I will try and very briefly answer most of your questions from the Oriental Orthodox perspective (I being a Copt myself) - specifically those that relate to my Church and her history:
One answer came from the school of theology in Alexandria. It said that Jesus had one nature: He was God who also became a man.
A second answer came from the theological school of Antioch. It said that Jesus had two natures: He was always God and a man.
I would say that your honest attempt at an oversimplification of the contrasting Christological schools of thought stemming from Alexandria and Antioch, failed in accurately describing the real distinction between these two schools of thought. The Alexandrian theologians could always maintain that though Christ was “God who also became a man” (a principle you ascribe exclusively to Alexandrian Christology), He was simultaneously, “always God and man” (a principle you ascribe exclusively to Antiochene Christology) also.
The real issues in dispute surrounded the subject of Christ’s Incarnation (The Word? The Man? Christ? The Son of God? The Son of Man?) and the subject of His consequent Incarnate experiences (His person? His humanity? His divinity? The Son of God? The Son of Man? The Word? Christ?), and the nature of Christ’s unity (substantial? Natural? External? Prosopic? Hypostatic?).
The reference to Christ’s One Nature (mia physis) by the Alexandrians (including St Cyril) was/is a reference to His state of existence subsequent to the Hypostatic Union. It is thus to be understood more synonymously with the term hypostasis
as opposed to the term ousia
, when it qualifies His Incarnate state.
A third answer came from the Council of Chalcedon. It said that Jesus had two natures that are united to make one person. In other words, Jesus has the nature of being God because He is of the same substance as God the Father. Jesus also had the nature of being human because He was a man in all ways but sin. However, Jesus was not two People: one human and one Divine. Instead, Jesus was one Person --human and Divine.
Fr. V.C. Samuel, an Oriental Orthodox scholar states in his book Chalcedon Re-examined, pages 4-5:“[Some] scholars maintain that in the historical context of the fifth century the council of Chalcedon made a lasting contribution to the faith of the Church. In the words of Georges Florovsky, ‘a Nestorian Christ’ was a ‘suitable Redeemer of a Pelagian man’ and ‘a Monophysite Christ’ was a ‘suitable Redeemer for an ecstatic monk’. But Chalcedon ‘preseved the balance’ and declared that ‘Jesus Christ is one Person in two natures without confusion, change, or severance’4 A voice of dissent has, however, been expressed from the side of the council’s ecclesiastical opponents. Tiran Nersoyan, for instance, asserts that in its historical context Chalcedon did not work out the balance claimed for it, and that this defence of the Chalcedonian position is plausible only with reference to a theological development which took place in the sixth century. This itself, argues Archbishop Tiran, was made possible by the unceasing criticism of the council by the ‘Monophysites’5.
Some people accepted the answer of the Council of Chalcedon, and they were the Orthodox.
Others rejected the answer of the Council of Chalcedon. Of those who rejected it, some were Monphysites and others were Nestorians.
I must make some corrections here: First of all, those who rejected Chalcedon were Orthodox, they were not monophysites. Chalcedon was rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Church because She reasonably perceived that this council had regressed into Nestorianism, and not because She adopted or adhered to any monophysite heresy:“Karekin Sarkissian shows that the council of Chalcedon did violence to the already established theological tradition of both the Armenian Church and a considerable part of Christian east. The theology underlying the council’s formula, for instance, and the treatment of persons like Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa were such that the Nestorian school could feel gratified, and the Tome of Leo which the council declared a document of the faith was hailed by Nestorius himself as a vindication of his position. It was these facts, insists bishop Sarkissian, not any adherence to Eutychianism. which led many Christian communities in the east to repudiate Chalcedon.6 In this way, maintains Sarkissian, the council of Chalcedon created, what he calls, ‘the ecumenical problem in Eastern Christendom’
(Samuel, op. cit., page 5)
The Monophysites were mostly in Egypt, Ethiopia and Western Syria. They believed that Jesus only had one nature --Divine-- that completely suffused Jesus' humanity.
I will have to contend with your understanding of the Christological position of Chalcedon’s Oriental Orthodox opponents. They were simply never
monophysites; they never
adhered to this blasphemous concept of Christ’s divinity dissolving His humanity, or any sort of confusion between His two essences per se. We have many of the writings of the Oriental Orthodox fathers (such as St Dioscorus of Alexandria, St Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria, St Severus of Antioch, etc.) preserved for us which vindicate them beyond reasonable doubt from this false “monophysite” charge.
The ‘monophysite’ title is hence considered erroneous, inappropriate and disrespectful (both as an historical and current application to the Oriental Orthodox Church and her Saints), for it falsely attributes to the Oriental Orthodox Church a heresy which a) has never been approved by her, and b) has always been anathematized by her.
3.a What is the "Tome of Leo" and why does it matter?
It was a document authored by Leo, which was his proposed alternative solution to the issues surrounding Eutyches; the level of authority by which he asserted it implied his own perceived sense of authority over the Church and all its affairs and matters, and the insistence of its acceptance in toto
by the Roman legates at Chalcedon only worsened matters, and lead St Dioscorus to ex-communicate Leo. As stated by Tixeront, “this letter has always been regarded as a dogmatic document of exceptional value. Yet, it is decidedly inferior, in theological inspiration, to the work of Cyril, and strictly so-called speculation hardly finds any place in it at all. Leo does not discuss or demonstrate; he judges and settles difficulties.” (History of Dogmas, Volume 3, page 81)
This document which was later (though reluctantly at first) exonerated at the Council of Chalcedon, caused great controversy, for due to its theological impotence, it could easily be misconstrued as a promotion of Nestorianism. Greek Professor Fr. Florovsky admits to this, stating that the tome of Leo: “ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦could have created the impression of an excessive opposition of two natures especially by its persistent attribution of particular acts of Christ to different natures, without any adequate emphasis on the unity of Christ’s person, although the intention of the pope himself was sound an orthodox.”
(Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Volume 10, n 2, page 32)
Furthermore, as Metropolitan Methodosius of the Eastern Orthodox Church admits, Nestorius himself approved of Leo’s Tome, interpreting it as a vindication of his own heretical ideologies: “The recognition of the well known letter of St Leo, Bishop of Rome, to Flavian Archbishop of Constantinople, is considered by our Non-Chalcedonian brothers an insurmountable obstacle in our efforts to be united with themÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦This is supported by the fact that Leo’s Tome was praised by Nestorius himself who said: ‘On reading that letter I thanked God because the Church of Rome held an Orthodox confession of faith’
”. (Methodios Fouyas, Archbishop of Theateira and Great Britain, Theological and Historical Studies, Volume 8 (Athens: 1985), pages 12-13)
I have heard that the Copts and Ethiopians are the descendants of the Monophysites, but I have also heard that they reject that term and are really Orthodox.
The Coptic Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox are the descendents of the Coptic Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox, respectively. It is not that the church’s once adhered to monophysitism, only to anathematize it at a later stage in order to adopt an Orthodox Christology; rather, it is that these Church’s along with all the Oriental Orthodox Church’s — the Armenians, Syrians, etc. — NEVER adhered to monphysitism. This is a claim falsely ascribed to the Church by her opponents, which cannot be substantiated by any valid evidence.
The closest term that may be employed to accurately describe the OOC’s Christological position, is “miaphysite.” Unlike mono which implies singularity, the term mia implies composite unity. The expression mia physite (which was employed on numerous occasions by St Cyril of Alexandria) thus denotes the unity of Christ’s natures which constitute his composite hypostasis.