Iain Torrance is President and Professor of Patristics at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of Christology After Chalcedon (1988) and was co-editor of To Glorify God: Essays in Modern Reformed Liturgy (1999) and The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology (2007).
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The Intellectual Christology of Severus the Miaphysite Sep 2, 2005
"Torrance's study is of an intricate debate among those theologians of the East who could not stomach the fourth ecumenical council at Chalcedon. He shows how deeply orthodox were the intentions of these divines." Henry Chadwick
Aftermath of Chalcedon: For over a century following Chalcedon, the Non-Chalcedonians led by their articulate theologians fought hard to restore the whole Church to Cyrillic Orthodoxy, and seemed on the verge of achieving their goal, on different occasions. Yet, many factors complicated the theological debate that took place after Chalcedon, extending to 620 when Syria and Egypt fell under the sword of Islamic Invasion. There was a growing sense of national identity in the great Sees, of Alexandria and Antioch, while Rome fell to the barbarians. Theological divisions were no help and a uniform Christology was always one of the Emperors underlying ambitions. At times this meant that political policies impinged on theological and ecclesiastical affairs.
Christolgy after Chalcedon: Dr. I. Torrance takes the reader into the stage of Christological debate, that dominated Post Chalcedonian theology, through his translation and exposition of letters of Severus, the greatest Cyrilian advocate of Alexandrian Orthodoxy. It is true that the difference was literally between letters K and N, from and in (Ek and En) two natures of Jesus the Christ. But, as Severus own friend, John Philoponus, the eminent sixth century theologian and scientist (dean of the great academy of Alexandria), proved in his defense of the teaching of Athanasius and Cyril, and his philosophical attack of Leo's confused perception of the basic terms in the Neoplatonic and Aristotalian concepts.
Rediscovering Miaphysitism: In his introduction Iain Torrance states, "Beyond question, the greatest work that has been produced on the 'Monophysites' is that by Lebon: "Le Monophysisme Severien." Lebon brought his 1909 study up to date in 1951, in an extensive article, in 160 pages, to which the author refers. Lebon gave an overall view of three fine Syrian Henophysites; Timothy Aelurus, Philoxinus of Hierapolis, and Severus of Antioch.
Cyril to Severus: Starting from Alexandrine Incarnation Christology of Cyril, he follows with Lebon the outline features of Cyril's Miaphysitism, picking out particular key concepts of its soteriology. God the Word was made flesh, but remained who He was. He shows the 'Monophyisite' going to great pain denying that the union involved any mixture or confusion, using the union of body and soul as a model. He further compares the views of professors VC Samuel, a Syrian Orthodx, with Zambolotsky, a Russian Orthodox, who claims that, "Severus human nature is not hypostatic but like the human nature of Leontius of Byzantium and John of Damascus 'hypostatised,' received to the unity of the hypostatis of the Logos."
Expert Evaluation: Prof. Thomas Torrance, dean of Scottish theologians wrote, "I came to realize that the mischief lay in the rather Aristotelian slant after the Council of Chalcedon that has been given by the so-called 'orthodox' understanding by Greek orthodox and Roman catholic theologians alike, ... my understanding was later to be greatly reinforced by the Oxford dissertation: Christology after Chalcedon,..."