Miaphysite or The Jesus Paradox hasn’t been given the airtime it deserves or the sustained careful attention it’s due. The Greek word Miaphysite (meaning “one united dynamic nature”) was misused, maligned, and distorted in the ancient past. The word’s roots have been misrepresented due to ancient church politics and state politics.
The earliest split in Christendom can be traced to Miaphysite and highly technical scholarship has followed this word into the present.Yet I have limited interest in all of this. I’m most interested in this word’s primal form and its application today. I’m interested in its authentic interpretation found in Oriental Orthodox tradition.
I want to take this word out from the circle of bullies who have pummeled it for centuries, bathe it, wrap the royal robes around it and put it in its proper place, which is on a throne.
David of the tribe of Judah was considered the runt of his family and was the butt of his older brothers’ jokes. He was off tending the sheep when Samuel came to anoint a Sovereign for Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13). For centuries this word, Miaphysite, has been the runt of the Christian family. Yet, its proper place is the theological throne.
As many recent writers on the subject fail to see, Miaphysite isn’t a byword of church history. Miaphysite has profound relevancy for us today, encapsulating the spirit of The Alexandrian Mystics and adding much needed depth to Christian theology.
In the twentieth century the Miaphysite position held by Christians in Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Armenia, Eritrea, and parts of India has finally been accepted by the wider Church. Both Rome and Constantinople now accept the alternative Miaphysite theology as “adequate.” Miaphysite theology, especially Cyril’s, is far more than “adequate.” It amounts to no less than the cure for Christianity’s ills. W.H.C. Frend (d. 1958) writes “There was nothing comparable to the school of thought, which had matured slowly through two centuries of Alexandrian church history to reach its climax with the genius of Cyril.”
The Jesus Paradox (Miaphysite) is Christianity’s mystic core. It is the non-dual essence of Christian tradition. Cyril of Alexandria put it best: “Jesus is at once God and human.” This is the Paradox. The two can never be separated or divided, although that would be easier on our minds. That is precisely the polarity we wrangle with today. The Christian left says Jesus is human, period and the Christian right says Jesus is God, period. Both miss the point. Jesus is a moving target, a holy mystery, a Paradox with a capital P that always leaves us guessing. This dynamic unity opens our minds and hearts and breaks down walls that divide. It also makes sense of the Gospels where Jesus vacillates between entirely human actions (like cursing a fig tree on a bad day (Matthew 21:19)) and Divine actions.