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EUTYCHES (c. 378454), was the archimandrite and founder of the monophysite heresy. Eutyches was born in Constantinople and was archimandrite of a monastery near there. As sponsor of the eunuch Chrysaphius, Eutyches was very influential in the imperial court. Chrysaphius was one of the more powerful counselors of the emperor Theodosius II.

Eutyches was the originator of an extreme form of monophysitism that came to be called Eutychianism. In reaction to the separationist Christology of Nestorius (who accepted two distinct natures in Christ), Eutyches concluded that there was in Christ a single nature. When Theodoret of Cyrrhus wrote the Eranistes against Eutyches' opinions, Flavian, the patriarch of Constantinople (446449), sent Eutyches to the Council of Constantinople (448) for judgment.

Eutyches appeared at the council but refused to accept the existence of two natures in Christ and was on that account condemned and deposed. Flavian's successor on the throne of Constantinople, Cyril, was, however, sympathetic to Eutyches' teaching, which corresponded to the general framework of the teaching of the Alexandrian school, rather than that of the Antiochene school. Because Cyril assumed that Flavian was a representative of the Antiochene school, he opposed the measures taken against Eutyches. Cyril promoted the convocation of a synod that later became known as the Robber Synod (449), which restored Eutyches and condemned and deposed Eusebius of Dorylaeumwho also opposed the heresy of Nestoriusas well as Flavian. Despite this, and on account of the loss of imperial favor because of the death of Theodosius II (450), Eutyches was expelled from his monastery. The new emperors, Pulcheria and her consort Marcian, convoked an ecumenical council at Chalcedon in 451, which denounced the Robber Synod, excommunicated Dioscorus (patriarch of Alexandria who had presided over the synod), restored the expelled bishops, and condemned Nestorianism, as well as Eutyches along with his teachings.

Eutyches believed that after the union of the divine and the human in Christ, there were no longer two natures but one, and this one nature was a mingling of the two. After this blending, only the divine nature remained, because the human nature was absorbed by the divine. The Council of Chalcedon, by contrast, affirmed that within Christ there are united, without confusion or division, two natures that are wholly God and wholly human.


The texts of Eutyches' Confessions of Faith and several of his letters can be found, along with notes and commentary, in Eduard Schwartz's Der Prozess des Eutyches (Munich, 1929). See also W. H. C. Frend's The Rise of the Monophysite Movement (Cambridge, U.K., 1979), which includes sources and a bibliography.

Theodore Zissis (1987)

Translated from Greek by Philip M. McGhee

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Constantinopolitan abbot and heretic, considered the father of monophysitism; b. c. 375; d. 454.

As Archimandrite of an important monastery during the mid-400s in the outskirts of Constantinople, Eutyches enjoyed great influence at the court of Theodosius II through his godson, the eunuch Chrysaphius. In his fidelity to the formula rather than the theology of St. cyril of alexandria, and in his anti-Nestorian zeal, he recognized only one nature in Christ. theodoret of cyr wrote his Eranistes (447) against Eutyches without naming him. He was denounced as a heretic by Eusebius of Doryleum before the synodos endemousa on Nov. 8, 448, and at first refused to obey the summons of the Patriarch flavian. Finally making an appearance on November 22, he obstinately refused to confess that there were two natures in Christ and was condemned and deposed. Pope leo i confirmed this judgment (Epist. 23, 29, 30). Although rehabilitated by the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449, he was exiled after the assumption of emperorship by Marcian and Pulcheria in 451. Nothing further is known of his life.

Pope Leo in his Tome to Flavian called Eutyches "an ignorant, imprudent old man" for having asserted under questioning at Constantinople that there were two natures before, but only one after the Incarnation. He was thus forced into denying a concrete and individual existence for the human nature of Christ, and into holding that, as the human nature was absorbed by the divinity, Christ's flesh was not consubstantial with ours. St. Leo indicates that Eutyches did not truly understand the theological issue, and, on being challenged, obstinately refused to recede from what he erroneously thought was the opinion of St. Cyril.

Bibliography: m. jugie, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 5.2:15821609. r. devreesse, "Les Premières années du monophysisme," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 19 (1930) 251265. r. draguet, "La Christologie d'Eutychès," Byzantion 6 (1931) 441447. p. t. camelot, Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart 1:229242. h. bacht, ibid. 2:197222.

[p. t. camelot]

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The Byzantine monk Eutyches (ca. 380-455) preached the doctrine of Monophysitism, the belief that Christ had only a divine nature. His teachings were condemned as heresy by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Few facts are known concerning the life of Eutyches. By 450 he was in charge of a large monastery in Constantinople. He was respected for his holiness after long years of prayer and penance, and he had great influence at court through his godson, who was an important official of the emperor. The Church had not fully recovered from the recent theological controversy of Nestorianism, concerning the true personality of Christ. In 431 Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople had been condemned and exiled for teaching that Jesus had, in effect, two personalities, one human, the other divine. Despite Nestorius's condemnation, his followers were not convinced he was wrong. Theodoret of Cyrrhus, a learned and able frontier bishop, had drawn up a formula of reconciliation that described Christ as having a "union of two natures."

In 448 Eutyches protested loudly against Theodoret of Cyrrhus, calling his attempt heretical. Eutyches said he himself professed "the ancient faith." He believed that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus was God Himself. Jesus, said Eutyches, had only one nature, the divine, which absorbed his humanity. The current bishop of Constantinople, Flavian, condemned Eutyches for misrepresenting Christ, and the controversy—which had simmered for 15 years— boiled over again. Many of the churchmen and political figures who had opposed Nestorius earlier now supported Eutyches, whom they saw as the voice of orthodoxy. Those who had supported Nestorius rallied around Theodoret. Emperor Theodosius II appointed Dioscoros, Bishop of Alexandria and a friend of Eutyches, to preside at a church council called to settle the matter in Ephesus in 449. Pope Leo I sent his legates to the council with clear instructions to denounce Eutyches, whom the pope called "an ignorant, imprudent old man." Dioscoros succeeded in railroading through the council a series of resolutions that completely supported Eutyches. On the emperor's authority he imprisoned all who disagreed. The pope's legates barely escaped to return to Rome and report what had happened.

Pope Leo was furious. The emperor refused to call another council, but within months he died from an accidental fall from his horse. His successor, pressed by the pope, called the general council that met at Chalcedon in 451. This time the tables were reversed. Eutyches was condemned, and his supporter, Bishop Dioscoros of Alexandria, was exiled. The officials of the council described Christ in a way that agreed with neither Nestorius nor Eutyches. Christ, they said, was one person with two separate and distinct natures, united but unmixed. The decisions of this council have been respected since then by all orthodox Christian faiths.

Further Reading

For information about Eutyches the best work is Robert V. Sellers, The Council of Chalcedon (1953), which describes in detail the political and ecclesiastical controversies of his time. □

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Eutyches (c.378–454). Christian heretic, who opposed Nestorianism so strongly that he was accused in 448 of the opposite error of confounding the two natures in Christ, and of denying that Christ's manhood was consubstantial with ours. He was deposed, then reinstated at Ephesus in 449, and finally condemned at Chalcedon in 451.