A 4th-century Christian sect, asserting a unique Christology that emphasized the divine nature of Jesus over his humanity.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Early Church
Founded: 4th century
Ended: 5th century
Location: Roman Empire

Apollinarianism, also known as Apollinarism, was a Christological doctrine proposed by Apollinaris of Laodicea, who lived approximately from 310 to 390 AD. This theological stance, developed in response to Arianism and the ongoing debates about the nature of Christ following the First Council of Nicaea in 325, sought to articulate a clear understanding of Jesus Christ’s nature. Apollinaris posited that Jesus possessed a human body and a sensitive soul but was endowed with a divine mind instead of a human rational mind, with the Divine Logos taking the place of the human intellect. This unique perspective aimed to preserve the full divinity and humanity of Jesus, albeit in a manner that deviated from traditional Christological formulations​​.

The roots of Apollinarianism can be traced back to Apollinaris’s efforts to confront Arianism, a theological position that denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ. In attempting to safeguard the Nicene Creed’s affirmation of Jesus as fully divine, Apollinaris inadvertently introduced a viewpoint that was perceived as undermining the complete humanity of Jesus. By denying Christ a human rational soul, Apollinaris’s doctrine sought to eliminate the potential for sin and imperfection within Jesus, thus ensuring His impeccable nature and the infinite value of the Redemption. However, this perspective led to the belief that Jesus was not truly a complete human being, which contradicted the prevalent understanding of Christ’s nature as fully God and fully man​​.

The controversy surrounding Apollinarism reached a critical point in the latter half of the 4th century, with the doctrine being explicitly condemned and Apollinaris’s name being associated with heresy from 376 onwards. Notably, two late Roman councils in 377 and 381 denounced Apollinaris’s teachings as heretical, culminating in a solemn anathematization at the ecumenical First Council of Constantinople in 381. Despite this, Apollinaris remained convinced of the correctness of his views until his death around 392​​.

Apollinaris’s followers, including notable disciples such as Vitalis, Valentinus, Polemon, and Timothy, attempted to perpetuate his teachings, even circulating texts under the names of esteemed church figures to lend credibility to their cause. Despite these efforts, the Apollinarian movement gradually dissipated after Apollinaris’s death, with many adherents returning to orthodoxy or drifting into related theological currents like Monophysitism​​.

The doctrine of Apollinarism, while ultimately deemed heretical, played a significant role in the development of Christian dogma, particularly in the transition of theological discourse from the nature of the Trinity to the intricacies of Christology. It prefigured later debates, such as those leading to Monophysitism, Nestorianism, and Monothelitism, and contributed to the evolution of the “Chalcedonian orthodoxy,” which sought to articulate a balanced understanding of Christ’s dual natures​​.

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