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False Teachings
Historic Heresies: Apollinarianism

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Apollinarianism was a heresy that arose in the church in the mid-fourth century. It was forwarded by Apollinarius, who was the bishop of Laodicea beginning in 361 AD. Apollinarianism was in many ways a modified docetism, where Christ was taught to have an incomplete humanity, although affirmed to be fully divine. Apollinarius was condemned a final time in 381 AD at Constantinople for his teachings. The Chalcedonian Creed contains language that rejects Apollinarianism.

The Teaching Summarized
Apollinarianism arose out the Alexandrian school of thought, which emphasized the unity within the person of Christ and the full deity of Christ. To Apollinarius, a Christ that was fully human could not have been sinless; nor to Apollinarius would a fully human Christ qualify as a savior, as mere man cannot save himself. Using these two points, Apollinarius (as a trichotomist, beleiving that humanity is made of body, mind, and spirit) therefore taught that Christ was of a fully divine nature, but not fully human - that he was only made of a human body and mind, but not a human spirit. Although this is similar to docetism, in which the humanity of Christ is non-existent, Apollinarius subtracted from rather than annihilated the human nature of Christ. Apollinarius' Christology could be represented by the following figure, where instead of a human nature, a human body (including the mind) is present:

In essence, the divine nature of Apollinarianism consumes part of the human nature in Christ. Apollinarius was rightly condemned for his teachings, because a less than fully human Christ is not the Christ of the Bible. As the Second Adam who gives real definition to humanity, Christ was fully man. Were he not, then man's own nature would be reduced to only body and mind with no spirit. Clearly, this is an ascriptural doctrine of man, who is fully rational and spiritual, morally accountable for all that he does. Additionally, a Christ that was less than human would not save humanity from sin. Again, only two thirds of man would be saved. The bible and particularly the Book of Hebrews present Christ as one who was fully human in body (and mind) and spirit. Christ fully identified with humanity that he might by representation save man. Consequently, the Chalcedonian Creed contains language about Christ, that is explicitly anti-Apollinarianism:
  • "actually man, with a rational soul and a body"
  • "perfect in humanness"
  • "consubstantial with us as far as his humanness is concerned"
  • "like us in all respects, sin only excepted"
The Church has stood firm against Apollinarianism since the Council of Rome (377 AD), despite Apollinarius' friendship with Athanasius - the great foe of heretics. Christians across the world affirm the reality of Christ's full humanity, as declared in the scriptures and summarized by the Chalcedonian Creed. A full presentation of the biblical humanity of Christ and its importance is made in's article, The Humanity of Christ, while a discussion on the union of two natures in the single person of Christ is contained in the article, Two United Natures in One Person.

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