- 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
theologyemployed in mainstream Christologyto 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 Testamentthat 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.
First Council of Nicaeadefined the Trinityas being three persons or realities ("hypostases") with one essence (" ousia").
Apollinaris of Laodiceawas 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 Mopsuestiawent 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.]
Chalcedonian Creedagreed with Theodore that there were two natures in the Incarnation. However, the Council of Chalcedonalso 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
Monophysitesbecause they would only accept a definition that characterized the incarnate Son as having one nature. The Chalcedonianacceptance of the hypostatic union was described by these persons as a dyophysiteChristology, from the Greek for "two natures."
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