Hypostatic union and Monotheletism: The dyothelite christology of St. Maximus the Confessor

Michael E Butler, Fordham University


This dissertation articulates Maximus the Confessor's understanding of the hypostatic union in Christ and shows how that understanding provided an adequate response to the claims of Monotheletism. The dissertation begins with a broad survey of the historical, political and theological factors that gave rise to the Monenergist movement and its later transformation into Monotheletism. Then, turning directly to Maximus, his Christology is shown to be a Neo-Chalcedonian exposition of the faith of Chalcedon. Maximus organizes his thought on the hypostatic union under several rubrics that all illustrate the notion of unconfused union. These rubrics include such classical metaphors as the whole and parts, and fire and iron; a formula: the two natures "from which, in which, and which Christ is;" the distinction between logos and tropos; the enhypostaton; and perichoresis. Each rubric is analyzed separately, and its antecedents in Patristic literature are provided so that Maximus' fidelity to and elaboration of that tradition is made clear. The rubrics are also viewed synoptically to show their harmony and to demonstrate the coherency of Maximus' synthesis. Finally, having considered Maximus' understanding of the hypostatic union, the focus of the dissertation turns specifically to the principles of Monotheletism. These principles are set forth in a debate preserved as the Disputation with Pyrrhus. The dissertation follows the arguments and counter-arguments as they unfold in the course of the Disputation and analyzes each of them in turn. The analysis of Monothelite arguments in the Disputation shows that Monotheletism was the later flowering of an older, Paleo-Chalcedonian Christology, the weaknesses of which Neo-Chalcedonianism had sought to overcome. In combatting Monotheletism, then, Maximus was not required to formulate any new teaching, but only to apply the Neo-Chalcedonian Christology of which he was an heir to an aspect of Christology that had not yet been addressed, i.e. the issue of Christ's operations and wills.

Subject Area

Religious history|Theology

Recommended Citation

Butler, Michael E, "Hypostatic union and Monotheletism: The dyothelite christology of St. Maximus the Confessor" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425187.