6. Two Natures in One Person: Definition or Creed of Chalcedon

From the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). English, Greek, and Latin are included; discusses how the definition opposes three deficient teachings about Christ (Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Monophysitism) and answers the objection that the fifth-century church just made it all up.

As noted in the other posts in this series, theologians have to work out how these verses (and many others) fit together:

These key verses refer to Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:6-8

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ,

ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος

ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ·

[Christ Jesus] who, though being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, coming into existence in the likeness of men; and when he was found in the appearance as a man,

8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, that is, death on a cross.

That is my translation. HT: Lidija Novakovic, Philippians: A Handbook of the Greek Text [Baylor UP, 2020]. If you would like to see the verses in many translations and in context, please go to biblegateway.com.

For more exegesis of the Greek words, please click on this post:

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

And Col. 2:9 indicates the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form, now in heaven and while he was on earth:

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

What does his emptying look like?

As I write in every post in this series, professional theologians use biblical logic to sort out this proposition:

Jesus = True God and True Man

How exactly was he the God-man at his incarnation and during his ministry?

Don’t feel frustrated if you don’t get this at first and you have to read it several times. Sooner or later, things will “click.” It’s a profound mystery, after all!

Let’s begin.

In 451 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Marcian (r. 450-57), Pope Leo I “the Great” (r. 440-61), and the western Emperor Valentinian III (r. 425-55) called this council, called the Fourth Ecumenical Council. Chalcedon was a city near Constantinople (Istanbul). Its main purpose was to sort out debates about the nature and person of Jesus Christ.

Who was Jesus?

Did he have a human body, but not a human mind, so his rational mind came from God’s divine nature? This is called Apollinarianism, named after Apollinarius, who flourished in fourth century, became bishop of Laodicea, but then promoted it. He was opposed in 362 and by 377 was condemned, but he seceded and declared himself orthodox. Other councils opposed him.

Or was he a dual personality, human and divine? This is called Nestorianism, named after Nestorius, who flourished in the fourth century. Eastern Emperor Theodosius II (r. 401-50) promoted him to the patriarchal see of Constantinople in 428. He was deposed in 431 for his dispute over Mary. He was exiled, even though he said he was orthodox about the nature and person of Christ.

Or did Christ’s human nature blur and blend with God’s divine nature so much that they became one new nature, like ink in water makes a new substance which is not exactly water or ink? This is called Monophysitism (literally “one nature”) or Eutychianism, named after Eutyches (c. 378-454), a monk of Constantinople, who promoted it or refused to sign on to two natures.

The Definition of Chalcedon, sometimes called the Creed of Chalcedon, set the doctrine straight in the statement, below.

Definition or Creed of Chalcedon



Ἑπόμενοι τοίνυν τοῖς ἁγίοις πατράσιν ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν ὁμολογεῖν υἱὸν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν συμφώνως ἅπαντες ἐκδιδάσκομεν, τέλειον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐν θεότητι καὶ τέλειον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐν ἀνθρωπότητι, θεὸν ἀληθῶς καὶ ἄνθρωπον ἀληθῶς τὸν αὐτὸν, ἐκ ψυχῆς λογικῆς 65 καὶ σώματος, ὁμοούσιον 66 τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ τὴν θεότητα, καὶ ὁμοούσιον 67 τὸν αὐτὸν ἡμῖν κατὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα, κατὰ πάντα ὅμοιον ἡμῖν χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας· πρὸ αἰώνων μὲν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γεννηθέντα κατὰ τὴν θεότητα, ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτων δὲ τῶν ἡμερῶν τὸν αὐτὸν δἰ ἡμᾶς καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν ἐκ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου τῆς θεοτόκου κατὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα ,68 ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν Χριστόν, υἱόν, κύριον, μονογενῆ, ἐκ δύο φύσεων [ἐν δύο φύσεσιν] ,69 ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως ,70 ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως 71 γνωριζόμενον· οὐδαμοῦ τῆς τῶν φύσεων διαφορᾶς ἀνῃρημένης διὰ τὴν ἕνωσιν, σωζομένης δὲ μᾶλλον τῆς ἰδιότητος ἑκατέρας φύσεως καὶ εἰς ἓν πρόσωπον καὶ μίαν ὑπὸστασιν συντρεχούσης, οὐκ εἰς δύο πρόσωπα μεριζόμενον ἢ διαιρούμενον, ἀλλ᾽ ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν υἱὸν καὶ μονογενῆ, θεὸν λόγον, κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν· καθάπερ ἄνωθεν οἱ προφῆται περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς ἡμᾶς ὁ κύριος Ιησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐξεπαίδευσε καὶ τὸ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῖν καραδέδωκε σύμβολον. We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul72 and body; consubstantial [coessential]73 with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;74 one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures,75 inconfusedly, unchangeably,76 indivisibly, inseparably;77 the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Sequentes igitur sanctos patres, unum eundemque confiteri Filium et Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum consonanter omnes docemus, eundem perfectum in deitate et eundem perfectum in humanitate; Deum verum et hominem verum eundem ex anima rationali et corpore; consubstantialem Patri secundum deitatem, consubstantialem nobis eundem secundum humanitatem; ‘per omnia nobis similem, absque peccato‘ (Heb. iv.): ante secula quidem de Patre genitum secundum deitatem; in novissimis autem diebus eundem propter nos et propter nostram salutem ex Maria virgine, Dei genitrice secundum humanitatem; unum eundemque Christum, filium, Dominum, unigenitum, in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseperabiliter agnoscendum: nusquam sublata differentia naturarum propter unitionem, magisque salva proprietate utriusque naturæ, et in unam personam atque subsistentiam concurrente: non in duos personas partitum aut divisum, sed unum eundemque Filium et unigenitum, Deum verbum, Dominum Jesum Christum; sicut ante prophetæ de eo et ipse nos Jesus Christus erudivit et patrum nobis symbolum tradidit.
The Greek text, together with the Latin version, is taken from the ὅρος τῆς ἐν Χαλκηδόνι τετάρτης Συνόδου , Act. V. in Mansi, Conc. Tom. VII. p. 115. We have inserted ἐν δύο φύσεσιν (see note 4). There are several other Latin versions which Mansi gives, Tom. VII. pp. 115 and 751–758, with the various readings. See also Hahn, l.c. pp. 117 sqq.

