Council of Chalcedony

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Council of Chalcedon
October 8th - November 1st 451
Accepted by
Convened by Emperor Markian

The patrician Anatolios and other state officials

Attendees 350-450 clerics

The Council of Chalcedon took place from October 8 to November 1, 451 in Chalcedon (also Chalkedon , Greek Χαλκηδών Chalkēdṓn ) in Bithynia , Asia Minor (today's Istanbul district of Kadıköy ). It was the fourth of the first seven ecumenical councils of the early Church . Its dogmatic definitions are recognized as infallible in the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches ; they are also the doctrinal basis in the Protestant and Anglican churches.

One result of this council was the resolution of a further creed, which is called the “Creed of Chalcedon”. In the preamble to the Confession, the validity of the Confessions of Nicaea and Constantinople is confirmed.

The Council of Chalcedon decided the long and bitter Christological dispute about the relationship between divine and human nature in Jesus Christ in favor of the doctrine of two natures. Against Monophysitism (more precisely is miaphysitism ), which was mainly championed by the powerful churches of Egypt and Syria, on the one hand and Nestorianism on the other, it defined Christ as true God (God the Son as the second person of the Trinity ) and true People at the same time, namely "unmixed and undivided" (cf. God's Incarnation ). In doing so, the council contributed to the secession of both the Nestorian and the Miaphysite Oriental Orthodox churches . Chalcedonian christology became a dogma.


In 449 the Council of Ephesus, under the dominant influence of the Alexandrian Patriarch Dioskorus I, declared miaphysitism to be a dogma in a flash, that is, the doctrine that Jesus Christ had only one, namely divine nature. Emperor Theodosius II also tended to this position under the influence of his court eunuch Chysaphius. In the West there was great indignation, Pope Leo the Great protested sharply against the latrocinium Ephesinum (German mostly translated as “ Synod of Robbers of Ephesus”) - the council went down in church history under the name of abuse . When Theodosius died in a riding accident a year later, the Dyophysites , who believed that Jesus Christ had two natures, divine and human, took the opportunity. Theodosius' sister Aelia Pulcheria allied herself with Pope Leo, she disempowered Chysaphius and later had him executed, the Constantinopolitan Presbyter Eutyches , a representative of Monophysitism, sent her into exile. She married Markian , the tribunus of the Imperial Guard, and thus made sure that he became emperor. Immediately after his accession to the throne, Markian convened another council that was supposed to put an authoritative end to the long-lasting Christological quarrels. Also Anatolius of Constantinople Opel , originally Monophysite Patriarch of Constantinople Opel moved to the dyophysitische side because he saw the opportunity to let the Pope to recognize the dignity of Constantinople as second bishopric in Christendom.

Course and result

According to the list of signatures for the dogmatic decisions of the council, around 450 bishops can apparently be proven as participants, while Pope Leo speaks of almost 600 participants, 520 participants are named in a letter of the council to Leo, recent scientific work assumes only about 350 participating bishops . Most of the bishops came from Eastern Christianity . The only exceptions were four legates from Pope Leo and two bishops from North Africa who had fled the vandal storm. On October 8, 451, Emperor Markian opened the council in the Church of St. Euphemia in Chalkedon , located directly across from Constantinople on the Asian side of the Bosporus .

The 17 working sessions of the council took place under the strict direction of the Empress Pulcheria and the local Patriarch Anatolius. Christologically they enforced a position that condemned both Miaphysitism and Nestorianism, which assumed that in Jesus Christ there was both a divine and a human nature, but which had existed in a divided manner, which is why the Virgin Mary is not known as "Θεοτόκος" Theotokos ( Mother of God ) should be called. On the other hand, the council stipulated a formulation which, as Chalcedonian, forms the christological doctrinal basis of the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches to this day:

“One and the same is Christ, the only-born Son and Lord, who is recognized in two natures unmixed, unchangeable, undivided and indivisible, whereby the difference between the natures is nowhere abolished because of the unity, rather the peculiarity of each of the two natures is preserved and one another united in one person and one hypostasis . "

This formula was collaged from several texts: from the decision of the Council of Ephesus of 433, from Pope Leos Tomus ad Flavianum , but to a greater extent from the letters of Cyril of Alexandria to Nestorius . The status of Mary as the Theotokos was explicitly set down, the teachings of both Nestorius and Eutyches were condemned, Dioscorus I of Alexandria was deposed and went into exile. This result came about because several important bishops had switched to the side of the Dyophysites: The former Miaphysite Juvenal of Jerusalem got his patriarchy confirmed, Theodoret of Cyrrhos and Ibas of Edessa , who at the Council of 449 their episcopal offices because of their theological proximity to Nestorianism lost were reinstated.

