Early Christian Schisms – Ephesus, the Robber Council, and Chalcedon – Extra History – #4

Early Christian Schisms – Ephesus, the Robber Council, and Chalcedon – Extra History – #4

Jump forward with us 125 years, from the Council of Nicea to the last days
of the Western Roman Empire; Gaul, Hispania, much of North Africa have all been lost, Arian barbarians control nearly all
of the Western Roman world. Britannia had long ago been abandoned The Huns have smashed into the Empire,
sapping its remaining strength. But there was still the East, with its rich provinces
of Anatolia and Egypt, to support the Empire. If the East would just step in, perhaps Rome could be put back together as it had under the reign of Aurelian. But the East was in the middle of a religious dispute. Now, that wasn’t the only reason this didn’t happen,
of course. At this point, the East and the West had, in some ways, become closer to rivals
than to coordinated parts of the Empire. And the Huns, although not causing
as much damage as in the West, had extracted unimaginable tribute
from the Eastern Empire. But, for all that, it certainly didn’t make it any more likely that the East would step in when, in the middle of this crisis, the Emperor, Theodosius II, found himself mired in a religious schism. And here’s where it gets really complex. All that esoteric and minor doctrinal stuff we talked about in the previous episodes, that’s just a warm-up for what’s coming now,
so get ready. So there’s this monk, Nestorius, and he’s chummy with the Emperor. He gets tapped to be the Patriarch of Constantinople; just about the biggest deal you can be
in the Christian world at the time, with Rome itself still barely part of the Empire. But he gets caught up in a local debate
over the nature of Christ and starts espousing that Christ has two separate natures — one divine and one human. We’ll call this “Nestorianism.” This, of course, causes a huge flameout
with the folks that we’ll call, for reasons that will become obvious in a moment,
“the Chalcedonians,” as they believed that Christ had two perfectly unified natures — one divine and one human, which, of course, caused a huge blowup with the guys that we’ll call the “the Monophysites,” who believed that Christ was entirely of one nature — divine and human. I know what you’re thinking:
“If anything, this all makes too much sense.” But, just in case a few of you got lost in how much sense that just made, I’ll dive into a little more detail. That really is the basic split though: Does Christ have two separate natures, two unified natures, or one nature that sort of encompassed
what everybody else called two natures? And that may seem really trivial, but, to people of the day, it was more than a simple matter of life and death. It was a matter of eternal life, or eternal damnation, so this is really, really important to a lot of people. But it also gets wrapped up with church politics,
regional disputes, and imperial authority, because this guy, Cyril of Alexandria,
starts calling Nestorius’ teachings “heretical.” But the clergy in Constantinople are all basically like, “Hey, who are you from faraway Alexandria
to be telling us what to do?” So Cyril actually reaches out to the pope in Rome
and asks him for a judgement, who, in turn, basically says, “Ugh, Cyril, go excommunicate this guy
if he doesn’t change his mind in, like, ten days.” So Nestorius turns to his buddy, Theodosius II, and says, “Let’s call a council and figure this out. “And, by ‘figure this out,’ I mean
‘Let’s excommunicate Cyril'” But, before the council even gets called, Cyril stands up and is basically like, “You can’t excommunicate me!
I excommunicate YOU!” And now it’s on. The council is called, and Cyril tries to ninja his way into being the guy running the council basically by saying, “I’m the guy running this council.” At first, this doesn’t work.
But several of the delegations are delayed, and this gives Cyril time to prod some of the undecided bishops until he has a majority. And so, he just declares the council started
and himself in charge. Nestorius is, of course, having none of this,
doesn’t acknowledge Cyril, and refuses to accept that the council can begin
before the delegation from Antioch arrives, which it hasn’t yet. The bishops who back Nestorius all show up to the place where the council is being held to protest, and things start to get rowdy. At this point, the emperor’s representative steps in
and asks Cyril to just wait for four more days to see if the Antiochians arrive, which is when Cyril really steps up his ninja game and basically tricks the emperor’s representative
into reading the emperor’s decree, which ends with an offhand line
about how he wants them to, quote, “Start the council without delay
and bring unity back to the church quickly.” But an offhand line by the emperor
is still an order by the emperor. And so, with that imperial decree read aloud
to what was effectively a quorum, because the protesting bishops who supported Nestorius were there in the hall, legally, for both the church and the state,
the council had now started. And, of course, that council promptly held up the excommunication of Nestorius. But, then, the delegation from Antioch finally arrives and, miffed that Cyril had started the thing without them, forms their own council and excommunicates Cyril. So Cyril’s council excommunicates the Antiochians. And, now that everybody’s excommunicated
everybody else, everybody has to get word to the emperor, who’s back in Constantinople, about who has been excommunicated. But the Nestorians have more friends at court,
and they divert all of Cyril’s messages until Cyril’s faction sends a man dressed as a beggar with a message hidden in a hollowed-out cane, to secret his message through. So the emperor gets the news and banishes Nestorius, which, clearly, that resolves everything. Everyone would meekly give up, agree to get along,
and all splits in the church would be healed forever. And yet, shockingly, everybody just kept excommunicating each other. The emperor called a second council to determine
which of these excommunications were really legal. But this council was a mess, too,
famously known as “The Robbers Council,” as it was convened with no time for any of the representatives from the West to get there, and so it was run almost entirely
by Monophysites from the East. They proceed to excommunicate and condemn everybody even remotely connected with Nestorius. And, then, they went further and basically declared
that the only correct way to see Christ was as having one nature. And, of course, this sets of everybody. The pope was livid,
the bishops that were excluded were furious, and it goes without saying that those
who got excommunicated or condemned without having any say in the matter
were a little put-out as well. So the church starts to tear itself apart over this. And, in the midst of all of it, Theodosius II croaks. So the new emperor, Marcian, calls a third council to try to unravel this and figure out if any of it was legal at all. So, this time, the bishops all come together
at a place called Chalcedon. All of the things the second council had said were, basically, immediately overturned, a bunch of the folks who had supported the second council were demoted or excommunicated, and the Chalcedonian Creed, or the idea
that Christ was two perfectly-combined natures, was adapted as official canon of the church. Okay, so, surely now everything would be settled.
Right? Wrong again! See, this is right about where
the Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, and Armenian Apostolic and Malankara churches, split from what would now be called
the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches — although, at the time, they were really one thing. Remember in the “Justinian and Theodora” episodes how Justinian kept trying
to bring the church back together? This is the split he would later be trying to heal. And remember how Justinian was Orthodox
and Theodora was Monophysite? Again, that’s a big deal because this council,
the Council of Chalcedon, split the whole Christian world down those lines. And this division would rip the Byzantine world
apart for centuries. It would take on political dimensions
as well as religious ones, as one easy way to oppose the emperor was always to stir up whatever religious faction he wasn’t a part of. This split would also make it easier for other groups to break the more Monophysite-leaning regions
off from the empire as it started to decline. Who knows how history would have turned out
without these schisms, heresies, and disputes? Would it have saved Rome, or would it have just left Europe even more fragmented without those hard-fought ideas to bind it together? What we do know is that is
that all this though and all this effort helped to shape the Late Classical
and Early Medieval period. For better or worse, these esoteric disputes played a huge part in the transition
from the Ancient world to the Medieval one. So, thank you for bearing with us as we wound our way through all that esoterica. These names — Arianism, Monophysites, Chalcedonians — they’re going to come up again and again
as we discuss this period of history. And there’s no way we could give
a complete picture of this era without them. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time.


