The Humanity of Christ (What Oriental Orthodox Believe)

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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 Subdeacon Peter Theodore Farrington

British Orthodox Church ( )

This is an explanation of the Oriental Orthodox understanding of the humanity of Christ, and rebuttals to common misconceptions and arguments.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches have often been criticised for professing a faulty doctrine of the humanity of Christ. This criticism is heard as much in the 21st century as it was the 5th. We may respond with frustration that our actual doctrinal position is misunderstood, and misrepresented, but it is perhaps wiser to seek to explain and inform. Our Churches no longer face the pressure of Imperial opposition, and many of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and indeed the Roman Catholic Church, have shown a willingness to listen and learn, rather than simply depend on age-old polemics in dealing with us.

The criticisms that are most often used against us are:

i. that we confess the humanity of Christ is dissolved or swallowed up by the humanity such that it has no real existence.

ii. that we confess that the humanity of Christ is not consubstantial with us but has come down from heaven and is merely a fantasy.

iii. that we confess that the humanity of Christ has been mixed or confused with his divinity such that a third nature, neither human nor divine, is created.

iv. that we confess that the humanity of Christ is defective in lacking a human will.

All of these criticisms may still be heard and read, in encyclopaedias and on websites, from clergy as well as lay people. The Columbia Encyclopaedia, Sixth edition 2001, states,

Monophysitism was anticipated by Apollinarianism and was continuous with the principles of Eutyches, whose doctrine had been rejected in 451 at Chalcedon. Monophysitism challenged the orthodox definition of faith of Chalcedon and taught that in Jesus there were not two natures (divine and human) but one (divine).