Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
It is appropriate to open up this discussion towards two points, the Incarnation and Nature(s) of the Person of Jesus Christ, and also the Orthodox doctrines on the concept of the Pre-Existence of the Human Soul before physical birth, and also a point I made regarding the pre-existence of the Human Nature of Jesus Christ before the Incarnation.
Here is a bit from the Ethiopian Orthodox Catechism (as explained by Abba Melketsedek, Metropolitan Bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church)
In a paper submitted to the 'Consultation between the Theologians of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches' held at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, in August 1964, the Very Rev. Like Siltanat Habte Mariam Workineh, Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, fully explained the teaching of the Church on Incarnation.
Incarnation is a divine mystery. The two natures of Godhead and Manhood are perfectly united and Christ is thus one Person and one Nature from two Natures.
Christ is one Incarnate nature of God the Word. After the union it is impossible to speak of Christ as being in two natures. By the union of the nature in the Incarnation the two natures became one nature, the natures being united without separation, without confusion, and without change. Neither of the two natures was assimilated by the other, the properties of the Divine Word were attributed to the flesh and those of the flesh to the Divine Word. The Logos revealed Himself in our flesh and became man like us. He did all things that man does with the exception of sin (John 8:46). And at the same time was truly God. He is God-Man. He is co-equal and consubstantial with the Father in his Godhead. He is perfectly united with us the union being from two modes of life into one. The union of the Word with the flesh took place in the womb of the Virgin Mary. St. John says: "The Word was made flesh...". In the same way we can say that also the flesh was made divine. The attributes of the flesh can be given to the Divine Word and vice versa. However, the properties of each nature are preserved without change after the union. Therefore, we believe that Christ is one Person and one Nature, and thus is both divine and human. We speak of one because of the union. We hold "mia physis", composite nature, one united nature. Again the Lord Jesus Christ is perfect man and perfect God. The word "perfect" closes the door to all quibble and prevarication. We accept both unity and duality in Christ who in acting performed as one. Christ, in whom humanitv and divinity were united in one Person and one Nature, was crucified on the cross. The Divine Word without being united with the flesh cannot be crucified, because as God He is beyond suffering. But through the union with the flesh He was crucified and subjected to death. If, on the other hand, only the human body was crucified, He could not save the world.
The purpose of the Incarnation was the salvation of man. God sent His only Son into the world to bring unto Him the lost sheep and He did this by reason of His unspeakable love towards mankind.
5. The Issue between Monophysitism and Dyophysitism
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church considers itself to belong to the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church founded bv Jesus Christ. It is holy because its founder, Jesus Christ, is holy; it is catholic because the whole world is its province and because it is universal in time and place; it is apostolic because it was established on earth by the apostles of Christ.
The Ethiopian Church belongs to the group of Orthodox Churches wrongly termed "Monophysite" but which prefer the epithet "Non-Chalcedonian". The other members of this family are the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian and Indian Churches. Together with the Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine Orthodox Church they comprised the One Church for four centuries until the division arose on account of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 which insisted that Christ had the two natures of humanity and divinity.
Dyophysites teach that, after the union, Christ retained the natures of divinity and humanity in His one Person in such a way that He ate food, slept, laughed, suffered, walked as man in the human nature, but healed the sick and resuscitated Lazarus as God in the divine nature. Thus He is one Person in two natures of humanity and divinity. The wrongly called Monophysites reject the allegation that they teach one Nature and one Person in Christ. The teaching of the Ethiopian Church may thus be summarized:
1. The Ethiopian Church rejects Eutyches, who is believed to have taught that in Christ the human Nature was absorbed by the divine Nature. Nestorius also is excluded.
2. Dioscorus, whom the Council of Chalcedon deposed, is accepted. But it should be remembered that the Council of 451 did not believe that Dioscorus was a heretic. Dioscorus did not deny the continuance of Godhead and manhood in the One Christ after their union and he agreed with the Council that the teaching which Eutyches was understood to hold was heretical.
