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Eutyches (c. 380 - c. 456), a priest and archimandrite at Constantinople, first came into notice in AD 431 at the council of Ephesus, where, as a zealous adherent of Cyril of Alexandria, he vehemently opposed the doctrine of the Nestorians.

He was accused of teaching that the divine nature was not incarnated in but only attendant on Jesus, being superadded to his human nature after the latter was completely formed. In opposition to this Eutyches went so far as to affirm that after the union of the two natures, the human and the divine, Christ had only one nature, that of the incarnate Word, and that therefore His human body was essentially different from other human bodies. In this he went beyond Cyril and the Alexandrine school generally, who, although they expressed the unity of the two natures in Christ so as almost to nullify their duality, yet took care verbally to guard themselves against the accusation of in any way circumscribing or modifying his real and true humanity.

It would seem, however, that Eutyches differed from the Alexandrine school chiefly from inability to express his meaning with proper safeguards, for equally with them he denied that Christ's human nature was either transmuted or absorbed into his divine nature. The energy and imprudence of Eutyches in asserting his opinions led to his being accused of heresy by Domnus II of Antioch and Eusebius, bishop of Dorylaeum, at a synod presided over by Flavian at Constantinople in 448. As his explanations were not considered satisfactory, the council deposed him from his priestly office and excommunicated him; but in 449, at a council held in Ephesus convened by Dioscorus of Alexandria and overawed by the presence of a large number of Egyptian monks, not only was Eutyches reinstated in his office, but Eusebius, Domnus and Flavian, his chief opponents, were deposed, and the Alexandrine doctrine of the "one nature" received the sanction of the church. This judgment is the more interesting as being in distinct conflict with the opinion of the bishop of Rome--Leo--who, departing from the policy of his predecessor Celestine, had written very strongly to Flavian in support of the doctrine of the two natures and one person.

Meanwhile the emperor Theodosius died, and Pulcheria and Marcian who succeeded summoned, in October 451, a council (the fourth ecumenical) which met at Chalcedon. There the synod of Ephesus was declared to have been a "robber synod," its proceedings were annulled, and, in accordance with the rule of Leo as opposed to the doctrines of Eutyches, it was declared that the two natures were united in Christ, but without any alteration, absorption or confusion. Eutyches died in exile, but of his later life nothing is known. After his death his doctrines -- refered to for many years as Eutychianism -- obtained the support of the Empress Eudocia and made considerable progress in Syria. In the 6th century they received a new impulse from a monk of the name of Jacob Baradaeus, who united the various divisions into which the Eutychians, or Monophysites, had separated into one church, which exists at the present time under the name of the Syrian Orthodox Church, with numerous adherents in Armenia, Egypt and Ethiopia.

See RL Ottley, The Doctrine of the Incarnation, ii. 97 if.; A Harnack, History of, Dogma, iv. passim; F Loofs, Dogmnageschichte (4th ed., 1906), 297 f. and the art, in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyk. für prot. Theol., with a full bibliography.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.