The theology of miaphysitism is based on an understanding of the nature (Greek φύσις ''physis'') of [[Christ]]: divine and human. After steering between the [[heresy|heresies]] of [[docetism]] (that Christ only appeared to be human) and [[adoptionism]] (that Christ was a man chosen by God), the Church began to explore the mystery of Christ's nature further. Having agreed that Christ is both divine and human, the first difficulty was Nestorianism, which was perceived as stressing the two natures of Christ to such an extent that it appeared, to opponents, that two persons were living in the same body. Nestorianism taught that Christ's humanity but not His divinity was born of the Virgin Mary.
The reaction to this was [[monophysitism]], which stressed that Christ has but one single nature where the divine consumed the human as the ocean consumes a drop of vinegar. This was called [[Eutychianism]]. Both of these positions were seen as heretical, but the church remained divided on how best to formulate a response to these. [[Cyril of Alexandria]]'s works were the basis of the stance of miaphysitism. He spoke of the "one (''mia'') nature of the Word of God incarnate" (μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη ''mia physis tou theou logou sesarkōmenē'') and a "union according to ''[[hypostasis]]''" (ἕνωσις καθ' ὑπόστασιν ''henōsis kath' hypostasin''), or [[
Hypostatic Union|hypostatic union]]. The distinction of this stance was that the incarnate Christ has one nature, but that nature is ''of the two natures,'' divine and human, and retains all the characteristics of both. However, opponents of those who took this stance regarded it as nothing more than [[monophysitism]]. The alternative response, which eventually became Byzantine [[dogma]], was [[dyophysitism]]. This states that Christ has two natures, but emphasizes that they are not separated: Christ is fully one person (ὑπόστασις ''hypostasis''). The miaphysites regarded this as verging on [[Nestorianism]].
The [[Council of Chalcedon]] (451) is often seen as a watershed for [[Christology]], as it adopted [[dyophysitism]]. However, as large portions of the Church in Syria and Egypt, who held to miaphysitism, rejected the decision, the controversy became a major socio-political problem for the [[Byzantine Empire]]. There were numerous attempts at reunion between the two camps (including the [[Henoticon]] in 482), and the balance of power shifted several times. However, the decision at Chalcedon remains the official teaching of the [[Eastern Orthodox Church]], the [[Roman Catholic Church]] and traditional [[Protestants]]. The non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches are usually grouped together as [[Oriental Orthodoxy|Oriental Orthodox]]. Over recent decades, leaders of the various branches of the Church have spoken about the differences between their respective christologies as not being as extreme as was traditionally held.