Re: Difference between Oriental Orthodox churches and other churches
- Dear Mr. Varghese,
Let me first say that I am not a theologian so I am not qualified to answer this question. However I want to share my understanding, hoping you might benefit from it. I welcome suggestions and criticisms from other learned members of the forum.
The difference between the Oriental Orthodox (non chalcedonian) and Byzantine Orthodox (chalcedonian), is regarding the understanding of Christology. In my humble opinion there is actually no real difference, it is rather a nuance in how the same faith is being stated.
1) The earlier council of Ephesus (3rd council) taught that Christ though divine as well as human, is ONLY ONE being.
He was always the divine being (God) and human being (Man). He was God and Man right when he was conceived in the womb of St. Mary, when he was crucified and even now. So the council of Ephesus taught us to address St. Mary as God Bearer (Theotokos) or Daiva Maathavu.
2) Some did reject the second council. Those who rejected the teachings of the Council of Ephesus are called Nestrorians. They argued that Christ was actually two beings. They argued that God (divine being) cannot take birth, and neither can a divine being die. So their position was only the human being of Christ was born of Virgin Mary. So they were not willing to describe Virgin Mary as God Bearer (Theotokos). They were only willing to address her as Christotokos. Similarly they taught the one who died on the cross was not God, but only the human being of Christ.
Both Byzantine Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox accept the council of Ephesus. Both consider Nestorian teaching as heresy.
3) The council of chalcedion (4th council) taught that Christ has two separate natures; one human and one divine. The Greek word for nature is "physic". Since Chalcedion teaches about two (Dyo) natures of Christ it known as Dyo-physitism.
4) The Church fathers at Chalcedion came from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Their languages being Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac. So it was very easy for words to loose their exact meaning in translation.
5) The word "Physic" can be translated into "nature" and also as "person". So Dyo-physitism if not properly translated can be understood as `two persons' which would be rejecting the teaching of Ephesus and hence a heresy. The Oriental Orthodox fathers understood or mis-understood Dyo-Physitism to mean "two persons". Hence they equated Chacedonian teaching to Nestroian heresy and rejected Chalcedion. They argued that Christ was only one (mia) being and taught mia-physitism.
6) There was another heresy that was circulating at that time which is condemned equally by Byzanthine and Oriental Orthodox churches today. It was the Eutychian heresy. They taught that Christ has ONLY one nature. Their position was that Christ's divinity consumed his humanity as the ocean consumes a drop of vinegar. The teaching of ONLY ONE (mono) nature is also known as mono-physitism.
A) Dyo-Physitism or Chalcedonian Christology:
Christ is one person IN two natures, the natures are "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation".
B) Miaphyte theology or Oriental Orthodox Christology:
Christ is OF two natures, human and divine, UNITED without separation, without confusion and without alteration.
As you can see they are so close if not identical. But due to issues of translation and ethnic differences the two sides mis-understood each other. The Oriental Orthodox accused Chalcedon as Nestorian and rejected it. The Byzantine Orthodox who accepted Chalcedon , accused the Oriental Orthodox of Eutychian monophysite heresy and branded them as heretics.
Modern day theologians from both sides don't have an issue with the Christology of either side. But there are people with extreme views still on both sides that accuse each other of heresy.
Mathew G M.
- In early centuries, emperors used to convene christian councils to discuss disputes mainly on Christological topics to create unity among Christians.
And those initial councils are;
1. Nicea (AD 325) - repudited Arianism
2. Constantinopole (AD 381) - repudited Arianism and Macedonianism
3. Ephesus (AD 431) - repudiated Nestorianism & proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos (Mother of God). Assyrian church of the East does not recognise this & councils after this.
4. Chalcedon (AD 451) - Anglican Church recognise councils till here. This Council accepted dual nature (human & God) of Christ and so Oriental Orthodox Church does not recognise this & councils after this. oriental Orthodox church believe Chirst is one in nature, his humanity being absorbed by his Deity
5. Second Council of Constantinople (553) - repudiated the Three Chapter Controversy as Nestorian ( Three Chapter controversy was an effort to reconcile Syriac Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox Church with Eastern Orthodox Church)
6. Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) - repudiated Monothelitism and Monoenergism.
7. Second Council of Nicaea (787) - restored the veneration of icons. Protestant denominations do not recognise this & councils after this.
8. Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870) - Eastern Orthodox Church does not recognise this & councils after this.
Though the system of Ecumenical council stopped at a later stage, Roman Catholic Church claims their council as the continuation of previous councils.
I hope if you go through series of incidents, you will understand difference between Oriental Orthodox & Eastern Orthodox churches.
- Most simply put - it is a question of which Ecumenical Councils are recognized. Political considerations affected the Church and helped delineate the problems between ancient Rome (West - Rome and East Constantinople)and the Oriental (outside of the old Roman Empire) Churches.
The Church of the East in Iraq recognizes the First 2 Councils
The Oriental Churches (including the Jacobite) recognize First 3 Councils.
The Roman and the Eaters (Roman) Orthodox both recognize 7 Councils - though they differ on the numbering. Rome and the Greek speaking churches parted ways officially much later.
The Eastern and Oriental Church's disagreements center on the differences in language and culture as the Oriental Churches tended to hold very Semitic understandings of the theology of the Church while the Greek (Eastern Orthodox) Church was busy overlaying Greek philosophy onto their theology. There is far more in common than there is that is different, but centuries of political division and linguistic understandings make it difficult for some to find areas to agree.
There is a marvelous English language book about the struggle in Alexandria called "When Jesus Became God." I found its prospective very useful in understanding how such deep seated divisions came to be in the One Church.
Dr. Stephen F. Duncan
- Dear Vrghese,
Eastern Orthodox Churches are the one who split in 1040AD from the Catholic Church due largely to political reasons in tehn Eastern Roman Empire that was predominant in Europe at that time and it can be found in Eastern part of Europe like Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek Orthodox, etc.. who also accept Chaldenon custom.
While Oriental Orthodox Churches are the one who follow Orthodox tradition who accept only three synods, Nicea, Constantinople and Epheseus, and reject Chaldenon. Armenian church is not an Eastern Orthodx church, but Oriental one. Although Armenian Church, East Syriac Church(Chaldeon in Kerala and MOSC also claims as their mother church), Ethyopean and Eritrian Church were formed after Nicean Synod but they accepted Nicea synod and follow the old Orthodox tradition. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are SOC, Coptic (Egypt), Ethyopean, Eritrian, East Syriac or Assyrian and Armenian.
J M. Paul
- Dear Mr. Paul,
The East Syriac or Assyrian Church, whose official title is the 'Church of the East' also know as the Chaldean Church in Kerala is not Oriental Orthodox. They don't accept the third council.
Mathew G M.
--- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, PAUL Joshy wrote:
> Dear Vrghese,
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are SOC, Coptic (Egypt), Ethyopean, Eritrian, East Syriac or Assyrian and Armenian.
> J M. Paul
- Thanks to all participated in the discussion. We discussed about the origin. Now we have to discuss about different believes.
I want to know more regarding the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
I want to know more detail about the two words "begotten" and "proceedings".
Correct me the below statement if I am wrong
"The son is begotten by the father; the Spirit proceeds from the Father"
which we (jacobites) are following. How other churches (catholic, Pentecost) are following?
- As a former Roman, The Latin Church (Roman Catholic) added the "Filioque" to the creed in its Spanish/Gallican theology. This for them leaves the statement that the Holy spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son. As a child that always sounded strange to my ears when the Gospel words of Jesus were that the Father would send the Spirit, the helper, the paraclete. When one examines the addition carefully - it can be seen as an attempt by the Western theologians to unify the trinity and make the concept more "reasonable" as it were. It has been a problematic point for the dialogues between Rome and the Eastern and Oriental Churches for years. It is clearly an addition to the Nicene creed.
I hope that helps as to the Pentecostal and other Protestant churches - often it is up to what the local preacher tells them. In my country (USA) there are so many brands of Protestant Christianity it is hard to speak of them as a group.
Dr. Stephen F. Duncan
--- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Varghese wrote:
> Thanks to all participated in the discussion. We discussed about the origin. Now we have to discuss about different believes.
> I want to know more regarding the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
> I want to know more detail about the two words "begotten" and "proceedings".
> Correct me the below statement if I am wrong
> "The son is begotten by the father; the Spirit proceeds from the Father"
> which we (jacobites) are following. How other churches (catholic, Pentecost) are following?