Hypostatic union


Hypostatic union

Hypostatic union (from the Greek: polytonic|ὑπόστασις, "hypostasis," translated "reality" or "person") ["polytonic|ὑπόστασις" in Bauer, Danker, Arndt, & Gingrich, "A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament & other Early Christian Literature". Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.] is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the presence of both human and divine natures in Jesus Christ. It became official at the Council of Chalcedon, which stated that the two natures (divine and human) are united in the one person (existence or reality, "hypostasis") of Christ. ["Hypostatic Union" in "The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology", ed. A. Richardson & J. Bowden. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983.]

The Use of "hypostasis"

Hypostasis had come into use as a technical term prior to the Christological debates of the late fourth and fifth centuries. Before there were Christians, the word was used in Greek philosophy, primarily in Stoicism. [R. Norris, "Hypostasis," in The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. E. Ferguson. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997] [Aristotle, "Mund.", IV, 21.] "Hypostasis" had some use in the New Testament that reflect the later, technical understanding of the word; especially Hebrews 1:3. [Other New Testament occurrences require a different understanding of it. E.g., 2 Corinthians 9:4 and 11:17.] Although it can be rendered literally as "substance" this has been a cause of some confusion [cite book|last=Placher |first=William |title=A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction |year=1983 |location=Philadelphia |publisher=Westminster Press |isbn=0-664-244963 |pages=pp. 78-79] so it is now often translated "subsistence". It denotes an actual, concrete existence, in contrast with abstract categories such as Platonic ideals.

The First Council of Nicaea defined the Trinity as being three persons or realities ("hypostases") with one essence ("ousia").

Theological development

Apollinaris of Laodicea was the first to use the term hypostasis in trying to understand the Incarnation. [Gregory of Nyssa, "Antirrheticus adversus Apollinarem."] Apollinaris described the union of the divine and human in Christ as being of a single nature and having a single essence - a single hypostasis.

Theodore of Mopsuestia went in the other direction, arguing that in Christ there were two natures (human and divine) and two hypostases (in the sense of "essence" or "person") that co-existed. ["Theodore" in "The Westminster Dictionary of Christian History", ed. J. Brauer. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971.]

The Chalcedonian Creed agreed with Theodore that there were two natures in the Incarnation. However, the Council of Chalcedon also insisted that hypostasis be used as it was in the Trinitarian definition: to indicate the person and not the nature as with Apollinarius.

Thus, the Council declared that in Christ there are two natures; each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence and in one single person (polytonic|εἰς ἓν πρόσωπον καὶ μίαν ὑπόστασιν, "eis hen prosopon kai mian hupostasin)" [Denzinger, ed. Bannwart, 148]

As the precise nature of this union is held to defy finite human comprehension, the hypostatic union is also referred to by the alternative term "mystical union."

Those who rejected the Chalcedonian Creed were known as Monophysites because they would only accept a definition that characterized the incarnate Son as having one nature. The Chalcedonian acceptance of the hypostatic union was described by these persons as a dyophysite Christology, from the Greek for "two natures."

References


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  • Hypostatic Union — • A theological term used with reference to the Incarnation to express the revealed truth that in Christ one person subsists in two natures, the Divine and the human Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Hypostatic Union     H …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Hypostatic union — Union Un ion (?; 277), n. [F., from L. unio oneness, union, a single large pearl, a kind of onion, fr. unus one. See {One}, and cf. {Onion}, {Unit}.] 1. The act of uniting or joining two or more things into one, or the state of being united or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hypostatic union — Hypostatic Hy po*stat ic, Hypostatical Hy po*stat ic*al, a. [Gr. ?: cf. F. hypostatique.] 1. Relating to hypostasis, or substance; hence, constitutive, or elementary. [1913 Webster] The grand doctrine of the chymists, touching their three… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hypostatic union — noun Etymology: part translation of French union hypostatique, from Middle French : union in one hypostasis; especially : the union of the divine and human natures of Christ in one hypostasis …   Useful english dictionary

  • hypostatic union — The substantial union of divine and human nature in the one person of Jesus Christ. Belief in this is a formal doctrine of the Christian church. See also Nestorianism …   Philosophy dictionary

  • hypostatic union —    This term (from the Greek hypostasis, meaning what lies beneath, and the Latin unio, meaning oneness or unity ) refers to the union of the divine and human natures in the one divine person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (See CCC 464 469) …   Glossary of theological terms

  • hypostatic union — Incarnation …   New dictionary of synonyms

  • hypostatic union —  Ипостасное единство …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • Hypostatic — Hy po*stat ic, Hypostatical Hy po*stat ic*al, a. [Gr. ?: cf. F. hypostatique.] 1. Relating to hypostasis, or substance; hence, constitutive, or elementary. [1913 Webster] The grand doctrine of the chymists, touching their three hypostatical… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Union — Un ion (?; 277), n. [F., from L. unio oneness, union, a single large pearl, a kind of onion, fr. unus one. See {One}, and cf. {Onion}, {Unit}.] 1. The act of uniting or joining two or more things into one, or the state of being united or joined;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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