What is Monophysitism?

Question
What is Monophysitism?
Answer
Monophysitism (a compound word monos meaning "one" and physis meaning "nature") is a heretical view of the nature of Christ. It taught that in the Person of Jesus Christ there was only one, divine nature rather than two distinct and unmixed natures, divine and human. There are two monophysite schools of thought: (1) Eutychianism (explained below) and (2) Apollinarianism, which held that while Christ possessed a normal human body and emotions, the Divine Logos had essentially taken the place of his mind. See "What is Apollinarianism" below. Monophysitism was rejected by the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. Additionally, it was officially rejected at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681 AD.

Eutychianism came about as a response to another heresy called Nestorianism. Nestorianism taught that Christ has two separate natures resulting in two different persons residing in one body. See "What is Nestorianism" below. Eutyches taught that Jesus' humanity was for all practical purposes dissolved by his divine nature. He described Christ's human nature as being "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea." Therefore, in essence, Eutyches mixed Christ's natures.

Monophysitism denies the Hypostatic Union of Christ. Hypostatic is from the Greek word hupostasis meaning "assurance, substance, or reality" found five times in Scripture (2 Cor 9:4; 11:17; Heb 1:3; 3:14; 11:1). Jesus Christ is "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Heb 1:3). Both the Father and the Son are of the same "nature." As the Bible teaches us, Jesus is the exact imprint of his Father's nature. Jesus is very God of very God.

So, the Hypostatic Union regards the personal union of Jesus' two natures. Jesus has two complete natures; one fully divine and one fully human. However, Jesus is not two persons, but only one person. So, Christ's two natures are united in one person; the God-man, Jesus Christ. In the Hypostatic Union, Jesus' natures retain their individual properties. His two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation (Chalcedonian Formula). So, the Hypostatic Union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:9 notes, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." The Apostle Paul affirms the proper biblical understanding of Jesus as one with a full divine nature as well as a full human nature. Monophysitism is a heretical doctrine.

Today they Coptic Orthodox Church still holds to Monophysitism.

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

Related Topics:

Christological Heresies?
What is Adoptionism?
What is Albigenses?
What is Apollinarianism?
What is Arianism?
What is Docetism?
What is Ebionism?
What is Gnosticism?
What is Kenosis?
What is Marcionism?
What is Modalism?
What is Monarchianism?
What is Nestorianism?
What is Patripassionism?
What is Pelagianism?
What is Semi-Pelagianism?
What is Socinianism?
What is Subordinationism?
What is Tritheism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).