Christian Theology (Millard Erickson, 1985)

Christological Heresies


Heresies Regarding Christ’s Deity
• Heresies which deny the genuinenss of Christ’s deity: Ebionism (1)
• Heresies which deny the completeness of Christ’s deity: Arianism (2)

Heresies Regarding Christ’s Humanity
• Heresies which deny the genuineness of Christ’s humanity: Docetism (3)
• Heresies which deny the completeness of Christ’s humanity: Apollinarianism (4)

Heresies which divide Christ’s person: Nestorianism (5)

Heresies which confuse Christ’s natures: Eutychianism (6)

Ebionism (1): An early heresy stemming from some Jewish Christian circles (Ebionite was the Hebrew word for “poor”; these may have been poor Jewish Christians). Strongly monotheistic, they denied that Jesus was God, rejected the virgin birth, and believed Jesus was born naturally. He was human but possessed of unusual gifts. They believed God’s power descended on him in a special way at his baptism.

Arianism (2): Named after Arius of Alexandria, a presbyter whose views were condemned by Athanasius and others at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. Saw God as absolutely unique and transcendent (inflexible monotheism). They believed God alone possesses attributes of deity; to share these with anyone would be to render God less than divine. Everything besides God is created and temporal. The Word was a created being, though the first and highest created being. He was a demigod, an intermediate being, not God (this is the
theology of modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Docetism (3): Docetism is based on the Greek word for “seem” or “appear”--Jesus only seemed or appeared to be human; in reality he was God. An early heresy strongly influenced by Greek dualism which saw the invisible spiritual things as good, the visible, fleshly things as evil.

Apollinarianism (4): The views of Apollinarius, a close friend and associate of Athanasius, the leading champion of orthodox Christology (the one who defeated Arius at the Council of Nicea). He saw Jesus as a compound unity: some of Jesus was human, the rest was divine. Jesus was physically human, but psychologically divine (the divine Word took the place of his human soul). This view was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381.

Nestorianism (5): Named after Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius had trouble with the idea that the divine and human natures were united in one person in Christ (he felt this obscured them both). He preferred to see them as a conjunction, operating in stages of Christ’s life, or distinctly side-by-side. This tended to divide the natures of Christ, render him somewhat schizophrenic.

Eutychianism (6): Eutyches, an elderly church leader in the 440s, apparently sought to counter Nestorius’s division of Christ by teaching the “one nature” formula. He saw Jesus’s humanity as completely absorbed into his divinity. A variant of this taught that Jesus’s nature was a hybrid of divine and human, and therefore a third, altogether new nature.

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