Kozhukhov Sergei

The Capadocian Tradition Regarding the Understanding of the Term Nature as Employed by John the Grammarian inhHis Polemic with Severus of Antioch

Kozhukhov Sergei (2013) "The Capadocian Tradition Regarding the Understanding of the Term Nature as Employed by John the Grammarian inhHis Polemic with Severus of Antioch ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia, 2013, vol. 46, pp. 34-51 (in Russian).


This article analyses the use of the term Nature as employed in the polemics of the supporters of the council of Chalcedon against their opponents, as exemplified in the controversy between John of Caesarea and Severus of Antioch. Severus could not accept the use of the word Nature as referring to Christ’s humanity after the incarnation and insisted on a different use of the word in the theology of the Trinity and in Christology. John of Caesarea, who accepted the Council of Chalcedon, insisted on the use of the term Nature as a vital component of ecclesial tradition and accused Severus of grave error. But at the same time, both theologians base their arguments on tradition, and use the works of gregory the theologian as those of the Capadocian Fathers to prove their point. Both theologians employ vocabulary developed by the Capadocian School especially the distinction setting apart the concepts of the common and the particular (nature and hypostasis). A particularly relevant proof text is found in one of the epistles of Gregory the Theologian entitled To Cledonius the Presbyter. Here, Gregory was in the midst of a polemic with Apollinaris of Laodicea and defined the distinction between subject (hypostasis) and predicate (nature). This Gave Gregory the opportunity to discuss the ideas of unity and duality in Christ. John of Casesarea pointed to this passage as a proof text for the teaching of Chalcedon. Severus, on the other hand, disagreed, refused to recognize such a distinction, and insisted that Gregory did not refer to the humanity of Christ after his incarnation as his nature. John further referred to other texts of Gregory which he claimed would refute the second point of the teaching of Severus regarding the difference of the application of the term nature in Christology and, on the other hand, in the Theology of the Trinity. John refused to admit such a distinction and continued to follow the teaching of Chalcedon. After an examination of the relevant texts, the author of the article concludes that Severus misunderstood Gregory since the latter did not teach a distinction in his understanding of the term nature whether in its application to Christ or to the trinity. Severus had referred to the passage where Gregory spoke about a unique nature and action of Christ after his incarnation, and used this as a proof text for his own position. On the contrary, this text actually demonstrates the doctrine of the two natures and two actions in Christ, a position which clearly opposes that of Severus. We may conclude that John of Caesarea accurately pinpointed all the theological subtleties of the passages in question and underlined the importance of distinguishing the term nature from that of hypostasis.


terminology, nature, substance, hypostasis, Christology, Council of Chalcedon


1. Mejendorf I., protopresv. Iisus Hristos v Vostochnom pravoslavnom bogoslovii (Jesus Christ in Oriental Orthodox Theology). Moscow, 2000.
2. Steppa J.-E. John Rufus and the World Vision of Anti-Chalcedonian Culture. New Jersey, 2002
3. Nau F. (ed.) Plerophories, temoignages et revelations contre le concile de Chalcedoine. Paris, 1912.
4. Grillmeier A. Gesu Cristo nella fede della Chiesa. Brescia, 1999.
5. Moeller C. 1944–1945. Un représentant de la christologie néochalcédonienne au début du VI s. en Orient: Naphalius d’Alexandrie. Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, no. 40, pp. 73–140
6. Lebon J. (ed.) Severi Antiocheni liber contra impium Grammaticum. Louvain, 1938.
7. Brooks E. W. (ed.) A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch. Paris, 1915
8. Lebon J. Le Monophysisme seveverien: e tude historique, litte raire et the ologique sur la re sistance monophysite au concile de Chalce doine jusqu’a la constitution de l’E glise jacobite. Louvain, 1909.
9. Gallay P. (ed.) Gregoire de Nazianze. Lettres Theologique. Paris, 1974
10. Uthemann K.-H. 1997. Defi nitionen und Paradigmen in der Rezeption des Dogmas von Chalkedon bis in die Zeit Kaiser Justinians. Chalkedon: Geschichte und Aktualitat. Studien zur Rezeption der Christologischen Formel von Chalkedon, pp. 54–122
11. Spasskij A. Istorij a dogmaticheskih dvizhenij v jepohu Vselenskih soborov (v svjazi s fi losofskimi uchenij ami togo vremeni) (The History of dogmatic trends in the age of the Ecumenical Councils). Sergiyev Posad, 1914.
12. Bolotov V. V. Lekcii po istorii drevnej Cerkvi (Lectures on Early Church History). Moscow, 1994
13. Vasilij (Krivoshein), arhiep. 1975. Prostota Bozhestvennoj prirody i razlichija v Boge po sv. Grigoriju Nisskomu (The Simplicity of the Divine Nature and the Distinction in God in Gregory of Nazianz’s Thought). Vestnik Russkogo Zapadno–Evropejskogo Patriarshego Jekzarhata, no. 91–92, pp. 133–158
14. Quasten J. Patrology. Westminster, 1986.
15. Drecoll V. H. Die Entwicklung der Trinitatslehre des Basilius von Casarea, Sein Weg von Homousianer zum Neonizaner. Gottingen, 1996
16. Robertson D. G. 1998. Stoic and Aristotelian notins of Substance in Basil of Caesarea. Vigiliae Christianae, no. 52, pp. 393–417
17. Turcescu L. 1997. Prosopon and Hypostasis in Basil of Caesarea’s «Against Eunomius» and the Epistles». Vigiliae Christianae, no. 51, pp. 374–395.
18. Courtonne Y. (ed.) St. Basile. Lettres. Paris, 1957.
19. Sidorov A. I. (ed.) Svt. Vasilij Velikij . Tvorenija (St. Basil the Great. Writings). Мoscow, 2009
20. Richard M. (Hrsg.) Iohannis Caesariensis presbyteri et grammatici opera quae supersunt. Turnhout, 1977
21. Schwarz E. (Hrsg.) Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum. Berlin, 1914–1984
22. Lebon J. (ed.). Severi Antiocheni ac Sergii Grammatici: Epistulae Mutuae. Louvain, 1949

Information about the author

Kozhukhov Sergei