3. The teaching of the Ethiopian Church is the faith of the Fathers expounded by the great theologians of the Alexandrine tradition, especially by St. Cyril and his illustrious theological followers. Accordingly the Ethiopian Church maintains that Christ is perfect God and perfect man, at once Unsubstantial with the Father and with us; the divinity and the humanity continuing in Him without mixture or separation, confusion or change. He is one and the same person both in his eternal preexistence and also in the economy, in which he performs the redeeming work of God on behalf of man, from the indivisible state of union of Godhead and manhood.
4. The Church abides by the formula "The one Incarnate Nature of God the Word", on which St. Cyril of Alexandria increasingly insisted, a formula which was accepted as correct by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. and which, after the Council of Chalcedon, the Chalcedonian side in the East itself admitted.
5. It is unfair for the Church to be nicknamed "monophysite" by the faithful who accept the Chalcedonian formula of "two Natures in the one Person of Jesus Christ", because the expression used by the non-Chalcedonian side was always muiphysis, and never monophysis (mia standing for a composite unity unlike mone standing for an elemental unity). Therefore these churches are best referred to as the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches.
6. "Tewahedo" is the Ethiopian term (meaning "made one") which is the best expression conveying the faith of the Church, since it emphasizes the inseparable unity of the Godhead and manhood in the Person of Christ. The Church's official title is "The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Bete Christian"..
7. After the Union, Christ was no longer in two natures. The two natures became united into one nature without separation, without confusion and without change. Thus He was at the same tithe perfect God and perfect man. This is the union of the natures in the Incarnation. After the union Christ is not two persons or two natures. but one Person, one incarnate Nature of God the Son, with one will, bu t being at once divine and human. If you separate the natures after the union and say that Christ is in two natures, you will be confronted with serious problems. You will have to admit, for instance, that Christ was crucified merely as a man and that therefore he did not redeem the world, for God alone is able to accomplish the world's redemption. In brief, it is held that Christ, in acting, acted as a united being, not separately as man or separately as God.
8. Proof that we believe in the continuance of divinity and humanity in the One Christ may be illustrated:
1. In the Communion we receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. These belong to man, humanity, and we know that Jesus Christ is God, divinity.
2. The present Liturgy can be used as a criterion of the Church. There it is openly expressed that there is divinity and humanity in Christ.
3. The Chalcedonian formula was rejected because it was thought to destroy the one person of Christ and there was no clear disffncffon between "nature" and "person", person meant nature.
4. We believe the Nicaean Creed in which the divinity and humanity of Christ are set forth, and in the Creed of the liturgy we declare our belief in the co-equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father, and belief in his having grown like men, yet without sin or evil, and in his having taken flesh from Mary.
5. The confession of Faith by the Emperor Claudius declares that Jesus Christ was perfect man and perfect God.
Monophysitism is rejected. It is a question of error in vocabulary, the concepts of Nature and Person not being clear and there being obscurity in philosophical terms such as physis, hypostasis, ausia, prosopon, atreptos, mia, mono etc. As to the two natures of Christ the Dyophysites and non-Chalcedonians are one, it is a matter of interpretation after the union of the two natures. Happily the Dyophysites are currently realizing the position.
from Teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church by Abba Melketsedek
I have been corrected for explaining about the Pre-Existence of the Humanity of Jesus Christ. In Tewahedo theology, the nature of ordinary human beings is explained very similarly to the Nature of Jesus Christ and the Incarnation.
"The Unity of the soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the form of the body, that is, it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body. The spiritual and the material in man are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature. As for the origin of the soul, there are different opinions..
Lastly, some say that only at the time of original Creation did God create the human soul. This view is acceptable, and is the Orthodox teaching
Abba Melketsedek continued..
