Miaphysitism and dyophysitism are two contrasting Christological doctrines that emerged in the 5th century AD concerning the nature of Christ. Specifically, they differ on how the divine and human natures of Christ relate to each other.
Miaphysitism, also known as monophysitism, is the view that Christ has one united nature, where his divinity and humanity are fused into one. The word “miaphysite” comes from the Greek words mia meaning “one” and physis meaning “nature.” Miaphysites believe that Christ’s divine nature assimilated his human nature, like mixing wine and water together, so that after the incarnation he had only one blended divine-human nature.
This view originated with Eutyches, an archimandrite of a monastery in Constantinople, in the 5th century. He taught that Christ’s human and divine natures were unified into one new single nature, which was primarily divine but also contained a human component. Eutyches believed this occurred through a process of mixing, dissolving or absorption, analogous to how mixing substances like ink and water result in a new unified substance. The miaphysite position came to be condemned as heretical at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, which affirmed Christ had two natures united in one person.
In contrast, dyophysitism is the doctrine that Christ maintained two natures – one fully human and one fully divine – in one hypostasis or person after the incarnation. The word “dyophysite” comes from the Greek words dys meaning “two” and physis meaning “nature.” Dyophysites believe that Christ’s divine nature and human nature existed distinctly and unmixed, though united in his one person.
This view was championed by Pope Leo I and the Council of Chalcedon as the orthodox teaching, in opposition to miaphysitism. The dyophysite creed affirms that Christ is “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” So Christ has two complete natures – divine and human – united hypostatically (in one person) without mixture, change or division. His natures retain their own attributes and properties.
Dyophysitism maintains that in becoming incarnate, the eternal Word of God took on all aspects of human nature while remaining fully God. Jesus is not 50% God and 50% man; he is 100% divine and 100% human simultaneously. The two natures are perfectly united in Christ, though they remain distinct. This preserves the full integrity and perfection of Christ’s divinity and humanity.
Several key biblical passages affirm important truths about Christ’s divine and human natures that align with dyophysitism:
– John 1:1, 14 – The Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This affirms Christ’s pre-existent divine nature as God and his taking on of human nature through the incarnation.
– Colossians 2:9 – In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Christ possesses the complete divine nature while also having a human body.
– Philippians 2:5-8 – Though Christ was fully God, he took on the form of a servant and likeness of men, being found in human form. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death on the cross. This points to Christ emptying himself of his divine privileges to become human while still retaining his divine nature.
– Hebrews 2:14, 17 – Because the children have flesh and blood, Christ shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy the power of death. He had to be made like his brothers in every way, so he could become a merciful and faithful high priest. Jesus took on human nature fully so that he could serve as man’s redeemer and high priest before God.
– Luke 2:52 – Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. He increased in learning and maturity, as any child would. This affirms that Christ’s human nature was not merely a disguise; he went through authentic human growth and development.
– John 11:35 – Jesus wept at Lazarus’ death. The divine Son experienced deep human grief and compassion.
– Matthew 4:2 – After fasting forty days, Jesus was hungry. His human body had genuine physical needs and limitations.
– Luke 23:46 – On the cross, Jesus committed his spirit into the Father’s hands and breathed his last. His human nature underwent real death, while his divine spirit returned to the Father.
In summary, the biblical evidence strongly upholds dyophysitism – that the eternal divine Son of God took on a real and complete human nature, willingly limiting himself through the incarnation to accomplish our salvation. Jesus is the God-man, fully God and fully human forever.
Miaphysitism was rejected at Chalcedon and is generally considered inconsistent with Scripture due to minimizing Christ’s humanity. If Christ’s human nature was blended into his divine nature, then he could not truly represent humanity or be our brother, and his life, death and resurrection lose their real redemptive power. Dyophysitism upholds that Jesus came in real human flesh to save us, while remaining truly divine.
The dyophysite doctrine of Christ having two natures united hypostatically in one person is crucial for understanding the richness of Christ’s work on our behalf. Jesus is not merely God pretending to be human; he is the eternal Word made flesh (John 1:14), the radiance of God’s glory becoming the man Christ Jesus (Hebrews 1:3). This qualifies him alone to be the one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). By adding perfect humanity to his eternal deity, Christ lived the life we could not live and died the death we deserved to die, so that by grace through faith in him, sinful humans can be saved from sin and reconciled to God, becoming new creations.
The mutual interdependence between Christ’s deity and humanity is also vital. Only the God-man, fully divine and fully human, could accomplish the objective of human salvation. Had Christ been solely God, he could not have represented humans or offered a vicarious atoning sacrifice as one of us. Had he been solely human, his righteousness and sacrifice would have been insufficient before our holy God. But in his one person Jesus combines full deity and sinless humanity in order to reconcile the just wrath and mercy of God, providing redemption for sinners through faith in him.
Christ’s two natures also continue in importance, for while Jesus arose and ascended bodily into heaven as the God-man to reign eternally (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9-11), he remains our merciful high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, since he lived as a man on earth (Hebrews 4:15). And the Savior who will one day return to judge the world will do so as the Son of Man who first came to seek and save the lost as our kinsman-redeemer (Daniel 7:13-14, Luke 19:10).
In summary, the biblical doctrine of dyophysitism upholds the following essential truths:
– Jesus Christ is fully divine, the eternal Son of God.
– Jesus also took on a complete human nature through the incarnation, being made like us in every way.
– Christ retains his two natures inseparably but unmixed – fully God and fully man forever.
– These two natures are united in the one divine person of the Son, Jesus Christ.
– Christ’s deity allows him to reveal God fully and redeem mankind infinitely through his sinless life, sacrificial death on the cross for sins, and resurrection from the dead.
– Christ’s humanity allows him to represent the human race as our substitute and high priest before God, making propitiation for sins by his blood.
This classic, orthodox view of Christ having two natures united in one person finds strong support in Scripture and has been affirmed throughout church history as a core tenet of Christian theology. It upholds the Savior presented in God’s Word, who is uniquely qualified through his full deity and humanity to accomplish the comprehensive work of human redemption to the praise of God’s glory.