In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border....So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord.” - Isaiah 19:19, 21
Cyril and the Egyptian Church: Basic Facts
- In the 5th century, Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444) became the leader of the church in Egypt. He is one of the most famous early church fathers because of his role in defending the faith against errors concerning the nature of Christ’s incarnation, which culminated in the great Council of Chalcedon in 451.
Timeline of the Chalcedonian Controversy:
431 – The Council of Ephesus – Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, objects so forcefully to Nestorius’ teachings that eventually the Emperor is compelled to call a church council to settle the matter. Cyril and his friends convene the meeting without waiting for the late-arriving parties from Syria (who favored Nestorius) and Rome (who were neutral), and have Nestorius deposed. Then the Syrian delegation arrives, holds its own meeting, and reverses the decision. Then the Roman delegation arrives, convenes another session, and decides to ratify Cyril’s first meeting.
444-449 – Cyril, the champion of Alexandrian theology, dies. But then his theology is take one step further by Eutyches, who claims that the human nature in Christ has been completely subsumed into the divine nature. Another imperial council was convened at Ephesus, and Eutyches was upheld by the emperor’s decision. However, this decision was not consented to by the majority of the churches, and it came to be known as “the Robber Synod.”
451 – The Council of Chalcedon – Two years later, at another council, the decision of the Robber Synod was disallowed, and it was decided that Eutyches had gone too far. A new creed was written which upheld Christ’s two natures, but undivided. This became the standard understanding of the Incarnation for all Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants. The two main adversaries in the controversy, however—Nestorius’ allies in Syria and further east, and the Alexandrian followers of Cyril—found the Chalcedonian Creed unacceptable. This led to the first permanent church split in history—the “Church of the East” in Syria and Persia followed Nestorius’ position, and the “Coptic” church in Egypt followed their preferred “one-united-nature” formula, thus breaking communion with the other churches. This rift in the Body of Christ has never been fully healed.
Quotes from Cyril of Alexandria:
“Only if it is one and the same Christ who is consubstantial with the Father and with men can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and man is the flesh of Christ.”
An Extract from the Chalcedonian Creed:
The Coptic Church after Chalcedon
Pope Shenouda III