  1. Excuse me, I heard the "Oriental Orthodox" (the Copts, along with their Oriental Orthodox brethren in the Ethiopian, Eritrean, Armenian, Syriac, and Syro-Malankara Churches) churches reject Monophysitism as a grave heresy. My understanding is that they are Miaphysite and not Monophysite. Miaphysitism means Christ is perfect human and perfect divine and these two natures are united together without mingling, nor confusion, nor alteration in one nature; the nature of God incarnate. The Oriental Orthodox rejected the Council of Chalcedon but they are not, and never have been, monophysites.

  2. Wow you did a fantastic job explaining this, but oh my gosh this is all so silly good Lord what happened to focus on the orphans and widows??

  3. you know i will happly excommunicate myself everyday from school to play some fortnite where i get to excommunicate others by my little friend the one and only legend theeee (MINIGUN).

  4. one of the factions just needed some RPG character to choose them and push them to victory, no replay-ability though

  5. This helps me out a bit, as I am going through Basic New Testament Church History in my school.
    They explain the seven church ages that John spoke about In Revelation.

  6. I really appreciate your handling of this subject … as an ordained minister of the Christian faith. I will only point out 1(2) omissions, which I totally understand one of them. 1. None of this explores what the Bible actually taught, or why the Books in the Bible are Canon, and the Gnostic texts are NOT (This part I get: you're not theologian <3) 2. But the plain and simple teachings of the New Testament WERE believed, taught, and passed on OUTSIDE all of these councils, schisms, and pretended popes (a position NEVER taught in Scripture, and actively spoke against in Paul's epistle to the Hebrews) … there were MANY groups by many names, that later were simply called AnaBaptists, and the "church" was back to killing these people by 511 A.D. Which begs the question … how does the actual church of Christ justify killing those who kept the tenants of the faith in simplicity, and sincerity? Simple, it played ball with the government, and those that accepted Constantines offers were "legitimized" by a secular authority (how does that happen?), and those that didn't were only given 200 years of safety between 311-511, then with the Catholic authority securely entrenched … It was time for Rome to do what it always did: claim to be the only/original, and kill anyone who knew the actual history. (just like with the Celts but for different reasons) … fortunately for the rest of us while there was still enough of the gospel in the Catholic Church to do some good … Succat (St. Patrick) started collecting every scrap of paper with historical value, following the fall of Rome, and that is the only reason we know anything about European history ("How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Cahill). A good (not perfect) history of the Baptists can be found in the meaty little booklet, "The Trail of Blood" which outlines the legitimate claims of Christians who followed a plain text, easy to understand take on the Scriptures, since … that's who God wanted to understand it in the first place, and replacing a professional clergy (with is adjacent evils) with the priesthood of every single believer… it was foretold in the OT, and the rending of the veil in the temple, when Christ died, was exactly what/why He died … to save anyone who place their faith in His vicarious death, which made them fit to enter into the very presence of God in prayer without the need for a mediating priesthood… and Paul taught on THAT as well. Soooooo … the Good Book holds up under scrutiny, and does it's own refuting of heretics … kinda what you'd expect if … it was (WOW) THE WORD OF THE LIVING GOD. love and respect to all.

  7. Love your videos and the broad strokes/quick notes style approach coupled with great visuals. However, there is an inconsistency from one video to another in your level of abstraction here… if I may:

    In a previous video, you go to the level of detail to define Homoousios vs Homoiousios, very well done. However in this video, you use Monophysite rather than Miaphysite. Arguably the distinction between those two terms is waaaay more important than the above.

    In the same previous video, you also refer to the "Bishop of Rome" (accurate – well done). However in this video, you also use the word Pope to refer to Bishop of Rome . Rome didn't use Pope until the 7th century at the earliest – The Bishop of Alexandria was the sole user of the title from 232 AD on.

    Ok – now please continue with the awesome content.

  8. This little series really brings about why Christianity and all other Abrahamic denominations are pure evil cancer. Centruies of warfare and family-feuds couldn't have fucked the Roman Empire as did this infantile shitshow called Judaism and Christianity (if you are of the firm mental derangement that Jesus was not infact a just another Jew).

  9. what about the Gnostics? and the rift between judeo christians and pagan christians (meaning christians who converted from paganism) at the beginning ? ?

  10. This is exactly like eating a hard boiled egg with the sharp end or the round end up. Incredibly important to those involved, but in reality utterly trivial.

  11. The half and half thing is wrong chalcedonian Christianity is more like full and full yet not seperate.Chalcidonians really relied on the difference between nature and person. Christ was a single person who shared two complete and total natures, Human and God.

  12. Just as a comparison: we make fun of Muslims for their division based on who was the 'legitimate heir' to the Prophet Mohamed. Christianity has splintered a lot more, and caused a lot more deaths throughout its history just in infighting.

  13. i don't now who am i now, can we just waiting to the last day to see the truth tho, better than we take this matter to debate, better than we excommunicate other

  14. as most your viewers already know , nestorianism was merely the culmination of the antiochian mode of theology , synonymous 300/400 ad with dyophysitism , which developed in reaction to both arianism and monophysitism…. also the wife of emperor marcian , pulcheria , was the force behind the last 2 of the first big 4 councils and anything of importance during his reign and longer…awesome [ bless you my son ]

  15. Not bad – and without quoting a single verse of the Bible… but like I said, not bad, and that's pretty good. 🙂

  16. Christian meta-physics are stupid.
    None of these theological sticking points help in anyway people to live fuller more ethical lives.

  17. These are still debates that go on today but I figure any idea that incites the least amount of violence and has a better adherence to scriptural standards is probably the closest you’ll get to the right one. Since Jesus was overall more concerned with the what do part of the religion than the what is or at least it seems anyway.

