(Gr. dokein, “to seem,” “appear to be”). In the history of Christian theology this is the view thatwas not a real man, but simply appeared so. This undermines not only the Incarnation, but also the Atonement and Resurrection. Through Eusebius we know about Cerinthus,* the Docetist opponent of the Apostle John at Ephesus. The presence of such a heresy there probably accounts for the strong emphasis upon the “flesh” of Christ and His “blood” (although this word has sacrificial overtones also) in the Johannine group of writings (e.g., 1 John 4:2; 5:6-8). There was a docetic element in the Gnostic group of heresies, and this accounts for the exceptional emphasis upon the reality of our Lord's humanity in some early Christian writers, beginning with Ignatius.
The origins of Docetism are not biblical, but Hellenistic and oriental, and are due to the idea that matter is essentially evil and to a particular construction of the doctrine of divine impassibility. Alexandria was a melting-pot of Hellenistic and oriental ideas, and the home of some of the greatest Gnostic teachers. It is therefore not surprising to find that there are docetic tendencies even in some of the more “orthodox” Alexandrian Christian writers, such as Clement and Origen. Later christological heresies emanating from the Alexandrian school (such as Apollinarianism, Eutychianism, and Monophysitism) all have something of a docetic flavor. Although modern theology normally takes the humanity of Jesus very seriously (sometimes to the neglect of His deity), those theologians who tend to drive a wedge between faith and history are confronted with the charge of opening the door to a new Docetism.
See under Gnosticism.
DOCETISM dŏs’ ə tiz’ əm, dō’ sə—. Docetism was the term for a Gnostic sect which appeared so early in the history of Christianity that there is an answer for it in