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Heresies of the Church Thru the Ages [1]

(Greek: Monos , single; Thelo , will)

A heresy which, in the 7th century, began within the Church out of an attempt to conciliate the Monophysites. The latter, confusing the idea of personality with the undivided activity of a single will, held that there was a kind of divino-human will and divino-human operation in Christ, the Man-God. The Monothelites admitted the orthodox doctrine of the existence of the two natures but claimed that these natures had a common will and a common activity. This view was strongly urged by Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, who had enlisted the sympathy of Pope Honorius in his cause, and combated by Sophronius, a Palestinian monk, later patriarch of Jerusalem. After dividing the Eastern Church for over half a century, the controversy was brought to a close by the Sixth General Council (Constantinople, 681) when the doctrines of the Monothelites were formally condemned.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

(compounded of "single, " and volo, "I will, ") an ancient sect which sprung out of the Eutychians; thus called, as only allowing of one will in Jesus Christ. The opinion of the Monothelites had its rise in 930, and had the emperor Heraclius for an adherent: it was the same with that of the acephalous Severians.

They allowed of two wills in Christ, considered with regard to the two natures; but reduced them to one, by reason of the union of the two natures, thinking it absurd that there should be two free wills in one and the same person. They were condemned by the sixth general council in 680, as being supposed to destroy the perfection of the humanity of Jesus Christ, depriving it of will and operation. Their sentiments were afterwards embraced by the Maronites.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

a denomination in the seventh century .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [4]

( Μονοθελῆται ), an ancient heretical sect which is first spoken of in the writings of St. John of Damascus, in the middle of the 8th century, but which may be traced back to Severus, the deposed patriarch of Antioch, who flourished in the first half of the 7th century. He founded Monophysitism (q.v.). In some fragments of his writings which have come down to us, Severus remarks that Christ's words, "Not my will, but thine, be done" ( Luke 22:42), do not prove the existence of a will distinct from the divine will, nor that there was any struggle or resistance on the part of the Saviour's soul, as if he had a human fear of death or a human unwillingness to die; but that the words are so set down by way of accommodation, and for Christian instruction (Mai, Coll. Nov. 7:288). The distinct formulation of monothelism is attributed, however, to Theodore, bishop of Cara, in Arabia. Although not a Monophysite, Theodore taught that all the acts of Christ proceeded from one principle, originating in the Word, and operating through the human soul and body. Hence, though the Logos and the manhood were distinct natures, they were both acted upon by one and the same Iv6Pyeta; and there being one activity, there was one will, by which it was moved, that will being divine. ( Αὐτοῦ Γὰρ Τὸ Θέλημα Ἕν Ἐστι , Καὶ Τοῦτο Θεϊκόν ; Mansi, Concil. 11:568.) Athanasius, the Monophysite patriarch of Antioch, was a zealous convert to the opinion of Theodore, and laid it before the emperor Heraclius as offering a basis for such a compromise between his sect and the Church as might enable them to reunite in one communion. The emperor most enthusiastically espoused the plan, and thus became the promoter of the monothelite dogma, and really, the founder of the Monothelites. This emperor, Heraclius I, was born about A.D. 575, and was a son of Heraclius, governor of Africa. By the violent death of the tyrant Phocas in 610, Heraclius, who had served in the army with credit, obtained the imperial power, and soon afterwards married Eudoxia. In the early part of his reign the empire was ravaged by pestilence and the barbarian armies of Chosroes, king of Persia. In 622 he led an army against Persia, defeated Chosroes at Tauris, and fought several successful campaigns, in which he displayed great military talents and personal courage. In the course of his campaigns against Persia he passed through Armenia and Syria, and came to a peaceful understanding with the Monophysite leaders of the Severians and the Jacobites, who at this time had become a powerful and dangerous political party. Hoping to reconcile them, he, in connection with Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, proposed to them the curious doctrine of monothelism, which satisfied the Monophysites, without apparently disturbing the decision of the Council of Chalcedon. Having made peace with Persia in 628, he returned to Constantinople, and abandoned himself to inglorious ease, sensual vices, and the subtleties of monotheism, of which he was the chief supporter, ignoring the victorious progress of the Mussulman arms, until the very subversion of his empire was threatened. In 639, finally, he made an energetic attempt to establish monothelism by issuing his ῎Εκθησις , with what result may be seen in the article MONOTHELISM (See Monothelism) .

Heraclius died in 641. His character is a puzzle, and presents surprising contradictions. Protected and nurtured by imperial approbation, the Monothelites became a very considerable sect. The decisions of the sixth Council of Constantinople determined that their opinions were not consistent with the purity of the Christian faith, and monothelism was formally condemned; and though its advocates were sometimes the objects of royal favor, yet they were in general condemned and depressed. In 711, when Philippicus Bardanes was Greek emperor, they became once more influential and powerful. He convened a new council at Constantinople, which reversed the decisions of the sixth council, and adopted monothelism as an orthodox doctrine. Some few bishops resisted, but were driven from the council. Two years later Anastasius II reinstituted dyothelism, and the same bishops who had two years before vetoed dyothelism now changed their mind, and adopted it as the only true exposition of faith! Thus persecuted, the Monothelites retired to the neighborhood of Mount Lebanon. After the Crusades (1291), and especially after 1596, they began to gradually go over to the Roman Church, although retaining the communion under both kinds, their Syriac missal, the marriage of priests, and their traditional fast-days, with some saints of their own, especially St. Maron. (See Maronites).

The Monothelites have often been bitterly persecuted, but our concern for the cruelties they suffered cannot but be lessened by the consideration of the persecutions which in the day of their power they were tempted to commit against their orthodox brethren. See, besides the references in the article MONOTHELISM, Blunt, Diet. Of Heresies And Sects, s.v.; Schaff, Church Hist. 3: 752 sq.; Gregory, Hist. Of The Christ. Church, 1:397; Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, 2:36; Robinson, Palestine, 3:744; Walch, Geschichte Der Ketzereien, 9:475; Baumgarten, Geschichte Der Religionspartheien, page 617.