Free Online Bible Library | Apollinarius; Apollinarianism

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Apollinarius; Apollinarianism

Born about 310 at Laodicea in Syria, Apollinarius became a reader under the Arian bishop Theodotus and shared with his priestly father a delight in pagan literature. When Julian deprived Christians of pagan classics, they restyled parts of the Bible in poetic meters or as philosophical dialogues. He had welcomed Athanasius back from exile in 346, supported the homoousion (see Ancyra) and became bishop of the Nicene church at Laodicea about 361. His views were opposed when the Council of Alexandria, chaired by Athanasius in 362, attributed a human soul to Christ, and about 375 he seceded from the orthodox church. By 377 the Western Council of Rome under Bishop Damasus condemned him, followed by the Eastern councils of Alexandria (378), Antioch (379), and Constantinople (381). Theodosian decrees (383-88) forbade Apollinarian worship and outlawed his adherents.

Apollinarius wrote extensively, but few writings remain. Some are attributed to orthodox writers: to Gregory Thaumaturgus, a detailed creed; to Athanasius, a sermon Quod unus sit Christus, De Incarnatione Dei Verbi, and a creed addressed to the emperor Jovian; to Julius I of Rome (337- 52) De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo, De Fide et Incarnatione, and a letter to Dionysius. Two works can be reconstructed from his opponents: a Demonstratio de Divina Incarnatione from Gregory of Nyssa's Antirrheticus, and a brief Recapitulatio from a dialogue attributed to Athanasius. Only fragments of his other works can be gleaned from patristic writers and catenae. These included commentaries on both OT and NT, apologetic works against Porphyry and Emperor Julian, and dogmatic polemical works against Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, Eunomius of Cyzicus, Marcellus of Ancyra, Diodore of Tarsus, and Flavian of Antioch. Of the metrical version of the Bible, only the Psalms are extant, and their authenticity is suspect.

Apollinarius belongs to the tradition of Alexandrian* Christology seen earlier in Athanasius and later in Cyril of Alexandria. Like the former, he held that Christ has one active principle, the divine Logos,* and that the essential attribute of His humanity (flesh) is its capacity for experience, not for initiative. His error was to exclude even the potential for initiative from the humanity of Christ.

Christ had one active principle alone, because according to the biblical evidence Christ is one and never experienced volitional conflict. The Logos was that principle, since only God (not man) can redeem, resurrect, and avoid error; only God could have performed miracles, displayed authority, and created. To see Christ as an inspired man, as Paul of Samosata did, or to attribute both divine and human active principles, is to rob Him of worship and to risk His being fallible. Christ became one in the union of the Logos and the flesh of Mary. The Spirit of God “sanctified” (cf. John 10:33-36) her flesh and formed Christ. Independently the Logos and flesh were incomplete, but together in the union they became someone living, “a mixture of God and man.” This vital union alone distinguishes the flesh of Christ from human flesh in general, since in the latter case the “soul” of man (variously described as pneuma or psyche + nous) unites with flesh.

The Logos alone motivated Christ. His flesh, like Solomon's temple, had no independent life, mind, or will, but it “experienced” passively. Their dynamic unity was so close that Christians worship the flesh of Christ, becoming divine as they assimilate it in the Eucharist. Christ had no human source of initiative, no human soul, for the Logos alone saves, the flesh passively experiencing human conditions. Critics like Gregory of Nyssa pointed to the biblical evidence of Christ's human experience, to the principle of Hebrews 2:17, and to the presupposition that full salvation requires identification with full humanity, soul and flesh. Was Christ bound to sin if he had a human will?

H. Lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule (1904); B. Altaner, Patrology (ET 1960), pp. 363-65 for bibliography; P.A. Norris, Manhood and Christ (1963), pp. 81-122; J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (3rd ed., 1965), pp. 289- 95; A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition (1965), pp. 220-33; M.F. Wiles, “The Nature of the Early Debate about Christ's Human Soul,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History. XVI (1965), pp. 139-51.

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