Since in our Tewahedo Christology there is only One Unified Nature of Jesus Christ, the perfect Tewahedo union of Divine and Human from the One Person ( the from
implying the very unity of these aspects of the Person of Jesus Christ,similarly to how the composite Oneness of the Holy Trinity is expounded ) it is implied that the Humanity of Jesus Christ always existed, and that it existed BEFORE the Incarnation, and the Incarnation seals this Unity into a physical form of matter, of flesh and blood. Since the Tewahedo Church, according to my understanding, teaches in the pre-existence of the Human Soul/Form (especially since we have no relationship with the 5th Ecumenical Council which Canonically rejected this doctrine) we can also rightfully infer that the Humanity of Jesus Christ also pre-existed His Incarnation. It is a bit tricky and tongue twisting in theological terms, but it seems the logical inference from several combined perspectives.
After all, even if the Ethiopians accept traducianism which is the Tewahedo teaching, the way in which the Ethiopian Tradition interprets this process is that true, the soul and body are originated from the the parents BUT, since these are all part of the continuous process of Original Creation of Adam and Eve, and that since the Human Soul/Form was in fact created at Original Creation in the Beginning, and not each individual time, then we must also logically concluded that this Human Soul pre-exists the individual incarnation and birth of human beings. God does not create each soul at each individual incarnation. The human parents do not "create" the human soul, it is a work of God.
We in Tewahedo teach there is truly No distinction or separation, not for a moment, in instant. So we embrace the eternal existence of the Person of Jesus Christ. We do not teach in the Persons of Jesus Christ, and in true and specific terms, in Ge'ez/Amharic the Tewahedo Church does not even teach in two natures of Christ, rather the "One Incarnate Nature of God the Word" as expounded by Saint Cyril of Alexandria. We can not speak of Jesus Christ becoming a human being, only taking on or assuming physicality and flesh and blood. But our humanity is not limited to our physical existence, we are not strictly physical beings, we are a composite of spiritual and physical.
Let me reiterate my stance
Is the Orthodox (non-Ethiopian) interpretation strictly saying that Jesus Christ AFTER the Incarnation in the Virgin Mary is One Person FROM Two Natures. If so, then please explain the humanity of Jesus Christ in this interpretation. Was He then a Divine God who became a Man, and was therefore logically not a human being before this? Was He not a human being before having flesh and blood? Or was He a also a pre-existing Human Being as the Word, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is Divine and yet Human, without distinction or separation?
If the Orthodox is indeed to say AFTER the Incarnation I can accept that as valid, but I disagree personally with it, though I would not teach this as doctrine to anyone if it is not Universal or even widely-accepted. In Tewahedo this is our own logical inference from our own Traditions, Fathers, theologians, history etc etc. I will not teach this as Universally Orthodox if it is not so, but please properly explain this concept then, because aside from the Tewahedo interpretation, I can not make sense of the lack of distinction and separation of the Nature(s) of the Person of Jesus Christ.
After all, if Jesus Christ can only be said to be the unified One Person of Jesus Christ AFTER the Incarnation, how can we say there was never a distinction or separation, but 1st grade deductive reasoning implies that there was indeed a distinction and separation before the Incarnation. We in Tewahedo can not teach a separation or distinction at ANY time, therefore we must logically infer otherwise regarding the Humanity of Jesus Christ.
It seems to come down to three options:
a) Jesus Christ ALWAYS was a man, and ALWAYS was a God, with no distinction or separation, and also took the flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary at the Incarnation.
b) Jesus Christ always was a God, and AFTER the Incarnation of the Virgin there is no separation or distinction to His Humanity (but how does this explain His Humanity?)
c) Jesus Christ was a God, who was not always a Man, and thus was separated and distinct and became a Man.
A) is the God/Man doctrine of Cyril, B) seems to be the more widely accepted Orthodox but I can't see how it explains the humanity of Jesus Christ and C) fits a lot of widely condemned heresies in our history
So please help me out on this one, I am utterly confused as to where y'all are coming from, and I don't want to misrepresent what y'all believe and profess.