In total, the council passed 28 canons on property, disciplinary and questions of the church constitution by its final session on November 1, 451 : in it, Constantinople was declared as an appeal body against decisions by provincial synods, the integration of monasticism into the church organization was regulated and ecclesiastical privileges of the Patriarchate of Constantinople were explicitly confirmed: With this, the Council revised a resolution of the first Council of Constantinople (381) and formulated a new resolution that confirmed the position of Constantinople as the New Rome and gave the Patriarch of Constantinople not only jurisdiction over the important archdioceses of Pontus , Asia and Thracia , but also abolished the priority of honor established in 381 for Rome over Constantinople. Political reasons were given for the special position of both the old and the new Rome. This 28th canon was drawn up when the papal legates were absent.


The agreement reached at the Council of Chalcedon met with partial opposition. Pope Leo fully agreed with the theological results, but took strong offense at the 28th Canon. The legates of Leo had already vehemently opposed this formulation. Although Emperor Markian declared the resolutions of the council to be law in 452, Leo unauthorizedly annulled the 28th canon and protested in sharpest terms against it and against Patriarch Akakios of Constantinople ; he refused to ratify chalcedony for two years. Ultimately, all canons except the 28th were confirmed by him. The popes therefore insist to this day on the primacy of the Roman bishop over the universal church, which is still rejected by the Orthodox churches.

More significant in the short and medium term was the sharp opposition from the churches of Egypt , Palestine and Syria , which saw in the resolutions of Chalcedon a return to the error of Nestorianism. The Council of Chalcedon therefore led to the schism between the Imperial Church (that is, the Orthodox and Catholic Church) and the ancient oriental churches . The dispute with the Miaphysites could not be settled until the end of late antiquity , and attempts by the emperors later only led to the Akakian schism . The dispute was fought out with undiminished violence: Orthodox bishops and rulers had miaphysite Christians persecuted as heretics , miaphysite groups massacred groups of their Orthodox opponents. The British historian Philip Jenkins describes the disputes that followed the Council of Chalcedon as "Jesus Wars ", according to the German theologian Jörg Lauster , Christianity lost both its innocence and its unity in them. One consequence was that the Miaphysite churches of the east welcomed the Islamic conquerors in the 7th century as liberators, as they were more tolerant than the Orthodox Christians of the imperial church.

Council acts

The negotiations at the meeting were recorded in writing. The resulting "Acts of the Council of Chalcedon" form a detailed source base for research into the Council. A current English translation is available from them:

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Henry Chadwick : The Church of the Ancient World. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1972, p. 237.
  2. ^ Lionel R. Wickham:  Chalcedon, Ecumenical Synod (451) . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 07, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1981, ISBN 3-11-008192-X , pp. 668-675. ( Retrieved for a fee from Theologische Realenzyklopädie , De Gruyter Online), p. 669.
  3. Manuela Keßler: The religious policy of the Emperor Marcianus (450-457). Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main 2011. Dissertation available online: Electronic documents University library  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , last accessed on March 22, 2018.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  4. ^ Adolf Martin Ritter : Chalcedony . In: Erwin Fahlbusch (ed.): Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon . Vol. 1, Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, Göttingen 1986, Sp. 639.
  5. Jörg Lauster : The enchantment of the world. A cultural history of Christianity. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 124; see. Josef Wohlmuth (Ed.): Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta . Volume 1. 3rd edition Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 1998, p. 86.
  6. ^ Henry Chadwick: The Church of the Ancient World. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1972, p. 238 f .; Adolf Martin Ritter: Chalcedony . In: Erwin Fahlbusch (ed.): Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon. Vol. 1, Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, Göttingen 1986, column 640.
  7. ^ Henry Chadwick: The Church of the Ancient World. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1972, p. 239; Adolf Martin Ritter: Chalcedony . In: Erwin Fahlbusch (ed.): Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon. Vol. 1, Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, Göttingen 1986, Col. 640 f.
  8. Philip Jenkins: Jesus Wars. How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years. Harper One, New York 2010.
  9. Jörg Lauster: The enchantment of the world. A cultural history of Christianity. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 124.
  10. Jörg Lauster: The enchantment of the world. A cultural history of Christianity. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 140.