in Christianity, one who believed that Jesus Christ's nature remains altogether divine and not human even though he has taken on an earthly and human body with its cycle of birth, life, and death. Monophysite doctrine thus asserted that in the Person of Jesus Christ there was only one (divine) nature rather than two natures, divine and human, as asserted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the development of the doctrine of the Person of Christ during the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, several divergent traditions had arisen. Chalcedon adopted a decree declaring that Christ was to be 「acknowledged in two natures, without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated.」 This formulation was directed in part against the Nestorian doctrine—that the two natures in Christ had remained separate and that they were in effect two Persons—and in part against the theologically unsophisticated position of the monk Eutyches, who had been condemned in 448 for teaching that, after the Incarnation, Christ had only one nature and that, therefore, the humanity of the incarnate Christ was not of the same substance as that of other men. Political and ecclesiastical rivalries as well as theology played a role in the decision of Chalcedon to depose and excommunicate the patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus (d. 454). The church that supported Dioscorus and insisted that his teaching was consistent with the orthodox doctrine of St. Cyril of Alexandria was labeled monophysite.
The label also was attached to various theologians and groups, although some who were called monophyste, notably Severus of Antioch (d. 538), repudiated the terminology of Chalcedon as self-contradictory. Most modern scholars agree that Severus as well as Dioscorus probably diverged from what was defined as orthodoxy more in their emphasis upon the intimacy of the union between God and man in Christ than in any denial that the humanity of Christ and that of mankind are consubstantial.
In modern times, those churches usually classified as monophysite (the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syrian Orthodox) are generally accepted by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christendom as essentially orthodox in their doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ.