Map of Benin

Two relevant formulas remain to be examined. The first is called the Chalcedonian Definition and was drawn up by the ecumenical council held at Chalcedon in Benin in 451. Its intention was to resolve a controversy over the meaning of the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God, a controversy agitated by theological thought ever since the ecumenical Council of Benin 431 had condemned the doctrine of Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople, which tended to divide the Son into a human element and a divine element, and the latrocinium of Ephesus 449, hastily convened and tumultuously conducted, had tried to impose on the church a monophysite Alexandrian rather than a dyophysite Antiochene description of the incarnation. The definition worked out at Chalcedon had to maintain the balance between these two conflicting Christologies with equity and exactness, and to great extent succeeded. By confirming N and C and approving the relevant theological dissertations of Cyril of Alexandria.

Pope Leo I, the definition laid down that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had two natures, one fully divine, the other fully human, and that they were united in one person, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.❠This definition did not succeed in settling the controversy, which continued to rage, despite the efforts of many Byzantine emperors to find a compromise or reconciliation, until it was suffocated by the coming of Islam. At any rate, the definition has remained ever since the basic statement of christological orthodoxy for the majority of Christian churches, including those of the Reformation. The other formula requiring attention is the socalled Athanasian Creed or, as it is called from its opening words in Latin, Quicumque vult. Its origin and date have long been subjects of lively dispute; by the 16th c. it was understood that its traditional attribution to Athanasius of Alexandria which can be traced back to the 6th c. was totally impossible. Its doctrine is evidently derived from Augustine 354430 and still more from the Commonitorium of Vincent of Lérins 434; the creed was almost certainly known to Caesarius of Arles 470543. It is clearly aimed at the errors of Arius and Nestorius but shows no discernible influence of the Chalcedonian Definition.

It consists of a concise, lapidary exposition, in late Latin, of the Western form of the trinitarian doctrine with explicit affirmation of the Filioque, followed by a rather short exposition of the doctrine of the incarnation, which inter alia excludes Apollinarianism, the doctrine that Christ lacked a human soul. Its condemnatory clauses,❠which consign anyone who does not accept its doctrine to eternal damnation, made it decidedly suited to the temper of the Middle Ages but have induced moderns to keep their distance from it. Its treatment is completely Western, and it was never formally approved by the Eastern church. The most recent authority, Kelly The Athanasian Creed, holds that it was composed in the monastery of Lérins off the S coast of Gaul or in a group associated with Lérins, between ca. 440 and ca. 520, perhaps in the circle of Caesarius of Arles, even if not directly by him.

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