In the traditional scholarly interpretation of the council of Chalcedon the primary purpose of the council was to enforce unanimity on the Christological questions raised by the controversy over Eutyches. While it seems natural to assume that a discussion of Christology would dominate the council, a rhetorical analysis of the acts of the council shows that Christology was frequently not the issue being directly discussed. This paper broadens our understanding of the inner workings of the council’s attempts at consensus. In fact, very little technical Christological argumentation occurs at all during the pivotal first session. Discussion was primarily carried out through appeals to sources of authority and references to arguments that had already been made prior to the council. One of the primary sources of authority used by the supporters of Dioscorus was Cyril of Alexandria.
This study uses rhetorical analysis to analyze the appeals to Cyril of Alexandria as a source of authority. Certain groups and individuals showed definite predilections toward particular sources of authority. For example, in the first session, current or one-time partisans of Dioscorus made approximately 95% of the appeals to the authority of Cyril of Alexandria. Despite switching sides, the bishops tended to take their favorite sources of authority with them. Rhetorical analysis can also be used to highlight shifts in the strategy used by the bishops at the council. Dioscorus, the most frequent voice during the first session, an Alexandrian and the successor of Cyril, makes surprisingly spare use of Cyril of Alexandria as a source of authority, accounting for less than 10% of Dioscorus’ total number of appeals to sources of authority. Dioscorus more frequently utilized appeals to imperial authority and proper procedure. Appeals to precedent, not including Cyril of Alexandria, were also common during the first session of the council. Current or one-time partisans of Dioscorus used Cyril more accounting for approximately 28% of their appeals to authority. In fact, appeals to Cyril make up approximately 12.5% of the total number of appeals made during the first session of the council.