The Creed is preceded in the acts of the Council by an express confirmation of the Nicene Creed in both forms, ‘the Creed of the three hundred and eighteen holy Fathers of Nicæa,’ and ‘the Creed of the hundred and fifty holy Fathers who were assembled at Constantinople.’ The Fathers of Chalcedon declare that ‘this wise and saving Creed [of Nicæa] would be sufficient for the full acknowledgment and confirmation of the true religion; for it teaches completely the perfect doctrine concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and fully explains the Incarnation of the Lord to those who receive it faithfully.’ The addition of a new Creed is justified by the subsequent Christological heresies (Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism). After stating it, the Synod solemnly prohibits, on pain of deposition 64and excommunication, the setting forth of any other Creed for those ‘who are desirous of turning to the acknowledgment of the truth from Heathenism and Judaism.


Link: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds2.iv.i.iii.html#fna_iv.i.iii-p5.3


This creed or statement opposes Apollinarianism (Christ did not have a human mind or soul), with these words: Jesus was “truly man of a reasonable soul and body … consubstantial [coessential] with us according to his manhood … in all things like us.” The words consubstantial or coessential means the same nature or substance or essence as we humans have (except sin).

It opposes Nestorianism (Christ is two persons united in one body) with the words: two natures are “indivisibly, inseparably … concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons.”

It opposes Monophysitism (Christ had one human nature and his human nature was lost in his union with the divine nature and made one new nature) with these words: “To be acknowledged in two natures inconfusedly, unchangeably … the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.”

This figure, by Wayne Grudem (p. 558), visually explains the Christology that came out of the Chalcedon Council.

God is the Big Circle with F (Father) S (Son) and HS (Holy Spirit). The person of Christ is the smaller, dotted circle. Christ’s divine nature is within the God Circle. His human nature (stick figure) is outside of God, but the two natures are united within the one-person circle.

While Jesus was ministering on earth, most people saw only his human nature, and rarely his divine. Certain modern scholars get lost in “the historical quest” for Jesus, to the neglect of his divine nature. New Agers lose his humanity and seek his divinity. To avoid these two extremes, both natures must be included.

Objection: None of this found in the Bible, but is just made up by the church.

Reply: Christ’s human nature is found in the Bible (he was tired, he was hungry, he was thirsty, and he did not know the hour or day of his return). His divine nature is found in the Bible (“before Abraham was, I am”; “and the Word was God” and so on). He was one person, not two, because the Bible or he himself never refers to him as “we,” but “I” or “he.”

All this creed is doing is putting together all those verses into one succinct statement that defines who he is—two natures (fully human and fully divine) in one person, Jesus Christ.

There is nothing wrong with brevity and clarity.

The Definition is the standard for the three main branches of Christianity: Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and most of their subdivisions or denominations.


Statement of Faith: Apostles Creed and NAE Statement of Faith

Nicene Creed

Definition or Creed of Chalcedon (developed more fully here)


1. Two Natures in One Person: Key Terms and Concepts

2. Two Natures in One Person: He Was Human and God (Scriptures in Part 2)

3. Two Natures in One Person: Basic Questions and Answers

4. Two Natures in One Person: Tough Questions

5. Two Natures in One Person: If Jesus Got Hungry, Did God?

6. Two Natures in One Person: Definition or Creed of Chalcedon

7. Two Natures in One Person: Review and Conclusion


Works Cited

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s