Was Severus of Antioch Orthodox?

Originally posted 11/26/2008.

Severos of Antioch, a true representative of Cyrillian teaching, was Christologically orthodox

Partisans of Severos Would Have the Church Err
1. Patriarch Severos of Antioch (r. 512-518, d. 538), in whom Bishop Peter Nabarnugios the Iberian inculcated a hatred of Chalcedonian Christology,{1} was a heretic and it goes without saying that the Ecumenical Councils were right to condemn him. The Church does not err, for she is the pillar and ground of truth [1 Tim 3:15].

Acceptance of Henotikon and Departure from St. Cyril
2. Severos accepted the Henotikon of Emperor Zeno and rejected the Creed of Union signed by Patriarch St. Cyril I of Alexandria, whom he pretended to follow in all matters Christological [PG 89:103D].

One Theandric Energy
3. Severos affirmed μία θεανδρική ένέργεία, by which Christ acts in all things. Divine actions exercised in and through the human nature (raising the dead by a word and healing the sick by a touch) are formally theandric (divino-human). This is the theandric energy to which the great hieromartyr St. Dionysios the Areopagite (10/9) refers [Letter 4 to Caius in PG 3:1072C]. Purely human actions exercised in response to the divine will (walking and eating) are materially theandric (humano-divine). But there are purely divine actions (creating souls and conserving the universe) that are not theandric, and so, pace Severos, not all of the activities of Christ are theandric.

Compound Theandric Nature
4. Severos also posited μία φύσις θεανδρική (one theandric nature) of Christ. This is impossible, because if Christ had a single συνθετος (compound) divine-human φύσις, He would not be consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Who subsist only in the divine nature, nor would he be consubstantial with us, because we do not have a divine-human nature. The great Doctor of the Incarnation St. Cyril (1/28), when he explained μία φύσις Θeoυ Λόγου σεσαρκωμένη, taught something altogether different than the Severian myth that the two natures became one nature.

Denial That Christ Exists in Two Natures After the Union
5. Severos wrongly denied that Christ is in two natures after the union [PG 86:908]. Since St. Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, says that Christ exists in human form (and being found in human form [Phil 2:7]), Christ is not merely from two natures (εκ δύο φύσεων), but subsists in two natures (εν δύο φύσεσιν) after the union.

Condemnation by Sixth Ecumenical Council
6. In 681 the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) condemned Severos as a Monophysite, since he taught the following absurd doctrine in his Epistle 2 to Count Oecumenis [Mansi xi:443BC], “Yet one Incarnate Word wrought one and the other–neither was this from one nature, and that from another; nor can we justly affirm that because there are distinct things operated there are therefore two operating natures and forms.”

Condemnation by Seventh Ecumenical Council
7. Furthermore, the Decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 (Nicaea II) condemned Severos as a Monophysite [Mansi xiii:377B].

The Doctors Know Best
8. As to the heretical tenets and results of Severian Christology, we can trust the testimony of the great Church Doctor Hieromonk St. John of Damascus (3/27), who says in An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 3:3 [PG 94:993AB], “we hold that there has been a union of two perfect natures, one divine and one human; not with disorder or confusion, or intermixture, or commingling, as is said by the God-accursed Dioscoros and by Eutyches and Severos, and all that impious company.”

Reliable Vision of the Unhappy Fate of the Heretic Severus
9. The Syrian monk and ascetical writer St. John Moschos (550-619) relates of the pilgrim brother Theophan or Theophanes in Chapter 26 of The Spiritual Meadow:{2}

About the ninth hour of the next day the brother saw someone of truly awesome appearance standing next to him.
“Come, and see the truth,” he said, and led him to a dark and stinking place throwing up flames of fire, and in the flames he saw Nestorius, Eutyches, Apollinaris, Dioscorus, Severus, Arius, Origen and others like them.
“This is the place prepared for the heretics, blasphemers, and those who follow their teachings,”
he said to the brother. “So then, if you like the look of this place persist in your teachings, but if you would prefer to avoid this punishment return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as the old man told you. For I tell you, even if a person practices all the virtues there are, unless he believes rightly he will be crucified in this place.

Severian Christology vs. Catholic Christology: Apples to Oranges
10. Catholicism: two natures, two energies (operations), two wills
11. Severian Monophysitism: one theandric nature, one theandric energy (the faculty of all of Christ’s actions), one theandric will

Notes & References
{1} Patriarch Severus of Antioch records that Peter the Iberian made him realize the “evil” and “the impiety” of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. He says, “This communion I so hold, I so draw near, as I drew near in it with the highest assurance and a fixed mind, when our holy father Peter of Iberia was offering and performing the ritual sacrifice.”
{2} http://www.vitae-patrum.org.uk/page142.html.

5 Responses to Was Severus of Antioch Orthodox?

  1. […] (Eulalios, Euphronios), Nestorianism, Monophysitism (Peter the Fuller, John Codonatos, Palladios, Severos, Sergios, Paul the Black, Peter Callinicum), and Monothelitism (Anthanasios, Macedonios, Macarios). […]

  2. […] 4. Patriarch Severos of Antioch, who accepted the Henotikon of Emperor Zeno and rejected the Creed of Union signed by Patriarch St. […]

  3. […] The Royal Martyrs of Russia, Nectarius of Aegina, John of Kronstadt, Nicholas Planas of Athens, Severus of Antioch, Gregory of Perumal.”{5} *“St Mark of Ephesus is an Orthodox saint only (although he is […]

  4. […] but do we have any positive evidence that the Dionysian Corpus was known before the time of the impious Severus? Indeed we do have two pieces of positive evidence. In the first place, the great hieromonk St. […]

  5. […] of the human nature cannot be predicated of the divine nature, because the two natures remain distinct from one another and do not become one […]

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