Emperor Justinian,

Empress Theodora

St. Vitale, Ravenna


JUSTINIAN I (c.483–565), Roman Emperor from 527. He was the most energetic of the early Byzantine Emperors, making it his aim to restore the political and religious unity of the empire in E. and W. He reconquered North Africa from the Vandals and Italy from the Goths, casting those regions into economic and political turmoil in the aftermath of the reconquest. A great builder, he erected many basilicas at Constantinople (including Sancta Sophia), Ravenna, and elsewhere; and a sound juridical basis for the empire was established by his new legal Code.

As the champion of orthodoxy he persecuted the Montanists, whom he almost exterminated, and the Palestinian Samaritans (whose leaders he crucified). He closed the celebrated ancient philosophical schools at Athens in 529, and forced many pagans to accept baptism, punishing pagan backsliders with death. His unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Monophysites issued not only in his condemnation of the memory as well as some alleged doctrines of Origen, but also in the Three Chapters controversy (which led to the Second Council of Constantinople, 533), in the humiliation of Pope Vigilius, and in a schism in the West.

Norman Tanner

THE emperor Justinian and Pope Vigilius decided to summon this council after the latter withdrew his “Judgment” condemning the “Three Chapters” of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret and Ibas. This “Judgment” had been issued on 11 April 548 but the bishops of the west and especially of Africa unanimously opposed it. The council was summoned by Justinian to Constantinople, although Vigilius would have preferred to convene it in Sicily or Italy so that western bishops might be present. It assembled on 5 May 553 in the great hall attached to Hagia Sophia cathedral.

Since the Roman pontiff refused to take part in the council, because Justinian had summoned bishops in equal numbers from each of the five patriarchal sees, so that there would be many more eastern than western bishops present, Eutychius, patriarch of Constantinople, presided. The decrees of the council were signed by 160 bishops, of whom 8 were Africans.

On 14 May 553 Pope Vigilius issued his “Constitution”, which was signed by 16 bishops (9 from Italy, 2 from Africa, 2 from Illyricum and 3 from Asia Minor). This rejected sixty propositions of Theodore of Mopsuestia, but spared his personal memory and refused to condemn either Theodoret or Ibas since, on the testimony of the council of Chalcedon, all suspicion of heresy against them had been removed. Nevertheless, the council in its 8th session on 2 June 553 again condemned the “Three Chapters”, for the same reasons as Justinian had done so, in a judgment which concludes with 14 anathemas.

After carefully considering the matter for six months, Vigilius ,weighing up the persecutions of Justinian against his clergy and having sent a letter to Eutychius of Constantinople, approved the council, thus changing his mind “after the example of Augustine”. Furthermore he anathematized Theodore and condemned his writings and those of Theodoret and Ibas. On 23 February 554, in a second “Constitution”, he tried to reconcile the recent condemnation with what had been decreed at the council of Chalcedon.

The council did not debate ecclesiastical discipline nor did it issue disciplinary canons. Our edition does not include the text of the anathemas against Origen since recent studies have shown that these anathemas cannot be attributed to this council.

MONOPHYSITISM (Gk. μόνος, ‘only one’, and φύσις, ‘nature’). The doctrine that in the Incarnate Christ there is only one nature, not two. Monophysitism which represents a strict forth of Alexandrian Christology, covers a variety of positions, some capable of orthodox interpretation, others not. The term ‘Monophysite’ was first used in the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon (451) to describe all those who rejected the Council’s Definition that the Incarnate Christ is one Person ‘in two Natures’, and upheld, as their key formula the phrase of St Cyril of Alexandria, ‘one Incarnate Nature of the Word’. It is still sometimes used to refer to the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Eutyches taught a heretical form of Monophysitism, namely that after the Incarnation there was only one nature in Christ, and that nature was not ‘consubstantial with us’. The Eutychian position was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon and seems never to have been widely held; it has likewise been explicitly condemned at the outset by most other Monophysites (and all the Oriental Orthodox Churches).

Moderate Monophysitism, on the other hand, teaches that in the Incarnate Christ there was ‘one Nature out of two’ (i.e. Divine and Human), a phrase which was prob. once in the draft of the Chalcedonian Definition. Owing to their different understandings of the meaning of the term ‘nature’, the Monophysites rejected the final form of the Definition (‘One Person in Two Natures’) on the grounds that it obscured the full reality of the Incarnation and appeared to them to verge on Nestorianism. Among the early leaders of moderate Monophysitism (which remained implacably opposed to the Chalcedonian Definition and to the Tome of Leo) were Timothy Aelurus and Peter the Fuller; the most important theologian was Severus of Antioch.

Many variant forms of Monophysitism soon developed. An extreme type was that held by the followers of Julian, Bp. of Halicarnassus (‘Julianists’), who taught the incorruptibility and immortality of the Body of the Human Christ from the first moment of the Incarnation; this group was dubbed by their opponents ‘Aphthartodocetae’, or ‘Phantasiastae’. Opposed to them were the followers of Severus, Patr. of Antioch, who held a doctrine much closer to Catholic teaching and whose only divergence from orthodoxy may have been terminological; they in turn were termed by the Julianists ‘Corrupticolae’.

During the later 5th and the 6th cents. many attempts were made at reconciling the Monophysites to the Catholics. The Emperor Zeno (474–91) drew up the Henoticon (q.v. to replace the Chalcedonian definition; but his formula was rejected by the Pope as well as by the extremist Egyptian Monophysites and resulted in the Acacian schism. Justinian I (527–65) sought to win them over on several occasions, but his attempts failed, perhaps more for political than theological reasons, Some further attempts were made by later emperors, in particular Justin II (565–78) and Heraclius (610/11–61), but by then positions had hardened and separate hierarchies had emerged to constitute the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syrian Orthodox Churches; the political separation of Armenia, Syria, and Egypt from the Byzantine Empire, brought about by the Arab invasions of the 7th cent., then removed these Churches from the sphere of Byzantine influence and control. In modern times, however, there have been renewed contacts both between the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox Churches and the RCChurch, and a large measure of agreement on Christology is reflected in the Common Declarations of Pope Paul VI and the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III in 1973 and that of Pope John Paul II and the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka II in 1984.

In modern times the subject has attracted much attention. Important new work in A. Grillmeier, SJ, and H. Bacht, SJ (eds.), Das Konzil von Chalcedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart (3 vols., 1951–4), notably the essays in vol. 1 by J. Lebon, C. Moeller, and M. Richard; this treatise has full bibl. refs. W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement (Cambridge, 1972). The radical differences between the Eutychian and Severian doctrines were first emphasized in J. Lebon, Le Monophysisme sévérien (Louvain, 1909). R. Draguet, Julien d’Halicarnasse et sa controverse avec Sévère d’Antioche sur l’incorruptibilité du corps du Christ (ibid., 1924). A. A. Luce, Monophysitism Past and Present: A Study in Christology (1920). W. A. Wigram, The Separation of the Monophysites (1923). R. G. Roberson, CSP, ‘The Modern Roman Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Dialogue’, One in Christ, 21 (1985), pp. 238–54. G. Krüger in HERE 8 (1915), pp. 811–17, s.v. M. Jugie, AA, in DTC 10 (pt. 2; 1929), cols. 2216–51, s.v. ‘Monophysisme’, with bibl.


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