  to discuss his views on  Christology at Chalcedon
[3] in 451
A.D. The Romans quickly  mustered a massive army  of bishops from the West to
join the East European  prelates at Chalcedon  in Asia Minor, while Dioscorus
was detained by the imperial  guard  under a kind   of house arrest, and  the
Council  summarily  condemned and  exiled   him to the   island of  Gangra in
Paphlagonia near the southern  shores of the Black  Sea  where he died  a few
years later.

In this wise, the Copts  lost their leadership  in Christendom.  Chalcedon of
course was not recognized by them, and from that moment we begin two parallel
lines of succession   from Saint Mark,  the   one a Melkite   obediantiary to
Byzantium, and the other  proudly nationalistic of  native Coptic stock. Thus
was inaugurated a new wave of merciless persecution to curb Coptic separatism
and humiliate the so-called Monophysite  Christians, with disastrous  results
on the eve of the Arab Conquest.

 

References:

 

[1] A.S. Atiya, "A History of Eastern Christianity" (London, 1967, reprinted
     Notre Dame, Ind., 1968), p. 42.

[2] C. J. Helfe, "Connziliengeschichte", English  Translation by W.R.  Clark
     as "History of the Christian Councils" (Edinburgh, 1871-1896), Vols. I-V
     (to 787 A.D.); authorized French translation by H. Leclercq as "Histoire
     des Conciles", 11 volumes in 22 (Paris, 1907-1952).

[3] R.V. Sellers, "The Council of Chalcedon"  (london, 1953); A.  Grillmeier
     and H. Bacht, "Das Konzil von Chalcedon", 3 vols.
  (Wurzburg, 1951-1954).
   
Adapted from www.Coptic.net
  

maged salama <magsalama@yahoo.com> wrote:

+ It is very sad that those who accused the Coptic Church many centuries ago of being Monophysite still repeating their false claim until now!.

 

Please read a unbiased opinion about our faith in:

http://www.answers.com/topic/coptic-christianity

I am quting from the above website:

"The Chalcedonians sometimes called the non-Chalcedonians "monophysites", though the Coptic Church denies that it teaches monophysitism, which it regards as a heresy. They have sometimes called the Chalcedonian group "dyophysites". A term that comes closer to Coptic doctrine is "miaphysite", which refers to a conjoined nature for Christ, both human and divine, united indivisibly in the Incarnate Logos. The Coptic Church believes that Christ is perfect in His divinity, and He is perfect in His humanity, but His divinity and His humanity were united in one nature called "the nature of the incarnate word", which was reiterated by Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Copts, thus, believe in two natures "human" and "divine" that are united in one without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration. These two natures did not separate for a moment or the twinkling of an eye."

 

Thanks a lot Dr. Ramzy for bringing this issue to our attention.

 

Please pray for me

Maged Salama

USA



Ramzy S Labib <rslabib1@juno.com> wrote:

Dear friends

 

In arbible post # 21596 on May 1st, 2005, H.B. Theodoros II said:

"The Copts adhere to the monophysite doctrine, that is they believe in one nature in the person of Christ and that nature is divine," the Greek Orthodox Patriarch elaborates. "We believe that Christ is both human and divine."

This quote is written in Al-Ahram : http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/740/profile.htm

I would like to ask the Copts who are members of arbible group the following question:

IS THIS TRUE????

H.B. is in Egypt, and if no one from the Copts in Egypt will comment on this, this "accusation" will keep going around and around.  Some Greek people in USA believe it. I thought that maybe because of ignorance of Theology and History of the Church, but I cannot say that about an Orthodox Bishop.

Sincerely,

Ramzy Labib

A COPT in USA