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The attitude of the Armenian Church to the doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon

In 325 and 381 in the Ecumenical Councils the dogmas about the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity were finally defined. However, the Christian Church faced another serious issue - the question of the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in Lord Jesus Christ.

In 431 in the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus chaired by St. Cyril, the archbishop ofAlexandria, Nestorius’s teaching about two natures and two persons of Jesus Christ was condemned. Nestorianism stressed the distinction between the divine and the human natures ofJesus Christ: it appeared that there were two persons living in one body.

After the Council of Ephesus the supporters of Nestorianism found refuge in Persia. They began to spread the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore of Tarsus since their teaching was not condemned in the Third Council of Ephesus.

In their messages Proclus, the Patriarch of Constantinople and Acacius, the bishop of Melitene warned Armenian Catholicos Sahak about those works. In reply, Catholicos Sahak wrote that the preachers of such heretical teaching had not appeared in Armenia yet. These messages became the basis of the Armenian Christology. In 553 one of St. Sahak’s letters addressed to Patriarch Proclus was read in the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople as an example of Orthodoxy.

When St. Sahak and St. Mesrop found out that “the deceitful works, meaningless tales of Theodore of Mopsuestia appeared in Armenia”, they immediately took necessary measures to condemn the heretical teaching and its preachers.

In 451 the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the doctrine of St. Cyril, the archbishop of Alexandria, stating that there are two distinct natures - human and divine - in Lord Jesus Christ. At that time the Armenian Church was involved into an intense struggle against the Persian Zoroastrian religion so they couldn’t pay much attention to the dogmatic disputes taking place in the Byzantine Empire to determine their position.

Armenia and the Armenian Church took a short respite from the struggle during the period when Vahan Mamikonian became the governor of Armenia (485-505). At that time the Christian Church was divided into three branches with different Christological opinions: Monophysiticism in the spirit of the Henoticon issued by Byzantine Emperor Zeno in 482 predominated in Byzantium; Chalcedonian teaching - in Rome and in the Western territory; and Nestorius’s teaching - in Persia.

In 506 in the First Council of Dvin in which the bishops of Armenia, Georgia and Aghuank took part, the Henoticon was officially adopted by the Armenian and neighboring Churches. They also condemned Nestorianism and the definition of faith proposed in the Council of Chalcedon.

In 518 Justin I (518-527) acceded to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. In order to restore the disturbed relations with Rome, he condemned the Henoticon and proclaimed the Council of Chalcedon as Holy and Ecumenical.

Since the Armenian Church was situated beyond the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire, it was free of the pressure of Byzantium power. That’s why the definition of faith of the Council of Chalcedon, which was actively spread in Byzantium that time, didn’t have any influence on the Armenian Church.


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