Acephali (ἀ and κεφαλή), literally, those who have no chief. The term is applied to various classes of persons (see Biedermann, De Acephalis, Freiberg, 1751).
1. To those at the Council of Ephesus who refused to follow either St. Cyril or John of Antioch.
2. To certain heretics in the fifth century who denied, with Eutyches, the distinction of natures in Jesus Christ, and rejected the Council of Chalcedon. About the year 482 the Emperor Zeno endeavored to extinguish these religious dissensions by the publication of an edict of union, called Henoticon. The more moderate of both parties subscribed the decree, but the object was generally unsuccessful. The Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria was among those who signed the decree; which so greatly displeased many of his party that they separated from him, and were denominated Acephali, that is, without a head. SEE MONOPHYSITES and SEE HENOTICON. These Acephali were condemned in the synod of Constantinople, 536.
3. To bishops exempt from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of their patriarch.
4. To the Flagellants (q.v.).