Was Dioscorus of Alexandria a Eutychian (monophysite) heretic?
Some personal advice before I get to today’s post:
If you want to sound like a true theologian, go out and get yourself an opinion about Dioscorus of Alexandria (? – 454). And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be based on fact… actually, many people might give you extra points for making things up! 🙂
Over the past many centuries, much ink has been spilled discussing the character and theology of Dioscorus of Alexandria. Considered a saint by some, and worst than heartburn by others, he is one of those people who God has blessed as being a meeting point for unnecessary discussion and conjecture of all sorts.
Below is a letter penned by Dioscorus while in exile (post the Council of Chalcedon), to the monks of the Hennaton. The letter draws attention to two major points regarding Dioscorus’ theology:
- Dioscorus’ Christological position was clearly in line with that of his contemporaries, namely Leo the Great (at some points, it even oddly mirrors portions from the Tome of Leo). He overtly attests to Christ’s perfect divinity and perfect humanity, and the union of the two natures with neither nature diminishing or diffusing the other in the least.
- It should be immediately obvious to the reader of this letter that Dioscorus sees himself as a “great defender of Christianity” against the ‘Nestorians’ of Chalcedon; imitating his predecessor Cyril. He says to the monks, “Hold to the Confession, therefore, of the fathers and do not listen to the soul destroying words of Heretics, nor hold intercourse with those who divide into Two Him Who is One; for, One is our Redeemer, as I said, although out of compassion for us He became Man.“ – Of course, the Fathers of Chalcedon were not ‘dividing Christ into two,’ Dioscorus was obviously mistaken to think so.
(It’s worth noting that the Fathers of Chalcedon did not depose Dioscorus as a heretic, but rather for his administrative management of Ephesus II. It was not till the 6th Ecumenical Council that he was called a blasphemer and a heretic)
I am fully aware, having been educated in the Faith, respecting Him (Christ) that He was born of the Father, as God, and that the Same was born of Mary, as Man. Men saw Him as Man walking on the Earth and they saw Him, the Creator of the Heavenly Hosts, as God. They saw Him sleeping in the ship, as Man, and they saw Him walking upon the waters, as God. They saw Him hungry, as Man, and they saw Him feeding (others), as God. They saw Him thirsty, as Man, and they saw Him giving drink, as God. They saw Him stoned by the Jews, as Man, and they saw Him worshipped by the Angels, as God. They saw Him tempted, as Man, and they saw Him drive away the Devils, as God. And similarly of many (other) things. But in order not to make much din (trouble) in writing, I will leave the matter for the purpose of collecting testimonies of everyone of the heads together; and I mean to collect them, by the help of God, when a convenient opportunity bids me to it.
But we leave the absurdity of those who hold opposite notions, and we confess One and the Same to be the Redeemer the Lord and God, although we see Him to have become by Economy Man. Hold to the Confession, therefore, of the fathers and do not listen to the soul destroying words of Heretics, nor hold intercourse with those who divide into Two Him Who is One; for, One is our Redeemer, as I said, although out of compassion for us He became Man.
Sufficiently indeed, as I consider, to the great confusion of Heretics, the Teachings of Holy Bishops and Orthodox Archbishops have proved the fatuity of the Affirmations of Heretics and shewn at the same time that it is an Impiety to speak of Two Natures in God The Word Incarnate; for, they have excommunicated those who hold this Doctrine, and they have banished from The Hope of Christians those who do not confess God The Word to be Consubstantial with the Father, because He became Consubstantial with Man, taking Flesh, although He remained unchangeably what He was before; as they had done (excommunicated and banished) with the rest of the Heretics.
But to persuade more and more those who build their foundation upon the Immoveable Rock of the Orthodox Faith and to confute more and more the Heresies mentioned above, I adduce testimonies from the Divine New Testament written under the Spirit, along with the Expositions of the Holy Fathers, by whose aid it is possible manifestly to condemn the Heresies alluded to above and to hold to the Immoveable and Blessings bringing Orthodox Faith Which was transmitted by the Holy Apostles and by our Blessed and Learned Father. Perhaps, they who have fallen from and denied the Lord will hear and will repent, as said the Prophet, and turn to the Lord with confession and abound in tears of Repentance, in order that they may be healed ; for, God does continually take care of, and gives His hand to, those driven from him far off, calling them to Him.
And after testimonies from the Scriptures. These things, then, refer to those who will not repent and turn to The Lord, whom The Lord Jesus Christ bought with His Own blood. For, He is Very God and the Eternal Life of the World, as says John; for, One is The Lord Jesus Christ, for ever and ever. Amen.
Perry, S. G. F.. The second synod of Ephesus, together with certain extracts relating to it, from Syriac mss. preserved in the British museum, and now first ed. by S.G.F. Perry; English version.. Dartford, Kent: Printed at the Orient Press, 1881. Print.