  18. The good thing is that God helped the church through this difficult time. As Christians, I believe we need to stop letting unimportant things like denomination keep us from honoring Christ.

  19. We should have stuck with the Greek Gods…. everyone just worships their favorite God…… and done…

  20. Am I the only one reminded of Cartman's Tom Brady flashback?

    "Fuck you, you broke the rules!"
    "I broke the rules? You broke the rules. How you find out I broke the rules?"

  21. Did they REALLY care that much about these "disagreements", or were the conflicts primarily rooted just not liking each other, or some more substantial disagreement? I mean… holy shit this just makes them seem like a bunch of complete fucking idiots. I knew the early history of Christianity was often a big mess, but this is worse than I would have guessed.

  22. It’s a shame that Christianity didn’t break up in those early days. A lot of lives could have been saved and a lot more scientific advancement would have been possible if Christianity had never taken hold.

  23. “Rivals” yeah, the byzantines were holding off the Persians, Huns, and visigoths with no problem while solving a religious dispute and west Rome could barely hold its own spiritual capital, Rome, against a foreign general with a lot of ambition. It’s more like calling America and Iran “bitter rivals”

  24. Well… Not to impose, but to clarify.
    In mainstream Christianity, and as the result of the Council of Ephesus, Jesus ain't half and half. He's both fully God and fully human.

  25. I'm a little disappointed that he didn't bring up the point where there were 4 popes all arguing about who was actually the pope.

  26. Using 1870-1910 German politic the dispute is Prussia and Austria is spirt and being, Austria Hungary is half and half, and Brandaburg and Prussia was the same.

  27. There is absolutely nothing Christian about Christianity. It has always been about power and greed. Real believers do not have the power or money to support a church. They eventually become playthings for the rich who owns the churches. It is immorality of the highest order, praying on the emotionally and economically desperate, with a fictitious book, created by radical Babylonians and the Roman Flavians.

  28. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are NOT Monophysite BUT Miaphysite

    That is the perfect natures of Divinity & Man united into one person without confusion, aliteration, mixture and mingling.

    We believe in the One Incarnate Nature of the Word of God. One here refers the the union of both fully Divine & Human natures into one Person.

    One Incarnate Word of God – like what the Chalcedonians believed in as well

  29. So the entire fracturing within the Church affecting how we view the nature of one of the most influential figures in all of history for generations to come, was basically a “Manga vs Anime” situation?

  30. I've been fact checking your videos while watching them and they are overwhelming accurate to the real history. I give you the slow clap for the way you simplify this rather complex (and generally bias) topic.

  31. Its allways antioch isint it? That city just seems to be named all the time, yet I dont really have a good idea why.

  32. I just wanna say thank you so much for these videos! Your Channel was super helpful for two of my University exams (Global History and Religious Studies) keep putting out great content! I would really have struggled without this channel

  33. Why didn’t they just ask god? Seriously, why was there nobody who tried it or claimed they did?
    I’m not religious, but this seems pretty clever as a solution.

  34. The excommunication of Nestorius was actually the most consequential event in all of this, and our Modern World may not have existed without it. After the Crusades and Reconquista the Western World recovered tons of Ancient Greek and Roman knowledge from the Muslims, which would help to ignite the Renaissance. Where had the Muslims gotten this knowledge? From Nestorian exiles.

  35. No! No! it's not half and half! The Chalcedonians believed that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man! That's a fatal error known as Kenoticism. The monophysites believed that these two natures made one new nature. Hope to clear things out.

  36. Jesus: "Who do you say that I am?"

    Christians: "You are the Logos of the Father incarnate, the manifestation of the eternal Son of God, who is of the same substance, not merely similar substance, as the Father. You possess both human and divine natures and as one person, and by your penal substitutionary atonement we are forgiven of our sins."

    Jesus: "…What?"

  37. As a Christian I think it's sad that this whole situation deteriorated to backstabbing and political power struggles. In my opinion all of these people were to be judged by God for turning our brothers against each other. Where is all the love and forgiveness jesus was talking about? Stick to the basics if you don't understand the more complicated aspects of God's nature.

  38. I know I shouldn't be laughing at this, but wow, that council is hilarious and dysfunctional

    Just like me

  39. Now you know why South Park made a 3 part series on this entire subject matter. These schism arguments seem so stupid to us today but in the past they were the most important thing ever.

  40. This is essentially the problem solved by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church was broken because there was no real leader because they all were killed.

  41. I am honestly surprized that the roman emperors didn't just burn the whole thing to the ground and start over with a new religion…..

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