Problems with the Chalcedonian Formula

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Coptic Orthodox Cross
Note: This article or section represents an Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) perspective, which may differ from an Eastern Orthodox (Chalcedonian) understanding.

By The Very Reverend Father Tadros Malaty, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Excerpts)

We (Oriental Orthodox) reject the Chalcedonian formula for the following reasons:

1. The formula: "one nature" has an evangelic base, and touches our salvation. H. H. Pope Shenouda III clarifies this argument in detail in his book "The Nature of Christ".

2. Some Chalcedonian Fathers and theologians stated that the Tome of Leo represents an insurmountable obstacle in the efforts made to unite with the non- Chalcedonians, for the latter believe that two "physeis and ousia" in one person is Nestorianizing. This is supported by the fact that Leo's Tome was praised by Nestorius himself [1], and that the Tome, if taken alone by itself could have created the impression of an excessive opposition of two natures, as Prof. Rev. Florovsky says[2].

3. Kelly states that, unlike, their brethren in the East, the Westerns were concerned with the organization of ecclesiastical matters more than theological ones. He also states that with the exception of Tertullian, the west made little or no contribution to christological theology[3].

4. We are in accord with the Tome in refuting Eutychianism and in confirming that Christ's manhood was real, Christ entered the mundane plane of existence and that the unity of Godhead and manhood had been realized without change... but the Tome consists of three statements, those which some of the Fathers of Chalcedon themselves rejected for their Nestorian attitude[4].

5. Leo speaks of "one person (prosopon)" of Christ but this term does not suffice, for the Nestorians used it to mean "mask," i.e. external unity. There was a need to confirm the unity as a true and "hypostatic" one...

6. The Council of Chalcedon adopted the Tome of Leo. In Egypt many believers were martyred for they refused to sign the Tome... The acceptance of the Tome as a principal document of faith disfigured the Council in the sight of the non- Chalcedonians.

7. The "definitions" of Chalcedon admits the phrase "one hypostasis." Some of the Nestorians objected on this addition, but they accepted it when the word "hypostasis" was interpreted to them as an equal to "prosopon"...

8. We do not recognize this Council because it ignored all the traditional formulas of the Church, which confirm the oneness of the Person of Christ, as a true unity, such as: "one nature of two natures" and "one nature of the Incarnate Word of God."

I conclude my discussion of the Council of Chalcedon by referring to the words of Sellers who defends this council... "In the first place, it should be understood that the (Monophysite) theologians were not heretics, nor were they regarded as such by leading Chalcedonians.[5]"


1. Methodios Fouyas, p.12,13.

2. Christology according to the non-Chalcedonian Churches, p. 12-3.

3. Terms: "Physis & Hypostasis in the Early Church", p. 30-1.

4. Ibid 30f.

5. The council of Chalcedon, SPCK 1961, p. 269.

The term "monophysite" was not used during the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries, but was used later in a specific way and in a polemic spirit on behalf of the Chalcedonian Churches.